Category Archives: sports

Happy (On Time) Opening Day Baseball Fans!

Today is a beautiful day for baseball fans and sports fans, in general.

Today is a day that, until last year, many took for granted as something that would always come with the changing seasons.

That’s because today is opening day for the 2021 baseball season. Unlike last year’s never-ending spiral of misery and cancellations, the season is starting on time. This year, we’ll be able to celebrate the early days of spring with a new season of baseball. Even if you’re not a sports fan, it’s something worth celebrating for this year.

I certainly intend to enjoy it more so than usual. I haven’t forgotten just how jarring last year was. The experience of going an entire spring without baseball had a lasting impact, to say the least. I was so used to just sitting on my couch, turning a ball game on, and relaxing throughout the spring and summer.

Losing that hurt.

It hurt a lot.

It also made me appreciate baseball that much more.

For me, there’s a sentimental value for baseball. Growing up, some of my fondest memories involve sitting on the couch with my dad, cracking peanuts, and watching ball games together. I didn’t even care who was playing. Just watching baseball with my dad was a joyous experience. I came to cherish that experience as I got older.

Now, after last year, I’m ready to cherish it even more. I encourage other baseball fans to do the same. We lost a lot in 2020. We took so many things for granted, including baseball. Let’s take the time to celebrate having it this year.

Play ball!

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Filed under baseball, Current Events, sports

One Year Ago: The NBA Cancelled A Game Moments Before Tip-Off (And The End Of Normal Began)

It’s amazing to think of where we were at this time last year. It feels so long ago. It might as well have been another century. The simple experience of going out, hanging out with friends, or attending a sporting event seemed so casual. Being in a crowded arena with cheering fans never felt unsafe. It was just loud and roucouse.

That all changed in March 2020. That’s when the world, as we knew it, started to fall apart as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold. I already recounted my own experience when I felt the impact like everyone else. I have a feeling everyone has their moment when they realized this was not going to just blow over easily.

However, if there was one moment in which everybody realized that this was serious, it was when major sports leagues started shutting down. Suddenly, this activity we turn to for an escape was no more. These were billion-dollar leagues who had plenty of incentive to keep playing, regardless of what the news said. The idea of any major league shutting down seemed unthinkable.

The unthinkable finally happened on March 11, 2020 when the Utah Jazz were scheduled to play the Oklahoma City Thunder in a major primetime match-up on ESPN. The arena was packed. People were cheering. Nobody was wearing masks or socially distancing. They were all just ready to escape the news and have a good time.

The game was still scheduled to play. The pre-game show happened without any indication that something was wrong. The players had warmed up and were ready to go. Then, there was a delay. A bunch of officials began discussing something. Nobody had any idea what it was about. Nobody would’ve suspected that the game, the NBA, and the entire sports world was about to shut down.

Looking back at that moment, it seems so ominous and eerie. It might have been the last glimpse of “normal” that we ever saw. Just watch the highlight posted by ESPN that same night. Watch as the world, as we knew it, changed before our eyes.

I’m not a huge basketball fan. I don’t follow the NBA as closely as I follow other sports, like baseball and football. However, seeing this gave me chills. It still does. Listening to these announcers talk about basketball, the season, and the importance of this game seems so surreal.

They have no idea what’s about to happen to the league and the world.

Nobody in that arena knew, from the players to the people serving drinks in the stands.

It really was unthinkable, a game being suspended this close to tip-off because of a pandemic. When it happened, it was the first domino to fall in the sports world. Everything after that just built on the nightmare that unfolded throughout 2020.

Even if you’re not a sports fan, you still understand on some levels how much they mean to people. The world may seem crazy, but we always had our sports and our movies to escape. We never thought things would get so bad that it would all just shut down. Then, it happened and even after an entire year, we having recovered.

