Monthly Archives: October 2013
Sports Nostalgia… Heroes, Legends, And Controversy
By Brian Weidenbacher
Many individuals argue politics and religion on a daily basis. People awake in the morning to a hot cup of freshly brewed coffee, a newspaper full of political and religious stories, and television commentary laden with additional political dealings. Everyone has different beliefs on many levels. If everyone liked chocolate ice cream, Baskin and Robbins, with their “31 Flavors”, would be out of luck.
The only true American thing to argue about, or should I say disagree on, is sports! All males relish delivering their view on the greatest players, teams, catches, or any controversial issue in any of the major sports. Controversy keeps sports in our daily conversations, especially comparing today’s athletes to players from my generation and before. It’s Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays versus Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun. The “clean” athlete, that set their records on hotdogs, alcohol, clean living (Mays and Aaron), and pure talent, against the “contaminated” players that juiced their way to breaking not only records, but the hearts of their adoring fans.
While wondering, “What ever became of David Clyde”; here are my humble opinions as to those I consider the best athletes at certain “talents” in the major sports… Cheaters not included.
GREATEST RUNNING BACK IN NFL HISTORY
…..Jim Brown. Retired at the age of 29 as the leading rusher in the Nation Football League. Highest yards gained per carry (5.2) than any other running back in the HOF. He never missed a game, or took himself out after a long run, and never ran out of bounds to avoid contact. When it was third and two, the opposing defense, and every person in attendance at the game, knew number 32 was getting the ball… and they still couldn’t stop him!
GREATEST MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL PLAYER…..
Being a Mickey Mantle fan, this one stings a little….. Willie Mays. There may have been better hitters, better outfielders, and better runners, but Willie did all of it better than anyone!
GREATEST MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL “PURE” HITTER …..
Ted Williams. Nothing else has to be said concerning this selection.
GREATEST “THROWING” QUARTERBACK IN NFL HISTORY ….. Tom Brady. I have never witnessed an “average quarterback at best” come out of college, and mature into the type of quarterback he has become. He possesses the finest mechanics of anyone at the position since Joe Namath.
GREATEST ALL-AROUND NBA PLAYER …..
Michael Jordan. It’s tough to go against this choice.
GREATEST “SHOWMAN” IN NBA HISTORY …..
“Pistol” Pete Maravich. This guy was in a class by himself. He was a pure magician with a basketball.
GREATEST HOCKEY PLAYER …..
Wayne Gretzky. Hard to select someone better than “The Great One”.
GREATEST NFL RECEIVER …..
Jerry Rice. Great receivers are a dime a dozen in professional football, but this wide-out separated himself from all of the competition.
GREATEST NFL GAME OF ALL-TIME ….. 1959 Championship Game between the New York Giants and Baltimore Colts. This one, single game showcased the NFL with the first ever over-time game.
GREATEST GOLFER OF ALL TIME …..
Jack Nicklaus. This gentleman has 18 Major victories, and 19 second places finishes in a span of 25 years. He was humble in victory, and gracious in defeat. Not a bad person for anyone’s children, and grandchildren, to emulate on a golf course.
GREATEST MALE TENNIS PLAYER …..
Roger Federer. Rafael Nadal is a very close second.
GREATEST FEMALE TENNIS PLAYER …..
Martina Navratilova and Serena Williams. I would hate to have to live on the difference between these two great players.
GREATEST SOCCER PLAYER …..
Pele. He brought notoriety to the sport, creating legends of fans (Americans) that would have never watched a game of “futbol” in the United States if not for him.
GREATEST COLLEGE FOOTBALL COACH …..
Paul W. Bryant. *
GREATEST PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALL COACH …..
Vince Lombardi. *
*Both of these selections need no further comments.
Well, that’s my list, and I’m sticking to it. The strength of my opinions, hopefully, does not exceed my knowledge on the subject. My opinions are my symptoms. Disagreements on any, or all of the above selections, are welcome. It’s sports ….. the paramount thing to disagree about!
