Category Archives: Television

Leaving a Legacy: Why the 2015 Finals are a Defining Moment

SportsUnbiased.com
SportsUnbiased.com

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.

USATSI
USATSI

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?

NESN
NESN

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.

AP Photo/Jeff Chiu
AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

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.

NBA
NBA

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.

Sports Illustrated
Sports Illustrated

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?


Alex Moore is a Contributor at The Scoop.

 

Advertisements

Boxing, The Force, and a 7-Year-Old’s Awakening

HBO
HBO

MayweatherPacquiao 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.

Flickr: Growing Up Star Wars
Flickr: Growing Up Star Wars

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.

EyeontheRing.com
EyeontheRing.com

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.

Legends-Legacies.com
Legends-Legacies.com

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.

BoxRec.com
BoxRec.com

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.

A Re-Emergence

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.

KTLA
KTLA

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.


Kevin Donnan is a Contributor at The Scoop.

 

Professional Wrestling is (a) REAL (Money Maker)

imagesSince 1980, professional wrestling has been a staple in the American vernacular with the creation of the WWF, or the World Wrestling Federation. Prior to that, there were regional wrestling companies like NWA (National Wrestling Alliance); they were all over the country. There was the WCCW (World Class Championship Wrestling) based out of Dallas, featuring the famous wrestling family the Von Erich’s, and the most famous of all regionals, WCW (World Championship Wrestling), which was based out of Atlanta, Georgia, that was financed by TBS mogul, Ted Turner. In the future, wrestling would be shaped by the “Monday Night Wars” between WCW and the WWF. This created a new genre of wrestling, the so called “Attitude Era,” where sex, innuendo, and excess were touted. The same old story was told in both companies.

Ok, so you want to know the ONE, big question?

WHY DO MEN OBSESSIVELY WATCH PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING?

I mean, everyone knows, it’s fake, scripted, choreographed, and that it is NOT REAL. So why watch it? Women have their “reality shows”, so why can’t men?

wwe_default
WWE

Each week, men love to watch that soap opera known among the brethren as Monday Night Raw. The classic case of “good vs. evil,” or that truth and honesty overcome all the odds. With names like John Cena, Daniel Bryan, and newcomer Roman Reigns, the WWE has several men to carry that torch. They are called “baby faces,” or good guys. Generally, the crowd cheers for the good guys and boo the “bad guys.”

The “heels,” or bad guys, are plentiful in the WWESeth Rollins, Big Show, Kane, Rusev, Triple H and Stephanie McMahon are the top “heels” in WWE. Seth Rollins is a hated man among the WWE Universe; he is the poster boy for bad guy. He “wins” matches by cheating, or by having his henchmen cheat for him by causing distractions and/or interfering. Of course the referee, ever oblivious, always misses the cheating. The “face” would never stoop down to cheating to win, so he plays by the rules, while the “heel” defies every rule in the book.

The way a match is “booked” determines who will win that particular match. Usually, the “heels” win during regular “free tv” events, and the “faces” win during PPV events. This is booked so that the viewer will want to see the “heel” get his/her comeuppance. Pay Per Views were, and still are, very expensive to purchase; most are around $40-60 depending on the event. What the WWE has done is genius. They have created the WWE Network for your mobile device. For only $9.99, the consumer can see any wrestling programming from WWE/WCE/WWF for that same flat rate. The clincher is, that ALL PPVs are included in this flat rate. So, whether you watch Hell In A Cell, or the Grandaddy of ’em all, Wrestlemania, it costs you nothing. If you were to purchase each PPV individually, and you bought 5 different PPVs, you would spend around $300. By purchasing the WWE Network for your mobile device, you will be out $120 for the entire YEAR’S worth of programming, AND all the PPVs.

As of Monday night, 3-9-15, the WWE App has been downloaded nearly 16 million times. 16 MILLION. If just half of those people purchase the WWE Network, that’s $79,920,000 in Vince McMahon’s large pockets.

Merchandise sales are another way to generate monies. In every sold out arena across the USA, you will see John Cena, Daniel Bryan, Sting, Roman Reigns and other stars’ t-shirts being worn. They are sold by the TON at WWE Live events.  If the average attendance at a live show is 15,000 people, at least half will want a t-shirt for themselves or for their kids in attendance. Most t-shirts fall in the $22-26 dollar range. So let’s try some math. If I sell 6,000 t-shirts, that’s $144,000 for ONE NIGHT’s work. I haven’t even started on the other items for sale: replica championship belts, caps, towels, commemorative cups, concessions…the WWE is a money-making machine.

Some of the more popular wrestler’s salaries are:

Wrestler Yearly Salary Bonus Contract
John Cena $2.75 Million 6.25% Merchandise Sales, Travel/Accommodations 10 years
Big Show  $1 Million Personal Tour Bus 10 years
Kane $905,000 First Class Travel/Accommodation 5 years
Randy Orton $1.6 Million Personal Travel Tour Bus 10 years
CM Punk $1.2 Million Personal Tour Bus & First Class Travel/Accommodations 7 year
Daniel Bryan  $620,470  3 years

The Divas’ salaries include:

Wrestler Yearly Salary Bonus Contract
Alicia Fox  $72,520 3 years
AJ Lee $104,300 3 years
Beth Phoenix $112,500 First Class Travel 3 years
Eve  $109,475 First Class Travel 5 years
Layla $86,450 3 years
Natalya  $74,410 3 years

Wrestling achieved its popularity in thanks to the Monday Night Wars between Ted Turner’s WCW and Vince McMahon’s WWF, as it was called back then.

Things were looking bleak for WWF in the mid-1990s. In 1996, Nitro began to draw better ratings than Raw based on the strength of the nWo storyline, an anarchist wrestling stable that wanted to take over WCW. Nitro continued to beat Raw for 84 consecutive weeks, forcing Vince McMahon to change the way he did business.

Thus, the “Attitude Era” was born. Filled with cursing, sex, innuendo and flat-out brutality, this is what finally turned the tide on WCW. WWF/E began beating WCW weekly, and attendance started slipping at some of the live events. Eventually, Ted Turner decided he did not want to invest any more money into a sinking ship.

Repetitive story lines, questionable booking issues, and corporate restrictions eventually led WCW to begin losing large amounts of money, leading to parent company AOL Time Warner selling the name copyright to the WWF for $2.5 million in 2001. Shortly after the purchase, Vince McMahon purchased the entire tape library for an additional $1.7 million, bringing the final tally of World Championship Wrestling‘s sale to $4.2 million.

And then there was one.

In 2002, a lawsuit initiated by the World Wildlife Fund over the trademark of WWF was settled in favor of the Wildlife Fund over the misuse of a previously agreed upon usage for the trademark. World Wrestling Federation was forced to rename/rebrand itself, and in May 2002, the company changed its business name to World Wrestling Entertainment Inc.

Their only “competition” at this date is TNA wrestling, which is small. In fact, small enough that the WWE does not even acknowledge their existence.

Why do men watch professional wrestling? Is it for the scantily clad Divas? Is it for the excitement? Or is it simply because it’s brainless entertainment? Watch it next Monday night for an hour before tuning into @TweetTheScoop Radio, and then tell me what you think.

It’s an athletic soap opera for men. How else can you explain how a 5’10”, 180lb. man can defeat a man who is 6’8”, 330lbs.? Very carefully.


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.

*Salary & compensation data via TSMPlug.com