What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions
A lot of people say 2016 sucked. That’s all in your perspective, because every year has it’s ups and downs, and your valuations of those fluctuations depend on what matters to you. If you’re a middle-aged Cubs fans who supported Donald Trump, you may still be doing celebratory naked cartwheels down the street in front of your house. Conversely, if you’re a “Millenial” Bernie Sanders lover whose sporting sun rises and sets on Florida State, you’re probably working on your application form to join ISIS.
Either way, I’m the kind of guy who is more about lighting a candle than cursing your darkness, which also means I’d rather look to the positives of the future than the negatives of the past. Having said that, even though we are only two weeks into the new year, my world has plenty of things which give me a “sports boner” for the future.
1) The Promise of a New Laker Day
This is how fucked up I am. I’m using an old Paula Abdul song as the lead for my optimism about the Los Angeles Lakers, and I’m going to justify it with the facts that not only was she a Laker Girl, but she’s even screwier than a blogger; an accomplishment which should be simultaneously respected and feared.
My first sporting love was basketball. I’ve been a fan of the Los Angeles Lakers longer than I’d care to admit. I’m old enough to remember a Laker championship team with Pat Riley as a player, not a coach. That means these last few years have been tough to take; they’ve clearly been the low point in my era of Laker fandom. Even during the time between Pat Riley as coach and Phil Jackson when the Lakers were mediocre and largely directionless, they were still a play-off team. I’d never seen anything like last year’s 17-65 mark.
So I can double-dribble on my Paula Abdul joke, let’s talk about that promise of a new day for the Lakers. We’re halfway through this season, and this team already has 15 wins. It may seem odd to say that a 30-win season would be nothing short of an amazing success, but that’s exactly the case. Once you hit rock bottom, even the most meager improvement is still momentum in the right direction.
See, that’s the beauty of optimism. You don’t worry about how deep the well is when you’re at the bottom; you only see the sunshine at the top. This year’s Lakers squad gives one a lot of reason to look up. The core of this team doesn’t have anybody with more than 6 NBA seasons under his belt. They’re out from under Kobe Bryant’s gargantuan contract, and the team isn’t on the hook for a lot of fat veterans salaries; Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov being the exceptions.
The upcoming draft should see the Lakers in a good position to add front-court depth. Combine that with an interesting free-agency class in 2017, and the fact the Lakers are sitting on a pile of cash, and there’s no problems which can’t be fixed.
Plus, every sunrise brings us one day closer to Jim Buss’ death.
2) One Year Closer to the End of the Arte Moreno Era
Raise your hand if you are an old-school
Los Angeles California Anaheim Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim fan like myself; if you remember things like Nolan Ryan striking out 383 hitters and he and Bill Singer both winning 20 games for a team that finished 4 games under .500. If your hand is up right now, you know the deity of Angel fandom is the classic “Bitch Goddess;” she gives with one hand and takes with the other.
That’s how Angel fans know the malaise of having two 20-game winners on a 4th-place squad, because nobody on that team except a fossil known as Frank Robinson could hit. That’s how Angel fans know about the 1982 team loaded with big-money free-agents who got single-handedly destroyed by Paul Molitor in the American League Championship Series. We need not even mention the Dave Henderson home run in the 1986 ALCS, not to mention the 1995 Mauch-ian collapse to the Seattle Mariners.
More recently, Angel fans have seen more big-contract free-agents who flamed out faster than The Towering Inferno, a 98-win team which got swept in the divisional round, and a series of seemingly clueless general managers.
That last one is the key. I’m on record blaming this team’s chronic under-performance on manager Mike Scioscia. But I’ve come to realize the Josh Hamilton fiasco wasn’t his fault. Jered Weaver’s disappearance wasn’t his fault, nor was letting Mike Napoli walk for jack-squat.
I can’t even hang all this on current general manager Billy Eppler, but that isn’t to say he doesn’t deserve to get fired for saying this team doesn’t “rebuild.” Uhhh, that’s exactly what it needs, and it isn’t going to happen until owner Arte Moreno hires a “real” baseball guy to run the front office. The sad part is until Moreno sells the team, that’s about as likely to happen as Apple releasing an Amish gay porn app.
It’s back to that whole “Bitch Goddess” thing. Moreno brought the big-time cash to make the Angels a formidable presence in the bidding for top-flight free-agents, but he’s also hired a slew of guys who made worse money decision than Enron. I’ve seen enough of the Gary Matthews, Jr., Vernon Wells, Mo Vaughn, ad infinitum type deals. Enough is enough, Mr. Moreno. Hire a competent general manger or sell the team. I’m giving you until the end of the season.
