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Sunday, June 30, 2019

I Never Dreamed You'd Leave in Summer

Another NBA season has come and gone and we have a new champion as the Toronto Raptors won their first, ever, NBA Championship in a 4-2 series win over the two-time defending NBA and five-time Western Conference champion Golden State Warriors. Often, when a dominant champion is dethroned, the door is opened to a changing of the guard. While this season is no different, the manner in which said door was opened for a change of the guard is through changes of address.

RENT A TITLE

When the San Antonio Spurs won their fifth NBA Championship in 2014, it appeared the torch of their long-term dynasty would be passed from Tim Duncan and Tony Parker to then-third year sensation Kawhi Leonard. Leonard began to showcase the possible limitless ceiling of his talent with a breakout performance during the Spurs' series loss in the 2013 NBA Finals to the Miami Heat. Since then, Leonard was consistently discussed as a candidate or awardee of Most Valuable Player, Defensive Player of the Year, All NBA, First Team, and other superlative recognitions.

Rumors abound, the relationship between Leonard and the Spurs completely deteriorated by the end of the 2018 season, stemming from a dispute over the rehabilitation of an injury. A return of Leonard to the Spurs for the following season was an impossibility. A trade was necessary. The beat writers ascertained Leonard wanted to continue his NBA career in Los Angeles, either with the Los Angeles Lakers, with LeBron James, or the Los Angeles Clippers, coached by championship coach Doc Rivers. The Toronto Raptors, however, upped the ante. Despite Leonard being in the final year of his contract, with absolutely no assurances (or appearances) Leonard would re-sign in Toronto, the Raptors traded their long-time, All-Star shooter DeMar DeRozan and other considerations to San Antonio to receive Leonard.

Realistically, the Raptors, always a bridesmaid but never a bride in the NBA's Eastern Conference, had a narrow, one-year window to win a championship. Against the long odds of getting over the hump in the Eastern Conference and dethroning the Warriors' dynasty, the Raptors passed through that window and hoisted the Larry O'Brien Trophy earlier this month. Leonard's message: enjoy today; I won't be here tomorrow.

Reports have surfaced that the chances of Leonard remaining in Toronto are "fading." Though Raptors President Masai Ujiri expressed confidence in retaining Leonard, his desire to play out west is no secret. Next week, Leonard is meeting with Lakers legend Magic Johnson and Lakers Owner Jeanie Buss. It appears the lure of being a God in North America's fourth-largest on a team with the potential to be a dynasty in the making pales in comparison to the opportunity to join LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and the new Showtime Lakers or their arena-roommates, the Clippers, in Leonard's home town of Los Angeles.

The Raptors' championship will affect the balance of power. Toronto's success appears likely to open up opportunity for all in the Eastern Conference and loosening the grip of the Warriors' absolute dominance of the Western Conference.

Don't be sad, Toronto, because it's over, or that it was brief, or that it was expensive. Be glad that it happened. 1
NEXT YEAR CAN WAIT UNTIL THE NEXT YEAR

The Golden State Warriors assembled the most prolific scoring lineup and explosive NBA offense in recent memory with the one-two punch of the Splash Brothers, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, with a "supporting staff" that would occupy spots on All-Star rosters and in NBA Finals MVP memberships, including a probable future Hall of Fame defender and enforcer in Draymond Green. The problem? The best player on the planet, LeBron James was assembling his own championship contender in Cleveland, teaming up with All-Stars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. Suddenly, what appeared to be a chance to win not one..."not two...not three...not four"...NBA championships for the Warriors was shaping up into a battle royale in the spirit of the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics.

The Warriors and Cavaliers would meet in the NBA Finals in the next four consecutive seasons. At the end of the 2016 Finals, the Cavs and Warriors each earned a title against the other. The Warriors appeared built to run through any team without LeBron. Then came Kevin Durant. The rest is history. The Cavaliers and Warriors would play nine NBA Finals games in the next two seasons. The Warriors would win eight of those games, earning back-to-back NBA Championships.

Due to a calf injury, Kevin Durant was invisible from the Warriors 2019 Western Conference Finals drubbing of the Portland Trailblazers and the first four games of the Finals series against the Raptors. "Bad" would become "worse" as Durant, clearly not recovered from the injury, ruptured his Achilles tendon in the second quarter of Game 5 after scoring 11 points in 12 minutes of play. The Raptors won the series in six games and the Warriors dynasty, as it was, ended.

Despite being very likely to miss the entire 2020 season, Durant and the Brooklyn Nets reportedly agreed to a four-year deal worth more than $160 million. The Nets also announced that they will sign All-Stars Kyrie Irving and DeAndre Jordan. With the fall of the Warriors comes the rise of the Nets, not next year, but in the year after next. The Eastern Conference, overnight, can expect a titanic battle for the conference honors between at least three teams: the Nets, the Milwaukee Bucks and 2019 NBA Most Valuable Player Giannis Antetokounmpo, and the Philadelphia 76ers with their host of young superstars.

NBA free agency...! To the victor goes the trophy. To the losers go the spoils.

The Eastern Conference's newest Big Three. 2
1) Image from the Japan Times
2) Image from clutchpoints.com.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Chick Pic of the Day -- June 3, 2019 -- Ciara

The Daily Hat Trick has never been above gratuitous pictures of famous (or not-so-famous) people showing skin, and it won't start today.

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is living a charmed life: NFL superstar . . . big contract . . . married to Ciara. Ciara has been trending on Google of late so why not reboot the Daily Hat Trick Chick Pic with the signer and fitness enthusiast?

