What If…………..

I saw a discussion on Twitter yesterday that posed this question: If you could go back and make 1 athlete’s career injury free, whose would it be?  Immediately dozens of players throughout all sports jumped into my mind. I think most of us would have Bo Jackson on that list. When you go back and think of it, it can become heartbreaking. These are guys that worked hard their entire lives to achieve a goal, only to have it taken away by injury.

When we watched Bo Jackson play, we knew we were seeing something truly special. To excel at that level in 2 different sports is almost unheard of. From All-Star games to Pro Bowls, this guy was living out multiple dreams. Just to make it to the NFL, NBA, NHL, or MLB was a huge accomplishment. To be considered among the best; a dream come true. To be among the best at 2 of them; insane. We can only dream of the heights that Bo could’ve reached if not for a hip injury.

The more I thought of this, the more intriguing it became. I was coming up with guys that younger people today have no idea existed. And why would they? An injury derailed a career before most of them could become household names. People my age (29 again) surely remember Mark ‘The Bird’ Fidrych. He pitched for the Tigers in the late 70s, primarily, and burst onto the scene, not just with immense talent, but with a quirkiness that captured the nation. He would take the mound, pick up the ball, and talk to it. You read that correctly. Yasiel Puig talks to, and licks, his bat. Mark Fidrych was doing this 40 years ago. Detroit loved him, all baseball fans loved him. I actually got to see him pitch in Cincinnati in an exhibition game. I was just a kid; I was thoroughly amused by this guy. Unfortunately, injuries cut short what could have been a stellar career.

When I first started following baseball in 1970, I had just started hearing about Tony Conigliaro. The reason he was in the spotlight that year was because he had earned Comeback Player of the Year honors. In the mid 60s, Congiliaro burst onto the scene by becoming the youngest AL HR Champ in history with 32 dingers in the 1965 season. By 1967, he was the youngest to reach 100 career HRs. The world was his, the baseball world was his kingdom. In August of 1967, he took a fastball to the head that shattered his jaw and caused serious damage to his left retina. He was out of baseball for a couple seasons before claiming the Comeback Player of the Year Award. He never became the player he was before the injury though. A few years later he was force to retire. But man…….what if…

Eric Davis had a very good career, easily above average as far as baseball careers go. The reason I’m bringing him up is twofold. He is one of my favorite players ever to don a Reds uniform. Also, despite having already impressive numbers, were it not for injuries, they would have been marginally better. Watching him play was pure joy. 3X Gold Glove winner, power, speed, defense, a veritable cannon, and a game changer. In 1987, he became the first 30/50 player in history. He could very well have exceeded that though. I remember watching the game when he ate the brick wall at Wrigley while making another incredible catch. Unfortunately, this ended his season with 21 games left to play. He finished with 37 HR and 50 steals. He would have easily hit the 40/50, if not 40/60 mark. That season he also set the MLB record with 3 grand slams in 1 month. Over the next decade or so, other injuries came into play, including a bout with colon cancer. He won the 1996 Comeback Player of the Year Award, but his best days were behind him. Again………what if…………

So many more athletes have faced similar dilemmas. What are yours? What players do you wish could have avoided the injury bug? This will vary from fan to fan, of course. It’s a fun topic to discuss because we, as fans, wanted these guys to change the game, to reach new heights, to make our collective jaws hit the floor. How many homers would Conigliaro have hit? 600? 700? 800? How about Cy Young Awards racked up by Fidrych? Would Eric Davis be considered among the greatest to ever play? We’ll never know, but it’s sure as hell fun to dream about.

Biloxi: Gambling, Baseball, and Food

So, I spent last week in Biloxi for some downtime and relaxation. As most of you know, Mississippi is now a legal sports gambling state. Yes, I indulged a little bit. This was my third time to Biloxi, the first since legalized sports gambling was introduced. I did visit 3 different casino/sportsbooks and really liked what I saw. The cool thing is that Biloxi also has much more to offer. It’s definitely a place to check out.

