National Sports Fun & Commentary
Woody Paige, a nationally acclaimed sports writer for many years, continues to deliver his special brand of commentary via television, podcasts and writing. My cartoons, illustrations and comments are featured weekly on WoodyPaige.com alongside Woody's finest and other outstanding content by some of the finest sports writers in the country. I cover a wide range of sports topics, with an honest perspective that comes from a background as an athlete (D-I lacrosse and football, All-America), coach (youth, club and HS), several years living abroad, and family (Grandpa Wimer is in Basketball Hall of Fame). Featured on this page is work from 2020 and 2021. Click here for earlier cartoons.
"Nuggets and Avs Fan Lift"
The hometown Colorado Avalanche and Denver Nuggets have found their footing at about the same time and are shining as potential favorites in their respective leagues. The Avalanche with a league-leading 54 points, and the Nuggets in a strong fourth place position in the West.
Staying healthy hasn’t hurt the Avalanche, who’s collection of talent is gelling and shining in a way that hasn’t been seen in years in the Mile High City. The Nuggets have been at times outstanding this year, while mediocrity occasionally sets in. A tremendous trade that brought Aaron Gordon to town lands perhaps the perfect piece as an athletic, physical player who can score and defend.
So the pieces are in place for as good a playoff drive as either team has seen in many seasons. And one more benefit recently provided a lift for these teams: The opportunity to have fans in seats to deliver a bit more home ice/court advantage.
Twenty-two percent of Ball Arena capacity, or 4,055 fans, have added some juice to the home games and may have helped the Nuggets climb out of an 18-point hole against the Orlando Magic on April 4. After the first game with fans back (a win against the 76ers), Jamal Murray had this to say: “It’s amazing to have fans back. The energy they bring. Before, when there was no one in the arena, it’s just, I swear to you guys, it’s just like a practice.”
Keeping the numbers limited to maintain separation is a good thing indoors. But it’s great to finally recreate an atmosphere where the hometown teams can continue to flourish.
"Hoops Blue Bloods' Big Dance Plans"
March Madness is upon us finally, but for so many reasons it just ain't the same. We missed it completely last year, crushing the dreams of many a college hoops player, as well as fans across the spectrum. This year it will be held from start to finish in Indianapolis, with a bubble approach that will create a challenge for managing 66 teams, while fending off the Coronavirus. No raucous crowds or opportunities for sports-hungry mid-tier cities to host regionals. Pools and betting will be all over the place, as the unknowns run high in this tournament.
And interestingly, the Big Dance will be missing some of its blue bloods. Past champions like Duke and Kentucky (as well as Louisville, and some other notables) will be staying home. Duke saw its string of appearances since 1995 broken, and Kentucky missed for the first time in eight years, but notably with its worst record since 1926.
It just won't feel the same without those two programs, but perhaps this opens the door for a less storied program that can break through and build something interesting. Of course, there are very small violins playing across the country for Duke and Kentucky, who've played the bully to so many other teams through the years. And even so, those same fans will miss these two hoops blue bloods, simply because they won't be there to root against.
“The Colorado Rockies - A Dumpster Fire Like No Other”
The Colorado Rockies have been picked dead last for the upcoming MLB season by a number of national pundits. Just two years ago they seemed poised to join the ranks of the regular playoff contenders.
Nolan Arenado, perhaps the best player in the franchise’s history is no longer in Denver. Traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for a weak batch of prospects and a backup pitcher, a disgruntled Arenado has left the Mile High city. Fans and players are all left scratching their heads with the move. And oh yeah, the Rockies also parted with $51 million.
All this in the wake of a string of other bad baseball decisions by General Manager Jeff Bridich and owner Dick Monfort. Fans should be excited about the news of some attendance allowed with adjustments to Covid limitations. But will they for this baseball product?
The question has been raised if the organization truly cares about winning. Sure, it costs a bundle to keep up with the high-spending Joneses of Major League Baseball: the
Yankees, Red Sox and Dodgers, to name a few. But cost-cutting, and failure to step up to hold on to gems like Arenado, not to mention DJ LeMahieu (the AL Batting Title champ in 2020 for the Yankees), doesn’t add up to a laser focus on fielding the best team possible.
Somehow this dumpster fire of a team magically keeps kicking out money. Perhaps the organization is blessed with a growing city looking for things to do on spring and summer nights no matter how good the team is. But probably the reality is that none of the key people knows how this thing is supposed to work.
