Saturday, February 21, 2015


I don't like to think that I'm an emotional person with things like this, but I can guarantee you that I cried a little bit when I typed this out. People feel accomplished when they travel or they get a job that they've worked very hard to achieve. For something like this, I feel like I've made a personal accomplishment.

I remember exactly what was going on when I created this blog. It is as vivid as a sweet childhood memory, or a horrible event like a death in the family. I remember the way my bedroom was situated. I remember the purple walls (good feng shui, my friends), the shelves, the television playing an Olympic hockey game. I didn't think that five years later, I would be using this same exact site, doing the things I had intended to do here.

After five years of memories outside of the blog and within this blog, I've learned a lot about the journey of life. I read the first 15-20 posts on this blog, and I can laugh hysterically, because I had no idea what I was doing, but I had a dream, and I wanted to fulfill it. It wasn't the exact thing, but there's a major plan for everyone. You're following a path that you can't create an ending for, because you can't build something at Stage 20 when you haven't even stepped on Stage 1 first.

You don't see the small steps in life. Why? Because you're in the moment; you're enjoying the ride. You might be looking at another staircase, thinking that this is going to lead you somewhere else. I will admit this: I thought this was going to lead me to getting a job with ESPN. If you told me that I was going to go back to acting after college and begin screenwriting within three years of writing in this blog when I started, I'd have laughed at you and asked where you happened to buy some decent weed. No, I'm not working for ESPN, and I'm not working for the Phillies like I had so hoped, but I gained a lot of knowledge and a lot of experience elsewhere. Because of my writing, I've met a lot of very close friends. I've learned enough about sports and people that helped toward my own self-enrichment, because I'll be honest, I wasn't in the best of places at the time in which I started The Sports Nut Blogs. I've gained strength as a writer, so much so that I have written sketch comedy, a piece that gained the attention of The American Outlaws (imagine sitting at a tavern for dinner with your best friend, and seeing your site blow up...that'll make you have a beer or two), a number of pieces for another sports website, a piece that was performed by my alma mater's theater group in their Fall show, and a number of other works itching to be brought to life.

The Sports Nut Blogs gave me confidence in the abilities that I have.

I never wanted to monetize this site. Why? This is a tool. This is my dojo. Even when I was nowhere near a computer or laptop or tablet, I was writing down ideas on paper, or I was pounding out an entire MLB midseason slant on my iPhone. I take this seriously. This is a job, and I even declare it to be so on my LinkedIn profile. Some of the greatest jobs (even careers) are things that you do not get paid for. This is a service to myself, and it might be a good laugh or insight for anyone else who reads it.

The feeling I have in my stomach right now? I don't know if I can put it into words. But you know what? I'm going to do the best I can to describe it, because finally, after five whole years, I can call myself a writer.

This is the feeling that you get when you find out that you got a really good grade on a test that you studied hard for but you thought you had screwed up. Mix that feeling with finding out that a person that you were madly in love with--yet you were afraid to tell them--that they've had a lover of their own for quite a while. Mix those two feelings with the feeling of when you're standing on the edge of a somewhere while on vacation, feeling every breeze and sound and sight, and you're at total peace. It truly is a mix of emotions, but it hits every single level, takes you out of your comfort zone, and it takes you for a ride that you are ever so thankful for.

I've learned a lot about a soul's purpose, and how people are considered "late bloomers," and how many of my friends still consider me a "baby" when I feel like I'm a 45-year-old in a 24-year-old body. I feel like I've run out of time about 90% of the time, because it seems like the world around me is accomplishing their goals much faster than I am. But you look at people like Julia Child, who didn't become as renowned as she did until she was 40. Then you truly ask yourself this question: "When do you really know when you've 'made it?'" I might not be a famous sports broadcaster or Oscar winner or a superhero in a known business field, but you know what? I've made it. I've finally figured out who I am. I've figured out what makes me happy, and what I should do with my life in order to keep creating happiness for myself. It's been here all along, and I've been manifesting it in this blog.

The Sports Nut Blogs helped me find myself.

