Archive for the ‘Sports’ Category

Some of my fondest memories as a child were spent playing, studying, and watching sports. My two greatest loves were football and baseball; but as a child there was just something magical about baseball. I would spend hours either playing or learning about how to play these two sports. I was really into collecting sports cards not only for the pictures, but for the stats on the back of the card. I would memorize the information on the back of these cards. I knew players stats like I knew my phone number. I was amazed at how my brain remembered this information so vividly; yet I could hardly remember anything I learned from school. I had to be taught these sports on my own because my father was never really around and my step-father would rarely give me the time of day. As a child I would watch every game on television I could; I would study batters baseball stances, fielding techniques and the pitchers delivery. I remember playing sick just so I could watch the Cubs play their day games on WGN. I think because there was no one teaching me the game I learned from watching it.

My fondest of fondest memories come from when my dad actually took the time to take me to the baseball fields. I would get so excited and counted down the hours and minutes before we could go out and play. I would carefully pick out various different player baseball cards of players I knew the most about. I wanted to make sure I knew everything about these players so I didn’t waste any precious time trying to remember their mannerisms, and I also enjoyed this time to look smart in front of my dad. Before my dad would pitch to me I would grab a specific card and tell my dad that this is who I was along with some stats about the player. I would make sure I had the stance just right to simulate this player. My favorite was Kirby Puckett with his dramatic leg lift, or Julio Franco with his goofy stance. The one thing I remember my dad saying to me was “why don’t you just be Tim?” I remember thinking he was crazy; why I would want to be Tim when I could be Roy Smalley, Vince Coleman, Tony Gwynn, or Jose Canseco.

When my dad was not around I remember going in the backyard with a pocket full of cards and play homerun derby until the sun set. I would throw the ball high up in the air and try to smash it over the fence. Just writing about this brings such splendid memories to my mind. I loved baseball, and like millions of young children I dreamed of making it to the big leagues one day. I eventually ended up giving up baseball when I got hit in the face while I was pitching. Luckily the line drive was not hit to hard. I only suffered a black eye, and bloody nose but the ripple affect from that day is still with me. I never played baseball competitively after that because I was consumed with fear of being hit with the ball. Over time I stopped following the game like I did as a child. I am now a die hard football fanatic.

I still hold tightly to the memory of pretending to be Puckett while my father pitched to me. I pine over the nights where Wade Boggs would win the homerun derby, and I loved the days of playing sick to watch the Cubs. I miss what baseball meant to me as a child. It was a sport with so much dreams and possibilities. I have tried to follow the game today, but there are so many players who I have no idea who they are let alone memorized their mannerisms or stats. I follow the Twins, but my interests don’t go far beyond that. These memories come back anytime I play with or watch my son pretend to play baseball. To see his face light up anytime he is pretending to hit a homerun, or catch the wining touchdown. I smile and the fond memories as a child return.

The No Fun League is at it yet again trying to ruin Americas Game. The powers that be have created a new rule in an attempt to protect the players. This new rule in effect will fine and suspend players for flagrant hits. It is my understanding this is; but not limited to helmet to helmet tackles, and the big hits safeties deliver over the middle. These types of hits are a staple of the NFL. When a receiver is going over the middle he should expect to get drilled by a safety, cornerback or linebacker. This is what separates the men from the boys. Players like Cris Carter made a name for himself being fearless over the middle. He knew he was going to get jacked, yet he still caught the ball. He was deaf to the footprints over the middle, and focused solely on catching the ball. He was a warrior who put his team before his own body. He was a football player.

There are a countless amount of football players who have made a name for themselves as fierce hitters. These gladiators waited over the middle licking their chops waiting to unleash unimaginable amounts of pain on whoever touched the ball. They were the enforcers of the team, and were respected and feared by the competition.  The one enforcer that comes to my mind first is Ronnie Lott. The opposing offense knew when they came in to play the San Francisco 49ers the receivers needed to be aware of Lott patrolling the middle of the field. The receivers knew if they wanted to go over the middle Lott would be waiting there for them to deliver a mighty hit. This fear factor changed the way teams played against the 49ers. This one man was able to change the course of a game, and how opposing offensive coordinators game planned.