Ciara reportedly lost fifty pounds. I'm taking notes. 1

Automatic, supersonic, hypnotic, funky fresh. 2

And...one, two step. 3

After...Ciara. 4

Before...ex-wife Ashton. It keeps getting better for Russell. 5

1) Image from pintrest.com
2, 3) Images from leanmuscularbody.com
4) Image from etonline.com
5) Image from sbnation.com

Friday, May 31, 2019

Assumption of Risk

You've been warned. 1
This past Wednesday night, a four-year-old girl was hospitalized after being hit by a foul ball rocketing at over 100 miles per hour off of the bat of Chicago Cubs centerfielder Albert Almora, Jr. during the fourth inning of the Cubs' game at Minute Maid Park against the Houston Astros. Major League Baseball had several high-profile incidents of fans being injured by foul balls hit into the stands. In 2018, all thirty MLB clubs extended netting at their parks to the ends of the dugouts. That same season, a 79-year-old Dodgers fan, Linda Goldbloom died four days after being hit by a foul ball, despite the extension of the protective netting. It was not enough.

Linda Goldbloom, shortly before being stuck by a foul ball, resulting in her death. 2
Major League Baseball has been immune from negligence under the so-called "Baseball Rule," an inconspicuous disclaimer on the back of its tickets for admission declaring that the fans assumes the risk of injury a a result of the game of baseball. The general legal principle of "assumption of risk" is that a plaintiff who voluntarily assumes a risk of harm arising from the negligent or reckless conduct of the defendant cannot recover for such harm. 3 The result, under the law, has been a blanket immunity for baseball clubs from liability for injuries to spectators resulting from missiles and shrapnel in the form of foul balls and broken bats. However, the notion that a four-year-old or a 79-year-old assumes the risk of hospitalization or death from a night at the ballpark strains credulity, at best, and, in the view of this blogger, is ludicrous. 

FIX IT

While the vast majority of normal, decent human beings, including MLB executives, likely have compassion for people injured in these infrequent, yet potentially tragic, accidents, compassion alone will not help the people who are hurt, nor will it reduce the future chances of such carnage upon its fans, who are the reason there is revenue in baseball. There are two simple solutions to further minimize the risks of  these atrocious consequences during what should be a family friendly outing. The first is Major League Baseball extends its protective netting, all but invisible to the spectator's naked eye, to the foul poles (or farther if reasonably necessary), shielding fans from line drives blasted off of the bats of world class athletes. The second solution is the legal system ruling that fans do not reasonably assume the risks of maimed children or dead parents from watching baseball, hitting MLB and its multi-billion dollar revenue stream where it could hurt. People respond accordingly to pain.

Another possibility is the display of this video with full audio before every at-bat. 4
  
3) Source: Restat 2d of Torts, § 496A (2nd 1979)
4) Images, in part, from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yJSScYHHcl4

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Redemption of a Tiger

WAIT. YOU'RE STILL ALIVE?

The Daily Hat Trick--once a daily blog, true to its name--has been retired for nearly five years. In late 2017, scratched the itch to revive the blog, but never followed through. In many ways, this is like a preview of a possible reboot.

Rule 1 of blogging, for most people, is that the first phase of blogging is like talking into an empty room. With that said, I thought that I would memorialize my thoughts on Tiger Woods' remarkable comeback to the world of elite golfers.

CALL IT A COMEBACK

Tiger Woods reached the highest of highs and, after Michael Jordan's second retirement in 1998, was the biggest, most famous, most marketable, and successful athlete in the world, by any measurable, reasonable standard.

He brought himself to successive new rock bottoms, starting with his serial womanizing, the public collapse of his personal life, then his drug addiction caused by his deteriorating back, followed by the cops discovering him in a ditch in a pain-pill induced stupor, where he literally did not know where in the world he was.

Image result for TIGER WOODS 1997 masters
The image of Woods winning the 1997 Masters is like that of a ghost. 1

NEW LOWS...ALL-TIME HIGH

Woods could not walk without assistance, let alone play golf, because of his back problems. Despite all of that...Woods could have walked away, still been the G.O.A.T. (that's "Greatest of All Time for you older readers), and never needed to earn another nickel in his lifetime.

To go through the rehabilitation, the training, and the work just to compete in the PGA...just to make the cut, let alone win the MASTERS.... Woods put himself in a huge hole that he never had to bother coming out of because of his past success and nobody would have questioned him. Instead he pulled himself out.


Sports are often a microcosm of life. Woods' self-made redemption is truly remarkable. It tells us that we can earn second chances, seemingly no matter how far we fall, if we're willing to make it happen.

Image result for TIGER WOODS 2019 masters
It has been a long time coming. 2

1) Image from businessinsider.com.
2) Image from usatoday.com.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Deja Who Dat?

The Daily Hat Trick has, more or less, been retired since late 2014. Changes in life, new opportunities, and new family dynamics have made it prohibitive to produce regular content, though I am very thankful for the roughly four-plus years of regular readers that visited the Hat Trick. While this post is not likely to be read by all but a handful of Facebook friends and Twitter followers (as the search standing of a dormant blog PLUMMETS) a handful of topics have compelled me to come out of hibernation.

Who knows? Perhaps a handful of you still check every once in a while to see if there is new Hat Trick content. The Daily Hat Trick still gets a little more than twenty hits per day (twenty more than the author gives it) and I thank those of you who still check out the oldies!

