This is a special contribution from The Scoop’s Founder, Jamie Kelly. Listen to her on The Scoop Radio every Monday & Wednesday night from 9-11pm CDT on KTSR-db, part of the Texas Sports Review Radio Network.
This week has been an emotional week for me. Today, my childhood hero and the best athlete I’ve ever seen finally takes his place among the greatest to ever wear the green and gold.
My story goes far beyond football. This is a story about a father and daughter brought immeasurably closer by the common bond of football, and watching a legend cement his place in history before our eyes.
In the 1980s, if your favorite team happened to be in another market, you had to go to some lengths to watch them on television every week. Especially if your favorite team was, shall we say, awful. My dad, being the techie geek that he was, went out and got us a home satellite dish. He mounted the large, cumbersome monstrosity on a wooden pallet, and positioned it carefully in the backyard between the sandbox and the swingset.
Sundays were part magic and part dumb luck. Dad would go out into the backyard, weather be damned, and lay under the dish, moving it ever-so-slightly in each direction, while I stood in front of the television and shouted every time the black and white fuzz showed glimmers of green and gold.
One Sunday in 1992, like many other Sundays, Dad & I were gathered around the TV watching Don Majkowski try to once again pull a rabbit out of his hat. The Packers were down 31-3 to the Bucs, and the MajikMan was sent to the bench for the entire second half. In came some wide-eyed kid named Favre. “Fa-ver? Fa-vrah? Fav-ray?” Hell, nobody knew how to pronounce his name. Nobody cared either. His first pass as a Packer was a completion to himself for a loss of 7 yards.
The following week, Majkowski went down, and the legend of Favre began. After four fumbles and a frenzied Lambeau crowd chanting for Ty Detmer, he led the Packers to a 24-23 win over the Cincinnati Bengals.
What followed was a lifetime of memories. From the scrambling to the ill-advised passes to the interceptions to the Super Bowl to the retirement(s), Favre took us on a journey that will never be forgotten.
The pinnacle took place on a cool and rainy day in November 2001. By a pure stroke of luck, Dad and I found ourselves waiting outside the ticket office at Lambeau Field for the players’ tickets to be released. Through a mutual friend from Baylor, I had been put in touch with Santana Dotson, who left us two tickets for a game against the Atlanta Falcons.
The nerves were building as game time approached, and our tickets still hadn’t materialized. Had we made the long trek from Texas for nothing? Would we end up listening to the sounds of Lambeau from the parking lot? Dad and I both tried to keep our cool, but we both knew that panic was starting to set in.
Finally, the players’ tickets were released, and we headed into the building that we had only seen on television, not knowing or caring where our seats were. We were truly just happy to be there. That first glimpse of the somewhat soggy tundra was breathtaking. We stood in one of the breezeways and took it all in, replaying memories of games gone by. Making our way through the sights, sounds, and smells of game day at Lambeau, we soon realized that we had the best seats in the house: second row, 50-yard line behind the Packers bench.
It didn’t even matter to us that the day ended with a loss. It was the adventure of a lifetime, our trip to Graceland, and the memories will never die. This love affair with the Green Bay Packers, which has been made so exciting by the presence of a kid from Mississippi, was made to last.
Here I sit today with my own little Packer Backer, sharing with her the stories of that gunslinger who stole our hearts. Yes he’s a flawed man. Yes he made mistakes. But who are we to judge the mistakes of others? His pure joy in playing a kid’s game is what made us love him, and that joy is what the world will remember.
Thanks for a lifetime of memories, 4.
Jamie Kelly is the Founder of The Scoop, and hosts The Scoop Radio every Monday & Wednesday night on KTSR-db, part of the Texas Sports Review Radio Network. Follow her on Twitter @JamieSportsTalk.
As you have heard by now, the NFL stepped in it AGAIN. This time they banned the first ever National Fantasy Football Convention, just weeks before its scheduled opening.
Tony Romo has been the public face of the event, the NFFC, for the past several months. However, in the proverbial eleventh hour, the NFL put the deep-6 on the convention on, get this, moral grounds. The League had concerns about the event being held at a Las Vegas casino, because, of course, gambling does not look good for pro sports (see Tim Donaghy, Pete Rose, and the 1919 Chicago Blacksox).
The NFFC would have provided a great opportunity for players and fans to meet, greet and mingle. Not that anyone would want to help GROW the NFL brand, or anything.
Tony Romo, who only recently joined Twitter, thanks in part to the investigative work of our Founder, Jamie Kelly, said in one of the few tweets from his account:
NFL has canceled our fantasy football convention this year in Vegas and that is disappointing. I'm sad for the fans and players.
Fantasy football is a $3 Billion industry that affects every facet of the NFL. It brings in more fans who love fantasy sports, and it increases viewership, which obviously helps the League.
