Tuesday, November 18, 2014


There's a pretty good chance I've already written about some form of addiction in this blog already, but since you need to have short-term memory in the media field (or at least assume that your audience does), let's write about some more drug things. Wait...what was I talking about again?

Because I can't begin this without that crazy drum intro from Scott Travis and then Rob Halford's leather-wearing vocals.

It's commonplace that on every job application, it will be stated that you could be subjected to random drug tests. I've worked many jobs in retail and in food, and I have yet to be drug tested; then again, why would I have to take one if I am in good standing with the company that I work for, and that I don't do any extremely heavy lifting? But on the other side of the coin, when there are suspicions, they wouldn't really be random now, are they?

You see, in certain job fields that require hard labor and physicality, this "off the wall" job application note will actually happen, and they will certainly be random. This was proven on Sunday when not one, not two, not even three or four, but FIVE NFL teams were subjected to investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). According to reports, it doesn't exactly seem like the friendliest welcome by these guys, either. The five teams (the Lions, Bengals, 49ers, Seahawks, and Buccaneers) and their respective medical staffs were greeted at the airports and later interrogated and subjected to bag checks. Reports also go on saying that these five teams were chosen because they were playing on the road. It doesn't make the most of sense in the world, but I guess we'll roll with that for the time being.

By watching a lot of media outlets over the past 24 hours, most notably ESPN and ABC News, they made it sound like this is an issue that just spurt from the loins of Hades. However, this isn't the case, as a very large number of former NFL players have stepped forward in the past six months and claimed that they were given large amounts of pain medication to cut the edge and keep playing on. If you've ever heard of the video game Blitz: The League or have heard of the short-lived ESPN series called Playmakers, it's the personal lives of football players and their temptations (and possible needs to medicate) on a realistic level. It's quite insane, when you sit down to think about it. It's insane for several reasons: (1) It blurs your perception of how well teams take care of their players, (2) It worries you on how "well" the player is physically as well as "upstairs," and (3) This has been going on for a really freaking long time.

It has gone on record from many athletes (especially those in the pro wrestling business) stating that they have had ongoing issues with painkiller addiction. When you're dealing with medications like Vicodin or Oxycontin, which are ridiculously addictive in nature, it will come as no surprise. At a time like this, I think back to that one discussion that I had with Andrew about soccer versus football, and how he said that a football player will undergo the equivalent of sixteen car crashes in a game based on the high-impact play. Players might not have any significant injuries after each game, but they're certainly sore afterward, regardless of how conditioned they may be. In my best shape, I would be practically dead the day after a soccer tournament, and at a point, I had a few of them per season. It wasn't to the degree of these players, of course; I was only trying to make a point. The quickest way to cut the edge off of soreness is to pop a Tylenol or Advil or whatever kind of pill you can buy at your local pharmacy. However, that could become a growing habit, and you can take them just to take them and not feel any pain, plus feeling the "sensations" that it brings along with it. Rest doesn't exist during a professional sports season, no matter whether there's a break or a bye week or what have you. You're in it for the long haul, or you're considered "disabled" or "physically unable to perform."

Grant it, it's good that the DEA is cracking down on these allegations, but on the other hand, I sort of want to shake my finger at the news outlets for making this a bigger deal than it really is. Did it cause a big scene at airports? Most likely. Does this mean that everybody in the NFL is in trouble? Not really. Sure, there may be a few players that could get caught; that remains to be seen. But this is a good indicator that there are staff members out there that are beginning to care for the players long before they leave the league. It has already begun with evaluating players for concussions. It is now being broken down more into "lesser pains," for the lack of a better term, and the psychological effects that stem from that as well, which in this case is addiction.

The key word that I had mentioned above is "beginning." You see, the DEA has been hovering around the NFL for several years, telling doctors and medical staff members what they can and cannot administer to players; then again, they pretty much do that with every sports organization, but I digress. This is the biggest crackdown so far, but even though it doesn't seem like there are any guilty parties in the matter (regardless of compliance), it's a step in the right direction. Players are pushed to their limits in more ways than one, and when the human body isn't given the right time to heal, more harm will be done than good. Now you'll not only have the physical problems, but the psychological problems as well. It's either nipped in the bud now, or you'll have a truckload of misery later.

Privacy is a good thing, but when there are people out there that are concerned about the health of their performers, there's a reason to be concerned and serious on the matter. I do feel bad for the organizations that have full innocence, but you know what they say...one bad apple can ruin the whole bunch.


(The article used for reference can be found here. Thanks for the fuel to my flame once again, ESPN!)

Friday, October 31, 2014

The NFL Midseason Slant for 2014-2015 - Trainwreck Drama

F'real...there's enough stuff that happened within the first three weeks of the NFL season that could develop a good three or four seasons of a midday drama that would be canceled by FOX after just four episodes.

Good heavens, the year keeps going faster and faster. I remember standing at work on the Sunday of Week 1 going: "Where is every--oh wait, it's Sunday" about two months ago, but it actually felt like I only said that two weeks ago instead. But they do say that time flies when you're having fun, am I right?

In talking about all of the things that happened, we've seen suspensions, controversies, changes in coaching, and a lot of shifting of the team leaders. While the last thing I mentioned isn't any cause for panic, the stuff before that definitely through a boatload of flies into a tiny jar of ointment, and it was PRETTY DARNED GROSS.
It's about high time that I was honest about a few things. It looked like I missed a huge opportunity in writing about the domestic abuse issues that occurred in the NFL throughout August and September. However, the meat of the stuff unfolded while I was in Los Angeles for a week on vacation, and I had no intention of writing. I researched stuff, but I didn't write. I could have went on and on and on about the domestic abuse stuff that went on during this NFL season, but I refrained from it for one specific reason: It was shoved down everybody's throats enough. My opinion would not have mattered, as it would have gotten lost in the mix of media oblivion. Besides, this would have turned into a political blog in the process, and that isn't the point here. It's another issue that broke out in massive puberty pimples and got progressively worse because the human race hasn't seemingly progressed since the women's rights movement nearly 100 years ago. I digress.

Anyway... Let's take a look at what's been going on along the gridiron. That's the real reason why we're here, right?


(NOTE: These standings are as of Week 9. This does not include the results of the Saints/Panthers game that occurred on Thursday night.)


East Division

New England Patriots (6-2) - After what seemed like this season would be laughable for the Pats, things have certainly kicked into fourth gear. After each defeat, they seem to bounce back and practically kill the team in the following week. They're sleeping giants, that's for sure, and when you have the Brady/Gronk combo, things could be ugly for the opposition.
Buffalo Bills (5-3) - Hey hey! I'm not used to seeing this. However, there seems to be trouble in paradise in the running back department as far as injury. Plus, Kyle Orton has had a bit of an issue adjusting to his new squad. But don't fret, we're seeing one of the stronger defenses in the AFC, and with a stronger lineup toward the end of the season, they will certainly be tested. I'd love to see them make it a little further than usual.
Miami Dolphins (4-3) - The Dolphins have a very underrated defense, especially when they've rocked against some of the strongest offensive teams so far. The offense may have issues in catching up, but if they stay steady against some average defenses coming up, it should be enough of a momentum boost for the weeks to come.
New York Jets (1-6) - You cannot blame Mark Sanchez on this crap this year. The only strong point is their defense; the rest of them have been absolutely weak. Geno Smith's welcome has been rotted out, and the special teams is ridiculous to the max. Are we seeing the end of the Rex Ryan era? Most likely.

North Division

Cincinnati Bengals (4-2-1) - Oh my God, I hate this tie business, you guys. Anyway, I would have thought that with Marvin Lewis at the helm, we might see a stronger defense, but it looks like I'm wrong here. Anyway, Andy Dalton is having a field day at his position with loads of eligible (and effective) receiving. Things can only get better from here in that department.
Baltimore Ravens (5-3) - There is no doubt in my mind that Joe Flacco is making incredibly strong outings this year. Each loss has been a hard one so far (they never figured out Cincy), and if those are thrown to the side, we could see real contenders on this end from here on out. The one thorn in their side could be the pass rush, as the next few games feature powerhouse QB's. However, the rest should be easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy.
Pittsburgh Steelers (5-3) - They've certainly made a statement in this past week that they can still roll on with the squad they have. However, you can certainly tell that this is barely half the team that it once was nearly a decade ago. The defense is far from an steel curtain, but Mr. Ben Roethlisberger wants you to forget that with this power in the pocket. Their schedule doesn't look too shabby either. The Steelers can make teams mighty nervous after this.
Cleveland Browns (4-3) - Fact: Cleveland never catches a break--ever. Brian Hoyer and company have had a lot of luck going into the halfway point of the season, as many of their games have been close and down to the wire. Special teams have been their greatest strength for sure. The only problem is their issues against the run. If nobody runs hog wild on them, we could see a really close race in the AFC North.