We’ll start with the gambling, because why not? The first place I checked out was Treasure Bay. It’s not located by the bigger casinos; it sits about 3 miles west and, for now, is the only casino in the immediate vicinity. It was a 5 minute walk from my hotel. Their sportsbook is a William Hill book. Although rather small, it was nice and they offered competitive lines. It is located right next to a small bar and a cafe, which I might add had a delicious and reasonably priced breakfast. An omelette and wheat toast for $7? Why yes, I think I will. They could use more TVs though. My suggestion would be to remove some of the slots in the area and expand that way. That’s up to them though. The lunch buffet at Treasure Bay was fantastic. It offered quite a bit Deep South dishes and only cost about $12. So visit Treasure Bay if you’re nearby.

The Hard Rock Biloxi was my next casino to see. Their sportsbook is set up a lot like the one in Vegas. I’ve heard that one is going away though, or may already be gone. Anyway, it’s a nice medium sized book with ample TVs. Some of the seats even have video poker if that’s your jam. The good thing about this place is the wide variety of dining options. Everything from a buffet to a Ben and Jerry’s can be found on site. I didn’t eat there this trip, with the exception of a smoothie from B & J, but I have eaten a couple places there before. The buffet was really good when I was there a few years ago. Pie 5 is a nice, quick pizza joint. People will go to Hard Rock regardless if they’re gambling, so I’m not sure what kind of expansions, if any, the sportsbook will see.

The last one I visited proved to be the best. Beau Rivage is essentially a Vegas hotel/casino plopped right down on the beach. This place is absolutely gorgeous. It’s huge, it’s glamorous, it’s a little bit of Vegas sitting on the Gulf in Mississippi. Their sports book is the biggest of the 3 I visited, and they already have plans to expand. A bistreaux called Tap will open in July. Yes, that’s how they spelled bistro. It sits at the back of the current book and will only improve what is already a nice place to gamble and watch the games. The Beau Rivage is easily THE place to be as it stands. Having said that, I didn’t make it down to Harrah’s, IP, or the Golden Nugget. You can’t go wrong with Beau though.

The rest of Biloxi has quite a bit to offer as well. I took in a Biloxi Shuckers game one night and had a great time. MGM Park is beautiful, and the Shuckers won that night. Since I was in Biloxi 2 years ago, they have built a boardwalk. It seems to me that the city is bumping up improvements everywhere with sports gambling being an option in town. This is great news, not just for bettors, but for the city itself. I also took a tour of Beauvoir, Jefferson Davis’ home. Beautiful house with a lot of history. If you’re a history buff like me, check it out. The tour takes less than an hour, definitely worth your time.

As sports gambling is being legalized across the country, it gives us bettors so many more options. From what I’ve seen in West Virginia and Mississippi, Las Vegas is still going to be king for quite a while though. There’s only one Vegas. I’ll be checking out other states as they legalize as well. Tennessee (mobile only) and Indiana are on deck. Stay tuned.

Weekly Wrap Up

Quite a few things to write about this past week, but I’ve had a busy week. On top of work, I had a nephew fly in from Phoenix, a concert last night, and I’m heading to the beach early Sunday morning. So, here we go.

Jesse Winker pissed off Mets fans in glaring fashion. You’ve seen the highlights, you may well have watched the game. After winning the game one night, Jesse waved goodbye to Mets fans in right field who had been heckling him all game. No harm, no foul, right? Well, 2 nights later, he ended the game with a sliding catch while playing left field. Once again, as fans shouted who knows what at him, he got up and waved goodbye to them again. He then sprinted across the field to wave goodbye to the fans in right field again. This is where Mets fans had an issue. On Twitter, they were calling for Thor to hit him the next day. He didn’t, Mets won 1-0. Here’s what Mets fans need to understand; they started this, not Winker. Be softer, New York, you can’t.

In the days after the NFL draft, thousands (millions?) of armchair NFL experts made relentless fun of the New York Giants for drafting Daniel Jones with the 6th overall pick. The guy is an outstanding athlete. Personally I would have taken Haskins, but the Giants chose Jones. I think both have very good NFL careers ahead of them. Remember last year when people bashed the Browns for taking Baker Mayfield? Yeah, that worked out pretty well for them. I was one of them, so I’ll shut my mouth this time. Good luck to Daniel Jones.