“The True Super Bowl MVPs”
Traditionally, the Pete Rozelle Trophy has only been awarded to a player for being the Super Bowl MVP. Maybe that should be changed going forward, as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers coaching staff made a very valid claim to that title during the 55th version of this end of the season classic.
Sure, Tom Brady stood out as the individual on the field who led a commanding victory over the favored Kansas City Chiefs. Three touchdown passes, 21 of 29 for 201 yards against a solid Chiefs defense, and excellent game management, all at the age of 43 years old made him the obvious candidate.
But what we witnessed was a complete game by the Buccaneers against one of the most explosive offenses in NFL history, a Chiefs defense that was solid and opportunistic, and some of the best coaching minds in the game on the other sideline. En route to a dominating 31-9 win, the Buccaneers seemed prepared for everything the Chiefs threw their way.
It started from the top with Coach Bruce Arians, long known for his connections with his players and his creative approach to the game, and a major reason why Tom Brady landed in Tampa Bay. The offense hummed along in a very efficient and effective fashion that delivered a smashmouth running game expertly meshed with a strong passing game (that benefited from excellent protection for Brady). Byron Leftwich pulled off the kind of balanced gameplan that nearly every coach strives for, but few can stick to, typically because the other team has other plans. In this case, the other team couldn't execute their own plans due to an outstanding Bucs defensive game plan, executed to perfection under the guidance of Todd Bowles. Along the way, an impressive array of players stepped up with strong efforts, all at the right times, and due to the kind of direction you can't help but take your hat off to great coaching.
Like small armies, NFL coaching staffs operate tirelessly while balancing their own team-within-a-team dynamics. Bruce Arians was the maestro.
And plenty has been said about this staff being built with more diversity and with more African-American coordinators than ever seen before in the NFL. Heck, they also have two women coaches.
There are plenty of folks who will point to the star players Tom Brady attracted to the team as the real reason for the win. On the other hand, Gronk's been out of the league for a year, a toxic and unpredictable Antonio Brown was no sure bet, and Leonard Fournette ran himself out of Jacksonville. Others bemoan the ref impact, as multiple penalties went against the Chiefs. Importantly, it was noted by many prior to the game that the Chiefs secondary was known for being very grabby and prone to those kinds of penalties. And what about home field advantage? The list goes on.
But the bottom line was that a remarkable collection of coaches pulled a team together with a lot of new pieces, and orchestrated a stunning upset against a top notch coaching staff in a year chock full of distraction, and made it look easy.
That's my MVP.
“The Bravest of the Braves”
Henry Louis Aaron passed away this past week, leaving behind a legacy as a giant on and off the baseball field.
The last of the big leaguers to join Major League Baseball from the Negro Leagues, Hammerin’ Hank was a paragon of class and dignity through out his Hall of Fame career.
When Aaron approached Babe Ruth’s record for career home runs in 1974, he bravely faced an onslaught of hate and death threats from racist “fans” of the game. During a season where bodyguards followed him everywhere he went, he bore down on the record with grace and focus. But Aaron never forgot what he had to so unfairly endure, famously saving every one of those hateful letters.
His retirement showed no departure from his prior approach to life and the game, cementing his place in baseball and sports lore as a legend and hero.
In a particularly tragic year for so many sports heroes, the light Hank Aaron left behind somehow seems to stand out just a bit more.
The G.O.A.T. vs The Hoodie: 2020 settled who was more important
When we once gathered around the watercooler, it was a classic sports argument: who was the straw that truly stirred the Patriots? The gruff, brilliant, cutoff-hoodie-wearing mastermind Bill Belichick, or the 6th round draft pick with 6 Super Bowl rings — Tom Brady?
With similar number of years in the organization, the two future Hall of Famers presided over arguably the most dominant dynasty in NFL history.
Was that because Belichick was a genius at managing an ever-changing roster of players and assistant coaches (so many hired away as head coaches), a vicious, opportunistic defense, and well-documented gamesmanship (or worse as many would claim) vs. all comers?
Or was it the quarterback who made an art form out of training, preparation and smarts to maximize a solid, but hardly overwhelming set of physical tools?
Or were the two indispensable for each other? Could Brady be as effective outside the Patriots organization, and would the Patriots be able to compete at such a high level without their on field leader?
