You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Sports’ category.
In case you didn’t hear the news, the Charlotte Bobcats era is ending and the Charlotte Hornets are returning (Michael Jordan says Bobcats will change name to Charlotte Hornets). While I don’t really have a favorite NBA team, I sure did love watching LJ, Mourning, and Muggsy back in the day. In honor of Charlotte’s good decision, here are some great moments of Muggsy Bogues showing that a 5’3″ dude could hang with the big fellas in the NBA.
Plus, you gotta love Larry Johnson and Muggsy’s roles in Space Jam.
Until later friends…
Today is the birthday of two of the top baseball players of all time: Jackie Robinson and Ernie Banks. I respect both of these men for the way they played the game, but more importantly for the way they handled themselves as they were faced with the harsh racism of the mid-1900s.
Jackie Robinson would be 94 years old today.
As you know, Jackie Robinson broke the “color barrier” in Major League Baseball. Without Jackie Robinson, there would have been no Hank Aaron, no Willie Mays, or no Ernie Banks. He endured years of abuse, but he never fought back. The best resistance he could offer to the widespread racism and ignorance was to play better than anyone else. He won the Rookie of the Year and the MVP. He also won the World Series with the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Jackie Robinson Stats:
Career Batting AVG: .311
1947 Rookie of the Year
1949 NL MVP
1949 NL Batting Title
2x Stolen Base Champion (1947 & 1949)
Every February in elementary school we had to do a report on someone that contributed to Civil Rights and equality. I always wrote about Jackie Robinson. I’ve probably read 5 biographies of him. He is the only player to have his number retired for the entire MLB. Happy Birthday Jackie!
Ernie Banks is 82 years old today. Happy birthday to you Mr. Banks.
Ernie Banks is a super classy man. He played for 19 years with the Cubs. He won the MVP twice, but he never made it to the World Series. When asked if he would go to another team with the chance of making the World Series he said: “I didn’t say anything. But the answer to that was, ‘No, I’m satisfied playing for the Cubs, playing day-baseball in Chicago, the middle of the United States.’ I was satisfied with that.” (source: Ernie Banks: A Beacon for Baseball). He put up great numbers throughout his career, and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on his first ballot (a very rare achievement). As I wrote last week, I recently got to meet Ernie Banks, and it was a joy.
Ernie Banks Stats:
512 Home Runs – #21 All-time (#15 if you don’t count the steroid users)
2x NL MVP (1958 & 1959)
14x All Star
A very hearty birthday to Mr. Jackie Robinson and Mr. Ernie Banks from For Aslan…and the Volunteer State.
Until later friends…
Last week my Cubs fanaticism went to an entirely new level. Jen, baby girl, and I went to the 2013 Chicago Cubs Convention. “What on earth is a Cubs convention?” you may ask. Basically, imagine a whole bunch of Trekkies getting together, and then replace Vulcans, Klingons, and Picards with Banks, Williams, Santo, and Sandberg jerseys. Thanks to the generosity of our family at Christmas, we were able to book a room and passes for the Cubs Convention this year in Chicago at the Sheraton Towers (very fancy). Immediately upon our arrival to the hotel, I realized that getting there 2 hours early for check-in was still too late. The entire lobby was teeming with Cubs fans, and the line encircled the entire lobby.
Within half an hour of being in line, I had my first crazy-fan-paparazzi moment. As I’m getting near the front doors in the line, in walks Mr. Cub in his suit and fedora. I get super-excited, because Ernie Banks is one of the main reasons I wanted to come to the convention. He seems to be in the midst of conversation, and no one is interrupting him for autographs. So, I surreptitiously took a very-fuzzy cell phone picture.
He’s the one with the fedora/halo. I decided that this might be my only shot at meeting him. So, I dug out a baseball and a sharpie from my backpack, but when I looked up, he was gone. I guess for an 81-year-old man, he still has some of that youthful speed. Oh well, I still have a few days.
