Category Archives: Cleats (Sports)

Ironic rebuild could reshape the Crosstown Cup

With the Chicago Cubs clinging to a slim lead in the NL Central, and the Chicago White Sox bringing up the rear in the AL Central, one could say the crosstown rivals are heading in opposite directions. I, on the other hand, see them heading in the same direction.

I am not looking at this in the vacuum of the 2017 season, but more of a big picture. The Northsiders are loaded with young talent. They are coming off of their first World Series Championship in 108 years and barring any more injuries, they looked primed to make another deep October run. Many, including myself, saw this team as a team that will be playing for another World Series ring this season. After a subpar start, they are now playing the type of baseball to back up that notion.

As a prisoner of the moment, you could theoretically say the only thing these teams have in common is that they both play in Chicago. I, being a White Sox fan, choose to look a little deeper at these two teams. The Cubs lineup day to day is one of the strongest in MLB, but what the Sox are doing is following the same mold. Owning, arguably, the top farm system in the league right now the Sox look poised to make a similar run that the Cubs are currently on.

The Sox started the real rebuilding process by parting ways with sure-fire hall of famer Chris Sale in the offseason. What they received in return was a hand full of huge prospects, most notably Yoan Moncada (#1 MLB prospect), they also wrangled Michael Kopech (#11 RHP), twenty-one-year-old Luis Alexander Basabe (OF) and twenty-three-year-old right-hander Victor Diaz.

      

For a lot of teams that was a great start to the rebuilding of a franchise. The Sox, however, did not stop there. The Sox then traded another great left handed arm in Jose Quintana to the cross-town rival Cubs for more young talent. While they lost a great pitcher that has had terrible luck, they gained more top MLB prospects. The Sox in return, received Eloy Jimenez (#8 prospect), along with Right handed pitcher Dylan Cease (#62 prospect). Add them to an already young and talented White Sox roster (Tim Anderson #38 2015 prospect, Luis Robert #23 prospect, Luis Giolito #28, Blake Rutherford #29 and right handed pitcher Reynaldo Lopez) and there is a very bright future on 35th street.

Along with the many moves, the White Sox have made of late, we can’t forget that they still have all-star Jose Abreu (30) and a pair of 26-year-olds Avisail Garcia and Adam Engle on the roster. Unfortunately, life tells us that all of these prospects will not pan out to the max, but with the embarrassment of riches the Sox currently have, they have room for a few to not fully recognize their potential.

This is a time that the fans in Chicago should be extremely excited to see what happens in the next few years and how this natural rivalry could grow into something very special.

Stick to Sports

“Stick to sports!”

This is a saying that I have heard my entire life. This year, however, it seems to be more prevalent. I am not sure if it is the 24-hour news cycle, or the “controversial” protest by Colin Kaepernick, but I seem to hear that phrase about once a day. What troubles me about the phrase is that it seems very dismissive and it devalues athletes and their roles in our society.

This saying seems to be used when an athlete voice his or her opinion about something that is taking place in our country, and to a lesser extent the world.

ali-silenced

I started hearing this more often around the same time that San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick chose to take a knee during the national anthem during a third preseason game. The interesting is that he started the protest two weeks earlier during the 49ers opening preseason game (in which no one noticed.) Once the protest was recognized nation wide, the venom that I heard here in Charlotte was immediate and vast. As a consumer of sports talk radio, I heard it every day. The more I heard it the more I began thinking about the phrase deeper. I couldn’t just dismiss it as a throw away saying.

At an almost parallel time, we had one of the most vitriolic Presidential elections of all time. As the campaign season picked up steam it seemed almost daily that a microphone was thrown into the face of a politician, actor or athlete asking their thoughts on what was transpiring in the country. Of course, this led to more scrutiny on those who spoke out. The one that is closest to me is “stick to sports”

What does it mean when people say, “Stick to sports?” The way I take it (which I realize may not be everyone’s feeling) is to shut up and go entertain us. Stay out of our business and do what you animals are paid to do. I realize that this may be harsh, but that is the visceral feeling that I get whenever I hear the term. Should athletes only talk about last night’s game, or the 5 game road trip that they are about to embark on? Should they give the press and the consumer the normal clichéd answers and move on to the next city? Are athletes really viewed as disposable commodities that have no say in what happens in the country they live? Is the old adage “dumb jock” still a thing? If that indeed is the case, why is it?

