Sunday, September 26, 2010

AZ's Slant on Sunday - Women in Sports

I'll admit, this is a rather tough topic to talk about, especially since: A - I am a woman; B - It's tough to be "fair and balanced" about this area of conversation (Just like FOX News! ...wait.); and C - I don't want to sound like an overzealous sexist about it. Now do you see why this can be such a great topic to talk about? It's edgy, right?

Now let's get started with AZ's Slant on Sunday! Music for this week, please...

"I am woman, hear me roar!"
Since when did we roar? Last time I checked I don't have a furry mane.
But at any rate, women have been striving to make a mark in the world. Although that Helen Reddy song is a very, VERY poor example of what the movement for women's rights is all about, we as women have many more examples as to how far we've made it. Since this is a blog about sports, I'll be talking about the advancements that have been made in the world of sports. Even though many people can't really tell that anything has happened, they're there for you. Depending on when you were born, you might have experienced or have heard about:

The Battle of the Sexes with Billie Jean King

The All American Girls Professional Baseball League from the WWII/Baby Boom Era

And maybe, the FIFA Women's World Cup that began in 1991.
These three events, along with many others along the way, have shaped the face of women's sports around the world. However, appreciation from women's sports come in short bursts, it seems. 

For example, the 1999 Women's World Cup started a huge uprising in girls' soccer organizations around the United States, and even began the Women's United Soccer Association (WUSA). However, this was short lived, as the WUSA only existed for three years. However, the 2008 Olympics in Beijing revived the hope of women's professional soccer after a US gold medal win. In 2007, Women's Professional Soccer (WPS) was founded, and began play in 2009. Although there are very few teams in the league, this remains a sport for the preteen girl audience and is very popular among them.
There is another example, albeit a small (very small) one. Because of the popularity of the Women's College World Series and the [now inactive] Olympic sport, the National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) league has seen much better days. Starting in 2004, college graduates and Olympians would duke it out on the softball field. However, this league is incredibly small and only has four teams. Over the past few years or so, many have folded due to money issues (which we'll talk about very shortly). Due to the IOC cutting softball from the 2012 London games, what will be the future of women's softball nationwide?

An exception to this rule may be this: the rise of popularity of NCAA Women's Basketball in the 1990's was a major contributor to one of the most successful women's sports organizations, the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA). Since 1997, young girls and older fans alike attend games in droves to support their favorite teams. With the latest contract extension in play, we'll be seeing these ladies making their jump shots for many years to come.

Why is there a lack of success in the sports organizations?
The main reason why many of the women's sports organizations either fall or fail to see the light of day is because of promotions and revenue. Men's sports may have been around much longer, but very few have folded due to contracts and loss in revenue (the NHL counts here). Women's sports are considered a small fish in the ocean because of the promotional hardships that come from keeping fans and sponsors. This begins a chain reaction, as lack of sponsors means lack of teams, and lack of teams leads to lack of overall interest of the league itself. Have you ever thought about the salaries of the players in these leagues? Many women have to work second jobs because the money earned from each game isn't enough to live on during the offseason. Sponsorship and team revenue is often abysmal depending on the area and the forms of advertisement, and it usually leads to the (not purposely) overpayment of teams and officials and puts a league in massive debt. The WUSA unfortunately suffered that fate.

A question you have to ask about women's professional sports is: "Do the young girls of this generation really care enough about the leagues?" I was nine when the Women's US National Soccer Team won the Cup, and to me it was a pretty big deal, considering that I played soccer and it was an inspiration for me to maybe one day play at that level. Ten years later, I can't say that I have that same interest, but I'm rather glad that women's soccer is holding it's own and attempting to make a name for themselves. I understand fully that it's hard to market a women's sport to a male audience, but where there's a will, there's a way. Maybe the men from Mars are the real key to our success. Eww. I don't know.
You have to admit--we really did come a long way now, didn't we?


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Ray Hudson: The Man, The Myth, The Legend

For those of you who don't know who Ray Hudson, he does a lot of color commentary for GOLTV and he also managed teams in MLS in the early 2000's. He's known for his colorful (not in that way) language and his rather hilarious mannerisms.

For example:

"I’m telling you man, this kid could be the best thing on two legs since Sophia Loren."
"This man is braver than a matador in high heels and a pink tutu!"

"Plays like he's got Woody Woodpecker down his shorts all the time, Lionel Messi."