So, I get up to the front desk and meet a really nice associate who hooks us up with a King-size upgrade and a free refrigerator for my baby’s formula/meds. Great day thus far.
Shortly thereafter I discover that I parked in a parking garage that the bellhops do not travel to. So, I had the pleasure of making three trips to the parking garage. On our first trip up, Jen and I each have about 3-5 bags and baby girl in her stroller (BTW…when you have a baby, your luggage needs do not increase 33%, more like 300%). As we negotiated our way through a labyrinth of hallways, I bump into another Sheraton employee and ask for directions to the elevator. We must have looked exhausted from our 5 hour drive and long hike with sundry luggage items, because he ushered us into the staff elevator. So here we are, Jen, me, a ton of luggage, a bay in a stroller, and a whole heap of staff people on a staff elevator. On the next floor, the doors open up and in walks Dioner Navarro and his wife. He and I had a moment of me thinking “Dude, you play for the Cubs” and him thinking “Oh crap, I’m stuck on the elevator with a fan,” but then we just exchanged head nods and our wives talked about how cute Lily is.
After we got settled into our room, we rested/recovered from our long drive. Then, we made our way down to the Opening Ceremonies of the convention. It was a lot of fun. There was an insane amount of people in Cubs jerseys and a little brass band entertaining the crowd. The Opening Ceremonies began with a video (narrated by Cubs fan Gary Sinise) about the history of the Cubs and where the Cubs are headed under the ownership of the Ricketts family (classy folk). Then, all of the former players, minor-league prospects, and current players present at the convention were announced.
Each player was cheered loudly, but the place practically exploded for Kerry Wood, Ernie Banks, Starlin Castro, Darwin Barney, and Anthony Rizzo. Each player was announced with a short list of their career highlights, which for some guys was a bit of a stretch.
Immediately after the Opening Ceremonies, there was an Autograph Hunt. Each fan was given a map of the first four floors of the hotel, and there were little Cubs logos marked for where a player would be signing. There was no indication as to what player would be where, so it was quite a gamble/adventure. We left a little early, picked a line, and waited. Shortly thereafter we realized that we had picked the line of a bench player, and we decided to seek a line with one of the hall-of-famers. Turns out the only Hall-of-Famer signing that night was Fergie Jenkins at his booth. (FYI – if you go to a convention in the future, Fergie Jenkins has a booth supporting his charitable organization, and he – and other former stars including Lee Smith, Gaylord Perry, and Rollie Fingers – sign stuff for a donation to the charity. So, don’t spend Autograph hunt time at his booth, because you can meet any of them all weekend). We didn’t know how this all worked, but he was handing out free signed 8x10s for the autograph hunt. I was very excited to meet Fergie Jenkins and Lee Smith (and so was our baby girl).
After meeting these two insanely good pitchers, we wandered around checking out the other lines. Most all the other lines had prospects or former players that I didn’t know much about. We happened to wander back past our original line only to discover that Kerry Wood was signing beside that bench player. We had jumped out of line and missed an opportunity to meet Kerry Wood! ARGH! We got back in line and waited. Kerry signed for an extra 30 minutes, but he had to leave for his charity event that night….when we were about 20 people away. Sadly, Kerry didn’t sign any the rest of the weekend. This is my one regret of the weekend.
Following the autograph hunt, we returned to our room to discover that 8:30pm felt like 11:30 pm. We ordered an authentic Chicago pizza from Lou Minalti’s (excellent), and we relaxed in the room the rest of the night – as I schemed about how I could meet Ernie Banks on Saturday.
Saturday of the Chicago Cubs Convention consists largely of two things: Autograph lines and Q&A Sessions. Up until this year, there was a lottery system in which you would have a scratch off thing on your pass with the opportunity to get a voucher for a line featuring the best players (e.g., Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Starlin Castro, etc.). This year, the tried a new system that was supposed to be more efficient and give people a better chance to get autographs. Each person would sign for 1 hour. 10 minutes before he began signing, 125 vouchers would be handed out with those people guaranteed an autograph, but the player would also sign for anyone else after that that would fit in the hour slot. Supposedly, once the vouchers were handed out, the line for the next hour would form and so on and so forth. Thankfully, for me, what this turned out meaning was that if you camped out early enough, you could could be first in line for a later signing.
