Remembering a Hero

Some heroes do not wear capes, they wear football helmets, or they wear military gear, or in some cases, they were both. Several days ago, on April 22nd, the nation remembered the 13th anniversary of the passing of Pat Tillman. With Memorial Day a month away, what a more perfect time to remember this hero.

 

Cpl. Pat Tillman, without a doubt, is the most heroic and the greatest patriot ever play in the National Football League. When he died in 2004 at the age of 27, the entire nation mourned, but also paid their respect to this Cardinal.

 

Tillman was born in Northern California, and played college football for the Arizona State Sun Devils, before being drafted by the Arizona Cardinals in the 1998 NFL Draft. Tillman immediately made an impact for Arizona, being selected to the 2000 NFL All-Pro team.  While Tillman was flourishing in the desert sun, one day in 2001, would impact his life, and the entire world forever.

 

That day was September 11th. Tillman, who had family members serve in the Armed Forces, was incredibly moved by the attacks on that day. After the 2001 season, Tillman and his brother Kevin, left their professionally sports career (Kevin was a member of the Cleveland Indians Organization to join the Army Ranger program. Tillman turned down a contract offer of $3.6million over three years to fight for his country.

 

Kevin and Pat enlisted in May of 2002, and finished their basic training August of that same year. Pat served in the Second Platoon, Alpha Company, Second Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment.

On April 22nd, 2004, while deployed in Afghanistan, Tillman was serving as an acting team captain and SAW gunner of serial one of a two-pronged caravan, Kevin was also there. Later, while under an ambush, Tillman was shot and killer that day by what we know now was friendly fire.

It has now been 13 years since Pat left us, and his name still is talked about, and his legacy still burns within the spirit of this country. Tillman was a man who gave up professional football, something kids grow up dreaming about, to defend his country and the freedoms we are able to enjoy.

His name is still around his foundation, and also the Pac-12 defensive player of the year award. His number has been retired by Arizona State as well as the Cardinals, and was awarded the Silver Star and the rank of corporal.

However, all of these awards and accolades cannot bring back Pat Tillman.  Nevertheless, what Tillman gave up in contracts and riches, we can never repay him. The term “hero,” is thrown around a lot, but at the top of the mountain filled with patriots, Pat Tillman stands the tallest.

 

Best College Fight Songs

Its April in America, and for sports fans, not only are the NBA Playoffs going on as well as the beginning of baseball season, but also college football spring games are happening throughout the nation. It’s a time of the year, where we’ve been deprived of any football for two long months. Not only that, we still have five months to go before week one of the college football season.

 

Football, especially college football has emerged has an American tradition. The feel of the fall season on a college campus brings us to almost a storybook place in our lives. There isn’t a more beautiful sight for the human eyes, then walking through trees with changing leaves, the smell of tailgates, and a 80,000 seat stadium right in front of you.

 

One of the greatest aspects about college football is the spirit, whether it’s the fans, the student body, the alumni, the cheers, homecoming or the rivals, the spirit of college football makes it a beautiful sport.

 

There is also the effect of the fight song that is played by each schools band. The university band plays that fight song, and if its your team, it’s the anthem of your soul. When those first few notes are played, the 16 year old comes out, and it sends chills throughout your whole body. The following list ranks the top 5 college fight songs.

 

5.University of Alabama: Yea Alabama

its no secret that the University of Alabama has been the most dominant college football team over the last decade, so viewers have heard this fight song many times after Crimson Tide victories recently. Besides the fact that during the song they call out Georgia and Georgia Tech, this is the same fight song that played when Bear Bryant was coaching, and Joe Namath was playing. When it plays, and the beautiful red jerseys run onto the field, it’s a Southern tradition on Saturday afternoons in the heart of Dixie.

 

  1. University of Tennessee: Rocky Top

Although its not the official fight song of the Volunteers, all fans know this as the school’s spirit song. Its quite the sight when you look at Neyland Stadium, and over a 100,00 people are screacming, “Rocky Top, you’ll always be Home sweet home to me Good ol’ Rocky Top Rocky Top, Tennessee.”

 

  1. USC: Fight On

In reality, this song and the top two are really tied for number one. I am a huge fan of this fight song. When it comes on, you automatically think of Southern California and the great teams that have played there. It sounds very dominating, and you think of big shoulders, big guys like Anthony Munoz and Bruce Matthews. Fast players like Reggie Bush, Marcus Allen and O.J. Simpson, speed that embodies Tommy Trojan.

 

2: Michigan: The Victors

When you hear the words, “Hail to the victors,” you directly think of Michigan. A Michigan Man, is what they are called, Tom Brady, Charles Woodson, President Gerald Ford, all Wolverines, all heard that song. In fact, at the funeral of President Ford, this fight song was played. They use the phrases, “The leaders and best,” as well as, “The champions of the West.” Its only fitting, that one of the most stories programs in history as one of the most famous fight songs.

