Comparing NHL All Star Uniforms

To me, the NHL and their uniform designs (or sweaters) have always struck a great balance between honoring the history of the game while still embracing the opportunities to try new and innovative visual design ideas. The All Star game has always been a great place to test out said new ideas, whether it’s a neon colored uniform or some silly puck tracking visual on the TV broadcast. And over at NHL.com, Chris Creamer took a look at past All Star uniforms going all the way back to the 1930’s.

From orange-and-black with stars all over to neon green and reflective crests, the NHL All-Star Game has always been the ideal event to experiment with new designs and give fans a visually unique uniform matchup.

This year’s black and white with neon green trim All Star uniforms are a good example of that willingness to embrace a look that will appeal to hockey fans young and old.

For my tastes, the All Star uniforms from the 2004 game (featured image above via cited NHL post) were pretty sweet.

Source: NHL.com

Memories from Wrigley

I would run outside to the small, fenced in yard behind our house in Boston and look to the right. I would see a bright glow in the sky and felt the comfort of knowing the Red Sox were home. And then, there would be this faint rumble of a roar – the crowd was happy – and that meant Dewey Evans got a hit, or Jim Ed cranked one over the Green Monster. Growing up a mere 15 minute walk from the baseball shrine that is Fenway Park can skew a baseball fan’s perspective towards a certain baseball team. So while my blind loyalty continues to be for my hometown Red Sox, it has not distorted my perspective on what I think is the best baseball experience you can ever experience – watching a game at Wrigley Field in Chicago. It is as much about the experience in the stadium as it is the atmosphere around the stadium. It is so unique, so Chicago, and so awesome!

Wrigley is tucked away on the North Side of Chicago, on a square block that is bordered by Sheffield, Addison, Clark, and Waveland. Unlike any other baseball stadium that is still standing, Wrigley looks as though it was dropped in the middle of a Chicago residential neighborhood. Fenway is somewhat similar in this regard, as it is awkwardly wedged between Lansdowne Street and Yawkey Way. But Fenway’s immediate neighborhood has, until recently, had a very industrial sort of feel to it. It had it’s charm and made the Fenway experience amazing and unique, but it has never had the coziness of Wrigleyville. But what stadium ever has, other than Wrigley?

With this year’s Cubs team making the World Series for the first time in 71 years – giving them a shot at a World Series title that has eluded their franchise since 1908 – I thought I would share a few experiences from my visits to Wrigley:

Breaking The Seal

Many moons ago, I decided to move to Chicago because I just needed a break from NYC and the East Coast. After finding an apartment on the North Side (Pine Grove Avenue), I packed up the U-Haul and took off for the midwest. I had never been to Wrigley Field at that point in my life but I knew that would change quickly. After finally arriving in Chicago with that loaded U-Haul, I happened to check the Cubs schedule and wouldn’t you know it, they were home that day. So without even bothering to unload the U-Haul that had my few worldly possessions, I went straight to Wrigley Field to catch the Cubs game. As I walked up Clark Avenue, the anticipation of going to Wrigley was high and the crowd of baseball fans started to grow. And then, as I walked past the “Cubby Bear”, the sight of the facade of Wrigley exploded in front of me…there, in the middle of the neighborhood of stores, townhouses, and city streets stood this stadium that looked like the perfect neighbor. I was hoping the pixelated marquee would read “Save Ferris”. There was a large crowd of fans mingling around the outside of the stadium and after soaking in what was in front of my eyes, I found my way to the ticket office. I bought the best ticket I could buy and with giddy excitement, passed through the gate into Wrigley. The main concourse was buzzing with fans – I was soaking it all in – and as I looked to my right, I could see the sun beating down through the stairwells to the stadium. As I ascended those stairwells to find my seat, the inside of the stadium started to come into view and all I remember was the blinding green of the Wrigley grass, the green bleachers in the distance, and the green ivy on the outfield walls. It was so green! I don’t remember who won. I do remember seeing Harry Carey sing “Take Me Out To the Ballgame” during the 7th Inning stretch. I remember stubbornly staying until the game was over because it was such a soothing, comforting baseball experience.

Beer Here!

