by Eric Fulton
From 1983 to 2001, the University of Miami (Florida) Hurricanes were the best team in college football. They won five national championships with four different head coaches. Many times they did it with a ton of controversy. However, what made “The U” the most dominant team in that era were the players that came from the program. Many of them went on to become superstars in the National Football League (NFL). Some already have busts in the Pro Football Hall of Fame with many more of them joining suit one day. Now the program is in dark times, which makes people wonder if Miami can get back to the level that made them great.
On Saturday, the Hurricanes suffered their worst lost in the program’s great history. They were defeated at the hands of the Clemson Tigers, 58-0. Thirty years ago it was Miami that was doing the dominating thanks to great coaches and players. Most of the stands were completely empty last Saturday. For a program that has not been a national championship contender in over a decade, Saturday’s loss was the latest chapter of a setback at Miami.
The next day, head coach Al Golden was fired. Amid the NCAA investigation and fallout caused by the previous coaching regime, Golden went 32-25. However, the Hurricanes were just 17-18 in Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) games. Miami has yet to win the ACC since joining the conference in 2004. They have not won a bowl since the end of Larry Coker’s tenure in 2006. Coker was the last coach to lead the Hurricanes to a national championship in 2001.
So now that the Hurricanes are turning the page in search of their next head coach, where do they go from here? Can this once dominant program return to the elite of college football? I believe they can. There is too much pride and tradition at “The U” not to. Opponents respect the team in green and orange. They once put fear and intimidation into the hearts and eyes of their opponents.
For that to happen again, they must find a coach who can bring back the swagger and attitude they once possessed. They need a no nonsense coach who will work hard like Jimmy Johnson. Johnson was a businessman but he got the best out his players when he was coach at Miami from 1984-1989. Candidates have surfaced from once head coach Butch Davis to former player Ed Reed. Even though they have not won on a consistent level for a while, it is still a great job. However, they must hire the right person who can get them back on track.
Another thing they should do is keep local players from leaving for other places. Florida is a great football hotbed when it comes to adding talent to a college football roster. Usually the best players come from the Miami area. When the Hurricanes were dominant in the ‘80s, a lot of players stayed home and Miami coaches had an advantage other schools didn’t because the players were just down the street. The best players want to be a part of a program with national exposure and is a championship contender every year. Miami is nowhere near that level right now and so the homegrown talent goes elsewhere.
The third may have been the worst of them all. Right now, they don’t have a true place to call home. The Orange Bowl was the best place to watch college football for years. The main reason why is because Miami was really good. They had a 58 game winning streak at home that is still an NCAA record to this day. The city of Miami ended it, tearing down the Orange Bowl and gave that area to the Miami Marlins of Major League Baseball. To me, it is awful and sad. Now the Hurricanes play their home games at Sun Life Stadium, home of the NFL’s Miami Dolphins. At the end of Saturday, the television cameras showed an aerial view of Sun Life Stadium and it was about 95 percent empty. This is a bad image for recruits to see if they want to play college football for Miami.
So Miami has hit rock bottom. For a football program who has carried a rich tradition coming from out of nowhere, it is time for Miami to pick up the pieces and start all over. It is not going to take just one person to clean it up. It has to be a collective effort. The Hurricanes can be great again. The question is will they be “The U” again?
by Preston Tolliver
The NBA season kicks off on Wednesday, Oct. 28. Here are my top five predictions for this season’s Most Valuable Player:
5. Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder)
There are a few reasons to expect a lot out of KD this year:
I. He's in a contract year, so he's looking to get the biggest check he can.
II. After spending the better part of last season sidelined and watching Russell Westbrook go insane, you can bet Durant is going to want to reestablish himself as the leader of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
III. He's Kevin Durant.
Pretty simple, really.
4. LeBron James (Cleveland Cavaliers)
It's weird to have arguably the best player on the planet this low in the MVP race, but that title isn't for the best player on the planet. It's for the most valuable. Take LeBron off the Cavs, and Cleveland will still be a force in the East. Take anyone else ahead on this list off their teams, and even an 8-seed becomes questionable (or perhaps that's just because they're in the West).
3. Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors)
A lot of times you see the reigning MVP cool off after a stellar year, but you can probably expect Steph Curry to ride the momentum of last year's championship. There's arguably never been a better pure shooter in the league, and he's not likely to cool off anytime soon.
2. Anthony Davis (New Orleans Pelicans)
Anthony Davis isn't just the star player of the New Orleans Pelicans. He is the New Orleans Pelicans. He's improved as a player every season and has some even arguing that he could soon surpass LeBron James as the world's best player – plus, he just got a major payday and you can bet he's gonna earn every dime.
1. James Harden (Houston Rockets)
James Harden was edged out of the scoring title last year by Russell Westbrook, and the MVP by Steph Curry, so he's probably going to come into this season with a chip on his shoulder. Plus, he's not only gotten consistently better since his sixth man of the year award in 2012, but he's shown the world that he's ready to lead the team. There was question two years ago after Dwight Howard joined the team who would be the leader of the Rockets – their first year together, there was some imbalance; last year, Harden started to really take the team as his. This year, expect him to be in complete control.
Who is your MVP prediction?
by Julian Spivey
I am a San Antonio Spurs fan. Well, not really. Well, I guess you could say I’m sort of a Spurs fan. But, really I’m an Orlando Magic fan and always have been and because I believe you have to be loyal to be a true sports fan I probably always will be.
The Spurs are my playoff team. The team I always find myself rooting for when my favorite team is eliminated from playoff contention – which for the Magic recently has been an annual thing. I’ve always enjoyed the Spurs come playoff time for three big reasons: 1) Tim Duncan 2) Gregg Popovich 3) Team style basketball.
Some folks might say that I’m a bandwagon Spurs fan, but I don’t believe that to be the case. If the Spurs ever played the Magic I would root for the Magic to win. I just think that sports are more fun when you can root for a team to win a championship and once your team has either missed the playoffs or have been eliminated from them it’s more entertaining to root for a secondary team than it is to either watch games without a rooting interest or ignore them altogether. To me a real bandwagon sports fan is one who switches teams depending on who’s hottest in any given year or following one athlete *cough* LeBron James *cough* from one team to another.
Most people who root for other teams in the playoffs once their favorite team has been eliminated have to change teams from year-to-year and that’s something I’ve had to do for most sports in the past – for instance the last two seasons in the NFL playoffs I’ve become a temporary Seattle Seahawks fan, despite actually being a Dallas Cowboys fan.
But, for the last decade and a half in the NBA I’ve had the luxury of pretty much solely rooting for one team once my Magic were out of contention – the Spurs. I fell in love with the Spurs way of playing basketball almost immediately when they found their success early on in the Popovich/Duncan era in 1999. They have played a complete team style of basketball where every single member from MVP Duncan to the last guy on the bench has been truly important to their title runs.