College Football And The Bowl Championship Series
By Brian Weidenbacher
There’s nothing better than hearing men, and ladies for that matter, argue about their favorite college football team and how the BCS should have their team ranked higher in the polls. For the past 15 years, the Bowl Championship Series has reigned supreme in the selection of ranking teams, and dictating their positions, and in some cases, the bowl games they participate in. All this ends next season… the BCS format will be replaced by the College Football Playoff in 2014. Plans are still being ironed out, but basically, the top 4 teams in the rankings will compete in a playoff format to determine the National Champions. College football is the only inter-collegiate sport that does not have a “playoff” system in place.
The BCS, whether applauded or criticized, was the best formula used since the inception of the “rankings polls”. Formerly, the UPI Poll (coaches) and the AP Poll (sports writers), were the governing masters of the rankings. These two extremely different polls were so incredibly diverse, that on various occasions, named different teams “National Champions”. The Coaches Poll (UPI) is sprinkled with coaches that have prejudices and distastes for certain colleges, or coaches, that flaw their votes. The Associated Press (sports writers) is just absurd. This group is composed mostly of individuals that have never played the game, and probably have only worn an athletic supporter to go swimming, and that’s in waist-deep water. These characters know as much about football as I know about nuclear physics.
Case in point… In 1966, Alabama was coming off consecutive National Championships, looking for three in a row. This fete had never been accomplished. The team was ranked pre-season No. 1 in both polls. That season, Alabama went undefeated, and buried a great Nebraska team 34-7 in the Sugar Bowl. For their efforts, the Crimson Tide finished THIRD behind Notre Dame and Michigan State. The Irish and Spartans played against one another during the regular season and played to a 10-10 tie. To add insult to injury, neither team engaged in a bowl game that year. The UPI and AP split their vote, and Alabama was left out in the cold. Oh well, kiss that ring good-bye…
Then there’s the Computer Rankings… Now you’re insulting my intelligence. A computer knows only the information that someone feeds it. Injuries, “team letdowns”, complications a certain star athlete is going through, girlfriend problems, school grades or exams, trends, and numerous other difficulties are never taken into consideration.
Now it seems that every major publication has gotten into the “Rankings War”. Last season, before any games were played, ESPN ranked Southern Cal as the top team. In their pre-season magazine, the question was posed, “Do you think USC is the best team in the nation”? NO GAMES HAVE BEEN PLAYED, how would anyone know? Ah, the excitement od college football ….. hype, hope, and hoopla, nothing better!
NO system will ever be without flaw, but I think I have the perfect solution to this timeless dilemma. This will definitely never happen in my lifetime, but it makes the most sense of all. In my humble opinion, there is only one group of individuals that should be the determining factor in the selection of the college rankings… the Las Vegas odds makers. Think about it for a second. These guys know more about the teams than the coaches do. It’s their livelihood. It’s their business to know EVERYTHING about the players, coaches, injuries, and overall insight regarding every team in the nation. They know more about the teams, and certainly in most cases, have a better perception about the team than the head coaches do. The bookies are the “Masters of the Football Domain”.
Somewhere, Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder has a smile on his ugly face as wide as the Mississippi River. He and I discussed this exact thing over dinner one Saturday night long ago in New Orleans before a Saints’ game. He loved the notion, but the NCAA and it’s disdain for gambling, plus the ramifications it would bring concerning organized crime and “point shaving”, would definitely kill the idea. He was the best. He gave me “7 to 1 odds” this would never come to pass. He died before I could “officially” make the bet. Thanks for picking up the dinner check. By the way, Jimmy, did the odds go up, or down, after all these years with everything that’s happened in sports?
“JUICING” …. THE DOWNFALL OF PROFESSIONAL ATHLETICS
By Brian Weidenbacher
Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, Babe Ruth, and Willie Mays are rolling over in their graves, and Willie Mays isn’t even dead yet! These great athletes set standards on the playing field that are now being challenged, and many broken, by imposters. True talent is being replaced by insecure players using anabolic steroids, human growth hormones, or anything else they can swallow, needle into their buttocks, or smear on their person.”Juicing” is now the norm. In this modern era of sports, it’s become a guessing game as to whether natural talent exists, or purchased through doctors or individuals at various laboratories. It’s a travesty in every facet of the word.