South Division

Indianapolis Colts (5-3) - I can officially say "Peyton who?" Andrew Luck is certainly proving his worth as a #1 pick quarterback, especially with his efficiency in the pocket. The defense leaves much to be desired, but when you have a stellar quarterback and two strong running backs in Trent Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw, you can't go wrong.
Houston Texans (4-4) - A hard-hitting defense and another great season from Arian Foster is keeping the Texans afloat for the most part. However, both sides can be inconsistent, and Fitzpatrick at the lead in QB isn't exactly the strongest thing in the world--especially after his woes in Buffalo. However, their bye is approaching soon. It could be the recharge they need to make a run for the South title.
Tennessee Titans (2-6) - There's a lot on this team that leaves much to be desired. You can easily tell that this is a time for rebuilding. The injury bug has really stalled this period too, as many people were out of action early on in the season. As long as the crew keeps healthy, they should be able to recover. However, it may be too little, too late.
Jacksonville Jaguars (1-7) - I could say this and end it here: "No shock. Moving along..." But I won't do that here. This whole organization is in desperate need of repair and it doesn't look like there's any sort of relief in sight. With the one little shining moment in their victory against the Browns in Week 7, their endless injuries and the lack of hope in management is a recipe for a poor end to the season. Godspeed, Jags.

West Division

Denver Broncos (6-1) - Weed is not a performance enhancer. But when you have an offense led by record-breaker Peyton Manning, you really don't need much else, now do you? While they have had problems here and there with the rush, the tone set by the rest of the team is more than enough to take them to another Super Bowl.
San Diego Chargers (5-3) - These guys are in the thick of it once again by being scrappy and relentless on offense. Philip Rivers is an underrated quarterback with numerous options, and to be honest, that is the go-to due to a slight weakness on the rush. Throw in a defense that kills on pass yardage and you've got a good chance to see the Bolts play more in January.
Kansas City Chiefs (4-3) - Sorry, guys, people are still hung over after their heartbreaking defeat in the World Series. However, there might not be the same amount of heartbreak this year. They're more or less "pacing themselves" this year (obviously), and it is evident in an offense that is slowly gaining a stride. The defense is about as strong as they were last year, and that's a good sign as well.
Oakland Raiders (0-7) - Remember what I almost said about Jacksonville above? I could do that here too, but no. If there is one franchise that needs an even bigger fixing, this is the winner. All routes of failure are breaking the laws of science and possibly destroying the Black Hole in Oakland. When one side is strong, the other side seemingly sucks, and lack of synchronicity definitely shows here.


East Division

Dallas Cowboys (6-2) - They looked scary up until this week. The biggest shining diamond on this team has been, without a doubt, DeMarco Murray. Blowing by defenses has been his forte, and with the skeptics still being skeptical about Tony Romo's overall ability, all systems have been go for the Cowboys making a good run this season.
Philadelphia Eagles (5-2) - In what is a different scene on the team this year, it appears that the defense is doing extremely well while Nick Foles and LeSean McCoy aren't producing the same kind of results that they were last year. However, this could change. The new addition in Darren Sproles has worked for them, and a team getting used to speedy possession is working in small steps. Could we see a Super Bowl in the cards for them this year?
New York Giants (3-4) - I won't lie, these guys looked like crap in so many ways in the first half of the season. Don't get me wrong, there were some great moments, but the inconsistency is such an eyesore. Plus, a loss in Victor Cruz isn't exactly the best thing to happen to the team's morale. Their woes on both ends could continue for the second half of the season.
Washington Redskins (3-5) - Sooooo... RG3 is gone again. However, this doesn't mean that second stringer Kirk Cousins is going to be flimsy. Not everything is going right in this area, especially with the team name and such. In a very heated division, with a difficult schedule in the second half, things might just go downhill for the people in DC.

North Division

Detroit Lions (6-2) - Holy crap, Golden Tate. Oh, and holy crap, defense. The Lions look like true contenders all across the board in the NFC. The offense might be shaky at times, especially with injuries and problems with the run, but as long as the defense stays healthy, we could see some fireworks.
Green Bay Packers (5-3) - Their defense totally sucks with the run, but it's clear that we have Aaron Rodgers being Aaron Rodgers, and the offense is totally making up for the suffering on the other side of the ball. Eddy Lacy and the others on the receiving end are totally turning it up for the team, and this should be able to help them drive into late January.
Chicago Bears (3-5) - Jay Cutler and company aren't exactly having a terrible year, per se, but it could be much worse. The defense has had struggles as of late, and there have been tough breaks all throughout the season so far on offense. Their latest lashing against New England didn't help them very much. With divisional games to end out their season, it's all or nothing.
Minnesota Vikings (3-5) - When the Vikings want to score, they most certainly will. However, that's about it. The defense can only handle so much, and without Adrian Peterson to help them out on offense, things have been incredibly inconsistent.

South Division
(Ladies and gentlemen, this is my fifth NFL Midseason Slant. In my time writing in this blog, I have never seen a division that was as toilet-worthy as this. What the actual flip.)

Carolina Panthers (3-4-1) - Injuries have really plagued this team, and to be honest, the stats on these guys really don't show how much effort these guys are putting into every game. Cam Newton is still a heck of a quarterback, being dual in the run and pass. Too bad that there are times in which he doesn't have an option, and the defenses have a difficult time adjusting to plays from the opposition. Again, they look decent on paper, but sometimes that makes no difference.
New Orleans Saints (3-4) - When you have a strong offense, you tend to want to point the finger at the defense and special teams. This isn't the case, believe it or not. A lot of it is coming up short and not being able to capitalize on opportunity. Games that should have been won weren't, and except for one or two games, the Saints look like they can't be contenders. But in a division like this, anything is possible. Just...stay healthy, offense. Keep doing what you're doing.
Atlanta Falcons (2-6) - How? You have a relatively good offense with a slough of talent in QB and in wide receivers, but they can struggle. Plus, blowing leads have been the name of the game for the Falcons, and with a very hole-y defense, this record is expected for a team that almost seemingly lets opportunities go once the second half rolls around. The second half is their redemption time.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-6) - Professional football in the state of Florida (save Miami) makes me sad. I put up with this crap last year when both the Bucs and Jags were 0-8, and it almost seems like a return to Los Angeles may be imminent. Statistically, they have one of the weakest defenses in the NFL, and they have such an inability to move up the field. Things can only get worse from here.

West Division

Arizona Cardinals (6-1) - Everything really seems to be working here in 'Zona. The big story here is the fact that they can make huge plays, capitalize on mistakes, and come in the clutch. A team that stays hot in that area can't burn out very easily. Carson Palmer has numerous options in the pocket. Defenses are making the run look stupid, and a lot of the teams they have faced as of late specialize in it. Looks to be the same way for the future. This should be fun.
San Francisco 49ers (4-3) - It's the same old story with the defense, which isn't a bad thing. The only problem with Frisco is their options on offense, almost like Kaepernick has a problem with seeing the field and making clear plays. Once the team gets back to form in the health sector, we could see a good second half surge from these guys.
Seattle Seahawks (4-3) - Yes, they won the Super Bowl last season. So what? The offense isn't making as many big plays as they did last year (which, in fact, they were golden in that area last year), but that isn't necessarily a reason for alarm. If they can still roll with the tough customers, they shouldn't have any problems keeping a lead and fighting back. Hey, 12th man, they might need you even more this year to keep the reputation.
St. Louis Rams (2-5) - The struggles seemingly continue for these guys. Their season hasn't been a complete disaster--they've kept up with a lot of contending teams, but it seems like what they do isn't exactly enough. So don't let stats and standings fool you. They're just rather unlucky with where they are right now. If there's one team that can play a spoiler from here on out, the Rams could be the kings of this area.


Well, we're halfway there (maybe living on a prayer) but we've yet to see the best from these teams in the NFL. Hopefully there won't be any more ridiculous media events for the next two months--especially involving couples costumes of Ray Rice and his wife. Again, I could go on forever about this stuff.

I'll see y'all in this area NEXT YEAR...which at this rate, will be in about a week and a half. Ha ha ha

The times, they are a'changing...unless you're the New England Patriots.


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Red Whines: Eye Candy - Behind the Bull

Major shoutout to Allison Jenkins (@AJenkins11) for sending me the article that got the wheels turning on this post. She's a pretty cool lady. And she likes the Flyers too.

Sometimes I just say things on Twitter just to say things. For instance, three years ago I did send in a video of myself to apply to be a Phillies ballgirl to no avail. Then I read Tuesday night that the Philadelphia Flyers are looking for applications for their Ice Crew, including women. I figured, "Hey, I could totally try this just to say I tried it and laugh at myself later," but I later got a response that included an article (read this article now), and then my joking demeanor turned into this face:
I should have known. I should have known this whole time.
Like, really? Am I going to have to unload on this one too? And of course, the answer is definitely yes, because I still can't believe that there are specific standards for women when it comes to areas such as cheerleading and whatever kind of stuff that involves wearing spandex and stuff.

I knew that to be an "ice girl," you had to be fashionable in spandex similar to what a women's wrestler has to be acquainted with, and you have to deal with cold conditions. If you're a monk, that doesn't seem so bad, but when your abdomen and hands are exposed for extended periods of time, it truly isn't. In fact, according to the article, the women are not allowed to eat at all while on the job, and they cannot cover themselves up at any time. The only thing I understood was that the organization doesn't want intermingling between the women and the athletes, and that makes some sense, but to put them on borderline torture, especially if you're an "ice girl" during the Winter freaking Classic? Give me a break, people.