That--now that is gold. You don't hear very many commentators as witty as this guy. I'm telling you right now. Watch this video here, and indulge in the hilarity. Meanwhile, here is my short but telling tribute to the boisterous Brit.

Ray Hudson: Hater of Celebrity Gossip

You grunt and you groan, and you love all things on the pitch--unless if it's sloppy play.
You cherish your beer, and you often emphasize chicken eggs weighing more than the hens themselves
Kathy Bates's sledgehammer from Misery is your weapon of choice in pounding your knowledge and opinions into the skulls of simpletons.
If you could get away with marrying every man on the Argentinian football team, you would do it and nobody would care.
Nobody knows where your harebrained analogies come from, but for all we know, they could be coming from God Himself. That is how unique you are.
Mr. Hudson, your lack of a mental filter is the proof of your numerous odysseys in the football world.
You stare at "Freedom of the Press" in the eye and tell them that stopping you is like nailing Jell-O to the wall. Who ever said you had to be a solid journalist?'re the man.

The End

Many of you are probably asking why I wrote this and why I sound like a babbling doofus. Here is your answer: the man is brilliant in his own way. He takes the concept of commentary and pretty much knocks it around the room like he's hitting it with a sledgehammer. I would love to incorporate that into a future that I wish to accomplish. By the way, he never ceases to make me laugh when a futbol game turns into a stalemate match. Is that enough proof? I hope so.


Monday, September 20, 2010

La Kurt-aracha

Tonight's the season premiere of Dancing with the Stars.

 Who is getting my vote?


But it's completely understandable if you watch Monday Night Football instead of this. I don't feel like watching Michael Bolton and Bristol Palin anyway.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

AZ's Slant on Sunday - Sibling Rivalry: Manning vs. Manning

(In my best Don LaFontaine voice)
IN A WORLD...where the gridiron settles the score, TWO BROTHERS will take the stand.... And only one will survive.

Ladies and gentlemen, AnimaniacZero, the National Football League, and OREO Cookies are proud to present:

We only get this match in legitimate fashion once every few years or so. Tonight, things just got real. These two QB's have a huge history in this sport, coming from two powerhouse teams, a football family (their own dad was a quarterback too), and both have a Super Bowl Championship under their belts. After much excitement and hype about both teams and their capabilities this year, we're finally going to get a clash of the titans on the gridiron tonight.

Let's look at the Tale of the Tape: [Stats from]



Let's look at literal terms. For those of you who are most familiar with the playing styles of each team, the Giants have always been a mixer team, combining their running and passing, where for Indy, it's more of a passing-oriented kind of play with a run thrown in here and there. You can tell what is most relied on with each team when looking at the passer ratings and the artillery of running backs and wide receivers on each side. Peyton is seen to be the stronger quarterback--although if I showed his stats pre-2004, you wouldn't really think that. At his age, Eli looks about similar to what Peyton was doing at that age as well. Does that mean good things for little Manning? Let's just hope he has the receivers to prove that he has some "mad skill."

Speaking of, let's take a look at the other men helping the Manning tykes out tonight. Both teams have a stellar amount of big names and beefy power to boost their morale and make their fans much more proud of calling them "my boys." After watching their games last week, I really liked what I saw coming from both sides.

For example:
The Giants have an excellent defensive line and loads of blockage. They might not have Jeff Feagles anymore (Side note: I laughed when the fans started chanting "We Want Feagles"), but they have the ability to play the small ball and make productive drives. Last week gave us a good view of how everything was ruling out on the team, as they dished out some decent plays and pain. The only thing that worries me about them is their ability to protect Manning and run their routes. They can and will get burned if they aren't careful. Three interceptions last week isn't a great sign for Mr. Eli and his receivers.

The Colts had an excellent passing game last week, but the defense...not so much. The Texans brought it last week and scared the crap out of everybody on the Colts' coaching staff. I'm currently on the fence about how the offensive line is going to handle a Giants defense that is riding on a good omen from last week. If they've learned their lesson, tonight won't be tough to watch for the Indy fans. One thing I'm worried about is the consistency of the special teams department. They were letting some easy runs through last week, and we wouldn't want to see that again this week, now would we?

Tonight, both teams will be riding on pride and bragging rights. Who will come out on top?
My Pick: This is tough, but I'm going to go with the Colts. I'm thinking that there's going to be some vengeance tonight. Yay for the older siblings? Okay.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Getting to Know You: Superstars on Twitter

How fortunate are most people today?
How "creepy" are most people today?
How dependent on the media are most people today?

