Pick Your Sport

All Opinion Articles – Page 2

Why Can’t I Just Watch the Game?

I recently went to an NFL game that left me somewhat surprised. Not surprised by the game outcome but more of the surroundings and ambience of the stadium.  The stadium is only a few years old and appears to have state of the art functionality.  The scoreboard is not really a scoreboard but huge television that is amazingly clear even during the daytime.  The Wi-Fi is free and concessions are wide ranging in choice. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been much improvement in stadium seating over the years, they are still hard on the rear end are crammed to together with little leg room that make carrying and balancing your beer and hot dog a circus act.  You still have to put your butt in someone’s face while you bust through the row of spectators in your row.   Some things will never change but that is the least of my gripes at the shiny new and pricy stadium.

Can you imagine being in a football stadium that the only noise generated was the crowd and the public address announcer? Well, that a foregone area reserved now only for high school football.  Between every play and break of play it seemed the stadium was engulfed in bombastic blasts of music and sound effects.  It’s not just any music but short burst of heavy metal music.  I don’t mind a “We Will Rock You” now and then because it was the really first song to be used worldwide.   Now you will hear various tracks from ACDC and Gary Glitters, Rock N Roll part 2, Guns N Roses, Welcome to the Jungle and a list of other arena jams.    At the game I was at, they just bypassed the music at times to unleash war drumming along with the PA announcer announcing it was third down.  The main question here is, why do I need to be pumped up into a frenzy?  Everybody stands and I hate to get up every minute, especially when I have a plate of nachos.

Maybe there are those in the crowd who need to be pumped up with the ear shattering sonic sound bombs while the big screen tells us to make noise. The idea of making the other team lose their hearing rarely works except in places like the cavernous confines of the Seattle stadium.   I know everybody has to get excited to stand up and bellow out “Defense” but when you have to raise the decibels  to damaging levels and if the defense doesn’t make a stand, then what?  We blew out some of the cilia in our ear canals for nothing.  Sorry for the anatomy term, cilia are the small hairs in your ears that are part of our hearing system.

Maybe this is an age thing, perhaps.  On the contrary, do we want our children exposed to the noise levels in these arenas and stadiums?  Hearing loss is an accumulative condition that is spread over years of exposure.   Sport venue noise is just one of many issues that today’s society present when it comes to hearing loss.  A large portion of today’s youth use earphones that will show up as hearing loss in the future if not managed.   I like my earphones as well but I try to keep them at lower levels so I can hear some outside noise as well.  The last thing I want in this world to not hear my loved ones tell me how much they love me or not.   Happy listening.

When Your Favorite Team Loses

When you see the opposing team storm the field after they won the big game it feels like someone either threw rubbing alcohol on an open wound or you just sit dumbfounded by the turn of events. I personally acknowledge the bitter taste of defeat, which then turns into anger and then it manifests into a dumb stupor.   The next day,  I try to blurt it out of my brain and focus on positive things like puppies and strawberry short cake.   In reality, I try to ask myself why did spend so much damn time getting wrapped up in the lives of millionaires while I watch their games in my underwear eating a bowl of cereal.  After much introspection,  I realize I put up with the silliness of being a loyal fan because the team I follow is part of me.

As much as I don’t want to get emotionally sucked in the daily ups and downs of my favorite teams, I eventually come around and get concerned if things are not going so good. Hey!  They lost five games in a row, I better listen to sports talk radio and find out what the hell is going on.  The worst roller coaster rides are the NBA and MLB seasons because they drone on forever and there are mini seasons that happen within the big season.  First, your team starts out, guns a blazing, winning and getting everybody excited, then about half way through the season they hit a road block and skid off the tracks.  Players become injured and now the team has to trade a bundle of young prospects to get a player who might come in and save the day.  Sound familiar?   That’s the MLB every year and the NBA is almost the same except they save most of their torture for the end at the playoffs.  The NBA and the NHL have piled on four rounds of playoffs that they make you endure for three months.

