Friday, May 30, 2014

Giving 2 Cents on 50 Cent's 1st Pitch

The ceremonial first pitch is a longtime baseball tradition  in baseball when a celebrity throws a ball to mark the end of the pregame festivities and the start of the game.  This guest of honor can be a politician, a sponsor of a giveaway or a celebrity.  Hence, Presidents, Wookies, and Rappers have taken to the mound for the ceremonial first pitch. 

It used to be that the guest of honor would throw a ball from the grandstand.  However the ceremonial first pitch changed after Ronald Reagan took to the field for a Baltimore Oriole game.  Now it is sine qua non for the honoree to take to the mound to perform the ceremony.  Taking to the center of the diamond draws more attention and more pressure for the guest of honor to perform.  It was important for the national morale after the terror attacks on America that the Commander in Chief threw well for at the World Series at Yankee Stadium --fortunately, President George W. Bush delivered. 

This season, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio was lambasted for a blasé first pitch for the Met's Opening Day.  Alas, for Mr. Met, that is not the only throw at Citi Field in 2014 which will live in infamy. Curtis Jackson a.k.a.  the rapper 50 Cents was asked to make the ceremonial first pitch at the Mets-Pirates game.

It was a struggle for the Mets announcer to put a positive spin on this ceremony. Jackson may find confidence attractive but giving my two cents, 50 Cents should not give up his day job.  

The Washington Post developed a tongue-in-cheek infographic charting the best and worst ceremonial first pitches.

The chart was informative and entertaining, but there was no need to include T-Rex, Santa Claus or the Cookie Monster, when Chewbacca has actually made ceremonial first pitches.  

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

#DOMINoNo Doesn't Deliver Well After the First No Hitter of 2014

Major League Baseball teamed up with Domino's Pizza for a promotion to give away 20,000 two topping medium pizzas to MLB account holders after the first two no hitters this season.

[C] LA Dodger Pitcher Josh Beckett celebrating after throwing no hitter May 24, 2014 

LA Dodgers pitcher Josh Beckett pitched the first no hitter on Sunday in a 6-0 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies.  In the game, Beckett had six strikeout.  Unfortunately, many more people struck out in trying to redeem their free pizza codes.

Tuesday was the day which MLB account holders could petition for their pizza, however response was so heavy that the website crashed and some fans were left pizza-less.  

In this age of social media diplomacy, these disgruntled pizza people took to Twitter to vent via the hashtag #DomiNoNo.  A post which would cut to the quick in the District of Calamity (sic) compared the problematic pizza giveaway to Obamacare sign ups.

Alas, it was not just hungry fans who suffered as a consequence of Beckett's first no hitter.  Dodger catcher A.J. Ellis suffered a sprained ankle celebrating Beckett's achievement when he jumped and landed on fellow catcher Drew Butera.

Ellis was put on the 15 day disabled list.  Fortunately, Butera was not injured in the incident.  It is unclear if Ellis will enjoy pizza while on DL. 

h/t:  Foxsports

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Kings Sized Donut in LA

Randy's Donuts in Inglewood, California  has partnered with the LA Kings in their drive for another Stanley Cup championship.  The donut stand partnered with the NHL team to turn their iconic giant Donut which is a landmark on the I-405 freeway into something approximating a hockey puck.

The LA Kings have a long association with Inglewood, as the team played at the Forum of Inglewood for 32 years before moving to their current home at the Staples Center in 1999.

Larry Weintrub, a co-owner of Randy's Donuts, expressed his intent to keep his landmark clad with a faux puck veneer until victory of bust.  Randy's donuts put some icing on their partnership with the Kings by giving away a free glazed donut to all Kings fans  on Tuesday May 27th between 8 to 9 am. 

LA Kings fans are one win away from playing for Lord Stanley's Cup, as the hold a 3-1 lead over the Chicago Black Hawks in the Western Conference finals. 

