Injuries Are Killing Football

This 2017 NFL season sucks.

I won’t lie, it has been interesting thus far, especially with the Rams and Jaguars being some of the league’s best right now,… but it still sucks.

Devastating, season-ending injuries have taken some of the best talent that we’ve seen over the past couple years. We get extremely excited to watch these players demonstrate these abilities and then watch all their season’s potential fall. While it’s painful for us to handle, I can’t imagine the grief that these stricken players go through.

For me, it all started when Julian Edelman was carted off to the locker room during a preseason game against the Lions. Hours later, it was revealed that he had suffered a non-contact ACL tear. All New England fans alike were heartbroken, especially after the amazing season he and his team just had.

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Many wondered what would become of the Patriots and Tom Brady without one of their main weapons on offense. We chose to bite through the pain and keep moving forward. So far, the season has been very shaky for the Patriots, but it can only get better… hopefully.

But then the list of extremely talented, seriously injured players continued to grow from there. Now in Week Nine, the names are staggering:

QBs: Ryan Tannehill, Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck, Deshaun Watson, Carson Palmer
RBs: David Johnson, Dalvin Cook, Spencer Ware
WRs: Julian Edelman, O’Dell Beckham Jr., Allen Robinson
TEs: Greg Olsen
OTs: Joe Thomas, Jason Peters, Zach Strief, Joe Staley
OGs: Marshal Yanda, Mike Iupati
Cs: Ryan Kalil
DLs: JJ Watt, Stephon Tuitt, Solomon Thomas, Cliff Avril, Sharrif Floyd
LBs: Dont’a Hightower, Whiney Mercilus, Tamba Hali
DBs: Stephon Gilmore, Jason Verrett, Eric Berry, Malik Hooker
Ks: Dan Bailey

Looking at it from a glance, the list is compiled of names who’ve been decorated in the game of football. Major awards, conference standouts, Pro Bowlers, etc.

Personally, it killed me the most when David Johnson went down Week One because I picked him first overall in fantasy. My team hasn’t been the same ever since.

I think the worst it came to was this week when Deshaun Watson went down with an non-contact ACL tear in practice, just a day after the Astros won their first ever World Series. What a heartbreak for the city of Houston who had come off a major hurricane and had already lost their hero JJ Watt earlier in the year.

Watson is a rising star and his 19 touchdown passes lead the league – an impressive stat for a rookie that didn’t even start the season opener. He was well on his way to earning Rookie of the Year and the unfortunate injury halted that campaign.

Stay tuned… ⏱ 1/2

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I look forward to seeing what he can accomplish next season.

But with all the injuries at the quarterback position, Colin Kaepernick still has not been contacted for a job, but that’s not the issue at hand.

The injuries might’ve done something to the “wow” factor of the game and the reason why we all tune in every Sunday in the fall. But it has done something to the postseason. Imagine what the playoffs will be like now; the NFC North is anybody’s without Aaron Rodgers and the Packers taking it every year, the Rams and Jaguars may get their first taste of playoffs in a while, and we’ll get to see if Tom Brady can pull it off again (I’m secretly hoping this happens).

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Takeaways from a “Breakout” 2017 Yankees Season

The 162-game season that Major League Baseball brings to us every year is a lot to follow sometimes. But coming off an extraordinary season where a 108-year curse was broken, the 2017 season was destined to be, in my opinion, one of the most highly-anticipated years of baseball.

Why? Because after last November, when the Cubs took Game 7 of the World Series and brought a championship trophy back to Chicago for the first time since 1908, you truly realize that baseball is a sport where absolutely anything could happen.

But for one team, this season wasn’t supposed to be the most exciting, especially since campaigns in the past couple years didn’t exactly match up to par. Incumbent New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi went into this season as a “lame duck,” meaning that if his team didn’t produce, he’d be getting the pink slip of disapproval at the end of the year.

And here we are now; throughout chipped teeth, thumbs-down hand signals, and fans being struck by foul balls, the Yankees made it further into the postseason than anybody could have possibly predicted. Among all the talks that this would be a rebuilding year and that they wouldn’t win more than 80 games, they laid all the speculations to rest and made this their season.

For most of us Yankee fans, it all ended abruptly when, in Game Seven of the ALCS, we watched the Astros offense tear up the field like they have all season. Most, if not, all of us, went to bed feeling defeated. I myself went up to bed early before the game even ended, partly because I couldn’t stand to watch anymore and mostly because I had a rugby game the next day.

We showed such promise in the previous postseason games leading up to that and to have it all come to a close the way that it did, it was heartbreaking. The name of the game for the American League postseason was “home field advantage.” If you played at home, the chances of you winning were extremely high. The Yankees won each one of their home games during the postseason, but so did the Astros. When an entire city that has recently come off a tragedy is rallying behind their team, you can’t be surprised when they take the whole enchilada.

