Raiders Move to Vegas

Marshall Snow Thomas

 

The Oakland Raiders are officially moving out of Oakland. On Monday, it was announced that the historic NFL franchise will be relocating to Las Vegas. The Raiders received 31 of 32 votes to approve the move to Vegas, with the Miami Dolphins being the only team to vote against the move.

 

The Raiders will appear in Las Vegas no later than 2020, with a new stadium to be built. It was announced that a 65,000 seat domed stadium, that will cost around$1.9 billion will house the silver and black. The site of the stadium has not been announced yet, but the leading location looks to be across from the Mandalay Bay hotel.  It’s a possibility that the Raiders may play preseason games at UNLV’s Sam Boyd Stadium in 2018 and 2019, giving fans in Vegas a taste of the future of pro football.

 

It will be third time the Raiders will move. In 1982 the team relocated to Los Angeles, before returning to Oakland in 1995.   The Raiders will join the NHL’s Golden Knights, an expansion franchise that will begin play in Las Vegas starting in 2017-2018.

 

“My father always said, the greatness of the Raiders is in its future, and the opportunity to build a world-class stadium in the entertainment capital of the world is a significant step toward achieving that greatness,” said team owner Mark Davis in an interview to NFL.Com.  Davis is the son of longtime owner Al Davis, who passed away several years ago.

 

This move is the third time in the last 14 months that an iconic NFL franchise has relocated. The Rams moved back to Los Angeles last year, and the Chargers also announced they’d be leaving San Diego, and would be heading to L.A. as well.

 

The move comes at an already exciting time for the Raiders. The team went 12-4 in 2016, and made the playoffs for the first time since 2002.  The Raiders have won three Super Bowls and an AFL title in its rich 57 year history.

 

The Shot that cursed the Jazz

Marshall Snow Thomas

 

Every story needs a hero and a villain. For sports, every team and fan base have their own individual villain, whether it’s a team, player owner. For the Red Sox, the Yankees are that evil villain. For old time Colts fans, Tom Brady is that villain. Also, for the Auburn Tigers, Nick Saban falls into the villain category.

 

For the Utah Jazz and their fans, one player comes to mind, and its someone who has haunted the organization and the entire state for almost twenty years. For most Jazz fans, they hate the Lakers, and especially Kobe Bryant. For the last fifteen years, it has been the Lakers that have bounced the Jazz from the playoffs. However, you have to reach a few years back, when the Jazz were actually beating L.A. in the postseason, to find the real villain. The answer is simple, Michael Jordan, and the shot.

 

Its an image that every sports fan has seen. The framed image of Jordan, watching his last shot as  a Chicago Bull go in, while thousands of horrified Jazz fans stare back at him. It was at that moment, before the shot went in, the last time Utah led in an NBA Finals game.  Since that day in 1998, the Jazz have never made it back to the finals. Today, we’re going to look at that shot, and its affected the Utah Jazz, and the entire state of Utah.

 

In restaurants in Salt Lake City, there are certain things you don’t bring up, or else you’ll have a debate that’ll last all night. For instance, don’t bring up Max Hall and BYU football, or Urban Meyer leaving the Utes in 2005. Most of all, you don’t bring up that Jordan shot, or you’re in for a long night. Most Jazz fans remember the day they were married, their first child being born, and the day Jordan hit the shot. That Utah team, is sacred in the Wasatch Front. Jerry Sloan is mentioned, and it’s like the Pope is being discussed. I still remember the day Sloan retired, people in the high school hallway looked like their puppy had just died. John Stockton and Karl Malone are larger than life, and fans will tell you that they’re the greatest to ever play the game. Even when you mention Jeff Hornacek you’ll see smiles from the Jazz faithful.

 

In the 97 finals, people expected Chicago to win the championship. They had home court advantage, and it was anticipated that the Bulls would bring home the trophy, which they did in six games. The next year, 98, was supposed to be different. The Jazz were coming off a four game sweep of the Lakers in the conference finals, and the Bulls just barely got by the Pacers in a seven game thriller. That year in the regular season, the Jazz swept the Bulls, and with home court advantage, it looked as if the trophy could actually come home to Salt Lake City.  However, the Bulls shocked Utah in game two with a close win, and then two more wins back in Chicago to take a 3-1 lead. Fully expecting to clinch the title at home, the Bulls fell to Utah, thanks to heroic performance by Karl Malone, sending the series back to Salt Lake. With the rest of the series to be played on their home court, Jazz fans seemed confident that they could force a game seven, but first they had to win game 6.

