Posts filed under Sports

Finding Faith in Humanity

Michael Sam at the 2014 NFL Combine (Courtesy CBS Sports)

Earlier this evening the NFL Draft concluded. Usually the  third day of the draft is the least eventful of all the days. By now most of the college stars that are household names are scooped up. Most of the guys drafted today will be in and out of the league within a few years. Some will be cut before they get to play a snap of pro football. Some will become future hall of famers. There are players drafted first overall that never find success. Tom Brady, American Male Ugg enthusiast, was a flabby 6th round pick at one point. There are no rules to knowing who's skills will or won't translate to the pro game. That's why it's such a gamble, but a very fun gamble.

Today wasn't the ordinary boring third day of the draft. Today was Michael Sam day. Michael Sam is a defensive end from the University of Missouri. He was the SEC co-defensive player of the year. He is 6'2" and weighs 261 lbs. He is also the first openly gay professional athlete.

For a while it looked like he wasn't going to be selected. But in the 7th round the St Louis Rams pulled the trigger and made sports history. ESPN had cameras covering the event at Sam's draft party. If you haven't seen the video, I encourage you to do so. Sam was shown on the phone talking with the Rams. He burst into tears as he was told he was going to be selected. He then proceeded to kiss his boyfriend. It was a cool moment.

Of course, not everyone is on board with this "new age" love. Twitter was ablaze with intolerant morons that don't recognize the importance of this moment. I feel sorry for those people that can't handle the fact that two people love each other and shared a special moment. There was one misguided fellow that questioned how he was going to explain to his kids that two men were kissing on television! I can't possibly imagine how this poor man now has to go out of his way to explain to his son that it's entirely possible that two men actually love each other. 

Some of us, and I'd like to say the majority of us, just shrugged it off. We grasped the importance of the moment but didn't see anything weird about a couple kissing on TV. Some of us may have even done our jobs as parents and told our kids that both of those men were human beings and its ok for two people to love each other. How would I explain this "Michael Sam situation" to my own son? It wasn't as easy as it seemed. 

"Well son, Michael Sam is what the NFL general managers call a 'tweener'. That means he's having a hard time being assigned a position because of his size and weight. He's too small to be a lineman and too big to run around and be a linebacker. So he may struggle." And that, Sir Idiots of Twitter, is how I would explain it to my son. I have an issue with the modern day mongrel that sees love as a disease. Those that feel the same way are the true disease.

As we move on in time future generations will become more and more tolerable of same sex relationships. One day, hopefully in my lifetime, there will be a point in time where people look back at this moment in time and wonder why a gay professional athlete being drafted was such big news. For now, we unfortunately have to deal with the hatred and bigotry spewed from the mouths of the stupid. But today was a giant leap in the right direction. Today was a good day in sports history. Now all Michael Sam needs to worry about is Michael Sam the football player. I hope he does well. Just not when the Rams plays the Bears.

Posted on May 11, 2014 and filed under Sports.

NFL Draft: A First Round Review

Broncos 2014 Draft Pick Bradley Roby will look as good in orange and blue as he can rock a bow-tie. (Courtesy Denver Post)

The first round of the NFL Draft was yesterday, and for many a football fan with it brings the promise of greatness (or something exciting to wash away the bitter tears from the previous season). Did Johnny Football expect to be moving to Cleveland, I wonder? Anyway, here's guest-writer Tony Garcia with more observations...

Finally. It's over. After months of debate and prognosticating, the NFL Draft is over! Wait… what's that? There's six more rounds? That can't be right. What the hell was I just watching for the past 4 hours?

I kid, I kid. I enjoyed every moment of it. The first round of the draft is in the books and I need a cigarette. Was it good for you?

This has to have been the most hyped draft that I can remember. Partly because of the timing of the darn thing. The draft was moved back a couple weeks this year which led to an overhyping and an already hyped event. I say overhyped like I hate it. I don't. I love it. I watched every minute of it. Like I said in my previous blog, the NFL is king and they are going to flex their muscles tonight. The draft will dominate ratings, talk shows, Twitter, Facebook and the 24 hour news cycle. But we already know that. 