Due to injuries and a suspension, the Patriots found some limited success when Brady couldn’t take the field. But it wasn’t until this year, when the Patriots decided to let Brady (labeled the G.O.A.T., or Greatest of All Time) walk away from the team he led for two decades, that the world got to see the grand question play out.
Joining a struggling Tampa Bay Buccaneers team that had missed the playoffs the previous year, expectations were low for Brady at 43 years old, coming off a below average season the previous year. There were some ugly games and losses that Brady could take the bulk of the blame for, especially early, but his play improved and when the dust settled at the end of the regular season, Tampa Bay was in the playoffs with a strong 11-5 record. Two wins in the playoffs now has them knocking on the door of the Super Bowl, in the NFC Championship. Not only has he led the team in a way reminiscent of his Patriot days, he also ended the season ranked 5th among all NFL quarterbacks, a feat remarkable for a player at his age, on a new team, and in a new system. To be fair, he joined a team with some offensive weapons, then added more once Brady became the main attraction. Additionally, the pairing with Coach Bruce Arians, an offensive genius, has been very successful.
And how has the Patriot organization and Coach Belichick fared since the separation? Uh, not so great.
They missed the playoffs with a losing record, both occurrences that hadn’t been seen in many years. In the year of Covid all bets are off, so it’s fair to cut any organization some slack and have faith in Belichick righting the ship next year. But right now, Brady is making a very strong case for who was the most important cog in the New England machine.
Floyd Little's Sprint to the Final End Zone
We lost a great one this past week. The first great Denver Bronco, Floyd Douglas Little, galloped off into the sunset after a battle with a rare cancer.
A Ring of Famer, Hall of Famer, and one of only three Broncos to have their number retired by the team, Floyd was truly "The Franchise" in its early days.
Importantly, he stood out as a man who drew praise from his contemporaries as an even better person than he was a player. The kind of cornerstone any organization would be proud to build its future on.
As the once proud Broncos struggle to find themselves amongst abysmal seasons, serious ownership issues, and a transition away from Elway guiding the ship, may the example of Floyd help provide some direction forward.
2020 Winners & Losers
As bad as 2020 was, there were certainly those who came out of it as winners. Man's best friend got a LOT more quality time with their owners, as the workplace moved into the home. And without the option of watching sports live or at the favorite watering hole, the home TV got a heavy workout.
And high on the list of losers was the company watercooler. The long time popular meeting place for talking all things sports (and until recently, politics), the watercooler was a truly lonely entity this past year.
Makes me wonder: has the overall fall-off in sports viewing been a result of our lost connectedness this past year? Without the drama and suspense that is driven by weekly watercooler conversations, do we care a little less about the big game on Saturday or Sunday? Do we thirst to watch the outcome of a contest to prove wrong that guy in accounting whose opinions never have a foot in reality? Are the little side bets about big rivalry games we make with our buddies over beers fewer and farther in between? And is it harder to collect those bets, because we won't see that guy for another month?
Here's to a fresh, new year, where things like the watercooler are reinserted into our lives.
Trevor Lawrence may end up thanking the Jets for him getting a complete education
As the New York Jets stumble towards a winless season, they are clearly becoming the frontrunners in the Trevor Lawrence sweepstakes.
Positioning for the number one pick in the upcoming draft means landing a generational talent in the gifted Clemson quarterback who won a national championship as a freshman, and has continued to impress over his sophomore and junior years.
Meanwhile, the Jets have been in a painful downward spiral since they drafted Sam Darnold out of USC a few years ago. They’ve come up with new and creative ways to lose games while also losing key players. Their defensive coordinator was shown the door recently and the days are most likely numbered for their head coach as well. So the promise of a stud quarterback may be just what they need, right?
Not so fast.
Speculation has abounded that Lawrence may choose to dodge the bullet of being drafted by Jets by making demands pre-draft or simply staying one more year at Clemson. This Jets team is a true trainwreck, with many citing a lack of talent and a strain of toxicity throughout the organization.
Even the greatest Jet of all time, Joe Namath, hinted at the fact that Lawrence should find a way to not punch his ticket to New York.
But who’s to say that one more year will change the overall scenario? It’s not hard to imagine that in another year this dysfunctional Jet team will be in precisely the same situation.
And then what will the NFL’s next great quarterback do?
"Florida State's Change of Sports Fortunes"
A long time top college football program, the Florida State Seminoles have fallen on hard times of late. At 2-6, alongside Syracuse at the bottom of the ACC, all is not good in Tallahassee. A couple of years ago they broke a 36 year run of bowl games with a 5-7 record that made them ineligible for the postseason. It was only in 2013 that they went undefeated and won the national championship.