And yet, people will still hate the Yankees, no matter who’s on the team. Young faces, old faces, you name it. The Baby Bombers will still get the hate that their predecessors have dealt with for years. Just ask a disgruntled Barstool Sports employee.

Hate to say it, but he’s right. Having the highest payroll and the most tenured history out of anyone in the game of baseball won’t make you the most popular team among nationwide fans. The Yankees have always been good, even dominant. It’s the progression and development of opposing organizations that have caused New York to fall behind and catch up.

The end of the season brought along high hopes though. For one, both Girardi and GM Brian Cashman have both been extended invitations to stick around for next year, and I don’t see why they shouldn’t (update as of 10/26: Girardi announced that he wouldn’t be returning as the team’s manager after 10 years at the helm). As for overall team and player gameplay, many things need to be addressed and dealt with before the team can come anywhere near where they left off.

Hitting

The bats were hot, and then they were cold, and then they were hot again; a frequent trend of this season. The highs and lows of the offense showed us that there’s more to come from a lineup that definitely has a lot of building room for next season.

Aaron Judge made our hopes for this year strong when he when on a home run rampage, hitting tape-measure-worthy moonshots that left his teammates, fans and opponents with their jaws on the ground. He proved he was no joke in the Home Run Derby in July, but afterwards, things went on the decline. He kept striking out, finishing games with no hits and leaving the batter’s box frustrated. When you’re that age and you create a media frenzy on yourself, everyone’s out to criticize you. Sports media outlets continued to keep track of how many consecutive games Judge would strikeout and how far his average was dipping below .300. But you’ve got to hand it to him: no matter how many times he came up short in an at-bat, he didn’t argue with the umpire and moved on to the next one. Around the end of the season, he started to pick back up and had a couple big-time home runs for the team during the postseason. He even broke the rookie record for most dingers in a single season. What he needs to work on for next season is consistency, because that’s what would’ve landed him the AL MVP trophy. The Rookie of the Year award will certainly do.

(Sir) Didi Gregorius became an unlikely household name. The Yankees will never, ever (in my opinion) find a more prolific, franchise shortstop whose name is not Derek Jeter. For Didi to take up this role in the fashion that he did with all the love and enthusiasm he has for both the game and his players, it’s what us fans love to see. He led the team in batting average and was third on the team in home runs… may I remind you he’s a shortstop? Having his attitude and energy in the clubhouse certainly boosted everyone’s morale. Having his ability at the plate was an added bonus. Those two home runs in Game Five of the ALDS were a nice touch, too. I hope to see him do even greater things in 2018.

Gary Sanchez was yet another Baby Bomber that showed what fierce bat could do for a powerful offense. There’s just one thing that needs to be worked on for next season: plate defensiveness. There were too many passed balls and wild pitches that made for costly mistakes. Although he is young, proving yourself as a well-rounded catcher early on will go a long way. In the offseason, I know for a fact that he’ll be taking a lot of bumps and bruises trying to block pitches from going to the backstop. He has a wide base that should be used to his advantage, and the organization will be pleased once they see the improvements he’s made come time for pitchers and catchers to report for spring training.

Baseball is not easy. Its a physically and mentally challenging sport. Criticism, whether constructive or otherwise, does not phase me. I welcome it because at the end of the day most of it comes with love and the desire to help me be better. And you know what? Nobody, nobody expects more from me than me. So I take it all in and just smile because I am blessed. Have a great day. #iamgary #elgary // El béisbol no es fácil. Es un deporte que te reta física y mentalmente. Las criticas, sean constructivas u otras, no me molestan. Las invito porque al final del día la mayoría vienen con amor y el deseo de ayudarme. Y saben qué? Nadie, nadie espera mas de mi que yo mismo. Por eso lo tomo todo tranquilo y con una sonrisa. Buen día.

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All around the offense was poised for a phenomenal year, and it looks like 2018 will be the same story, but hopefully with something bigger in the fall.

Pitching

Without run support, your pitcher is going to have a terrible time. That’s why when the bats are hot, the more the ace is going to feel composed up on the mound, but the rest of the team around you is going to hold you accountable to keep the momentum rolling. But as much as the defense can’t rely on the offense to get the job done, the same can be said vice versa. Perfect example: Brett Gardner’s two-RBI single in Game Five of the ALDS saved us from facing total playoff elimination after Sabathia hit the wall in the fifth inning.

