Category Archives: sports

Michael Jordan, Intensity, And Championships (With References To Glengarry Glen Ross)

There has been an ongoing, and at times insufferable, debate in the world of basketball. Who is the greatest of all time? ESPN recently released their ranking. The top five are as follows:

  1. Michael Jordan
  2. LeBron James
  3. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
  4. Bill Russell
  5. Magic Johnson

Do you agree with this list? How do you even go about determining who is the greatest player, given how much the sport has changed over the decades? That’s not an easy question to answer, especially for a sport like basketball. Unlike football or baseball, it is possible for one player to make a huge difference on a team’s chances of winning. Just ask the Cleveland Cavilers.

That question has gotten more scrutiny lately and not just because there are no sports to distract us. A comprehensive documentary entitled “The Last Dance” has added some rhetoric to the greatest of all time conversation. This documentary covers the career of the number one player on ESPN’s list, Michael Jordan.

If you haven’t seen this documentary and are marginally interested in sports, I highly recommend checking it out. Even if you’re not a basketball fan, it’s worth seeing for reasons beyond the sport it covers. It offers an unprecedented insight into the life, drive, and mindset of a player that many believe to be the greatest. That insight is also something that has inspired some mixed feelings.

Now, I’m old enough to remember the second half of the Michael Jordan era for the Chicago Bulls. I remember seeing his team win those last three championships and being in awe. To say he was an iconic athlete would be an understatement. In the same way it’s impossible to describe how big Michael Jackson was in the 1980s, it’s impossible to articulate how big Michael Jordan to the sports world in the 1990s.

Being like Mike wasn’t just a marketing slogan. It was a testament to just how much Michael Jordan dominated at everything he did. I know there’s an entire generation of basketball fans who only know the greatness of Steph Curry, Kobe Bryant, and LeBron James, but in terms of sheer star power, Michael Jordan was bigger.

There’s always caveats about whether he would dominate as much in today’s game. I’m of the opinion that he would. Like I said, I grew up watching him in his prime. He’s one of those rare athletes who would have found a way to dominate in any era. However, that’s just my opinion. We’ll never truly know if Michael Jordan is better than Lebron James or Bill Russell.

However, Jordan’s greatness isn’t the only thing on display in The Last Dance.” In some sense, it exposes the dark side of being great. In public, Michael Jordan is that smiling, friendly guy who tries to sell them overpriced sneakers. In private, and during games, he was not that. He was incredibly intense. Some even call him a bully.

While that may surprise others who only know Jordan through his marketing team, it really shouldn’t. You don’t win six NBA championships, multiple MVPs, and a nickname like “Air Jordan” by being overly nice. In the world of professional sports, you can’t be Mr. Rogers. You have to be intense, sometimes to an extreme.

Michael Jordan was the epitome of extreme. Even as a kid, I saw it in the games. The man looked like he was ready to run through a wall and over people to win. The way he played the game with such intensity almost made him seem superhuman. That makes for amazing television, but on the court and in the heat of the game, it makes him something else.

That intensity reminds me of another famous insight into what it takes to succeed. It’s not nearly as iconic as Michael Jordan making the winning shot in the NBA Finals, but it’s close. It’s Alec Baldwin’s legendary speech about closing in “Glengerry Glenn Ross.” In case you need a reminder or some brutally honest motivation, here it is.

Look at Baldwin’s demeanor. Listen to the intensity of his voice. He sounds like a bully. He doesn’t sound at all likable. He sounds like the kind of guy you wish you could punch. Unfortunately, he also sounds like the guy who succeeds at what he does.

He’s intense.

He’s abrasive.

He demands greatness from others and has no sympathy for those not willing to put in the effort.

That won’t make him many friends, but it will make champions. That’s the kind of intensity that athletes like Michael Jordan channel. It’s not something that just anyone can do. It’s not even something you can entirely fake. You can try, but it only goes so far. You either have it or you don’t.

Being intense, competitive, and a little abrasive is often unpleasant, but it’s critical in pursuing success. Whether it’s selling real estate or winning six NBA championships, you need that kind of intensity to raise your game and those around you. You can have all the talent and charisma in the world, but it’ll only get you so far if you don’t have the drive to push yourself.