Football is a mans game. Lott for example chose to have one of his fingers cut off so he wouldn’t miss any games. Jack Youngblood played with a broken leg so he could help his team in the playoffs. Brett Favre kept getting up after brutal hit by brutal hit in last years NFC Championship game. His ankle was completely destroyed. It takes a tough son of a bitch to put on those pads and strap on a helmet every Sunday. These men enter into battle every weekend with the goal of victory. This is why we love and admire these players. Limiting players like Ed Reed from being brutal and ruthless on the field is in effect taking him off the field. The NFL needs to realize they are taking away one of the greatest weapons of a defense. If a defense is able to get into the quarterbacks and wide receivers heads and alter their mindset; then the defense has already won. 

Over the years the National Football League has created new rule after new rule to help protect the players. The “Brady rule” for example was conceived when the New England Quarterback Tom Brady was injured the first game of the season and was lost for the year. This was after the New England Patriots undefeated regular season. The NFL had to create a rule to protect its big named quarterbacks. I can somewhat understand this, but these quarterbacks need to realize they are playing professional football, and in playing football you are going to get hit, and you are going to get hit hard. The true test of a football player is getting up off the ground and playing another set of downs. What’s next changing the game into flag football?

Changing this rule, and tacking on a punishment as stiff as suspension and losing a game check is going to cause the big hitters of today to not run full force like they should. The fear of accidently causing a helmet to helmet tackle will cause them to let up on the gas a bit. This will be a disadvantage to the defense, and a shame to the fans. This is going to rob the fans of one of the greatest elements of professional football the big hits. We tune in every Sunday to watch a war between two opposing teams. This is our version of the Roman Coliseum; these are our warriors. Why must we ruin the purity of the game? Injuries happen, and people get hurt. This is all part of the game. The owners know this, the players know this, and the fans know this. Taking away the raw violence of the game is to water down the greatest sport ever. I turn the television on every Saturday and Sunday to watch men battle men. To see the unscripted violence in full HD, I do not want to see timid defenders holding back because they are afraid of suspension. Let the gladiators’ loose and let them battle.

“My motto was always to keep swinging. Whether I was in a slump or feeling badly or having trouble off the field, the only thing to do was keep swinging.”
Hank Aaron

Henry Louis “Hank” Aaron: (born February 5, 1934 in Mobile, Alabama) is a retired Hall of Fame baseball player whose Major League Baseball (MLB) career spanned the years 1954 through 1976. Aaron is widely considered one of the greatest baseball players of all time.

Sports figures have given us many memorable motivational quotes throughout history. These quotes not only give us motivation to keep trying on the field, but off it as well. An athlete may give us a quote that only pertains to on the field perspective, but we can always incorporate it into our personal lives. The lessons we learn about ourselves through participation in competitive sports reflects in our personal and professional lives long after we hang up the cleats.

In baseball if you are able to achieve a .350 batting average you just had an All Star season, you would be praised by the fans, as well as by your peers. If you are able to finish your career with a lifetime batting average of .350 or greater; you would have written your own ticket to the Hall of Fame. If we stop to think about this success to failure ratio, a Major League Baseball All Star only succeeds 35% of the time! I do not know many companies who would keep an employee who failed 65% of the time.

I use the batting average analogy with my children who participate in sports. They will get down if they have a bad at bat, fumble, or just an overall bad game. This success to failure ratio in sports will put a smile on their faces, knowing those they look up to also have bad games. They are motivated for their next at bat, next down, or their next game. I think this and the analogy of practice makes perfect have given my kids valuable lessons on how to succeed in sports and in life.

Sometimes failures can become our greatest lessons. In life we will make many mistakes. We should look at mistakes as learning opportunities. These lessons shape us into who we are through trial and error; success and failures. We learn what works and what doesn’t, and hopefully refrain from what doesn’t; sometimes that can be a mistake all on its own. The mistakes we make today will become tomorrow’s good choices. Imagine a world where everyone was perfect 100% of the time. In my vision this world seems dull, and not very much fun. The reason we cherish and remember successes so much is because of the lessons and stories behind them. Trying to accomplish a task or fulfilling a dream will result in many failures before you are successful. This builds character and teaches us about perseverance. Actress Julie Andrews (The Sound of Music) said it best.

