Was it the best?

Last year, rookie quarterback Cam Newton took the NFL by storm and rewrote the history books.  Just like myself, many people wondered, was Newton’s rookie season the best of all time?  

As I did my research for this subject, I did consider a few factors that might hold Newton from having the best rookie season of all time.  The one that stood out the most, was that his team finished 6-10.  I know that most people are just looking at his individual stats, but I’m also very critical of how his team did.  Newton also did have a problem with turnovers, throwing 17 interceptions.

However, after all the research, I do believe that Newton’s rookie season was the best of all time.  The 2010 Heisman trophy winner at Auburn became the first rookie quarterback to throw for over 4,000 yards in a season, and he set another NFL quarterback record as he rushed for 14 touchdowns, the most by that position.  In all, Newton accounted for a rookie record 35 touchdowns.  And the amazing thing is, he did all of this with the same offense Jimmy Clausen had in 2010, which was the worst in the NFL.  The Panthers scored 210 more points in 2011 than in 2010. 

I would put Newton’s 2011 season ahead of Randy Moss’ 1998 year, and Lawrence Taylor’s 1981 campaign for the three best rookie seasons.

With Newton coming back off this magnificent season, I would that the Panthers have a very bright future.

 

Greatest Rivalries

This weekend, I watched the three game series between the Yankees and the Red Sox.  Throughout the game, they would show highlights of past games and all the history that goes into this great rivalry.  And this got me thinking, what are the best rivalries in country. 

Rivalries are what sports fans of different teams use to connect to each other. Whether it’s a rivalry in high school, college, or even pro teams, a big rivalry never changes the hatred you have toward that other team. Looking back in sports history, some of the best games played have been between rivals. A lot of the most exciting moments in sports happen when one team is facing a rival.

Whenever a sports fan thinks of a game to go to, the first thing that pops up is usually his/her favorite team facing their rival. Rivals games are arguably the most important game to win not only for the fans, but for the organization to have bragging rights on the other. Now, let’s check out the top three greatest rivalries in all of sports.

3. Alabama vs Auburn

Ohio State-Michigan may have the hype. Army-Navy may have the pageantry.

But when it comes to good old-fashioned football hatred, there may be no rivalry in college football that can match Alabama-Auburn. 

The “Iron Bowl” dates back to 1893. It is called the Iron Bowl, and for more than a century, it has been tearing the state of Alabama in two. These two teams hate each other. The fans hate each other. And probably more than any other rivalry in college football, Alabama-Auburn is truly a 365-day-a-year obsession.  In Alabama, you are either raised saying “Roll Tide” or “War Eagle”.  Although this rivalry features many great moments, nothing compares to what happened in the 2009 and 2010 seasons.  In 2009, Alabama went undefeated during the regular season, including a last second thriller against Auburn, where they won 26-21.  Alabama’s star running back Mark Ingram also won the Heisman trophy, the first player from Bama ever to do so.  The season ended with a national championship victory over Texas.  The next season, led by eventual Heisman trophy winner Cam Newton, the Tigers raced out to a perfect regular season before a matchup with the defending national champion Crimson Tide.  Bama raced out to a 24 point lead before Newton led the largest comeback in Iron Bowl history and won 28-27.  Newton finished the season by winning the national championship.  

2. Although its the not best rivalry in America, it may be the most unique.  Between Durham and Chapel Hill there is 20-mile stretch of Highway 15-501 connecting two of the most prestigious  college basketball programs in the country. This is the famed “Tobacco Road,” the 20 mile stretch of land that has given birth to the greatest and most well known college sports rivalry of all time.   Having gone to UNC this summer and getting the chance to spend a few days with some Carolina die hards, I witnessed how big this rivalry is.  The game is talked about all year, and if you mention the word Duke, you are immediately given dirty looks. From Micheal Jordan to Grant Hill, from Dean Smith to Coach K, and from the Cameron Crayzies to die hard Tar Heels fans that pack the Dean Dome every night, this is by far the greatest college rivalry ever.

1. Yankees vs Red Sox

The Yankees-Red Sox rivalry is one of the most storied in all of sports. It began in 1919, when Harry Frazee , the financially troubled Red Sox owner, sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees for $125,000.

From then to 2004, the Yankees built the greatest dynasty in sports history and won 26 world series championships, while the Red Sox failed to win one.