 

They had the lead, with just over 40 seconds to go, Utah had the lead. John Stockton had just hit a three to give the Jazz a three point lead, and it seemed possible! A quick Jordan layup cut the lead to one, but the Jazz had the ball, and more importantly, Malone had the ball down low. This was a lock, Malone was going to score, and the Bulls would miss a three, and then its game seven. Unfortunately, the history of the Jazz took a turn at that moment. Instead of hitting a shot, Malone had the ball stolen from him by Jordan, and the 20,000 in the Delta Center were in stunned silence. People forget this moment, they remember the shot, but they don’t quite bring up the steal. For me, I’m a Malone fan, but instead of his 36,928 career points, the thing I remember of him, is how Jordan stole the ball from him, and with it, the reality of game seven almost completely vanished.

 

 

Jordan stealing the ball was like the part in Return of the King, when Gollum bites off Frodo’s finger and steals back the ring. All Sam could do was watch Gollum dance with the ring, and all Jazz fans could do was watch Jordan bring the ball up the court, and they couldn’t do anything. However, in the movie, Frodo saves the day and kills Gollum and destroys the ring. Unfortunately for the Jazz, there was no Frodo. Jordan hit the shot, and just like that, it was over. The score reads, CHICAGO 87, UTAH 86.

 

Since that day, great players have come and gone, a legendary coach retired, and the all-time owner has passed away.  Not even Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer could bring the Jazz back to the finals. All they could manage, was a single conference finals appearance. 2003 marked the end of the Stockton and Malone era, and the excitement that those players brought, hasn’t even come close to being recreated. Could that shot have made such an impact? Has it made such an impact on the organization? Well for starters, they’ve changed uniforms to an ugly Halloween costume, they changed the arena name from Delta Center, and Hot Rod Hundley doesn’t announce the games from the radio anymore.

 

Maybe one day, it could potentially happen. Perhaps the basketball heavens will bless this special organization with a championship. If there is a franchise in the NBA that deserves a title, it’s the Utah Jazz. They cherish their team like no other fan base in sports, and they sell out every single game. However, until the team reaches the promised land, the shot by Jordan shot will not be taken with a smile, and will haunt the entire state of Utah.

 

NFL Busts Since 2000

Marshall Snow Thomas

 

For football fans, the NFL draft is just under five weeks away. For us pigskin fanatics, its that sweet spot of the year where we can see the season off in the distance. For fans, draft night is a big deal. This is where we see the future of our beloved teams fold out, and we see what new players will be putting on the jerseys come September. For the actual players, it’s a different experience. These young men, have worked their entire lives to get to this point. They were the best at what they did in college, and now they wait and see where they get drafted. After the draft, at least for those in the first round, they become instant millionaires, and now they have big expectations to live up to. Some of them do live up to that hype, while others falter. Today, we’re going to look at the biggest NFL drafts since 2000.

 

  1. Vernon Gholston, Defensive End, New York Jets (2008)

“The word physical freak is far too overused for NFL prospects. That being said, Vernon Gholston is a physical freak.” Does anyone else remember this claim that Sporting News magazine said about Gholston in 2008? Indeed, he was a physical freak of nature, and a standout at the Ohio State University, and the Jets got him with the sixth pick in the first round. However, this Buckeye couldn’t quite pan out for the Jets, even with defensive minded head coach Rex Ryan. In three awful seasons in the Big Apple, Gholston didn’t record a single sack, interception, recovered or forced a fumble, making him a case for a modern day Brian Bosworth. Poor Jets, they’ll get it right one of these days.

