Monthly Archives: August 2010

Things Are Getting Hairy Around Here…

The new hot topic in sports: HAIR. In the Twitter world people would say: #sportshair. Things are getting hairy around here…

1. The new million dollar man: Pittsburgh Steeler TROY POLAMALU. No, really. A million dollars. His luscious locks are now insured by Head and Shoulders for ONE MILLION DOLLAR$. Cha-ching! Polamalu is not only the company’s spokesperson but apparently he really does use Head and Shoulders to shampoo and condition that ferocious head of hair. How does he even fit that mane in his helmet?! He hasn’t had a haircut in over 8 years and reportedly has a 45 minute pre-game ritual of treating his hair. What I want to know is how his hair still looks so damn healthy without even having a trim! And those curls, my God! My hair stops growing and the ends start to split after a while but Troy’s hair is still flowing. Maybe it really is the Head and Shoulders… Anyways, he won’t be cutting his hair anytime soon and those locks are now making more money than some of his young teammates. I think when he DOES decide to chop the mane it’s time for a serious donation to Locks of Love. I mean, WOW:

2. To dread or not to dread: Chicago White Sox Manny Ramirez. You have heard it a bagillion times from teammates, coaches, and administrators that have dealt with this enigmatic heavy hitter: “Oh, that’s just Manny being Manny.” But, part of “Manny being Manny” is his lengthy dreadlocks that he has been sporting since he was a member of the Red Sox. Now, we have all been made very aware of Manny’s adventure the past few days from being a Dodger in LA LA Land to being on the White Sox in Chicago… the thing the public may not be super aware of is the White Sox strict clean cut appearance standards. Joe Torre tried to get Manny to cut his hair back when he joined the Dodgers in 2008 and was forced to settle with a slight trim. White  Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf may be in for a challenge when (or if) he tries to go toe-to-toe with Manny about his dreads. If I’m the White Sox though,I know I am trying to make a playoff push and just obtained one of the leagues most known power hitters… I’m thinking I’m gonna let “Manny be Manny” so that he is comfortable and starts hitting some dingers for my ball club. A compromise could be worked out to satisfy both parties: Manny has been known to fold the dreads in half and pin them up or he could wear his locks wrapped up in a bandana. No hair cut for Manny AND the organization has a clean cut looking player during games and team functions. Tada! Check it out: 3. Team bonding: St. Louis Cardinals. Forget rally hats, the Cards decided it was time for rally haircuts! Since falling 5 games behind division leaders Cincinnati Reds, the Cardinals decided in a closed door players only meeting that it was time to figure out a way to jump back in the NL Central race. Their conclusion: less may lead to more. Hair that is. In an act of team unity, the Cards came out of the visiting clubhouse with freshly shaved heads. Several players were understandably reluctant to bust out the buzz (reliever Mitchell Boggs is scheduled to get married in a couple months… Uh, sorry honey!) but ya gotta do what ya gotta do for the good of the team, right?! I love these kind of team unity things, it just seems to bring everybody a little closer and shows the passion a team has to make a change. Manager Tony La Russa said he was digging the team’s new ‘dos because they were so ugly he wouldn’t have to worry about his guys staying out late at night. Unfortunately for the Cards, their first post-shave game resulted in an L. Better luck next game barber birds. 4. Tantalizing Tebow: Denver Bronco Tim Tebow. This look doesn’t need much explanation, the picture speaks for itself. As part of rookie “hazing,” (ya’ll know my feelings about rookie “hazing”… just read my post about Dez Bryant below) Tim Tebow got a ridiculous Friar Tuck inspired haircut from his veteran teammates at the beginning of training camp. It has since been shaved off, but it was SEX-AY while it lasted!

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It’s FINALLY Game Week!