Another reason it was ultra hyped was the cast of characters. Two guys come to mind right off the top of my head that made the draft what it was. Those two guys are Jadeveon Clowney and Johnny Manziel. Sure, there are guys that are going to probably be bigger impact players than Clowney and Manziel but those guys were the stars of the show tonight. Clowney is said to be a generational talent. Guys like him don't come around too often. Manziel on the other hand has already been in the spotlight for a couple years. He was a college superstar and we'll see if his talents will translate to the pro game. He's also been known to throw down a few brewskis every now and then. Mostly on days ending in "Y". His name is Johnny Football and he's here to party. 

I never know what to expect on these draft nights as far as draft order goes. I'm not much of a mock draft guy. Meaning I don't put together my own mock draft and try to outsmart the smart guys like Mel Kiper Jr. and his perfect head of hair. His hair intimidates me. It's like staring into an eclipse. You know you shouldn't look, but you still do anyway. 

But after one round I have a few notes on the things I witnessed tonight:

- John Gruden loves Johnny Manziel and probably went through a years supply of Vaseline going over his game tape. 

- JJ Watt and Jadeveon Clowney should be pretty fun to watch if you ask me. 

- Three phrases can pretty much sum up the entire evening: "Giant hands", "Penetration" and "Ball skills". 

- My beloved Bears didn't pick any of the top 5 guys I had on my list. This could be a good thing. 

- Not as many trades this year as in years past. 

- Who the hell names their child Ha Ha? Seriously, that's a name? If I'm every scoreboard operator I'm cueing up Nelson from The Simpsons classic "Haha" for every time that dude makes a mistake. Good player, bad name. 

- The Packers and Jets, two teams I strongly dislike, got two players I'd want on my team (Calvin Pryor and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix).

- The Lions did it again, drafting a guy they could've probably traded down and gotten later in the first round. I love ripping the Lions so maybe there's nothing they could've done that I would've applauded. LOLions.

- Cleveland's bar district single-handedly became one of America's most booming bar areas. I mean that in a literal sense. Johnny Manziel will be doing many 12oz curls and will turn that place into another Vegas strip.

- Chris Berman needs to hang it up. I think I've been saying that for about 10 years now but the guy just won't quit. He may have been clever in the 90s but his brand of comedy died years ago. He reminds me of that guy in your group of friends that just doesn't know when it's time to call it a night. 

- Whenever the Jets fans chant "J-E-T-S, Jets! Jets! Jets!", I chant "S-U-C-K, Suck! Suck! Suck!"

- My favorite part is always seeing the emotion that some of these kids display. As an athlete growing up, I always imagined what it would be like to be drafted to any team. I can't imagine that feeling. 

That's all I've got for now. I'll be paying close attention over these next few days to what's going on with days two and three of the draft. It's always fun to see your favorite team start building what could be a Super Bowl winning team. GMs make and break their careers on these days. Once the draft is over all of the experts will start handing out their grades. The reality is we won't know how these draft classes turn out for another 2-3 years at least. All we can do is sit down and watch it all unfold. I'd like to say I can't wait for football to start back up again, but after a brutal Chicago winter I'm ready to enjoy summer. Football signals the end of summer and I'm just not ready for that yet. At least not while the Blackhawks are still alive and well in the hunt for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Posted on May 9, 2014 and filed under Sports.

The Greatest of All-Time

The man who proclaimed himself the greatest, Muhammad Ali. (Archival)

Are we currently living in the greatest period of all-time? Here's guest writer Tony Garcia with more:

In this day and age we tend to overrate things. I think as a society there is a want or need for the feeling that this era that we're living in holds some kind of importance in the history of time. It doesn't have to be anything major either. I'm mostly referring to social things like music, movies, athletes, etc. If you scour Al Gore's internet long enough, you'll come across digital arguments debating 'The Greatest of All-Time', or GOAT as the kids are calling it these days.