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Kevin Durant on MVPs

Kevin Durant, a 26 year old 6'9" forward for the Oklahoma City Thunder, won the 2013-2014 NBA Most Valuable Player award.  What was striking about Durant's 25 minute speech is what he chose to highlight.  Durant has been top scorer in four of the last five seasons.  But Durant  highlighted how he was molded by his upbringing coming from modest background in PG county (Prince Georges county outside of the District of Calamity) and how Durant appreciated all of the support that he received.

[L] Kevin Durant embraces his Mama at NBA MVP  (photo: AP/Susan Ogroki)
Durant personally recognized all of his teammates in his MVP speech, which recognizes that he could not achieve without the help of others.  But Durant reserved the highest praise for his mother, who he called the "real MVP". Wanda Pratt, a.k.a. @MamaDurant , expected to be mentioned in her son's speech but had no idea about the magnitude of the recognition.

This tribute has struck a chord with the public at large a demonstration of humility, an example that single-mothers can make a difference.  The NBA even made a commercial with selected snippets of Durant's speech

 However, on the second Sunday in May, it is an especially appropriate tribute to mothers.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Adham Talaat on Being a Deaf Football Player

Adham Talaat,  a 23 year old six foot six inch 275 pound Senior Defensive Lineman from Springfield, Virginia, may be the first Gallaudet University player chosen in the NFL draft.  Gallaudet is a unique institution of higher learning, founded in 1864 by President Abraham Lincoln, as it is the only university which serves the deaf and hard of hearing.

Although Talaant is considered severely to profoundly deaf, he can hear when he has his hearing aids on.  However, Talaat usually plays without the hearing aids.  If Talaat is drafted, he will  be one of the few deaf players play in the NFL. 

The road for Talaat being an NFL draft prospect was long and winding. Talaat had been playing youth sports since age six, but he did not start playing football until high school as that is when Riddell released the Revolution helmet which gave space for hearing aids. 

Due to Talaat's secondary school playing prowess, Talaat was encouraged to go to the University of Massachusetts in 2008, as it had a Division I football program, but he was "gray-shirted"(delayed enrollment) awaiting a scholarship.  Talaat withdrew before completing his spring semester as the coaching changed and Talaat felt isolated on campus.  

Talaat was warned that his withdrawal might have been the end of his football career.  Talaat worked at a Warehouse Club yet he continued with his football oriented conditioning.  Janitors at West Springfield High let Talaat in their gym to continue his training.  What inspired Talaat during this tough time was an internet poem--"I can, I will, I did".

In deep sleep, I'm dreaming
I know exactly where to go.
I see the quarterback stumble,
I deal that crushing blow.
I wake myself at daybreak.
My rival's still asleep.
It gives me the advantage
when both of us compete
My hands are shaking crazy.
I long to get it done.
My mind's already focused.
The fight has now begun.

Six months after leaving Amherst, Talaat was encouraged to talk to Gallaudet Bison head coach Chuck Goldstein.  Talaat felt that Gallaudet was comfortable but the Division III school had less resources and football culture, but Gallaudet was also the first school which introduced the huddle in the 1890s (using hand signals).  But after prayerful consideration, Talaat enrolled in Gallaudett in 2010. By his Junior year, Talaat was a national standout defenseman, while also being an outstanding student athlete.  Talaat graduated in December 2013 with a 3.93 GPA and was a first team academic All American.

Since the start of the year, Talaat has been enrolled in the TEST Parsi Football Academy to prepare for the NFL combine and the draft. Scouts considered Talaat to be a raw talent, as there were many drills for which Talaat had not previously trained. 

While it remains to be where Talaat will be drafted, his drive and attitude ought to be commended.  Talaat does not let his handicap define him. And Talaat's positive attitude is inspiring. 

h/t: Washington Post
     CBS Sports

UPDATE 5/10/2014   Talaat was not among the players chosen in the seven rounds of the 2014 NFL draft.  Then again, controversial standout Michael Sam was chosen 248th.  