Because of all of the issues, organizations have been slowly adding men and/or completely doing away with the female-centered groups. Most cheerleading squads in football still remain, but I'll get to that later on. During the NHL Preseason, male ice squad members made an appearance in Philadelphia, much to the dismay (and even boos) of male spectators. Now before you start saying, "Oh, it's because Philadelphia fans are a bunch of pigs," I'm going to have to stop you there. And maybe hit you over the head with a  day-old soft pretzel. This would happen anywhere. Don't make me put the Judge Judy eyeroll down here too. Because of the reception, they've opened up the ice squad application process to women again. Whether they're going to fine-tune the guidelines for them remains to be seen, but from a feminine point of view, men could just as easily pull out a smart phone and look at a woman in spandex from a Google Search app while a bunch of dudes shovel the ice. Does everyone think like me? Of course not. They don't like to use their imaginations like Barney the Dinosaur or Spongebob Squarepants taught them. I digress.

Back to the other fun stuff that the article talked about. The pay is not very good for these ladies, and they are responsible for their own hair, makeup, and supplies. Now, women are dignified pros in doing their hair and makeup in cramped up places, but the fact that they don't get decent enough pay to get to these events, on top of the fact that they have other jobs and maybe college classes outside of this? Give them a reason to stay, you guys. Sure, it's the experience of a lifetime, and you get to do charity work and participate in good causes, but it seems like the other stuff going on is less than ideal for women looking for something even more worthwhile in this job. It is a job at the end of the day, isn't it? Shouldn't there be a reward for doing a good job?

You say that I sound like a feminist right about now, but if you paid men $50 a week during the season and they needed to pay out of pocket for their own supplies, don't you think that would be a little ridiculous?

Should I get started on "jiggle tests" too? They're an alleged urban legend in the world of sports, but there are rumors all over about how a team's "eye candy" (for the lack of a better term here) must undergo "weigh-ins" among the like to keep the girls in form. True story, guys: I would fail said "jiggle test" because my thighs are too awesome for words. Plus, I also like to eat a lot. So keeping women to that standard is a bunch of malarky. It may not even exist, but would you be surprised?

In the case of cheerleaders all throughout sports, we all pretty much know that this job isn't really an ideal unless you're a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader. Let's be serious for a moment--they had their own reality show once upon a time. Jobs like this don't really pay; they're just about the sports equivalent of Miss America in today's environment. They may dance, they may do other acrobatics, they do a lot of smiling and charity work, but they may not always be treated the best either. As far as measures and guidelines for these ladies, they may be more refined compared to any other sport. Seeing cheerleaders or "ice girls" in hockey is still fairly new, and there may be some franchises that need "different reasons" to put rear ends in seats for games (I'm looking at you, Florida Panthers...). If you want to do things right, do things right with what you have first. I wouldn't do this for $50. Other women may disagree with me, as they may see things differently than I do.

If we keep adding on cheering squads and ice girls, things certainly have to change up a bit. The last time I checked, girls have sensitive sides to them, and they might also like to eat sometimes. Let's not treat them like circus animals, okay? Thanks.


Monday, September 29, 2014

The MLB Postseason Slant for 2014 - No, Your Eyes Aren't Mess Up

October baseball. I already have Andy Williams cued up in my head, in case you were wondering. Here's to another awesome postseason, my friends.

If you follow me on Twitter, I've said it a million times that this year has gone by so fast and I feel like it should still be May. But no, the bus won't stop. Because once you hit your 20's, you're 35 by next Tuesday. Because of that, we're already hitting the strides of the NFL season, and now this:

2014 MLB Postseason

Well, now that we've got all of the #RE2PECT stuff out of the way (which, all in all, was a great gesture) in regard to the now-retired Derek Jeter (don't forget that Paul Konerno retired too, you guys), we've made it to the 2014 MLB Postseason. Last year's World Series champs, the Boston Red Sox, are nowhere to be seen. In fact, they actually finished dead last in the AL East. My, how the times have changed.

Admittedly, this was my face while reading last year's Postseason Slant.
So basically, we're in for a boatload of surprises. Remember, when you read this, you might come to expect a lot of things. There may be others in which you do this. You have been warned. Let's get started.

National League Contenders

Washington Nationals (96-66) - These guys are a high-octane, momentum-driven team with a strong pitching rotation and some fireworks in the heart of the lineup. Okay, I'll be honest...they seriously ran away with this one this year because they had no competition in the NL East whatsoever. I digress. They've earned their record, and their star power can get them places.
(I'm still waiting for Jayson Werth to cut his hair. I seriously don't think he's touched it since he left the Phillies. True story.)

St. Louis Cardinals (90-72) - After an expected slugfest in the NL Central, they're back for more. The pitching is as tough as ever, and their collective experience in the postseason is really going to come in handy as far as their next opponents in the team mentioned below here. Patience and taking things one game at a time is important here. Wanting their second ring in four seasons is their destination, and they're the team to push to that limit. Yadier Molina has to set the tone for this team like he usually does.

Los Angeles Dodgers (94-68) - With a rather-stacked lineup in tow, it comes as no big shock that they've made it back here for the second straight season. With a fearsome rotation holding guys like Kershaw, Ryu, and Greinke, you're bound to see some low-scoring games. With absolute strength in a hard-hitting offense with some speedy assets, we're bound to hear a bunch of Randy Newman this October. I actually went to a game of theirs this year too, so pfft.
[Note: Once I get issues with the SNB e-mail straightened out, I'll be able to access Flickr and get those photos up from that game. It was good times.]

[Wild Card] Pittsburgh Pirates (88-74) - They fought hard for this spot this year, and since they were here last year as well, they're not going to settle for anything less. Led by 2013 MVP Andrew McCutchen and an always scary-looking pitching staff, it looks like Pittsburgh fans will have something to cheer for when the Steelers don't show up to their games.
[Wild Card 2] San Francisco Giants (88-74) - Despite some frail players on the team (here's looking at you, Buster), their pep talks from Hunter Pence have certainly been the fuel for late-game heroics and effective pitching not only from the rotation, but from the bullpen as well. To make it far, they need to remain focused and keep their patience in check. It could get ugly otherwise.

American League Contenders

Baltimore Orioles (96-66) - Get all of your PED jokes out of the way now regarding Chris Davis. Done? Good. A young and hungry team, these guys have come a long way since being the laughingstock of the AL East for the past decade. Their pitching is crisp, and their clutch hitting can often lead to problems for the opposition. With their matchup against the team below here, their durability and their nerves will be tested for sure.

Detroit Tigers (90-72) - Ah, a fourpeat in AL Central pennants. And for good reason too. You can probably name a good amount of this lineup because they can absolutely kill you at the plate. Then you've got pitchers like Scherzer and Verlander that are killing to go past the ALCS this time around and get the job done. If they thought the AL Central was a tough customer this time around, it's only going to get rowdier from this point forward. This is also going to be a great time to follow Detroit sports fan and soccer commentator Ray Hudson. You will read gold.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (98-64) - Not to sound like "that person," but there was never any doubt that these guys wouldn't make it just by looking at their team on paper. While there were some health scares in the beginning of the season, we have a stellar list of power despite the youth and the old age on the team. In fact, it's a pretty healthy marriage when it comes to that (see the Pujols/Trout dynamic). But marriages also have their struggles. We don't want to see an Angelic divorce this October, now do we?

[Wild Card] Kansas City Royals (89-73) - WHOAAAAAAAA. One more time: WHOOAAAAAAAOOOAOAOAOO. Welcome back, Royals! After 29 years--with a good amount of them in the basement--we have the most stable squad that is capable of shutting down offenses with a single throw. My assumptions on lack of experience have come back to bite me, and these guys look like viable candidates to make a fantastic run throughout the month. It's totally possible, you guys. Could you imagine?
[Wild Card 2] Oakland Athletics (88-74) - I said it in July, and I'll say it again: WELCOME TO THE LAND OF BEARDS AND GANGS. Let's add saxophones to that too. That's hilariously great. After edging out the Mariners by a game in the Wild Card race, it's up to the offense to back up the pitching and vice versa. They were here last year, and there's no excuse to get kicked out early just yet.
(Side note: Tuesday night is going to be so difficult to watch. I want both of them to win so badly.)

Individual Winners

NL MVP - Andrew McCutchen (Pittsburgh Pirates) - A repeat can definitely be a possibility if the stars are aligned correctly. Having almost a carbon-copy season except for a few cleanups, The Cutch has been a huge anchor on this squad, and more fireworks in the postseason can help his cause.
Next Best Choice: Giancarlo Stanton (Miami Marlins)/Jonathon Lucroy (Milwaukee Brewers) -- I couldn't decide here. This one's fuzzy.

NL Cy Young - Clayton Kershaw (Los Angeles Dodgers) - He is having the season of his life. If you don't think he's deserving of this award, you might want to check your vital signs or something, because I'm slightly worried about you. He really needs no description, only that you should check his stats and wear a bib, because you'll most likely drool over them.
[NOTE: I hate putting a pitcher as an MVP Candidate when he could just as easily be one for the CY. If he gets both, then good for him.]
Next Best Choice: Adam Wainwright (St. Louis Cardinals) [...But really. This is doubtful.]