Much has been said about dissension between the football program and the athletic department, the mess Jimbo Fisher left behind when he departed for Texas A&M, the dearth of funds for keeping up with the likes of Alabama and Clemson, and a toxic football culture. The program is on its third coach in 4 years, and the bleeding shows no signs of stopping.
But a remarkable thing is happening on the other side of the athletic campus…in the basketball program. Florida State football fans should take a moment to dry their tears and admire the work coach Leonard Hamilton has quietly done in building a powerhouse. In recent years the hoops program has made some noise with major wins and runs in March Madness. But last season was something truly special, winning the ACC for the first time in their history while securing a ranking of fourth in the country heading into the ultimately doomed national championship playoffs.
Then, a week ago they saw two of their players drafted: Patrick Williams fourth overall, and Devin Vassell at number 11. A better showing than bluebloods Duke, North Carolina, Kansas or Kentucky. It would seem the school has arrived in the world of basketball just when things haven’t looked worse for fortunes on the gridiron.
"Hijacked Heisman Hopes"
Trevor Lawrence, the junior Clemson quarterback every NFL team is (or probably should be) drooling over, tested positive for coronavirus last week.
In quarantine and out of the game for at least two weeks, Lawrence is at risk of losing any chance at taking home the most impressive end of the season college football hardware, the Heisman Trophy.
A leading candidate for the award on many pundits’ boards, the odds changed quite a bit with this blow. The Tigers squeaked out a comeback win against a middle of the road Boston College opponent this past week in Lawrence’s absence, and came up just short this week against 4th ranked Notre Dame.
The interesting thing is that Lawrence’s freshman backup, D.J. Uiagalelei (barely easier to spell than to pronounce) played well and led a comeback for the win over B.C.. Can’t help make you wonder the reasons for a quarterback’s success (see Tom Brady); is it the player or the outstanding talent on the team around him?
Sometimes a seed of doubt is all that is needed for any of the 929 Heisman voters to look elsewhere to cast their vote.
"A Baseball Underdog Story"
A few months ago, the thought of a World Series was a 50-50 proposition in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, but here we are now with the two best teams by record in Major League Baseball.
The Tampa Bay Rays against the Los Angeles Dodgers in a great match-up. Baseball has always relied on drama to draw broader interest, so it’s nice to see a true “Underdog” scenario. The Dodgers bring the second highest payroll (adjusted for the shortened season) at $108 million vs. $28 million (3rd lowest in MLB) for the Rays.
By most metrics, that disparity in money invested in talent is reflected in what we will see on the field. The Dodgers ripped through the competition in the playoffs until they were able to scrape by Atlanta. Most talking heads give them the nod with simply too much high powered depth.
But never count out the underdog. The fact the little guy knocks the big guy off his perch with relative regularity is why so many of us love our sports.
"The King and The Brow"
Last year when the Los Angeles Lakers pursued and landed Anthony Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans the rest of the NBA let out a collective groan.
Super Teams have been running rampant in the league ever since LeBron James left Cleveland for Miami in 2010, but pairing arguably two of the top three players in the league was something we hadn’t seen. The King and The Brow were destined to deliver dominant basketball.
Physical specimens who could dominate on both ends of the court, the idea of James and Davis playing together made everyone scratch their heads and wonder how you could defend them both over the course of a game, much less an entire playoff series. Ultimately, that was exactly what played out in the NBA playoffs and Finals, with the Lakers taking home the hardware four games to two over the Miami Heat.
LeBron was truly outstanding while winning his fourth NBA championship and another Finals MVP trophy. At 35 years old, his dedication and fitness led to multiple triple-doubles and at times carried the team. A less consistent, but always dangerous Anthony Davis was the piece that was too much for any team they encountered to handle.
There were other pieces that came together quite nicely, like a rejuvenated Dwight Howard and a healed-up Rajon Rondo, who helped right the boat after a rough stretch of play in the bubble. Coach Frank Vogel deserves a ton of credit for dialing up vicious defense and playing mad scientist with a deep, veteran cast and a wide range of lineup nightmares for opposing teams.
But truthfully, in June 2019 when the trade went down for Davis, there was no more suspense, it just became a matter of time.
"The Bad News Bears of Basketball"
The Denver Nuggets keep confounding the basketball sages, with gut-wrenching wins and series comebacks that have made history. And yet they continue to be written off.