Many months after my first visit to Wrigley, I had some friends from college visit me in Chicago for a weekend. All of us were very big fans of baseball, so inevitably, going to Wrigley was a high priority. We ended up getting some really great tickets on the lower level of the stadium along the 1st base line in short Right Field. They were amazing seats. We had already knocked down a few frosty ones before the game started and as we settled into our seats, we flagged down the nearest beer vendor. And this is why Wrigley is so awesome. The beer vendor that we found looked like he just walked in from a beach in Southern California. He had long hair, a pair of wrap around Oakley sunglasses, and was wearing shorts and a t-shirt. And he was slinging Old Style beer! He loaded us up and departed. The game moved along and we were enjoying our beverages, and like he had a stopwatch personalized to our pace of drinking, our “Surfer Beer Dude” was always there, ready with re-fills at just the right time. It was uncanny and, honestly, pretty impressive. Needless to say, we were four very happy baseball fans by the time the game was over.

It Ain’t Over Until It’s Over

Back in 2008, my wife and I went out to Chicago to visit the city and to also go to the Farnsworth House in suburban Chicago. That Friday when we arrived, we went to catch a Cubs game at Wrigley. The weather was beautiful at the start but it quickly deteriorated and some crazy rain blew through the North Side. When the rain started, the Cubs were losing by some obscene number of runs – 8 or 9 at least. The general sentiment was that the game was a lost cause. After the rain had passed and the game started up again, and my wife and I considered leaving but we decided to stick it out. And so glad that we did! The Cubs came back and won the game with a furious comeback that could only happen at Wrigley when the wind is blowing out.

Wrigley is also an important place in that it is the place where my wife and I went several times when we were first dating. It is a special place and it is a venue that every person – sports fan or not, baseball fan or not – needs to visit to just enjoy the Wrigley experience!

Smells Like Team Spirit

In honor of the impending start of the annual craziness that is the NCAA Men’s College Basketball Tournament, I rounded out my collection of computer/device wallpapers & backgrounds by adding several teams that recently qualified for this year’s Tournament.

So head on over to my NCAA Wallpapers page and download a desktop background/wallpaper to show off your team spirit on your computer, iPad, iPhone or whatever device you use.

So if you need to show off your colors in support of the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles, we have a background for you. Tennessee-Chattanooga Mocs? Yup. My collection already had many of the teams that made this year’s tournament, plus many more that did not make it to “the Dance” this year.

And if College Basketball is not your thing, there are several other collections to choose from including European Soccer, English Soccer, and all the major American Sports leagues.

Keep Gettin’ Dem Checks

Over the past 3-6 years, the landscape of professional sports and how athletes are evaluated has gone through quite a transformation. The ability of teams and leagues to track performance and collect actionable data has transformed the landscape.

This, however, has not prevented team executives to dole out some outrageous and ill-conceived contracts. ESPN shared a list of the Top 20 Worst “Dead Money” contracts across the whole sports universe. And let’s not look past NCAA schools and school administrators, as they are very well represented in the list.

In total, $527.25 Million Dollars (that’s half a billion to you and me) down the drain across all sports because of some ill advised contracts.

Just a smattering of the lunacy:

  • Bobby Bonilla, a middle of the road outfielder who had a few solid years with the Pirates, is being paid $1.19MM a year by the NY Mets through 2035. That is more than many of those on their World Series roster including Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard. The funniest part of this story is that the Mets/Wilpons thought paying Bonilla in deferred payments through 2035 was a better financial position because they thought they would make the money back from their investments with Bernie Madoff. Let’s Go Wilpons!
  • Not to be out done, the Mets then dropped a 6 Yr/$66MM contract on Jason Bay in 2009, another former Pittsburgh Pirate slugger (who also had a pit stop in Boston where he performed well for a year and change). He spent three years with the Mets and had a TOTAL of 26 HRs over that span and they then cut their losses in 2012 while still on the hook for $21MM. Let’s Go Wilpons!!
  • The Detroit Pistons flat out released Josh Smith in December 2014 while still owing him $36MM of a $54MM contract they signed him to in 2013.

I knew I should never have stopped playing baseball in high school.

