Make your golf buddies take notice.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Sports Trading Cards: Goose Gossage

Bob Watson, both an opponent and teammate of Rich “Goose” Gossage, once said of the fireballing pitcher, “He’s all arms and legs and he’s not looking at you. That doesn’t make you feel good when he’s throwing 100 miles an hour. I don’t mind a guy throwing 100 miles an hour if he’s looking at you. I’ll tell you it’s a lot better playing behind him.”
Gossage could be an intimidating presence on the mound, standing 6 feet, 3 inches and solidly built with a deathly scowl. But of all his attributes, it was his overpowering fastball, which could reach 100 miles per hour, which made him one of the top relief pitchers throughout the 1970s and ‘80s.
“My wife wouldn’t know me out there,” Gossage said. “If she ever came to the mound and talked to me, she’d divorce me. I don’t like anybody with a bat in his hands because he’s trying to hurt me with that thing.
“Hate is an ugly word, but I hate hitters.” --source

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Notre Dame Fighting Irish Still a Legitimate Mascot?

“[The Redskins name] receives the most public attention due to the name itself being defined as derogatory or insulting in modern dictionaries,” says Wikipedia. Controversy over Washington, D.C.'s NFL team name has been building in recent years. The term harkens not only to a noble people, but
to a past where early American settlers took scalps and skins of indigenous people, for proof of kill.

Some sports talking heads won't even say the name "Redskins" publicly. There may be corporate or public repercussions for sticking to the moniker. As recently as summer 2015, there was talk of losing at least social support for a new stadium, if the name is not changed. This difficult issue forces onlookers to take sides.

There are sports fans who think the Native American nicknames trivialize other peoples' heritage. A vocal minority just might manage to force a change in the future. In the 1990s, Marquette ditched the “Warriors” and St. John’s got rid of the “Redmen” when under similar pressure.

Remember the NBA’s Washington Bullets? They name-switched to the Wizards and were applauded for it. D.C.’s high crime rate was thought to be glorified by the old name. But most aren't offended enough to care about changing the name. As long as the games keep coming… either way.

"Derogatory or insulting" being the standard, we (tongue-in-cheek) submit the Notre Dame mascot, the Fighting Irishman. The Irishman logo represents a stereotypically lazy drunk who is always ready for a fight. Most of us make a joke
out of it—St. Patrick’s Day is the annual ode to public intoxication, and that was named after a religious man, "the patron saint" of a nation. Lenten standards are lifted so that people feel safe and righteous enough to swallow poison before their Lord. There are thousands of violent drunkard jokes about descendants of Ireland. Is it funny?

Actually, the Germans, English, Scots, Africans, Latinos, Asians, and everyone else gets “they like to get bent” jokes, too. We seem to think that the Irish embrace the label a bit more, the way some Americans of African and Latin descent embrace the criminal lifestyle they are stereotyped with from birth. Or maybe that’s the result of too many late night show monologues and cartoons. Maybe Fightin’ Irish is as much a letdown as Redskins.

When asked about the possibility of caving if the name is a political barrier to a new location for the stadium, both the Redskins president and owner emphatically said "No." But the pressure is on. Should we, one day, expect a similar political correctness movement aimed at South Bend?

Thursday, August 27, 2015

MMA and Boxing: No true king

When UFC fighter Ronda Rousey decided to mark her new status as female sports hero of the hour, one way she did that was sparking a social media battle. Boxer Floyd Mayweather was a recipient of the snark, and did his best to rope-a-dope the Twitter jabs. He’s no fool—she admires and is jealous of his status.

This is Rousey’s way of giving Mayweather props, whether she
knows it or not. Observers are cheering her on, because of simplistic “good guy-bad guy” judgments. If you bully a perceived bully, are you a really a hero, or just another bully? Save that one for another day.

Rousey’s wink-wink attacks brings to mind the old question of where the better fighters reside: Boxing or MMA?

Actually, this debate gets framed as “if a cage fighter and a boxer fought, who would win?” It is a useless argument that’s been simmering for years. Same as other arguments such as Bill Russell vs. Michael Jordan, the variables are such that there is no correct answer. This shrinks down to who or what you like better.

The general consensus is that the first guy gets to use his arms and his legs. He has four-wheel drive. That’s a huge advantage—get the boxer on the floor and the whole game changes. But that’s because, in this hypothetical mind-movie, they would be fighting under MMA rules, not boxing’s.