NL Rookie of the Year - Jacob deGrom (New York Mets) - For starters (no pun intended), I really like his hair. Secondly, he's been a fantastic asset to an already consistent (and effective) rotation in Queens. Low ERA = high amounts of swagger that'll hopefully carry over for the next couple of seasons.
Next Best Choice: Billy Hamilton (Cincinnati Reds)

AL MVP - Robinson Cano (Seattle Mariners) - He's a dark horse that came from absolutely nowhere. Arguably one of the biggest highlights of this team, his appearance on each lineup has made all the difference, whether it's on the field or at the plate. That definitely accounts for something.
Next Best Choice: Felix Hernandez (Seattle Mariners)

AL Cy Young - Corey Kluber (Cleveland Indians) - Strikeout pitchers are a bit of a dying art in today's game, but this guy hasn't faltered at all this year. Great stats across the board means that he's a pure frontrunner in what is always a very hard-fought race to the end.
Next Best Choice: Felix Hernandez (Seattle Mariners)

AL Rookie of the Year - Jose Abreu (Chicago White Sox) - I seriously don't care that he plays for a sub-.500 team, you silly critics. (See Scott Rolen's 1997 season, fools.) His breakout first few months were a spectacle, and despite an injury not too long into the season, his batting average is over .300 and has high numbers in all other stats. I'd say that's pretty convincing.
Next Best Choice: Uhhhh.... There really isn't anyone else that could touch this. I'm dead serious. The rookies upset me in this category this year.

I am often sad when the MLB season starts coming to a close, but to be frank, this is my favorite month of the year for multiple reasons, this being one of them.

Oh...and PS....
I couldn't bear to forget this guy. After all, this is his last MLB Postseason as the Commissioner. Thanks for the Wild Card and the instant replay stuff, y'old whippersnapper.

Until we meet the next MLB season, kiddies!


Sunday, September 7, 2014

AZ's Slant on Sunday - The Estrogen Revolution: Four Years Later

I like to think I know a lot about this topic. I am a woman, you know. Plus, there's a massive paradigm shift in the world of women's sports, and it has nothing to do with feminism. Crazy, right?

Many eons Four years ago, when I first started this blog, I wrote about the female side of sports, and how there were very few women's leagues that were stable enough to survive at that time. I had written about women's soccer leagues, women's softball, and how they've had a history of floundering. However, when I write about women in sports this time, it has nothing to do about leagues as a whole, but with individual women making strides where the boys and the men currently walk. If it's right for me to say, since they're not being taken seriously as a whole, women are beginning to invade. Is it a warm welcome? That remains to be seen, but it has been quite interesting over the past few months.

Within the past three months alone, we have seen three big national sports stories involving women young and old.

This summer, the NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs announced that their new full-time assistant head coach would be WNBA player Becky Hammon. Before her election, she had already been respected by numerous officials, staff, and players of the NBA, who had claimed that she had a great knowledge of the sport, and that was the big key in wanting her for the position. She was also held in that regard as well among her peers in the WNBA. Believe it or not, this is kind of a big deal. Not only does this make Hammon the first woman to be any sort of full-time coach in the Big Four, it's also a testament to how far women have come as far as being respected by knowledge and mastery of the sport. She was given a chance, and she blew her naysayers out of the water, so to speak. Women can coach men. Heck, we can change their diapers and teach them manners, so why not aid them in sports too? It's just another example of stereotype and mental blockage and choosing to see the inferiority complex. However, Becky just nailed a jump shot over that wall now, didn't she?

Photo via Bleacher Report
In perhaps what was the biggest story of the summer, or what I like to call "the biggest sports story that the media could possibly shove down our throats," we were introduced to Philadelphia Little League pitcher Mo'ne Davis. Without doubt, it's always a treat to see a girl on a boy's team, because you automatically think that they had some kind of "it" factor to play with the boys instead of trying to go somewhere else for a Little League Softball team, but this... I can't describe this one. This 13-year-old pitcher dominated with different kinds of pitches, and became the first female to record a win in the Little League World Series. Right after that, she landed the cover of Sports Illustrated, becoming the youngest athlete to do so. She became a household name in my area, and she also made national headlines for her style, and because she was striking boys out. With some of the questions she was being asked during the LLWS, I felt extremely embarrassed for her, but she handled it like a champ, and I give her props for that. [Note: If you really want to know, that FN guy was the reason why I wanted to write this post. Thanks, Scrub.]

Back in August, Paul Farhi of The Washington Post wrote about how women have little-to-no visible opinion when it comes to the world of sports, and that is evident by their absence in sports debate programming. After reading this article, I pretty much exploded with the amount of truth in the article. While journalism as a whole is still dominated by men, tempers flare if (Heaven forbid) a woman makes an opinion or is involved in an athlete's controversy. Sure, there are women like Jemele Hill on ESPN who may make appearances on ESPN's First Take and Around The Horn, but she's one of like, two women out of how many guys that argue with each other on that station? Grant it, there's the philosophy that men are more likely to hire men, but what, is it out of fear? Is it out of the superiority complex? I could totally get myself in a bit of trouble for saying this, but the "TV look" really knocks down the credibility factor a couple of pegs, especially when it comes to women. This is why outsiders don't take women like Erin Andrews seriously. This is why when you see a woman take the upper hand in an argument, they're automatically assumed butch or lesbian. There, I said it. Get over yourselves and accept a different perspective instead of belittling a woman who might just know a little bit more than you. While it has gotten better as of late, the scales are still a little unbalanced. This will take some time.
Oh, and shall we talk about what Stephen A. Smith said about women "provoking" their husbands into domestic violence? That's another day and another time where I need to take my fists and feet to a sandbag.
You can read the article for yourself here.

When a woman makes an impact in the sports world somehow, it might seem like there is too much exposure on it, or that it might be overblown. However, let's put things into perspective for a second--we hear news stories about men all the time. When we hear a story about a woman in sports, whether it's about a young woman like Mo'ne Davis or a domestic assault involving US goalkeeper Hope Solo, it's like we're going: "Oh no, not this again." It's because we're not used to hearing it that it drives us nuts. If different things about women in sports were more mainstream, it wouldn't seem like it's being constantly sensationalized for our eyes and ears. The news stories this summer may have been stretched a bit too much for comfort, but we have seen a great improvement on the female's place in what looks like a faltering male domination in sports.

Can you say "Girl Power?"


Saturday, September 6, 2014

THIS Sword Is Mightier Than The Pen

For a tomboy like me, this is the kind of stuff that dreams are made of. When you're messing around on YouTube and find something that you never thought could come true, it does, and this whole other world opens up. Go. Read on. You'll understand why. I dare you to not flip out and automatically want to try this to some degree.

Imagine your local Renaissance Faire.
Photo from chicagotheaterbeat.com
Then add some hardcore, modern day spice a la UFC and ECW to it.
Photo from NY Times

And ladies and gentlemen, you have what may be the most insane[ly awesome] sport to ever be contrived in the history of the universe. Medieval Combat. Yes. Blunt swords, shields, armor, and chain mail. It makes Medieval Jousting look like a peewee football game.

When I had first discovered this sport the other day, my inner adolescent wanted to grab old boxes and make armor and buy a pool noodle from Rite Aid so I can have a sword fight with my younger brother. He didn't know about this tidbit, but trust me, I would think he'd be all for that. Once I snapped back into adulthood, I started thinking: "Holy cow, this actually exists? In 2014? And it isn't scripted?" Lo and behold, there are Medieval Combat teams that exist around the world that involve armored men (women too) attacking one another with blunted weapons and defending with shields. Most teams are found in Europe, like Poland, Russia, Ukraine, and Bulgaria, but don't fret, the United States has a league for this as well. Please, ladies and gentlemen, try to contain your excitement.

Based on all of the research I've done, this sport has been traced all the way back to the year 2009. No, really, this sport is literally in its infancy. While this style of combat was born centuries upon centuries ago, this hasn't been seen as a competitive type of sport until recently. In fact, it started as a social thing in the regions within Kharkiv, Ukraine, and a league was formed soon after. Two world championship leagues [currently at odds, ironically enough] currently exist: the HMBIA (Historical Medieval Battle, known best for the "Battle of the Nations") and the IMCF (International Medieval Combat Federation). Allegedly, there was a split due to corruption occurring between nations in each league and a large amount of rule-breaking that was never reported. It really is as close to how most wars started in medieval times, if you can believe that. You can't script stuff like this--it still happens today.

For each tournament/league, there are rules. No, you can't do everything like you would in an actual war setting. If I could make any sort of parallels, there are similarities between fencing and judo with Medieval Combat. One set of rules permits tripping and strikes with the head and knees, while another does not. However, both will agree on no striking during weapon loss or when the opponent is on the ground, and where on the body one can and cannot strike. Both sets of rules can be read here (HMBIA) and here (IMCF).

Now that we've gotten the premise and the rules out of the way, you're probably thinking of one thing: This has to be the most dangerous sport that exists today. Believe it or not, it really isn't that bad. In fact, it can be considered safer than American football and even competitive cheerleading. There are the issues in which a knight can suffer a concussion from a poorly blocked blow that went to the helmet, but that's about the worst you can get. Some suffer arm and shoulder injuries (mostly from excessive swinging and blocking) and that can be expected from a type of sport like this.

The most interesting part of all of this is that each respective league keeps the history of Medieval Combat sacred and as historically accurate as possible. While there may be a points system and nobody is expected to die, most fights take place in well-fenced fields and proper padding and armor and weaponry that are used remain faithful to original counterparts. Plus (this is my favorite part), the next IMCF World Championships in Poland will take place at a castle. Holy flipping flip, how cool is that? While YouTube videos exist of fights where they have extreme metal music in the background showing the most painful-looking of hits, that can be rather deceptive of each fight. Sure, there is background music at the venue during each round, but the fights are at the same crowd and excitement level as a boxing match or an MMA bout, just with old school weapons and armor thrown in the mix. There are no reenactments; everything is true-to-form and no-bull.