This is the reason why many basketball fans find them boring. Many fans would rather see a star like LeBron James, Kevin Durant or Kobe Bryant single-handedly take over a team and lead them to victory. But, there’s something so beautiful, in my opinion, in the way the Spurs selflessly play the game and I’d rather watch them throw the ball around the court to find the open man over seeing a superstar breakaway and dunk every time. When you have one team playing the game almost the way it was meant to be and have success doing so when every other team isn’t doing it that way it actually makes watching the game the way it was intended feel like something new and out of the ordinary.
The Kansas City Royals have been doing that for the last two seasons in baseball and that’s why they have become my San Antonio Spurs of Major League Baseball.
The Atlanta Braves were my first sports love and they always will be my biggest sports love, but for the last few seasons they just haven’t been any good. That doesn’t mean I don’t root for them – in the regular season I want to see them improve and win as many games as they can, but come the playoffs I find myself needing to root for another team. The Royals filled that gap rather easily and quickly last season. It wasn’t just because they were the underdogs who hadn’t gone to the playoffs in almost three decades, but because they played an old school style of baseball that harkened back to a style played in the game before the steroid era led to every team swinging for downs on every pitch.
The Royals were a complete team without any superstars, playing the game strategically and soundly to win baseball games. They played ABC baseball – get ‘em on, get ‘em over, get ‘em in. It was actually the style of game I grew up loving watching the Braves who had the greatest pitching in the game and scrapped for runs because they knew they’d only need two or three to win most games.
Royals manager Ned Yost was actually a mentee of former Braves skipper Bobby Cox for many years and no doubt adopted at least part of his managerial style from the Hall of Famer.
Not only did the Royals win by playing get ‘em on, get ‘em over, get ‘em in baseball, but the way they managed a shutdown bullpen led by Greg Holland, Wade Davis and Kelvin Herrera was masterful come the end of ballgames.
It was fun to watch and because of this small ball style that some view as over-managed (yet incredibly successful), especially for an American League team, it felt both old school and somewhat new and exciting all at the same time. The Royals would’ve won the World Series too last year were it not for the greatest pitching postseason ever by San Francisco Giants ace Madison Bumgarner.
The Royals are even better this year and have reached the World Series once again to face the New York Mets. I won’t go ahead and give them the title because the Mets have a stellar pitching staff and some bats that are really hot at the moment, but I’ll be rooting for them the entire way.
The way they play the game is so infectious that I can’t help but feel completely into every aspect of watching them, much like I have for so many years with the Spurs in the NBA. I feel like the Royals will be America’s team for the second straight World Series because of this.
The fact that the Royals and Spurs are similar in a team style of the way they play has captured my attention and led me to have some really exciting times during their runs toward potential titles. The only main difference will be that the Royals will have a short term run compared to the Spurs’ that has lasted more than 15 years. This is mostly due to the fact of the Royals being a small market team that won’t be able to afford many of its best players once their contracts are up – as fan favorite Alex Gordon’s is this offseason.
What the Spurs have done over the last decade and a half can only be compared to what my Braves did from 1991-2005, by winning a division title every single season and making the playoffs. The one key difference being my Braves only actually won one title over that span, where the Spurs have basically taken one out of every three titles during their historic run.
It would be nice if the Royals could sustain the type of elongated success that the Spurs have, but the fact that they have completely won me over and have given me something to passionately root for over two seasons is truly remarkable and honestly important to me.
by Julian Spivey
Monday, Oct. 26 was the 20th anniversary of the day I fell in love with baseball – the greatest sport America will ever know.
It was game six of the 1995 World Series between the Atlanta Braves and the Cleveland Indians from Atlanta’s Fulton County Stadium and I frankly don’t remember a whole lot about the game besides the final out, the celebration and the fact that I immediately fell in love with both baseball and the Braves.
I was eight years old watching that game in 1995. My family had just moved to middle of nowhere north-central Arkansas that summer from central Florida and we didn’t even have a house or an apartment. For at least the first little while (I don’t quite remember how long) we lived in a tent. But, we still had television via an antenna that could bring in some of the local affiliates out of Springfield, Mo. So, we tuned in that night to NBC to watch what ended up proving to be the final game of the series.
My parents were Braves fans having both grown up in Georgia and I guess that made me destined to become a Braves fan myself, but who knows had the Indians won the title I might be an Indians fan to this day as most kids who don’t really have a regional reason to follow a specific team tend to fall for the first team they see win.
I have no remembrance of the sport of baseball before October 26, 1995 – despite the fact that I’m sure my parents occasionally had games on television and my dad had taken me to Spring Training games while living in Florida. And, even though game six of the World Series to this day is my favorite game ever personally I don’t remember a whole lot. For some reason I seem to have fewer memories of my childhood than most of my family and friends tend to have. I don’t know if this means I lived a particularly uneventful early childhood or if all of the vast knowledge I’ve gained since my childhood has simply pushed lesser memories out.
Twenty years later I’ve never seen that game in its entirety; I have seen an abridged version once a few years back on ESPN Classic.
Thanks to MLB.tv having an array of classic games I’m able to catch that entire game just after the 20th anniversary of it on a slightly smaller screen on an iPad, but at least I’m not sitting outside in the cool October evening beside a tent that I called my home, but in the comfortable confines of my apartment living room.
It’s fun seeing faces and legends you haven’t seen play in a decade or almost two, but especially seeing a young faced Chipper Jones manning third in his rookie season. There were multiple Hall of Famers in the game, including Eddie Murray and Tom Glavine, who would go on to pitch the greatest game of his career, and a couple of almost certain future Hall of Famers in Jones and Jim Thome (whom it’s hard to imagine ever played third base). There’s also a player who I will argue to my dying day deserves to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame – Fred McGriff. The Braves also had three Hall of Famers on the bench that day in pitchers Greg Maddux and John Smoltz and manager Bobby Cox.
I hadn’t remembered this, but there was some sort of controversy very early on it that game when in the bottom of the first inning Braves veteran second baseman Mark Lemke, who always played better than he actually was when it came to the postseason, singled and was called out trying to steal second base though instant replay showed he had clearly swiped the bag – unfortunately this was almost two decades before Major League Baseball instituted replay on the field. Chipper Jones would single on the very next pitch, which would’ve scored Lemke and given the Braves an early lead.
The Indians had a killer lineup that season led by Albert Belle (who hit 50 homers in 143 games), Manny Ramirez and Jim Thome. The Indians won 100 games that season, which was remarkable given the fact that 12 games were wiped out by the 1994 player’s strike lasting until the spring of 1995. The ’95 Indians will always be one of the greatest teams to not win a World Series, something they still haven’t done as a franchise since 1948.