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 25: Colin Kaepernick #7 and members of the San Francisco 49ers kneel during the national anthem prior to the game against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field on September 25, 2016 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

I believe there are a few answers to that question. First and foremost, I think there are people that see professional athletes as people that have more money than they can ever imagine and therefore do not have the same problems and issues as common folks. Secondly, there are people that do not believe that an athlete can possibly be smart enough to have an intelligent opinion, therefore rendering their opinions nonsensical from the outset. Lastly, I believe that race plays a part in it as well. As much as people do not like to talk about it or act like it doesn’t exist, it does and it shapes our opinion daily. Right or wrong, it is an issue that affects millions of Americans minute-by-minute, day-by-day and year-by-year.

Lets tackle these in order. First, the money issue; just because you make a lot of money playing a sport doesn’t exclude you from every day problems and issues that plague us all. Grant it, they may have some issues that money can help with, but being an American is not one of them.

johnny-manziel Money certainly didn’t stop him from having problems, but I digress.

We ALL live in this country together, and ALL have a say in how it is run. Take the issue with Kaepernick, he was protesting how African Americans are treated in this country. He has every right to do that. Just because he gets a check every week from the NFL, does not mean he loses his voice. If he is passionate about something and chooses to protest, that is his right, just like it is the right of every other American. People have died for that right, and people quickly want to strip him of his right to be an American. It shows incredible ignorance to belittle someone for utilizing the rights that we have all been afforded. You may not have liked the method in which he did it, but he may not like the way you balance your checkbook. How would you feel if someone came into your workplace every day and criticized you for how you chose to do something? The double standard I find incredibly insulting. Take North Carolina for example, and the HB2 bill; People want to write it off as the “bathroom bill” but in actuality it is much deeper than that. There are people that want to openly discriminate against people because of their sexual orientation and they will scream to the mountaintops that it is their “right” but Kaepernick he doesn’t have the right to kneel during the national anthem. People sure hate looking in the mirror!

tumblr_ol32fff73l1qkgqqho1_500National darling, Stephen Curry came under some heat when his comment about Donald Trump hit the internet (no one reads newspapers anymore, SAD.) I immediately heard “He is disrespecting our President” or “What does he know anyway?” The first place that my brain went was, birth certificate. My mind went there because for eight years people claimed that Barack Obama was not an American, that he was a Muslim aiming to destroy America, spearheaded by our current President. Was that not disrespectful? It is very interesting to see this dynamic in action. Things that we agree with can never been seen as wrong, and the things we do not agree with immediately are shot down and discredited. More recently, several New England Patriot players have declined to accept their invitation to the White House. Again, that is their right. People quickly labeled them as un-American. I believe most people that watched this years fantastic come back during the Super Bowl never once labeled Tom (Captain America) Brady as un-American. Mr. Brady however, chose not to join his teammates at the White House in 2015. He instead claimed to have a previous commitment. Now, he has not committed one way or another this season, but since he is a “friend” of Mr. Trump, one may surmise that he will push all other commitments to the side. It is absolutely Mr. Brady’s choice to go or not to go, and just the same, it is the right of some of his Patriot teammates not to attend. SIMPLE.

The second rational that I came up with is that athletes are not smart enough have intelligent thoughts about what is going on in this country or the world. That is, in my opinion, a very dated and childish rational. Why do people still believe that athletes are dumb? They are a microcosm of our society as a whole, a subculture if you will. Just like walking down Wall Street in New York, there are some incredibly bright people, and intertwined there are some that are not so bright. That being said, it is incredibly unfair to paint athletes with a broad brush as dumb. Has anyone ever seen an NFL playbook? Has anyone ever taken the time to see what some athletes do outside of their given sports? There are currently two online blog/article sites that are penned by current and former professional athletes from all sports. The Bennett brothers, while tremendous football players, have incredible interests outside of football. One of the most talented people that I know is Bryan Scott, is a 10 year veteran of the NFL. The thing is, he is so much more than just a football player. He is a tremendous musician that can also sing with the best of them. There is no way I could ever call him a dumb jock. He also has a degree from Penn State and is incredibly bright. That is just one example, but I know plenty of professional athletes that are incredibly smart.

jock

Finally, race, this is something that a lot of people do not like to talk about. Therefore, it is easily passed off as something that is non-existent. I could go on for days about that topic, but this is not the crux of this piece. It is however a part of the discussion. There are people, and I can never say all, but there are those that believe that a black, or Latin athlete should stay in their place as a second-class citizen. This is terribly sad, but is terribly prominent. In the year 2017 it seems like this thought process has not eased at all. I remember growing up hearing people referring to black athletes as not smart enough to be a quarterback, or a black athlete was not capable of leading a team to success. The interesting thing about this thought process, is that the locker room is one of the more progressive environments. While still a microcosm of our society, it acts and reacts to social issues at a much more rapid pace.