WHY NOW?

Most recently, the Daily Hat Trick remembered sports figures who passed away in 2016, commented on the 25th anniversary of Magic Johnson's HIV announcement, and the nonstop hot water the the New England Patriots and Tom Brady stayed in because of the "Deflategate" scandal.

About a month ago, I could never have imagined seriously writing on this subject. However, I've stopped laughing at the thought as a fan's optimism. It is worth discussing among serious sports fans: the New Orleans Saints are legitimate Super Bowl contenders in 2017.


SMALL STUMBLE

The Saints started 0-2 with consecutive, and convincing, losses to the Minnesota Vikings and New England Patriots (two of a small number of other serious contenders to hoist the Lombardi Trophy in February). The same old story was playing out: great offense led by a Hall of Fame quarterback in Drew Brees and a mad scientist offensive mastermind on the sideline in Head Coach Sean Payton...a defense that--due to inexperience, bad chemistry, lack of discipline and maybe a lack of talent--could not stop a runny nose, let alone an NFL offense.

Then it started to happen. The defense began getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Rookie cornerback and Saints 2017 first round draft pick Marshon Lattimore's pro talent began to visibly blossom more with each passing week. Injured players returned to--and remained in--the lineup. The offense, already potent, appeared to be more in sync with passing weeks.

An unexpected, must-win, road victory over the favored Carolina Panthers, NFC South champions in two of the last three seasons, kept the Saints on life support. The patient could then breath on his own and was released from the hospital after a shut out win over the Miami Dolphins in London. Utter destruction of an offensively potent Detroit Lions team put the Saints noses above the .500 water level for the first time since 2013. "Maybe they won't suck this year," I thought.

Adrian Peterson doesn't have Sean Payton to scream at, anymore. 2
WHO DAT LEADING THE PACK?

After a stroke of misfortune for the Green Bay Packers--Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone, ending his season--becoming the good fortune of the Saints, who would visit the Packers on the following Sunday, the Saints have looked like, and played like, one of the best teams in the NFL this season.

During nearly every sports team turn-around story, there is a moment in which an observer thinks, "This is a different team...this team is 'for real'." For this blogger, that moment came this past Sunday. The Saints went to visit the Buffalo Bills, a (then) 5-3 team, loaded with defensive talent, which takes the ball away from opponents as well as any team in the league. They utterly demolished the Bills, leading by as many as 44 points the Saints' largest margin of victory away from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome since 1987.

Last Sunday's win made a statement for a number of reasons. The Saints were away from home. Drew Brees threw for fewer than 200 yards and did not throw a touchdown pass; the running game was dominant. The defense only allowed three points until the final two minutes of the game. Buffalo has a winning record. This is the Saints seventh consecutive win, their longest winning streak since 2011 (arguably their best, ever, regular season in the 51-year history of the franchise).

Saints running back Mark Ingram even had time to have a beer with the fans. 1
SUPER TALK IS SUPER SOON

The Saints only won seven games in each of the last three seasons and have already matched that total. The Saints still have seven regular season games remaining, including contests at the Los Angeles Rams (7-2), hosting the Carolina Panthers (7-3), and home-and-away matchups against their archrivals, the defending NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons. They are in a great position, but have ensured nothing at it relates to the postseason. For any of the efforts of the last two months to matter, they have to continue winning, especially within their division.

Still, there is a momentum and an optimism surrounding the Saints that only happens, to this degree, once every few years. This is only the seventh time in the franchise's half-century history in which it has started a season this well through nine games. Super Bowl talk is not far fetched.

Need more proof? Today, I saw the first new Saints Super Bowl song and video that I've seen in several years. Who Dat!

Actually, this is a few years old, but it's new to me.

Video from YouTube.com
1) Image from www.usatoday.com
2) Image from www.totalprosports.com

Thursday, November 10, 2016

America

It is rare that I post anything political to this sports blog. Still, the election of a new President is a rare occurrence. The system of government and the rights we have under the United States Constitution make this blog and countless other forms of expression possible.

I understand that there are a lot of people who are stunned and acutely disappointed with the election of President-elect Donald Trump. The bottom line is that we live in a democracy and the people have spoken. For those feeling this sense of stunned disbelief and disappointment, remember that this is a COST of democracy.

The President is an institution. It is bigger than one man. We have a system of checks an balances. A plethora of the things said and promised by the President-elect are alarming and/or offensive to a great many people. However we are a nation of hundreds of millions of people. We don't have monarchs. While Trump took it to the greatest extreme I can recall in my lifetime, many politicians run their mouths and are then confined by the reality of the responsibility of their elected office.

This same nation elected a black man, a liberal Democrat, to two terms during the past eight years. Power does not yield easily yet rarely remains in the same hands over greatly extended periods. Yet time and time again, while our nation goes through many ups and downs in its short runs, over the long run it always trends up.

Speak up. Stay involved. Vote. We'll all come out okay.

For those who voted for the President-elect, it is my sincere hope that the decision was guided by your better angels. Many supporters of Mr. Trump and Mr. Trump himself have made public statements that potentially appeal to and suggest otherwise.

While I think the lion's share of voters in any election are driven by positive intentions with the goal of a brighter future, the divisiveness of the rhetoric employed by Candidate Trump inevitably appealed to the angrier, more malevolent, and baser instincts of a significant number of voters.