Because it's a more history-based sport along the lines of martial arts, it has a slim chance to make it to the mainstream in media-booming regions outside of Eastern Europe. However, it has a pretty faithful following and is a pretty great spectacle to tak ea look at. You get history, entertainment, and a rush of excitement all in one. It's like Braveheart meets Highlander meets A Knight's Tale meets every single childhood swordfight you have ever had. And personally, I hope this catches on even more. If you want to see some fights and highlights for yourself, check these two videos out. (1 - 2)


[Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go watch some more videos and buy myself a foam sword to train.]

Friday, September 5, 2014

Welcome to Fantasy Land!

I can't believe it's taken me almost four and a half years to write about this topic. Excuse me while I give the "oh my God, you might be stupid" face to myself.

It's time to set the mood for this post. How about some Earth, Wind, & Fire? Don't like them? That's okay. Groovy things just might not be for you.

Have you ever wished to be a part of a sports organization? Did you ever want your dreams in Madden or in NBA 2K to become a reality? Has your tendency of being an armchair coach or analyst gotten to a point where any of your friends or family members have to leave the room or throw something at you to shut up? If that last part is true, I'm laughing at you in my corner. But I digress.

Have you ever thought of joining a fantasy league?
...No, not that kind of fantasy, you silly goose.

Fantasy leagues are extremely popular among sports fans in the realms of American football, baseball, soccer, and even basketball and hockey. [Fun fact: Through asking my friends on Facebook, I've found out that there is fantasy NASCAR. Yes. You can wrinkle that eyebrow.] The most common fantasy leagues take part in the workplace, as many offices and groups have their respective leagues for their employees to participate. Others can include groups of friends, or even church groups. You can either do these leagues for no charge, or you can participate in a league where there is money involved and the top teams get cash prizes. It may be risky, but people do like that rush sometimes.

Originally, they weren't referred to as "fantasy leagues," but back in the 1950's and 1960's, groups of men would keep track on stats on particular players in sports like baseball and golf and do the math. The trend on keeping baseball stats originated in the 1960's at Harvard University--are you really that shocked--and slowly but surely spread from professors and students, to people around the whole region. By the 1980's, the phenomenon caught the eye of USA Today. The science of keeping stats and checking them by newspaper or magazines became a religion to hundreds of thousands of baseball fans.

Once the Internet took off the water wings, fantasy sports took flight and sites like commissioner.com (now belonging to CBS Sports) and rotonews.com became a mainstay for fantasy sports. The kind of sports covered now blanketed the NFL, NHL, and other major sports in the US and across the pond. In fact, social media is also being afflicted with the fantasy bug, as you can access stats and gameplay through apps and even while watching another program on television.

Draft days for these leagues are usually preceded by a boatload of research and planning for drafting particular players. Even today, magazines are still a necessity, and others check online resources for what the "fantasy experts" say on websites like ESPN, FOX Sports, and CBS Sports. Then on draft day, "commissioners" will park themselves on their computer chairs or couches or whatever they sit on and begin warfare. If they don't do that, they all attend a full-out party at a friend or co-worker's house and do a draft with laptops, white boards, and copious amounts of alcohol and snacks. It's as big as the Super Bowl, when you really think about it--I mean by the snacks and booze and stuff. I don't know how seriously everyone else takes their drafts, but I've seen the big parties before, and they're quite intimidating.

To get some input on what kind of people do fantasy leagues and why, I "took it to the streets," as it were, and asked the question on my personal Facebook page. Interestingly enough, I got all of my answers from males, even when I know that there are a number of girls that do fantasy leagues as well, myself included in that fold. Anyway, based on what I got, the answers on which leagues they played ranged from a number of sports, including Arena Football, NASCAR (as I had mentioned above), soccer, and the most common were baseball and football. It seems like the way they all began was that they were talked into it and found it to be more fun than they had originally thought. Some who had answered had only begun fantasy leagues recently, while others have been doing them for well over a decade. It gave the participants a reason to watch the sport and in watching, they either learned something about the game, or they had more of a drive to work on their team. As one mentioned, "It's a lot of luck" when it comes to taking part in these leagues, as sometimes your research may not always bring you the best results. It also brought a sense of community and understanding among the participants of the league, and it also shakes off poor habits that one may have, especially in the world of gambling.

Admittedly, I got roped into doing fantasy football myself, and to tell the truth, it has really helped me write recaps on the NFL season. Since I have to pay attention to what is going on and how certain players and teams are faring out, it's as if I'm doing homework on these posts weeks in advance. It's like I'm cheating, but I'm totally not. Am I good at fantasy football? I think the best I ever did was a 7-7 season, and that was because I had the common sense to draft halfway decent wide receivers. Anyway, it works a part of your brain when it comes to common sense, strategy, and the part to love every athlete and give them a chance. It sounds really cheesy, but it's totally true. There are some players that others want nothing to do with, but they'll get points where it counts most. Tough love, I suppose.

Fantasy leagues are a fun way to compete with others, money or not, and it also helps people learn more about the sport. While you may not like the idea strictly for the fact that you're afraid you won't stick with it, you may be wrong. I have gotten competitive on numerous occasions with people I have never met before. It really is a different experience that I would recommend. If you want to learn more about a sport and want to develop a different bond with friends, a fantasy may be a good idea for you. Ha ha ha.


(Many thanks to Billy DeRosier, Alex Hamell, Andrew McErlean Jr, and Brian Barrish for their input on this post. Invisible fruit baskets will be delivered to your door soon.)

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The MLB Midseason Slant for 2014 - Checkpoint

Three posts in less than a week? Yes. I make that happen. I'm a writer, and I'm happy to do this as much as I can. Plus, I also enjoy baseball.

To say the least, this baseball season started off with a bang. Sure, it always seems to do that, but it had some different colors and offseason stories that kept people that were involved with other sports talking about baseball. Regardless of whether it was good or bad press, it was still talk that stayed fresh in the minds of others. Now, we're halfway through the season, and things should start heating up.

We've seen another Japanese pitching powerhouse in Masahiro Tanaka, an ARod-less Yankees, the expansion of the Instant Replay rule, and numerous shocks and misses. We've seen many more baseball beards, and we're thick in the Derek Jeter farewell tour. If this was a soap opera, we'd be waiting for the gauntlet to be thrown and for things to start getting messy. Well, it very well could be. However, let's rest at this checkpoint and get some health items before we face the boss of this level.



Eastern Division

Overview: Admittedly, I find this to be a quiet division so far this year. While there are some hard-hitters and big names here, there hasn't been much contention as of yet. Then again, things could change come September.

Washington Nationals (51-42) - In a division where hitting isn't necessarily king, the team with the stronger overall pitching reigns supreme. This is where the Nationals thrive, and there are some diamonds in the rough, especially coming out of the bullpen and their back-end of the dugout. Crazy, I know, but this is the kind of stuff that lets you know that there's a good team on your hands--everyone steps up when called. I look forward to seeing these guys making a possible October run. It's totally possible.

Atlanta Braves (52-43) - If you're looking for a well-rounded team that has had bumps and bruises, you've got it here. They've had rough games and such, but we've got a team that's just starting in it's stride. Freddie Freeman is having the season of his life, and Julio Teheran is making a great showing so far in the starting rotation. Another upside is that they have utmost faith in their reserves, and if they're going to win out the East, that faith has to continue.

New York Mets (45-50) - You tend to ask yourself how a team could be so streaky, but then you look at the Mets and realize that it does happen, and you wonder when things will stabilize with the team. It didn't help matters that they lost some strong pitchers to the evil Tommy John in the beginning of the season, and it also doesn't help that there's inconsistent hitting all throughout the team. Things could get ugly if the team doesn't get reinforcements by the end of the month.

Miami Marlins (44-50) - For what it's worth, these guys make good showings in different categories. It seems like every time I turn around, this team gets younger and younger, eventually becoming sellers to better teams. So far, the rotation has been effective, and hitters like the mighty Giancarlo Stanton have looked mighty fine in their roles. Are they contenders? Not yet. They can threaten races, but there will be nothing to really get excited about in Floridaland--especially in St. Pete as well. [You'll see below in the AL.]

Philadelphia Phillies (42-53) - From a fan's perspective, this team took another nosedive this year. With numerous injuries and lack of depth in what seems like a veteran lineup, there's about as much inconsistency here than ever before. There really isn't a single player that stands out as being a hard-hitter, except maybe for Chase Utley, who has been the most consistent driving force on this team for a long while. This hurts my soul. Really. (And I can't wait to see more Cliff Lee.)

Central Division

Overview: This is always the most hard-hitting division in the National League. The top three spots are always extremely close, and save for the last place team, this is as close as anything. I love it.

Milwaukee Brewers (53-43) - These guys are a whole package and do not mess around. Although they had a weird losing streak at the beginning of the month, the monstrous start they had hasn't affected their standings for the most part. Jonathan Lucroy is being a total beast behind the plate, and pitching monsters Kyle Lohse and Yovani Gallardo are leading the charge into what will seemingly be a fight to the finish.

St. Louis Cardinals (52-44) - Despite a few pitching hiccups to guys that led them to the World Series last year (WachaWachaWacha!!), the lineup has remained relatively healthy, and have relied on low-scoring games and strong defense to win as much as they have. Guys like Yadier Molina and Matt Carpenter have been busting through as usual, and pitching forces Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn are using their pitching prowess to keep their team in the game. Shocker, right? We've seen this before, let's see some more.