People will sometimes journal in order to help get their feelings out. Not only did this get my feelings out, I found a new side to myself that was informative, but also "stupid funny" to the point where I didn't believe the kind of humor I'd throw out there, regardless of how bad it was. I wasn't afraid of that, and I started taking that outside of the Internet, and if I didn't, I wouldn't have networked with and met the people that I have over the past five years.

Because of this blog, I have also branched out into screenwriting too. The ability to tell a story and to convey a message has bled into this blog as well, so my style of journalism is certainly...awkward to say the least. However, that doesn't matter. What matters the most is that I am doing something that makes me incredibly happy, and I have gotten much stronger with it. Regardless of who reads this blog, I hope that they are entertained and impressed with what I have talked about, and that they have seen that I have a deep love for sports, as well as a deep love for writing these things.

I'm a writer.

I've decided that after today, my "AZ" signature will be retired. Heck, my name is even in the "About the Author" section. If I want people to know who I am, I shouldn't hide behind a username anymore. I've hid long enough. It's time to write even more.

I'm here to stay, and the world of sports will be rocked even more.

-- Stephanie

(I made it, Mom and Dad.)

Friday, February 20, 2015

Go! And Make It Snappy!

The concept of time is a strange one, as those who consider themselves "conscious" believe that time is an illusion. Well, it can be depending on how you're spending it.

Let's be honest... How long does a sporting event usually last? About three hours or so, right? But, of course, athletes aren't playing for three hours straight. Heck, their breaks between gameplay aren't even all that long. Are we wasting time? Well, we very well could be, and it looks like baseball is going to make a change to that.

As announced to the mainstream media Friday morning, new rules in Major League Baseball will be incorporated this season. While they aren't as exponentially large as say, instant replay, they will not only adjust the way we watch the game, but see how teams adjust to the lesser amount of "freedom" they can have when it comes to movements and warming up. Two rules that were incorporated include: adjustments to the instant replay rule (shocker), and a rule that was tested in the Fall Leagues--the batter's box rule. The third rule, which the post is ultimately about, has to do with time management in the game.

The rule states as follows:
In truth, this rule has been enforced slowly but surely over the past several years. The time for pitchers to transition from pitch-to-pitch on the mound has been closely watched for a while, and it has become a problem for both the pitching, and the fluff between.

Is it a good move? It's way more of a yes than a no here. Why? I can't begin to tell you how many people I have spoken to in my 7+ years of willingly talking shop with people that I have been told that baseball is the slowest and least exciting sport because of the long pauses between each pitch and play. Due to a lot of the fast-pacing of its other Big Four brethren, it does contain more pauses and more monotony than, say, hockey. Before you go asking: "But what about the pauses between each play in an NFL game," note how I said the word "monotony" above. Different plays can occur in that time clock period in football, while the same event is almost always occurring in baseball. Why prolong the same action with a variant flair on it?

Despite that point, a type of rule like this could be a blessing in disguise for the NFL, considering games are nearly three hours in length, and only an average of eleven minutes are dedicated to play execution.

I remember going to the Army/Navy football game a few years ago, and how I would dread each time I heard a referee proclaim, "Media timeout." It was cold, and I sat up in the higher levels of Lincoln Financial Field with my family. This was me by the end of the game, even though I was bundled up:

In this world of funding, sponsoring, and advertising, you can't really stop the plethora of commercials pertaining to beer, local stores, movie previews, and insurance companies. However, those can be curbed so that you're not watching only five minutes of game before commercials, or seeing a kickoff return and then another minute of that same guy at a bar being suave with the glass of beer he can't drink on-screen due to media regulations. When you're at home, that's an opportunity for you to get food or go to the bathroom. When you're at an outdoor game, a venue where you run the risk of facing the elements, you will be sarcastic in saying: "I'm dying of suspense out here." Come on--this rule is great for not having to sit out in the rain in a poncho that you had a total ball in opening while waiting for the next pitch in total dread. Sure, the overall atmosphere may make a difference, which makes it seem like the pace of the game isn't as big of a deal during a football game. But what if you're losing by a lot and the weather is beyond lousy? Game, set, and match, naysayer.