The Yankees rotation this year was shaky, up-and-down, sometimes inconsistent, synonyms… to a point where we questioned whether we could survive in the playoffs behind the starters we put out there. Even acquiring Sonny Gray didn’t exactly help either. Am I the only one who felt it was agonizing to watch opposing runs being given up in the first inning or earlier?

It all came down to the bullpen, which was one of the best in baseball. Acquiring Tommy Kahnle and bringing back David Robertson at the deadline proved to be beneficial to how the team decided to round out regular season play. Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman could only do so much, so the extra heat was extremely necessary. Plus, I only had so much faith in Chapman after blowing a couple saves that I wasn’t sure having him as our main closer would help us in October.

Luis Severino: a fiery inferno on the mound. Masahiro Tanaka: a lit match that burns out after a while. I’ve said before that Severino could have been a dark horse in the AL Cy Young nominations if not for Chris Sale and Corey Kluber. I’ve also said before that Masahiro Tanaka is the most inconsistent, international pitcher that the Yankees have seen in a while. Both statements are opinions. The stats are there to form your own.

We may also have seen the end of CC Sabathia’s career in pinstripes. This being the final year in his contract, his future is uncertain. He told the New York Post that New York is where he wants to be, but whether the front office wants to negotiate a new contract remains to be seen. If this is the last time that we see him take the mound for the Yankees, then it’s been a hell of a career. He’ll go down in history as one of the best lefties to ever play the game of baseball.

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Now I can’t wait for 2018. I’ll stick with football for now up until the last second of the Super Bowl, but baseball has continued to blossom its excitement factor. Fans young and old are falling in love all over again with the new, young faces of the game that have been plastered all over sports media outlets, front pages of magazines and newspapers and the posters that hang overhead of a child’s bed. The World Series may still be well underway, but us Yankees fans are definitely looking forward to the future.

If You Weren’t Aware, That Home Run Derby Was Hype

I may have lost a follower or two with my incessant rambling and allotment of tweets, but that Home Run Derby was probably the most exciting thing I’ve seen this month and I couldn’t help but be expressive.

This was the most anticipated Home Run Derby since 1999, when Mark McGwire cracked moonshots over the Green Monster, across Lansdowne Street and on to the Mass Pike. Names like the Fenway favorite Nomar, Jeff Bagwell, Sammy Sosa, and Larry Walker were also included in the star-studded event. Not to mention the man with the sweetest swing in the game ever won the event in Boston that year, Ken Griffey Jr.

Everything leading up to this event spelled perfection: two rookies, Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger, are numbers one and two respectively on the home run list with both emerging to be top contenders for the MVP at the end of the year. It’s unheard of for a rookie win the award and as the season goes on, they continue to improve and make their claim for the title.

Giancarlo Stanton, last year’s champion, had to defend his crown on his home turf at Marlins Park. The seasoned veteran and slugger was placed in a field of young stars and had to compete with them. People doubted whether or not he could, not because of the rookies hitting home runs, but the fact that today’s generation of MLB players is younger, faster, stronger, and more groomed to take the league by storm in the next couple years.

But every round last night displayed and drew some level of interest one way or another. Every contestant had a great opportunity to try and win and advance further thanks to the new rules of the Derby.

First Round: 4 Mike Moustakas vs. 5 Miguel Sano

I remember watching a documentary years ago about Sano in my 11th grade Spanish class. The Twins’ third baseman is from the Dominican Republic and the documentary was about how strict signing and recruiting for baseball players in Central and South American countries is.

Ballplayer: Pelotero, narrated by John Leguizamo, followed the lives of two Dominican baseball prospects, one being Sano. Sano faced issues when the league suspected him of lying about his age. He had the look of a 20 year old and wrote that he was 16. Usually, players in southern countries are signed to a maximum $5 million contract by the age of 16. The league went on a witch hunt, doing various, intense background checks to find documentation that he was who he said he was. The league ended the investigation finding nothing.

So I was very surprised that he was there. It was amazing to see how far he had come, rising up the ranks in the Twins’ organization and the entire league in general.

By the end of the round, Royals’ Mike Moustakas was so close to taking the win. Sano had put up 11 home runs to start off, leaving Moustakas to try and beat it. He came within one home run of tying it in the last thirty seconds and couldn’t hit one that could find its way over the fence. He choked, plain and simple.

First Round: 1 Giancarlo Stanton vs. 8 Gary Sanchez

Sanchez took the plate first to blast 17 home runs, shocking considering he was facing last year’s event’s champion.

Stanton didn’t look in form, however, come time for him to start hitting. Within the first minute and a half, he only had four home runs. You’d think he’d find a zone with this being his event. He took his timeout very early to regain his composure. It seemed to help out because he started clobbering ball after ball (five in a row at one point) to come within two home runs of tying Sanchez. Some of them were the longest of the night before Judge came up.