THANK GOD IT’S FINALLY SEPTEMBER! We have all been waiting 7+ months for the return of football season, both pro and collegiate. I’m shaking in my Bruin space boots, I’m THAT excited. There is just something about football season that gets everybody fired up and if you’re not already about to piddle in your pants with pigskin-induced excitement just watch ESPN’s “The Boys of Fall” documentary and you’re guaranteed to pep up.

Since it is officially game week for the NCAA, I thought I would do a little overview of some notable Week One games and let ya’ll in to some of my thoughts about the upcoming season…

UCLA vs. Kansas State: Obviously I have to start with my Bruin boys who open their 2010 season this Saturday in Manhattan, KS against Kansas State. UCLA has begun it’s last five seasons with a W and defeated the WIldcats 23-9 last season which, gives me faith that they will come home winners this weekend! With an eye on improvement (especially offense) in 2010, Rick Neuheisel and his squad are looking to come out with a bang and “announce their presence with authority” (as Meat would say in “Bull Durham”). This may be a little bit more of a struggle than the Bruins were expecting. Whether or not starting quarterback Kevin Prince will be healthy enough to play this upcoming weekend is still up in the air. Center Kai Maiava is just starting to nurse an ankle fracture, offensive tackle Jeff Baca is struggling with a leg injury and has been ruled academically ineligible for the season, ofensive tackle Mike Harris is suspended for the season opener for violating team rules, and Xavier Su’a-Filo is on a Mormon mission.Uh oh spaghettio! The QB (whoever it may be) and their line of protection is looking a little like a merry-go-round, huh? If Prince can’t give it a go, Richard Brehaut will get the start which, is a much less stressful situation than it was last season since Brehaut seems to be much improved. The Wildcats are returning projected first rounder star running back Daniel Thomas (1,265 yards and 11 TDs in 2009), UCLA’s run defense will need to pay particular attention to him if they want to be come out on top. Here we go, Bru!

USC vs. Hawaii: Just so ya’ll know… it was painful for me to even type “USC Logo” into my search engine in order to find their logo. Anyways, the Lane Kiffin-era Trojans open up their season this coming Thursday against Hawaii who they should be able to take care of handily. Obviously there have been sanctions, controversy, and questions swirling around USC in the past several months and everyone is waiting to see how the #14 Trojans will respond to their off-season turmoil. I’m guessing they will come out blazing with plenty of motivation to try and prove that the Trojan power house is not a thing of the past. With the repercussions of being bowl ineligible and losing 30 scholarships over the next three years (serves them right! Oh wait, did I just say that out loud? Ooops…) looming it will be interesting to see if the Trojans can keep their focus on the field.

TCU vs. Oregon State: The #6 TCU Horned Frogs will take on the #24 Oregon State Beavers this weekend in Arlington, TX. I think TCU, who went 12-1 last season, is going to be making a nice run in the BCS and will take care of the Beavers and the Rodgers brothers relatively painlessly.

Virginia Tech vs. Boise State: Last season’s somewhat Cinderella team, Boise State, comes into the 2010 season ranked #3 and is prepared to make a legitimate run at their first BCS bowl game starting with the #10 Virginia Tech Hokies. Boise State deserves a shot at a national title game and that shot could be in danger during their season opener seeing as they are heavily favored in the remainder of their matchups.

Quarterback Shakeup: There will be several notable replacements this year around the nation when regarding the QB position. Say goodbye to Tim Tebow, Jimmy Clausen, Colt McCoy, and Sam Bradford. Say hello to John Brantley, Dayne Crist, Garrett Gilbert, and Landry Jones. These guys have big shoes to fill at their respective universities and will have to learn how to thrive in the role of “big man on campus.” Garret Gilbert literally got thrown into the National Championship game last season when Colt McCoy went down early in the game and handled the pressure relatively well in my opinion. I can just see it: Mack Brown: “Hey kid! Guess what?! YOU’RE IN! I know it’s the National Championship game but… we need a win.” Garrett Gilbert: “Uhhhh… Yeah, yeah. You got it, Coach. (Turns around and vomits.) Will Florida change it’s offensive strategy from a predominantly passing game and revert back to more of a running game with the loss of Tim Tebow? Will Dayne Crist be able to lead the Fighting Irish back to a top-tier team while trying to stay healthy, learn how to be a vocal leader and deal with the pressures of being a true freshman? After Sam Bradford went down with a shoulder injury last season, Landry Jones stepped in as the starter and tossed 26 TD passes. Can he continue to lead OU and get the Sooners back to national championship form? Expectations are high at these schools, can these QBs take the heat?