Michael Jordan had that drive. He pushed himself and those around him. He stepped on a few toes. He made plenty of enemies. He strained himself and his teammates. He also made mistakes, but that only fueled his intensity.

That’s why, in my opinion, he’s the greatest of all time.

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Filed under human nature, outrage culture, political correctness, psychology, sports

How The NFL Might Have Just Guaranteed A Work Stoppage In The Future

I’m no expert on labor laws, union contracts, or the general business operations of professional sports. I’d never claim otherwise. I’m just a typical guy who loves watching sports. I have about as much expertise to judge a labor dispute as I do in performing brain surgery.

While I lack the expertise, I’ve been on this planet long enough to know when there’s potential conflict down the line. It’s not always obvious, but the signs are usually the same. People see an opportunity to resolve a conflict in the short term, but lay the foundation for greater conflicts in the long run. Like treating a symptom rather than a disease, it simply delays a bigger problem rather than resolving it.

That’s my initial take on the recent approval of the NFL’s new 10-year collective bargaining agreement. At a time when the news about sports has been historically bleak, many see this as a rare bit of good news from the sports world. To some extent, it is. By approving this deal, the NFL avoids a potential work stoppage that could’ve occurred after the 2020 season.

As a die-hard football fan, which I’ve affirmed more than once on this site, I’m glad to hear that this issue wasn’t drawn out. The last time this occurred, there was a full-blown lockout that almost bled into the season. I understand why labor deals are such a big deal in professional sports. Football, especially, requires unique protections for players who want to make money playing an objectively dangerous game.

However, the news on this deal has some details and circumstances that give me pause. It’s not just that certain players are already criticizing it. That’s bound to happen with any deal. The fact that this deal was approved amidst a massive crisis that has rocked the sports world to its core and by such a narrow margin is somewhat telling.

In general, when something is approved by a narrow margin, it’s a sign that neither side is all that happy. It implies there are still many unresolved issues and the presence of a deal doesn’t make those issues go away. Just look at how often narrowly decided Supreme Court decisions tend to cause more issues down the road.

The issues between the players and owners are many, but most boil down to who gets how much of the massive revenue that the NFL generates every year. This new deal gives the players a larger share of the revenue, but also sets the stage for an 17-game season, as well as an expanded playoffs.

As a football fan, I love the prospect of more football, but I also don’t deny that issues that tend to arise whenever you ask workers to work longer. These players already put their bodies through more rigor than most fans can ever fathom and now they’re being asked to push themselves even more. Even if it’s for more money, is the amount they got enough?

It’s hard to say since I’m not an NFL player, but the fact that the players approved the deal by such a narrow margin leads me to believe it’s not. Some may not oppose it, but I think the stage is already set for a much bigger conflict down the line. Once players start playing this 17-game season and see the amount of revenue it generates, they’re going to want more for the grind they endure.

Given the circumstances surrounding this deal, I suspect the only way they’ll get what they want is by going on strike, like they did back in the early 1980s. It might be their only recourse if the NFL continues to grow at its current pace. It will get ugly. Fans will hate it and so will the owners. However, it might be the only way they can get what they want.

I hope I’m wrong about this. I look forward to every new NFL season with great excitement. I want to keep enjoying football as a fan and I want the players to benefit as much as they deserve. Hopefully, cooler heads prevail in the end. For now, though, I think it’s only a matter of time before the NFL faces a bigger conflict that they won’t be able to blame on a pandemic.

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Filed under Current Events, football, NFL, sports

My Reaction To Week One Of The (New And Improved) XFL

Two years ago, I expressed intrigue and excitement about the prospect of the XFL returning almost 20 years after its initial failure. Part of that is because I’m a lifelong football fan. My annual excitement over the Super Bowl is proof of that. Another part of that is because the months between February and April, when baseball season starts, is a sports desert.

The NBA and NHL regular season is winding down.

The NCAA basketball tournament hasn’t started yet.

There’s a real void to be filled. Many have tried to fill it with spring football, including the first version of the XFL. To date, all have failed. It has led some to believe that spring football just isn’t possible. I respectfully disagree with that sentiment.