The NHL and NBA playoffs are in full swing with both of them in the 2nd round. The NBA is following the script, for the most part. The NHL………not so much. With both #1 seeds being knocked out in the first round, the Stanley Cup seems to be up for grabs. The Boston Bruins are the only major market team left. How bad does NBC want them to run the table at this point? I have no vested interest in the remaining teams, so I’m hoping the Stanley Cup Playoffs go the way of the NCAA hoops Final Four. Two teams that don’t exactly have that big name draw vying for the championship. Give me Canes/CBJ versus Stars/Sharks and I’m happy. Regardless, the NHL playoffs are the most exciting postseason of any sport.

Nick Senzel is making his long awaited debut in Cincinnati tonight for the Reds. The aura surrounding him the last 2 seasons has had Reds fans salivating. Tonight, they get their wish. He will be batting 2nd between Joey Votto and Jesse Winker. That’s called good protection. Smart move on the part of David Bell. Keep in mind, this could go a variety of ways. Here’s to hoping Reds fans haven’t gotten their hopes up too much. No one can expect a rookie to be the savior of the club. Kris Bryant and Mike Trout caliber players don’t come along too often. Senzel could go 0-5, he could go 4-4. Let him get comfortable and adjust to this level of play, no matter what happens tonight.

So I’m headed to Biloxi for some downtime and relaxation. This will be my third trip there, but my first since they legalized sports gambling. I’ll definitely be checking in with my thoughts once I get there. I’ll hit up each of the casinos on the beach (hopefully) and let you guys know what I think. Treasure Bay, Harrah’s, Hard Rock, Beau Rivage, and a few more will be on my list. I’m also taking in a Biloxi Shuckers game one night. I love watching the future of Major League Baseball taking their swings. Last summer, I had a great time at the Pensacola Blue Wahoos game while on vacation. Most importantly, I’m looking forward to a week of sun, sand, water, a drink or 23, some gambling, and a couple dinners at Slap Ya Momma’s BBQ. Enjoy your week. Peace.

What Is It That We Love About Sports?

Pretty vague question, right? Now, I’m not talking about things like your favorite sport or you just like the action. I’m wanting to know about the intricacies of various sports and what it is that draws us to the game. I’ll cover a few here with the sports that I follow, but I’d also love to hear from everyone who reads it. There is no right or wrong, just a mutual love of the game.

Baseball:

  • A play at the plate
  • A well executed hit and run
  • A perfectly turned double play
  • Watching a guy leg out a triple
  • A walk off, complete with a bat flip in the event of a HR

For me, there is nothing more exciting in all of sports than a close play at the plate. I could be watching 2 last place teams and it would still get my heart racing. You see a guy turn on the jets rounding third base and the cannon-armed RF throws an absolute laser. Yeah, that does it for me.The hit and run is almost a lost art. This is likely due to players today not having the contact ratio as players when I was growing up. Swing for the fences and cross your fingers. Turning a double play, especially if it gets the pitcher out of a jam, is fundamentals at its best. It kills momentum, it switches the emotional advantage to your side. Triples are all about speed. That ball caroms off the wall down in the corner, the helmet flies of the runner’s head, and then it’s just a race to third base. Willie Wilson was the most exciting to watch in my time. He made it an art. The walk off, especially in extra innings is a highly emotional event, win or lose. And if that ball clears the fence, you better flip that damned bat.

Hockey: 

  • The speed of the game
  • A good fight
  • The shootout

I’ve been watching hockey most of my life. The speed of the game is what I’ve always enjoyed. I can’t imagine gliding across ice at that speed. As a kid, I loved it when my dad took me to see the Cincinnati Stingers of the WHA. I would be glued to the action all night. Most of us love a good fight. It has become an accepted part of the game, unlike in all the other sports. It gets the crowd in a frenzy which spills over onto the ice. It just adds some gusto. For those times that the teams can’t settle it in regulation and OT, we get the shootout. Ok, except in the playoffs, but I get that. The shootout is man to man hockey. Show me what you’ve got and I’ll try to stop you. I love the team aspect of hockey, but a good shootout is a perfect ending to 3 hours of this beautiful game.