Source: The 20 worst dead money deals in sports – ESPN

Superb Owl

Not much to say other than just an incredible game and an amazing play by Malcolm Butler at the goal line in the final seconds. Everything leading up to that play was bringing back bad memories of the last two Super Bowls that the Patriots had played in and lost. The late score by the Pats to take the lead, the other team driving, the Pats having them down to a 3rd down, a circus catch (!!!). Russell Wilson and Eli Manning have very similar ‘pull horseshoes out of their butt’ tendencies to win big games and appeared to be going to a bad place we have seen before. I was just praying something would break for the Patriots and thankfully, the Seattle coaching staff over thought the situation and made an epic-ly bad decision.

I happened to see this photo below of Richard Sherman and Tom Brady seconds after the game concluded. Not sure who took it but it’s an amazing shot.

NFL: Super Bowl XLIX-New England Patriots vs Seattle Seahawks

Amateur In Name Alone

Today, the NCAA board voted to allow the ‘big five’ power conferences (SEC, ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Pac 10) to have more autonomy to set their own rules and regulations – basically opening the door for them to allow players to be paid and covered by insurance, to set the rules on hours dedicated to the sport of choice and the number of coaches on staff. In short, the NCAA provided the most powerful conferences with even more power and competitive advantage, and have thus have left all other schools and conferences in the dust.

I’m actually OK with the college players receiving compensation above and beyond the scholarship benefits they already receive. The rules that the NCAA has in place are amazingly outdated and onerous to the point that a plain bagel is considered a snack (and thus ok for a student athlete to eat if someone gives it to them) yet adding cream cheese to that same bagel turns it into a meal, and thus would be an NCAA violation if a student athlete accepted that as a ‘gift’ from someone.

However, the bigger concern is that this ruling has basically separated the top 5 ‘power’ conferences from the rest of the universities who play intercollegiate sports. And from that perspective, this is a pretty troubling result. It is troubling because all of these schools have been seduced by the dollars that these ‘amateur’ sports drive. Bill Snyder, the long time and well respected coach of Kansas State, took it one step further by saying everyone (his school included) has ‘sold out’ to TV at the expense of education:

“It’s no longer about education,” Snyder said. “We’ve sold out to the cameras over there, and TV has made its way, and I don’t fault TV. I don’t fault whoever broadcasts games. They have to make a living and that’s what they do, but athletics — that’s it. It’s sold out.”

“Everybody is building Taj Mahals,” Snyder said, “and I think it sends the message — and young people today I think are more susceptible to the downside of that message, and that it’s not about education. We’re saying it is, but it’s really about the glitz and the glitter, and I think sometimes values get distorted that way. I hate to think a young guy would make a decision about where he’s going to get an education based on what a building looks like.”

The importance and entertainment value of intercollegiate sports is very important to a college campus/student environment. As a Syracuse alum, some of my best memories of college centered around the basketball team, the football team (Kids, ask your parents about Floyd Little, Jim Brown, Joe Morris, Larry Csonka, Don MacPherson, and Donovan McNabb), and having a venue like the Carrier Dome on campus. To this day, going to see SU’s hoops team play is a great way to re-connect with friends from college. Yet, when these few ‘power conferences’ are given the keys to the kingdom by NCAA leadership and are driving a complete upheaval with all of this conference re-alignment, we really need to take as step back and ask “What the hell is going on here?”. That is what I would have expected the NCAA ‘leadership’ to do, but instead they have given the fox the keys to the hen house.

In the ACC today, seven of the conference’s 15 teams are former Big East teams and now the Big East conference – and the great regional rivalries – has ceased to exist as we know it. How does this make any sense? Tell me how a Syracuse – Florida State game has more relevance to their respective student bodies compared to, say, a Syracuse – UConn game or a Syracuse – Boston College game? Where each of those three schools are within a 4-5 hour drive of each other? Where students at those schools are probably far more likely to directly or indirectly know an alum from the other institutions? Isn’t part of the fun (remember when playing sports was fun!) of sports is busting on your buddy when your team beat his?

College sports has been big business for a long, long time. And the value to the campus culture beyond the sporting arena is clear. I don’t think that can be argued. Yet, the path that collegiate sports has taken to get to this point is nothing short of a shame and as Bill Snyder said in the above referenced article, “we’ve lost sight of what college athletics is all about”.