“Perseverance is failing 19 times and succeeding the 20th

The nice thing about living creatures is we are resilient. If a lioness gave up every time she failed to make a kill; her pride would starve. If we were to give up every time we experienced failure in our personal and professional life we would cease to advance and grow. We are similar to our idols in professional sports; we will be judged on our successes and failures. In order for us to reach the Hall of Fame in life we need to keep swinging.

We all remember the greatness of Michael Jordan, the homerun power of Hank Aaron, or the finesse of Gail Sayers. I was having a conversation with a friend awhile ago about how Lebron James, and Kobe Bryant are far superior to Michael Jordan. He strongly disagreed with me, and so the debate went on. He is a hard headed sports nut so we ended up agreeing to disagree. Ever since this discussing two months ago this idea has been in my brain trying to come to my own personal resolution. In all of my reflections I have come to the conclusion the athletes today are superior to the athletes we idolized as kids.

I placed the athletes of old and tried to imagine what would happen if they played their sport today. I did a similar examination and placed the current athletes and placed them in the past. The only area where athletes of old surpassed our current athletes is in the toughness of the football players during the sixties to mid eighties. This is still up for debate; would they be able to take the punishment our current players endure? Here is my breakdown. 

  • Baseball: Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron are considered some of the greatest homerun hitters of all-time. Even though their records were broken, many people demand an * be used behind the name of Barry Bonds who took over as the single season homerun, and career homerun leader due to his steroid use. If Hank Aaron were to face the pitchers of today I would imagine he wouldn’t even hit half of his career homerun totals. Babe Ruth would not even hit five homeruns in a season facing the starters we have currently. These pitchers throw a variety of pitchers which were not even known then. The pitches have more speed, and more movement. On the flip side hitters like Joe Mauer would amass an unbelievable amount of hits and homeruns were he to face the pitchers of old. Our current players are far superior to the athletes of old.
  • Basketball: The greatest of all-time is said to be Michael Jordan, and the players of his time like Charles Barkley, Magic Johnson, and Larry Bird are considered the greats. I can guarantee you if you were to thrust Jordan into today’s game even in his prime he would not have won six championships. If you were to place Kobe Bryant or Lebron James the success they would have would be indescribable. To take this a step further if you were to throw a mid-level player from today such as Richard Jefferson he would have been Michael Jordan. I do not think the mid-level players of old such as Horace Grant or Steve Kerr would have even been drafted by an NBA team today.
  • Football: There was a defensive end Jack Youngblood who played for the Rams. He broke his leg during a playoff game and continues to play with a broken leg the rest of the playoffs. In the late eighties early nineties Emmit Smith played an entire game with a broken arm. I cannot see players today staying in games with such injuries. These guys were tough SOB’s, but they were also not playing against players who are faster, bigger, and stronger. I look at Youngblood and wonder would he have made the Hall of Fame if he had to try and get to the quarterback playing against linemen like Joe Thomas, or Steve Hutchinson? Would Jerry Rice be a legend if he was covered by players like Charles Woodson? I think the answer to these questions is no.

The athletes of today are bred to be stars from the moment they show any level of talent. In basketball they have camps and leagues where the best of the best play to hone their craft. Lebron James was being covered by the likes of Sports Illustrated when he was only 13 years old. If you were to have a college football team of today play one of the great teams of old the college team would probably come out with a victory. I think we want to remember the athletes we grew up idolizing are the greatest of all time. The problem is the game has changed and involved in so many ways the greats just wouldn’t even stand out.

I received some clomplaints over the post below. I guess I didn’t make my point good enough. The saying you can take the girl out of the trailer park but you can’t take the trailer park out of the girl is a racially directed term at white people. I was trying to compare and contrast. I didn’t choose African Americans as a racial slant; I took it based off the many ESPN texts which come to my phone on a daily basis which seemed relative to trying to find the answer to whether or not that statement is true or not. I do understand whether you are white, black, Mexican, or Chinese there are good people and there are bad people. This stems from every single social and economical level from the ghettos to the trailer park, to the suburbs. I made a point saying the quote of trailer park to ghetto, was untrue, because of so many different variables. Those are blanket statements which are simply untrue.