That scene in this highlight of a packed arena with cheering fans and no masks seems almost unattainable now. I still believe we’ll see something like this again, hopefully later this year. Right now, though, it’s an eerie reminder of the day we all realized things were about to get much worse than we ever could’ve imagined.

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Filed under Current Events, real stories, sports

Post-Super Bowl LV Aftermath And Thoughts

It’s over.

The 2020 NFL season is over.

Super Bowl LV is over and while the outcome was lacking in drama, it was still not surprising.

Again, Tom Brady led a team to a Super Bowl.

For the seventh time in his career, Tom Brady is a Super Bowl champion.

At this point, there’s no way around it. Tom Brady is the greatest. They call him the GOAT, the Greatest of All Time. It’s not just a cute acronym. It’s the truth. The man has won seven Super Bowls. That’s nearly double that of any other quarterback of any era. He’s also played in ten. Out of a 21 year career, that means he’s been to a Super Bowl almost every other year.

If you’re not an American football fan, just know that’s insane. That’s unheard of. In a game that’s supposed to be the ultimate team sport in which one player cannot win a game alone, it might as well be superhuman. It’s one thing to do this with one team over the course of two decades, but Brady had to raise the bar yet again by going to another team and winning them a Super Bowl in his first year.

Again, that’s insane.

That’s unheard of.

That was thought to be impossible, given the nature of the NFL.

That still didn’t stop Brady. He still went to a new team and, despite not even winning the division, he went onto win the Super Bowl. There are Hall of Fame players who are considered the greatest of their time who never even played in a Super Bowl. Barry Sanders, Bernie Kosar, Calvin Johnson, and Philip Rivers are all considered great, but Brady has played in 10 more Super Bowl than they ever did.

At this point, there is no debate. There is no context or second-guessing. Tom Brady is the greatest football player of all time. After this lastest Super Bowl, I would even go a step further.

Tom Brady is officially better than Michael Jordan.

Trust me, I don’t say those words lightly. Michael Jordan was so dominant when he played in the NBA. His six championship and the way he went about winning them are what put him a cut above the rest, even among players today. LeBron James is trying to catch him, but even if he goes onto win six championship, he won’t be better than Tom Brady.

Patrick Mahomes is still great. He still won a Super Bowl last year and he still put up great numbers. Nobody can take that away from him. However, even if he goes onto win seven Super Bowls throughout his career, he’ll never be greater than Tom Brady, if only because he lost to Brady when it counted.

You can hate Brady all you want for winning so much and being so dominant. You can even hate how lopsided the Super Bowl was this year. You still can’t deny the cold, hard truth.

Tom Brady has shattered what few doubts remained. He is the greatest of all time when it comes to football. I’m confident in saying that there will never be anyone as great as him, for as long as this game is played.

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Filed under football, NFL, sports

A Message From Football Heaven

After the spirit-crushing, frustration inducing events of last week, I just want to say this past weekend has been a godsend for football fans. As a lifelong football fan, the past 48 hours have given me a level of football nirvana I usually don’t see outside Super Bowl Sunday.

A big reason for this is the NFL’s new playoff format that it adopted last year. Instead of 12 teams, we now get 14 teams vying to become Super Bowl champion. Now, the NFL doesn’t take change lightly and it’s usually vehemently resisted by football purists.

After this past weekend, though, I imagine those people are just as delighted as I am with the results.

Seriously, how can you not? You get a triple header on Saturday from 1:00 p.m. to midnight. Then, you get another triple header of playoff football the next day that goes just as long. These are not forgetful games, either. These are the playoffs. This is the best of the best the NFL produced this season and they’re all pushing for their chance at a Super Bowl.

On top of all that football glory, it’s still not over.

Later tonight, college football will play its national championship game. I don’t follow college football as closely as I do the NFL, but even I don’t doubt that these two schools have teams stacked with NFL talent. Some of these players are very likely to be top draft picks later this spring. As a football fan who doesn’t need many more reasons to watch, this is just icing on the cake.