The change in pace is going to be a test for production crews--both the television crews and the stadium crews. Veterans who have been working games for years are going to feel quite a difference in pacing, but if they're that professional, the change will be a smooth and welcoming one. However, there is a question and concern for this rule: Who takes the hit (as receiving a fine for a rule break) if the pace of the game is affected, the stadium crew, or the television crew? I guess we could find that one out sooner than later.

These kinds of changes aren't going to be overly noticeable, but they will guarantee that we're not having long pauses between the actions occurring on the field. Honestly, the only group that will likely take any kind of hit from this rule to shorten time is the sponsors. They pay good money for :30 spots, and if they're not all in within a time frame, they could certainly pull out or downsize on a deal. Of course, that would be a bigger deal in a national telecast, but when it comes to local telecasts, the deals aren't as immense or as crucial. Larger networks that show more than sports do exist, like WGN. However, those guys may broadcast more than one team as well, and advertising costs will work in their favor since they have more programming to give spots to. See? The rule change looks more reasonable than not.

Would this rule benefit other leagues? It could. In regards to other sports like soccer, the halftime break is necessary, as the coverage for each half is nonstop. In hockey and basketball, breaks between each period or quarter are usually very rare, and are very short when they do occur. For sports like football and baseball, the pacing is extremely inconsistent, and it got out of hand in baseball. Because the NFL is already having a lot of issues in other regions of the game, a pacing regulation may not ever occur, and even if a rule does come to pass, it could face a huge backlash with the defense claiming: "These men need longer breaks between each play to prevent further injury." I feel like I can see the future with things like this, and it's rather sad.

In conclusion, this rule is definitely going to help Major League Baseball with pacing, and consistency in play. A watched pot never boils, so continually waiting for something to happen isn't going to be much fun anymore. Sports are supposed to be well-paced and full of some sort of action. It isn't supposed to be chess. Watching games this year might be a little different, as there won't be as many ear-grating diatribes from commentary on television, and you're not going to sit for a longer stretch at the ballpark. I say it's a win for the good guys here.

Slow and steady doesn't mean you'll win the race--efficient and steady means you will, especially if you're watching a game.


All sources of rules came from the MLB Public Relations Twitter page (@MLB_PR).

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Mad Skillz

And now, for my next trick, I'm going to make mention of things that show off some "mad skills, yo." One of which had disappeared many years ago, but due to the magic of writing, I'm bringing it back. You're welcome.

Hey now, you're an All-Star.

As that right hook from the 90's sent you flying, I took the time to do a little bit of research.

We all know how All-Star Games function. There's one for each of the Big Four (and one for MLS, but some people don't think it counts), and they're often made to be a huge weekend spectacle--unless you're Major League Baseball, when you think Tuesday is the most brilliant day of the week to broadcast a game like this. In any case, there are usually events that precede each All-Star game, and there is a load of pomp and circumstance flying all around the area for them. Some of them involve sporting legends and celebrities (even veterans of the American military), and some involve conventions and meet and greets. However, I'm not going to be getting into that crazy business. I'm going to talk about the realm of talent. That's right--I'm talking about skills competitions.

The first instance of a skills competition occurred in the American Basketball Association (ABA) in 1976 with the Slam Dunk Contest, which was won by "Dr. J" Julius Erving. Other skills competitions came about much later on; the NBA began a Three-Point Contest in their 1985 season (won by Larry Bird), with Major League Baseball beginning their annual Home Run Derby in the same year (won by Cal Ripken Jr.). Each league has grown in hosting celebrity events and other assorted skills competitions except for the NFL, which had stopped their Pro Bowl Skills Competition after 2007. That said, I guess you could really call them the No Fun League, eh?
(Fun Fact: The ABA merged into the NBA after the 1976 season.)

[Side Note: I just named three legends in the paragraph above. I'm pretty sure this means that these events aren't a load of garbage. But let's move forward, shall we?]

During my Valentine's evening of eating pizza, playing Injustice: Ultimate Edition, and watching Alfred Hitchcock, I got to thinking... Why do these events even exist? What in the world are they proving? These guys make enough money as it is--why do they have to show off?