The NFFC was to feature Cowboys Romo, Bryant, and Jason Witten, and many other NFL stars, including Jamaal Charles, Antonio Brown, DeMarco Murray, T.Y. Hilton, Emmanuel Sanders, Randall Cobb, Eddie Lacy, Julio Jones and DeMarcus Ware. It was to also feature around a dozen media personalities, including Michael Fabiano of the league-owned NFL Network and NFL.com. Fabiano‘s participation alone further proves that the NFL has known about this event for some time, and simply chose to wait until it was beyond the point of no return to pull the plug.
This three-day event was scheduled to be July 10-12 at the Venetian Resort Hotel in Las Vegas. The NFL confirmed via email a Fox Sports report about the league’s longstanding policy that, “Players and NFL personnel may not participate in promotional activities or other appearances in connection with events that are held at or sponsored by casinos.”
HUH? The NFL won’t allow that, but they allow NFL owners to own stock in racetracks in New Jersey, Baltimore and Florida.
The NFL‘s indignation about gambling is a glorious, joke. It is estimated, conservatively, that anywhere from $70-100 BILLION is wagered on NFL games each year, and only a small part of that is done legally. I’m sure that many of you have participated in office pools, bought squares for a big football game, or even bet someone a Coke on a game. Obviously gambling boosts attendance and TV revenue. When you have money invested in something, you’re typically going to watch.
I’ll give you an easy example of how the NFL‘s actions are counter to what they say about gambling. The League requires each team to state before games (usually on Thursday) which players may have to sit out due to injury, and which players are questionable. Why? The information benefits gamblers. Does the League care that newspapers run the points spread? Of course not.
Just when you think it can’t get any worse… No, on second thought, I think we all agree that it can, and will, get worse. There are, in fact, several documented cases of the NFL getting in bed with either organized crime or big time gamblers.
1. The Chicago Bears
In the early 1920s, George Halas turned to a man who was a noted bootlegger, gambler, racetrack owner and known associate of Chicago’s Al “Scarface” Capone‘s mob to finance the Bears. His name was Charles Bidwell. Yes, THAT, Bidwell. Later on, Bidwell bought the Chicago Cardinals. Guess whose family owns the Arizona Cardinals? Yep. The Bidwell family.
2. The Cleveland Browns
The Cleveland Browns were owned by crime syndicate bookmaker Arthur “Mickey” McBride, the head of the Continental Racing Wire, the mob’s gambling news service. The U.S. Senate’s Kefauver Committee called that news service “Public Enemy Number One.” In 1961, the team was sold to Art Modell, who among many things, was a partner in a horse racing stable with Morris “Mushy” Wexler, whom the Kefauver Committee named one of the “leading hoodlums” in McBride’s wire service. In 1969, Modell was married in Las Vegas at the home of William “Billy” Weinberger, who just happened to be the president of Caesar’s Palace, whose hidden owners included: Tony “The Big Tuna” Accardo, Sam “Momo” Giancana, and Vincent “Jimmy Blue Eyes” Alo. When he finally died in 1996, The Las Vegas Sun called Weinberger the “dean of casino gambling.”
3. The San Francisco 49ers
The Youngstown DeBartolo family, long involved in casinos and racetracks, owns the Niners. In the late 1990s Edward DeBartolo Jr., then the head of the 49ers, paid the Louisiana Governor $400,000 to get a riverboat casino license. The Governor went to jail for that crime, and DeBartolo got a slap on the wrist. He did have to leave the 49ers, but his family still runs the team while DeBartolo Jr. runs the company that is based back in Youngstown.
Now, here’s an oldie but a goodie. In 1969, a hypocrisy of all hypocrisies happens in the Big Apple. New York Jets quarterback, Joe Namath invested in a Manhattan bar. The National Football League told him to sell his shares because the joint had ties to big time gamblers and unsavory individuals.
The league said NOTHING about Modell‘s ties or the unsavory ties of numerous other team owners. The late Carroll Rosenbloom, a high roller with major interest in a mob-run casino, owned the Baltimore Colts AND the Los Angeles Rams at different times.
I personally think that the NFL got its feelings hurt because this National Fantasy Football Convention did not include them, nor were they going to see a red cent of monies from it either.
And, lastly, the NFL showed it’s immaturity when the NFL tweeted this to Tony Romo:
Was the league trying to be funny, or were they trolling Tony Romo? In either case, the league looks bad, and guess who’s the head of the NFL? Good ol’ Roger Goodell.
America! You can gamble on our games, but please don’t ask our players to have a meet, greet, and mingle with you at a resort because well, we have our integrity to protect.
Ronnie Garcia is the Voice of Reason at The Scoop. He is also an avid guitarist, educator, and all around smarmy guy. Ronnie co-hosts The Fanatics on Monday nights from 7-9pm on KTSR-db. You can follow him on twitter @TheRonMann.