The tension reached a high in 2003. Again, the teams played each other in the ALCS – but this time, it went seven games. It ended on a walk-off home run by Yankees third baseman Aaron Boone in the eleventh inning of Game 7.

In 2004, the teams met once more in the ACLS. But the Yankees took a 3-0 series lead, all but crushing the Sox. Then the Red Sox did the impossible: they won the next four games to advance to the World Series, becoming the first team in sports to win a seven-game series after going down 3-0. They won the World Series for the first time since 1918, and exorcised the demons of Red Sox fans.

Now, though the Yankees still hold a significant edge in World Series titles, both teams are among the most elite in baseball. They are the only teams to win multiple World Series in the past decade. Because both are now competitive, regular-season games are more important and fraught with tension than ever.

 

Just win, baby

The uniforms are the same familiar silver and black the Oakland Raiders have worn for decades.  The roster contains the fastest collection of players in the NFL.  And the offense contains a quarterback who wants to throw the ball deep. Those are just some of the many familiar standards that still exist as the Raiders head to their first training camp since death of owner and architect Al Davis.  But make no mistake, there’s a different vibe around the Raiders as they begin preparations for their first season in a half-century without Davis at the helm.

For the first time since 1963, there will be someone else running the football side of the Raiders organization.  Reggie McKenzie, who was hired as general manager by Davis’ son Mark, in January, has made progress on a complete overhaul since being hired. 

McKenzie hired Dennis Allen as head coach, as probably the team’s first defensive minded coach since John Madden in the 1970’s. The 39 year old is the 18th head coach of the Raiders.  Allen, a former Denver Broncos defensive coordinator, has changed the Raiders defense, and has gotten respect from veterans such as Richard Seymour and Micheal Huff.

On the offensive side of the ball, Carson Palmer will head to his first Raiders training camp. Acquired last October from Cincinnati in a bold deal by former coach Hue Jackson for a 2012 first-round pick and 2013 second-rounder, Palmer showed signs of being the elite quarterback he was a few years ago in Cincinnati but was far too inconsistent with 16 interceptions in 10 games. However, will a full offseason of learning the system, Palmer feels ready for the upcoming season.

After decades of dominance under Al Davis, including three super bowls, the Raiders have not been very good of late.  Last year was the nine straight year that the silver and black missed the playoffs, going 8-8.  But the Raiders still set a standard of excellence earlier during Davis’ run that the new regime hopes to match.

End of An Era in Pittsburgh

28 years ago today, was a sad day for the Pittsburgh Steelers and their fans.  On July 24, 1984, their beloved quarterback Terry Bradshaw retired from the NFL.

Bradshaw, played 14 seasons with the Black and Yellow, winning four super bowls in six years.  Growing up Louisiana, Bradshaw was a high school football star, and decided to play college ball at Louisiana Tech University.  After an impressive college career, Bradshaw was the number one overall pick in the 1970 NFL Draft, as he was picked by the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Up until that time, the Steelers were the laughing stock of the whole league.  However, all that changed when they picked Bradshaw.

Even though I strongly dislike the Steelers, I admire Bradshaw very much.  He, along with the rest of the Steel Curtain turned Pittsburgh into the “City of Champions.” His first very big moment in the NFL came in 1972, with the famous “Immaculate Reception”, one of the more famous plays in NFL history.  His first Super Bowl victory came against the Minnesota Vikings in 1974 with a 16-6 victory.  The very next year, Bradshaw and the Steelers repeated as champions as they beat the Dallas Cowboys 21-17.

In that era, Bradshaw was probably the toughest quarterback in the league, not just dealing with physical damage but also dealing with people questioning his intelligence. By January, 1979, Terry Bradshaw already had led the Pittsburgh Steelers to two Super Bowl Championships. He had the rings to prove it. But unlike Bart Starr and Bob Griese, quarterbacks who were treated like royalty after guiding their teams to victories in back-to-back Super Bowls, Bradshaw was seen as somehow different. He just did not seem to have the right stuff. He was talented enough. No one in the league threw a more powerful pass than Bradshaw, who could sting a receiver’s hands 50 yards downfield. At 6 feet 3 inches and 220 pounds, he was the ideal size and he was naturally gifted, all right. But he was a little rough around the edges. After eight NFL seasons, he still had not been selected to a Pro Bowl.  Even coach Chuck Noll doubted him at times, when he even benched him in 1974. 