Football:

  • Goal line stop
  • RB with patience waiting for the hole to open
  • One-handed catches

Watching a defensive unit stuff a team at the goal line, especially if they have to do it on consecutive downs, is intense as hell. The defensive players have to raise their game to keep the other team from getting in. The guy with the ball, whoever it may be at any time, needs to get, quite often, only a few inches. As easy as that seems, it’s never a given. Too many RBs today just want to take off and let their speed do the talking. It doesn’t always work that way though. Seeing a RB patiently waiting for his O-Line to get that hole open is a thing of beauty. Eric Dickerson and Barry Sanders were 2 of the best I’ve seen at this. Their careers turned out ok. Give me a one-handed catch, even better if it’s at a crucial point in the game, and I’m a happy camper. The athleticism and acrobatic ability of the (usually) WR is something I could watch over and over.

There are many other sports I watch, but I don’t want to lull anyone to sleep. Basketball, surfing, Winter X-Games; the list goes on and on. I’d love to hear from you guys though. What is it that drives you to watch your sport of choice? If you want, reply here in the comments or hit me up on Twitter. So many facets of the game and no 2 people could be alike. Pitchers duel or monster bombs? Defensive game or a shootout on the gridiron? Either way, no matter what it is that you like, we’re extremely lucky to have these games in our lives.

Orioles Braille

I’m going to preface this blog by saying that I would never ridicule or make fun of anyone with a handicap of any kind, be it physical, mental, or whatever. But, um, have you seen these Orioles uniforms with the braille on it? Good Lord, this may be the dumbest gimmick/promotion I have ever seen. Not just in sports, mind you, but ever. In anything. Period.

The Baltimore Orioles have said they are doing it to raise awareness. Are you serious?!? All of us, each and every single one of us, are completely aware that blind people exist. I get it if you want to promote awareness for more obscure diseases and illnesses. Blindness is something we were all made aware of in grade school. Hello Helen Keller, I remember you. Hello Louis Braille, we’ve all heard your story too. Thanks for the dots.

The blind do not watch baseball, they listen to it. This is the equivalent of putting on lipstick before talking on the radio. It’s senseless; it makes the Orioles look dumb. And remember, they signed Chris Davis long term. Apply ‘hold my beer’ memes as needed. To make this all even worse, the uniforms are extremely ugly. What I’d give to hear an announcer say “2 dots 3 dots diagonal dots right angle dots with a great catch there”. This is seriously just a bad idea.

It’s always a great feel good moment when teams and athletes give to charity, start a charity, or raise awareness in many other ways. I personally contribute to an organization here in Cincinnati each season that takes kids to baseball games, soccer games, football games, among many other activities. These kids would otherwise not be able to attend games. It’s a great cause that I’m proud to be connected with. My donation each season is based on a Reds player’s RBI total. I donate $1 for each RBI with a minimum donation of $100. This year, Yasiel Puig is my guy. I have gotten others to join in as well. They pick their player and make similar donations.

But come on Baltimore, this is just weird and uncomfortable. I’m happy that this gimmick will more than likely raise a lot of money, I really am. It’s just so ridiculous. I can’t wait until we raise awareness for deafness. No announcers, just the sounds of the game. I bet a lot of you would actually love that. Promo nights at the ballpark could possibly go off the hook. I guess I’ll head on down to Great American Ballpark for Canker Sore Night. I hear they’re giving away a bobblehead.

God Bless America……Until We All Got Butthurt

by Gary Sterling

Kate Smith’s rendition of God Bless America was played by the New York Yankees for nearly 2 decades before they recently decided to pull the plug. This was done after a fan, a FAN, alerted the organization about racist lyrics that were in songs she recorded. Cool, I’m ok with the pulling of the song for several reasons which I will get to. But first, how come in 2019, in a time of social media, with everyone and their brother searching through everyone’s tweets, retweets, and likes, did multiple professional sports organizations not vet this? How?!? Whose ass is/was on the line where this could happen?