I believe there is a market for more football and I believe this new version of the XFL is doing everything right in pursuing it. They took their time, using the past two years to make sure they had plenty of money in hand and refine the rules. After plenty of waiting and anticipation, week one kicked off this past weekend. I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect. Given how the first XFL failed, it could’ve been a disaster.

After watching all four games and seeing the quality of the product on the field, I have just one thing to say. As it just so happens, Morty Smith said it better.

I know it’s premature.

I know a lot can change between the first week of the season in the last.

For now, that doesn’t matter. I’m in. The XFL 2.0 has sold me. It’s real football at a time when the sports world needs it. I was rooting for it before. Now, I’m rooting even harder. The world of football and the world of sports, in general, will benefit from the XFL succeeding.

I still miss the old XFL cheerleaders, but I’ll manage.

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Super Bowl LIV Recovery Day (And Celebration)

First off, what a game!

I had to say that, especially after the snoozer we had last year. I’m not a huge fan of either team, but I’m a big fan of great, exciting football and Super Bowl LIV delivered. It was a close, exciting game for all four quarters. It showcased two teams that definitely deserved to be there. They both played hard. They both showed why they’re the best. In the end, the better team won.

To the Kansas City Chiefs, you earned this. They played their best game on the game’s biggest stage. Their coach, Andy Reid, finally exorcised some long-simmering demons about his lack of Super Bowl success. Their quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, showed why he’s one of the NFL’s best rising stars. The entire team played like champions and now they are champions.

To the San Francisco 49ers, you put up a hell of a fight. Like the Chiefs, they proved they deserved to be there. Their punishing rushing attack and the steady hand of quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo, made them one of the most dominant teams throughout the regular season and the playoffs. They beat some of the best teams in the league this past season, but in the end, they couldn’t beat the best.

I’ll be using this day to recover from both the excitement of the game and all the junk food I ate while watching it. To fans of the Chiefs, it’s a day to celebrate. Go on. You’ve earned it.

 

The NFL season is officially over now. While a part of me is sad, I still had a great time this season. It was fun to watch from start to finish. Once again, football made every Sunday feel special. I’ll miss it for the next seven months. Until then, I hope the XFL can fill the void.

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Happy Super Bowl LIV Eve!

It’s almost here. The holiest of days for football fans is finally here. I can already taste the cold beer, buffalo wings, and overpriced dip. In less than 24 hours, I’ll actually be tasting it. As a lifelong football fan, a sports fan, and a general fan of anything entertaining on a Sunday afternoon, I couldn’t be more excited.

I’ve been building my Sundays around football for months. Now, I get to do it one more time, at least until the XFL gets started. It’s the biggest game of the year, both in terms of importance and in terms of prime time ratings. There’s a reason why people pay millions for commercial time during the Super Bowl. I’m just one of those reasons.

In the spirit of preparing/celebrating this holiest of sporting events, I’d like to briefly share my Super Bowl plans. I don’t throw a party or stage some elaborate event. I did that in college and it got tedious at some point. Now, ever since I’ve been living on my own, I’ve developed my own Super Bowl ritual. It’s evolved over the years, but I feel like I’ve refined it to perfection.

It goes like this.

The day before the Super Bowl, I buy two big bags of chicken wings, two cases of beer, a giant bag of chips, two jugs of dip, and several bottles of buffalo wing sauce.

On the morning of the Super Bowl, I eat a light breakfast that consists of black coffee, oatmeal, and a couple eggs. I don’t eat anything else for the rest of the day.

Then, approximately four hours before kickoff, I work out and I work out extra hard. That includes a four mile run and weight lifting. I then shower and change into my most comfortable clothes.

An hour before kickoff, I start cooking my wings. I time it just right so that I’m tossing them in the sauce as the national anthem is playing.

During the coin toss, I get a cold beer ready, prepare a plate of wings, and lay out a bag of chips.

At the moment of kickoff, I open the beer, eat my first wing, and start watching the game.

Yes, I know it’s not the most elaborate setup for a Super Bowl viewing experience. For me, it maximizes my enjoyment of the game. While last year’s game wasn’t that exciting, I still had fun and my approach to the game definitely helped. This year, I’m hoping for something better.