Monday, November 7, 2016

November 7, 1991

I was doing chores in the kitchen, emptying and loading the dishwasher, getting ready to head out to our high school’s homecoming football game. The local news was on in the living room. I heard Channel 6 news anchor Lynn Ganser announce, “Tragic news.” Immediately assuming someone famous had died, I stopped what I was doing, entered the living room and focused my attention on the news.

The next thing I heard triggered the type of physical reaction that accompanies shock. “Los Angeles Lakers star Magic Johnson…,”

Magic Johnson died?

“Announced that he is retiring from basketball…,”

WHEW! Wait, that’s surprising, not tragic.

“…after testing positive for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.”

WHAT?!?!?!?!?

PROFILE OF COURAGE
On November 7, 1991, Magic Johnson announced to the world that he tested positive for HIV. I am 41 years old. I was not alive for the Kennedy assassination. I was not alive when Pearl Harbor was attacked. In my lifetime, there have been three “I’ll never forget where I was when I heard,” tragedies – the Challenger explosion, 9/11, and Magic Johnson announcing he was HIV positive.

That Magic Johnson is alive and well 25 years later makes this day in history remarkable. That HIV/AIDS is not necessarily the first thing that comes to mind when Magic Johnson is mentioned is remarkable. That HIV is no longer a death sentence with the same Grim Reaper connotation it had 25 years ago is remarkable.

We would never know any of this had Magic not had the courage to step up and share his illness with the world and do more for awareness of this devastating disease in minutes than all of the death and carnage in the prior 10 years in which the medical world was aware of and attempted to spread awareness of AIDS.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Patriot Games

A federal appeals court recently rejected New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s appeal to overturn his four game suspension, effective at the start of the 2016 NFL regular season. Brady was determined to have been involved in the deflation of Patriots footballs before prior to the one-sided 2014 AFC Championship Game against the Indianapolis Colts in January of 2015. The Patriots would advance to and win Super Bowl XLIX over the then-defending Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks.

Brady’s final option would be to appeal the case to the United States Supreme Court. Legal analysts have opined that it is improbable that the Court would hear the case, meaning that Brady will probably miss the first four games of the coming regular season. This would be the final turn in a story with more twists than a pretzel.


IT'S ALWAYS SOMETHING

The Patriots organization is not new to controversy. As far back as the Spygate scandal in which Patriots personnel was caught filming opponents’ sideline signals, the organization has been on NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s “naughty radar” for much of the past 10 years. When questionable competitive practices arise involving this team, a common response is, “It’s always something with the Patriots.”

The issues at play include the degree of Goodell’s power in disciplining players and the arbitrary manner in which discipline is handed out for various offenses. In addition, Brady, a player, may be receiving enhanced punishment in the form of a four game suspension (as opposed to a fine for equipment tampering) for the past iniquities of the organization. The Patriots are a regular Super Bowl contender. Losing Brady for a quarter of a season and replacing him with Jimmy Garoppolo, who is high on potential but short on experience, will probably have some substantial impact on the competitive landscape of the AFC race in 2016.


STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

I am no fan of Tom Brady or the Patriots. However, I am more with them than against them in principle. Equipment tampering is a minor offense and is ordinarily punishable by a relatively small fine under league rules. Goodell has said publicly that past indiscretions of the organization play a role in his response to the Deflategate incident.

The far reaching and very un-prescribed disciplinary power of Commissioner Goodell, notwithstanding the fact that the power was ceded to Goodell in the 2011 collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between the NFL Players Association and the league, has been the topic of repeated controversy in player discipline cases. At what point does the far reaching power of a singular individual begin to have a negative impact on America’s pastime of NFL football?


At what point, if any, could Goodell overstep his legal authority in these matters? The current CBA expires in 2021. The possibility of this issue reaching a boiling point and either being addressed in negotiations or via a labor stoppage is not far-fetched. Should that happen, the NFL game and its fans will pay the price felt by the more far reaching price. 

It's just another day in Foxboro.

Image from www.jetsrant.com

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Retweet of The Day

I love Magic Johnson. He is one of my favorite athletes of all time. I also think that there are many facets of his life after which people should try to model their lives more. Profound tweeting is not always one of those facets.

The Los Angeles Lakers were awarded the second overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft in last week's NBA Draft Lottery. The Hall of Fame Los Angeles Lakers point guard dropped this food for thought in the wake of the good news. A week later, it still makes me do a face palm. Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) ‏delivered today's Daily Hat Trick Retweet of the Day.

"Laker fans all over should be happy with the No. 2 pick because the Lakers will get another really good player."

Magic never owned any newspapers, did he?
Image from http://live-av.info

Monday, May 23, 2016

Strange Bedfellows

Hate is a strong word, in its pure, original form. However, Americans throw the word around in casual conversation, usually having a true meaning of “strong dislike”, “slight dislike”, or a meaning produced by the use of that word in jest. I do not genuinely hate anyone that immediately comes to mind. In the sports fanhood context, I hate Tom Brady and the Bill Belichick era New England Patriots.

If you know me personally or read this blog regularly before its recently discontinued hiatus, this is no secret. They’re arrogant. They’re entitled. They are not likable. And the bastards won’t go away like cockroaches and toilets after a nuclear bomb; they keep on winning.

Over the years I have found myself in the ironic and reluctant position of either defending or mitigating the criticism of Tom Terrific, The Hoodie, and the Minutemen amidst their many controversies. I thought the Tuck Rule was a stupid rule, but it was a rule and was applied to its letter in the infamous Tuck Rule Game that launched Brady’s stardom and the modern Patriots dynasty. I thought Spygate was unethical, but I don’t think it warranted any punishment until the league asked the team to discontinue its sideline filming practices. There is no evidence (not even circumstantial evidence) to show that the Patriots filmed the St. Louis Rams’ walk-through before Super Bowl XXXVI, yet detractors of the Patriots organization often freely toss the allegation around a though it were fact.