“You can take the girl out of the trailer park, but you can’t take the trailer park out of the girl,” the saying goes you can take a girl out of the trailer park; give her riches and she will still act like trash. I wonder from time to time if this is a true or false. Does it have its merits? I wanted to really dive in beyond the re-hashed examples of Brittany Spears, or that one girl who married some old rich guy then went to do playboy… her name escapes me. I wondered if the saying would fit if I were to say; “you can take the man out of the ghetto, but you can’t take the ghetto out of the man.

To analyze this spin on the more popular saying; all we need to do is look at our professional and college athletes. We see ghetto born athletes who with all the money, fame, and responsibility as roll models their talents have brought them; they can not seem to stay out of trouble. The few examples out of the many are Michael and Marcus Vick, Plaxico Burress, and Gilbert Arenes.

Michael Vick had everything, yet pissed it all away to finance a dog fighting ring, while his little brother was dismissed from Virginia Tech. due to on and off the field issues. Plaxico Burress shot himself in the leg at a New York nightclub with an unregistered firearm, and Gilbert Arenes pulled a handgun out in the locker room and pointed it at his teammate. I subscribe to ESPN text alerts so trust me when I say this type of behavior happens daily. 

We were all stunned to find out Ricky Williams gave up millions upon millions of dollars; so he didn’t want to quit smoking dank. I liked smoking marijuana as much as the next guy, but put 32 million dollars and the chance to play professional football and you bet your ass I would have enough common sense to quit and stay out of trouble. He had the rest of his life after football to get cheefed, but only a small window to be great.

These examples and thousands of others could cause us to make such a blanket statement. We just don’t hear enough about all the good things these players do for their community and helping those less needy, many of which are fixing up the very ghetto’s they came from. We do not hear enough of the Michael Dunn’s of the world, if you do not know who he is then my point has been proven. He is an ex Atlanta Falcon who founded a countless number of charities and nonprofits. I suppose it is bigger news to report the negatives than the positives.

There are far too many variables at work here. You can take the girl out of the trailer park as well as the man out of the ghetto as long as they do not take it with them. There is nothing wrong with helping out the community you came from; it is an entirely different situation when you take the lifestyles and behaviors with. We seem to always hear about the bad things our idols are doing, but get very little press on the positive things they do.

I am tired of hearing about sports figures, who do not realize they have millions of young fans looking up to them; our children will mimic their idols. They do not realize how lucky they are to get a free education, make it to the pros, providing their families with a better life then they had, and the achievement of living a life long dream very few get to experience. I do not think this applies to everyone.

I know of several athletes who have taken their experiences and created positive things, and many who the money and power only ushered in their destruction. I am not sure which one of these scenarios is the norm. I suppose it is up for debate.

What do you think…

I have noticed some youth sports do not keep score; telling the kids every game ends in a tie. This is one of many examples on why we are breeding weak willed generations susceptible to being controlled. We are coddling our youth by such demonstrations of falsehood. In sports there should always be a clear cut winner or loser (NFL and BCS excluded but even that is flawed). This is as simple as black and white; no room for grey; you either win or lose. Children should strive for victory and graciously accept defeat, motivated to practice more, try harder, and strive for victory. If we deny them of this at a young age they may not be prepared for the inevitable reality of failure.

I just recently was in a debate about this very subject at my daughters softball game a few weeks ago. I made a comment how last year every game ended in a tie, and this year they kept score but were not using it as a motivational tool. Her response to me was “the score doesn’t matter they should just be having fun and learning,” against my better judgment I did not end the conversation.

I went on to outline the issues I brought up above. She engaged me for about two minutes then completely stopped talking to me. I figured one of two things happened; either I painted her into a box, or she hated what I was saying.

All three of my kids are active in sports; through these years of sports I have noticed their coaches are far too passive. They will allow their kids to underperform, not confronting their shityness. If my son is not aggressive enough or blows an assignment I want the coaches in his face pointing out where he fucked up each and every time. I want him to instruct him of the proper way until he gets it. I do not want my daughters’ coaches to allow her to pitch if she can’t catch the ball when the catcher throws it back to her. My youngest one is five and in tee-ball, but I still want them to be honest if he is underperforming for his age he deserves honesty and motivation to do better. I was coaching my daughters’ basketball; we reached the championship game and I benched her for two extra rotations.