Unfortunately, Stanton couldn’t outmatch him. The champ had been dethroned by the Baby Bomber, El Kraken. Many thought it would come between Judge and Stanton, the matchup everybody was waiting for. But it was Judge’s young, teammate to take him down. Who woulda thought? I guess it’s possible for an eight seed to take down a number one seed.

Also, is Logan Morrison still talking now or? No? That’s what I thought.

First Round: 3 Cody Bellinger vs. 6 Charlie Blackmon

This season, the Rockies have had a breakout season behind surprising breakout star, Charlie Blackmon, who brought himself into the top-10 list for league home runs. He hit a strong 14 homers in his first round matchup before Bellinger was able to take his swings.

Bellinger was looking to cruise right past him until the very end of the round; he had only hit one 440 foot home run and needed another one to get the 30 second bonus time. Sure enough, he got it with one second left on the clock. With the best luck in the world, the young Dodgers rookie then had an easy time hitting a couple more to beat Blackmon.

First Round: 2 Aaron Judge vs. 7 Justin Bour

Aaron Judge had been hyped up all throughout the media coverage. During batting practice, the All-Star nominees took to the field to shag fly balls and watched as Judge left them speechless. He even hit the ceiling at one point.

Amazing.

But Justin Bour? 1. I had no idea he could hit. 2. He gave Judge a run for his money.

Bour hit 22 home runs in his first round swings, the most of any participant up until that point. During his timeout, his teammate and fellow participant Stanton supplied him with a doughnut, you know, for a little extra sugar-intensified energy. Then he still continued to lash out.

As a Yankee fan, I was worried; Judge had some competition and a high bar to reach. Thank god he loves competition. 23 home runs looked effortless to him, and the fact that some went over 500 feet was an added bonus.

Semifinals: 8 Gary Sanchez vs. 5 Miguel Sano

The way Sanchez was hitting in the first round failed to translate over to his semifinal bout against Sano. He only managed 10 home runs, making it easy for Sano to take the round and advance to the finals.

It was a valiant effort and would’ve been interesting to see Judge against his fellow Baby Bomber teammate, but alas we were denied such a fantasy.

Semifinals: 3 Cody Bellinger vs. 2 Aaron Judge

Everyone wanted to see this matchup as well. Both Judge and Bellinger are arguably the best rookies the game of baseball has seen in the past couple years. Both are in contention for MVP, an accomplishment unheard of for a rookie to reach. Here they are now, leading both their teams in major offensive statistical categories and leading the league in home runs. They’re performing better than some of the seasoned veterans today. So it surely made for an interesting competition.

After Bellinger set the margin at 12 home runs, he was put on the panel alongside Mark Teixeira and Tim Kurkjian to commentate while Judge tried to surpass him. This was how ESPN wanted to happen: Judge beat him, but the station wanted to let the audience at home watch and hear Bellinger react to losing. Storybook set of events.

Championship: 5 Miguel Sano vs. 2 Aaron Judge

This was it, the big moment everyone around baseball was waiting for: Judge competing to be crowned the Home Run Derby Champion. The people in the stands were booing him in the beginning during introductions only to watch in awe as he defied gravity with his custom-made, Miami-themed bat sending balls into orbit.

The one thing I noticed, however, was the pitcher throwing to Sano in the first half of the championship. Maybe his arm was getting tired, but he was throwing junk at him. Inside, outside, top of the strike zone… his pitches were going everywhere, giving Sano hardly anything to hit. That may have very well ruined his chances at putting up a good number for Judge to compete against.

Judge wanted him to hit more. He left the batting cage down in the depths of the dugout early to watch Sano and cheer him on. He wanted him to hit more. Like I said, he loves the sense of competition.

Big Cat from Barstool Sports was sitting in the left field stands and tweeted out during Judge’s final round that he had hit one to the ceiling where it bounced around in the rafters for a little bit, came down, and still went over the wall.

Like taking candy from a baby, Judge made it look easy and took the throne to become the first rookie ever to win the event.

This is what baseball is need of: young, bright, and exciting stars to bring in a new wave of sensational athleticism that even the least likely of baseball fans can get behind. I’ve said Aaron Judge’s name a lot in this post, but he’s one, if not, the leader in this smashing generation that will bring the game further into the future to compete in a tough American sports market dominated by football and basketball.

Baseball needs these young stars, and Monday night was simply a showcase for them to realize that.