The annual skirmish for the Larry O’Brien Trophy is here. Mister O’Brien was not only the NBA Commissioner for roughly a decade, but also a former Postmaster General, just ahead of future President, Lyndon Johnson, in the 1960s. For those of you keeping track, the trophy was first given this name for the 1984 NBA Finals: a classic duel between the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers. That series further solidified the reign of one team over another for yet another season, as the fans poured out onto a familiar hardwood court, filled with a rather familiar cloud of cigar smoke.
Believe it or not, a mere eight franchises out of a possible 30 have taken home this trophy during these 30 some-odd years. For the first time since 2006, we will see a brand new team added to that illustrious list, regardless of who happens to win. As for myself, at the end of it all, I really just want the same thing that most professional basketball fans want: a competitive, 7-game series, complete with controversial whistle-blowing and as many down-to-the-wire finishes as humanly possible.
By the way, the number of Game 7s for the NBA Finals SINCE that magical 1984 season is staggeringly low. There have been six occurrences: three on the back end of the 20th century, and three more, here, in THIS century. That’s an average of about once every five seasons. However, there is a good chance that we will see a six-game series, as this is a much more common result. Some would say that the NBA has little to no parity when it comes to competition. I would hesitate to disagree with that claim, except when it comes to the NBA Finals. You see, in order for there to be a Game 6, both teams have to have lost at least twice. Does anyone complain when a baseball game is tied in the 8th inning, but is decided before the bottom half of the 9th has begun? Do football fans want EVERY single game to go into overtime? The point is, Game 7s should NOT be an every-year trend in the NBA. If it happens too little, there might be no one interested enough to see it happen, but if it happens too often, the effects of diminishing returns might make the exciting moments a lot less exciting.
The focus of the 2015 NBA Finals, no doubt, is on the current MVP Stephen Curry and the game’s current, most dominant player, LeBron James. Is anyone else reminded of when Magic Johnson led the Lakers to the Finals in 1988? He was from Michigan, returning to Michigan, to try and defeat the Detroit Pistons. Stephen Curry, from Ohio, will return to Ohio to attempt to defeat the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Let us not forget about LeBron‘s deep roots from the area, too. How quickly things have shifted just in the past five years: the betrayal of his hometown team, the “underachieving” four consecutive Finals appearances in South Florida, the current chance at redemption for a city that hasn’t won a championship in ANY of the four major sports since the pre-Super Bowl era of the NFL. Does anyone else remember the last time a player participated in five straight NBA Finals?
Well, the two previous players to do so, overlapped each other to appear in 10 straight NBA Finals, during arguably the best era of the league. Yes, this would be Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. Obviously, it is a very narrow list for LeBron James to be a part of, AND Michael Jordan is not ON the list with him, THIS time.
If there is any discussion about which city/area is hungrier for this championship, let me try and set the record straight: it is not even close! The Bay Area might have been a hungry sports town before the 1970s arrived, but since then, they have won eight Super Bowls, seven World Series Titles, and one NBA Championship. Yes, that is correct. The Golden State Warriors have won an NBA Championship.
It was in the year of 1975, led by Hall of Fame great Rick Barry. They were, in fact, a long shot to win it that year, but they overcame the odds, particularly in the post-season. For a more modern comparison, try and remember the story of the 1994-’95 Houston Rockets. It is eerily similar. As for this season, on paper, the Warriors have to be the favorites, but there is something strange going on over there in Cleveland. No matter how bleak things have looked for the Cavs, LeBron and company have managed to will their way all the way back to the Finals.
The Michael Jordan/LeBron James comparisons do not always add up: Jordan was a skinny Shooting Guard, while LeBron is a massive Guard-Forward hybrid. One guy played out three full seasons in college, while the other jumped into the league right out of high school. The dissimilarities, for me, are in much greater numbers than the actual similarities. However, if there is one similarity, it is definitely on the line right now. It is the legacy of domination. No, LeBron cannot be 6-0 in the Finals, but he CAN be 3-3. Jordan was the most dominant player for his time, AND he backed it up with both personal and team accolades.
When watching LeBron James in this series, think back to Michael Jordan in 1993, versus the Phoenix Suns, and 1998, versus the Utah Jazz. Those were the only two occasions in which Jordan‘s Bulls were the visiting team going in. Furthermore, 1993 was one of only two occurrences in which Jordan was facing the current MVP on the other side of the court. The other occurrence was in 1997, against the same team as in 1998. What did Jordan do in 1993? What did he do in 1997 and 1998? The answer is the exact same for ALL three of those sample questions, and THIS is why Lebron‘s legacy matters in 2015!
As for Stephen Curry, well, he need only think about what happened to those virtually unblemished MVPs inside of those aforementioned examples: Charles Barkley and Karl Malone.
The only thing either of them failed to accomplish was winning a championship, and they both failed versus the same dominant player. Curry is still young, but allow me to ask this quick question about the NFL great, Dan Marino: how many times did he go back to the Super Bowl after he reached that stage in only his second season as a pro?