Who can forget Kanye West's tirade aimed at Taylor Swift over a music video being one the greatest of all-time? Kanye has probably never seen a Spike Jonze or Michel Gondry music video. Beastie Boys- Sabotage, Foo Fighters- Everlong, Kylie Minogue- Come Into My World, White Stripes- Fell In Love With A Girl... Hey Kanye, go watch those four music videos and tell me how good Beyonce's video was again. 

Turn on ESPN, especially this time of year, and watch several prognosticators argue the LeBron James and Michael Jordan debate. That one is personal for me. I grew up in Chicago and watched the Bulls dominate the 90's. There isn't another Michael Jordan. We need to close the case on that debate. The closest thing we've seen to Jordan is Kobe, but even he has a long way to go and he's not going to get there because of his age and diminishing play. 

There are areas where we may actually be currently residing in the greatest of all-time. For example, I think television is just insane with talented people right now. Whether it's producing, writing, acting or contributing source material, I think we are currently in the golden age of television. TV has never been as good as it is now. Three of my personal favorite shows ever have been produced in the last handful of years. Those shows are Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones and True Detective. I've said it already on Twitter and Facebook but Game of Thrones has to automatically be considered a top 5 show because of its seamless integration of boobs, midgets, zombies and beheadings. I've never seen anything like it.  

When I was first getting into the film industry (which was about 10 years ago), life in general was nothing close to where we're at as a society now. Technology is kicking ass right now and there's no end in sight. Hell, 15 years ago cell phones weren't even an every day item. 15 years seems like eons on the technological calendar. About 3 weeks ago my phone was broken for a 24 hour period and I felt completely lost without it. I didn't know what to do with myself, which is quite sad. 

I woke up with the idea the write this article because I wanted to throw another log on the flame of the GOAT fire. I wanted to be "that guy" that made another set-in-stone premature proclamation and contribute yet another silly argument that the current state of the Stanley Cup Playoffs is the greatest we've seen…of all time. But unlike many people with a forum to write on, I'm going to pump the brakes and let it play out like it is meant to be. I've talked myself out of writing the article I was intending to write. It's just too soon. 

If I can say one thing about the Stanley Cup Playoffs right now, it is this… If you aren't watching it yet, turn it on. We may be witnessing history. SO FAR we are in the middle of the greatest of all time zone. Like your friend that told you to turn on Game of Thrones and "watch just one or two episodes", fully knowing that you were going to be hooked 15 minutes into episode 1, I'm being that guy right now with hockey. Like Nike, Just Do It.

Posted on May 5, 2014 and filed under TV, Sports.

The Playoffs: Welcome to Hockey

Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews takes a shot on Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov on March 12, 2014

The NHL Playoffs are off and running, well into the run with the first round under the teams' belts. Here's guest writer Tony Garcia with more...

Before I get on with my blog, I need to throw something out there. My #1, hands down, unquestioned, head honcho, king of the crop favorite sport is… hockey. Over the next few weeks you're going to be getting a lot of hockey news from yours truly. I don't apologize for that and I never will. I think one of the reasons Troy and I became friends and remain friends is because of hockey. I also feel like part of the reason he reached out to me is because of my love for the game. Sports writing and sports blogging needs more hockey people. Average Joe sports fan needs to watch more of this game and I'm going to attempt to bridge the gap or lend a hand to assist people to flock to what I feel is the greatest team sport in the land. And since I have this space to write and express my views and opinions, you better believe I'm going to use it.

If you haven't been watching Stanley Cup playoff hockey, start now. I mean literally turn on NBC Sports Network or scramble through your channel guide to find CNBC (nothing says hockey like CNBC). Chances are a game is on. As I write this, Boston and Montreal are in the middle of Game 1 of their series. I'll get more into that series later. This is the part of the blog where I pound my chest and say playoff hockey is like nothing else. If you're going to only reserve a little time to watch the game, watch it during the playoffs. The players risk life and limb out there at this time of year. Injuries? What injuries? There's no such thing this time of year. Once a playoff series is over you will find players have played with injuries that you wouldn't think one could function with, let alone play a sport at a professional level. Hockey players are nuts and that's why we love them.