We saw this when aging boxer James Toney decided to give MMA a try, and was promptly trounced by Randy Couture. MMA fans happy-danced over the circus act, not seeming to acknowledge the obvious.

Compare this to a cat versus a dog. The cat’s fighting and defensive styles would give him an advantage in most cases. Imagine a panther versus your prized fightin’ Rottweiler.

Rottie has some strengths, but he is forced to adapt to an enemy who has more weapons. The primary reason that dogs chase cats, and not the other way around, is size. Everyone knows the phrase “Styles make fights.”

Yes, there are surely some competent boxers in the MMA ranks. The top fighters are excellent athletes who likely could hold their
own as a pugilist. But the exception proves the rule; it doesn’t negate the rule.

MMA figurehead Dana White spent a lot of time in UFC’s early years disparaging boxing. Well, of course, he did. We don’t expect Ronald McDonald to endorse the Hardee’s Thickburger. To extend that analogy, only a fool would trust ole Ronald when he tells us his burgers and fries are healthy. When White keeps telling us that MMA is safer than boxing, and that people die from ring injuries but not yet in his sport… doesn’t the phrase “famous last words” come to mind?

Boxing is a chess match, when done well. MMA is not merely street fighting; there is strategy and execution required.

The difference is that boxing is intentionally limited in what is legal. This is seen as a criticism in our time for some reason. But those are simply the rules, and it makes boxing into something MMA can’t be—a science. Both sports contain fighting. They part ways soon after that. There is no true king, except the one you choose.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Jim Brown is Retired. Here is Today's Best Actor-Athlete

From skateboarder Jason Lee to football's Fred Williamson, Hollywood's history is packed with excellent athletes who turned respectable acting careers. Alex Karras, Wilt, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the nearly-forgotten Paul Robeson did it. O.J. belongs on the list. Best-of lists about those guys have been done already.

Besides, none of them are on active rosters. So who's the best actor-athlete still playing today? The pickings are slim.

After his role as a baseball player in Moneyball, Brad Pitt 's natural ability had a former pro saying, "He might have missed his calling." That's nice, and that doesn't count. Pitt is an actor, after all. If the camera's on, so is he. Do you see him hitting .200 against major leaguers? Didn't think so.

Texas proudly presents Jion Rastegar, the youngest to ever reach kung fu's black belt. He was chosen Most Outstanding Player out of a camp full of high school freshman--and he's just 11. Jion also cut his acting teeth in Beat Down. Too early to tell, but the sky is the limit.

NBA sharpshooter Ray Allen is slowly giving way to the league's youngsters. Plus, he's heavy on the basketball side of this equation. His resume holds only two notable acting roles to date, including Jesus Shuttlesworth in He Got Game. But being the all-time three-point shooter matters.

He's one of the world's most-hyphenated people, and Manny Pacquaio wouldn't have it any other way. Considered one of the best boxers pound-for-pound, he is a family man, politician, singer, and actor. The thespian slice of Manny is the exact opposite of his boxing: Plenty of excess and filler, not much punch.

With all that, the best actor-athlete so far in the 21st
century must be Dwayne Johnson. That's The Rock to you. He bests every other current athlete's acting resume by several lengths. Johnson has appeared in Get Smart, hosted Saturday Night Live, and he was the title character in The Scorpion King. All of the promos he's cut have sharpened his comic timing.

One of his rivals, John Cena, might be a valid Hollywood challenger to The Rock. But... not yet.

The difference is, Johnson played elite college football, which should satisfy the sports purist. The Rock is today's best combination of box office draw, acting ability, and athletic prowess. Do you smell what's cooking?

Monday, August 24, 2015

Beyonce and Jay-Z's Baby: Why Hip Hop's Young Royalty is Dangerous

Nepotism in entertainment, and life in general, will always exist. In this life, it really is all about who you know. But are the children of rap's elite poised to ruin the music?

Beyonce stole the show at MTV's 2011 Video Music Awards, announcing the upcoming birth of her first child. She and hip hop luminary Jay-Z began a romantic and discreet relationship years earlier. Marriage and/or kids were rumored several times. The long-awaited pregnancy confirmation had the entertainment industry buzzing.

If hip hop was a person, it would be middle aged in 2015. The stars are getting older, too. As they come of age and begin creating families, a new paradigm is being birthed along with the rappers' kids. The children are attempting to take the musical baton from their parents. From the studio to the stage to the media, these kids are getting lots of help.