Coach Michael Malone last week in the middle of the Clippers series said, “I almost feel like we’re The Bad News Bears and I’m Coach Buttermaker. We’re a team that nobody really looks at and takes us seriously. And our guys, I think, have taken that personally.”
This week's cartoon went to the famous movie poster created by the late, great Mort Drucker (famous for his MAD Magazine work), and faithfully recasts the misfits from the 1976 movie.
The Nuggets don't look like much on paper, especially against the NBA standard bearers. One of the youngest teams in the league, they've got up and coming players like Jamal Murray who seems destined to be a future All-Star, a real All-Star in Nikola Jokic (who doesn't really look the part) and then a deep cast of supporting players. But often a well-coached team with great chemistry knocks off the team loaded with talent.
And Malone also made a hugely valid point that this team was 2nd in the West for much of the season, and that a record should count for something.
But right now, being that underdog team isn't the worst thing, and it's pretty clear that Malone continues to mine that for motivation. So, Charles Barkley and all the other haters can keep on hating, as long as the Bad News Nuggets keep on winning.
But let's hope this story doesn't follow the script of the original movie. The Bears lose in the championship, but decide to throw a party anyway. Looking forward to the party, but with a different outcome.
"Friday Night Lights 2020"
Autumn ushers in all kinds of things we all can excited about. Usually, high school football and "Friday Night Lights" is one of them.
But in a year different than any other, HS football in many parts of the country has been a casualty of the pandemic. Thus, many of us will have to settle for a different kind of Friday Night Lights in the late summer/early autumn.
And hopefully the kids who dream of suiting up for their HS get a chance to before they move on.
“Sports Dipping a Toe Into Uncharted Waters”
Sports are back! Well, kind of...
All of the major sports (and many of the minor ones) are starting up again in some form or another. None include fans in the stands of any note. So the value of television continues to rise on all levels, as sports-hungry fans will ingest anything to enrich their socially distanced lives.
This is uncharted waters for every one of these sports leagues, with most hesitantly dipping their toe before jumping in to the deep end. These waters are fraught with all kinds of danger regarding Covid. Careful getting in too deep, because the coronavirus has a habit of quickly making a mess of things. Just look at baseball and their approach of no fans, small changes, but business as usual for playing home and travel games with limited isolation for players and staff. Somewhat predictable, but a team (the Marlins) already has experienced a surge of cases on their roster, which in turn led to a postponement of several games. With an already short 60-game season, missed games will only complicate rankings and playoff calculations.
Other sports are taking the bubble approach. So far, so good for many of them. But it's early days, and I'm certain there will be a regular tally of players who are caught "breaking out" of their imposed bubble worlds, no matter how much those worlds are lavishly propped up to meet players' various and extensive needs. Patience and maturity aren't the hallmarks of 20-somethings to start with, and athletes certainly don't set records for impulse control. Breaking out means higher chances of exposure, which means eventual cases and hiccups to sports leagues' best laid plans.
Here's to the sports leagues that deliver the sports we've been craving, while keeping things safe and as normal as possible. A balancing act that will be as interesting to watch as the sports themselves.
“Baseball that Matters”
After months of torturous negotiations, the owners and the players' union came to an agreement to make baseball happen in 2020. But it wasn't easy, and it was mostly ugly. Probably most apt was the analogy that it played out like a nasty divorce, and in full sight of the kids.
Enough has been said about sports fans of all kinds looking for any kind of live competition, even if they aren't allowed to see it in a stadium. Baseball will be no different. And additionally, it will provide the benefit of a much shortened season, so that each game actually means something. For a handy comparison, one regular season football game equals 10 baseball games (16 NFL to 162 MLB games). At some point in a normal year, it's hard for the fans (and most likely many of the players) to REALLY care about each game. To you baseball purists out there, this can sound like sacrilegious smack talk, but ask the average fan on the street and they'll most likely give you a shrug if you were to ask who the home team is playing next...or even worse, who they just played. So this new look may prove to inject some additional excitement in the ol' ball game.
We are all ready for real games, so bring them on! At the same time, let's hope that we can protect the players and the armies of support and production staff who need to pull it all off in the time of Covid.
“Revenge of the Nerds?”
The Coronavirus continues to take its toll on every institution across our country and the world. There has been no shortage of theories, conspiracy or otherwise, regarding the origins of the virus and hidden agendas.