STUDENT-Athletes: “Student” Comes First

Troy Aikman. Shaquille O’Neal. Emmitt Smith. Ray Lewis. David Klingler. TJ Ford. Cory Redding. Darren Collison.

What do all of these current or former professional athletes have in common? They all left college prematurely to pursue their professional careers… and they all have already gone back or are in the process of completing their coursework to earn degrees from their respective universities. Recently, more and more professional athletes are using their off-seasons to return to the classroom. Halelujah, these guys GET IT! Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it’s necessarily “right” or “wrong” to postpone an education to pursue a professional career, I understand there are pros to postponing a professional athletic career and to postponing an education, but I think it is important to, at some point, complete your education. You have to prepare yourself for a life after your body gives out on you, which unfortunately, is inevitable in the world of sports.

PROS of going “Pro” and finishing school later:

  • Allows athletes to earn a living faster and provide for their family.
  • Limits the risk of injury playing in collegiate athletics.
  • Allows the athlete to earn enough money to be able to go back and finish their coursework.

PROS of finishing school before going Pro:

  • Ensures stability following an athletic career. (Not everybody makes it to the pros, careers are cut short due to injury, etc.)
  • Provides both on-field and off-field maturity and experience.
  • Increases knowledge.

Obtaining an education AND having a successful professional career can be done, people! True student-athletes should go to college to not only excel on the field (or court, or floor, or track) but also to excel in the classroom and ensure a stable after sports future by receiving an education. There is a reason why it’s student-athlete, not athlete-student. Education+athletics=success. The key to this formula is putting in equal time, effort, and discipline into athletics and schoolwork alike whether it’s before, during, or after playing in the pros. If you have the opportunity and potential to have a successful pro career, but the window of opportunity happens to be after your sophomore year of college, by all means go for it as long as it makes you happy! BUT, in my opinion, make a plan to finish school and stick to it. Professional careers can be cut short for a plethora of reasons: injuries, bankruptcy, being cut… and if you don’t have an education, then what? An educational plan is imperative in order to continue being successful in life. Plus, it’s such a feeling of pride and accomplishment when you get that diploma! (I’ll have that experience in June, but I hear it’s AWESOME!) Upon graduation Shaquille O’Neal was quoted as saying: “It puts a stamp on me as an educated man.” Aikman quipped: “I’m glad I came back and went through the ceremony.” It’s COOL to graduate ya’ll!

Every athlete demands the best of themselves on the field, so why should that demand of integrity and excellence not be applied to the classroom as well?

Hey, it Takes BALLS to Get the Ladies!

Well, what do ya know? Chivalry (involving foul balls) isn’t dead! I LOVE this story. Not only does it involve sports but it also involves a little romance. Romance mixed with sports?! That spells perfection in my world. For some background info: The A’s ballboy, Kevin Fennell, has apparently grown popular with the fans due to some impressive fielding of foul balls that come his way. Fennell mans the left field foul territory which is right next to the A’s bullpen. Fast forward to the August 19th game between the Oakland Athletics and the Tampa Bay Rays where an unlikely romance may have bloomed. Apparently, the bull pen decided to have a little in-game fun (hey, it gets boring out there sometimes, right!?) with their ballboy, Kevin. One of the pitchers spotted an attractive young woman and asked Kevin if he thought she was cute. He responded positively and so the pitchers promptly instructed him to give all the foul balls that came his way to this girl. Jacki Lynch left the game with a total of 5 foul balls, 4 coming directly from Fennell and the last one coming from the bullpen with a note written on it: “How about a phone number for our Ball Man, Kevin?”