Ernie Banks was supposed to sign from 10:00am-11:00am. Gary Matthews, Sr. was before him form 9:00-10:00. I got in line at 6:45am, and I waited. At about 9:15am I got my voucher to meet Ernie. It was going to happen! I was so excited!
In case you don’t know why I was so excited about Ernie Banks, let me tell you a little bit about him. If you take away the guys that did steroids, Ernie Banks is number 15 all-time in home runs (512). He won the NL MVP twice. He was an All-star 14 times, and he was a first ballot Hall of Famer. Ernie Banks is the best player to have ever played for the Cubs. He is also 81 years old, and I was not sure how much longer her would be coming to Cubs Conventions. Here is a picture of the line I waited in to meet Ernie:
Ernie was supposed to sign from 10:00am-11:00am. I did not get to his table, however, until 11:10am – and there were still several voucher holders behind me. He was very kind to everyone he met. He talked with a boy in front of me for a few minutes about golf and showed genuine interest in the boy. As someone who used to be a little boy, I’m sure this will be one of his coolest memories as a young Cubs fan. When I got up to the table, Mr. Cub commented on my beautiful baby that had fallen asleep in her mother’s arms about 15 feet away. He was a true gentleman, who showed kindness and grace to every fan.
Needless to say, meeting Mr. Cub really made my weekend. Afterwards, we sat in on a Q&A session for a bit with some Cubs draft picks talking about making their way through the minors. Then, we decided to hit the town for lunch/coffee. That night we checked out the various exhibitions in the hotel and spent some time playing with our baby.
After waiting 4.5 hours in line for Ernie Banks, I decided to get an earlier start on Sunday to meet Billy Williams. Who is Billy Williams? His nickname was “Sweet Swinging Billy Williams,” because he had one of the best swings the sport has ever seen. He was the NL rookie of the year. He won the NL batting title in 1972, and he was an All Star 6 times. I went down to get in line at 5:45am for his 10:00am signing. Ernie Banks was also signing again at 10:00 in the same exhibition hall. I was number 65 in line (apparently some people got there at 2:30am!).
People get a little crazy when they are in line for hours on end. At one point someone from the end of the line came over and told the people in the front (that had been there since 2:30am) that they were lined up at the wrong door, and that two sets of doors would be opened at once. I feared a riot would start. People got really agitated, and they hounded every Cubs Convention worker that came near them. Finally, a supervisor came down and gave us the common sense answer: “Of course we’re only going to open the doors where the line starts.” Crisis averted. Thank you dude with the walkie-talkie. The doors opened at 8:00am, and the vast majority of people headed for Ernie. I hurriedly made my way to Billy Williams’s line, and found that I was now number 11 in line. Booyah. By 10:05am, I was talking with Billy Williams.
While I was waiting in line for Billy, Jen was able to sleep in a bit. After the girls were rested up, they made their way down to the ballroom and got in the kids-only autograph line to meet Anthony Rizzo. Jen got him to sign a ball for baby girl (and daddy), and we met up after I met Billy. We got to spend some more time walking around the exhibits and talking with people. Then, we got packed up and headed back to the Commonwealth.
We had a great time at the Cubs Convention, and I would love to go again. If you are planning on going in the future, here are some pointers.
How to Attend the Chicago Cubs Convention
- If there is someone you really want to meet (e.g., Ernie Banks, Starlin Castro, Billy Williams), camp out hours in advance. You can bring a book or your iPod. I brought both, but just ended up talking to people the whole time. (This advice is assuming that they don’t reinstate the lottery system).