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

P.K. Subban--A Classy Canadien Who Rejects Racist Rubes' Barbs

P.K. Subban, Defenseman for the Montreal Canadiens

After PK Subban scored the winning goal in double overtime for the Montreal Canadien's 4-3 win over the Boston Bruins in game one of second round of the NHL Eastern Conference playoffs, he was reportedly pelted with trash by bellicose Bruins fans at the TD Gardens.  When asked if he was hit by the debris, Subban said: I don’t know. It doesn’t even matter.”

What was harder to deny were the brigade of bigoted Bruins fans which took to Twitter to share thousand of racist comments to  trash the 24 year old defenseman from Toronto whose parents emigrated from the Caribbean to Canada.  It got so bad that the Bruins' President Cam Neely issued a statement:

“The racist, classless views expressed by an ignorant group of individuals following Thursday’s game via digital media are in no way a reflection of anyone associated with the Bruins organization.”

This torrent of intolerance is not the first time that some Masshole bigots have sullied the sport.  When Joel Ward clenched the series for the Washington Capitals over the Boston in 2012, some Bruins fans issued a barrage of racist rants on Twitter.   What makes this episode remarkable is that it took place in the turbulent cultural cross currents of the Donald Sterling Clippers controversy in the NBA.

When Subban chose to respond to these racists' rants, his thoughts could not be contained in 140 character limit of Twitter. Subban said:

First things first, the Boston Bruins are an Original Six franchise, they have been around a long time, they are respected. It’s completely unfair for anybody to point the finger at the organization of the fan base. They have passionate fans here, a great fan base and since I’ve been in the league, it’s been awesome. 
I’ve come to Boston many times, my family has come here and it’s been great. What people may say on Twitter or social media is not a reflection by any means of the league or the Boston Bruins.
You know what the funny thing is, is that we get stronger as a league. You see how people come together and it’s great. It’s not just about me. The NHL has tons of players from different backgrounds, from different places around the world and that’s what makes this league so special and that’s what makes sports so special, it brings everybody together.
Another great hockey game today. I’m sure everybody enjoyed it and I look forward to the rest of the series and everybody else should, too.

Even when pointedly interviewed on television about the incident, Subban refused to climb onto the racial victims bandwagon.

Subban brushed off the brusque bigotry, he spoke highly of the passion of his arch-rival  Bruins fans, while touting the virtues of hockey.  When pressed he called out the stupidity of the minority of insult hurlers.

Even diehard Bruin fans are impressed by Subban's class.  Someone reacting to the Boston Herald's coverage of the incident wrote:

I hate the Habs, but in regards to P.K. Subban praise is due. P.K. is a class person and a helluva hockey player, man can he skate — beautiful to watch. Fortunately, I believe we will be loving to hate P.K. (the player) for years to come. Oh, and those walking pieces of human debris who sent those tweets etc. ... can now crawl back into their rats nests while the rest of us enjoy a great playoff series.

Even some Massachusetts politicos have gone out on a limb to praise Subban's poise.  Charlie Baker, the Republican gubernatorial candidate, posted on Twitter

Passions can run high among hockey fans, especially a playoff series between members of the NHL's original six.  But P.K. Subban demonstrated remarkable virtue should be admired across the board as one classy Canadien. Subban's example is a better example of what sports can do.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Celebrating Star Wars Around the Diamond

Since many star players move through the minor leagues and can not be counted on as an attendance draw, many minor league clubs sell spectacle as much as the ballgame.

A couple of teams have eagerly hopped on the ersatz Star Wars holiday "May the Fourth Be With You" by issuing special uniforms for the occasion.

This year, the Toledo Mud Hens donned Chewbacca inspired jerseys for Star Wars weekend. The Mud Hens, which are the  Triple affiliate of the Detroit Tigers, will don special Mud Hens Star Wars uniforms which try to depict fur along with a munitions holder across the players chest. 

But it's tough to pull off fluffy Wookiee fur on two dimensional material.  Moreover, Chewbacca stood seven foot tall.  So it is unlikely that fans at Fifth Third ballpark in Toledo with think that they have been teleported to Mos Eisley.