So why not throw one more on the pile?
The “nerds” have already long ago found their revenge, as the technology age will attest. They are the ones who startup and run the hot new companies that rake in tons of VC and IPO capital. But to add insult to injury, they’ve developed a bug so strong it’s shut down essentially every sport in the USA. The outcome is hundreds of millions of miserable sports fans who have nothing to watch, bet on, or spend hours arguing about with friends, neighbors, and coworkers.
Mission accomplished for the brainiacs who never had an interest in sports and suffered through years of middle and high school where popularity was the province of the jock.
“Don Shula: A Dolphin into the Great Beyond”
Don Shula just left us to begin a totally new and different ‘season.’ As the winningest coach in NFL history (347 victories), the owner of the only undefeated season (1972), two Super Bowl championships, and only two losing seasons, he was the gold standard.
And Donald Francis Shula did it with a ton of class, and no excuses. He won ugly with defense, with a crushing running game, or by airing it out, depending on what the skills of his players offered.
If there ever will be a Mount Rushmore carved out for coaches, Shula would be a slam dunk; his chiseled face a perfect fit to match his remarkable list of contributions to the game of football.
2020 Cartoons and Commentary
“Pandem-oasis in a sports desert.”
The sports scene has become a virtual desert. No competitions, no audiences — no soup for you.
ESPN plays reruns of old games that people may or may not care about. They drum up intriguing, yet only half-satisfying programs like “The Last Dance,” chronicling Michael Jordan’s final season with the Bulls.
I caught “The Tournament of the Americas” or something like that the other night. USA vs Canada in a dodgeball championship whose mediocre athletes were dead ringers for those in the movie of the same name. Entertaining for about a half hour.
But the NFL Draft is something a little different. Not sports per se, but a draw like nothing else in the past two months. It blew away previous drafts for television audiences, for the simple reason there is nothing else on. For a moment we could all immerse ourselves in something happening real time (as opposed to reruns) and connected to the sport and teams that so many of us love. There was plenty of drama and surprise and hand-wringing, but fundamentally it was a temporary lifeline, an oasis we could enjoy for a moment in the vast desert of silent sports.
Was it any better than previous years? Probably not. As Eddie Murphy once said, “if you’re starving and someone throws you a cracker, you’d be like: ‘That’s the best damn cracker I ever ate in my life!'”
“The Post-Pandemic NBA Look.”
After we figure out the “when,” we’ll get an idea of the, “what it’s going to look like.”
To say the players will be nervous to re-enter the court will probably be an understatement. As the first major sport in the U.S. to show cases of the Coronavirus, and with more potential for exposure than most sports, the NBA will be interesting to watch. Add to that players who’ve been managing their own diet and training (assuming they’ve had access to adequate facilities), let’s just say it will be the beefiest basketball has been in a while.
In the cartoon above, you will find recommended adjustments to certain elements of officiating, and also some tweaks to team logos that will better represent most teams during the post-pandemic era.
Deep into the Coronavirus pandemic, we’ve all dramatically shifted our lives to deal with the new reality. There is hardly a phase of life that has not been turned upside down during the last month for any number of countries and the United States.
The contagious nature of the virus, combined with its frightening mortality rate (especially for those particularly vulnerable) present enormous potential direct consequences for everyone of us and those we love.
Secondarily, the virus has deliverd a knock out punch to organizations, industries, and institutions on a level never seen before in modern history. Starting with the economy —and how we typically keep score of its health in the form of the stockmarket—we saw a drop of 35% in a matter of weeks, accompanied by over three million new unemployment claims. Essentially, indications are that the country has entered a recession.
Sports, usually played and followed during wartime and any other moments of crisis have completely shut down. Leaving fans to search high and low for alternatives, including virtual sports and random sports in far flung countries.
What happens next?
It’s hard to predict — we are now in uncharted territory.
“Alexander Ovechkin’s 700-Goal Smile”
Washington Capitals left winger Alexander Ovechkin reached impressive heights with his 700th career NHL goal, and did so with a smile (and nose) that only a mother could love.
Ovi now ranks 8th overall on the NHL’s all-time career goals list, and he has 194 goals more to match The Great One, Wayne Gretzky. At the rate he is playing and staying healthy, it’s a very real possibility. Known for a rocket of a shot (he won the hardest shot at 109 mph at the 2018 All-Star game), Ovi doesn’t just shoot it hard, but he also is regularly at the top of the league for most shots on goal.