- Friday Night Autograph Hunt – Pick a line and stick with it, then jump from line to line (or else you might miss Kerry Wood like me). Also, don’t go for Fergie Jenkins during the autograph hunt. You can get him at his booth almost anytime during the convention.
- Don’t be that guy. Don’t stand outside the bathroom or the hotel restaurant just waiting on players. Definitely DO NOT follow around any of the players’ wives. That is just weird and creepy, and I saw it a lot. Don’t corner players (or their wives) in elevators and interrogate them. Don’t try to get convention workers to cheat the system for you.
- Research ahead of time. Know what people look like without their uniforms. You just might run into them in the lobby, but remember – don’t be that guy.
- Be respectful. The players are people just like you. Show them respect and don’t be creepy. Once again don’t be that guy. Don’t be like the middle school girl that asked me loudly in front of a minor league player: “Who is this?” and then responded with a disgusted “Oohhhhh” when I said he wasn’t Brett Jackson.
Until later friends…
It became obvious in June that my Cubs would not be playing in the playoffs this year. While the Cubs are my favorite team by far, there are several teams I regularly cheer for unless their games negatively effect the Cubs: Braves, Red Sox, Rangers. This dumb new Wild Card playoff knocked out the remaining two of my top 4 teams. So, here are my thoughts on the current state of the MLB Playoffs.
Billy Beane is still not going to win the World Series anytime soon
Billy Beane’s Moneyball tactics are now being used by all the teams with more money than the A’s. The A’s are currently two games behind the Tigers. I don’t see his boys making a comeback against Verlander, Miguel Cabrera, and Prince Fielder. Although, it would make for a good sequel.
I Really Do Not Like the Reds
Both Brandon Phillips and Joey Votto have no class. Dusty Baker ruined Kerry Wood and Mark Prior. I have no love for the Cincinnati Reds. It looks like they’re going to beat the Giants, but I hope the Nationals mop the floor with them in the NLCS.
I’m Pulling for an Orioles vs Nationals World Series
As a Cubs fan, I typically cheer for the underdogs/historically bad teams in the playoffs. I think this would be an amazing series. These are regional rivals, and they both have been terrible in recent years.
How I want the Playoffs to Go
How I think the Playoffs will Actually Go
What do y’all think? Who do you think will win the World Series?
Until later friends…
So, the Cubs lost their 100 game of the season yesterday. This is the third time in their history that they have lost 100 games in a season. This is the first time it has happened since 1966. It is safe to say that this is the worst I have ever seen from my beloved Cubbies.
So, this season has seemed like an exercise in futility. In spite of all of this, there are some things that I liked about this season. Here they are in bulleted format:
- Dale Sveum is going to do great things for this team
I was really disappointed when Ryne Sandberg was passed over for the manager position, but I think Dale Sveum was a great choice. Sure, he lost 100 games in his first season, but no one expected a winning season. He has led the team to better defense. He has built a team atmosphere. I expect good things
- The Cubs are committed to young talent
Josh Vitters and Brett Jackson did not put up near the numbers that I hoped for. They struck out more times combined than most the other team. OK that was a slight exaggeration. They may not have been ready to compete on a Major League level, but this season was a wash and I think it was wise to give them some meaningful Major League experience. I expect good things next year.
- Darwin Barney can play second base really well
This season Darwin Barney tied the Major League record for errorless games at second base with 141 in a row. Considering he started off as a shortstop, this is great. One of the reasons I loved Ryne Sandberg was his superior fielding (.989 career fielding percentage). Glad to see a golden glove at 2B again. (There is no reason why Darwin Barney should not get the Golden Glove btw. Brandon Phillips does not deserve it this year)
- Alfonso Soriano can still hit
If you would’ve told me at the beginning of the season that Alfonso Soriano would hit 30+ homeruns, and have a career mark for RBIs, I would’ve made fun of you. Apparently Soriano can still hit. Hopefully this means we can deal him and his bloated contract in the offseason.