The Luckiest Man

This week marks the 75th anniversary of Lou Gehrig’s famous “Luckiest Man On the Face of the Earth” speech when he was honored at Yankee Stadium near the end of his legendary career.

Here is a cool video where the first basemen from all the MLB teams recite his speech and then Derek Jeter concludes it:

The full transcript is below:

“Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth. I have been in ballparks for seventeen years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans.

“Look at these grand men. Which of you wouldn’t consider it the highlight of his career just to associate with them for even one day? Sure, I’m lucky. Who wouldn’t consider it an honor to have known Jacob Ruppert? Also, the builder of baseball’s greatest empire, Ed Barrow? To have spent six years with that wonderful little fellow, Miller Huggins? Then to have spent the next nine years with that outstanding leader, that smart student of psychology, the best manager in baseball today, Joe McCarthy? Sure, I’m lucky.

“When the New York Giants, a team you would give your right arm to beat, and vice versa, sends you a gift – that’s something. When everybody down to the groundskeepers and those boys in white coats remember you with trophies – that’s something. When you have a wonderful mother-in-law who takes sides with you in squabbles with her own daughter – that’s something. When you have a father and a mother who work all their lives so you can have an education and build your body – it’s a blessing. When you have a wife who has been a tower of strength and shown more courage than you dreamed existed – that’s the finest I know.

“So I close in saying that I might have been given a bad break, but I’ve got an awful lot to live for.”

— Lou Gehrig

Speech transcript via Lou Gehrig’s website

Follow The Numbers

There has been a ton of publicity about Warren Buffet putting $1 Billion on the line for anyone who picks a perfect bracket in this year’s NCAA Tournament.

Well, according to Matthew Berry of ESPN, we are only four games into this year’s NCAA Tournament and out of 11 million submitted brackets in ESPN’s Tournament Bracket Challenge, only 5.7% of them (~627,000) remain perfect.

Once again, Mr. Buffett has made a wise investment, this time in publicity, for an extremely low risk wager.

matthewberry

via Matthew Berry’s Facebook feed

Down Goes Syracuse

Amid all the superfluous banter and ‘less-than-shock-and-awe’ over Syracuse’s loss last night to lowly Boston College, was this hilarious take down of our favorite Syracuse coaching punching bag Jim Boeheim via Grantland:

Previously undefeated Syracuse suffered its first loss of the season in surprising fashion, falling 62-59 to unranked Boston College at home. “Oh, we were definitely looking past them,” said Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim after the game. “I mean, they had six wins and we have Duke on deck. Don’t be an idiot.” Boeheim then shrugged and said, “Honestly, I still couldn’t tell you a thing about how they play. They probably run an offense of some sort. But I was playing this bird flapping game on my iPad for most of the first half,” before making a fart sound with his mouth.

To be clear, I could not be prouder of the Syracuse program and what they have done over the past 25 games. It was awesome and just a joy to watch, even if the games were ugly sometimes, or nail biters other times. In the long run, having Syracuse lose now is a good thing. I’d rather have it happen now than in March during the tournament.

However, losing to a team like Boston College, who has barely 6 wins, is definitely not a good reflection on the team or the coaching staff’s ability to motivate and adjust to the situation. And with the past two games and how close they were (vs Pitt and NC State), you could just feel that a loss like this was bound to happen.

Triple Buzzer Beater

In a game last night between Virginia Military Institute and Gardner-Webb College, there were three buzzer beaters that extended the game into an extra Overtime session, and a fourth shot by Gardner-Webb with about 30 seconds to go that extended the game from a 2nd OT to a 3rd OT. Goes to show that you don’t need to be in a ‘major’ conference to watch some fantastic college hoops! A pretty impressive feat of clutch shooting by the VMI team!

Syracuse Hoops Players In The NBA

NOTE: I have started to contribute posts and articles to the Syracuse fan site Inside the Loudhouse. My first article published today and is titled “Syracuse Orange Hoopsters In the NBA“. An excerpt from it is below.