Nepotism goes on in every industry, including at the very highest levels of finance and politics. Families like the Forbes, Trumps, Murdochs and Waltons all have promoted within the bloodlines. Some believe that Hilary Rodham Clinton has benefited from nepotism. Pakistan People's Party leader Benzir Bhutto appointed her son next in line before her 2007 assassination, going against some of the very democratic ideals she championed.

Even Civil War-era president Ulysses S. Grant, highly regarded by most historians for his honesty, regularly helped incompetent family and friends get jobs.

An established family member helping a loved one get advantages is as old as humankind. The desire to help is natural, and not shameful in the least. But how does that nepotism affect hip hop music, in particular? Do the fans who truly love (not simply enjoy or occasionally listen to) the music have anything to worry about?

Will and Jada Pinkett Smith's children aren't old enough to drive legally, and are already mini-empires. They appear to be trying to build a family of moguls who would wield not only musical and financial, but political influence. At one point, jokes about Will running for President were circulating. The Smiths could be laughing last.

Kimora Lee and Russell Simmons have children performing in the entertainment world, too. Master P's son Romeo has been on television, in films, and rapping on records since the turn of the century.

Questionable talent and product quality from some second-generation hip hoppers has met with mixed reactions, with a lean toward the negative side. Some observers are simply jealous, of course; other criticism is meant mostly for comedic purposes.

There is no evidence that a familial helping hand necessarily corrupts. But it definitely can. Hip hop's relative youth in the music family means that changes in direction and quality have greater effect than on established genres, like jazz or rock. Added to the fact that a sizable portion of consumers don't see rap as an art form, there is a danger of this music being co-opted and watered down even more than it already is.

Food for thought from a Huffington Post commenter: "Do you know why there isn't much nepotism in classical music? Because you actually have to be good to win competitions and become internationally known.”

Online Romance: How to Meet Your Digital Sweetheart in Person

So you've met someone special on the Web. They are far away from you, but within minutes, distance seems to shrink. The first private chats blew your minds. You could hardly believe that two people had so much in common. This is it,
yes? Yes.

The impulse is to meet your new best friend, as quickly as possible. You want a time machine so you can leave yesterday. Why wait? After all, you click so well on the computer and during phone calls. And don't forget the text convos that continued well past bedtime.

But check your speed before you ride a cloud out of sight, lover. Here are 4 things to remember, before Cupid's arrow grows barbs:

1) Slow down. If it's been less than a month, and you two are already planning to meet in person, the pace is too quick. Let the passion fade. Wait until you've had at least a few I don't know anymore if s/he's the one moments. Even having never met, your reaction on those occasions when one of you discovers a white lie or are otherwise disappointed will say a lot.

It's good when the two of you heal from those moments later, together. Yet do not be fooled into substituting these emotions in favor of real-world contact. Physical proximity gives you the sounds and scents of another person, their microexpressions, and the way we all look when exhausted or waking up. Wifi cannot transmit all of that yet.

2) Talk to your most trusted friends. Most people have at least one wise listener in their lives. Get them alone, and listen to the advice even if you don't agree.

If you are the host for this lovestruck meeting, arrange a collision between your potential partner and a few whose opinions you admire. Even a short exchange could tell you how your new circle might get along.

Children from previous relationships will also give a good reading of the situation. Pay attention--most of all, to your own instincts. The body knows.

3) Temper your expectations. Be realistic about this person you're tumbling over. You are basically starting all over again. Knowing everything about people is not the same as knowing them. Forget this at your peril.

The typed words, photos and videos may not represent the person accurately. In those moments before you lay eyes on each other, focus on simply loving your potential as they are. For both to be so accepting is rare. All of your communication has been electronic. Now you've landed in the real world, and real-world relationships are difficult.

4) Make a plan. Try not to be that person racing through terminals, having secured an last-minute invite from your love. Those looking to hook up will find this advice worthless. If this is you, enjoy the casual encounter. You will find that rushing makes the landing tricky.

For the reasonable traveler: Book a hotel room near your potential's house, and find your own transportation. Remember, you are actually meeting for the first time. Prepare for the possibility that the connection will fizzle within a few hours, and don't get stuck in an awkward situation.

Explore her town on your own at least once. Try not to spend every single minute together during the visit. Even if sparks are flying, at least you can look forward to returning to one another's embrace. Happy traveling!