No doubt, if you are a sports fan, you’ve noticed a couple of things. First, there is a vast disparity between the major sports in terms of color within that sport. Secondly, in some sports, there is virtually no diversity.
According to a report by Henry Johnson of the Harvard Sports Analysis Collective, for example, there are issues with diversity in basketball. The NBA, WNBA, and NFL are predominantly African-American, while MLB and MLS are predominantly Anglo.
In a story written by Paul Hagen for MLB.com, fewer African-Americans are playing in Major League Baseball today than two decades ago; the percentage was 8.5 percent on this season’s Opening Day rosters. Some have estimated that number to be around 27% in the 1970s, but exhaustive research by Mark Armour, a member of the Society for American Baseball Research, shows that the actual number never exceeded 19 percent.
So, what is Major League Baseball doing about this? Commissioner Bud Selig announced in April the formation of a task force to tackle the issue of on-field diversity.
“To be fair, the numbers have dropped. I believe the numbers have dropped from 18-19 percent, which is what they were for about two decades. From the 1970s through the ’90s, the numbers were in the high teens. Now they’re half that,” said Armour, who writes software for the Environmental Protection Agency. “What I determined, and I analyzed data from 1947, when Jackie Robinson made his debut up to 1986, is that the number never got to 20 percent. The black-player number, counting all dark-skinned players, was in the high 20s for a period. But not the African-American number. All the press stuff that comes out every April compares the African-American numbers from today with the all-black-players number from the ’70s. And that’s where they make their mistake.”
Even with all his data, Armour can’t fully explain why fewer African-Americans are playing big league baseball beyond the fact that there are so many players of other ethnicities, primarily Latin American and Asian, now in the game.
Let me hazard a guess: MONEY.
First off, where is the allure for baseball? While it may be “America’s Pastime,” the money can be made elsewhere. The NBA has shoe endorsements and multi-million dollar contracts. In my job as an educator, I come in contact with many athletes. 98% tell me that they are going to play basketball in the NBA or play football in the NFL. The NFL has popularity and name recognition. If you play in the NFL, chances are good that you are well known, at least in your region. Same is said for basketball.
The NFL and NBA have a sexiness to them. Major League Baseball has a workman ethic. Not sexy, but more of a grind. While the NFL has a 16-game season, and the NBA has a 82-game season, Major League Baseball has a whopping 162 games. With football being played once a week, it captures more attention. An NBA team may play 2-3 games in a week’s time, but baseball plays almost every day. Perhaps it’s a case of oversaturation?
The NFL is at an all-time high in popularity and the NBA is very visible with stars like LeBron James, Stephen Curry, and James Harden. The NFL has superstars like Cam Newton, Russell Wilson, and Tom Brady, among others. Major League Baseball has stars like Giancarlo Stanton, Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera, Adrian Beltre, and others. Notice a trend? The majority of superstar athletes that play in the NBA and NFL are African-American; the majority of superstars in MLB are Anglo or Hispanic.
Why? Again, I go back to the money issue. Who remembers the Peyton Manning commercials where he chants, “Cut that meat!”?
Who remembers the McDonald’s commercial where Larry Bird and Magic Johnson play HORSE for a meal?
Remember that baseball commercial where…uh…where…ah…well…you get my point. Major League Baseball doesn’t have that appeal to fans, although you will always have diehard fans who keep scorebooks at games. When’s the last time you went to a football game and kept a book for penalties called? When’s the last time you saw someone keeping a book at a basketball game?
Check out these numbers provided by the NCAA.
In these statistics from the NCAA, you can clearly see that NOT MANY athletes make the cut. Many boys and girls grow up dreaming of playing sports in college and the pro ranks. But of the nearly eight million students currently participating in high school athletics in the United States, only 460,000 of them will compete at NCAA schools. And of that group, only a fraction will realize their goal of becoming a professional athlete.
The sad part is, while some athletes are good enough to play in college, their grades will not get them into college. That frequently forces them go to Junior College where some, if not all, never make it out.
Baseball is the only sport now that allows players from high school to go straight to the pro’s. Noah Syndergaard, a pitcher from Mansfield Legacy High School in Texas, went from high school to the New York Mets farm club. He is currently on the major league roster.
The NBA has enforced the “one and done” rule, requesting high school basketball prospects to wait at least one year before declaring for the draft. Contrary to popular belief, the NBA does not require athletes to attend one year of college, but they must wait an entire year or be at least 19 years old to declare for the draft.
The NFL will not draft a player from HS. They prefer the player have at least 2 years in college. More underclassmen are declaring for the draft, and more and more are going UNDRAFTED.
Sexy vs. the Grind. Which would you choose?
Which brings me back to my first question: Where have you gone, Willie Mays?