The Slow, But Progressing, Re-Evolution of Baseball

I remember being obsessed with baseball. It was my favorite sport when I was younger; the thrill of the game and the camaraderie with my teammates on my Cal Ripken little league squad consumed me, and they were some of the best years of my life. Not to mention that I idolized Derek Jeter and to do everything that he did was my way of paying homage to him.

I also never missed a Yankee game on TV from 2005-07 seasons. If I did miss one, I was furious with myself. I got to watch all of my favorites including Jeter (A-Rod, Matsui, Posada, Bernie, Giambi, Mussina, Mariano, and Randy Johnson [remember that two-year tenure he had with the Yankees?]).

yankees 05

Nowadays, it’s very difficult for me to catch a baseball game on TV, slightly because of the three hours I don’t want to dedicate to watching it. However, it’s weird for me to think about how I’ll dedicate three hours to watch a football game or maybe even a basketball game, but not a baseball game.

It’s understandable why; there’s a lot more action happening during a football or basketball game than there is for baseball (minus all the huddles and stoppages of play for penalties and technical fouls).

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The truth is that baseball became a little boring to me. It really hurts me to say that because I look back on my life and see how much baseball helped me grow as a person and how it affected my life in the positive way that it did. I guess I just needed something more fast and intriguing to watch. Something that if you look away for just a second, you could miss a big piece of the action.

It’s also because of the stigma that baseball has been receiving over the past couple years. When I was in middle and high school, I kept getting picked on and teased by some kids who had once played baseball in the spring, but then switched over to lacrosse. I guess that’s the transition some kids go through when they can’t hit a baseball and then think the entire sport sucks. Secondly, the media gives America’s pastime a stigma too, thus leading to the consumer persuasion. It’s hard to see baseball marketed right in today’s era of sports when everything is about LeBron James.

(Just a friendly reminder that ESPN used a half-hour timeslot to broadcast this piece-of-garbage special)

Looking back on how I was when I was younger and how baseball became an dull sport to me, I wish I could go back and slap myself in the face for being stupid.

Baseball finally became exciting again; there’s fights with Bryce Harper’s aerodynamic hair, there’s a 6-foot-7 rookie power forward playing right field and leading the league in home runs for the Yankees, and there’s a Dodgers pitcher who is making his claim for the Hall of Fame in just one season. Not to mention that a 108-year World Series drought was just ended in November last year.

These are only a few things that have been happening in the game recently, but I, and other fans, could give you a list of all the excitement that baseball has offered us for the past couple of years.

Baseball is on the up and coming… again. And if you still think that it’s boring, you need to read this article in the Huffington Post that helped me see the light, so to speak:

Baseball Isn’t Boring, YOU’RE Boring

The title speaks for itself.

The game of baseball hasn’t gotten longer or shorter, disregarding extra innings. It’s still nine inning and roughly two-and-a-half hours long.

Stimulating action doesn’t mean that there needs to be people running around the field every second.

And oh, you have a short attention span? Then sorry, guess baseball isn’t exactly the sport for you.

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It’s kind of hard to hit a baseball that can reach over 90 miles per hour, almost so that it should be humanly impossible.

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Imagine the training and repetitions needed to outmatch that margin of error.

Everyone’s entitled to their opinion about sports. Like baseball, people think soccer is boring as well. Maybe I’m a little bias since I’m trying to become a sports broadcasting journalist and I need to see every sport as professionally equal. But the fact of the matter is that baseball is an incredible sport that has the same level difficulty as every other sport: insane difficulty.

What baseball needs now is a face that will represent the game well. It arguably used to be Jeter, but who could it possibly be now that he’s retired? It could be Mike Trout or Jose Bautista, or even Bryce Harper and his very unique personality.

They just need to find the proper face; one that shares the same massive popularity as LeBron. And that’s the most difficult part.

Welcome to the new re-evolution of baseball. The return and rise of the game is overshadowing all of us, and it’s beautiful.

10 Active NFL Players That Deserve to Win a Title

Winning the Lombardi Trophy should be the mindset of every single NFL player in the league; it signifies a team’s dominance and the effort they put into achieving this admirable feat. Unfortunately, in a league controlled by powerhouse teams that take up the Super Bowl spotlight, some players who have made a namesake for themselves have either never been able to win the big one, or ever be in one. It’s a shame that some of the game’s best athletes haven’t been able to get their hands on the championship trophy, despite their incredible work ethic and accomplishments. With that said, here are ten of the most elite, active NFL players that deserve to win a title:

10. Carson Palmer

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Carson Palmer did not have the greatest start to a professional career coming off a Heisman award-winning season and being drafted first overall by the Bengals. He bounced back later in his career to win the NFL Comeback Player of the Year in 2015 with the Arizona Cardinals. For his sake, he does deserve some playoff glory for the hardships that he’s been through. For a man who has everything, it’s strange that he is partially defined for what he’s missing: a title.