David Justice had been the Braves best offensive player for years, but when he came up for his first at-bat in the second inning of game six Braves fans rained boos down upon him. It wasn’t anything to do with his play, but his comments before the game about how Braves fans weren’t necessarily cheering on the team the way he felt they should have been. One fan held a sign up early in the game reading: “Hey Justice, I hope your bat is as big as your mouth.” It was no way for Braves fans to treat one of their own and best, but it would come into play even more so in the sixth inning.
Re-watching this game reminds me how much I miss watching Omar Vizquel play defense. He started a beautiful double play for the Indians in the second inning of game six and few, if any, have ever played the position of shortstop as well and beautifully as Vizquel. The Braves have a guy on their team right not in Andrelton Simmons who might be able to rival Vizquel, though. I mentioned Chipper Jones and Jim Thome as future Hall of Famers earlier and Vizquel really has a chance to make it too, but some voters don’t pay enough attention to defense for a defensive-minded player to make it.
Indians 40-year old starter Dennis Martinez got into some major trouble in the bottom of the fourth inning loading the bases with a double to David Justice, intentional walk to left fielder Ryan Klesko and walk to catcher Javy Lopez. This brought up the light hitting shortstop Rafael Belliard who Cox liked to use for defensive purposes. The NBC announcing crew of Bob Costas, Joe Morgan and Bob Uecker immediately began to wonder whether or not Cox should pinch hit for Belliard to give the Braves a better opportunity to score and possibly win the game. Cox opted to keep Belliard in the game for his defense. He flied out to Indians center fielder Kenny Lofton.
We already know the result of game six of the 1995 World Series so I don’t feel the need to be coy about moments or results. Glavine no-hit the Indians through the first five innings of the game and struck out seven hitters, again this was the scariest offense in baseball that led the game in homers, and Glavine wasn’t even really a strikeout pitcher, but one who typically pitched to contact. We all know that Glavine wouldn’t go on to throw a no-hitter as Don Larsen for the Yankees in the 1956 World Series is the only man to ever do so in World Series history (and it was a perfect game to boot).
In the bottom of the fifth inning Indians pitcher Dennis Martinez got into some trouble again and Indians manager Mike Hargrove would bring in reliever Jim Poole to get out of the mess, which he did. Poole, a 29-year old lefty reliever, would have to hit in the top of the sixth because Hargrove wanted the lefty to face Braves left-handed hitters Justice and Klesko. It was an odd decision.
Veteran Indians catcher Tony Pena would lead off the top half of the sixth with a bloop single into the outfield to break up Glavine’s no-hitter – again, this happened 20 years ago and I’m not spoiling much – it would be the only hit Glavine would give up in the game during a masterful performance that would be the best of his Hall of Fame career.
Pena’s hit meant that reliever Poole could try to sacrifice him over to second instead of actually having to swing the bat. He tried to bunt three consecutive times and popped out doing so on the third chance. The Indians, of course, would not score the run.
Poole had been kept in the game specifically to pitch to Justice, the very guy Braves fans had been angered by at the beginning of the game. Justice had only hit .211 for the series thus far, but had managed a double in his previous at-bat of the game. On a 2-0 count Justice hit a long drive to right field for a solo home run to give the Braves a 1-0 lead. Those fans who had been booing him at the beginning of the game had nothing but cheers for him now as Justice put the Braves just three innings away from the first championship for the team since it moved to Atlanta from Milwaukee in 1966.
Glavine would continue to be in complete control over the best offense in baseball shutting them down for two more innings. The Braves would take their 1-0 lead into the ninth inning. Mark Wohlers was the Braves closer and he was one of the best in the game at the time. But, the way Glavine had been pitching it seemed like a risk for Bobby Cox to go to his bullpen at the time in a one-run ballgame. He did it anyway.
Wohlers would face the fastest man in baseball Kenny Lofton to lead off the ninth inning. Lofton, to this day is one of the most exciting players I’ve ever seen play, and allowing him on base would’ve been a game-changer. He was almost impossible to stop from stealing a base. Luckily for the Braves and their fan base, Lofton would hit a bloop into foul territory and Belliard ran a mile to make a fantastic catch – exactly why Cox had left him in the game so many innings before. Belliard was in the middle of a three year stretch where he only had one error in each season. He couldn’t hit a lick, but his play at shortstop was a game saver. Hargrove would send up the hard-hitting Paul Sorrento in Vizquel’s place to try to tie the game with one swing of the bat. Sorrento had hit a pinch hit double off of Wohlers in the fourth game of the series. Here Wohlers would get the best of Sorrento getting him to fly out to Braves center fielder Marquis Grissom for the second out.
The Braves were one out away from winning the World Series and this is the exact moment where my memory kicks back in from being that eight-year old watching it on a small television on a cool October evening outside of a tent we called home. Indians second baseman Carlos Baerga would step to the plate as the Indians last chance.
Wohlers wound up and threw his pitch to a first ball swinging Baerga. Baerga sent the ball into the air to left-center field where Grissom was on his horse, got underneath it and secured the ball.
Bob Costas said, “The team of the ‘90s has its World Championship,” and the players and coaches with wide smiles on every face ran into the arms of each other and dogpiled in the center of the infield.
It’s the moment I fell in love with baseball and thus a moment I could never forget, even when most memories from childhood have since faded away.
Tom Glavine had thrown a one-hit shutout over eight innings and with a 2-0 record in the World Series would be named series MVP. Justice, who had been hated more than even any of the rival Indians players at the beginning of the game, would join Glavine as the heroes of the game with his solo shot in the sixth inning providing the only run of the deciding game.
Glavine and Justice would instantly become my favorite players on my new favorite team – more importantly a lifelong love and relationship would be formed.
by Julian Spivey
My head hurts.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race from Talladega Superspeedway ended about seven hours ago as I sit down to write this and it’s been on my mind nearly every minute since its controversial ending.
It was, without a doubt, the worst ending to a NASCAR race that I have ever seen for multiple controversial reasons and continues to prove to me that a once great sport has fallen far in the last few seasons.
And, we knew this was going to happen all along.
The race on Sunday afternoon from Talladega, the scariest track in probably all of motorsports and definitely NASCAR, was actually really fun and entertaining for the majority of the afternoon. The racing was excellent in the tight two-to-three lane draft and as the race entered its final laps there had only been one caution the entire race and it was for an expired engine. The track known for “The Big One” – a wreck that frequently takes out 10 or more cars in one fell swoop – was being tamed by the best drivers in the world.
And then everything that could possibly go wrong did so …
With about five laps remaining in the race Jamie McMurray’s engine let go to bring out the second caution of the race. This caution being so close in proximity to the finish meant that the race would finish under green-white-checkered (GWC) conditions – a two lap shootout to the finish.
NASCAR had instituted a new rule just days before the Talladega race saying that there would only be one attempt at a GWC finish at the superspeedway. The governing body was trying to limit the carnage that could come with multiple chances at a finish bringing multiple chances for big wrecks and truthfully they were a little gun shy after the last restrictor plate race of the season at Daytona International Speedway finished with this.