If you peel away at the concept like an onion, these skill competitions actually break the sport down even further. Simply put, these events are even more difficult variations of practice drills or endurance sessions. For example, during the skills competition before the NHL All-Star Game, a lot of it relies on speed, agility, and handling. For many, the grace of ice skating does not come easy at all. To see these men display their speed while handling their stick and a puck speaks volumes on how skillful these athletes are. In basketball, focus is key, especially in the area of shooting. In baseball, it is about timing and efficient movement (strength is a gimme).

Skill competitions add more dimensions to a player who can only show just a limited amount of skill in-game. For example, you're not going to be able to see Steph Curry nailing three-pointer after three-pointer due to the fact that he's going to have really tall guys attempting to block him. Shooting from the arc isn't the easiest thing in the world to begin with, and to be consistent and accurate at that is a talent whether you like it or not. Also, you wouldn't be able to see a guy like Josh Hamilton hammer 28 home runs in a short amount of time [and later blow it to Justin Morneau in the end] in a regular game, because it would break the rules of the game. You have a time and a place to express yourself.

Is it really showing off? It comes down to perception. It shows that abilities of athletes may know no bounds, that is for certain; however, it could be seen as an "I'm better than you, and I'm going to rub it in your face for the next two hours plus advertising space." Events like this are entertaining spectacles, sure, and some of these guys are extremely humble in these competitions. They're seen as events where "rookies and sophomores" can look ahead to veterans and pick their brains if they aren't on the same team. It's an effective brain-stew convention of sorts, don't you see? It isn't about the showing-off, it's the humility and the learning experiences that one can gain from watching athletes display their talent in a particular spot of the sport.


I'd like to bring up an interesting question: Do the skills competitions help or hinder the All-Star Game that succeeds it on the following day?

I hate to do this, but in my own opinion, the answer is yes and no. Yes, because when the skills competition actually existed for the NFL, people tended to watch (and frankly, care more about) the Pro Bowl the following day. No, because sometimes people don't truly care about who is playing in the game, and might just care about the competitions themselves. An example of this is the Home Run Derby; people might pay more attention to who is in the competition, and totally not care about the other guys playing in the game the following night. The gray area falls upon the NBA and NHL, where fans are more likely to watch both. Then again, it also helps that these events take place on weekends, where Major League Baseball chooses the middle of the mother-flipping week to do this stuff. I digress.


In conclusion, skill competitions are a good breakdown of the sport, and you get to see the very best surgically dissect each aspect of a trait and add more passion and flair to it. Those who are bound for greatness should be able to set a high bar, and that bar will empower boys, girls, men, and women to kick that bar off of the rungs and place it even higher. Sure, it could be a bit much at times, but this could also be a way for them to unwind and have even more fun outside of the game itself.

If you're playing a professional sport, you already have "mad skills" to begin with. Share it.


Sunday, February 1, 2015

Deflated Egos

Now, now. I had to come up with a creative title for this one, and I came up with this. It isn’t great, but what I’ve got below should make up for it. Hopefully.

We know who is playing in the Super Bowl on Sunday. We have the Seattle Seahawks, who are looking for a repeat in Super Bowl wins, and the New England Patriots, who have had their noses in the playoffs for more than a decade. Here’s the kicker: I’m not writing about the game. I’m writing about everything BUT the game. You should have expected this by now.

We seriously haven’t been able to enjoy the pomp and circumstance of the biggest American football game of the year. Why is that, you ask? Because we need stupid stuff to talk about before the game actually happens, and we also need ridiculous accusations for us to sit on that will probably ruin the whole idea of us enjoying the game on Sunday. During the AFC Championship slaughter between the Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts two weeks ago, everyone seemed to scratch their heads as to why Tom Brady was getting all of the breaks, while Colts' QB Andrew Luck wasn't getting any...luck. Yeah. I walked into that. Anyway, The game went off without a sore hitch, and within 48 hours of the completion of the game, reports came out that Colts players were suspicious about the overall air pressure of the footballs. Allegedly, 11 of the 12 game balls used during the AFC Championship were not inflated to regulation levels, and it was noticed by D'Qwell Jackson after intercepting one of Brady's passes in the second quarter of the game.