As a loyal fan if you have lasted through the marathon season and managed to give a damn to the end, you now you get to bite your nails down to the nubs and watch the playoff rounds.   If your team manages to move forward into another tier of the playoffs you get to change your life and normal behavior into the scheduled time of the games.  You make arrangement for food choices and who you will watch the game with.  If you fly solo and want to be left alone in your living room while you sweat it out, you get the luxury of talking to yourself.  I have done this plenty of times and find it liberating to cuss, burp and yell in privacy.  I personally like to be around a gathering of people during a big sporting event because it distracts you from having to watch every single minute of every single play.

If your team is fortunate to win the big game, you get to walk on cloud nine for a brief moment in time. You get to gloat and talk trash against all of the naysayers and best yet you get to buy clothing that said your team won the championship.  If your team loses the championship game you get mixed emotions. Those mixed emotions are cross between anger, sadness, despair and denial.  I go into denial that it never happened and try to act as if it was no big deal.  But in reality it hurts and you first want to blame those athletes and coaches who blew it and chocked and sometimes  it’s the referees and umpires faults.   This is all part of the deal when you become a loyal fan and if you are Chicago Cub fan then you have endured more abuse than normal  Maybe it’s their year but if it doesn’t happen, take time to decompress and watch another sport because spring training is only four months away.

Cojones… The Number 1 Badass Credential

We all remember childhood bullies, the little psychopaths that tormented us and will ever have a place in our long term memory. We also remember the one kid that stood up to that mutant, was that you? I myself have both cowered down and stood up.  The times that we stood up are the times that have given us the most pride in ourselves and person we strive to be.  Funny thing you didn’t feel so introspective at time when you stood your ground, you just knew that enough was enough.   Cojones is the Spanish term for balls, yes but the term is trans gender when it is Americanized because women can have cojones when it comes to being brave and having some moral courage to take a risk.

When we are watching sports and you see a great play, you feel compelled to yell and hand out high fives. Then you see a play when an athlete really took a risk that elevated the team or their own performance to a higher level, that is cojones.  If they fail while taking a risky chance then we call that performer a fool to try.  The line between success and failure is very thin and if you don’t succeed there are immediate consequences.

I was watching the Oakland Raiders and New Orleans Saints on week 1 of NFL season and saw the coach of Raiders sporting a big set of cojones. His team just scored in the last seconds of the game to only trail by one point.  The Raiders could have kicked an extra point to tie the game and send the game into overtime.    Raider head coach Jack Del Rio decided to go for a two point conversion to put their team ahead by one point with 30 seconds remaining.  If it backfired he loses the game and he is blamed for being reckless.  Fortunately his team succeeded and held on to win the game.  NFL games are high stake gambling affairs, are highly scrutinized by the fans and media that have the ultimate power to define your capabilities.  Del Rio seemed calm and light hearted about the call and that is why I was so impressed.

In the days of big contracts, endorsements, hyper media scrutiny and social media, rarely do you see athletes and coaches sway too outside the norm. When they do stray into unconventional ways the backlash will follow tenfold if they are deemed a failure and made a careless decision.   I am a big fan of the “flea flicker” play in football when on a rare occasion you see once or twice a season.   It’s a shame that football is fairly predictable in its play calls that all of fans in recliners can figure out what play is coming next. Real cojones is not often displayed like kicking onside kicks when they normally just blast a kick off into the end zone.   Every so often we see a trendsetter and individuals that think outside the box and get us fans excited to see a new way.

Cojones really means “not giving a damn about criticism”. Be the person with big cojones in your life. When you can get kicked a little, spat on, yelled at, lambasted but what doesn’t break you makes you a tough son of  a gun.   Think outside the box and will find how you are alone at times but when you are right on, the payday comes with higher rewards.  I know this is just pop-psychology, but when you really think about it’s the only psychology that makes sense.

 

 

 

Coaching…Is it overrated?

Everybody remembers their coaches, especially the really good ones and that includes the questionable ones. The good coaches are ones that you usually liked as people and the bad ones yelled at you too much.   I don’t want to go into what characteristics make a bad coach, I am sure the list is long for many.  For me personally, I will always remember the strange coaches that felt inclined to play their kid ahead of others who were far more deserving and more talented.