So, race leaders Joey Logano and Dale Earnhardt Jr. lined up side-by-side for the one shot at a restart and as they entered the restart zone the cars bunched up behind them and Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Larson both got spun out relatively close to the front of the pack.
It seemed the race would be over before it really even got restarted due to there only being one GWC and Logano would be declared the winner as he was slightly ahead of Earnhardt Jr. at the moment of the caution. Except, NASCAR quickly deemed there was no start, despite the green flag flying and green lights turned on, because the leaders hadn’t crossed the start/finish line. This was unprecedented and never before seen.
NASCAR basically was doing a second GWC restart anyway and many assumed immediately it’s because they wanted to give Earnhardt Jr. a valid shot at winning the race, because it would be his only way of clinching a spot into the third round of the playoffs.
Interestingly enough while this was all going down the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet of Kevin Harvick was having engine problems and simply would not go upon the start. Knowing this Harvick had taken his car to the outside of the pack on the waived off restart to stay out of trouble.
Logano, Earnhardt Jr. and the drivers behind them would get one more shot at racing to victory. Harvick got back into the pack and knew he would need an accident immediately following the green flag flying to have any shot at clinching a spot into the playoffs’ third round because his car simply would not go otherwise.
The green flag flew and almost as soon as it did Trevor Bayne tried to get around the stumbling No. 4 car of Harvick’s to make ground on the competitors as drivers are allowed to do when the car ahead of them does not get going. Harvick pounced on the chance to clinch his ticket to the next round, turned his car right into Bayne’s quarter panel and spun the No. 6 car out in front of a pack that caused about a dozen car wreck and immediately ended the race.
Logano was just inches ahead of Earnhardt Jr. when the caution came out and was declared the winner for real this time. It was his third straight victory as he swept the entire second round of the playoffs.
NASCAR had enough controversy brewing already with the terrible decision to only have one GWC opportunity at Talladega and then essentially doing it twice anyway, but now they had something else on their hands.
NASCAR was busy trying to determine the finishing order of the chaotic finish to the race, but fans, media and fellow drivers were concerned about something more heinous than only having one opportunity at a GWC. Harvick had deliberately caused a wreck to secure his place in the next segment.
Trevor Bayne: “That’s a crappy way for Harvick to have to get in the Chase is to wreck somebody – what I believe to be on purpose – maybe it wasn’t. The restart before that he had engine problems and got out of the way. I think be realized if the caution came out he was gonna be fine, so I go by and get hooked in the left rear. Harvick is a really good driver. I think he knows the limits of his car and where it’s at, so that’s why I think it was intentional.”
David Gilliland: “Wow. That was the champ. Not a very smart move. What a joke. Not happy.”
Denny Hamlin: “What a joke we have a car with no motor wreck the field to end the race. Complete crap. Sorry to anyone who spent $ coming to this circus.”
Matt Kenseth: “The 4 knew he was blowing up. The 6 then went outside, and he [Harvick] clipped him and caused a wreck because he knew he’d make the Chase that way.”
Motorsport.com’s Nick DeGroot: “I don’t like what I saw from the #4 when they show the head-on shot of the accident. But that’s far from the only issue with that finish…”
USA Today’s Jeff Gluck: “This looks bad [referencing Harvick’s in-car camera]. I would like to hear from Harvick. Not sure if anyone got him after the race.”
SB Nation’s Matt Weaver: “Just saw the replay. Hot take: I have mad respect for Harvick but that stinks of desperation. He had an ailing car and no margin for error.”
Harvick denied intentionally starting the wreck in interviews with both ESPN and Fox Sports directly following the race. He said he was merely trying to block the competition and accidentally got into Bayne. What else is he supposed to say, though? An admission of guilt would likely force NASCAR’s hand to punish him.
Shortly after the race, NASCAR vice chairman Mike Helton said that Harvick had done nothing wrong in the late race accident. He’s apparently both blind and brain dead.
What Harvick did on Sunday afternoon was blatant cheating. It’s no different than Clint Bowyer intentionally spinning his car out at Richmond in 2013 in the final race before the playoffs to help his then Michael Waltrip Racing teammate Martin Truex Jr. make the playoffs.
Weaver says it “stinks of desperation” and he’s absolutely right. It’s a cheap, dirty move by a competitor knowing he had no other chance at continuing his title hunt without putting other drivers frankly in danger. This is the defending champion of the series and his move today was not becoming of a true champion. Harvick not only tainted his legacy, but spit on the credibility of a sport that’s rapidly losing its credibility.
Some have compared Harvick’s move to Ryan Newman’s intentionally wrecking of Kyle Larson last season at Phoenix to make the championship race at Homestead-Miami and the reaction not being the same. I bring this up only because I also thought Newman’s move was dirty last season and I don’t want anybody accusing me of picking and choosing what to get angry about.
NASCAR is blind to Harvick’s intentional wrecking of others, but multiple drivers, multiple media members and the majority of fans know what they saw was true on Sunday – Harvick intentionally manufactured the final results of the race. This should go against NASCAR’s 100 percent rule that states a driver should give his all at all times during the race. The sport should have immediately investigated the incident, taken all accounts into thought and disqualified Harvick to last place on the lead lap for his dirty decision.
Harvick’s decision cost at least one driver a shot at reaching the next segment of the playoffs as he would’ve finished further back in the field giving Ryan Newman the final spot in the next round. He also potentially cost Earnhardt Jr. a clinching win into the next segment as Earnhardt likely had at least a 50/50 chance at winning had the race continued further than it did.
There are times when the sport of NASCAR can’t get anything right. They change the rules of the sport willy-nilly seemingly a few times every season, almost always for the worse.
NASCAR screwed up three times in the span of just a few minutes on Sunday afternoon. They screwed up once by making a relatively late decision to only have one GWC at Talladega. They screwed up twice by effectively ignoring their own new rule and basically having a second GWC anyway. They screwed up a third time by letting Harvick get away by essentially cheating to secure his spot in the third round of the playoffs and completely screwing up what could have been a riveting finish and the chances of other drivers to reach the third round of the playoffs.
In a postrace interview Kenseth absolutely obliterated the new NASCAR playoff system by calling it a “silly system” that “makes us have to play games instead of race.” He also said NASCAR has lost complete control of the sport.
He’s right. NASCAR’s constant rules changing and inconsistency in calling the races by the rules, along with letting some of its drivers run roughshod over the sport has completely turned the entire sport into silliness. NASCAR can’t be taken seriously anymore and that’s a damn shame. I love this sport and hate to see it constantly shooting itself in the foot. Pretty soon though it’ll go from shooting itself in the foot to killing itself altogether.
by Julian Spivey
Much has been made recently about “Back to the Future II” predicting that the Chicago Cubs would snap their century-plus championship-less streak in 2015. In 1989, “Back to the Future II” had Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) travel to 2015 on Oct. 21, 2015 and find out that the Cubs finally won the World Series by beating a franchise in Miami (which didn’t yet exist in 1989).