3) A Significant Decrease in the Berman Factor
A few days back, a damn good blog I follow called Joe Montana’s Right Arm had a post about the coming reduction in Chris Berman’s face time on the World Wide Bottom Feeder. Here’s what JMRA had to say about it.
Following Super Bowl LI, Berman will see a reduced role on the network and will no longer be heading up Major League Baseball’s Home Run Derby, the NFL Draft, NFL Countdown, and ESPN’s Monday Night Football coverage.
This brings the curtain down on Berman’s incredible run for the network with frontline coverage on The Shield, which dates back to 1987. He started with the network back in its inception in 1979.
There’s really no denying the Berman became the face of sports broadcasting for two generations of sports fans. I’m in the first generation; I remember Berman when he was making sweet nicknames for baseball players like Jose “Can You See” Cruz and Von “Purple” Hayes. But the second generation didn’t see the quirky, yet inventive Berman. They saw the guy making a living saying shit like “Nobody circles the wagons like the Buffalo Bills!” The following is the comment I left:
Berman’s departure couldn’t happen soon enough. Once he was great, but has spent the last ten years being little more than a parody of himself. He is the embodiment of ESPN’s general decline in quality. To his credit, he is the last of the “old-school” broadcasters who can knock back a fifth of scotch and still nail the show.
That last sentence is a paraphrase of regular Dubsism contributor Ryan Meehan; it had to be included here as truer words have never been spoken. The best way I can describe Berman is to say he’s equal parts John Madden, Howard Cosell, and that one guy at your office whose just not quite as funny as he thinks he is. JMRA makes a really good point about the importance of NFL Primetime back in the days before the league figured out the potential for nationally-broadcast games at 4 p.m. Eastern time. But the decline in value of NFL Primetime mirrored that of Berman, both of which were caused by the increase in NFL viewing options that came about over the last 10 to 15 years. In the inestimable words of Charles Barkley, “Father Time is undefeated.”
That was the final blow to Berman’s reign on ESPN’s NFL coverage. The World Wide Bottom Feeder has been hemorrhaging viewers for quite some time, and it is faring badly with younger viewers who are tending to be cable-cutters and embracing other means of media consumption. Nobody wanted to see anymore of the once young and dynamic Berman becoming that fat, 50-something in a loud Hawaiian shirt you see clinging to his “Animal House” days at keg parties.
4) Carson Wentz
You’ve seen me time and time again write about being a Philadelphia Eagles fan. A major part of being an Eagles fan (besides binge drinking and battery throwing) is having lived through a litany of terrible quarterbacks. I can classify every Eagles quarterback in my lifetime into three basic categories.
Absolutely Not Dogshit:
Hot Salty Dogshit:
When one of your quarterbacks (King Hill) could have been a Sports Doppelganger for Sergeant Carter from “Gomer Pyle, USMC,” you know you’ve got problems. Many NFL teams could sport a list of terrible quarterbacks, but there will never be another with two Detmers, three Heisman Trophy curse victims, and guys named “Bubby” and “Guido.”
Philadelphia’s current head coach (Doug Pederson) is on this list as well, and even though because of Chip Fucking Kelly I don’t trust coaches who wear visors, Pederson has something very few Eagles coaches have had; a quarterback who classifies as Absolutely Not Dogshit. Like the Eagles, most teams in the NFL are sporting an offense which is a “work in progress,” but unlike most of those squads, Philadelphia has their quarterback of the future.
Think about it. Of all the teams that finished last in their division in 2016, only two others besides the Eagles have a “legit” quarterback; the Carolina Panthers and the
San Diego Los Angeles Chargers. Of those three teams, only the Eagles started 3-0, and there’s an obvious reason why such a promising start became a 4-9 parade of “could have been:” Lane Johnson’s 10-game suspension. It didn’t take the FBI Crime Lab to figure why it was during those ten games Eagle offense sputtered worse than a 1982 Camaro with a broken timing belt. The right side of the offensive line became as useless as Ellen DeGeneres’ diaphragm; the Eagles couldn’t establish a running game to keep opposing pass-rushers honest, and the play-calling was limited to passing routes which took three seconds or less to develop because the only way they could keep Carson Wentz safe in the pocket longer than that was to put him in the Witness Protection Program.
Upgrading the offensive line and giving it some depth solves the majority of problems which anchored this team at the bottom of the NFC East. Establishing a running game so Wentz can utilize his mobility to create opportunities off play-action makes the Eagles a play-off contender.
When you consider what this team faced in rebuilding from the Chip Fucking Kelly era, this isn’t a bad place to be.