(Charlton Heston not included.)

Did they have this up their sleeves the whole time? Did they do this against Baltimore too? Remember how I said 11 of the 12 balls above? That might not even be the correct amount. With every ounce of research I've done, numbers have changed, science was tampered with--not everyone should be allowed to "science," because it's dangerous work--and opinions have been thrown in left and right. Maybe people have been using excerpts of head coach Bill Belichick's press conference held earlier in the week. What my favorite part about that is that journalists are analyzing every sentence of his like it's the Bible. Because we need three more weeks of stories following the Super I right?

Because I am a child of the 90's, and I feel like it's quite appropriate, Bill Nye has to really break down this science for you. I'm more than certain that you'll be singing the theme song from his show after this. Check this out.

Many people have held press conferences and members of the Patriots' staff have been interrogated; however, the biggest surprise is that Tom Brady has not yet sat down to be formally interrogated. In fact, he won't have to deal with it until Monday morning at the earliest. That alone has gotten fans upset, feeling as if the NFL is going about this unfairly. However, in his defense, they probably don't want to affect him in any way before "The Big Game."
(If I were him, I'd actually want to get that done before the game. But I'm not him, so there.)

I seriously feel like this is some kind of serial drama, and that there is a dark room where there are a bunch of dark-suited misers writing scripts and fixing this stuff up. It's like a WWE Creative staff virus or something. I'm waiting for Vince McMahon to come flopping out and fire somebody.

I’m going to bring up an example of this "serial drama," being that it is Oscar season, and my example was a nominee for Best Picture. The film “Quiz Show” was based on the controversies surrounding the game show “Twenty One” in the mid-1950’s, and how most game shows at the time were accused of rigging the results of the show to prevent loss of viewership, among other things. This isn't the first time the Patriots have been accused of shady things. Ten years ago, during their Super Bowl XXXIX game (and eventual win) against the Philadelphia Eagles, they were accused of cheating via "Spygate," where they had allegedly videotaped the Eagles' defensive calls. Now, ten years later, we're dealing with another issue, and if that's going to make an impact on Sunday's game remains to be seen. Whether these things are rigged for the sake of betting, none of us know, and it isn't the best idea to get ourselves into it. People have died over betting.

If I didn't know any better, we’re getting rigged right now, and we’re getting rigged hard. Agenda is poisoning sports even further, and despite “Bounty Gate” from a few years ago, domestic abuse accusations, some guy named Culpepper competing on Survivor, and a trial for the ex-Patriot Aaron Hernandez in the charge of double murder conveniently beginning Thursday, nobody seems to care about the Super Bowl unless you’re a Seahawks or a Patriots fan. Heck, I think people are caring more about what Katy Perry is going to wear during the halftime show, or if the Church of Scientology is going to pay for a :30 advertising spot again this year. If you had watched the Pro Bowl last Sunday, did it sound like people were entirely there for the event, or did the whole "Deflate Gate" as it is being called ruin the whole fun of it? It's like continuing a baseball game after a pitcher took a line drive to the head. It's that heaviness that settles in, and there's no way to defuse the tension.

Because this is being treated as a serious offense, strict sanctions may be placed on the team in ways of fines, suspensions, and probable bans. But the thing is, with a situation like this, you can't point a finger at one particular thing. This isn't like Bounty Gate, where there were specific players involved and the coach was in on it. It's not like you can slap a staff member on the wrist, or put the footballs in Pigskin Court and sentence them to the chain gang. Punishments are going to be awkward, and they have to be handled properly. The Patriots won't get out of this with a simple shake of the finger, that is for certain by now.

Whether we like it or not, we're going to be hearing about this for a very long time. The game literally means nothing right now, and only the stories behind the game are getting weight. So now...prepare for the ultimate hair-pulling when any mentions of footballs and air pressure come up. Then again, we could always quote Mr. Beast Mode with "I'm just here so I won't get fined," and talk about how they're bringing up supposed uses of Adderall on the Seahawks team. We always need crap to fill the spaces, don't we?

Be responsible out there.