Forgetting that the now Miami Marlins play in the National League and could never face the Cubs in a World Series as a result, the prediction of the film (like many others) was a possibility. The Cubs were facing the New York Mets in the National League Championship Series with the winner going on to the World Series, but the Mets had jumped out to a 3-0 series lead.
Only once in baseball history has a team come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a series, the 2004 Boston Red Sox who would go on to break The Curse of the Bambino by winning the World Series.
But, some curses are just too strong and movies about the future are merely fiction instead of prophetic.
The Cubs turned out to be the same lovable losers they’ve always been and on “Back to the Future” Day no less became just the third team in playoff history to be swept in the NLCS when the Mets thoroughly dominated them winning game four of the series 8-3.
The Curse of the Bambino was broken by the Red Sox in 2004, but the curse haunting the Cubs – The Curse of the Billy Goat – is still alive and well.
You say you don’t believe in curses? Well, let’s see if this can change your mind …
If you don’t know about The Curse of the Billy Goat the story goes like this:
The last time the Cubs made the World Series was in 1945 against the Detroit Tigers. During that World Series, Billy Sianis, the owner of a local tavern called the Billy Goat Tavern, was forced to leave Wrigley Field during a game because his pet goat, named Murphy, who attended the game with him was bothering fellow patrons due to its odor.
Upon being kicked out of the ballpark that day an outraged Sianis exclaimed: “Them Cubs, they ain’t gonna win no more.”
And, for the last 70 years that haven’t.
There have been many reasons to believe in The Curse of the Billy Goat since that day, most notably the infamous Steve Bartman play in 2003 when the Cubs were just five outs from securing a World Series berth.
But, the interesting side of the curse has to do with the name Murphy, the name of the banished goat. It pops up too many times on the bad side of Cubs history for it to be merely a coincidence.
The last time the Cubs won the World Series in 1908 the owner of the franchise was Charles Murphy. In 1969, when the Cubs suffered a late season collapse of epic proportions and would end up being passed in the division by the Amazin’ Mets team that would go on to win the World Series the Mets general manager was named Johnny Murphy and the Mets announcer was Bob Murphy. In the 1984 NLCS, which was then a best of five series, the Cubs won the first two games of the series and looked like they’d reach their first World Series since the curse was placed upon them before they’d lose three straight games and the series to the San Diego Padres in San Diego’s Jack Murphy Stadium.
Finally, here comes the kicker.
The Cubs got past their rival St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Division Series relatively easily and it looked like destiny was on their side and a fictional movie from 1989 was truly going to be prophetic.
But, in the NLCS this past week the Cubs ran up against the hottest hitter in quite possibly the entire history of the baseball playoffs. It was the Mets second baseman: Daniel Murphy.
Murphy completely owned the Cubs hitting a home run in all four games of the series and six playoff games in a row going back to the division series against the Los Angeles Dodgers to set a new MLB playoff record. Murphy hit .529 against the Cubs with six RBI to go along with his four homers. In the clinching game of the series he was 4-for-4.
Billy Sianis’ Curse of the Billy Goat always manifests itself in the name of his goat Murphy.
Daniel Murphy only hit 14 homers all season long and had never hit homers in more than two consecutive games. Now he has seven through nine postseason games and in six games consecutively. You can’t tell me there isn’t a little black magic helping him out a bit. By the way, what do they call an athlete who’s the “greatest of all-time” – you guessed it a G.O.A.T. Murphy has been the G.O.A.T. of the postseason and Murphy the goat always gets his revenge.
by Julian Spivey
I knew from the moment Jeff Gordon announced that he would be retiring at the end of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season that I would have to go to a race to see him compete one more time.
The decision was made to go to Kansas Speedway during the NASCAR Chase for the Championship playoffs in mid-October. I knew from the start it would be an interesting trip for me, not necessarily because I’d be seeing Gordon race for a final time, but because I didn’t know what to expect.
Sure, I’ve been to three NASCAR races prior to Kansas, but all three of those were restrictor plate tracks (Daytona once in 2009 and Talladega in back-to-back years of 2013 and 2014). As anybody who watches NASCAR knows, the racing is completely different at Daytona and Talladega from any other track in the sport, because the restrictor plates keep the cars bound together in an almost 200 mph pack that resembles a traffic jam on a three lane road. This style of racing always provides excitement with fantastic and close finishes and the unfortunate constant threat of “The Big One,” a wreck that can take out anywhere from 10 to 25 cars in one fell swoop. This makes restrictor plate racing a nail-biting event from start to finish. I knew based on watching races for more than half of my life now that Kansas Speedway couldn’t possibly be as entertaining as Daytona or Talladega – in fact, two of the three races I’ve been to provided what I consider to be two of the greatest finishes in NASCAR history: Daytona in 2009 and Talladega in 2013.
I was admittedly nervous about the Sprint Cup Series race for Sunday the entire week leading up to it. The race on the previous weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway and just the entire season really, especially at mile and a half tracks (which Kansas Speedway is) has been incredibly boring and uncompetitive due to a poor racing package that NASCAR is desperately trying to fix and seemingly has for the 2016 season. This package has allowed drivers to get out to the lead in what is known as “clean air” and thoroughly dominate races because the competitors behind him are unable to catch up to him or pass. The 2015 NASCAR season has been, without a doubt, the most boring season in the 15 years I’ve been dedicated to the sport as a fan. I’ve more than once this season questioned why I was even tuning in – it really is a force of habit though and I’m not sure I could tune out even if I tried, but luckily for me I’ve been able to DVR some of the events and save myself some viewing pain.
So, my nervousness about the racing at Kansas Speedway had to do with the actual racing itself and nothing to do with seeing Jeff Gordon race for one last time – although he has struggled more than some in the current package. It was more about whether or not my wife, Aprille, and I had wasted a ton of money to see an event that we’d possibly want to sleep through, especially with us not being in the best of financial times.
There was one thing about the trip that would be incredibly unique from the three previous NASCAR events I’ve attended – thanks to my wife’s contacts freelancing for a company affiliated with the sport we got to receive Hot Passes for the event. A Hot Pass gives you almost full access to a NASCAR event. It allows you into the garage area in the infield, right in front of all of the action for the sport’s practices and up-close-and-personal sights of your favorite drivers, crew men and owners. It’s not unusual to just walk past a legend of the sport (this happened more times than I can count over my three days at Kansas Speedway) or even share a urinal next to one in the infield restroom (this did not happen, but I’ve heard stories and they’re almost always awkward). It allows you the opportunity to get autographs from your favorite drivers and on the first day in the garage alone my wife and I must have gotten double digit number of autographs ranging from our favorite drivers to NASCAR Vice Chairman Mike Helton.