I think ya’ll will be happy to know (I certainly was), that Kevin did in fact leave the ballpark that night with Jacki’s number scribbled on the back of a receipt. They communicated through text message and have already planned a date to have dinner at Jacki’s favorite restaurant. Fennell has since appeared on MLB Tonight and Sportscenter to discuss his “ballsy” approach to getting a date with a cute girl and their dinner plans. Way to go, Kev!

Fennell did have to make amends with the fans he repeatedly bypassed during the game in order to lavish Lynch with her red and white stitched gifts. After the game Fennell tossed out an additional 10 balls to nearby fans. Good call Kev, you don’t want to be burning any bridges out there unless you’re looking for a hot dog to the face or a beer to the head.

HOW PRECIOUS! It’s like Cinderella at the ballpark! It got me thinking… I’m surprised that this doesn’t happen more often. Ballboys are given a perfect opportunity multiple times per game to interact with cute girls (which I’m told can be intimidating). They may be perceived as nerdy and awkward, but really, ballboys have some serious power if you think about it. Boy scoops up ball, boy gives girl ball(s), girl gives boy digits, they live happily ever after. It could work! The dude a few weeks ago at the Astros game who dove out of the way and let his girlfriend get smacked by a foul ball and proceeded to keep the ball for himself should take notes from Fennell… maybe he would still have a girlfriend.

Oh, and by the way the A’s won that game 4-3.

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Pigskin Promise in Westwood?

The UCLA football team held their annual fall scrimmage at Drake Stadium yesterday evening in front of 5,500 fans who came out to support their beloved Bruins (myself included). Now, I may be a little bit biased… but I mean, you can’t blame me. I’ve spent a large part of my college career hanging around these guys, so obviously I want them to succeed, and us Bruins gotta stick together! But anyways, these Bruins gave me a glimmer of hope last night ya’ll! Following an improvement of advancing to the Eagle Bank Bowl last season, I personally, am hoping for even greater improvement during my last football season as a student-athlete! Monday morning treatments are a little better for everyone on a Monday morning following a win at the RoseBowl. The training room just seems a little bit brighter!

The offense seemed to be chugging away pretty solidly, even without starting quarterback Kevin Prince who has been suffering through some training camp nuisance injuries. Second stringer Richard Brehaut came in and tossed 11 completions out of 16 for 186 yards that included 3 touchdowns and one pick which made me feel more comfortable about our back-up QB spot. Besides getting visibly barked at by head coach Rick Neuheisel following an illegal formation, Brehaut seemed much more comfortable in the pocket last night than in his limited appearances last season to which he credited the other “11 guys out there doing their thing.” Returning starting receivers Taylor Embree and Nelson Rosario each roped in a touchdown pass, which is obviously promising. Finishing with 80 yards, Rosario had a spectacular one handed catch along the sideline that got the crowd fired up. The Bruins’ tri-headed competition for starting running back composed of Jonathan Franklin, Derrick Coleman, and true freshman Malcolm Jones heated up on Saturday night. It will be interesting to see who gets that starting job, but my money’s on Jet Franklin. He was extremely efficient last year until he seemed to unfortunately catch a case of the butterfingers, which is why he could often be seen carrying a football around campus during the off-season (as instructed by his teammates).

Star safety Rahim Moore was quiet on Saturday night but his comrades, Dalton Hilliard and Tony Dye, each had an interception during the scrimmage. With Moore, Hilliard, Dye, and linebacker Akeen Ayers on the Bruin sideline I am expecting a high number of interceptions this season, even without Alterraun Verner who is now playing for the Tennessee Titans (and starting tomorrow night, go Al!).