The reason I am bringing up the coaching overrated argument is because we expect a lot of the coaches and they take way too much blame for losing or too much credit for winning. Coaching is important as a progressive path as athletes age and move up through the levels of their chosen sport.   The coaches that are handling the youngsters in the early stages of their venture into organized sports are so influential.  Many of these youth coaches don’t realize how much influence they have and can either enhance the experience or sour it for the kids.  I am not talking about whether they bring juice boxes to dugout or sideline but how they teach and motivate them.  Nowadays, a lot of coaches have to do the yeoman work of being a child psychologist, adult therapist, equipment manager, fundraiser, umpire, referee, doctor and policeman.   It is a challenge that sometimes takes a squad of parents and coaches to get the job done when it once took one or two adults.   The youth sports today are taken more seriously and if the coach is not handling things perfectly I am sure that they will hear it from many parents.  I feel for those coaches that don’t deserve the criticism.

When the child climbs the ladder of sporting competition and the level of talent is more refined, the coaching needs changes to more of mentor and teacher.   This is where the amount of good teaching coaches is needed more than ever.  There is a shortage of quality coaching at the teen level of performance.  The good coaches at this level can elevate a child’s performance and perhaps prepare them for the next level.

If a child is still playing organized sports into their late teens then they have been taught well and groomed for the next level which is collegiate and professional.   There is where coaching is less important and where the athlete needs to take a survivor mentality to keep rising up the ranks.  Sure good coaching is always needed but no one will care more if you succeed than yourself.  There is no one to blame at this point and the motivation has to come from within.

At the highest level of coaching and managing this where the coaching of players is more of a game strategist and less about teaching. In some sports, such as professional basketball, the coach has minimal influence on players and their performance.  Players are getting paid and if that doesn’t motivate them they will probably join the rest of us in the day to day working stiff grind.   Coaching at the professional level is a slippery slope. You are only as good as your talent and if you don’t win games soon, its signora.  So professional coaching is about instilling a system and strategy to win and it can only be successful if the players can execute.

Is coaching overrated? It is overrated when coaches take the brunt of the blame for poor performance, unless there is a full blown mutiny against them.  When a team flat out rejects a coach it is usually because he doesn’t handle the various personalities with sensitivity.  Like I said earlier, having the gift of how to mold the mixed bag of personalities into a cohesive team unit will at least make you popular as a coach.  If a coach can do that and win on field as well, then you have the recipe for being very successful.  If it was easy, there wouldn’t be a shortage of youth coaches.  Every athlete has to at least try to coach once in their life.  There are a lot of rewards, maybe not monetary but when you can step into shoes of all of the others who tried, you will think twice about throwing rotten tomatoes at the coach.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Underachievers

Ah…the underachievers, the culprits who are making your team lose. The underachievers are scoundrels and need to be run out of town.  They are the ones that are usually overpaid and have become overweight and complacent in their actions.  They have guaranteed contracts and will cruise until the last year of their contracts.  The underachievers don’t care if they are underachieving and usually get hurt and will be unable to perform for long periods of time.  Unlike the overachievers, they are descending in their performance level and can very well find themselves cut loose.  Sometimes they get cut loose while they are still owed millions.   Now we really hate them.   Of course, this was a harsh assessment and most of it is from our outside biased opinions. Read More →

What If Steroids Were Allowed in Sports?

How many athletes would use them if they were allowed? Steroids will never be unbanned but we already have seen what does happen when large groups of athletes use them.   One doesn’t have to look very long ago to see the athletes from the Russian 2014 Winter Olympics team.   This well publicized and documented scheme of doping was orchestrated at the highest levels in their sporting hierarchy.  They used sophisticated methods to mask their testing and achieved great success at the Games.  I cannot wrap my mind around why they felt they would get away with this crime when most all others in the past have gone down in a blaze of glory.   For those who decide to partake in the usage, it comes down risk and reward.

Steroids, growth hormone, blood doping and all of the other ways to enhance performance are not going to ever go away. The only way to slow it down is to make the punishment for getting caught harsh enough to deter.  Lifetime bans on incrimination may be the last step to rid the majority of the cheating.   Even then, there will be some fools that will take the risk, especially if it means a chance at a big paycheck.  Most athletes know when they are going to get tested so they cycle their schemes around those test dates.  Random testing catches a few but I really don’t think that it has deterred usage with results that most sports entities are looking for.