9. Julius Peppers

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Peppers hasn’t come as close to a Super Bowl win since he and the Panthers were dashed at the hands of the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXVIII (how tragic). He is currently the Panthers’ all-time leader in sacks, forced fumbles, and blocked kicks. It’s extraordinary that a man drafted in 2002 is still a force to be reckoned with in the league today. His consistent level of play and upgrade to any defense has made for a great career that would be nicely capped off with a Super Bowl victory.

8. Frank Gore

Frank Gore

At 33 years old, Gore is a still a stud running back that is able to rack up 1,000 yard seasons when most backs his age are at home on the couch. This past season, his 1,025-yard total was the highest by any RB not named John Riggins or Walter Payton in year 12, making for his ninth 1,000-yard season. He did get close to a championship win with Harbaugh’s 49ers, but he won’t get anywhere close with the mending Colts. For a player about to head in to his 13th year, he’s been everything of what a championship player should be.

7. Antonio Gates

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111 career touchdowns – tied for most ever by a tight end alongside Tony Gonzalez. 36 years old, more than 200 NFL games played, and Antonio Gates still doesn’t have a ring. He also earned three straight first-team All-Pro Honors from 2004 to 2006. In the direction the Chargers have taken their organization over the past couple years, Gates won’t be in the Super Bowl spotlight anytime soon, even after all work he’s put in to help his team win… or at least try to.

6. Joe Thomas

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If you give this guy a championship, you might as well give his whole team one too, and they need one more than anything. Joe Thomas has played every snap at left tackle for the saddest team in the league, the Cleveland Browns. His only winning season was his rookie year, where the Browns went 10-6 surprisingly. The six-time first-team All-Pro has done his job extremely well at an elite level while his team has gone 38-106 since 2007. This guy deserves to win, but being the humble guy that he is, he’ll put the entire city of Cleveland first.

5. Eric Berry

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This guy’s life could be a movie if some Hollywood studio decided to pick up his story. After being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in late 2014 and going through chemotherapy treatment in the offseason, Berry came back for the 2015 season and was named a Pro Bowler, a first-team All-Pro, and AP NFL Comeback Player of the Year. That’s simply incredible. The Kansas City Chiefs just made him the highest-paid safety in the NFL with a franchise tag to go along with his monstrous contract. What would make his story more incredible, however, is if he was able to hoist the Lombardi Trophy to bring it all around full circle.

4. Julio Jones

julio jones.jpg.pngSo close, but yet so far. The Atlanta Falcons were by far the best team in the NFL last year, but fell flat and blew the biggest lead in Super Bowl history (Go Pats). Julio Jones is the best wide receiver in the game today and has done nothing to tarnish his reputation off the field. I think back to Stephen A. Smith’s rant about him on First Take back in February about how it’s all about actions with him, not words. Not to mention that he’s a one-man highlight reel (see catches he made in Super Bowl). If Jones and the Falcons win a championship in the next couple years, it’ll be rightfully deserved because of the enormous work ethic they all put into success. But against the Patriots, they might have to work on holding a lead better.

3. Jason Witten

jason wittenSure enough to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, Witten is without question one of the best tight ends to ever play the game. Like Gronkowski, Witten is asked to block very often and is an every-down player. He currently ranks seventh all-time in tight end catches behind Tony Gonzalez. He even helps rookies adjust well to their new spots on the team (example: Dak Prescott completed 72 percent of his passes when targeting Witten). He’s a team player that can still perform at a high level. However, the Dallas Cowboys haven’t seen a Super Bowl appearance since the mid-1990’s. Witten won’t be touching any trophies soon if his team keeps on choking in the playoffs like they have in the recent past.

2. Adrian Peterson

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When healthy and available, Peterson has been a dominant player on any field he steps on. He’s also the last non-quarterback to win league MVP. He came close to breaking Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record, which was the main reason why the Vikings landed in the postseason in 2012. Unfortunately, he has missed a total of 28 games over the past three seasons and has developed a severe case of fumbilitis. Now with the Saints, his career is going in a different direction now that him and Mark Ingram will have to share backfield duties. His resume is all of what a championship player should be, but his lone NFC Championship appearance was not one to be remembered. Maybe he’ll help the Saints get back on top and then he’ll finally be able to add a Lombardi Trophy to his repertoire.

1. Larry Fitzgerald

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It hurts me that Fitz hasn’t won a championship yet. Fitzgerald will obviously waltz right into the Hall of Fame when eligible. But can he get a ring to walk in with? His best shot was back in Super Bowl XLIII where the Cardinals lost to the Steelers. He currently ranks third-all-time in receptions and led the league last season in that same category. Time is running out for him as he has already openly pondered retirement. As one of the most reliable wide receivers to ever lace up his cleats, Larry Fitzgerald deserves a championship that will make his career completely fulfilled.