Major League Baseball and the National Football League have implemented penalties on athletes found guilty using performance enhancing drugs. But, are the penalties severe enough to deter players from committing this wrongdoing repeatedly? Evidently, the answer is “NO”. It seems that many players do “what is needed to do”, to remain a step superior than their own teammates and opponents. Ryan Braun, Alex Rodriguez, and countless others are enhancing their playing ability now, and destroying their later years of life. Is it worth it? If still alive, I’m guessing Lyle Alzado, and any other athlete that killed themselves and ruined their legacy with illegal substances at an early age, would do it differently. Killing yourself in the long run, ruining your reputation, and destroying your family and friendships for a few years of glory, just doesn’t quite add up to me. Vain and insecure individuals create their own despicable world.
Mickey Charles Mantle was a God to me, and most every other young male growing up in the 50’s and 60’s. For all we knew, it was a time of innocence in the world of sports. A professional athlete playing center field for the New York Yankees in those decades had to be the most surreal thing a naïve, country boy from Oklahoma could be a part of. Alcohol, for many of the athletes in that era, was the “drug” of choice. In the long run, it proved to be just one of Mickey’s demons. For three glorious days in 1987, I was Mantle’s bodyguard at a Baseball Card Show in New Orleans. It was magical. Here was my idol, and I was given the opportunity to be constantly by his side, stay in his hotel suite, and shelter him from his public. He came to realize, too late in life, just what he meant to people, and how in some obscure manner, managed to touch their lives. He was Mickey Mantle …… and he was finally acting like it. He was charming, funny, couldn’t sing worth a damn, and kind. But above of all, he was giving. Even in death, he gave his fans something better then he gave them while he played. For those three short days, I was a kid again. When he died from liver cancer due to years of excessive alcohol abuse, my childhood ended. It wasn’t fair to me, his legends of fans, his family, and most importantly, himself. Mickey finally “grew up”, but like I mentioned before, it was too late. Many athletes either consider themselves invincible, or have a “Peter Pan” disorder and don’t want to grow up and live in the real world.
Pete Rose bet on baseball games, and every other sport for that matter. For his sins, he was banned from baseball for life, plus it cost him enshrinement into the Baseball Hall of Fame. In the managerial position Rose was in, I fully understand the penalty he received. But is his crime any more serious than current and past athletes? Paul Hornung and Alex Karras were banned for an entire year in the early 60’s for gambling. Hornung is a member of the Professional Football Hall of Fame. There’s something wrong with this picture.
Roger Godell, Commissioner of the National Football League, proclaims that the NFL is against gambling, and the use of performance enhancing drugs. You have a better chance of baptizing a cat than to believe those words. If the NFL does not condone gambling, why does it release an “Injury Report” to every newspaper across the country on the Thursday before a game? Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy betting on games during football season as much as anyone. But don’t insult my intelligence by implying that the league doesn’t want me to bet on the games, and then “help me out” by informing me as to which players are injured, or will not play. Why don’t you include the players that are on some sort of “juice”. That would help me out immensely.
Lastly, and certainly not least, we have Lance Armstrong, deceitful winner of the Tour de France for seven consecutive years from 1999 to 2005. The United States Anti-Doping Agency banned him for life in 2012 for doping and using illicit performance enhancing drugs. Armstrong chose not to appeal his sentence, and in 2013, finally admitted his guilt. The USADA cited that he was engaged in “the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen”. John Wayne once said, “Life is tough. It’s even tougher if you’re stupid”. The only positive from this incredibly refined scheme, is that the Livestrong Charity has garnered 325 million dollars in proceeds. Something this wonderful, coming from years of ignorance, is the only saving grace.
Gambling will NEVER be the downfall of any sport. Most true American males enjoy the “action”. And why not ……. It creates a “rush”, and doesn’t cause bodily harm like drugs. Drugs, doping, and stupidity will one day be sports’ demise, similar to the effect it has on society today. I’m glad my better days are behind me. And besides, I don’t like needles.