Ronnie Garcia is the Voice of Reason at The Scoop. He is also an avid guitarist, educator, and all around smarmy guy. You can follow him on twitter @TheRonMann.
“I’m not a hero. I’m not the savior. Forget what you know. I’m just a man whose circumstances went beyond his control, beyond my control. We all need control. I need control. We all need control.” — Dennis DeYoung
I am not an addict, although sweet tea comes really close for me. I will not pretend to be an expert on addiction. I know enough to know that addiction is hell.
However, I do live with an addict in my sports life. His name is Josh Hamilton. He left me for a couple of years, thinking there was more out there for him than me. Now, suddenly Josh is walking back into my life.
And as a Texas Rangers fan…I am conflicted.
In the fall of 2007, the Texas Rangers had A-Rod money to spend after Alex opted out of his Rangers deal and inked a new deal with New York. With a full wallet, they searched for a big-time centerfielder through free agency or trade. Rumors swirled around Torii Hunter, Jim Edmonds, Rocco Baldelli, Aaron Rowand, Coco Crisp, and Juan Pierre. (Yes, THAT Aaron Rowand.)
Just before Christmas, they found their new centerfielder when they traded prized pitching prospect Edinson Volquez to Cincinnati for Josh Hamilton. Hamilton finally made it to the big leagues in 2007 with the Reds, after years where great promise succumbed to near-fatal addictions. While sabermetricians predicted good things for Hamilton hitting in The Ballpark in Arlington, Ranger fans boned up on his backstory and hoped for the best.
And wow, did we ever get the best.
I had a late business meeting in downtown Dallas the night of the 2008 Home Run Derby. I’ll never know how I drove home safely that night, because tears rolled down my face the whole way as I listened to Hamilton’s performance on the radio. As ball after ball landed in the farthest reaches of Ruth’s House, and Yankees fans cheered, I could not help feeling joy for Josh realizing his God-given potential on a national stage. Swear to God, we could have gotten anything the Yankees had if we had offered them Josh Hamilton the next morning.
The Rangers still were not very good yet, but Josh had a great year. He settled into the area, shared his Christian witness with church youth groups, and quickly became a fan favorite. He hit baseballs a helluva long way and he threw his body all over center field with abandon. He provided electric moments and incredible memories for five seasons at Rangers Ballpark.
Occasionally, I listen to Eric Nadel’s call of the walkoff home run Josh hit on July 9, 2011. That was two nights after fan Shannon Stone tragically fell to his death while reaching for a ball Josh tossed to him and his son. That homer, that healing moment in time, still gives me chills listening to it today. The video below is from the television broadcast. What a moment it was.
From 2008 – 2012, Josh Hamilton was a baseball beast.
Of course, when we got Baseball Beast Josh, we also got the other Josh. Snarky Josh with the media. Silly Josh at Maloney’s Tavern. Crazy Josh at Sherlock’s. Whining Josh who blamed his hitting slumps variously on energy drinks, quitting tobacco, personal sin, day games, and his own blue eyes.
THAT Josh. Recovering Addict Josh.
For five seasons, Josh Hamilton was the greatest player in Texas Rangers history. He also was our most fascinating character, a volatile mix of testosterone, ego, moodiness, self-doubt, and relapse potential. He played with a youthful abandon on the field, yet sometimes displayed juvenile behavior off the field.
Josh’s party in Texas ended in September 2012. A hitting slump became protracted. In the last game of the season, with the AL West division on the line, he dropped a crucial fly ball in Oakland. When he failed to produce at the plate in the Wild Card game, Rangers fans turned on him and booed lustily after each at-bat. The Rangers lost to Baltimore that night, and the free agent outfielder took his high-wire act to SoCal.
There, he sealed his fate with Texas fans when he famously declared that Dallas-Fort Worth is “not a baseball town.” He was right, of course, but it still was a cheap shot at Ranger Nation. Fans dissed him loudly whenever the Angels came to town.
Soon, Hamilton also lost Angels fans, as his hitting troubles continued and his body began to give out on him. Off the field, his marriage unraveled. When he admitted to MLB a still-mysterious relapse of his addictions last February, his Anaheim situation completely tanked. Owner Arte Moreno could not wait to dump his highly-paid player, believing the relapse was disloyal to his benevolent ownership and toward Hamilton’s teammates. Texas answered Moreno’s call.
That is how Josh Hamilton ended up on my doorstep, knocking sheepishly and wanting to come home.
Addiction knows no seasons. When you are on top of the world, feeling secure and invulnerable, the addiction feeds on that. When you are down in the dumps, feeling unloved and incapable, the addiction feeds on that, too. It’s why addiction is so insidious. It attacks you, no matter your mood, no matter your circumstance.
Living with a recovering addict is difficult. It is not a matter of IF they will break your heart again, but WHEN. All of your love and support and counsel cannot make the addiction just go away. You never take the good times for granted. You pray the bad times are not too bad.