I wish society could take a cue from our professional athletes and start to really understand that we are all different and unique. This doesn’t make one better than the other, just different. My father once told me something during a discussion about politics that has continued to resonate with me. He reminded me that we all have different views and different experiences and to try and look at things through someone else’s lens to get a glimpse at why they feel certain ways. That is a very powerful message and one that can give us all perspective.

african-american-athletes-at-news-conference-af400c2cb31b07a9jpg-58d0b9b5d7f833b0

Until next time,

 

E. Scott 23

Unreal Expectations

The NFL season is upon us ladies and gentlemen. With the birth of a new season come great expectations for our favorite teams. I for one have been filled with optimism for my beloved Chicago Bears every season since 1985. Inevitably those optimistic feelings lay in the very incapable hands of Jay Cutler for at least one more year. I have resigned myself to the fact that the Monsters of the Midway will not reach the pinnacle this year, but I will watch every game and root and critique as I would any season.

That brings me to the topic of today’s writing session, Unrealistic Expectations! Every season there is a crop of new talent that graces the 120 x 53.3 gridiron, and inevitably there are a few that have the burden of making a big splash from day one. The enthusiasm is to be expected, but the idea that they will step in and flourish immediately is statistically inaccurate.

If they are not great from the first snap, pitch or jump ball the media has headlines like this. “Jameis still a work in progress after debut” No kidding! Why do media outlets and fans alike expect these guys to make a tremendous leap and be perfect right away?

Jamies Winston (Heisman)        Jamies Winston (Tampa Bay)

The microwave generation

Long gone are the days of sitting behind the incumbent franchise quarterback and biding you time. Time, which is extremely valuable, time that is used getting reps and studying the playbook. Honing in on the nuances of the professional game. Remember Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers? In 2005 Rodgers saw some time during the preseason and saw even less time during the regular season. Needless to say he struggled when he did take the field. This is to be expected. He was coming from the Pac 10 to the National Football League!! As great as some of the NCAA Conferences are, they pale in comparison to the National Football League.

Aaron Rodgers Rookie Season

In college you play fewer games and the competition you face week in and week out is not the same as facing the best players in the world every week.

The first three or four Saturdays during the college season you face lesser opponents to get your rhythm, a sort of preseason that actually counts. In Rodgers’ freshman season he started with #7 Kansas State then faced 4 unranked teams (Southern Miss, Colorado St, Utah and Illinois) Not exactly Minnesota, Detroit, Arizona and Chicago. While they were not the best NFL teams that season, they are still the best in the world at every position.

College athletics are far more saturated that the professional ranks. There are some ninety-seven hundred college football players a year compared to sixteen hundred and ninety-six in the NFL.

So, why would people expect someone from college, regardless of conference, accomplishments, awards etc. to come into the NFL and excel from day one? There are so many adjustments that have to be made. There are so many challenges ahead of them. It is slightly unfair to ask them to complete 70 percent of their passes or successfully lead their team on a 10 play 90 yard scoring drive in the two-minute drill.

Instead, we as fans should enjoy the process and watch the maturation process take place. Unlike video games, real people take time to develop.

There are also anomalies that excite fans into unrealistic expectations. Take Andrew Luck for example. He was an anomaly! He replaced one of the best quarterbacks in history and has hit the ground running with the Indianapolis Colts. It has made it harder for everyday quarterbacks, even guys that will become stars.

Andrew Luck

Instead, we as fans should respect the process and understand that playing quarterback in the NFL is not something that everyone can do. It is a job that takes time to learn and develop greatness. If they throw a pick six it is ok. They are human and will hopefully learn from their mistakes. I challenge you to look at the great quarterback in history and name the ones that started their NFL careers without missing a beat.

The media coverage does not help

As the headline I referenced above implies Jameis Winston was expected to walk onto the field and make Tampa Bay an immediate contender. That is incredibly unfair. OTA’s, mini camps, Pre Season all carry pressures, especially for rookies, so why do media outlets pile on with these types of headlines. Instead of printing a negative from day one, why not talk about the progress that a player has made? Will that sell fewer papers or get fewer clicks? I am tired of reading this every week. It also aids unrealistic fans and perpetuates the belief that every quarterback that comes into the league should be polished and ready to lead their team to the Super Bowl. If they don’t somehow they are seen as a bust.

Enjoy the season football fans, and hopefully your team makes you proud (Even if they don’t win the Super Bowl). Keep in mind, no matter how bad your team is doing I will be watching Jay Cutler every week!!!!