After a year where so many things went wrong, I just want to take a moment to appreciate everything that went right. There’s still more playoff football to come. This is just the beginning and I’m looking to enjoy every second of it.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to make sure my cooler is stocked with beer for tonight’s championship game.

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Two Monday Night Football Games: Something Awesome From Something Awful In 2020

It’s been a weird year for sports and for horrific reasons. Let’s not overlook that. This year has been horrific in general for reasons I hope I don’t have to belabor. However, it is possible for good things to come out of awful circumstances. That doesn’t make the circumstances any less awful, but a good thing is still a good thing.

For me, a lifelong football fan who builds his Sunday afternoons and Monday nights around watching football, it’s been plenty weird. Watching NFL games in front of empty stadiums has taken some getting used to. All that fake crowd noise isn’t the least bit convincing.

That said, I’ll gladly take this kind of football over no football. At the same time, news about positive COVID-19 tests among NFL teams has me genuinely concerned. It already caused one game to get delayed. It threatened to delay another one. It was scary.

Then, through this horrible thing, something awesome emerged. The marquee matchup between the New England Patriots and the Kansas City Chiefs was postponed to Monday Night. That meant we had what amounted to a double-header last night, starting at 7:00 p.m. EST and going past midnight.

I think I speak for many of my fellow football fans when I say I loved this. I loved it in ways I cannot put into words without the aid of alcohol or spiked coffee.

Yes, I’m tired this morning from staying up so late.

Yes, it’s something that emerged from a bad situation.

Yes, it’s still awesome.

Two Monday Night Football games? A double-header that makes Monday’s less awful and Monday night’s more eventful? Yes, please! This is an objectively wonderful thing and I say let’s have more of it.

Sundays are great and because of NFL RedZone, football fans can plug themselves into every game for hours at a time. It’s wonderful and has made football such an engaging, day-long experience.

However, there are times in the season when there are as many as 9 or 10 games going at once at 1:00 p.m. in my time zone. Even with RedZone, it’s hard to keep up with. Some of those games deserve to be prime time games. Some of those teams would benefit from a little prime time exposure. I say this is the perfect way to do it.

Monday Night Football is already a ratings bonanza for everyone involved, regardless of how awful this year has been. Adding another game to that mix can only help add to the boon. I hope last night was a proving ground of sorts. There is room for two games on Monday night.

To the NFL, please use this as a sign. Turn this objectively terrible situation into something awesome. Football fans will thank you for years to come.

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Filed under Current Events, football, sports, television

The 2020 MLB Baseball Playoffs: Why We Should Keep This Format

I know I don’t talk about baseball that much. Please don’t misconstrue that as me saying I don’t care for it. I love baseball as much as any guy who grew up playing catch with his dad in the back yard. Some of my fondest memories are of watching ball games with my dad and eating peanuts.

While I tend to get more excited about football, I still enjoy a beer and a ball game. However, there are some other reasons why I don’t get as excited about baseball as I do with football.

Some of that has to do with the duration of the season and how often it seems certain teams clinch their playoff spots weeks ahead of time. Most of it has to do with the playoff format, itself. That’s the one part of Major League Baseball that I’ve always had a problem with.

Compared to other sports, baseball has always been much more limited in terms of which teams make the playoffs and how those games are structured. For me, the playoffs never got exciting until the ALCS and the NLCS. That’s usually when the drama happens. The divisional rounds before it are just too forgettable.

Then, two things happened. First, the pandemic struck and truncated the baseball season considerably and the MLB expanded the playoffs. Now, instead of just a handful of teams having a shot at the World Series, the playoffs is more a tournament with 16 teams.

This is what it looked like, just after the wild card rounds wrapped up.

Now, I know baseball is famous for having staunch traditionalists, but after following the wild card rounds, I have to say this.

The MLB should totally keep this format or, at the very least, keep most of it.