- Anthony Rizzo is going to be a Cubs hero
Rizzo was called up halfway through the season. If you take his current stats and extrapolate them to a full season, you have a 30 homerun/100 RBI hitting first baseman. This excites me to no end.
So, this season was awful. We probably won’t have a winning season next year either, but we certainly won’t lose 100 games again. This may be exactly the depth the Cubs needed to sink to in order to rise to the top. I have high hopes in the next few years. With consistent young stars in Starlin Castro, Darwin Barney, and Anthony Rizzo, and with the potential of guys like Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters, the Cubs’ future is bright. And it sure can’t get any darker than the present.
Until later friends…
I have been a big fan of Buffalo Wild Wings for quite a while. Recently I went to the Buffalo Wild Wings at St. Matthews here in Louisville. I had a minor customer service complaint that I used the contact form on Buffalo Wild Wings.com. I received a call from the manager within an hour and a half (on a Sunday). I was really impressed with the level of service. The manager sent me some Parmesan Garlic Sauce (my favorite) and a gift certificate.
As it turns out, my original complaint was invalid (although understandable as many people have confirmed). I will not go into the exact details of the issues involved, because I don’t want tricksy people that may come across this post to try to take advantage of a business with solid customer service. Suffice it to say, the staff at Buffalo Wild Wings St. Matthews have proven to be very classy folk. I will be frequenting there throughout the football season as my budget allows.
So, here is my formal plea: If you live in Louisville, please go visit Buffalo Wild Wings St. Matthews. They are nice people, and I owe them a favor for accidentally gaming their sweet customer service.
Here is another reason why I love B-dubs:
Until later friends…
The NFL Season began last night. The Cowboys defeated the Giants 24-17. While, I hate to see the Cowboys winning, it is great to have the NFL back. My Cubs are plain awful right now. So, my attention now turns to football. I blogged last week about the silly little game that is fantasy sports. I pontificated about my upcoming fantasy football draft. Since then, I have been invited to join another fantasy football league. Having a slightly obsessive personality, I accepted the invitation. The two leagues I am participating in had two different types of drafts: a snake draft and an auction draft. The snake draft is straightforward – each team gets assigned a draft number (1-10). The draft order goes 1-10 and then 10-1. This is how I played last year, and I have a pretty good system for it.
The auction draft is a whole new ballgame. Each team is assigned $200 (fake), and you bid on players. Superstars can go for upwards of $50-$70. This requires a lot of strategy. It is a more entertaining draft, especially when you try to inflate buying prices of players you don’t really want so that you can get players you want. I tried this strategy to some success, but it also backfired on me (i.e., I got 4 QBs i wasn’t all that excited about and one WR on suspension for a DUI). Overall, I had a lot of fun, and I am looking forward to this season. Here are my two rosters:
Fighting Scots (Snake Draft)
This league starts 1 QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE, 2 Flex (RB/WR/TE), 1 D/ST, and 1K.
Defense/Special Teams: San Francisco 49ers*
Men in Black (Auction Draft)
This league starts 2QBs, 2RBs, 2WRs, 1TE, 1 Flex (RB/WR/TE), 1D/ST, and 1K. This is not my original draft roster, but reflects one sweet trade I’ve already made.
Tight End: Vernon Davis* (SF)
Defense/Special Teams: Houston Texans*
Kicker: Stephen Gostkowski* (NE)
Overall, I think I have two solid teams. It is going to be a fun season. I would like to have more overlap on my teams so that I won’t have split allegiances as I cheer each weekend, but we’ll see how that goes. Which squad do you think I have a better chance with?
Until later friends…
I’ve been greatly enjoying Ken Burns’s documentary Baseball. This documentary has been extremely entertaining. Here are some things I have learned through watching this film.
Buck O’Neil is One of the Classiest People to Ever Play the Game
I’ve greatly enjoyed every single minute of interviews with Buck O’Neil. He is the most interviewed person in regards to the Negro Baseball League. He was an extremely charitable and winsome person. It is worth watching the documentary just to hear this man’s stories. It is a real shame that men like him, Paige Satchel, and Josh Gibson were not allowed to post their career numbers in the MLB. Baseball would have been much richer if it were integrated from the beginning.