Sometime in 2012, Josh Hamilton lost his mojo. Baseball came so easy for Josh from childhood on, but now he scuffles around, looking for that magic moment when it all clicks into place and he becomes a beast again. Hamilton lives for the cheers and chants—needs them, really—but those are far fewer and much farther apart now.
After the latest relapse, Arte Moreno wanted Hamilton to grow up, man up, and stop his self-destructive behavior. Moreno may not understand addiction. Josh is not stupid, immature, disloyal, or intentionally self-destructive. He is an addict. Every skill, every decision, every emotion, every relationship is at risk every minute of every day from the addiction. Addiction is not an excuse. It is a driving force.
Josh Hamilton will never be a Baseball Beast again. He did not find the formula in Anaheim. It appears he may have started remembering the formula during rehab stints in Round Rock and Frisco. Can he help this 2015 Rangers offense? Sure, but only because this offense is So. Freaking. Awful.
Baseball Beast Josh is gone forever. Recovering Addict Josh lives on. All of this begs the question, then, “Why will I let Josh Hamilton back into my sports life now?”
Simply put, Josh Hamilton touches my heart.
After all, this is not Alex Rodriguez or Barry Bonds, two cruddy personalities who screwed royally with the integrity of the game I love. He is not Josh Brent who killed a man, or Ray Rice who cold-cocked a woman. He is not Floyd Mayweather, thank God, a pathetic excuse for a man. Hamilton is not a stain on civil society or on the game of baseball.
Josh Hamilton is merely a fallen human, a kid in an adult’s aging body who just wants to play baseball like he thinks he still can. I root for him because I’m fallen, too. We all are. He wants to be better at life, and so do I. I want him to succeed, not just as a Texas Ranger, but much more importantly as a man. I want him to succeed for his kids and for the kids who wore his last name on their backs for years.
Mine are not the ramblings of a sentimental sap pining for days past. I know what I’m getting myself into as Josh returns to the Rangers. Hamilton will piss me off sometimes. He may get on a hot streak and thrill me for a week or two. I’m ready for both, if it means that the guy underneath the uniform gets a little more sober and a little more healed.
I listened to his April 27 press conference when both Joshes took questions from reporters. Baseball Beast Josh got testy over the pointed queries about his aborted time in Anaheim and what he can possibly give Texas on the field. Recovering Addict Josh talked openly and unashamed about his need for control, having people around him who love him and try to protect him from himself.
Cockiness mixed with concession. Good grief, it all felt so familiar.
When I met my wife, she knew nothing about baseball. I took her to her first major league game in 1994. Over the last 20 years of following the Rangers with me, she has loved only two players: Ivan Rodriguez and Josh Hamilton. She still has her Josh memorabilia, even though that dumb “baseball town” statement ticked her off. She roots for him, too, so much so that she got emotional as I read her this article.
I’ve seen Josh play a few times at the Ballpark since he joined the Angels. I never once booed him as thousands of others did. Josh Hamilton played a huge role in a magical era for Rangers fans, and for that he always will have this fan’s gratitude and ongoing support.
So if returning to Arlington helps you on your journey, Josh, then welcome home, brother. Have some iced Gold Peak with me. My door is open.
Even so, you will break my heart again. I know it. It’s just a matter of time.
Bobby Quinten is a Contributor at The Scoop. Follow him on Twitter at @BobbyQuinten.
What started out as a seemingly normal family outing to the ballpark to take in some Major League Baseball this past weekend turned out to be a great moment of reflection for me. Not only was it one year to the day since I sat in that very same stadium and, sadly, saw my team lose, but I was also reminded of a couple of former players who made an impact on me. This particular game between the Texas Rangers and Cleveland Indians would turn out to be quite memorable, and no, not just for the rather large hot dog bun, filled to the edges with chili and cheese and corn chips. (I believe the dog itself was buried underneath, somewhere.)
As the Cleveland Indians lined up to bat in the top half of the 1st inning, I soon directed my attention to a familiar face, outfielder David Murphy. While I would say he was a significant fan favorite to the Rangers faithful, there was nothing about his stats in the seven seasons he played here which really stood out. He was a consistently inconsistent hitter and fielder, with moderately unimpressive numbers overall, but stats alone are not what makes every professional athlete popular with the fans.
Think for an moment about your personal relationships. What are the aspects that make one stand out? We tend to forget the good times when one bad moment occurs, and visa-versa. Either way, the relationship made an impact on your life, and the reason(s) why do not always matter. For me, Murphy was oddly similar to a former Rangers favorite from a generation ago: Dean Palmer. Now, I realize that one is a lefty while the other was a righty. They do not play the same position on the field, either, but when I think about what made me like Palmer versus what makes me like Murphy, that’s where I draw the comparison, and what ultimately makes Murphy memorable, regardless of his overall production.