Tough as nails, #8 rarely backs down in any situation (fights included), and yet has remained healthy through most of his career. So at only 34-years old, most players and pundits wholeheartedly believe he will end at the top of an illustrious list — most likely with a missing tooth (or two) more.
There’s plenty of good stories in sports, but this isn’t one of them.
Mel Tucker, a little over a year into his stint as University of Colorado head football coach, bailed this week for East Lansing, Michigan and Michigan State. He reportedly will receive compensation that will more than double his $2.4 million salary at CU — something to the tune of $5.5 million. (He also doubled his pool of money to pay his assistant coaches, and got a massive investment in strength and conditioning from the folks at MSU.)
Michigan State was in a desperate situation after Mark Dantonio suddenly stepped down, conspicuously after a host of recruiting violations were revealed. As an aside, this is an ugly story in its own right; Dantonio claims he simply wants to spend more time with his family. His retirement was announced a day after National Signing Day. I’m sure his recruits loved to hear that news — much like Midnight Mel’s recruits at CU were blindsided by his surprise.
Michigan State was able to put together a boatload of money that most Pac-12 schools would never be able to offer, and in the process, made Mel Tucker one of the top-ten highest paid college football coaches in the country. All of this after a 5-7 season.
Certainly you can’t blame the coach for dramatically improving his financial situation, as well as those of his assistant coaches. But the way he handled the situation in the days leading up to the decision left a lot to be desired, promising he wasn’t interested in the move and dedicating himself to many more years at CU to recruits, boosters and many members of the media. Timing couldn’t be worse, for recruits or available high quality coaches. It was also a gut punch for a struggling football program that seemed to be finally finding its footing.
There will be lots of talk in the days and weeks to come of the haves and have nots in college football, as the disparity between the big two conferences (Big Ten and SEC) and everyone else comes into sharper focus with stories like this.
Super Bowl 54 is less than a week away, and Andy Reid is back for another swing at the big hardware — the Lombardi Trophy.
After 21 years as head coach, which included barely missing out on a ring with the Philadelphia Eagles 16 years ago, and deep runs in the playoffs with the Kansas City Chiefs in recent years, Reid looks primed to break through and shake that proverbial Super Bowl monkey off his back.
It’s his best chance, with a Chiefs team that is firing on all cylinders. They’ve shown their ability to pull themselves out of deficits in a hurry, and score in bunches. All I can say is, ‘good luck beating them in a shootout’ — especially when their wunderkind quarterback Patrick Mahomes gets in a groove with the host of offensive weapons he has at his disposal.
Perhaps more impressive (and important) is a defense that more than slows down the opposition. A weakness that has kept many prior Reid teams from advancing to the big game, this season’s seventh-ranked NFL defense can go toe-to-toe with any offense in the league.
What about the opposition? Kyle Shanahan has a small monkey of his own, having fumbled away a Super Bowl opportunity of his own a few years ago while coaching the offense for the Atlanta Falcons.
Needless to say, it will be interesting to see which coach shakes their respective monkey off their back first.
A little ice is needed for the MLB’s wrist slap on the Houston Astros.
Punishment was meted out to the Astros this week for their sign stealing offenses that took place on their road to a World Series title in 2017. Manager A. J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow were both banned by the MLB for a year, then subsequently fired by the team owner.
Since then, Red Sox manager Alex Cora and Mets manager Carlos Beltran have also lost their jobs for their involvement in the scheme.
There’s been plenty of complaints across the league that this wasn’t nearly enough of a punishment for a club that benefited financially in a big way from the championship, and was, in effect, merely a slap on the wrist.
The tremors have been felt across the league with more questions and accusations.
For a rule that has a ton of grey area (sign stealing is legal as long as it doesn’t involve technology), it will be interesting to see how it all shakes out.
Paws on the Prize.
No matter what, fans of Tigers will be waking up Tuesday morning as National Champs.
The LSU Tigers face the Clemson Tigers in what projects to be an epic final game of the college football season. The winner will be crowned the 2019 College Football Playoff national champions.
Two outstanding offenses facing nearly as equal defenses, with loads of talent that will eventually be starring on Sundays. And, for the first time in five years, there will be no Crimson (Tide) involved in college football’s biggest game of the season.
It’s hard to believe after so much success by Alabama and head coach Nick Saban over the last dozen years. And at the end of the day, it would be foolish to count them out in years to come.
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