I love this new format. It really made the MLB playoffs feel exciting again. For once, I didn’t have to wait until the championship rounds to see some drama. As bad as 2020 has been for sports, this new tournament format might be the best thing that came out of it.

This new setup gives struggling teams a reason to keep playing in the regular season, even when they get into a skid. With this expanded format, there are more spots to fight for. The dominant teams will still get their spot, but now there are new opportunities for teams to sneak in and make an impact.

In baseball, that’s a big deal. I’ve been watching baseball long enough to know that any team can get hot at just the right time. Last year was a perfect example of it. The 2019 Washington Nationals are a perfect example of this. They had to get into the playoffs as a wild card team and go through heavyweights like the Dodgers en route to their first World Series title.

It can happen in baseball. Great teams can just have a bad day at the park or several. A wild card team can get hot and take that momentum to a championship. The Nationals sent a message to every team in the wild card round this year that it can happen to them, too.

Beyond the opportunity, it’s just more exciting. I know last year had a single-game elimination wild card, but I found that to be somewhat underwhelming. Like I said, any team can have a bad day at the ball park. Sometimes, quality teams just falter on a particular day. That sometimes means the lucky team wins instead of the better team.

I think a three-game playoff series fits perfectly. It helps ensure a team can win or lose on a single fluke. It also gives a team that falters in one game to make up for it the next. It’s a better way of determining who’s the better team in the long run.

Like the NCAA basketball tournament, more teams means more opportunities for a team to go on a historic run or land a historic upset. In a league that is legendary for having top-heavy teams who try to buy their way into a World Series, this can only help the sport.

Now, I know 2020 is a crazy year that has done lasting damage to the sports world. I don’t doubt that professional leagues are eager to go back to the way things were before the pandemic ruined so much.

However, I sincerely hope that Major League Baseball retains this new format for the postseason. I think it’ll do a lot of good for baseball and the sports world, in general. I know there are some logistical issues and I’m sure the players union will want to get their say. I believe there’s a way to do it and ensure everyone benefits.

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Filed under baseball, rants, sports

An Ode To Cam Newton’s Suits

As I write these words, I’m still basking in the utter sports bliss that was the start of the NFL season. I know I’ve made a bigger deal of it than usual. I will not apologize for that. Cut me some slack. This year has sucked on so many levels. Indulging in my love of football made it suck a little bit less. I hope others feel the same.

While I cherished every last bit of the action in week 1, there was one other bonus I wanted to note. That’s Patriot’s quarterback Cam Newton’s suit. I know. It’s not the most important issue facing this world today, but just look at it. Take a single moment out of your day to appreciate this incredible feat of men’s fashion.

I want to put it into words. I just can’t. There’s no way my writing skills can do justice to this look. Between the bow tie, the yellow coloring, the hat, and the shoes, I don’t think Shakespeare himself could articulate how amazing this is.

When I saw this, I just couldn’t stop smiling. I also know this isn’t the first time Cam Newton’s fashion sense has raised some eyebrows. This is what he wore to a serious press conference one day.

Again, I have no words. That ridiculous, colorful style that seems so outlandish to the rest of us? Hell, that’s just Tuesday for Cam Newton. I, for one, thank him for that. Say what you will about his skills as an NFL quarterback. The man has style.

I know it’s not exactly the most salient issue facing the world in 2020, but come on. Let’s just take a moment to appreciate this.

Mr. Newton, as someone who appreciates men’s fashion as much as the next guy, I sincerely thank you. This year sucks just a little bit less because of you.

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Filed under men's issues, NFL, sports, Uplifting Stories

How I Prepare For NFL Football On Sundays

It’s almost here! In less than 24 hours, I will enjoy my first of 17 doses of regular season NFL football. In a year where my excitement and optimism has been crushed at every turn, I can’t put into words how excited I am. I also can’t fully articulate how much I need this.

I love sports.

I love football.

I love building my Sundays around watching NFL football.