Now, I’m not a huge fan of the Kansas City Chiefs or the San Francisco 49ers. However, I’ve become a big fan of Patrick Mahomes for reasons most NFL fans are well aware of. That doesn’t necessarily mean I’m rooting for the Chiefs, but he’s proven his greatness thus far. Nothing would vindicate it more than a Super Bowl championship for a team that hasn’t even played in one since the Nixon Administration.

To the rest of the ardent football fans out there, I hope you share my excitement. I also hope the game caps off the season on the highest of notes. The Super Bowl is a culmination of a journey that few teams get to complete. It’s America’s most popular sport for a reason. When a team wins, it’s a hell of an accomplishment.

I’ll probably have a lot more to say about the game once it’s finished. Until then, my excitement will only build. In the meantime, please enjoy these spectacular highlights from the 2019/2020 NFL season.

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July/August 2020: A Local Baby Boom Triggered By DC Sports?

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As a lifelong fan of sports who lives in the Baltimore/DC metro area, I’m very aware of major events and achievements in sports that affect these areas.

I was very aware when the Washington Redskins won the Superbowl in 1992.

I was very aware when the Baltimore Ravens won the Super Bowl in 2012.

I was very aware of when Robert Griffin III took the league by storm in 2012.

I’m also aware that Lamar Jackson has the Baltimore Ravens looking like Super Bowl contenders this year.

When there’s reason to cheer, I tend to notice. After 2012, however, this area didn’t have many reasons to be cheerful. The Baltimore/DC area has had mixed luck at best when it comes to major sports. The DC area was especially unlucky in that, until very recently, no major sports team had won a championship since the Redskins did it in 1992. That’s a long drought, albeit not the longest.

That finally changed in 2018 when the Washington Capitals won the Stanley Cup. Make no mistake. This was a big deal for the area. My ears are still ringing from some of the cheering I heard. It also made the area subject to an interesting, but sexy side-effect of winning a championship. It may or may not have inspired a bit of a baby boom in the area.

Now, that makes sense intuitively. When your team wins, especially after a long drought, fans are going to celebrate. Sometimes, the celebrations get sexy. When things get sexy, babies sometimes get made. That’s just the nature of celebrations and they’re a beautiful thing.

While it’s hard to determine how much or how little of a baby boom there was once the Capitals won the cub in 2018, there was a notable uptick in babies being named after players. There has also been some previous research about cities or regions that win the Super Bowl on whether a championship causes a spike in birth rates. To date, the research is inconclusive.

However, there is some reason to suspect that championships in certain areas cause a baby boom. When the Chicago Cubs won the world series in 2016, ending a championship drought that was over 100 years old, there was a documented uptick in births nine months later. That implies that whether or not a baby boom occurs after a championship depends heavily on the city.

This brings me back to the DC area. Just a month and a half ago, the Washington Nationals capped off a historic playoff run to win their first World Series since the franchise moved from Montreal back in 2005. It also marked the first World Series won by a DC baseball team since 1924.

As someone who lives near the area, I can confirm that this was an emotional achievement. I have family members who remembered vividly when DC lost its baseball team back in the 1970s. It was a sad time for the region. Some thought they would never see baseball in DC again.

Then, the Washington Nationals came back and, for most of their early history, they were terrible. Even when they got good, though, they developed a reputation for choking in the playoffs. For them to win it all this year, especially after starting 19-31, was nothing short of astounding.

The celebrations this achievement triggered were a sight to behold. It also had me check my calendar. The Nationals capped off their championship on October 30, 2019. That means in late July, early August 2020, we’ll find out just how much celebrating DC sports fans did after that historic achievement.

I’ve already got my calendar marked. I’m going to be keeping an eye on the local news to see if there’s an uptick in births throughout the area during that time. If I find something, I’ll be sure to share the results. Honestly, as a long-time resident of the DC/Baltimore area, I hope there is a bit of a spike. If nothing else, it’ll show the people in my area know how to celebrate in sexy ways.

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Filed under human nature, sex in society, sports

Can We Just Take A Moment To Appreciate Last Night’s Saints/Texans Game?

It’s a good day to be Will Lutz of the New Orleans Saints. That’s all I’ll say.

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