With 2009 Lou Groza place kicker award winner Kai Forbath at the healm, the Bruins’ special teams appeared on cue as usual and left no doubt that the Groza could very likely be making back-to-back trips to Westwood. After nursing a groin injury through a large portion of camp, (Kai, if you’re reading this I hate to say I told you so) Forbath drilled field goals from 37 and 42 yards after uncharacteristically missing from 39. Wait, he makes mistakes? Weird. Credit to his long snapper Christian Yount and holder Danny Rees as well who complete the field goal unit. Trust me, they would throw a fit if they weren’t mentioned as they are integral to Forbath’s success, yet often publicly under appreciated! Red shirt sophomore starting punter Jeff Locke was dropping bombs with his average sitting around 43 yards per punt while redshirt junior wide receiver Josh Smith showed promise returning punts with consistent speed and accuracy.

Unfortunately for the Bruins starting center Kai Maiava was taken off the field following the third play of the scrimmage and suffered an ankle fracture that will require surgery and most likely cause him to miss the entire season. Neuheisel, offensive line coach Bob Palcic, and fellow teammates were visibly upset with the loss of Maiava calling him both a physical and emotional leader on the field. After losing Maiava, the Bruins are currently without the five guys who started on the offensive line last season. Yikes, that is of some concern to me, but hopefully with left guard Ryan Taylor likely moving to center and Darius Savage filling in at the left guard position the O-Line will start to reconvene. Get well soon Kai!

On a lighter sidenote: Tobi Umodu, Glenn Love Jr., Christian Ramirez, and Tony Dye were all rocking almost Sisqo style bright gold hair Saturday night.

And on another sidenote: Again, I may be biased, but I think our blue and gold uniforms are the sharpest and classiest looking in the game. That’s just how we do things at UCLA: sharp and classy.

I’m really excited about this team, their talent, and their heart and I can’t wait to get out to the RoseBowl for the first home game… there is absolutely nothing better when you bleed blue and gold. Let’s go to work boys, I have my eyes on ya’ll!

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Will Tiger Be Able to Claw His Way Back?

A waning professional golf career, his (ex)wife, his kids, his mistress(es), his scandal. Am I missing anything? When the scandal about Tiger Woods and his mistress first broke last November the world was sell-shocked. Actually, shell-shocked would probably be an understatement. The story continued to unbelievably unfold in front of our eyes as more and more women seemed to come out of the woodwork and share their story about sexual escapades with Tiger. Arguably the most talented, most famous, and most admired professional golfer (if not athlete in general) was suddenly another one of “those” professional athletes.

However mundane or serious they are, professional athletes’ mistakes are likely to be made public and are available to be scrutinized be everyone. I’m not going to lie, like most people, I absolutely admired Tiger and his game. His impenetrable mental toughness was something I envied and tried to incorporate into my own training. I looked at Tiger as a classy, humble, and respectable role model. Needless to say, I was devastated when the news of the scandal broke. One of my athletic role models suddenly crumbled and lost most of my respect right in front of my eyes. I understand that everybody makes mistakes, but it’s NEVER ok to cheat on your wife. EVER. Much less with 10 women! I don’t care who you are, what marital problems you’re having, how famous you are, or how much money you have… It’s not ok.

After not being selected for the 2010 Ryder Cup Team, the multi-million dollar question remains: Will Tiger ever be able to come back from his shocking scandal? I hate to say it, but I’m not sure that he can ever get back to the dominant force that he once was. I would be less concerned with Tiger’s ability to work his way back to the top of the golfing world if his problems circulated around physical issues rather than emotional and mental issues. With some kind of injury there is a process of rest and rehabilitation that usually gives promise to a full return. Progress is consistently made and there is a feeling of a “light at the end of the tunnel.” Progress can be physically seen and felt providing continued motivation to keep fighting to come back. With a traumatic emotional experience there is no guarantee of recovery. It’s much more difficult to handle an emotional problem than a physical one. Tiger’s mental toughness was one of his natural strong suits and was a big part of what gave him the edge over his competitors. Since the scandal broke, that mental toughness and stability has taken a serious hit. Can he get it back?