It’s among my favorite regular joys. Now, I understand the NFL season will be different this year. There’s also a very real chance that the pandemic could significantly impact the season. I’m already bracing for games to be cancelled, players to be benched, and scandals to unfold. If it gets really bad, there’s certainly a possibility that an entire week of NFL games could be scrapped.

That’s a nightmare scenario that the NFL has many reasons to avoid. I’m not convinced they will, but at the moment, they’re scheduled to start the season on time, albeit without full stadiums. For me, that’s good enough.

In that spirit, I’d like to share some details as to what I do every Sunday to maximize my NFL experience. Sometimes, I do mix it up, but I have a few favorite rituals that I’ve refined over the years to ensure I achieve football nirvana every time.

It all starts early on Sunday morning. I’m an early riser by nature so I’m usually up around sunrise. It usually starts like most days. I check my email. I brew some coffee. I go through any and all unfinished work I might have, be it a blog post, a short story, or a video for my YouTube channel.

Then, I go for my daily run. I always make it a point to run a little extra long on Sundays. You’ll understand why very soon. If possible, I try to squeeze in some weightlifting. That’s not always an option. In a year like this, I may have to table that.

After I work out, I take a nice long shower. I usually shave afterwards, if my beard has become unruly. Once I’m done with that, I throw on some clothes and head out to get my groceries/football supplies.

I usually try to time it so that I leave at around noon. While I’m getting my groceries, I order a pizza, usually a large with extra cheese, bacon, and pepperoni. I also make sure I get a six pack of beer, if I don’t have one in the fridge already. If everything goes smoothly, I’m usually on my way home with about 15 minutes to spare.

With those 15 minutes, I put on my most comfortable pair of pants and my favorite football jersey. I then turn on NFL Redzone, grab a beer, serve myself a slice of pizza, and take my place on the couch.

Once the action starts, I rarely leave that couch, aside from bathroom breaks and beer. For the next seven hours, I am locked in. Most of the time, I keep the TV on Redzone, but if there’s a major game on one of the networks, I’ll flip to that one every now and then.

During that time, I am the most relaxed and content person you’ll ever going to see. The feeling of watching NFL football all Sunday while drinking beer and eating pizza is just the ultimate way to cap the weekend. It’s glorious. It’s joyous. Sure, I’ll yell at the TV every now and then, but I’ll have a damn good time every step of the way.

When all is said and done, that pizza is usually half-eaten. Most of that six pack of beer is long gone. I’m full, a little drunk, and utterly satisfied with all the football I’ve consumed. This weekend, I look forward to enjoying that feeling once more. I encourage my fellow football fans out there to do the same, especially for a year like this. If you have your own Sunday ritual for NFL football, please share it in the comments. I’d love to know. I’m certainly open to new ideas for making Sunday football even better. For now, I am ready for kickoff!

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Filed under football, Jack Fisher's Insights, sports

Jack’s World: My Picks And Predictions For The 2020 NFL Season

Every year, just before the NFL season kicks off, I write out my predictions and picks for the season. Being a lifelong football fan, it’s one of my favorite times of the year. This year, being what it is, has added some new complications. Be that as it may, I’m still going to try. This time, though, I’m going to offer my picks through my YouTube channel, Jack’s World.

If you like this new format and would like me to make more videos like it, please let me know in the comments. Enjoy!

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Filed under football, Jack's World, NFL, sports, YouTube

My (Fragile) Hopes For The XFL With The Rock

Earlier this year, I was very excited about the inaugural season of the second iteration of the XFL. Being a lifelong football fan, as well as a proponent of anything that could shake up the NFL/NCAA duopoly, I was genuinely hopeful for the future of this league.

It was doing everything right. It learned from the mistakes of the first version of the XFL. The league took its time. It got the right people. It dared to innovate how the game was played. It also had the beer snake. Who could forget the legendary beer snake?

Then, the pandemic hit and destroyed everything.