At first, I avoided Twitter like the plague, but in today's world, it's almost 100% necessary for beat writers and other media enthusiasts to get quick information through this micro-blogging tool. Over the past ten years, we younger folk have been most fortunate in having breakthrough media such as the Internet to give us what we need when we need it. Now, many fans and athletes are capable to gain this information as well as give their opinions on what they think--not to mention what they're doing as they "tweet" their respective opinion. It's gotten so bad that athletes have been fined over this privilege, going to the point where they are "tweeting" during playtime.

(For example - A Main Offender: Who else but Chad Ochocinco?)

...Don't you give me that look. I'll slap you silly, you dancing queen.

But there is one thing I've noticed and have concluded over the past several months: What did sports writers and fans do "back then" when the Internet didn't even exist? Do we realize how lucky we are to find out the things we're able to find out now? I bet if you could use a time machine to go back to the disco days, you'd want to get out of there within a few hours because you wanted to check the Yankees/Rays score or find out the status of Packers' RB Ryan Grant. The only way you could find out stuff like that back in the 1970's were either through the television, radio, or [a real dinosaur medium] the newspaper. Oh, I just got shivers even typing that. How did they live!! Easy. They didn't submit their souls to this kind of luxury. This doesn't mean that we're soulless people today because of social networking like Twitter, but it seems like we've lost that boundary of personal issues and the true skill of hunting for news about your favorite team or player that exists across the country.

For example, I've been a die-hard Phillies fan since I was really little [Haters, just hate, okay?] and I love to read about their farm system and the numerous stats the big league guys have compared to the other teams in the league. Without the Internet and the wonderful guys on Twitter like Jayson Stark, I would be in the dark about all of that stuff. If the Internet (or social networking) didn't exist, I'd be paying about a dollar or two each day to read the newspaper articles on my team and watch the game highlights and interviews on TV. I would have a massive barrier between the "big guys" and myself. Today, I would be able to search stats on websites, message writers like Stark on Twitter (maybe get a response! ha ha) about an opinion that I have, and I can even watch cable-televised games on my purple Dell laptop. Could I have done that 40 years ago? Absolutely not. This is the kind of stuff that Walt Disney imagined in his Carousel of Progress and could never really experience himself.

Another point I wanted to bring up was how easy it is nowadays to contact professional athletes and other assorted figures in a sport. Today, it's easy to ask Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon what his favorite side dish is at dinnertime. Twenty years ago...maybe not. But to be honest, he might think you're a freak if you really did ask him that whether it was face-to-face or on Twitter. I'll admit, I would get really giddy if someone of such a high caliber ever got back to me on a question I asked him or her, but if something like that ever happens, you actually get to see how "human" the person is. Many years ago, you never really knew what kind of person the athlete or official was like unless if you saw a televised interview or read something that they said in the newspaper. Today, even though what they say is in writing [where you might have a hard time establishing any emotion], you get a sneak peek of the type of person they are or how they live.

We are so much closer than ever to our idols and our inspirations than we really think. They love us enough that they're talking about their lives for all of us to see. Sure, it could be a bit much at times, but they still want us to know about what they think and how you will react to it. It's something scary. We're all being interconnected, and the ones we see as being Superman aren't exactly so "super" anymore.
In case if you were wondering, I'm not going to break out into the Barney song about how we're all one big family and what have you. That would just be sad.


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Nyjer Morgan vs. Gaby Sanchez for the WWE Title

Dude. That clothesline. My mind was blown.

You can almost hear the original ECW theme in the background. It was that extreme.

If you really want to know my real opinion about it, hear me out. This Nyjer Morgan guy should be suspended. What he did just goes to show how big of a hothead he really is.
That is all I have to say about that.
[Other than the fact that he should get a one-night contract and just raise hell on WWE or something. That would spice things up.]


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Florida: A Baseball State of Mind?

More Sophia Petrillo action! Woohoo!

Picture it: Pro Player Stadium Dolphin Stadium Dolphins Stadium Land Shark Stadium Sun Life Stadium, 2003.

It was October in the state of Florida, and although it was cold where the opposing games in New York were played at that time, it was nice and warm where the Marlins played during the 2003 World Series. Since the Fish played in a football arena, attendance tipped the scales during each postseason game at an astounding 65,000+ each time. A Cinderella [Wild Card] team, the Marlins had their ups and downs during postseason, but rallied each time to finally take down the New York Yankees in six games.