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Favre: 2 Retirement: 0

August 18, 2009: Brett Favre announces his comeback to professional football.

August 18, 2010: Brett Favre announces his comeback to professional football.

Deja vu, huh? The Favre versus retirement battle seems to be a little one sided. Last football season the Minnesota Vikings were one pass away from reaching the Super Bowl. The strong chance of the Vikings being able to finish atop the NFC North and advance to the Super Bowl this season is what Brett Favre says is bringing him back to the team for (at least) one more year. Favre stepped out on the field this morning with his teammates and got right to work, just like he did last year. In today’s press conference he made it clear that he could not guarantee to be healthy for the entire season… well, DUH! No athlete has a warranty on their health. But thanks for the gesture, Brett.

I know some people are sick of Favre’s yearly farce, but I can’t help but love the guy and I’m incredibly happy that he is coming back for another season. I think one reason that I’m ok with his indecisiveness is that he has made fun of himself for it! Last year’s SEARS commercial featuring Brett trying to decide if he was going to buy a TV or not… BRILLIANT. The guy is pushing 41 years old and he can still deliver a rocket threaded right down the center of the field for a TD as good, if not better, than anybody else. He gets the snot knocked out of him and somehow continues to get up time after time. Going into his 20th season, Favre holds the NFL record in: most career touchdown passes, most career passing yards, most career pass completions, most career pass attempts, most career interceptions thrown, most consecutive starts, and most career victories as a starting quarterback. WHEW! What a track record. How can you NOT love this guy? If you are one of those people who are sick of his consistent inconclusiveness, hear me out. He is physically unbelievable, mentally as tough as nails, and one of the NFL’s all-time greats… you have to at least respect the old man and admit that you are going to tune in to as many Vikings games as you can to see if the 40-year-old version of Favre can still be “the man.”

If you think about it, Brett is actually a genius. He “retires” after the season, doesn’t have to do any of the off season work, literally gets dragged back to Minnesota by teammates and coaches, gets back in shape and into a rhythm within .2 seconds, and swoops in like Superman to be the leader of his team. Sounds like a pretty good deal, right?

Could this year be THE year for the Vikings? Can Brett lead them to the Super Bowl? Can he be as good as we was last season? Will his ankle hold up? Will this really be his final season? All of these questions will be answered over the next six months. So, tune in and let the Favre saga continue.  GO BRETT!

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These Rangers PLAY Ball!

In the land of “America’s Team” where 420,000 square feet stadiums are an actual entity, Jerry Jones’ celebrity status might rival that of Lady Gaga, and where football is considered religion it has been astonishing to witness first-hand the blazing baseball fever that North Texas has caught. I’m gonna estimate the metropolis’s baseball temperature at about 103 (the high temperature during Sunday’s day game against the Red Sox.) As would be expected, consistently winning games and leading the AL West by 8 games has been bringing more and more fans out to Ranger Ballpark which, is all well and good, but I think there is an intangible that has boosted the appeal of baseball to the usual football fixated residents of North Texas. This ball club is FUN! They are clearly enjoying themselves, which, seems to be contributing to the team’s chemistry, increasing ticket sales exponentially, and the numbers in the win column just keep climbing.

Usually “great” teams are solely focused on winning, expect nothing less than the best, build super teams with a high payroll, experience enormous pressure from themselves, fans and the media, and through all of this likely come out on top. Exhibit A: The New York Yankees players and personnel having to “adjust” to Nick Swisher’s extroverted personality and celebratory post game “pie-in-the-face” antics. Let’s be real, these are the New York freakin’ Yankees. They have won 27 championships, have seen some of the best players in the game walk through their hallowed lockeroom, and have a colossal payroll. But they don’t necessarily seem to be having any genuine fun while lost in their serious personas. NEWSFLASH boys: You are still playing a game!