If you did watch the first round of the playoffs, you viewed what was probably one of the best first rounds of all time. You picked a good time to start your hockey fandom. Last night there were three games 7 (or game 7's). I don't know which is proper English, but my last name is Garcia so we'll just agree that there must be some kind of language barrier here that I just simply can't overcome. Games 7 makes more sense to me grammatically but game 7's sounds right phonetically. 

To me there is no better drama than a sports game. Not just hockey but sports in general. I hate to play spoiler for you, but your "reality TV" isn't reality at all. It's either scripted or driven to a pre-determined storyline by some kind of producer or director that it might as well be scripted. I speak from experience. During my stint in LA I worked on many reality shows and every show I worked for had some kind of script or storyline that the producer wanted to follow. Shows that you would think there wasn't any way it could be scripted… they were scripted. It left me with a cold feeling towards that particular niche in the TV industry. But like many employees, after a few jobs, you just turn a blind eye to it and accept that you are just doing a job. And if that job pays a few bills and allows you to eat, you zip it and do that job.

Okay, enough of that. Why should you watch hockey? More specifically why should you watch Stanley Cup Playoff hockey?

The skill of these guys is amazing. The combination of speed, skill, agility, endurance and toughness is like no other sport out there. I think what happens is the viewer sometimes gets lost in how difficult it actually is to do some of the things they do. Go to your nearest ice arena and go to a public skate some time. Strap on your skates and once you've mastered the art of standing on the ice, take your first stride. Now that you've got yourself moving and the boards are coming up, try to stop. It's not easy. Now imagine you have a stick in your hands. Look around. Now imagine everyone else has a stick in their hands too. Oh, and don't forget all those other people out there are going to hit you. You're going to get hit by a big, fast person with a stick. Now look down to the other end of the ice. There's a goalie there. He's 6 foot 5 and he has big pads on. There's so much that goes into a hockey player's head at one time. You literally have less than a second to decide what to do. Then once you decide what you're doing with the puck, you have to execute. On skates. With someone hitting you. There are so many elements that just get ignored and tossed away because these guys make it look easy and effortless. The most mundane hockey play is poetry in motion.

One common thread or complaint I get from Average Joe sports fan about hockey is they can't relate or don't understand the rules. Football, America's Game, is generally simple. Throw ball, catch ball, tackle guy with ball. Basketball, run and throw ball in basket. Baseball, hit ball and catch ball. Sure every one of these sports have nuances to them. Offensive schemes, defensive schemes, zone vs man defense, etc. The rules are just more simple in those games, I get it. It's hard to explain icing and offsides without a dry erase board. Those are the two most common rules people don't understand. What I tell many people that are new to the game is to simplify their viewing at first and just accept that the whistle just happened. Not everyone gets ALL of the rules in football, baseball and basketball. They accept it and move on. But for some reason they get hung up on icing and offsides. After a while you will start to understand it. Then it's on like Donkey Kong.

If you're reading this and saying, "but Tony, I understand the rules already. What are your thoughts on the first round and what do you see happening in the second round?" I'm saying I'm sorry but you're gonna have to wait 24 hours for that. This one was for Average Joe sports fan that needs to be lead to the game of hockey. Watch a Stanley Cup playoff overtime game and tell me it was boring. Blasphemy! Once you've made it through these playoffs you'll be ready for more complicated things. Things I promise I'm going to be covering in the future. Things like CORSI and FENWICK and the trap and umbrella power play. These things are so exciting to me and I can't wait to share them with all of you. 

Every time I attempt to attract more people to the game I always feel like I'm a lawyer trying to sway a jury one way or another. Hopefully I did in this case. If my words don't do it for you, just turn on the game like I suggested earlier. You'll get hooked. Because of the drama. Because of the grit. Because it's the Cup.

Posted on May 2, 2014 and filed under Sports.