Let's fast forward: Tropicana Field, 2008.

After about ten years filled with embarassment and losing seasons, the Tampa Bay [Devil] Rays made a stunning run. Frankly, nobody saw it coming. After an amazing season, the Rays went from worst to first and played in their first Fall Classic. Each of their home game attendances danced around the 40,000 mark, and the cowbell and mohawk were immortalized during that postseason. Despite losing to the Philadelphia Phillies in 5 games, fan hopes remained high, and the team has remained strong in the standings ever since.

Here we are in 2010. The Marlins haven't been in the postseason since their World Series win in '03, and the Rays are still in heavy contention in the AL East. However, something is a little different...

"Where is everybody?"

The cases for each team vary in particular aspects, and lately it has become a hot topic, especially in Tampa Bay's department. The Rays are one of the best teams in baseball, but why have they only had attendance marks of about 11,000 lately? Wow, people, you're putting the cart before the horse here. Shouldn't we all be thinking outside of the box? What financial state is our country in right now? Exactly--it's not doing so hot. Let's also mention this: Tropicana Field is well...kind of old and falling apart. (Just like me! Whee!) There's no big attraction to it like there is at ballparks like Wrigley Field or Fenway Park or Camden Yards (the only reason why the place is still open, in my opinion). The way I see it, it resembles a pinball machine where the ball bounces around in the dome and hits assorted players and fans like they're bumpers and lights. When the ball hits certain catwalks and beams up at the dome, it determine whether the ball is "out of play" or a "ground rule double" or what have you. To this day I've been waiting for a multiball at that ballpark, and unfortunately for me it hasn't happened yet.
I digress.
The point I'm trying to reach is that the attendance will eventually inch back up again. Let's be honest, my friends. It's September now, the AL East is a tight race between the Rays, Yankees, and Red Sox, and it's almost definite that the Rays will see postseason; this will result in a surge in ticket sales and more cowbells. Wouldn't it also make sense that more people will be vacationing in this area during this time period too? Hello! Bigger income--coming your way!
In conclusion with the Rays: Joe Maddon, why are you so worried? You obviously have never heard of this particular saying, especially when your team is doing so well. Heed my words: DON'T PANIC.

Alright, now let's talk about this same issue with the Florida (soon to be "Miami") Marlins. Like I've mentioned previously, the Marlins haven't been in the October picture since their win in 2003, and since then their attendance has been dwindling. I'm telling you--for those who don't follow this team at all--the organization has been pulling out all of the stops. They have "Mermaids" now. You're welcome for the photo, men. They even do that "bring your dog to the ballpark" night and if your dog doesn't like company around, then God help you. The organization is hoping that with the new stadium opening in 2012 (which is when the team will be referred to as the "Miami Marlins"), the attendance will surge again. From an eyeball's perspective, this isn't as bad as it truly looks. First of all, they play in a football stadium. There are a lot of seats there. Sure, it would be a godsend for baseball-heavy cities like New York, LA, Boston, or Philadelphia, but in a small state that has a great deal of attractions like their [oil-free] beaches and Disney World, their seating chart needs to be downsized in order to accomodate for people's possible lack-of-interest in baseball in that general. Will the organization be sorry if the Marlins make a huge jump next year in the standings, resulting in a big rush in ticket sales? Maybe. You never really know. Just because the state of Florida is big enough for two NFL teams (the Dolphins and the Bucs) doesn't necessarily mean it's big enough and popular enough for two MLB teams. You have to either fix your business strategy or just do away with the team altogether. You know what? Scratch that last one. We can't afford to lose teams that cheaply. Shoot, I still feel bad for Montreal.

In conclusion, there shouldn't be any worry at this point for the Marlins and the Rays. Of course, they're still relatively young baseball teams (the Marlins were founded in 1993 and the [Devil] Rays were founded in 1998) and there's still a lot of work to be done as far as management and promotion goes. Their postseason runs did give them a boost when it was most necessary, but now they have to feed off of the embers that remain and get the fans back in the seats. Do they need to take drastic action to make this happen? No, but they can at least look a little friendlier to them and promote the team efficiently regardless of their records this season and in previous seasons. Like I said before, don't panic. There will definitely be something that will fall into someone's lap at a given opportunity.
Let's sing along! Always look on the briiiight side of life! (Whistles)