Cincinnati Reds (51-44) - The Reds have had some issues lately in the injury sector, but seeing how many of these guys should be coming back soon, now's a good a time as any to make a strong run in the second half. The pitching staff has been a gem, having the lowest AVG against in the National League (though they haven't been able to avoid throwing that one pitch over the plate). Despite an injury to Votto and Brandon Phillips, guys like Todd Frazier have stepped up in their absence, keeping the team in the heart of the fight.

Pittsburgh Pirates (49-46) - PNC Park has been a godsend for these guys so far this year; then again, when is it not? The Pirates are a patient hitting staff, seeing the ball rather well and nearing the top of the NL in BB as a unit, as well as OBP (on-base percentage), and of course...getting on base is going to totally kill the other team. While we've seen a lot of uncertainty with the starting rotation, run support has generated a lot of momentum. Behind Andrew McCutchen, how can that go wrong? Honestly.

Chicago Cubs (40-54) - Year in and year out, I feel for these guys. While they don't have the strongest staff on paper, there is a lot of potential. Issue is, they're practically out of the frying pan and into the fire. Based on what I've read/hearing, the Cubs are allegedly a sleeping giant, with a strong farm system. Why they haven't used it yet, I'll never know. I guess we'll have to wait and see.

Western Division

Overview: Ugh. This division looked way more exciting before last month, but this looks like a two-team show from here on out. I can't really go that much farther into it. Then again, it's been like this for the past couple of seasons. Shame, too. I like showdowns in the west. The other west. On TV. ...Nevermind.

Los Angeles Dodgers (54-43) - In the realm of tinseltown, you have a crazy mix of pitching, clutch hitting, and a lot of speed. Not only has this been exciting to watch, it has also been effective on the road, where they have totally dominated for the most part. Guys that have come into their own this year include a speedy Dee Gordon (aka "Flash Jr."), a sophomoric Yasiel Puig, and the whole of the starting rotation consisting of Kershaw, Greinke, Ryu, Haren, and Beckett. Sounds like an all-star cast, doesn't it?

San Francisco Giants (52-43) - For a long time, pitching has been the big draw in the city by the bay. Then again, when you've got a five-star force from Hudson, Vogelsong, Lincecum, Bumgarner, and Cain, of course you'll be a strong force. For the most part, slumps and injury bugs have hit the Giants' offense, and if that keeps up, the pitching (and the bullpen, no less) will have a hard time keeping strong in the second half.

San Diego Padres (41-54) - This team is a total broken record when it comes to team batting average. They haven't had very many bright spots at all in this season, but when it comes to their pitching staff, you've got hot-shots in Ian Kennedy, Tyson Ross, and Huston Street. Too bad they can't be out there all the time. It's all about synchronicity, guys. Work together.

Colorado Rockies (40-55) - Fact: The Rockies have the best team average in the NL. Fact: The Rockies have the worst team ERA in the NL. Well, crap. It looks like there's no middle ground, and the things that matter most aren't showing for much. The DL is jam-packed with pitchers, and while Tulo and company are keeping it real in the batter's box, it takes an old-school second half surge to make magic happen. Whether they can do that remains to be seen.

Arizona Diamondbacks (40-56) - As expected, these guys can hit and show a bit of patience at the plate, but they're sloppy and don't have the strongest of pitching staffs. The pitching staff suffered a massive outbreak of the Tommy John and the fielding has suffered numerous shoulder issues. Awkward trend, I must admit. Guys like Goldschmidt and Prado, for the most part, have remained consistent and strong amid a frail period in the team.


Eastern Division

Overview: "You are traveling in another dimension; a dimension not only of sight and sound, but of mind..." Yes, this division looks flipped compared to years past, but I am so not complaining about the differences among it all. It keeps things interesting, y'know? Not gonna lie though...this division looks like a hospital.

Baltimore Orioles (52-42) - While this team doesn't have the strongest and most well-known of starting rotations, this team is in sync and very scrappy. However, I couldn't help but notice that Chris "Crush" Davis has already struck out over 100 teams this season. While discipline is the least of their worries, it's pitching consistency and constant clutch hitting that'll get them to October. It's nice to not see these guys floundering in the basement like I did when I first started these.

Toronto Blue Jays (49-47) - I saw the DL for this team and almost said "wtf" in front of my own mother. Statwise, they don't have the steadiest of squads, but don't let that fool you. They know when to scratch each others' backs when absolutely possible, especially via the long ball. This sort of teamwork will be noticed, and it could take a team really far, especially when you've got a good mix of veterans and rookies making their way up the ranks. Are they a Wild Card team? That remains to be seen. The Division pennant is still a ways away. (#batflip)

New York Yankees (47-47) - Thanks to the media, we've been immersed in the phenomenon that is Derek Jeter's final season. For the most part, this has disguised that this team is getting older and this team is getting hurt way more often than most. Interestingly enough, there was a statistic showing Tanaka and Sabathia's DL stint, and that this is more DL payroll than what most teams have on their active roster. Anyway, there are some hard-hitters, but there are also some that haven't had the chance to shine. Go figure.

Tampa Bay Rays (44-53) - While these guys do have their good days, they haven't had a consistent enough lineup to really get a good run started. A rough month of June really staggered any glimmer of hope for the Rays in the first half, and the wavering faith of the fans doesn't help the hometown momentum any. However, it's good to see that David Price and Chris Archer are doing extremely well so far this season.

Boston Red Sox (43-52) - At the All-Star Break, we have the reigning World Series Champions scratching their heads in the basement of the AL East. While they boast a scary-looking pitching staff (Peavy's 1-8 record is rather sad-looking), they're toward the bottom in hitting, as injuries and inconsistent at-bats are really causing the team to suffer and not give the pitching any run support despite making a good showing.

Central Division

Overview: Ah, the division that I always touch last. Why? I have absolutely no idea. That always seems to happen. But you know what? Just for good measure, I made sure I finished this division first. Take that, history of poor love between me and AL Central.

Detroit Tigers (53-38) - Grant it, you might think that Miggy Cabrera might be the highlight of this team here, but you're sorely mistaken. Other offensive powerhouses like Ian Kinsler and Victor Martinez have aided this offense-heavy squad along in the Central in these past few months. While the pitching staff is shakier than average, there is a veteran starting rotation that has been to the depths and back. The bullpen...I'm not so sure. That's obviously their weakest link right now.

Kansas City Royals (48-46) - As far as stats look, they seem to be the middle of the pack, but don't let that fool you. They've been steady as far as health goes, and they're keeping this race close for the most part. The hitting staff, most notably Alcides Escobar, has been very consistent, and have come up really big against stronger pitching staffs, which is great. My main concern is the next few months and the lack of experience moving forward. Let's see what happens.

Cleveland Indians (47-47) - We've seen a lot of injury as far as the outfielders go in a city that might just care more about the Cavs now. In any case, we don't have a steady starting rotation, and the fact that the team isn't the cleanest one fielding-wise in the AL (bottom in fielding PCT and tops in Errors) are just some of the problems that the team has to fix if they want to get a Wild Card spot. However, I will admit: Michael Brantley is fun to watch. Check out some tape of him and you shouldn't be disappointed.

Chicago White Sox (45-51) - Hiccup after rough hiccup, this team trudges on. With a lot of injury woes in the pitching sector, as well as a lot of fielding skips, things don't look all that great right now. For the casual outsider, the big story out of this team is rookie Jose Abreu. Despite an injury earlier this season, he's been the big guy among this team, putting on spectacles for numerous baseball fans around the country. Sometimes you don't have to be on the best team in order to make a splash.

Minnesota Twins (44-50) - Lack of consistent players, injuries, and uncertainty in management is currently the bane of this team's existence. Lack of run support and capitalizing on opportunities can be a real killer for these guys too. Oh, and when Joe Mauer isn't hurt, he's a gem. The team has a lot of potential, it's just that luck refuses to be on the side of these guys.

Western Division

Overview: Here we see the dreaded "NBA effect," where you see some really amazing teams, and then the "50 feet of crap then this team" deal. But you know what? This is where the spoilers are born.

Oakland Athletics (59-36) - WELCOME TO THE LAND OF BEARDS AND GANGS. The best strengths are from the bearded wonders on the rubber; the addition of Samardzija before the break really pumps things up too. Their incorporation of small ball and smart plate appearances really boost their odds of making it past the first round this October; however, this time, they really have to want it. Everyone's getting a piece of the pie so far this year, so things look pretty good.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (57-37) - We've got a team of a bunch of legends and stars, and so far, they've made a great showing. In a tight division such as this, keeping that fire in the belly is key. Health will be a big part of this, considering you have an aging Pujols, and youth with an exceptional amount of speed and talent in Erick Aybar and Mike Trout. You wouldn't want to lose that. Plus, the pitching staff has remained steady. That has to stick around too. Don't burn out by September, y'know?
(Quick question: How is it mathematically possible to have a pitcher with a *.** ERA? I'm being 100% serious right now.)

Seattle Mariners (51-44) - As far as plate discipline goes, you're not going to get the strongest and most patient hitters from Seattle, except if you're Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager. In the pitching areas, you have a strong leader in King Felix Hernandez (11-2? Yes please.) and a very tricky bullpen. While they aren't in a tight race right now, they're keeping things interesting. The one thing that needs to be learned is patience, patience, and more patience. Things will come in time, and that time could give them the momentum for a fiery final month.