Domestic Violence

Unless you have been under a rock over the past 12 months you have noticed the rise in frequency of domestic violence issues in professional sports.

Like it or not professional athletes are “role models”. They may not have signed up for the title, but because they are seen on television, in magazines or any other social media site or app, they inherit this responsibility. People look up to them as heroes, right or wrong, they are seen as super human.

Ray Rice (knocking out his then fiancé now wife in an Atlantic City hotel), Greg Hardy (throwing his girlfriend on a couch full of loaded weapons) or Hope Solo (beating up her sister and nephew) have all been thrust into the bright spotlight, not for their athletic prowess, but because they decided to put there hands on their spouse, significant other or relative. This is nothing new, it is just reported differently now with the surge in social media, with everyone having a phone and recording at all time. There is no longer a 2-ton elephant lying dormant in the closets of locker rooms of professional sports. This is a problem that has affected thousands of families every year.

Why the spike in domestic violence in sports? How can professional sports play a leading role is addressing the issue?

Ray Rice

The first answer is simple, the boom in social media. Gone are the days of seeing your favorite athlete on the field, court, ice or pitch. Instead you see them in their homes, with their friends and family, on a trip to Turks and Cacaos. Fans now more than ever are a part of their lives. For the most part they welcome the social attention. It is only when a surveillance video is attained by TMZ that they want to run away from the limelight.

Fans are now privy to the underbelly of athletes; they are no longer just pictures on Wheaties boxes that people can idolize.

Pete Rose Wheaties Box

The second question is a little more tricky, but very manageable. The quick easy solution is to have a united stance on the issue. They cannot continue to pass the buck or as the commissioner of the NFL admitted, continue to be ignorant to the depth of the problem. He has spent the majority of his adult life around professional athletes and owners. I find it extremely hard to believe that he did not understand that this problem existed. If he wanted to be completely transparent he should have said that it has been swept under the rug for so long and now we must address it. I found his excuse extremely patronizing.

Mr. Goodell is not the only one that is guilty of sweeping this issue under the rug. Major League Baseball has long had a problem with domestic violence. Kirby Puckett, one of the games best centerfielders was in the middle of several domestic violence and sexual assault cases. In 2008 Philadelphia Phillies right-hander Brett Myers allegedly dragged his wife by the hair while continually hitting her. Myers went on to pitch the next day against the Boston Red Sox. Trust me those are not the only two examples

http://deadspin.com/5019197/smack-my-bitch-up-major-league-baseballs-continuing-domestic-abuse-problem

Roger Goodell

Athletic prowess should not trump domestic violence

It has long been stated that if you are a great player the rules are bent for you. That needs to change, especially when it comes to the issue of Domestic Violence. No longer can these leagues hid behind “He/She is a great asset to our team.” they are not an asset if they are beating on their spouses, or anyone for that matter. Am I an asset to society if I am beating on my wife? The police and court systems would not say so. My employer certainly would not have mercy on me. I would be fired the next day. Athletes on the other hand seem to play by a different set of rules. They are given every benefit of the doubt and held onto like a precious stone. Take the San Francisco 49ers and Chicago Bears for example. The 49ers supported Ray McDonald throughout his entire year domestic violence issue. McDonald was initially arrested in August 2014, but played in 14 games the following year. In December he was named in a sexual assault case and subsequently released by the Niners. The Chicago Bears then decided to get into the mix and signed McDonald in the offseason. He was promptly arrested again for domestic violence and child endangerment. Just three days later he was arrested again for violating the restraining order filed against him. The Bears released him immediately after learning of the incident. This is a clear case of someone getting the benefit of the doubt because of his or her abilities on the field.

Ray McDonald Mugshot

Hope Solo competed in the Women’s World Cup this year while a domestic violence case loomed over her head. The only reason she played is because she is the best goal tender in the world right now.

Every professional sports organization needs to take a stern look in the mirror and ask if they are doing all they can to educate their “employees” Are they ignoring a societal issue in lieu of wins on the field.

Fans have voiced their displeasure with the current trend, and the teams need to tap into that. Here in Charlotte, it was common knowledge that the majority of fans were not happy with the Greg Hardy issue. Hardy played in only one game last season for the Panthers, all while continuing to be paid his 13 million dollar salary. He was not resigned by the Panthers and is now a member of the Dallas Cowboys. It remains to be seen how this will turn out for Hardy, but the statistics are not in his favor. This issue will continue to grow and grow if organizations are not diligent in addressing the problem immediately.

Hope Solo

Professional Organizations handling of Domestic Violence Issues:

Cleat (For Ratings)

Comments and thoughts are always welcome.