The 2010 rendition of the Texas Rangers is just about the farthest thing you can get from the stereotypical look and feel of a “great” team. The relaxed, entertaining guys that we are watching atop the AL West standings are there because they are truly capturing the essence of being a team. They may not be the highest paid or the most talented guys out on the diamond each night (Josh Hamilton and Cliff Lee aside), but they are living in the moment, genuinely enjoying being around each other, and savoring the time they have to play the game that they love.

This team boasts a load of idiosyncrasies that seem to have greatly enhanced their chemistry and caught the attention of Ranger fans. First off, “the antlers” for speed.  When a player makes a hustle play like stealing a base or hauling booty from the second base bag all the way around to score on a single, they get “the antlers” from the boys in the dugout. One hand on either side, thumbs touching your head, fingers spread and sticking right up to the sky… like a deer! Second, “the claw” for strength. Any kind of base hit warrants a player throwing up “the claw” to the dugout and receiving the same signal right back. A single calls for a slight paw at the air. A double permits a little bit stronger hand above the shoulder claw. And a triple gives you license to throw “the claw” up like you were a big ol’ grizzly bear.

Cut to Mitch Moreland who just recently got called up to “The Show” from Triple A ball. After his first major league hit Josh Hamilton, Nellie Cruz, and Ian Kinsler were frantically trying to get Moreland’s attention from the dugout. Did he do something wrong? Was the ball called foul? Were they trying to give him instructions to steal second or something? No, absolutely not. They just wanted to give the kid his first “claw,” and revel in their new teammate’s success right along with him.

THAT is what being a team is all about. The silly hand signs are just a way to acknowledge the effort by the guys out on the field making great plays and an effort to keep the game fun. Some people think they’re silly, I think they’re brilliant. It’s these kinds of little “inside jokes” and gestures that continually draw a team together. When a team feels that unity, every guy is going to want to go out there every night and leave it all out on the field for his boys all the while enjoying the sport. A team doesn’t necessarily have to be the most talented or the highest paid to win ball games, but it’s critical that they are having fun. The administration can feel it, the players can feel it, the fans can feel it. There is something special about this team and they are clearly capable of accomplishing something great… all because they’re ENJOYING the game as well as each other.

Let’s go Rangers, LET’S PLAY BALL!

Check out pitcher CJ Wilson getting and giving “the antlers:”

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Bunker Bummer

Neither the three-hole playoff between Martin Kaymer and Bubba Watson that concluded the 2010 PGA Championship nor the implosion of Sunday morning’s leader, Nick Watney (who squandered a three-hole lead and finished with an 81 on the day) was the most substantial drama of the day in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. As Kaymer and Watson headed back out to Whistling Straits to determine who was going to take home the winner’s cup for the last Major of the year (and the $1,350,000 purse), Dustin Johnson was in the clubhouse using the bright pink end of a pencil to erase his score instead of the leaded end to sign his name and participate in the playoff as well. Johnson was penalized two strokes for “grounding” his club in a bunker he didn’t even know existed, which knocked him out of the playoff and down to fifth place.

  • Sidebar: Grounding– touching your club to the ground before your swing, WHILE HITTING OUT  OF A HAZARD. (A rule established for the obvious reason of the player’s potential to dig a divot to improve their lie in a hazard.)

Of course, Johnson was fully aware of the “grounding” rule, he just did not think it was applicable on this particular shot because the bunker did not have many characteristics of a legitimate bunker.  Not that I am a professional golfer or even aware of these intricate rules of the game, but watching this all fold out myself on TV, the “bunker” REALLY looked like just a gnarly patch of grass that needed to be tended to. There was no definite size or shape, there was no substantial lip, and the fans trampled right through it when being asked to move in order for Johnson to maneuver his shot. “I just thought I was on a piece of dirt that the crowd had trampled down. I never thought I was in a sand trap. It never once crossed my mind that I was in a bunker,” Johnson said afterwards. He handled the controversial situation like a champ.  He never tried to defend himself, he knew he had grounded his club he just wasn’t aware that he was in a hazard, and he made himself available to answer questions from the media.