The Red Sox and Orioles Brew Up Controversy

Already a month into the 2017 season, Major League Baseball has made some standout headlines: “Judgement Day in the Bronx”, “Nats Showing Early Dominance”, and “Cubs’ Bats Failing to Follow Historic Season”.

America’s pastime shows promise for an exciting rest of the season. But for two franchises, the headlines have grown more controversial throughout their bout.

The Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles have developed a rivalry filled with vicious wild pitches and unnecessary racial slurs in only a month. How’s that for a headline? With both teams a couple games out of first place in the AL East, the animosity between the two has skyrocketed to an intense level.

On April 21st, Orioles’ Manny Machado overslid second base attempting to break up a double play and caught Boston’s Dustin Pedroia’s calf with his spike. Had Machado purposefully meant to do this, hand him an Oscar for his acting ability. By all accounts, it looks as though it was an accident and he even tried to help Pedroia after the contact. The Red Sox second baseman would leave the game early and sit out the next three.

Pedroia defended Machado’s slide saying it was legal and that playing at an intense level like that is natural. As captain of the team, he ordered his fellow teammates to show no signs of retaliation towards Machado or the rest of the Orioles organization.

This whole situation could’ve blown over like it was nothing, but instead, hostilities began to escalate.

The following game, Machado was targeted with three straight inside pitches by Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez, failing every time. Later in the game, reliever Matt Barnes (an alumni of my high school, believe it or not) chucked a fastball right behind his head, leading to an ejection and Barnes’ four game suspension.

But it doesn’t stop there…

Baltimore’s closer Zach Britton fired a random shot at Pedroia’s leadership ability, saying, “If he can’t control his teammates, then there’s a bigger issue over there.” Pedroia said addressed his comments saying that he is entitled to his own opinion and that it’s time to move on from the situation.

But guess what? You’re probably right if you hypothesized that all the fuss didn’t find an ending. The Orioles/Red Sox game on May 1st at Fenway Park proved to be a turning point.

Baltimore starter Dylan Bundy plunked Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts, who both had nothing to do with the overlying situation. In the outfield, however, Orioles outfielder Adam Jones was the victim of, what he claimed to be, racial slurs thrown at him, alongside a stray bag of peanuts.

“I got called the n-word a handful times out there,” Jones said to Bob Nightengale of USA Today. “It’s unfortunate that people need to resort to those types of epithets to degrade another human being. I’m trying to make a living for myself and for my family.

Boston Police escorted the 34 antagonizing fans out of the ballpark. Both the Red Sox organization and Mayor Marty Walsh apologized to Jones, calling the fans’ behavior “inexcusable.” Walsh chimed in saying, “We are [all] better than this.”

Jones was greeted with a standing ovation from the Fenway faithful during his first plate appearance the next night.

Despite this, the team-wide personal vendetta against Manny Machado continued when Chris Sale fired a ball behind his head. A heated Machado summed up the entire situation in a post-game interview with just two words: “fucking bullshit.”

On May 3rd, Orioles starter Kevin Gausman was ejected from the game after beaming Boston shortstop Xander Bogaerts with an off-speed, rogue curveball to open the bottom of the second inning. To top it off, more racist remarks were heard during the performance of the national anthem which was sung by a Kenyan woman.

So, it goes without saying that the Red Sox/Orioles series this season has taken a turn down an unnecessary path. Will all this commotion continue when they face each other again in June, August, and September?

Both league commissioner Rob Manfred and chief baseball officer Joe Torre have had to step in now like a principal disciplining two misbehaving students to put an end to all this madness; enough is enough.

But what about the discipline that’s needed to ensure that racism stays out of the ballpark?

Controlling a player’s on- and off-the-field behavior is one thing; simply giving a suspension could either reduce the chance of it happening again or only fuel a player’s motive to commit the same act. Controlling a random fan’s actions in the stands, though? That’s a whole other ballgame. No pun intended.

The end result of this whole debacle still remains to be seen. Fans need to remember that their role is to support and cheer on their team no matter what. Sure, you can boo and jeer and hiss all you want at the other team; even an occasional “you suck” can be permitted at the discretion of the stadium’s rules and regulations. But when a line is crossed like on Monday night, something has to be said.

Imagine the six year old kid attending his first Red Sox game that day and hearing much more than what they would consider “potty mouth”. Their parents must be livid that they were exposed to that, especially in a friendly atmosphere like the one at Fenway Park.