 Craig Katz, the director of merchandising for the Mud Hens told OT Sports, which designed the Wookiee uniforms, sought  to do something different.  In Katz mind, "There is no such thing as bad press with something like this.  We have fans say 'These [uniforms] are so ugly, I have to have one." 

So rather than just auctioning these Wookiee uniforms after Star Wars weekend, the Mud Hens will be selling themKatz expects Star Wars fanatics to snap up these out of this world uniforms and add them to their collection. Probably to the likes of the Big Bang Theory crew.

For several years, the Durham Bulls have been celebrating Star Wars, wearing futuristic uniforms, having costumed Storm Troopers and Chewbacca throwing out the ceremonial first pitch.

But this year the Durham Bulls, which are the Triple A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays,  went all in and honored R2D2 for their Star Wars Day uniforms. After the players wear the Droid inspired jerseys, the 40 jerseys will be sold in a silent auction, with proceeds benefiting the Autism Society of North Carolina.

Alas, the Durham Droid uniforms are not that unique.  It seems that the Sacramento River Cats, the Oakland A's Triple A team, plays to wear nearly an identical uniform in August.

The Brooklyn Cyclones will not hold their Star Wars night until August 2nd. The Class A affiliate of the New York Mets will have a meet and greet with Star Wars characters, light saber training and the option of a post game family sleepover.   While the Cyclones will give Padwan bobbleheads to the kids, they really should be excited about the Sithclones jerseys.

Those jerseys will have the emblem of the Sith  Empire on the right sleeve and Brooklyn is emblazened in Aurebesh across the players chests.  Now those handsome uniforms should fetch prime dukets for charity.

In the big league Galaxy, the San Francisco Giants, the MLB team nearest to the orbit of George Lucas' Skywalker Ranch, have been doing Star Wars Day promotions for years.  This year the promo was an R2D2 beanie.

While this Star Wars sartorial styling may produce out of this world uniforms, nothing quite compares to the Mud Hens fan kazoo accompaniment to the Star Wars theme music.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Hunter S. Thompson the Kentucky Derby

Hunter S Thompson Kentucky Derby

Dan Fogelberg had a much less cynical take on the fastest two minutes in sports with his chart topping song "Run for the Roses", but the rendition takes double the time of the actual race. 

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Harry Reid on the Redskins

In the wake of NBA Commissioner Adam Silver's swift and severe punishment of L.A. Clippers' owner Donald Sterling's racist rant made in private, politicians rushed to jump in on the Politically Correct civic circus. 

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) used some of his floor time on the US Senate to rail against Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder's intransigence about changing the team name.  

When Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson (D-Sacramento) crowed about "what sports can do", he gloated that President Obama and Vice President Biden expressed support for doing something to rectify the situation.

What form of polity is a government which nudges businesses to order society to their desired goals?  With the myriad of problems which face the Federal government and the Senate's inability to act, the Majority Leader ought to concentrate on legislating rather than dictating sports team nicknames. 

Kevin Johnson on "What Sports Can Do"

Mayor Kevin Johnson (D-Sacramento), a former NBA All Star point guard for Phoenix Suns, endorsed NBA Commissioner Adam Silver's lifetime ban of Donald Sterling for taped racist comments made in private to V. Stiviano.

Johnson confidently asserted that the swift and severe reaction to reprehensible comments shows what sports can do.

 However, it is questionable if sports allows people to talk about real issues, as history is instructive.  During the French Revolution, the goal of establishing a "Republic of Virtue" was thwarted by the mob rule from Robespierre's Committee of Public Safety which oversaw the "Reign of Terror"  when those accused of being "enemies of the revolution" were purged and eliminated.

As deplorable  as Sterling's utterances sound, they were made in private and did not correspond to how he conducted affairs as the L.A. Clippers' owner.  Sterling was accorded little to no due process as NBA Commissioner Silver swiftly acted to politically correct calls for action and deprive an "owner" the ability to attend, much less run, his business.

Does this sort of mob rule for political correctness encourage an honest exchange of views?