As far as a solution with a Libertarian bend would be to lift all bans on usage and doping and let the forces have their way. Does it sound like madness?  Records and statistics would go away because guys would probably smack 90 home runs a year, unless the pitchers are so much better that less home runs are hit.  The usage would shorten the lives of many of the users, all statistics would have an asterisk placed next to them and children would get their hands on them.  Bad idea, can’t happen, won’t happen.

Now we’re back to punishment as the only deterrent.   Public shaming has be already be used as way of ridiculing the guilty but as you know, it has its limits.   The professional sports leagues need to get tougher to combat the usage but they find they get pushback from players unions.   The middle ground may be to have mandates placed in contracts that if you get caught using then you will have your contract revoked matter what is guaranteed.   Let’s face it, the reason people go down the enhancement path is because of big pay days and that they be reinstated after serving a suspension.

It will come down to the players agreeing to harsher punishments, not the owners.   The owners like the results that enhanced players bring but they hate it more when those players get caught, it reflects on their brand and franchises to allow cheating.   The battle still needs to be fought over the stricter rules and that will involve lot litigation and negotiating.  In the end, the players should want a level playing field but somehow the change is coming slow.  Because the process is slow, newer methods are being discovered and ways of cheating are evolving faster than the rule makers can keep up with.

The Olympics are almost here so don’t be surprised to hear more and more about cheaters taking the risk. It’s unfortunate we will have to question if a world record is set in track and field race or Russian victories and some of the most innocent appearing participants being skeptically examined.  The whole Olympic doping scheming goes back over 30 years and who knows how many world records were set with juiced athletes.  I will just watch and enjoy the Games for what they are and never mind the suspicious activity, otherwise why have them at all.

Sports on the Radio is Still Free…Maybe

essential-2-the-home-theater-experience-viewing-a-big-screen-television-surrounded-by-wood-paneling-from-the-comfort-of-a-leather-recliner--with-I just got my cable bill and noticed the ever increasing charges for watching my local sporting teams. As the tickets of the live events increase and less people attend, fans are can turn to the television to catch almost every ballgame.  This is where the cable and satellite providers get you.  They have you hooked on their sports package and your wallet is what they want to keep getting into.  Sure it’s still cheaper than going to a game but when your overall bill climbs to $150 a month, you might have to take a hard look at what you are getting.

For instance in my household, I have the satellite sports package and my overall bill is running $140 a month. My bill includes some movie channels but most important I have my local sports teams being viewed in High Definition.  I have to do pay extra for the high definition viewing as well, once you see it you can never watch standard definition again.  Some of the local sports teams play as much as fifty miles from my house and are not feasible for me to attend during the week.   I have the luxury of watching all games on the big screen, in a lazy boy chair with a cup holder.

Where is all of this leading to? Television contracts are driving up the revenue for pro sports which in turn means players are getting paid more.  When players get paid more, cost for seats rise in price, television contracts rise, cable and satellite costs rise and the cycle keep repeating itself over and over.   The days of getting a free game on your TV are almost extinct unless you have a nifty pair of rabbit ears (you know the antenna prongs you can set up in your house) or you have and antiquated aeriel antenna on your rooftop.  This eliminates 99% of sports fans who are ponying up the cable/dish ransom.

How do we get around paying the ransom? Well, you have a few choices which are not perfect but do offer some solace.  The radio is still free last time I checked, unless you add in the gasoline in the car or the electricity or battery it takes to run one.  You can go to a friend’s house and bribe him with beer and snacks to let you watch a game.  You can go to a sports bar, order a coke and eat the free pretzels and hopefully not get thrown out.   Hmmm,  this is not as easy as I thought.  The only other way to watch a free game is to go to a store that has a big screen television and have them turn on a game for you while you sit on one of those comfy couches.

On a serious note, be prepared to keep digging deeper into your wallet to watch all sporting events unless you are prepared to watch only pickup basketball games at the park. When you think about, your property taxes are paying for the upkeep of that park and those are only going up too.  It comes down to how much you are willing to pay and how important it is to you.  I look at it as luxury to watch games in my big recliner and look at the 55”screen.  It hasn’t reached the point for me to cancel the sports channel but there may come a time when I turn or my transistor radio and putter around in the garage like my dad did.  It was gratifying to him to have the ballgame on while he was multitasking.   He was multi-tasking before the word was evented and all because he loved his sports.