1
THEY ARE NOT ANGELS

I think that the Patriots organization and Tom Brady are guilty as sin in the Deflategate controversy in which Patriots footballs used during the first half of the 2014 AFC Championship Game against the Indianapolis Colts in January of 2015 were allegedly deflated below league specifications after the game officials inspected the balls. I also think the impact on the lopsided Patriots victory was between “zero” and “negligible”. More importantly, I think that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell overreached in his punishment of Brady and his team. As reported my multiple news outlets, the penalty on the books in the NFL at that time for equipment tampering is a fine up to $25,000. The Patriots were exponentially fined beyond that threshold, were penalized draft picks, and Brady was suspended for four games at the beginning of the 2015 NFL season.

Of course, the long arm of the real law, not that of Sheriff Goodell, reached out and slapped the NFL, enjoining Brady’s suspension. The court opined that Goodell overreached in his authority, notwithstanding the collective bargaining agreement in place between the league and its players, Brady played the entire 2015 season without interruption. An appellate court recently ruled that the lower erred in its ruling and reinstated Brady’s four game suspension, effective at the start of the 2016 NFL regular season.

2
BLACK MO

If Goodell is the Sheriff in this western style legal drama, then NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith is Black Bart. And he is coming for the sheriff. This morning on ESPN’s SportsCenter, Smith described the intent of the Players Association to take legal action to, once again, invalidate Brady’s suspension and possibly put some handcuffs on the sheriff in the long run. Smith described his disdain for the far reaching authority of Goodell in player discipline issues. With the existing collective bargaining agreement in place until 2021, Smith acknowledged the challenges in curtailing Goodell’s authority. However, the appeals to public opinion and use of the court system are within Smith’s wheelhouse and have proven effective in the past.

We need a new sheriff in town. 3
HOLDING MY NOSE

In this chapter of NFL drama, I am (not so) reluctantly on the side of one of my least favorite players in NFL history. This case is much bigger than Tom Brady or the Patriots and, to a degree, it is bigger than football. In so many words, this is about The Man putting his boot on the throat of the little guy. As rich and famous as Brady is, he is just an employee in and being used as a pawn by the National Football League.

Goodell’s arbitrary exercise of power has become increasingly egregious and grown exponentially during the past several years. What was once an effort to maintain the public image of the league through player and organizational discipline has mushroomed into an untargeted dispersal of power to send a message from one man, the Commissioner, to the people under his authority. It is to the long term detriment, not benefit of the game of football at the professional level.  

"His balls"...what a dick. 4
1) Image with dogonews.com

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Pivotal Game 2

The Oklahoma City Thunder stunned the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors by unexpectedly ripping away Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals at Golden State. Notwithstanding an egregious non-call following an obvious travel by Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (24 PPG, 10 APG, 8 RPG) in the final minute of what was still a single-possession game, the Thunder outplayed, outcoached, out manned, and out physicaled the Warriors in the second half of Game 1.

Many observers expected the Conference Finals to be trip down a short cobblestone road on the way to a like showdown and rematch with the 2015 runner-ups, the Cleveland Cavaliers. The road would not necessarily be smooth, but nonetheless quickly and successfully traveled. The Thunder dispelled the certainty of such a mindset on Monday night.

The cliché about a playoff series not starting until the road team wins (or Game 7 – whichever comes first) became a cliché for a reason. It is more difficult to win away from home in any organized competitive sport at any level; it is not easy to win on the road against any opponent in any professional sport, and it is difficult to win on the road in a professional sport in a playoff series.  This axiom is especially true against a quality opponent and even more so in basketball, a sport in which the crowd is close to the action, loud, and the depth perception of home team, when shooting, need not adjust to an unfamiliar arena.

This series “started” (so-to-speak) after Game 1. Golden State will have to prevail at least once at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City to defend its crown. While the Warriors, with an NBA regular season record-breaking 73 wins in the 2016 season, are as talented and offensively potent as any team in the Association to ever defend a championship in the, the task of taking a Conference Finals game on the road while running the table at home will not be a proverbial slam-dunk. A loss by the Warriors at home tonight in Game 2 will change Golden State’s mission from “not a slam dunk”, to “a steep uphill climb”.

Simply put, the “pivotal” distinction normally reserved for Game 5 of a best-of-seven playoff series applies early, in Game 2, of the 2016 Western Conference NBA Finals. The team that wins tonight is likely going to win the series. Will the Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Warriors make a Splash or be Thunder-struck?

1) Image from mercurynews.com

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

You’re FIRED!

The Atlanta Braves announced the firing of Manager Fredi González today, ending yet another underachieving chapter in the story of the Atlanta Braves franchise. The Braves are 9-28 as of Tuesday morning. González was 434-413 (.512 pct.) in his sixth season as the Braves’ manager.

González filled the huge shoes of Hall of Fame Manager Bobby Cox in 2011. In spite of inheriting a wealth of talent, the Braves only reached the postseason twice, in 2012 and 2013, being eliminated in the Wild Card Game and the National League Divisional Series, respectively. The last three seasons, inclusive of 2016, have been nothing short of disastrous in Atlanta.