Why is the NBA Draft so boring?

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 25: Commissioner Adam Silver poses for a photo with top prospects before the start of the First Round of the 2015 NBA Draft at the Barclays Center on June 25, 2015 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

I have had three weeks to digest the latest charade that is the NBA Draft!!

Let me start by stating that this has zero to do with my feelings towards the “kids” that were drafted. I am clearly aware that this is a dream come true and something that will change their lives forever. When their name is called all of the hard work they have poured into their craft is realized.

I get it.

The problem is twofold, but I will use this post to discuss the issue that has driven me crazy for a number of years.

Why does the NBA continue to take chances on underdeveloped talent? And before you come at me with the “They have a right to earn a living,” let me tell you that I get that as well. I agree with you, they do deserve the right to earn a living. But what is happening, more often than not, is they are getting a paycheck then sitting on the bench for 3-4 years, then getting a shot once they have developed.

For the player I say, “Get your money!” If someone is stupid enough to give you millions of dollars on what you may be able to do at the highest level (even when you couldn’t do it with college kids), then more power to you. You have worked hard for years to get to the level that you have attained.

What is getting lost, however, is the saturated NBA talent. So, why would the NBA continue to reduce their product to mediocrity? For every Moses Malone, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett and LeBron James story, there are ten Tyrus Thomas NBA obituaries!

Not to pick on Tyrus, but I am a Bulls fan so I will. Why on earth did you think you could hack it in the NBA? He was the 6th pick in the 2006 draft and released by the Charlotte Hornets in 2013 (I also live in Charlotte. Double whammy!).

Tyrus Thomas of the Charlotte Bobcats (NBA: Charlotte Bobcats 91 v San Antonio Spurs 95, Time Warner Arena, Charlotte NC, November 8, 2010)

Is the dream to play and succeed in the NBA, or is it to collect the paycheck and live the lifestyle. If the latter reigns true then there is no problem whatsoever in the process! My apologies, I digress.

What the NBA needs to do is protect itself from the Darko Miritics and Hasheem Thabeets of the world.

Hasheem Thabeet on the bench

In case you were wondering Thabeet is the guy in the full warm-up gear.

The NBA is supposed to be the best of the best in the world. At this moment is this something that can be said with confidence? I know I can’t say it. What I can say is that it is comprised of phenomenal talent, but it is also hindered by guys who should be working on their craft in practice and games (COLLEGE) not just taking up space at the end of the bench and collecting a paycheck while the real players do the extreme heavy lifting.

How can this change?

Simple, take a look at the MLB draft process (http://www.draftsite.com/mlb/rules/). They allow kids to be drafted right out of high school. The catch is that if you go to college you must remain there for three years. Of course with anything there are loopholes. Take Brandon Jennings for example. He spent a year after high school playing in Italy. This was the right move for Brandon because he felt he was NBA ready, but because of the new NBA rule, he had to go to college before entering the draft. In my opinion Brandon was very close to NBA ready, but the majority of kids coming out of high school are nowhere near ready to make that leap.

Brandon Jennings (Italy)

I often hear the argument that “These young players have the right to earn a living!” This is correct; they do have that right just like doctors, lawyers, scientists, golfers, hockey players, etc. The difference is that a hospital is not going to take a kid just out of high school that was in honors chemistry. Why? Because they do not have the knowledge and experience to conduct surgery on anyone! Would that same hospital take a chance on potential and let the young doctor learn on the fly? NO! And if they did that hospital would close immediately.

Let’s look at something a little closer to basketball.

Major League baseball has the formula down to a science. Where the two leagues currently differ as it relates to the draft is in the age discussion.

The reason that MLB can have this in place is that they have a farm system to specifically grow talent. They invest in these kids and then give them all of the tools to grow into a major-leaguer. They don’t put them on the bench and hope they can realize their potential. They actually work with them and not at the cost of losing and wasting money.

The NBA does have a farm system of sorts in the NBDL (http://dleague.nba.com/), but they do not put in the same focus and commitment that MLB does. How many kids have you heard about or seen go through the ranks of a major league farm system? I would guess thousands (IF you follow baseball on any level) and hundreds if you were a casual fan. Now, take the same question and change it to the NBA. How many guys have you heard of coming through the “D League”? Maybe a couple.

So, if the NBA wants to stop through away money and giving their fans (not all, but a lot) a mediocre product, they need to either get behind the “D League” or allow these prospects to hone their in college. The NBA and college basketball will be better for it in the long run.

I give this years NBA Draft      Basketball RatingBasketball Rating