Through all the years that Jim Boeheim has been coaching men’s basketball at Syracuse University, he has never had a problem attracting basketball talent to the program. Many ‘talking heads’ have said that Boeheim has not done enough with the talent that has come through the program, but that is a discussion for another day. When a program like Syracuse attracts such basketball talent, the inevitable question becomes how many of it’s players make it to ‘The Show’ (aka: the NBA) and how well prepared are those players for all the demands at the professional level?…

Read the Full Article at Inside The Loudhouse.

Bartman and Boone

I can’t believe that it has been ten years since this happened.

Which also means that it has been ten years (plus two days) since this happened.

If neither of these cruel things happened, we (most probably) would have had a Cubs – Red Sox World Series in 2003. Remember, that this was before the Red Sox went on to win the World Series in 2004 and 2007. If Twitter existed back then, it would have exploded. The thought of the Cubs and their (then) 95 year World Series drought against the Red Sox and their (then) 85 year World Series drought was a baseball story line that even the most sadistic sports writer could not have conceived would ever actually happen. Would there have been any doubt that the series would have gone seven games? The despair of two tortured fan bases and the thought that one would continue to suffer for who knows how much longer would have played out before our eyes.

There was a nice piece in the Times about how Steve Bartman has basically lived a life of exile within the Chicagoland area. And in many ways, the fate of his beloved Cubs has followed him into a state of exile. In the 10 years since that mid October week in 2003, the two franchises have moved in radically different paths with the Sox winning 2 World Series and are close to making it to a 3rd, while the Cubs have only made it to the post season twice and in both cases, were unceremoniously swept in the League Divisional Series.

The Cubs now have new ownership and they even took Theo Epstein from the Sox in the hopes that his ‘magic’ (which some observant Sox fans may question) would rub off on the Cubs 105 year championship curse. If I were them, I would have Steve Bartman ride into Wrigley Field on a Billy Goat from center field, stop at home plate and shotgun a can of Old Style. If that doesn’t exorcise the demons of Clark and Addison, there is always next year!

What Are The Chances?

With LeBron and the Miami Heat winning a 2nd NBA Championship in as many years (the Heat franchise has won 3 in their history), the inevitable talk is if the Heat can win it all next year, and what their legacy is within NBA history. Everyone’s favorite statistician Nate Silver from the NY Times 538 Blog has actually taken that conversation a little further and asked what is LeBron’s chances of matching Michael Jordan’s 6 NBA Titles.

Players like Jordan and James are so rare that it can be risky to compare them to anyone else. Still, one reasonably useful benchmark is to evaluate players who, like James and Jordan, had won at least one Most Valuable Player Award and at least one N.B.A. title as of their age-28 season, meaning that they had achieved the pinnacle of both individual and team success.

It’s tough to say exactly what James’s odds of catching Jordan might be, as the average conceals a wide range of outcomes among the individual players. Four of the players on the list — Magic Johnson, Moses Malone, Bob Pettit and Dave Cowens — would never win another championship after their age-28 season. But four others — Jordan, Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar — would win four or more additional tiles.

While he does not definitively say one way or another if it is statistically possible for James to catch Jordan, he does hedge by saying that while the chances are small, it could be possible for James to snag an ‘easy’ one or two later on in his career depending on how he adjusts his game as he gets older and if the circumstance he finds himself in is optimal for winning a title.

And from the analysis, I was probably most surprised by the realization that all the championships that Magic Johnson won (5 of them) happened before his 28th birthday and after that, he never won another championship. Of course, having to retire prematurely doesn’t help things but still.

via Nate Silver’s 538 Blog on NY Times.

It’s Been A While

After a whopping 51 years in England’s lower football (soccer) division, Cardiff City has finally been promoted to England’s Premier League. Cardiff was a team that had deep financial issues not too long ago.

It is a remarkable accomplishment because the club was nearly bankrupt more than a year ago. In three of the last four seasons, Cardiff got tantalizingly close to promotion from the League Championship, only to fall short in the promotion playoffs. Those failures were called “doing the Cardiff.” With Tuesday’s result, a point from a scoreless draw with Charlton Athletic, the club can bury the phrase and look forward to resuming the fierce Welsh derby with Swansea, which was promoted two years ago.

They are kind of like the Red Sox of the EPL.

via NYTimes.