 

It’s the Shoes, Gotta be the Shoes

Athletics and shoes have teamed up the last forty years to put their mark on fashion. Before that, shoes where considered just equipment and very little attention was given, even when Joe Willie Namath was donning a pair of white cleats in the AFL.  As a kid I never thought the Converse Chuck Taylors, Joe Lapchicks or PF Flyers were anything so special that I had to have them.   In fact, I would wear any damn shoe that my parents could afford and sometimes I wore my older brother’s hand me down shoes.

Then something started happening in the early seventies in shoe world. I am not an historian but I think Adidas and Puma shoes became more and more visible.   When a neighbor kid began wearing the white Adidas with the three black stripes, I was smitten. But still, my parents couldn’t afford them so when the neighbor kid was done with his old Adidas he gave them to me.  I wore them until they basically fell apart and then I taped them together to squeeze out a little bit more life.  Then I had to settle for the Kmart brand that had either two or four stripes, not the same status and everybody knew it.

It wasn’t really until Michael Jordan came around for the athletic shoe market to take off. There were others before Jordan’s influence but they never had the impact that his branding has.   Jordan and Nike revolutionized how young people feel about shoes.  It was no longer just a fashion piece but more about status and hipness.  The more rare and exclusive, the Jordan shoe, the more cultural value it had amongst the kids.  Their parents had to shell out over a hundred dollars for a pair of basketball shoes that became unchartered territory for a “gym shoe.”

So twenty five years later we have reached the point of saturation for athletic shoe styles and brands and now has become just another commodity. Sure it’s billion dollar market but I don’t think we have seen a new revolution of shoes for a few years.  I tend to believe the next wave with somehow incorporate smart technology much like a smart watch.  You will be able to know the wear status and temperature of a shoe for optimum performance.  Of course you will know that your toenails are too long because the shoe will tell you so.

In the last decade athletic shoes are also being required to make statements about our beliefs and causes. I have seen many of pink shoes in a game supporting breast cancer awareness and numbers scrawled on them to support the passing of a fellow athlete.   You also can get an athletic shoe in any color and style which make me longing  for the days of Johnny Unitas black high top cleats.  As I age I want fewer frills on my shoes because a $150 pair jogging shoes is not going to improve my performance.   I own a pair of Stan Smith all white tennis shoes that were so hard to find that I had to wait weeks to get them on the internet.  I guess simple shoes are not cool but I think there comes a time when uncool is cool again.  The day is coming.

 

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Why We Watch Sports – #1

Years of watching sports, good and bad and hours and hours invested into the pastime often leaves you wondering why I do this. Why am I not doing something more productive like cleaning out the garage?  Sometimes you sit or often lying there in a relaxed state, taking in a golf tournament or a football game where your team in not playing and no emotional expulsion will take place.  The minute you see something that is truly an outstanding feat, your brain triggers your body to respond in rapture.  The second your favorite team has an umpire or referee make a call against your squad, the blood and venom boil over and something not very pretty comes out of your mouth.

The weekly column will explore the depths of our little brains for the reasons we watch the athletes and sporting endeavors of the day. Week One, Column 1 is geared at hero worship.

Our sports heroes are not always the first ones we saw on TV or at the stadium, for me it was the older neighbor kids that were good basketball and baseball players. Our neighborhood was filled with families with kids, this being the era of the baby boomers.  This was a time before video games and child abductions so we played outside constantly without adult supervision.  When I was idolizing the bigger kids on the block, I also was really into wrestling and roller derby.  These sports offered bigger than life action heroes that where fighting good against evil.

As I aged into teen years, I often gravitated to athletes that where not the biggest stars of the day. I found something in them that I discovered in myself even if I didn’t know it at the time.  I remember liking odd balls like Mark “The Bird” FthSH2ZSOT1ydrych”, Pistol Pete Maravich and Billy “White Shoes” Johnson.  They all had something unique about them that were nontraditional that I still find myself gravitating towards.

I sure you can see your own personality in the athletes and heroes you chose to follow in your formative years. If you liked Reggie Jackson, the slugger or Michael Jordan growing up then you probably like the best of the best in most things in life.  You demand excellence in yourself and others you deal with on a day to day to basis.  Take a look, there is some validity to my simple little personality test.