With their Steel Curtain defense and powerful running game, the Steelers of the mid-seventies were able to win with the quarterback in a supporting role. Bradshaw didn’t seem to mind. He was happy just to be with a championship team.

That changed by 1978 as Bradshaw and the offense were required to carry more of the load. A rules change that prohibited contact with receivers five yards beyond the line of scrimmage suddenly opened up the passing game, and the Steelers tilted their playbook in Bradshaw’s direction. He responded by passing for 28 touchdowns (10 more than his previous career high) and was named the NFL’s most valuable player by the Associated Press.

Even so, when Bradshaw arrived in Miami for Super Bowl XIII-a rematch with Staubach and the Cowboys-he found his old stereotype waiting. Dallas linebacker Thomas (Hollywood) Henderson told reporters: “He [Bradshaw] is so dumb, he couldn’t spell cat if you spotted him a C and an A.”  However, Bradshaw responded with an MVP performance, leading his team to a 35-31 victory.  The next year, Bradshaw and the Steelers made history winning their fourth super bowl, while Bradshaw was also the MVP of that game.  Bradshaw was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1989.

For 14 seasons Bradshaw remained and tough and represented the city of Pittsburgh, as the “City of Champions” continues to embrace him even to this day. 

 

 

 

New changes in Miami

Growing up in South Florida, I went to countless Florida Marlins games with my dad.  Every year I would make my way to about ten games a season.  I even got the chance to see World Series games in 1997 2003.  However, going to a Marlins game, it was always sad to see how poor the attendance was.  Sharing a stadium with the Miami Dolphins, the stadium was obviously built for football, and the Marlins averaged only a few thousand fans every game.  So when I heard that the franchise was building a new stadium a few years ago, I was ecstatic.  The stadium opened at the beginning of this season, and the new stadium stood right where the former Orange Bowl once stood, in a neighborhood of Miami called Little Havana. 

This summer, my dad and I got the chance to see the stadium for ourselves.  It was a weird feeling driving back to that area again, as I felt I was going to see a Miami Hurricanes game.  I was in awe as soon as I saw the new stadium.  The stadium is eye-catching from anywhere in Miami, as it is a huge ballpark from the outside.  As we took our seats down the first base line, I looked around the stadium and was very impressed.  The stadium, is cozy, seating only about 37,000 people.  The most famous part of the stadium is obviously the sculpture just to the left of straightaway center that goes off whenever a home run is hit.

The Fish were taking on the Nationals that night, who owned the best record in the National League, and who had the 19 year old phenom Bryce Harper, who is taking the majors by storm.  The Nationals took an early lead with a Ryan Zimmerman home run to take a 2-0 lead.  After the third inning, my father went and purchased us both a shrimp burger, which he had heard was the best thing to get in the stadium.  For 14 dollars, the shrimp burger was ok,  but probably the best stadium food item I’ve had besides a brat at Wrigley Field.  Down two runs early, the Marlins fought back and tied the game at two.  Later that inning, third baseman Hanley Ramirez blasted a home run to cap off a four run third inning to take a 4-2 lead.  I was very impressed by the fans as well, who were very loud and supportive.  The attendance that night was about 30,000 which is probably the largest crowd I’ve ever seen at a Marlins game(besides a World Series game).

The Marlins went on to win 5-3 and sent the hometown fans happy.  However, when we walked outside it was raining very hard.  Being it the nicest baseball stadium I’ve ever been to, I will definitely make my way to Marlins Park more often in the future.

 

 

 

Trip Of A Lifetime

Ever since I was a kid, I had dreamed of going on a “sports trip” around the country.  Finally, this summer I got the chance to go on one. 

My trip began on June 26, where I flew toRaleigh,North Carolina.  A few months before this, I had gotten accepted into theUniversityofNorth Carolina Sports Journalismcamp.  The first day my family and I got there, we immediately headed over toDukeUniversity, which is about 15 minutes away inDurham.  Right away, I noticed the fascinating architecture of the buildings on campus, it reminded me of towers in the mid-evil times.  As we made our way around the campus, we finally made it to the mecca of college basketball, which is Cameron Indoor Stadium. There were two funny things about Cameron, the first one is being how that Cameron just looks like a regular building from the outside, and you wouldn’t be able to tell that it was an arena.  The next thing is that how Cameron is open to the public, which is rare.  Walking around Cameron, I was in awe the entire time.  It amazed me how small the arena is, which holds only 8,000 people.  It was definitely a weird arena, as I just looked around Cameron, imagining the Cameron Crayzies going crazy during a game.  After spending some time admiring this great landmark of college sports, my family and I walked on over to the football stadium, which was also open to the public.  It was probably the smallest college stadium I’ve ever seen, as it wasn’t very impressive, but still cool to see.