The Braves are the only Major League team that can confidently remove any thought of playing in the postseason, with single digit wins in the middle of May. Its talent has completely eroded and gone undeveloped. While the Braves’ front office did González few favors with some of its player transactions, González did little to help himself with a series of questionable lineup, rotation, and in-game decisions.

Interim manager Brian Snitker is the next man up. Expect more of the same throughout the duration of this already-lost 2016 Atlanta Braves season. Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result. That the Braves have been the most successful franchise in the National League in the last quarter-century yet only have one World Series championship to show for it appears to be a product of insanity.

Only a visit from Milton to the Braves headquarters can right this ship.


1) Image from memegenerator.net   

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Backup Chick

Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel is still the backup quarterback, for now. With yesterday's announcement that Brian Hoyer would start against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, Manziel learned that he was not yet "the man" in Cleveland. Manziel, however, has had zero shortcomings in the ladies department.

Manziel's girlfriend, model Colleen Crowley, is getting starting playing time in front of the camera and on the Internet with good reason. Hoyer may have the job, but Manziel has the chicks. Ms. Crowley is the subject of today's Chick Pic.

Nothing wrong with a backup.... 1

Like Johnny, she's a team player. 2
Geek chic 3

4
And she shares with others.... 5
Maybe there will be an opening in Denver in a few years. 6
Lights, camera, action! 7
Don't hate the player hate the game (which he isn't even in yet...much). 8

1) Image from www.chatsports.com
2) Image from www.rantlifestyle.com
3, 4) Images from www.gamedayr.com
5) Image from www.talksports.net
6) Image from www.fabwags.com
7) Image from www.larrybrownsports.com
8) Image from N Sports via www.youtube.com

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Retweet of the Day - December 3, 2014

Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel saw extensive playing time last week during the Browns' loss to the Buffalo Bills. Current starting quarterback Brian Hoyer has been ineffective of late. The move to Manziel late in the Bills game, in which Manziel led the Browns on a touchdown drive, fueled rampant speculation that Manziel may start this coming weekend against the Indianapolis Colts.

Cleveland Browns Head Coach Mike Petine stopped the rumor mill yesterday when he announced that Hoyer would start on Sunday. It is only a matter of time before Manziel gets the ball, but that first start can never come soon enough for an NFL quarterback. Today's retweet, from His and Hers (@HisandHers), illustrates that, literally.

"When Johnny Manziel heard Brian Hoyer will be the starting QB this Sunday…" (play video)



Image from www.gifsoup.com 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

NFC Division Gone South

With five weeks remaining in the NFL regular season, the NFC South has 13 wins. There have been twelve weeks played, and the division averages a win per week. Let me repeat that: the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers – four NFL teams composing an entire division – have a total of 13 wins.

THE SYSTEM…THANK GOODNESS FOR THE SYSTEM

What do you call the guy who graduated last in his medical school class? A doctor! The ultimate goal of every NFL team at the beginning of each season is to win the Super Bowl. To win the Super Bowl, a team must first reach the playoffs. The most favorable way to get into the playoffs is to win one’s division as it results in the first playoff game being at home for that team.
So what do you call the team with the worst record among the four conference division winners? A playoff host….

THE POSSIBILITES

Tampa Bay Buccaneers - The Bucs are two games out of first place. However, they don’t do anything particularly well and are surrounded by inexperienced players with potential and veteran journeymen. As much as this division continues to go up for grabs every week, the Buccaneers have almost no chance of winning the South with the Cincinnati Bengals, Detroit Lions, and Green Bay Packers on their schedule.

Carolina Panthers – This team has found new and creative ways to shoot itself in the foot. Poised to run away with this mediocre division earlier this year, the Panthers went on a six game winless streak. Their last win came on October 5th. It’s unclear where this team’s next win will come from.

Quarterback Cam Newton has not been healthy this season and compounding that problem, he’s getting inadequate pass protection.  The defense is made up of talented individual parts that never seem to be in sync enough to help deliver a win. However, three of its remaining games are against division opponents. I think the odds of them winning two or more of those games are about 50/50. That may be all it takes for the defending NFC South champions to retain their crown.

Atlanta Falcons – By virtue of winning the tiebreaker from their Week 1 win over the Saints, if the season ended today, the 4-7 Falcons would be the NFC South winners. This team has lost some very close games in some very unusual manners and could easily have a winning record if a few balls had bounced differently for them. The offense under quarterback Matt Ryan can keep up in a shootout with the best NFL offenses. Their defense can’t stop a runny nose.

Notwithstanding that, the Falcons finish the season with two division games – at the Saints and hosting the Panthers. It is not inconceivable that the Falcons could still control their own playoff destiny at 4-10 heading into Week 16.

New Orleans Saints – This team is the favorite to win the division. I use the term “favorite” very loosely. However, the Saints do have some tangible advantages over the comically mediocre field. The Saints travel to Pittsburgh next Sunday to play the Steelers. That is the last regular season game the Saints have against a team that currently have a losing record. The Saints are 3-1 against losers this season.

In addition, the other teams in the division either have no exceptional facets of their game or are one dimensional. The Saints offense is spectacular and the defense, while mediocre, is good enough for the offense to have a chance to win every week. Of the Saints’ seven losses, five were by a touchdown or  less, four were on field goals either in the final seconds or as time expired, and two of those were in overtime. Yes, I’m a Saints fan. Yes, I’m biased. But I would still put my money on this team winning this pitiful division.