5) Liverpool – Premier League and Beyond?
The vast majority of Americans can skip ahead to #6 right because most Yanks couldn’t give a shit less about about English football. But in all fairness, soccer hasn’t done itself any favors in terms of becoming popular in the United States; that’s a rant for another time.
My bona fides as an international sports fan include two of my wildest sports fan experiences; one being a spectator to a riot at a Spanish bull fight with a French ex-paratrooper and we were both wrecked on Lebanese hash….again, that’s a story for another time. The other was being there when Liverpool beat A.C. Milan to win the club’s last Champions League title. That night at Atatürk Stadium in Istanbul 12 long years ago was the last time Liverpool won anything meaningful. Yeah, somebody is going to point a League Cup win a few years back, but we all know that doesn’t matter. For any American still reading at this point, the League Cup is English football’s equivalent of winning the college basketball NIT.
Liverpool is one of the “Traditional Big Four” English clubs and has a history which places it among the royalty of European football. But they arguably have been replaced of late in the “Big Four” by Manchester City; a particularly distasteful situation considering the centuries-old feud between the two cities. Then, there’s the matter of history. Liverpool is one the most decorated clubs in all of Europe, but there’s hasn’t been any recent success; the Reds are not in a European competition for the third time in the last ten years.
Most Liverpudlians are wanting a return to Europe this season; that seems likely given the Reds current position on the table in a Champions League qualifying spot. A longer range goal would be a taking a Premier League title, something Liverpool has never done. Since that became the top flight of English football in 1992, Liverpool have never finished at the top of the EPL table; another distasteful situation as that coincides with the Sir Alex Ferguson era at the despised Manchester United.
The reason for the Merseyside optimism is the most popular German in England not named Queen Elizabeth II. Once Liverpool appointed Jürgen Klopp as manager, the buzz at Anfield became palpable. Klopp has a reputation as being one of the most-innovative and forward thinking bosses in all of Europe, and his track record includes two Bundesliga titles, a German Cup and a UEFA Champions League final appearance during seven seasons Borussia Dortmund. Before that, he lead the German side Mainz to promotion into the Bundesliga.
But what has the Liverpool fans excited is Klopp’s brand of football; a pugnacious style featuring relentless pressing and attacking. As Klopp said in his own words, “What I love is not serenity football, it’s fighting football – that’s what I like. What we call in Germany ‘English football’ – rainy day, heavy pitch, everybody is dirty in the face and they go home and can’t play football for the next four weeks.”
You have to love the fact that it took a German to come to Anfield to apply the “English” approach to football.
6) No More Bullshit From Chicago Cubs Fans
I live two hours from Wrigley Field; I’m in the heart of Cubs fandom, and I have to tell you…The Cubs finally winning a World Series is a load off my back. That’s not because I’m a Cubs fan, honestly I couldn’t give a shit less about the Cubs. It’s because I don’t have to listen to Cubs fan and their “woe is me” cockdrip about not winning in 108 years. It’s all over; the Cubs can go back to being just another baseball team.
I’ve even engaged a Cubs fan in a Point-Counterpoint over whose sports fandom is filled with more pain. But it matters not because I’ve been listening to that crap for 36 years, and I don’t have to hear it anymore. Right now, you might be asking why only 36 years? The Cubs haven’t won in over a century, and I’ve alluded to my 50-ish age more than once. It’s only 36 years because there were no Cubs fan saying any of this “we haven’t won” garbage before 1980. See, before then, the Cubs weren’t wearing the championship belt for Baseball futility. That ignominious distinction belongs to the Philadelphia Phillies.
This is because like the Cubs, the Phillies were an original National League club, but unlike the Cubs, the Phillies spent the first 97 years of their existence having never won a World Series, only having been in two of them (1915 and 1950), and only having won a single World Series game ever…EVER. The Cubs had taken back-to-back championships before their 108-year hiatus from winning, and they had been in seven World Series since then.
That’s why the Cubs 1969 fade-out against to lose the National League East title. That Cubs team won 92 games but came up short to the “Miracle Mets.” Some old-timer Cubs fans will take you all the way back to that 1945 bullshit about the Billy Goat, the middle-aged ones harp about the play-off heartbreaks of 1984, 1989, and 1998, but they all unified around the ultimate exerecise is scapegoating…let’s all say it together…Steve Bartman.
I’m not going to dredge all that old sewage up; we all know it. Not to mention, the point here’s is I’m ecstatic I never have to hear any of it again, because no matter what happens, I’m pretty sure I’m not living another 108 years.