 

1.Notre Dame: Notre Dame Victory March:

“Cheer, cheer for old Notre Dame,

Wake up the echoes cheering her name,

Send a volley cheer on high,

Shake down the thunder from the sky.

What though the odds be great or small

Old Notre Dame will win over all,

While her loyal sons are marching

Onward to victory.”

Clearly, the best fight song of all time. Notre Dame is a special place, not only in college football, but in the world. It’s a sacred place, and you feel that you’re in a special place. The Golden Domers, Joe Montana, Lou Holtz, Paul Hornung, Knute Rockne and too many others to count. When you’re walking through South Bend on a Saturday, and that fight song comes on, you’ve made it to sports heaven, unless you’re a Michigan fan.

 

 

Road to 30: Stop #1 Angels Stadium

In my road to visit all 30 stadiums in baseball, my first stop brought me to Anaheim, California, home of the Angels.

 

When you drive in, all you can see is a gigantic letter A at the side of the building, and an enormous facility that looks like it could house the USC football team. It was a beautiful Sunday day baseball game (go read my article on day baseball) in Southern California, doesn’t really get better than that.

 

A great plus for Angels Stadium, it has probably the greatest parking of any sports venue I’d ever attended, props.

 

We purchased the seats online probably an hour before the game, cheap and in the outfield. By the way, the outfield is the most underrated place to sit in a baseball game, for several reasons. Number one, its where the real fans sit. Two, if it’s a day game, you can score a pretty good tan.

 

To my surprise, it wasn’t a sold-out game, which took me back because it was one of the first home games of the new season, and it was in the day. The stadium and fans however, create a wonderful atmosphere. The 2002 World Series championship is seen everywhere. As I was sitting in right field, it was neat to think that Barry Bonds hit his first World Series home run in that stadium.

 

First off, and I’m not just blaming the Angels for this, but food/beverages at baseball games are completely insane. If one single hot dog is worth $5, then this country is heading in the wrong direction. That’s more of a disgrace then watching Stephen A.Smith on ESPN.

 

What made the game was the ending. Down 9-3 in the bottom of the ninth, the Angels rallied to score seven runs and shock the Mariners. It was the greatest sporting event I’ve ever attended, and I’ve been to many. There is just something about Mike Trout playing outfield, Southern California, day baseball, it just screams America and freedom at you.

 

All in all, it was a perfect day. Angels stadium sometimes gets a bad rep because of its boring location, but you’ll inside the stadium, what do you care? Surprisingly, Angel Stadium is the fourth oldest ballpark in the majors, so go check it out before owners waste more money on a brand new stadium that won’t even sell out, and they’ll sell hot dogs for ten dollars!

What If? The Bartman Play

As the new 2017 MLB season is now fully underway, we again celebrate the incredible and unforgettable championship run that the Chicago Cubs made in 2016. Of course we know the story, the Cubs won their first World Series championship since 1908, a span of 108 long years. However, the Cubs have been close before, 1945, 1969, 1984, and 2003. All those years hurt for Cubbies fans, but which once leaves the darkest mark? 1969 is when the team let go of a playoff spot with over a ten game lead late in the season, and 1984 is the time Chicago squandered a 2-0 lead in the playoffs against the Padres, losing three straight and series. In my opinion, its 2003 that hurts the most, and it all comes down to one play that makes the difference.

 

In the 2003 NLCS, the Cubs held a strangle hold on the young Florida Marlins with a 3-1 series lead, and looked poised to make their first appearance in the Fall Classic since the second World War. A loss in game 5 in Florida moved the series back to the Windy City, and it seemed that there was no way the Cubs could lose at home, especially with star pitcher Mark Prior starting game 6. Fast forward to the eighth inning, and Chicago held a 3-0 lead, and Prior was wheeling and dealing. With one out in the inning, second baseman Luis Castillo lofted a fly ball into left field, right when the stands were in play. We all know the story, left fielder Moises Alou went up to make the catch which seemed to be catchable, and a fan interfered. The fan’s name was Steve Bartman, and what ensued was complete chaos. After that play, Castillo got on base, and the Marlins went on to score an amazing eight runs in that inning, now with an 8-3 lead, and would go on to win the game, and the series, and eventually the World Series.

 

I’m not here to talk about Bartman, because ESPN and fans everywhere has made his life a living hell, but I do want to talk about what would have happened if that play had not occurred. What would the current status of the Chicago Cubs be if Moises Alou had made that catch? Also, what would fate have for the Marlins?