IRONY

Should New Orleans win the division as a losing team, Saints fans will have a chance to witness delicious irony. In 2010, the then-defending Super Bowl champion Saints finished 11-5, but were two games out of first place in the NFC South and entered the playoffs as a Wild Card. The Seattle Seahawks won the NFC West with a 7-9 record, meaning the Seahawks would host their Wild Card opponent, the Saints.
In a game in which defense was thrown out of the window, the teams engaged in a shootout. Seattle put the game out of reach with one of the most spectacular plays in NFL postseason history. Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch went “Beast Mode” on a 67-yard touchdown run during which nine Saints players made contact with Lynch but none brought him down. The play included six broken tackles and a stiff armed Saints defender as the Seahawks eliminated the defending champs, 41-36.

Fast forward to 2014. The defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks will likely need to enter the playoffs as a Wild Card team, two games out of first place with only five games remaining. Should they have the better record of the two Wild Card teams, they would have to travel to play to play the NFC South winner, possibly the Saints who would likely not have a winning record, yet have not lost an NFC game at home during regulation play in four years. Revenge, in any form, can be sweet.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Retweet of the Day - November 20, 2014

Reigning Heisman Trophy winner and defending national champion Florida State University quarterback Jameis Winston is a lightning rod. He is also talented without limit on the gridiron. The FSU signal caller pulled the Seminoles through in the 4th quarter to a come from behind 30-26 win at their in-state ACC rival, the University of Miami.

The dramatic win extended the Seminoles' winning streak to 26 consecutive games. Florida State secured the ACC Atlantic Division title last Saturday while the loss put Miami's chances of an ACC Coastal Division championship on life support. Jameis Winston has never lost a game as a starting quarterback in college football.


BLAME JAMEIS

Of course, nobody walks on water and football fans outside of Tallahassee and not connected to FSU would just as soon dunk Winston in a tank of water. Winston, talent notwithstanding, is a knucklehead. The rap sheet is well known: accused of sexual assault (though no charges were ever filed), involved in an air gun fighting incident, shoplifted soda from a Burger King restaurant, shoplifted crab legs from a grocery store, and was videoed standing on a table in the Florida State student union shouting a vulgarity.

His off-field antics have drawn backlash from his fans and supporters at Florida State. The "#BlameJameis" Twitter phenomenon arose from all the repeated extensive media coverage of Winston's antics, most of which (save for the sexual assault accusation - which never warranted any charges) are typical of post-adolescent collegiate foolishness, albeit with increasingly unsettling frequency. In the #BlameJameis paradigm, anything wrong in the world is Winston's fault.

Today's retweet, by Cee Bee (@CoryBarry_) is sweet and simple and could be on the Mount Rushmore of #BlameJameis inspired tweets.

"Jameis Winston was responsible for 9/11"

I just KNEW Lee Harvey Oswald was just a patsy!
Image from barstoolsports.com 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

By the Book: Showtime

I graduated from high school more than 20 years ago. Still, as sports fans, we can all enrich our fanhoods with a good book about one of our favorite sports subjects. There are few topics in sports history more fascinating or important to the development of a major North American sports than the Showtime era Los Angeles Lakers of the 1980s. Author Jeff Pearlman (once again) captivates the interest of sports fans with his tell-all book, "Showtime".
1
WHAT YOU ALREADY KNEW

Magic Johnson was the centerpiece of the Showtime era in Lakers basketball. From how the Lakers acquired the pick to draft him to how he was convinced to leave Michigan State University a year early to enter the NBA to the backdrop of Magic's rivalry with Larry Bird in college and the pros, Peralman explores all things Magic.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is one of the greatest players in NBA history, a vocal minority would argue the greatest. Kareem was also private and somewhat aloof. Many reports, after his carer was over, from those who covered him describe him as not necessarily the most likable person (or coworker) in the sporting lexicon. Pearlman goes into extensive detail on the background and behind-the-scenes persona of the enigmatic yet transcendent talent.

Former Lakers Coach Pat Riley was the captain of the Showtime ship. The GQ posterboy guided the Showtime dynasty to four NBA titles ad launched what is certain to be a Hall of Fame coaching career. "Showtime" discusses Riley's metamorphosis throughout the 1980's from a former player turned-announcer turned-assistant turned-head coach. Riley's rise and fall with the Lakers organization is a classic story of man's determination and shortcomings.

Dr. Jerry Buss is the Father of the Los Angeles Lakers as we know them today. What became showtime was Buss' vision. Pearlman extensively reveals how Buss made his unlikely Showtime dream into a reality.

This should surprise no one. 2
WHAT YOU DIDN'T KNOW

What even the most ardent Showtime Lakers fans don't know about this team could fill a book. That is what Jeff Pearlman did. His text is filled to the brim with stories, scandals, anecdotes, and secrets that only an author like Pearlman can deliver to the masses. The Showtime Lakers were like rock stars. The phrase "sex, drugs, and rock & roll" is a cliche for a reason. "Showtime" reveals why the 1980's Lakers were no exceptions.

There is a new, original, and often unbelievable tale of frat house mischief in every chapter. Cocaine is a "helluva" drug and the Lakers were not immune to its wonders - good, bad, and otherwise. There is sex, nightlife, sex, glamour, sex, fame, sex, and in case I forgot to mention it, more sex. Sex always sells, but it is also critical to the complete story of the Showtime Lakers. That roughly a quarter-century has passed since the end of the Showtime dynasty did little to silence the first-hand witnesses to the excitement and debauchery that was the backdrop of the Lakers' story.