It’s incredible watching NASCAR practice from the garage area. The cars are zipping by you rapidly one after another, so close that if you wanted to (and were daring enough to risk losing your privilege) you could reach out and touch them as they drove by. There were more than a couple of times where names like Ryan Newman, Jimmie Johnson and even my all-time favorite Jeff Gordon almost backed up into my wife and I while exiting their garage stalls.
Hot Passes aren’t exactly given out like candy at NASCAR events, but there are quite a lot of people who have access to them – meaning the small garage space is jam-packed like a can of sardines full of fans watching very closely amongst the 43 teams trying to do their jobs. Many times during the practices, especially during Sprint Cup practice, I worried about whether or not I was in the way – but the truth of it is that all of us with Hot Passes were essentially in the way. I remarked on more than one occasion to my wife that I bet the drivers and especially the crew members trying to work their way through the crowd from the haulers to the garage stalls hated everything about Hot Passes. There was even a moment during one of the Sprint Cup practices where Jimmie Johnson’s crew chief Chad Knaus, probably the greatest crew chief in NASCAR history, was coming down the ladder from atop the No. 48 hauler where he was watching his driver make laps, and tapped me on the right shoulder with his clipboard because I was accidentally blocking his way to the garage. That’s how close you are and every second of it is fascinating.
It’s incredible access that you can’t get in any other sport. I have likened it to being able to stand on second base at a baseball stadium in the middle of batting practice – it’s just not going to happen anywhere else.
It wasn’t too long after arriving in the garage area on Friday, our first day at the track, when I saw my racing hero walk right by my wife and I. I was slightly jaw-dropped, but really shouldn’t have been, because I knew this was the whole point of having a Hot Pass. My wife, more outgoing than I am by quite a lot, took off after Jeff Gordon without saying anything – she just grabbed a never before used No. 24 hat I had and went up to him to get it autographed, which he did. I was able to come to my senses enough to snap a photograph of this happening. When she returned with the signed hat she told me I should’ve gone up to him. I told her I didn’t even know she was going to do so, until she had already done it and that I didn’t really want to bother the guy while he was busy. I hoped there would be a moment where I could try to get his autograph myself after he was done with practice. I grabbed one of his hero cards, a small poster of the driver, and patiently waited. Following practice he walked over to his hauler, where I was waiting and signed a few autographs including the hero card I had grabbed. It was instantaneously my favorite moment of the entire weekend – and this was only minutes after I had taken a photograph with another one of my all-time favorite drivers and current NBC analyst Jeff Burton – and I’m so thankful Aprille photographed the whole thing.
The Xfinity Series, a sort of NASCAR minor league that helps to get younger drivers an audition to the Sprint Cup Series, garage was a lot of fun. It wasn’t as packed as the Sprint Cup garage, because most people with Hot Passes seemingly just wanted to stay with the “big boys,” but this made it easier to have access to up-and-coming drivers like Chase Elliott, the 2014 Xfinity Series champion, Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. and Chris Buescher, who currently leads the 2015 Xfinity standings. A great moment in the Xfinity garage occurred when one of NASCAR’s most famous team owners of all-time Jack Roush walked by and I asked him for his autograph. My Sharpie picked that exact moment not to work, but Roush being around the garage a thousand times or more was a pro who kept his own Sharpie in his pocket. I got to shake Buescher’s hand and tell him good luck in the Xfinity race on Saturday, and he smiled and thanked me. He seemed like the most personable and gracious driver of all of them in the garage area – and this was a guy leading the point standings and thus had a lot on his plate.
Another one of the truly special highlights of the entire weekend was something that even most people with Hot Passes never get to do. Aprille has previously interviewed and done an article on Jeff Craven, the hauler driver for Ryan Newman’s No. 31 Richard Childress Racing team. We walked on over to the No. 31 hauler and Craven graciously gave us an inside tour of it – showing us the compartment in the roof that you can open to see where the backup car is stored, where the backup engine is hidden and all of the tool compartments within. The first thing I noticed upon entering the hauler was Ryan Newman, who happens to be Aprille’s favorite driver conversing with crew members in the front. Craven even showed us the cab of the hauler where he not only drives from track to track, but also lives while out on the road. The cab was fitted with a cot, satellite TV and the tiniest bathroom/shower you’ve ever seen. We conversed with Craven for a good half hour or so talking about his job, previous jobs as a hauler driver for Richard Petty Motorsports and Hendrick Motorsports, where he served as hauler driver for Gordon, about the good old days of NASCAR and how the Camping World Truck Series is often the best racing of all three NASCAR series.
Probably the thrill of the entire race weekend at Kansas Speedway for Aprille was when Ryan Newman popped out of the hauler to grab something to drink from the big coolers outside and Craven introduced us to him. Aprille got him to sign a little trading card that a kind woman seeing her Ryan Newman T-shirt had given her earlier in the morning. And, Newman noticing my Jeff Gordon hat made a crack about how I must be a Gordon fan because I can only count to 24. This must be his go-to quip for Gordon fans, as he’d said that to me once before at a fan Q&A at Talladega Superspeedway last year when Aprille got to ask a question and he noticed the same hat. Aprille told him about our trip to his Rescue Ranch for poorly treated or harmed animals near Charlotte, N.C. during our honeymoon in June. At some point Newman made another quip about me being a Gordon fan, to which I responded that it wasn’t too smart of him because I’d be needing a favorite driver next season and he wasn’t helping his case. I told him I might just root for Chase Elliott instead, who’s taking over Gordon’s No. 24 Chevrolet and he repeated the joke about not being able to count past 24. So, here I was sharing back-and-forth witticisms with Ryan Newman, who I’d seen win 17 races on TV including the coveted Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400, when just days before I had some nerves about the entire weekend.
Saturday at the racetrack was another treat, because the Hot Passes allowed us the opportunity to watch the entire Xfinity Series race from pit road – an opportunity I wish every single NASCAR fan could have, because it’s awesome. You get to see the cars speeding by at almost 200 mph on the front stretch past the start/finish line, which becomes incredibly dizzying after just a few seconds watching the cars at eye level fly by and your brain trying to calculate who just zipped by and what position they were in. Watching pit stops up close in person also gives you a much greater appreciation for the toughness and skillfulness of these crew guys who are changing four tires, making adjustments and filling an entire gas tank in less than 15 seconds.
Matt Kenseth, a Sprint Cup champion running in the lower level for the day, seemed like he was going to cruise to a dominant win, but his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch, also a Sprint Cup regular, ran him down in exciting fashion and the two battled hard for a few laps before Busch succeeded in passing for what would turn out to be the victory. I hate, hate, hate Sprint Cup Series drivers competing in the lower levels of the sport and quite frankly I’ve never disliked a driver in the sport more than I do Kyle Busch, but seeing him and Kenseth duke it out in such fantastic racing for a few laps and being right there on pit road for it all was something I could easily forgive for the day.