 

Let’s start with that game alone. If Alou makes that catch that he seemed to have, there’s two outs in the inning, and four outs away from the World Series. Ivan Rodriguez is the next batter, then Miguel Carbrera, who in the real game, grounded to shortstop Alex Gonzales who made an error, resulting in everyone safely on base. In this scenario, Prior gets him out, and the Cubs are out of the inning. Prior gets through the ninth and Chicago is marching on to the World Series. They face the Yankees, and if the Marlins were good enough to beat New York, Chicago may have as well. Looking at the matchup, its definitely possible. Mark Prior, Kerry Wood and Carlos Zambrano against the Yankees and Roger Clemens, Andy Pettite and Mike Mussina. Offensively the teams were very similar, with contact and power hitters on both sides. The Cubs had Sammy Sosa, Moises Alou, Aramis Ramirez, Corey Patterson and Alex Gonzales. We all know who the Yankees had, Jeter, Alfonso Soriano, Bernie Williams and Jorge Posada. Win or lose that series, it proves as a huge momentum swing for Chicago in the years to come. The next year in 2004, Derrick Lee, the first baseman from the Marlins joined the Cubs, and Chicago is looking at more playoff births. Instead, they went on to miss the playoffs every year until 2007.

 

For the Marlins, its hard to say because after their world series win in 2003, several of the players were gone by the next year. Lee, Brad Penny, Ivan Rodriguez were all gone. However, if they had gone on to lose that series, those players may have stayed the next year to get another shot at the championship. The talent on that Florida team was really incredible, with players like Miguel Cabrera, Lee, Rodriguez, Mike Lowell, Josh Beckett, Carl Pavano. If all those players stay a few more years, the Marlins are looking at not just one, but multiple winning seasons in South Florida, and un-seeding the Braves as NL East champs.

 

In all, the Bartman play affected two teams, the Marlins because they went on to win the World Series, and the Cubs because they then lost the series, and were the laughing stock of the National League for several more years. Now that they did win in 2016, I’m not quite sure how Cub fans look back at that game and year, with either continued anger and disappointment, or a release of cares.

 

 

The way back to prominence: BEAT FSU

A 9-4 record in the first year under new head coach Mark Richt was just what the Miami Hurricanes and their fans needed. A lot of people were saying that Richt would be lucky to reach that record his first year, but the Canes were able to pull it off, including the program’s first bowl victory in ten years.  Me, I wasn’t that impressed with the team, only because Miami started 4-0, then proceeded to lose four straight, knocking them out of the hunt for a birth in the conference championship game. There could be many fingers to point for the mid-season collapse, but there is one thing that must happen, if Miami wants to become the prominent program they should be, its very simple, beat Florida State.

 

The team that knocked Miami from the unbeatens this past year, was FSU, and it was one point, and frankly a game they should have won. If Miami wins that game, who knows what would have happened the rest of the year, we may be talking about a completely different outcome for the 2016 Hurricanes. In the last three meetings with the Noles, Miami has lost by a combined 10 points. If there are those that say that this rivalry doesn’t mean anything, think again. In 2014, after FSU defeated Miami, the Canes went on to lose the last three games of the season. In 2016, following their week five loss to the Seminoles, Miami went on to lose three straight after the FSU defeat, completely turning their season in the wrong direction.

 

Its been a long eight years since Miami has downed their rivals from the north, and ever since that matchup, the two programs have gone in two different directions. From the year 2000 up until the 2009 victory over FSU, Miami went 8-3 over the Noles. Since 2010, the Seminoles have won every meeting in the rivalry. Since 2009, FSU has gone 6-2 in bowl games, three conference championships, and added a national championship in 2013. Miami on the other hand, has gone 1-5 in bowl games, and not even an appearance in the conference championship game.

 

Its pretty obvious who owns the Sunshine State right now, in the results in the game and also in recruiting. For example, Dalvin Cook, who has destroyed Miami the last three years is a native of the 305. For the Hurricanes to get their confidence back, they have to win, simple as that. 2017 will be an interesting year without quarterback Brad Kaaya, but I do believe that the Canes can be a team to be reckoned with. Will we see a resurgence of the U? Or will the Garnet and Gold continue their dominating ways. Lucky for us, we don’t have to wait too long to get the results, the Canes travel to Doak Campbell Stadium in week 3 of the 2017 season, and a possible rematch in the ACC championship could be a very real possibil

What If? The Tuck Rule

NFL Rule 3, Section 22, Article 2, Note 2. Do any of you know what this stands for? Its ok to admit that you don’t. Frankly, only about two sets of people know what this represents, fans of the New England Patriots and the Oakland Raiders. That statement represents the “tuck rule”, an act during the 2002 divisional playoff game between the Raiders and Patriots, that still affects these two teams fifteen years later.