There's more where this came from. 3
NO STONE UNTURNED

This book isn't just about the stars and the sensational. In addition to Magic, Kareem, and Riley, Pearlman writes about Buss, Jerry West, James Worthy, Michael Cooper, Kurt Rambis, Bob McAdoo, Norm Nixon, trainers, P.R. people, draft busts, the former owner - Jack Kent Cooke, the X's and O's architect of Showtime (no, not Pat Riley) and many others with fascinating stories about all of them. Simply put: if you are familiar with Pearlman's work, you know what to expect and your expectations should be high. If you have never read any of his gems like the biography of the late Walter Payton and the story of the 1986 World Series champion New York Mets, you will not be disappointed with "Showtime".
  
4
Don't forget to vote in the fan polls!

To advertise with The Daily Hat Trick, or to submit a guest column, please contact the editor at eric@thedailyhattrick.info

1) Image from www.jeffpearlman.com
2) Image from www.complex.com
3) Image from www.tauntr.com
4) Image from http://losangeles.cbslocal.com

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

What a Roll!

The University of Alabama football team put itself back into the driver's seat for a spot in the 2014 College Football Playoff with a hard fought 25-20 home win against SEC West Division rival and former #1 ranked Mississippi State on Saturday. Fans are cheering in Tuscaloosa again. That's why the Alabama cheerleaders and dance team are the subject of today's Chick Pic.

Good. They aren't neglecting their studies. 1

Their so hot that their male counterparts want pictures. 2

3

The choreography could use some work. But I doubt you fellas care. 4

I don't think she is on either of the squads. In fact, I'm not sure that she's ever been inside of a classroom at Bama. But you're looking, aren't you? 5

Stretching is important to reduce injuries. 6
What a great bunch of team players! 7
1, 3) Images from www.saturdaydownsouth.com 
5) Image from www.ign.com
6) Image from www.sportsbank.net
7) Image from www.barstoolsports.com

Monday, November 17, 2014

Rose Colored Lenses

Former NBA MVP and Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose kicked the sports-talk ant hill last week when he commented that he was sitting out of games to avoid long term health problems. Rose, who has suffered two serious knee injuries, one in each knee, since the first game of the 2012 playoffs. Rose missed nearly all of the past two seasons due to the injuries.

Last week, Rose said regarding sitting out games, "I think a lot of people don't understand that when I sit out it's not because of this year. I'm thinking about long term. I'm thinking about after I'm done with basketball. ... I’m thinking about long term. I’m thinking about after I’m done with basketball. Having graduations to go to, having meetings to go to, I don’t want to be in my meetings all sore or be at my son’s graduation all sore just because of something I did in the past. [I'm] just learning and being smart."

I don't understand why he didn't finish the game. What a sissy! 1
WHAT WAS SAID AND WHAT WAS MEANT

Rose was immediately, vigorously, and almost unanimously criticized for his remarks by sports media and former NBA players, most notably outspoken Basketball Hall of Famer Charles Barkley. The narrative generally was along the following line: Rose is paid roughly $20 million per year to play a game. He sounds like an out-of-touch whiner when people with less desirable and more physically strenuous and/or dangerous, occupations that often offer more value to society's basic existence and progression as a whole earn far less, some living paycheck-to-paycheck. For those reasons, he should never publicly complain about his physical concerns for his body.

Athlete envy grates my nerves to no end. Everyone is dealt a different set of cards and everyone has to manage his or her own life based on the circumstances and opportunities in his or her life. For anyone raising his blood pressure beyond a normal level from annoyance by an off-putting comment, my (likely unpopular) response is: tough shit.

There are cops who go to work on crutches. He can't at least shoot some free throws. If that happened at MY job (insert stupid, self-righteous blathering from a fat slob with no ambition and half of Rose's work ethic)! 2
GET A LIFE; ROSE HAS ONE

The "controversy" brought on by the Rose comments has taken a life of its own. I could understand some rumblings by Chicago area fans whose patience as fans may be thinning from the former MVP's absence holding the Bulls back from possibly winning a championship. The nationwide "outrage" is ridiculous to me.

At worst, Rose is guilty of being a little tone deaf, especially after doubling down on his remarks later in the week. Rose is not a public relations or communications professional. He's a basketball player. He isn't paid to deliver well crafted, fan friendly statements on the fly when asked about his body and his career. The bottom line is that he suffered two significant, potentially debilitating injuries that robbed him of two years of his career and he is going to be careful. Whether he used terminology about being "sore" while envisioning and attempting to quickly articulate future situations in his life in which he could be in pain from aggravating his injuries or simply said, "I'm concerned about long-term consequences from short-term overexertion," is irrelevant.

Former pro athletes know that their bodies are their money makers and should consider backing off a bit. People in the media are fanning the flames to have a discussion topic and should demonstrate a greater depth of their ability to engage their audiences with their opining skills. Members of the public venting outrage through sports-talk radio and the Internet need to look at themselves in the mirror. If your job shoveling horse crap doesn't give you the options that Rose has from playing basketball, learn to play basketball and an elite, world class level or worry more about bettering your own lot in life You come across as pathetic.

I'm in complete agreement with Joakim Noah (comments in this clip). 3

Don't forget to vote in the fan polls!

To advertise with The Daily Hat Trick, or to submit a guest column, please contact the editor at eric@thedailyhattrick.info


1) Image from www.tonyandtawni.com
2) Imahe from nydailynews.com
3) Video from www.youtube.com