That’s not an exaggeration. I know the COVID-19 pandemic has ruined a lot of things this year, but it utterly destroyed the XFL. This was a brand new league trying to forge a new identity. It had a plan, but that plan did not account for the impact of the worst global pandemic in a century. How could it?

Sadly, the league declared bankruptcy in April. I was deeply saddened. I didn’t post anything about it. The thought of trying to put my disappointment into words was just too much. I was content to just swallow my anguish and find another way to endure the ongoing horror that is 2020.

Then, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson stepped in and bought the league for $15 million. Suddenly, the slightest glimmer of hope for the XFL and the future in general has emerged.

As part of the bankruptcy procedures, the XFL went up for sale. There aren’t many people who could’ve bought its assets and inspired any hope that it would live again. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is definitely one of them. He’s one of the most successful and beloved entertainers of the past 20 years. Say what you will about his movies, but the man is just one of the most likable guys you’ll find in entertainment these days.

Compare that with Vince McMahon. There just is no comparison worth making.

He’s also former football player, himself. He loves sports. He has a genuine love for the game. Both he and his business partner/ex-wife, Dany Carcia, plan to play games again. How they’ll go about it and how they’ll make it work remains to be seen. We still have to survive 2020 in one piece.

However, this news gives me a genuine, yet fragile hope for the XFL. It’s fragile because after the events of this past year, everything feels more fragile. The XFL did everything right the second time and still got screwed over by forces beyond anyone’s control. Naturally, I’m very reluctant to put my hopes on something that just seems to attract bad luck and bad circumstances at every turn.

Make no mistake. I want the XFL to come back. I want it to succeed. I think it was on the right path to do so before the pandemic hit. Now, with the leadership and brand appeal of The Rock, I think it’s in a good position to emerge from this dystopian stretch with a viable future.

However, I don’t think it can succeed if it just tries to go back to the way things were. It’s way too late for that. Right now, the XFL has a bad reputation of either being trashy, unlucky, or prone to bankruptcy. That’s not a good brand identity, to say the least.

At the same time, the XFL has an opportunity to re-align the entire football world in a good way. The XFL wasn’t the only sports entity to get screwed over by the pandemic. The NCAA is in a state of enormous upheaval right now. It lost nearly a billion dollars when it had to cancel the big basketball tournament this past spring. It’ll lose even more if it has to cancel fall sports, which is already happening.

Now, say what you will about the brand of the XFL. It’s still more admirable than the NCAA. The current system the NCAA uses to exploit college athletes while enriching itself just cannot be justified. The fact they’re fighting so hard get college sports going shows how little they care for the student part in “student athlete.”

That system is utterly untenable. The pandemic is just exposing how flawed and fragile that system always was. This is where the XFL can step in. If the Rock and his business partners are a smart as I hope, they’ll jump at the opportunity to recruit displaced college athletes. If only a handful of big time college schools can still operate, then that means hundreds of skilled players will be left out.

The XFL can help them and help itself. It can offer these aspiring athletes actual money to play a sport they love. That shouldn’t be such a radical concept, but the NCAA has kept it radical for far too long. At some point, it can’t keep justifying the practice of not paying athletes who make millions for their league and their school. If they keep trying, then the XFL is in position to step in.

At some point, this pandemic will end. Sports will return and people will flood football stadiums as they once did. The NFL will always reign supreme in the world of football, but the XFL will greatly improve the sport by supplanting the NCAA. Other sports leagues have developmental leagues for young, aspiring athletes beyond college. The XFL can be that league.

To get to that point, it’ll take hard work and someone with the vision and grit to see it through. There aren’t a lot of people who are up to that challenge. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is definitely one of them.

I hope he succeeds.

I hope the XFL prospers.

The football world needs it.

The XFL already has two strikes against it. This time, hitting a home run won’t be enough. It needs to hit a grand slam. I’m still very hesitant, but I’m also hopeful.

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Filed under football, sports, XFL