Sunday came upon us quickly, as time always seems to fly by when you’re having a blast. And so, it was time to say goodbye in person to my favorite driver. I didn’t think Gordon would have a chance at winning from the start (It unfortunately doesn’t seem he’s going to win a race in his final season), so I wasn’t expecting a fairytale ending to the weekend. I just wanted him to have a good run, to extend his chances for winning his fifth championship and the first since 2001 (which is unlikely, but I can dream) and not wreck.
From the moment the green flag flew for the start of the race Gordon immediately started dropping through the field as if his car had a parachute on it. I knew this was a bad sign. The racing overall was also what we’ve seen all season – one leader getting out into that “clean air” and dominating. It was a few different drivers, however, at the start of the race – Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano – but then Matt Kenseth took control and looked like he’d never give up the lead until it led him all the way into Victory Lane.
Gordon meanwhile was running around the 24th position on track with company that a driver of his caliber shouldn’t keep – Justin Allgaier, Trevor Bayne, Alex Bowman. His car was junk and I knew he must have been incredibly frustrated in that cockpit. Every time a caution came out his team would take the opportunity to make adjustments, but nothing was really working. It appeared as if Gordon wouldn’t finish the race on the lead lap.
Kenseth was flying. I’ve always enjoyed Kenseth, but have never really rooted for him. He’s a great driver who races others with respect, the same way he expects to be driven. I wouldn’t mind seeing him win, especially when I’d rather see that than some of his closest competitors. The only thing I didn’t like was that Kenseth was so fast and so dominant that I knew he was going to put Gordon a lap down. Gordon spent much of the race a half of a lap or more down to the leader.
At some point, Penske Racing driver Joey Logano started inching closer and closer to Kenseth on the track and it appeared as if what could’ve been another boring mile and a half race had the capability of turning exciting. They raced hard for a bit, but Kenseth prevailed and once again stretched out to a good lead. Kenseth was not going to be stopped, unless a late caution came out.
Gordon was going to be lapped unless a caution came out, even though he and his crew had actually adjusted his No. 24 Chevy up to a 12th place position it was still that much slower than that No. 20 Toyota of Kenseth’s.
With around 10 laps to go in the race Justin Allgaier spun out his No. 51 Chevy to bring out a caution. It was a moment that instantaneously turned a boring, dominant Kenseth win into an intriguing situation.
It set up what would turn into an epic fight to the finish between Kenseth and Logano. If I had Allgaier’s home address I would send him a thank you card for that timely spin.
Kenseth and Logano battled hard for about six or so laps after the restart with Logano getting side-by-side with Kenseth a couple of times, but not able to make the pass. Logano tried the high side of the multi-groove track, but Kenseth would go up the track in an effort to block his progress. With four laps remaining in the race Logano was so close to Kenseth’s bumper that the two cars looked as one. They zipped by the portion of the grandstands where Aprille and I were seated and roared into turn one. Logano went high. Kenseth mirror driving went high to block and forced Logano into the outside wall. As the two came out of turn one and headed for turn two Logano got into Kenseth’s rear and spun him out. Hard racing immediately erupted into controversy and the caution came out.
The grandstands immediately seemed to take Kenseth’s side of the event. They felt like Logano couldn’t make a clean pass and went to dirty measures to try win the race. I saw it as a driver not liking the fact that a block pushed him into the fence and took matters into his own hand. I’m definitely not a Logano fan, but I don’t take offense to anything he did toward the finish of that race.
The caution led to a green-white-checker finish. Logano would now have to battle Denny Hamlin for the win and Hamlin hadn’t led a single lap all day.
Gordon would come down pit road with a few other cars toward the back of the lead for one more adjustment and would beat a few cars off of pit lane for position.
Logano would take control of the race almost immediately after the restart and would go on to win the race. Gordon took a car that had absolutely no business even finishing on the lead lap and turned it into a top 10 car. He’s always had the knack for turning something less into something greater. It wasn’t a win, but it felt good. It showed he and the team never gave up, even when the ride was junk.
It also felt good because of the exciting finish of the race. Not only did Gordon salvage a good run out of what could have been a disastrous one, but Logano spinning out Kenseth helped Gordon’s championship chances too. If Kenseth had won the race he would’ve locked up a spot in the next segment of the playoffs, which could potentially be a spot Gordon needs. Now Kenseth, who wrecked at Charlotte in the previous race, needs to win at Talladega – always a hard task – next week to make that segment. Logano winning – as he had done at Charlotte the week before – meant that only one driver has clinched a spot for the next segment of the Chase. Everything about the end of the race played exactly into Gordon’s favor.
The weekend at Kansas Speedway was darn near perfect. I got to experience something that I never believed I’d have the opportunity to do (really have to thank my wife for that) and got to see the best run of the four races I’ve been to for my favorite driver in my last time seeing him race.
Really the entire race was a good summation of why I’m a Jeff Gordon fan – he never gave up the entire time and finally made something good out of something bad. That’s admirable. That, maybe more than four championships and 92 wins (third most in NASCAR history), is what truly makes him a legend.
by Eric Fulton
On Monday night Oct. 12, one of the biggest names in college football decided he was done with the thing he loves to do and it came as a shock to many.
Steve Spurrier, who has been a college football staple for decades, decided to retire immediately from his head coaching job at the University of South Carolina. The Gamecocks were in the midst of tough 2-4 start to their season and all four losses were in Southeastern Conference (SEC) play. Spurrier decided it was best for him and South Carolina to step away.
Coach Spurrier is incredibly unique as fans will always remember him for his flamboyant play calling and just trying to shove it up the other team by running up the score. Even though opponents disliked it, he was sending the message that you can’t stop his play calling and you can’t stop his team, at all.
Coach Spurrier was a big time quarterback at Florida in the mid 1960’s. He went on to win the Heisman Trophy in 1966. His head coaching start began in the short-lived United States Football League (USFL) with the Tampa Bay Bandits in 1983. After the league folded in 1985, Spurrier went back to college football coaching at Duke University where he led them to the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Title. Yes, the same Duke that is mostly known for basketball today more than football.
In 1990, he made his way back to Florida where he began a successful run leading the Gators to multiple SEC championships and a national championship in 1996. That same year, quarterback Danny Wuerful won the Heisman making the first quarterback/coach duo to win the Heisman trophy in the long and illustrious history of college football and that famed award. Many fans, including myself, thought Spurrier would retire at Florida. However, he decided to give coaching in the National Football League (NFL) a shot. He coached the Washington NFL team for three seasons in the mid-2000s. I bet he wishes he had a mulligan on that one. By the way, he is an avid golfer.