Kids deserve honesty not coddling. They deserve to learn about winning and losing, success and failure. We should not be afraid to tell them how it is, without fearing we will somehow emotionally damage them. Our kids deserve better then this.

What do you think?

It has been 13 hours since the Minnesota Vikings lost the NFC Championship Game against the New Orleans Saints. I am sitting here at work trying to find the words to describe how devastated I am, and muster the strength to get working on my never-ending”to do” list. I am simply far too heartbroken to do anything but sit in utter despair.. I cannot remember the last time I was this shook up over a sporting event… oh yea 1998.

It has been 12 years, since the Vikings lost to the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship Game. My hopes were shattered by poor game management, and a missed field goal that to this day still haunts me. Our kicker made every field goal he attempted during the season, but had to miss the game winning kick. I was totally fine with the ass kicking we took by the New York Giants in 2000, because I knew early that we were done. The utter disappointment and grief I am feeling today, is far more painful.

The Minnesota Vikings have been to nine championship games losing every single one of them. In 1975 it was the “Hail Mary.” In 1998 it was the missed field goal. In 2000 it was the beat down, and in 2010 it was the 12 men penalty. I honestly feel there is a curse on my favorite team.

This was supposed to be our year; we finally obtained the missing piece to the puzzle. By signing Brett Favre, the Minnesota Vikings possessed the game changing quarterback we have needed the last few years. It made it all the more exciting that it was Brett Favre our arch nemesis for fifteen years with the Green Bay Packers. It seemed like destiny, the Hall of Fame quarterback, seeking redemption, and the chance to end his career on top. I am sure that he did not want to be known for the interception he threw in overtime in the 2008 NFC Championship Game, or last year, when he completely broke down mid-season.

The season started out great. We were winning, and Brett Favre was not looking like a 40-year-old quarterback. I was skeptical at first, until the 49ers game, and that great drive and fantastic touchdown pass. I was completely hooked. I was a believer. As the season moved on, the pain from the 1998 loss was slowly shedding. We hit a wall towards the end of the season, but finished positive by destroying the New York Giants. The Minnesota Vikings sealed up the second seed, earning us a first round bye.

In the divisional round of the playoffs, the Vikings humiliated the Dallas Cowboys, earning us a spot in the NFC Championship Game against the New Orleans Saints. My stomach was in knots on the day and hours leading up to the game. I was worried, yet had complete faith that we were going to the Super Bowl.

In my 25 years of watching football I have never been a part of such an emotionally draining game. Words cannot describe the intense feelings that were going on inside of me. The game was close; and gut wrenching to watch. When Reggie Bush muffed the punt near the end of the second quarter, I was ecstatic. I knew we were going to get a touchdown to end the first half. What happened next was anything but, we fumbled the ball in the red zone missing the opportunity to get ahead. This was a pre cursor to a series of events that would inevitable crush my heart and soul.

Fumble, after fumble, an interception, and a complete breakdown of our offensive line was hard to watch, yet thanks to our defense we were still in the game. The Vikings were driving down the field with less than a minute to go. It looked like I was finally going to see my favorite team in the Super Bowl. The drive slowed down, and it appeared we would need to rely on a kick to take us to the promise land. Fears of 1998 were dancing in my head. Then came the flag for 12 men in the huddle. We were sent back 5 yards, decreasing our chance of success on a field goal. The next play Brett Favre was chased out of the pocket, and had six yards of daylight in front of him, unfortunately he did not take those six yards. Instead he forced the ball into coverage resulting in an interception. The game was tied and heading into overtime.

The Vikings lost the coin toss in overtime, and was unable to stop the Saints, resulting in a game winning field goal. I sat in shock for twenty minutes, unaware of how to process my feelings. My hopes and dreams of the story book ending were shattered. Trying to describe my feelings today is tough. I felt like I had been betrayed… not harsh enough, perhaps shit on… no-no I could take a shower to shed that sorrow, and humiliation… it felt like my heart was ripped out of my chest and pissed on by a cheating whore who  just slept with my best friend.