Shelby Foote is a Great Storyteller
Shelby Foote was an extremely well-known (and well-respected) Civil War scholar. He was also a huge baseball fan. He has an old Southern gentleman’s way of speaking. He told a great story about meeting Babe Ruth as a child, and he told it in such a way that I felt like I was sitting in a rocking chair on a front porch instead of a loveseat in a two-bedroom apartment at midnight holding a baby.
Field of Dreams was Too Kind to Shoeless Joe Jackson
Shoeless Joe Jackson wasn’t the sharpest tool in the box. He also had a very productive series batting-wise in the 1919 World Series. But he did accept money to throw the series, and it affected his fielding. He confessed to his crime, and his own wife turned him in. Sure he was underpaid and well-loved, but there was no excuse for throwing the World Series.
Christy Mathewson was a casualty of WWI
He wasn’t killed during the war, but exposure to poisonous gas during the war ended his career, and eventually led to his death.
Babe Ruth was a Terrible Person
Babe Ruth may have been the most dominant player to ever play the game, but he was so lecherously unfaithful that his wife had a nervous breakdown. The media ignored his debauchery, because he was such a beloved player. Granted, he did a lot of great things for kids, but overall, I was surprised by the level of his immorality.
Louis Armstrong Owned a Baseball Team
Carl Hubbell Developed an Arm Deformity by Throwing a Screwball
Carl Hubbell was a two-time MVP screwball pitcher.
A Japanese Pitcher Struck Out Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Jimmie Foxx in an Exhibition Game in Japan
Eiji Sawamura gave up a lone home run against a collection of MLB All-Stars. He struck out Ruth, Gehrig, Foxx, and others. He was killed in WWII.
I heartily recommend this documentary. It is incredibly informative and entertaining. Ken Burns masterfully combines great storytelling/storytellers with photos, videos, and music from each era. If you like baseball and you like history, you have to watch this.
Until later friends…
Last week I watched a very interesting film entitled Silly Little Game.
Silly Little Game chronicles the invention of Rotisserie Baseball, which in effect created Fantasy Sports. It is an entertaining story. I am terrible at Rotisserie Baseball. I am good at Head-to-Head Fantasy Baseball, but I have not quite got the hang of Rotisserie. I got 4th out of 9 last year, but currently I’m sitting at number 9 for this season. This film got me more excited about Fantasy sports, but I have pretty much given up on my Fantasy Baseball team this year. That is why I am super excited about football season beginning.
Fantasy Football drafts feel like you’re a floor-trader at the Stock Market. There are so many stats to look at, and your gut feelings could lead to amazing success or utter failure. Last year, I thought I put together a good team. Our league is a “keeper league,” which means each team owner gets to keep two players from the previous year. Last year, I kept Calvin Johnson and Adrian Peterson. Your two keepers serve as your first two picks in the draft. I badly needed a quarterback, and I was thrilled to see that Peyton Manning was available in the 3rd Round. Little did I know, that Peyton Manning had a neck injury that would keep him from playing all year.
Thanks a lot Peyton. I am going to be better prepared this year. I will be aware of the health status of all my draft picks this year. This game can border on obsession, but it is a lot of fun. It mixes my love of football and my love of problem-solving. For instance, last year when Adrian Peterson blew out his knee, I was faced with a new problem: do I keep him for future seasons, or do I let him go and secure a solid second-round pick?
I haven’t chosen what to do with AP yet. Will he return to his dominant form? I don’t know. This is all part of the excitement of fantasy football. You start following every game more closely. You take injuries and turnovers personally. As long as you can keep it in perspective (these players don’t owe you anything), it can be a ton of fun. I am really looking forward to our draft, and I will post my roster in the coming weeks. Wish me luck.
Until later friends…