Years ago, when Chuck Finley took the mound to pitch against the Chicago White Sox, the PA person played Whitesnake’s ‘Here I Go Again’. Finley was going through a divorce with Tawny Kitaen at the time, who starred in the video for that song. It was a bad, nasty divorce. No harm no foul, right? Nope! The White Sox fired the PA person. Did they deserve this firing? Not for me to say. I find these actions silly and outrageous, but not a fireable offense. What I’m getting at is that they were fired immediately. The Yankees have been playing this rendition for almost 2 damned decades! No one knew anything about Kate Smith until a fan told them? Hell, I know nothing about her either, but after a quick Google search, I could write a term paper about her.

Now on to my feelings about the song in the first place…….

  • MLB didn’t start playing this song until after 9/11.
  • Most, if not all, teams only play this on Sundays, Opening Day, National Holidays, and Nationally televised games. See the hypocrisy here?
  • Most fans don’t know the etiquette in regards to the song. No need to stand, no need to take off a hat, no need to put a hand over your heart. Most do it because they’re instructed to do so by the PA guy.

God Bless America served its purpose 2 decades ago when this country needed to come together and heal. Now the song is used for some talented person on a random Sunday/Holiday to show off his/her pipes. All the while, confused fans fumble with hand motions over their hearts or sheepishly wonder if they should remove their hats. In the past few days, in some places and across some platforms, it is dividing the very nation that it brought together.

The 7th inning already has the 7th inning stretch. At least everyone knows that they’re supposed to do during that!

Bat Flips: Good or Bad?

The bat flip has taken center stage in the early part of the season for Major League Baseball. It has become the topic of many sports talk radio and TV shows. A couple of on-field incidents have created this, much to the amusement of the average, everyday fan. First off, we had the Cincinnati Reds’ Derek Dietrich pause at home plate to admire the absolute bomb he hit off of Chris Archer. Later in the game, Archer purposely threw behind Dietrich which resulted in a bench clearing brawl. This brawl also gave us an epic photo starring Yasiel Puig. Now we have added the Tim Anderson bat throw after going yard against the Kansas City Royals.

I posted a tweet yesterday asking for opinions on the bat flip. The varied responses were exactly what I expected, and wanted. Before we get into them, I’ll give my views on the bat flip. I love it; absolutely love it. You’re playing at the highest level and you just dropped a dong on the opposing team. You have every reason to admire it, flip the bat, or otherwise celebrate. Pitchers who retaliate just make themselves look bad. Grow up. If you don’t want someone to bat flip you, get them out. Very simple. Having said that, this carries a situational stipulation as well. If you’re down 8-0 in the 9th inning and you bat flip or pimp a solo shot, you’re a dick. You deserve a heater in the ribs the next time you face this pitcher and/or team.

My buddy Steve chimed in with a simple solution. “If the pitchers don’t like it, then strike them out.” I love it! Don’t take your anger out on someone else if you aren’t doing your job. That’s on you. My pal Lenny was along the same lines of thinking, but with a stipulation similar to mine. “You hit a HR to tie the game, take the lead, or hit a grand slam, then bat flip the shit out of it. The solo HR up 5 runs in the 9th inning and you bat flip, you’re getting hit. Otherwise, pimp it!” For the record, Lenny played minor league ball. He knows a thing or two about the so-called unwritten rules.

My Twitter bud Tiffany had thoughts as well. She compares the bat flip to an entertainer’s mic drop. You put on a good show, you get to put the exclamation point on it. She went on to question if they are necessary. Of course not. She then added that it’s no different than a touchdown dance. She went on to state that she thinks the HR itself should do the talking. If you pimp it, prepared to be hit.

And then there’s my good friend Calli. She is a treasure.

  • “I fuckin’ love bat flips; flip it to the motherfucking moon. Flip that shit into outer space and watch it the entire way. Never move. Just admire what you’ve done.”

I know what a lot of you are thinking. Don’t go there. She knows more about baseball than most of you.

There you have it, 5 people with different thoughts as well as some similar ones, albeit to different degrees. I know this has been a topic on ESPN, I saw that when I had lunch at Bdubs today. Fortunately, the sound was off though and I didn’t have to listen to them. It is sure to become a more serious topic if the bat flips continue. I loved Amir Garrett’s tweet. He said something to the effect of go ahead and pimp it. Just know that if I strike you out, I’m celebrating too. I wish everyone had that view. I’m looking at you, Chris Archer.