 

We all know what happened in this game and how the rule came up, so let me give you a brief overview. The Raiders were leading 13-10 over New England in a driving snowstorm, and were looking to upset the Pats and head to the AFC championship. With under two minutes to play, Charles Woodson rocked his former Michigan teammate, Tom Brady which caused a fumble that Oakland recovered. All seemed lost for the Patriots, until the refs blew the whistle and wanted to review the play. The ruling on the field was a fumble, but the referees review it to make sure it wasn’t an incomplete pass. They came back and overturned the play, stating that Brady was not making a forward pass but, since he was in the process of tucking the ball back towards his body when he lost it, the play was ruled an incomplete pass and the Patriots retained the ball.

 

We all know what happened next. New England drove the ball down the field, tied the game and then eventually won the game with two Adam Vinatieri field goals. Fifteen years later, and now the Raiders are officially moving from Oakland to Las Vegas, and the Patriots just won their fifth super bowl since that 2001 season. With all that history, the question remains, what if the tuck rule never happened? What if the play wasn’t reviewed and the Raiders went on to win?

 

Well for starters, they would’ve moved on to play the Steelers in the conference championship game, and probably would have won. A Super Bowl matchup with the Rams would follow, and any team probably could have won that. Oakland takes that momentum into the next year and possibly defeats the Bucs in the Super Bowl, and have a Raiders dynasty on our hands. With those wins, you don’t go through the dreadful seasons up until really 2016. Jamarcus Russell doesn’t get drafted to Oakland, neither do the other horrible draft picks. Jon Gruden stays with the Raiders, possibly to even today, and becomes one of the greatest coaches in team history next to John Madden and Tom Flores. With a super bowl victory, quarterback Rich Gannon goes on to have a lucrative career, breaking team records and maybe even finds his spot in Canton, and most definitely in Raiders lore. However, most importantly, the team if they win that game, most likely does not make the move to Las Vegas, and one of the league’s greatest franchise’s, stays where it belongs.

 

Next we look at New England. The Pats are just coming off their fifth win in the Super Bowl, with the first one coming two games after the tuck rule. If the Patriots don’t get out of that blizzard in Foxboro, New England’s dynasty is not born, and maybe never began. Imagine that, Rich Gannon, not Tom Brady, becoming the poster child for the NFL in the 2000’s. That being said, I do believe that the Patriots still would have won a championship, but I don’t think for a few more years. Without that super bowl in 2001, that New England team was just another fad, like the 2011 Denver Broncos.

 

However, the tuck rule did happen, and unfortunately for Raiders fans, its something that they can look back on and shake their head in shame. For Pats fans, it was the play that started a dynasty that is still going on to this day.

Things We Miss about sports: Daytime baseball

There are a number of certain things that makes sense in life. Hot dogs on the 4th of July, Super Bowl Sunday, and of course, day baseball. I recently attended a Sunday Major League game, with a 12:30 starting time and was reminded of the beauty that comes with day baseball games.

 

Lets take a step back. For the longest time, baseball was only played in the day time, but it wasn’t until 1935 that night baseball was introduced to America. Even during the World Series was the games played during the day, so why did it change?  Apparently, during the time of the Great Depression, even Major League baseball teams were folding, and it was harder to keep players during the time of their day jobs.  Ever since then, all teams in the MLB have switched to play under the lights, well, all teams except one.

 

If you ever want to experience heaven on earth, there is one place for that everyone can enjoy. It’s the only place on earth that you can feel like a kid in the 1950’s, and everyone is happy. This magical place I’m referring to is Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs have played the majority of their home games during the day for as long as fans could remember. In 2011, the Chicago played 53 day games at Wrigley, with just 28 night games. The first night game at home for the Cubs wasn’t until 1988.  If you really want to experience the pure fullness of baseball and how the game was meant to be viewed as a spectator, go no further than 1060 West Addison in Chicago, at noon on a Thursday.

 

Even the World Series games were held during the day, but we’ve been without one such as that since 1987. It wasn’t until the 1970’s that the game’s biggest stage was held more and more at night.

 

To me, nothing is better than watching your favorite team, everyone around you is getting sunburnt, some guys are taking their shirts off, its warm but not too hot, and hearing the beautiful sound of the crack of the bat,  I’m pretty sure cracker jacks and soda taste better in the sunlight as well. Another reason why I love it, is because the day isn’t over when the game ends. Some of my fondest memories of actually going to baseball games have been during day games. I remember Opening Day in 2005, in Miami to see the Marlins and Braves, and John Smoltz square off against Josh Beckett. At Wrigley, I saw Derrick Lee hit two homers and the Cubbies defeat the Astros. Several years ago, I witness Old Timers day at Yankees Stadium on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, where they brought out all the legends of the Bronx Bombers.

 

When you think of baseball, the Sandlot wasn’t filmed during the night (not counting the 4th of July game), Bobby Thompson didn’t hit the Pennant winning walk off at night, Babe Ruth didn’t call his shot under the lights. Let us raise this new generation, in the kind of world that Yogi Berra and Willie Mays would be proud of, and play some ball while the sun is shining