I can point to specific moments, for both of these men, when the game was on the line and everyone in the world watching was thinking, “Oh, no. I’m not sure he can get it done.” Neither Murphy nor Palmer is the type of player who gives you total confidence that you can depend on, but that quality is actually what made those moments of pressure so much greater. You see, when a great hitter steps up, you expect greatness, no matter what. When a poor hitter steps up to the plate, you don’t expect anything. However, when a spotty hitter, such as Palmer or Murphy walks up, you really don’t know what to expect, even when their history has shown you exactly what you should expect. These guys are relatable because we as human beings are known to be unpredictable. We often say we don’t like drama, yet that is most often what we are drawn to.
As I continued digesting my chili cheese monstrosity, I soon discovered another reason why Murphy reminded not just me, but at least one other fan, of why he is reminiscent of Palmer. It came late in the game, the top half of the 7th, to be precise. The score was close, and Murphy was the batter for Cleveland. A fan to my right shouted something to the effect of, “I miss you, Murphy!” Someone behind him asked if he was serious, and the former rescinded his statement, explaining it away as a joke, proceeding to say that Murphy couldn’t hit. Whether I was just caught up in the moment and felt the urge to go on the defense, I posited with the quip, “He’s clutch.”
Much like Palmer, who, also, was not a consistently good hitter, he often delivers the goods when it really counts. Could it be that this is the crux of why fans miss a guy like Murphy? I don’t know, but we all enjoy feeling we are in the right when someone nods along and echoes your sentiment just seconds after you have made a claim and are proven correct.
As for the rest of the game, the big inning for the visiting Tribe came in the top half of the 9th. The bottom of the order was on deck, and it seemed that the Rangers should have the game in the bag, but closer Neftali Feliz gave up a crucial walk to an unimpressive batter, and a throwing error on a near game-ending double play kept the Indians alive long enough to send red-hot second baseman Jason Kipnis to the plate, who launched a two-run blast beyond right field, granting Cleveland a 10-8 lead. Texas had come from behind several times throughout the game, but came up short when they needed it the most.
By the end of the night, I had enjoyed a competitive game of Major League Baseball, and taken myself on an unexpected trip down memory lane with David Murphy and Dean Palmer. My parents were quick to retreat back home, and I merrily made my way with a flashback to where I was exactly one year ago to the day: At a double-digit Rangers drubbing at the hands of the ChicagoWhite Sox. This May’s game was much more exciting, but in the end, a loss is still a loss. At least I have my memories… And the chili stains on my shirt.
Mayweather–Pacquiao proves boxing needs a fight and a fighter to get it off the ropes
I was positively giddy the week before the bell was set to ring; I plunked down $94 with the push of a button on my television remote for the fight that would launch boxing’s greatest comeback.
I mean, what could be better? Mayweather versus Pacquiao. The most anticipated fight in at least a generation, and the 12 rounds that would bring boxing up off its near 20-year canvas. Boxing has suffered from a lack of superstars, and UFC/MMA has surpassed the sweet science in the sports pecking order.
Twelve rounds and a plate of nachos later and I was clicking. Too bad it was a URL on YouTube that took me back to why I fell in love with the sport in the first place.
“The Force” and Sports
Like a lot of other seven-year-olds in 1977, I had two primary obsessions: sports and Star Wars.
While my sports knowledge was restricted to the daily newspaper, the school library and highlights on the nightly news, I ate, slept and thought about nothing beyond sports.
From the NHL to the NFL and CFL, to the NBA and Major League Baseball, I was a confirmed sports junkie at this precious age. And in my advancing age, I was all too willing to expand my reach beyond the ‘big four’ sports.
The only challenge to this obsession was, of course, Star Wars. Action figures, posters on my wall, clothing – if it was Star Wars, I wanted or obsessed about it, and I know I’m not alone.
Whether you were a kid curled up on the edge of your seat in a theatre in 1977, or watched it first on videotape, DVD or via download, I believe that there aren’t too many boys who when they see Star Wars for the first time, their life doesn’t change.
Thankfully on one chilly night in late September, I put down the X-Wing fighter long enough to take on another sport and another somewhat healthy obsession, and in essence, Star Wars helped open that, well, ‘universe.’
Laser Sound Effects, and Darth Vader meets “The Greatest”
It began with a short briefing from my brother the night of September 29. He was seven years older, and as babysitter he was my ‘defacto Darth Vader,’ which meant no amount of rebellion would recapture my entire 11-channel universe.
But somehow my brother had a different air about him. He’d always enjoyed being the ruler of my galaxy when Mom and Dad went out, but this was a night he was looking forward to.
Muhammad Ali versus Earnie Shavers. ‘The Greatest’ against ‘The Black Destroyer.’ Fifteen rounds for Ali’s heavyweight title from Madison Square Garden in New York City. Right there on that grainy, 24-inch screen in the corner of the living room, and on national television no less.