Why do we as spectators and fans need our heroes? Most of the time it is because of the skill level of their performance that we admire but it is also because we see ourselves in them.  We admire not just their physical gifts but it can be the way they handle themselves on the field of play.  Nowadays I find myself rooting for the older players who haven’t received all of the high accolades of others in their playing career.  Okay, I am sucker for the underdog.  On the contrary, the worst thing you can be called as a fan is a  “band wagon fan”.   You know the person that starts wearing the team jersey when they are in first place because everybody likes a winner.  If are the fan of the team that just lost the championship, does that jersey get put away until they are winning again?

The most recent of sports heroes to transcend to the highest of highs to be placed on the mantel of immortals has to be the recent feats of LeBron James. Sometimes he has been the goat and heel but say no more about his efforts in the NBA finals.  He willed his team to beat the once invincible Golden State Warriors and gave the city of Cleveland its first championship in professional sports in fifty two years. Until he delivered on that promise he made he was not going to hear the end of the criticism.      Congrats to LeBron James, The Cavaliers and the city of Cleveland.

 

Pass Me Those Garlic Fries

“You are what you eat”, the old saying that I am not sure what it means, if applied at a ball game then I am a hot dog. I am not sure what it implies but I do know that I enjoy hot dogs with sour kraut, mustard and onions about as much as a lobster dinner.   I admit, I do have carnivorous tendencies but have you ever had a tofu hot dog?  When eating at sporting events, the majority of us forget about health choices and the actual benefit of the food we are ingesting into our bodies.  When I am at home I am fairly sure  I would never eat a bowl of tortilla chips covered in hot steaming orange cheese sauce and jalapeno peppers but a ball game I would devour it like a lion and their prey.

You can go to most sporting events and find multiple choices in sausages when years before it was hot dogs as the only choice for meat stuffed into membrane. The old time favorites of peanuts and popcorn are still available but now you can indulge in nachos, garlic fries, pizza, a bowl with any kind of ethnic food lumped into it, sushi and yes even a salad.  The smell waffles through the stadium and even the strongest of health conscious fans break down and have something to munch on.  I have seen people eating salad at a game which goes against my rules for behavior at a ballgame, no salad during any sporting event or hanging around manly men.

Yes ballgame food is indulgent, not a healthy choice in most cases, costs an arm and leg and is distracting from the contest itself. But, we like it, we want it and will throw down ten dollars for beer and six dollars for a sausage.  It is all about the experience of a live event that is best enjoyed while eating garlic fries.  It is an extension of our living room with our big screen TV’s and our food.  Why can’t we just watch the game without self-indulgence?  Is it because the game is not really an enjoyable experience without a hot dog and by eating a hot dog completes the whole event.  Could be.   I think that the hot dog and game are one in the same.  Without one you can’t have the other. We are trained early as fans by others that this is the way you act.

The food at sporting events has spawned many of spin off businesses.   Take the chicken wing for instance.  The once disrespected part of the chicken has become the most important part.  There are probably over a thousand chicken joints catering to the wing craze.  You can bet artificial wings are on the way.   I can really see chickens in the future being genetically morphed or scientifically enhanced to have four wings to help alleviate wing shortages during the Super Bowl.   In addition, I saw garlic fries now being offered in the frozen food section of the supermarket.  I not sure if I would ever buy these but it is good to know I can fulfill that craving without having to go to the ballgame.

So the trend that is now a reality, you cannot bring a picnic basket into a game. You can still bring your bag in without some food items but you will probably be sitting next to a guy wolfing down a colossal dog and beer and you will look at that guy and either say, “That smuck spent twenty bucks on that meal” or “damn, I wish I had twenty bucks to spend on that.”  Sadly the costs of this stuff is so inflated that it keeps some families from attending more games.  I have yet to see a kid menu at the game nor a senior citizens discount. I understand that the quadrupling of concession prices helps keep the team on the field but I still need to know why the workers only a get a small wage and the washed up pitcher gets twenty million dollars a year.  In my humble opinion, without the fans buying overpriced hot dogs the overpriced players wouldn’t be on the team.  Sometimes a hot dog is just a hot dog but sometimes a hot dog is a meal ticket.

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