HOW HEARTBREAKING! I know this guy maybe should have heeded the warnings about Whistling Straits’ over 1,000 designated “bunkers more carefully, but REALLY people?! It’s hard not to feel for the guy, and who designs a course with over 1,000 pointless bunkers anyways? Since he sat there and watched fans traipse across this patch of mangled grass with sand sprinkled in, why would he think this area was a hazard? When have you ever seen fans allowed to literally walk through an appointed bunker? That’s what I thought, never. Try that at Augusta and let me know how it turns out. I can tell ya that it probably ain’t gonna be pretty.

Silver lining of the situation (if you REALLY want to see it): If Johnson had made his putt on 18 during regulation he would have flat out “won” the tournament… and THEN he would have had it taken away. Better to have not tasted victory even a little bit in this situation, in my opinion.

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Dear Dez: You Gotta Fit In Before You Can Stand Out

Unless you have been living under a rock during the duration of NFL training camps you are definitely aware of the pad snafu that occurred down in San Antonio, Texas between two of the Dallas Cowboys’ receivers, rookie Dez Bryant and vetern Roy Williams. If you HAVE been living under a rock, let me give you a brief recap of what the (shouldn’t have been) situation was. Bryant and Williams were expected to clash during training camp due to their projected fierce competition for playing time. However, the first “clash” came when Williams attempted to hand Bryant his pads to take into the lockeroom following practice. Bryant was having none of that. He let Roy know that he could carry his own pads. The story BLEW UP (even though it probably shouldn’t have). In response, the young Cowboy claimed “rookie hazing ignorance,” telling the media that he was not aware that rookies were expected to carry the vet’s pads and that he was brought here to play football, not to carry somebody else’s pads. Several days later Dez suffered a severe ankle sprain that put him in a walking boot and has forced him to miss the remainder of training camp and at least the first few pre-season games, if not all of them. Was it karma and the football gods striking down on Dez? Or, just a coincidental bout with bad luck? That’s your call.

Anyways, it’s like… come ON kid! (And yes, I can call him kid because technically I am older than him!) Nearly every rookie that passes through the professional “Not For Long” system has to endure some kind of hazing from the team’s veterans. Besides, IT’S NOT EVEN HAZING! Getting tied to a goalpost, getting dunked in the cold tub, or being “given” a solo to sing your school’s fight song in front of everyone is expected. Stunts like these that veterans pull on their rookies are (typically) not dangerous, they are not legitimately embarrassing to their reputation, and everyone ahead of you has gone through it. These pranks are more like a “right-of-passage” than they are an act of hazing. So, put up or shut up, ok? It’s a tradition that has been going on for years, and Dez, I hate to break it to ya… but you have to prove yourself before you can pull something like that. You gotta fit in before you can stand out.

I understand that you are a complete athletic freak of nature, you’re probably going to be a star, and well, like I said, you’re an athletic freak of nature. But, you are most likely going to take Roy’s place in the starting lineup, the least you could have done is humor the man and carry his pads in from practice for a day.

Fast forward to this past Thursday and the Cowboys pre-season game against the Oakland Raiders. Prior to the game Dez presented his fellow receivers with Air Jordan Olympic 7s and he had a special gift for his pal Roy Williams, a copy of Madden NFL ’11. When asked about the sudden showing of altruism towards his teammates Dez said that the gifts were simply out of “the kindness of his heart,” and that it didn’t have anything to do with the previous hazing incident. According to Dez, he is just trying to create good chemistry between himself and his new gridiron comrades. Hmmm… Yeah. I’ll let ya’ll mull that one over for yourself; but I’m pretty sure that, traditionally, rookie “hazing” is what starts to build team chemistry between rookies and vets not shoes and video games.

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