I know that by then I had a working knowledge of Ali in addition to my older brother’s spotty and altogether hyperbolic overview of his boxing career. The primary reason I knew him was simply because he was as much, if not more, mainstream than Lebron James or Tom Brady in 2015. Whether it was a highlight on the nightly news, a variety show or even ABC’s “Wide World of Sports,” Muhammad Ali continued as one of the most polarizing and engaging figures in sports during at that period.
I’m also sure I had options that night. It wasn’t like I was being forced to watch, rather, I was simply being brought up to speed on what would be on the television that evening. Minus the chokehold from The Dark Lord, who rather than wearing a cape, sported a Keep on Truckin’ t-shirt and bell-bottoms.
While somewhat dismissive and bored, I was ready to pass on this opportunity and return to the Millennium Falcon, and then, I heard it.
The opening trumpet blast of the music that was currently the soundtrack to my life. And there HE was. Fired up, talking, cocky, and led to the ring by the music and laser sound effects. Even though it was the stylized ‘disco’ version, I could handle it. I didn’t know much at seven, but I knew that disco sucked.
No ridiculous entrances with Justin Bieber, Jimmy Kimmel, or the Burger King, just a bunch of guys surrounding Ali who looked even more determined than the man himself.
While the theme from the movie was my personal “boxing tractor beam,” one epic round of trash-talk and a derisive rub of Shavers’ bald head by “The Champ” had me hooked, and 15 rounds later I found something else to obsess about.
I took in a full 45 minutes of ferocity and technical skill, where Ali scored enough to win, but was wobbled more than a few times. Shavers had a lethal right hand that had him considered as the hardest puncher in the 1970s, and in spite of that big right hand, he still couldn’t match Ali’s best weapon in the latter stage of his career: his chin. And like me, in revisiting this fight, Muhammad Ali‘s ability to withstand punishment is second to none.
After Shavers, Ali would only fight four more times; three of which were brutal losses, one worse than the next. But most experts will say, including Ali‘s doctor Ferdie Pacheco, who quit Ali‘s camp after this fight, that it was Shavers who truly accelerated one of the saddest declines in sports. That fact would be quickly realized in due time and punishing detail for me, but from that moment, I’ve traveled with boxing through its ups and downs.
Through Ali‘s decline, the astounding heights of the welterweight/middleweight divisions in the 80s and Tyson (of course), I maintained that passion. But without a polarizing, magnetic superstar, boxing and I, too, have been stuck for the past 20 years in a ‘black hole’ of non-appealing fights, and barely the occasional flash of hype from the likes of Mayweather, Pacquiao, De La Hoya, Hopkins, or Jones Jr.,and plenty of embarrassment: ear-biting, fan-man, etc.
In the past year or so, boxing has suddenly re-emerged. Interest has been heightened in cable fights on HBO and Showtime. The hype for Pacquiao-Mayweather started in 2014, and the new primetime package on NBC has been stellar, with the network signing a multi-year, multi-million dollar package that even has the network bringing out heavy hitters like Bob Costas, Al Michaels, Marv Albert and Laila Ali to host and broadcast.
For me, and for Madison Avenue, network and pay-per-view television, boxing was on an incredible upswing entering this fight. Pacquiao-Mayweather was going to strengthen the sport and pave the way for a new superstar (Canelo Alvarez? Deontay Wilder?), and maintain the positive momentum that would come from this match of the century.
And then the bell rang.
Boxing is still on the ropes. And for a fan who was hoping this fight could re-launch his passion for the sport, you can’t imagine the disappointment. In a sport that you wouldn’t think could embarrass itself any further, boxing flopped that night with a 36-minute display of hide and seek. Brilliant defense? Perhaps.
The last I checked, this was supposed to be a fight, and this was supposed to be the fight that brought everyone back to see what fans like me always believed that the sport could be if done properly, and maybe bring a new generation into what that seven-year-old kid saw with the Star Wars theme in his head.
Two men, staring each other down, throwing and taking punches to see who scores or who puts his opponent on the canvas. Simple as that. It’s competition in most raw and beautiful form, not the track-meet and dance contest we saw at the MGM.
May the Force Be With You(Tube)?
There is plenty of talk now about injuries, penalties for non-disclosure, lawsuits and rematches. But I’m going to pass on another Mayweather bout. If he truly is going to retire and tie Rocky Marciano, my remote will suddenly be lost in the cushions someplace.
For now, I’ll go back to my casual interest in the hope for a savior who isn’t on a movie screen, but is willing to stand in and fight. And every now and then I’ll find the mouse and take a look at a classic fight on YouTube.
No matter what else might be playing, that old familiar theme will be in my head, along with the incomprehensible irony that in the same year a fight was supposed to bring me right back into boxing, a new Star Wars movie is coming out later this year.
And if George Lucas doesn’t deliver? I’m calling Earnie Shavers.