Houston Astros (40-56) - I sincerely hate saying this, but you almost come to expect this every season from Houston. Like, they have momentum in the beginning, and then it dies a slow and painful death. It also doesn't help that they barely have a payroll and their management is practically at vegetable status. However, if there is one thing that is going totally right with this team, it's Jose Altuve, and he is definitely proving his worth. Too bad he'll most likely be traded in turn for prospects.

Texas Rangers (38-57) - Whaaaaaa....?! While in the midst of an eight-game losing streak, everything seems to be going wrong with them. A streaky squad, they still own star power in Yu Darvish and Adrian Beltre, but there's no sense of teamwork and any kind of sync in the team. They've been at the top for a long time, and this is a wake-up call to do some maintenance. Their pitching has been figured out, as they've given up the most ER in the AL, and it looks like the average hitting staff isn't enough to stop the bleeding. Fight for dignity now, boys.


Needless to say, we've seen a lot of freak injuries and a lot of unsung heroes in these 40-man rosters so far. Hopefully we still get to see a lot more new stars, as well as some of these accidents curbed. It's a strange request, but I couldn't begin to tell you how many guys I saw that I barely recognized on each squad, and I've been covering this stuff for over four years now.

In any case, here's to hoping that MLB's finest got a good amount of rest during this All-Star Break. Checkpoint: over.

Let's begin the second half.
See y'all (rather, ten of you) in October.


Sunday, July 13, 2014

AZ's Slant on Sunday - 2014 FIFA World Cup: A Retrospective

Oh, great. Now I'm not going to have anything to watch on TV before nightly baseball. I guess I can't always have nice things.

As eventful as this past month has been, it has gone by so quickly. Then again, that always seems to happen when you're having fun and enjoying the moment. While I'm sad that the World Cup is now over, a new chapter in football is starting to unfold, and we have seen the dawn of new stars,  the birth of legends, and the last stands of veterans throughout this tournament. Outside controversies aside, we have seen an incredible display of skill, playmaking, and excessive nail-biting. We've had more excitement than you can shake a yellow card at, and after this World Cup, there is no possible way for you to tell me that soccer is boring. No sir.

Even if you don't follow the sport, I've laid out a couple of the highlights from this Cup. A lot of them bear repeating, and there may be a few things you hadn't thought about during the tournament. Shall we?

One last time... OHHH-AAAYYY-AHHHHHH

There were more fireworks during this World Cup than in the previous Cup.
Throughout the 2010 World Cup, 145 goals were scored. That amount was reached during the knockout rounds in this World Cup. In this tournament alone, 171 goals were scored. Ten of those goals were hammered against host country Brazil in their final two matches. There were a lot of tears as well.

Goal-line technology wasn't a terrible idea.
This World Cup introduced a slice of the 21st Century in the implementation of goal-line technology. Because this is such a huge event, and every call needs to count, numerous cameras were set up around each net to monitor close calls to see whether close shots should be counted as goals or not. These analyses were also shown to the crowds in each stadium, much like the instant replays you'll see in MLB, the NHL, and the NFL. There were times in which is did come in handy, so the first time doing this wasn't a total bust.

Spain, England, and Italy looked bad, and they should feel bad.
We're looking at three countries from UEFA (Union of European Football Associations), which is arguably the powerhouse conference compared to the rest of the world. Neither of these three teams made it out of the Group Stages, and especially in the case of 2010 Champion Spain, this really opened up a can of worms in the football world. Now grant it, Germany won the whole thing, but you know a change is coming when CONCACAF--represented this year by the United States, Mexico, Costa Rica, and Honduras--had a better showing as a whole than three teams that have the finances in their respective countries for leagues that also enhance talent. Sure, a lot of CONCACAF players play for UEFA clubs, but still. Winds of change, ladies and gentlemen.

This is has been unofficially named the "Pope Cup."
Pope Francis is from Argentina. Pope Benedict XVI is from Germany.
May I begin the hilarious mental imagery for you?

An American referee did Major League Soccer proud.
Here's looking at you, Mark Geiger.

Despite the U.S. Men's National Team going out in the Round of 16 (again), we have much more to be proud of this time around.
Don't get me wrong, I would have loved to see the US take on Argentina in the quarterfinal, even though they'd have probably succumbed to Lionel Messi somehow. But after the build of soccer support here at home, this is only the beginning. They've gotten attention from the mainstream media--although most of it was satire--but hey, any exposure is good, right? Brian Barrish of The Soccer Desk sums up this journey quite well here.

Ann Coulter earned her full-time status as an idiot in the Football Universe.
And I responded in my own, special way.

The Brazuca ball used in Brazil was infinitely better than the Jabulani ball used in South Africa.
You're probably wondering what language I'm speaking right now. These names are the different balls used for the previous two World Cups. Because of the aerodynamic design of the Jabulani, players often had difficulty curving the ball on free kicks, and the overall design was rather unique in the sense that it was hard to use. How, I'm not exactly sure, but I've never played a pickup game with one. But from first-hand experience, the Brazuca ball was a huge step in the right direction as far as the ball design for this World Cup. You don't notice it on television of course, but the design is rather innovative. Similar to a basketball, there are very small dimples on the ball, and considering that there were a handful of matches played on nearly-flooded pitches, this really made a difference in traction and overall movement on different grounds. Take it from me, a slippery ball is a massive pain in the behind, and with the Brazuca, things seemed a little less hairy in the elements for the men out there.

There was another biting incident. Plus, diving was curbed.
Luis Suarez, really? Oh, and diving is the Son of Soccer Satan. Oddly enough, I cover both of these subjects in a previous post. You should check that out right now.

This was a very eventful World Cup, that's for certain.

For my piece on the 2010 World Cup from South Africa, you can check it out here. Yes, my blog existed during the last World Cup, and it's one of the few posts from my first year of blogging that I can willingly stomach. It's a cute little time machine. This World Cup made me forget how that US loss to Ghana in stoppage in the Round of 16 killed my spirits. Well, I relived that in two sentences, and I realized that the loss to Belgium could have been as deadly to my sanity as that.

I'm certainly looking forward to the 2018 World Cup in Russia, and I am definitely excited for next year's Women's World Cup in Canada. Yes, that's what got me started in '99, after all. Let's not fool around here.

Long live this sport. Except for the diving. That can die a fiery death.


Saturday, July 12, 2014

Red Whines: Fit for a King

I don't know... Maybe I have been getting more easily irritated as of late. Maybe I'm making a big deal out of the media overload involving LeBron James. Or maybe I'm not as crazy as I think. We'll find out.

First, I see the #beforeLeBrondecides on Twitter.
(ex. "I am going to win an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay #beforeLeBrondecides")

Then, I see "I'm coming home."

Finally, I can't get away from it all. 

Who, in this technological age, really can, anyway?

If you have watched any sort of news coverage over the past 48 hours, whether it's been broadcast TV or cable, you have probably heard the name "LeBron James" thrown in there once or twice. Even if you weren't paying attention, you had to have heard a name drop on television. And if you've been on Facebook, Twitter, or Reddit, heaven help you. You might have gotten flooded with the news that NBA superstar LeBron James has left the Miami Heat and has a feature in the latest issue of Sports Illustrated that he is returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers, most likely to finish his career there. After playing in South Beach for four years and winning two NBA Championships there, he is being called the "prodigal son" in many cases.

In response, the NBA fandom (as well as many of its players) was thrown into a gargantuan frenzy. Yes, the word "gargantuan" was absolutely necessary, specifically for the point that it was something that you didn't exactly expect unless if someone was attempting to pen a happy ending somewhere on this earth. While many NBA fans had hoped and dreamed that LeBron would be going to their home team, everyone pretty much knew that the inevitable decision to leave Miami was going to be one for the ages. And it certainly was. If you follow sports at all, the words "I'm coming home" was all you needed to hear in order to know how this all ended. As it stands, LeBron James will be playing in a Cavaliers jersey once again.

Remember when all of those sad Cleveland fans were burning their James jerseys in the streets and stuff? How stupid do you think they feel right now? They've admitted their excitements and their apologies to the man who was raised in nearby Akron, Ohio. Some might not be as forgiving, such as the ones saying: "you still left us behind." However, his skipping out of Miami has left the Heat franchise with an awfully uncertain-looking group of players in their hands. On top of the major story, sports outlets like ESPN made sure to note that James' move to the Cavs has greatly increased the team's chances of making the playoffs and winning the NBA Championship next season and the lack of team power on the Heat has decreased those chances to 100-1 for them. In my mind, I'm like:


It was honestly like ESPN was going out of their way to make sure that this news story was the biggest thing to ever happen in the history of sports. While it is in its own right, c'mon, people. Horrible stuff is happening in Israel right now. I'm pretty sure that is more important that the Cavaliers' chances and the Heat's chances of winning the NBA Championship next June. It's not sports, but really. We're making this whole "return home" a bigger filmmaking magnet than it should. I'm pretty sure there are other human beings that agree on this and just don't talk about it because that involves people having to talk about it and later roll their eyes, groan, and question why they even wanted to bring up this whole story in the first place. It truly is a vicious cycle, isn't it?