When he decided to return to college football, he found himself at the one place not really known for football, the University of South Carolina. Spurrier built the program from the ground up and they became frequent contenders in the SEC. He helped guide the Gamecocks to the 2010 SEC East championship and also led them to three straight 11 win seasons, the first in South Carolina history. Several players later became NFL draft signees including number one overall pick Jadeveon Clowney in 2013.
While Spurrier did not win a title at South Carolina, having him on the sidelines for opponents was intimidating and scary for some. However, what fans and fellow coaches liked was the way he told things: very honest and direct to the point. He didn’t cut corners with the media. He simply told it how it was whether he was winning or losing.
Sometimes people know when it is time to go. This week, Spurrier said it was his time to go. While we all will miss what he brought to college football, his impact to the game will never be forgotten. I do hope he enjoys a golf game or two. Thank you for the memories, Coach!
by Julian Spivey
Baseball hit king and Fox Sports 1 commentator Pete Rose ruffled a bunch of feathers on Thursday, Oct. 8 during his analysis of game one of the American League Division Series (ALDS) between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Texas Rangers, a game which the Rangers won 5-3, when he questioned the toughness of Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson.
Donaldson had exited the game shortly after taking a Rougned Odor knee to his head in the fourth inning during a hard slide in which he broke up an attempted double play. Donaldson was tested for a concussion after exiting the game and luckily for the Blue Jays he does not have one.
Rose said: “I just don’t understand. I mean, does everybody know what we’re playing for now? I mean, you get a tweak and you got to leave the game. You get a knee on the head and you’ve got a helmet on and you got to leave the game to go take a test that you pass. I mean, ‘cause you’re a little light-headed? I got light-headed how many times in my career. I still went out there and played. I guess it’s just different from when I played to when they’re playing today, Frank [Thomas]. I can’t see you sliding into second there and leaving the game. I really can’t. And this guy is the MVP.”
Rose was immediately called out by fans and especially media within the game for his harsh, old school ways.
ESPN journalist Keith Law tweeted a couple of different things after Rose’s analysis, “Come on. Is anyone surprised that Pete Rose missed the cut for Mensa?” and the incredibly harsh “When [MLB Commissioner Rob] Manfred rules on Rose’s case this winter I hope he bans Pete from the entire planet.”
I guess a should-be hall of famer who played more than 20 years in the game and amassed more hits than anybody in the 150-year history of this game has no right to an opinion, but a baseball scribe does?
I’m a fan of precaution when it comes to athletes putting themselves in danger, but I’ve got to say I agree completely with Rose’s analysis. If this was a regular season game there would be no reason to call out Donaldson for leaving the ballgame, but this is the playoffs and he left a game before the midway point that was very tight and his team would go on to lose. I don’t believe you can judge everything you see in sports by the eye test, but the hit he took to the head (which was almost completely to his protective helmet) didn’t look that rough.
Fellow FS1 baseball analyst Raul Ibanez, who just retired last season, did make a good point on the broadcast after Rose called out Donaldson when he said that sometimes players don’t get to make the decision on whether or not they come out of the ballgame in a situation where a concussion might have occurred. The protocols set forth by the sport might have enforced Donaldson to leave the game, possibly against his will, but it seems a little more common sense should be used in these situations.
Rose was just reacting to the way the game has changed when it comes to toughness. Rose played in the supremely tough ‘60s and ‘70s and might have been the toughest sonuvabitch in the entire game. He is, after all, the man who took out the opposing team’s catcher with a takeout lunge in an exhibition All Star game.
Rose played the game hard 100 percent of the time and saw no repercussions from it. He never missed more than 30 games in any season until he reached his 40s and led the league in games played five different times, including at the age of 41 when he played in all 162 games that season. He played in at least 145 games in 19 different seasons and, in fact, played in more Major League Baseball games than any player in the history of the game.
This is all to say that one of the toughest men to ever play this great game has every right to call out a player for a perceived lack of toughness. If Rose can’t do that, then who the hell can?
The times have changed in baseball and sports in general it seems. That’s not all bad. Sports should look out for the safety of the athletes. But, athletes also need to have the ability to play in games as important as the one on Thursday that put the Blue Jays in a one game deficit in a five game series.
Rose is right in saying Donaldson is probably the league’s MVP. The Blue Jays desperately could’ve used him at the plate a couple of more times in that game. This might be controversial, but I’ll agree with Pete Rose on this one. Baseball needs a few tough sons-of-bitches like him. Donaldson should’ve toughed it out on Thursday.
by Eric Fulton
In 1979, the Edmonton Oilers selected a young, highly touted prospect named Wayne Gretzky. For much of the 1980s, the Oilers became one of the premier teams in all of the National Hockey League (NHL). When Gretzky was traded to the Los Angeles Kings in 1988, it began a chain reaction to which it helped the NHL expand in the United States.
However, the Oilers franchise would never be the same. They were a strong contender in the Western Conference, but couldn’t duplicate what the team did when Gretzky was the leader. Times have been really tough over the last several years. Since the lockout of 2004-2005, the Oilers have only made one playoff appearance. That year was 2005-2006 when they went all the way to game seven of the Stanley Cup Finals and that year they were the eighth seed in the Western Conference.
Since 2006-2007, Edmonton has finished at or near the bottom of the NHL standings every year. The results meant they would have the top spot in each summer’s NHL draft. Notable players who were selected by Edmonton include Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov. While these guys are still developing with the team in their early 20s, the Oilers once again finished with the worst record in the NHL in 2014-2015. Once again, they selected a player first overall who some say is the next Wayne Gretzky. That kid is Connor McDavid.
When the NHL returned for the 2005-2006 season, they had a kid named Sidney Crosby who was deemed the greatest player since Gretzky retired in 1999. Although Crosby has gone on to win MVPs and a Stanley Cup title in 2009, many hockey fans would say that Crosby is no Gretzky and over the last few seasons, Crosby can’t seem to stay fully healthy either.
What does that mean for McDavid?
For one, if he can produce awesome numbers in his rookie season as projected, he has to stay healthy for the whole season. It will not come easy for McDavid as opponents left and right will try to knockout the young phenom. He is not just expected to win the Calder Trophy, the NHL’s Rookie of the Year, he’s also expected to lead the Oilers in goals, assists and points. A major task to accomplish for a rookie.
Although experts say the Oilers will not make the Stanley Cup playoffs this upcoming season, they do say the Oilers will improve with McDavid being in the fold with Hall, Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle. Edmonton also has a new head coach in Todd McClellan, who led the San Jose Sharks to multiple playoff appearances. I believe they will contend for a playoff spot in the West, but I agree with the experts, as well. Look for the Oilers to be in the playoffs starting in the 2016-2017 season.
Will McDavid become the next great NHL legend? Only time will tell. But, look for him to get off to a great start in his rookie campaign. Great players do have to start somewhere in order to have a successful career. Hopefully for McDavid, the Oilers and the NHL this year will be the start of something special.