It seems as though society still has many steps to take in showing any shred of tolerance. Sports is about a display of athleticism; it’s been years since race has played a role in how a player received a reaction from the crowd. We’re past that era and some fans still need to get that relayed to them.

Let’s stick to baseball and move forward.

NFL Draft First Round Recap

For the first couple picks of the draft last night, I was only able to watch it on my phone between my legs while at my school’s Danceworks show (which was amazing by the way). I was blown away by a lot of the selections and moves that ultimately spelled out a team’s future for this upcoming season. Here are some of the major events throughout the night that made this first round so special:

  1. The Browns Draft an Army, But Will It Make a Difference?

Hey, at least they didn’t draft another QB… yet. It was obvious that DE Myles Garrett from Texas A&M was going to go first overall. However, their following picks were very surprising because of the big names they selected, trying to bring some life into an already dead team. For their 25th and 29th overall picks, the Browns selected two studs with safety Jabrill Peppers from Michigan and TE David Njoku from Miami. Will these big names help them though? Garrett will be a powerful force coming off the end of the line, but going up against an NFL, possibly all-pro, tackle is way different than embarrassing some far-from-standout offensive lineman. He will be explosive, yes, but he’ll need to prove himself if he wants to be the dominant force that he says he is. Peppers did it all in college, playing nine positions offensively and defensively. If he can help the Browns succeed, then it’s very vital that the Browns strategize their defense, or offense, around him once he finds his groove within the organization.

2. Bears Trade ONE PICK UP to Select Mitchell Trubisky

Instead of me talking about this pick, I’ll let some Bears fans express how they feel about this…

Some Bears fans weren't exactly pumped for their team's selection at No. 2.

A post shared by SportsCenter (@sportscenter) on

Last night, the Bears, who originally had the third overall pick, traded one pick up in order to take QB Mitchell Trubisky from North Carolina. But why? The Niners didn’t even want him; they were going to select DE Solomon Thomas from Stanford regardless. And to top it off, they traded away multiple 2018 third round draft picks when they could end up needing those later on. After signing QB Mike Glennon to an absurd $15M contract, the Bears seem to really be banking on quarterbacks this season, which is understandable after watching Jay Cutler fall off a cliff these past couple seasons. The Bears surely needed a change, but was this the right approach?

3. Jaguars Add Another Name to Their Backfield with Leonard Fournette

Since I predicted this pick, I won’t dive in too deep with the analysis. The Jaguars need some help in their backfield since T.J. Yeldon and Chris Ivory don’t seem to be carrying the load. Fournette could surely help, but after a lackluster season, I’m very interested to see how he adjusts to a major NFL role.

4. Can the Panthers Bounce Back After a Shaky Season with McCaffrey?

I think this was the most surprising pick of the night other than Trubisky. I wasn’t expecting McCaffrey to go in this direction, but after taking about 30 seconds last night to reflect and think about it, it totally makes sense. The Panthers needed both a running back and a wide receiver; they got both in one pick. This Stanford stud fits the mold of a running back while also being the right size for a slot receiver. It’s a perfect match. Unless I’m proven wrong this coming season, the Panthers could get back up to an over .500 record like they did two seasons ago.

5. The CFP Champion Lands in Houston

Clemson QB Deshaun Watson, who, three months ago, brought down the Alabama Crimson Tide in the College Football Championship with two seconds left, was selected by the Houston Texans with the 12th overall pick. After giving away Brock Osweiler, who proved to not be worth the $72M they gave him, Houston saw that it was time to invest in a new quarterback that would help them be a major contender in not only their conference, but in the AFC South which, statistically, was the worst division in all of the NFL last year. Watson could definitely make a statement early if he and DeAndre Hopkins feel each other out during summer training and running routes after practice. And by the looks of it, that could happen very early…


6. The Eagles Find Someone to Match Legend Reggie White

There were a lot of fans who were very pleased by this pick when Philadelphia selected Tennessee All-American DE Derek Barnett. With the Volunteers, he broke the university’s career sack record of 32.0, which was formerly held by NFL legend Reggie White, who also played with the Eagles from 1985-92. If this isn’t something that has shades of destiny, I don’t know of anything else that could spell it out better. Many improvements need to be made to the Eagles, especially defensively, and this was a great start.

There are only six more rounds to go, but last night showed some impressive faces landing in spots where they could eventually make a difference. The Patriots won’t have a pick until early in the third round, and the 49ers are still looking to make a change since newly-appointed GM John Lynch took over. I’m very interested to see what else unfolds, especially since Florida State RB Dalvin Cook is still on the board. It’s anyone’s game, but it’s the most exciting time of the month for football.