For the longest time, LeBron James has not only been a "king" of the court, but he's also been the media "king" in regards to the basketball world. His skill that has often been compared to (and often argued to surpass) the accomplishments of Michael Jordan. Not only that, he has also been given an image of being a bit too big for his britches, regardless of what kind of person he is on and off the court. Nevertheless, he is the center of attention as being one of the biggest, most marketable athletes in the entire world. Plus, since he is at the status, he is also at the helm of being wrecked and being the center of public scrutiny. Why? Is it jealousy from the general public? Is it irritation from his face and name being plastered everywhere not just in the sports world, but also in mainstream media? There really is no clear-cut answer to this.

The main question that remains is this: Does he really deserve all of this fanfare?

Let's put things into perspective here... When Michael Jordan "semi-retired" and came back to play for the Washington Wizards, it wasn't made into this humongous deal. Then again, he didn't have this big deal of an interview saying that he was going to go to another team because he wanted to move on to bigger and better things. While Jordan still played for the Wizards, he will always be known for rocking with the Chicago Bulls in the 1990's. In LeBron's case, he was the standout star for Cleveland before leaving for Miami four seasons ago. He was going to another team that had other basketball titans that could roll with his style, and it was practically written in the stars that a team like that could win gold. This is the big thing that Cavs fans and supporters knew and refused to stomach. He is arguably the best player to wear a Cavs jersey, and now he is coming back to the team he once started with.

Here's a big kicker though... have we seen what kind of players the Cavs have now? It's almost like the shoe that Miami wore is on the other foot. Cleveland (even before LeBron made his announcement) looked like a contender, and now those odds have skyrocketed. LBJ is a playmaker, and his experience in the playoffs and his ability to make magic can make a difference. Ego aside, King James is the real deal. It's just annoying that the media is gushing over him as much as they are. We know he's good, and he might be a King Midas of sorts, but good gravy, he's not a demigod or whatever you want to call it.

The attention he is getting is fit for a king. One thing is for certain, he is handling it well. However, can the media handle their own self-imposed frenzy and come down from it soon enough? Probably not. Heck, I still don't think they've gotten over Donald Sterling yet. Oh well. One can always hope.

Now that I've gotten this out of the way, can we talk about other sports now? I know he's with Cleveland. I am content with this. Let us move on, ladies and gentlemen.


Friday, June 27, 2014

Sports/Political Commentary - Oil/Sewage

This blog post really isn't about a sport, per se, but it's about the perspective of sports held by a number of American citizens. When you bring political spices into it, you're bound to get attention for it. However, I'm going to bring the right kind of attention to it.

I'm not one to bring attention to myself.
I never was.

I'm also not a fan of politics, but when you see something that's so corrupted, the spirit sometimes compels me to try and make things right by giving a point of view. Having a closed mind is never good. I like to get people out of their shells.

When I first started this blog, I had no intent of ever causing a stir or making people completely despise my stance on a topic to the point of making them want to punch me in the face. Even when I first started exploring the Internet more as a teenager, I knew it was pure idiocy to troll. Then I noticed that the name "Ann Coulter" was trending all over social media Thursday night. I know her from being a thorn in the side of the Clinton administration in the 1990's. To be frank, political commentary bored me to a great degree, because in truth, it's a bunch of arguments about nonexistent agenda and propaganda that is striving to be relevant.

Anyway, Ann Coulter wrote an article called "America's Favorite National Pastime: Hating Soccer." I'm plugging the article, but I'd much rather you read this bit of commentary from Ashley Burns of Uproxx because it pretty much sums up what I think about the article, plus, it includes some of it anyway. I digress. It's okay to not understand a phenomenon as it is occurring such as the World Cup, but there's bound to be a problem when you automatically put something down when you don't bother to do a little homework about it and the sport and talk to people about it that have played it or experienced it. Before you read more of this blog post, I would suggest you do some reading from those first, because this post will be long-winded, and I'm not going to have the time to give you a quick run of what goes on in that trainwreck.

Sports and politics never really were a big problem here in the United States, as (for the most part) the democracy that we hold doesn't intervene in sporting matters, that is unless it has something to do in the medicinal field. But to use your status to bring something to light and completely nitpick it to the point where you're just finding pointless things to criticize? That's like you're criticizing that little girl sitting in the corner of the cafeteria who's eating out of a The Magic School Bus lunchbox and forced to drink a pouch of strawberry milk because it was the only thing left. That little girl is stronger than you think. That little girl is me. That little girl has been a fan for their whole lifetime. That little girl is an athlete who looked up to international sports legends and is now inspiring youth to live their dreams and break through the concrete routine and fly free. There's a sleeping giant in the world of sports that one won't understand unless if that life is lived, and lived properly.

The mantra is that we are United States; united we stand, divided we fall. It has become evident through our governmental system that we're never going to get along, and there's always going to be something to despise because it isn't the "American way." What is that way, anyway? Baseball's an American sport, but it's derived from cricket and a game called rounders, both of which are popular in England. Basketball originated in Canada. Ice hockey has roots in Western Europe and Canada. American football is derived from rugby, which started in England. Are we going to unite with the world, or are we going to break away from tradition and be that annoying neighbor with the ten-foot wall that hates everyone around them? That's not how you build any kind of strength. No man is an island. The United States is a melting pot. Deal with it.

"Oh, soccer isn't American? It's a threat! Let's send over some troops and defend against those evil penalty kicks! It's lazy! We need to be more active! Obesity! It isn't good entertainment! We need revenue because we're in debt!"
Give me a freaking break.

Here's another argument that I'm going to throw in that I know I'll get flack for: We have a middle-aged woman who is a well-known political critic throwing stones when she herself lives in a glass house. Plus, she's written books and other pieces over the course of a few decades that have been under large amounts of scrutiny. She's a woman. A woman. You know, the gender that still throws the "inequality card" and has a select amount that downplays all things that don't show a strong feminine figure a la Disney princess films? It makes someone like me look absolutely stupid, like I don't know what I am talking about when I argue about a male-dominated industry. I might not know a whole bunch about sports, but with what I do know, you better be sick because I'll give you a clinic. I am proud of my feminine side, but I refuse to be associated with someone who is fighting for something that already exists to the open-minded. The close-minded brings about fear--the fear that you can't do something because you're a girl or because you might not be good enough. Sure, we might not have the strongest soccer team in the world, but you can tell we're getting stronger, and we have the fans that will live and die with the growth.

There are people that are familiar with her that know that Coulter is a troll, and she's writing about a sport not in the American "Big Four," and she's trying to make a big joke out of something that isn't shown all that often on mainstream television outside of ESPN or any other sports network. But then there are others that don't understand how agenda works, and will take this stuff as gospel. That's when you know there's a big problem. You can grab the innocent by the stones, and make yourself their god. If you're going to write something stupid, you better be that kind of stupid where you have half-decent reasoning behind the abysmal arguments. Yes, there's that capability of dragging the reader down to your level and beating them with experience, but it's also a reflection of the kind of person that you are: a close-minded person who won't delve into the true passion of sports, most notably football. Most political commentators have a knack for being the real American "shock jocks," but this is something that I, as a respected writer in my circles, refuse to stand for. In sports, I intend to inform with my opinion, and not shove it down someone's throat. I leave it open for the reader. This was more of a public service announcement that can be deemed worthy of you being crowned a legitimate "village idiot."

Granted, I often joke that women all secretly hate each other for subconscious reasons that they don't understand, and some of the same cases occur in men. The same things happen in politics. We unfortunately tolerate it, but when it attacks something that puts aside animosity for a set amount of time. There are people that know that people similar to Ann Coulter do this strictly to grab the attention, stir controversy, and not really care about what other people think about them. Believe me, there are people out there that have that mindset that they'll drop a bomb and walk away without caring for the reaction. I see it more often in everyday life than I care to share.

So let me tell you something, Ms. Coulter: I don't really care what you think, either. Whether you sit on a throne and read it, thanks for laughing or crying or whatever you do where you are. However, as a young woman who is scratching and clawing her way through a male-dominated industry of writing and sports journalism, you are a complete disgrace to not only the world of the working woman, but to the ideal perception of ethics and morality. You're the definition of a closed mind--one who won't open up to the cultures of what is around them, or the beauty of passion and how humanity can show error and talent in more ways than physical force and violence.

Do you want to know why women aren't paid the same way men are in this society? Not because we aren't worthy of it, but because of ridiculous editorials that knock down our standard to the point where we can't be taken seriously. I've been writing pieces for five years, and seeing a piece from you, a person who has been in this business for almost 30 years, I feel more ahead of the game than you ever were. Why? Because my writing is meant to inspire and to create new ways for people to think. You write in a prison. You post and people go "Oh God, not her again," and though you don't care, you should. You're wasting your time.

Don't mess with the sporting world--it's bigger and scarier and way more united than anything you've ever experienced in a political government. There's corruption everywhere, but at least it isn't hidden in sports. We play and remain united. We aren't fooled, we govern ourselves, and it promotes life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. What do you stand for?

You've got guts, my lady, but prepared to be mauled by your critics. I won't be there, but I'll pray for your soul. Really.

But for the time being... I know a lot of soccer enthusiasts are upset about this, and they pretty much want this woman hung by her earlobes. Or maybe get bit by Luis Suarez. I don't know. But maybe this is a learning experience for us too. Let's teach the close-minded a lesson. Soccer is here to stay.

EDIT: Ms. Coulter, since this was your intent to get attention for this, you got mine. Good for you. However, no deed goes unpunished. I gave a clear-minded perspective, and I bet way more people are going to agree with me than you.