After Duke, my family drove about ten miles the other direction and found our next destination, theUniversityofNorth Carolina.  We drove up to theDeanSmithCenter, and I was shocked of how big the outside of the arena was.  Just like Cameron, theSmithCenterwas open to the public as we walked inside.  TheSmithCenteris the complete opposite of Cameron, as it was a giant arena.  Seating about 23,000 people, theSmithCenteris bigger than any NBA venue and its one of the biggest in college basketball.  I was very impressed by the Dean dome, which is what many UNC people call the arena.  It was a great ending to a great day, as I prepared for my camp the following day.

The next day, my family was going to drop me off on the UNC campus for my sports journalism camp.  Before they dropped me off, we decided to go shopping for some UNC paraphernalia.  Once I bought myself a niceCarolinabasketball shirt, my family said goodbye and left.  The first day was a very long and continues battle, as it was the longest day of my life.  However, the next day we toured both the football and basketball stadium.  Jonathan Cooper, a UNC football offensive lineman, was our tour guide for the football stadium.  We got to see the weight room, and the locker room.  We also got to walk out the tunnel onto the field, which was a cool feeling.  After that, we made the long walk to the Dean dome, in theCarolinaheat, which reached 100 degrees.  Once we got there, we had the opportunity to interview Dexter Strickland, a UNC basketball player.   Once that came to an end, the Tar Heels media relations guy gave us a full access tour of the arena.  The tour included going into the Carolina Basketball museum.  The museum was a celebration of past Tar Heels, like Michael Jordan and Tyler Hansbrough, and all the national championships they had won.  We also got to see the team lounge, however, we were not allowed inside the locker room.  Being on the floor of the Dean dome was an awesome experience, as I looked up at this mammoth of an arena.  The following day, we got to interview Indi Cowie, who is a Tar Heels women soccer player.  Cowie is also considered the best soccer freestyler in the world (look her up on YouTube).  I also got the chance to learn more about theCarolinawomens soccer program, which has won 21 of a possible 30 national championships.

After four long days, the camp ended on Saturday.  After camp, I was to fly fromRaleightoNew York, where I was going to meet my family.  Flying by myself for the first time was a little intimidating at first, but I eventually made it to La Guardia. New Yorkis probably my favorite place on the earth, so I was ecstatic before the plane even landed.  However, my excitement died out when my parents informed me that they wouldn’t be able to pick me up for another two hours.  So I waited in La Guardia for those two lonely hours, as I anxiously awaited making my way intoManhattan.  My family eventually did pick me up, and we made our way to our hotel.  The next day, on Sunday, my family and I made our way to theBronx, as the Yankees were preparing to take on the White Sox.  The game started at 2, but today was Old Timers day at Yankee Stadium, so we got there about 90 minutes early to see all the old players.  Seeing all those great players like Reggie Jackson, Yogi Berra, Paul O’Neil and Whitey Ford was an awesome experience.  The day got even better as the Yankees picked up a 4-2 victory.  For anyone who hasn’t been to the new Yankee Stadium, which opened in 2009, I highly recommend making a trip there someday.  These fans are very passionate about their Yankees, and they will let the players hear it if they make a bad play.

Two days later, we leftNew Yorkin the morning and made our way toBristol,Connecticut, home of the ESPN studios.  Being a lifelong sports fan, it was a great experience to walk around the studios and see where they film all those shows that I grew up watching.  After ESPN, my family and I had expected to drive on over to the airport to catch a flight to Ft.Lauderdale,Florida.  However, due to weather, the flight was cancelled, and we were forced to leave the next day.  Thank goodness we were only 45 minutes away fromSpringfield,Massachusetts, which is home to the Basketball Hall of Fame.  The Hall of Fame was a very cool place and had some awesome things and memorabilia, stuff that a typical sports fan would be impressed by.  We only got to spend an hour there, but I’m still very glad I got the chance to go there, since I’ve never visited a sports hall of fame before.  The next day, we finally made our way to southFlorida, and my sports trip came to an end.  However, it was the best week of my life, and I advise any sports fan like me to take a trip like this and visit these sport monuments.