 

4.Brady Quinn/Matt Leinart, Quarterback, Cleveland Browns/Arizona Cardinals (2006/2007)

These are the quarterbacks that we remember when we were kids. They were the golden boys! One was bringing Notre Dame out of obscurity, while the other was winning national championships at USC.  Leinart was drafted tenth overall in 2006 by the Cardinals, and got extensive playing time for Arizona. However, he was beat out for the starting job by the ageless wonder Kurt Warner, who turned the franchise around, and in 2008 led them to the Super Bowl. For Quinn, he too went in the first round to the Browns. He played only 14 games for Cleveland, and was traded several years later to Denver, where he became a third stringer.

 

3.Joey Harrington,  Quarterback, Detroit Lions (2002)

The early 2000’s until they drafted Calvin Johnson was drafted, the draft wasn’t kind to the Lions. Harrington was one of those mistakes, he was picked third overall. In his defense, the team that he was on, was absolutely awful, with no receivers, a mediocre offensive line, and a circus at running back.  However, it doesn’t eliminate the fact that ole Joey was just plain ole awful, and this was the guy that was supposed to turn the franchise around. The thing about Harrington, was that he threw way too many interceptions, a problem that was never fixed. It was a plan to build a perfect quarterback for the Lions, a plan that didn’t succeed until Matthew Stafford was drafted.

 

2.Charles Rogers, Wide Receiver, Detroit Lions (2003)

Another Lions draft pick….surprise! The bad thing is, Rogers was just one year after Harrington, whose the GM to blame for that?  Rogers might have been even worse than Joey, playing in only 15 games during his three year career.  Rogers was out with a collarbone that was broken twice, and missed time for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.  He finished with just 36 catches, 440 yards, and four touchdowns.

 

1.Jamarcus Russell, Quarterback, Oakland Raiders (2007)

Russell tops off this list, and towards the end of his career, topped off his belt with weight issues. This LSU Tiger was drafted number one overall, and I must admit, I purchased a jersey once he was drafted. Unfortunately for Russell and myself, I haven’t worn that jersey since Halloween of 2008.  Russell had talent, no question about that. He could reportedly throw a football 60 yards on one knee, and was supposed to turn the Raiders around. After signing a six-year, $68 million deal with the Raiders in training camp—$31 million of that guaranteed—Russell won just seven NFL games. Think about that, $31 million for seven games. He had a .280 winning percentage, and had a 52 percent completion percentage. To put the cherry on top, literally, he reported to 2010 training camp at over 300 pounds, and was released by Oakland.

 

 

Why the Madness?

Marshall Snow Thomas

 

March is here, and for basketball fans, that can mean only thing, its time for March Madness. On Sunday, the brackets for the annual NCAA tournament were released, and sports fans couldn’t be more excited.

 

This year marks the 77th year that the NCAA college basketball tournament will be played, with the first tournament being played in 1939. Last year, Villanova beat North Carolina with a buzzer beater shot in the championship game, capping off one of the greatest games in college basketball history.

 

Its estimated that 70 million people will fill out brackets once they come out, which poses the question, why is American so enthralled with march madness?

 

College basketball, since 1939, has filled the gap between football and baseball, since NBA regular season is also occurring. In 1939, when the tournament first started, the bracket only featured eight teams. Since then, the popularity for the sport has grown, as well as the bracket size. In 2017, 68 teams will participate for the opportunity to win the championship trophy.

 

March Madness, year in and year out, provides with at least one all time classic, including the 1979 national championship. Why was that game so important? First, it matched Magic Johnson’s Michigan State Spartans against Larry Bird’s Indiana State Cyclones. Second, it remains the most watched basketball game ever played. We can thank March Madness for introducing us to what would become one of the greatest rivalries in sports history.

 

The games begin on Thursday, and beginning on that day, office as well as classroom productivity hits a yearly low. Another reason why people are so drawn in, is because the tournament is single elimination, and because America loves excitement, we’re all on the edge of our seats. Besides, who could ever forget when Wisconsin knocked off previously undefeated Kentucky in the 2015 Final Four? Or even last March, when the number two seeded Michigan State were upset in the first round by 15 seed Middle Tennessee State? The Spartans came into the game as 16 point favorites, another reason why we love the madness, the upsets.

 

However, forget about picking a perfect bracket, because its never been done. There is a 1 in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 chance of completing an absolutely perfect bracket. Nevertheless, you’ll see people in the office or students at the library stressing more about who they have going to the Sweet 16, than their final exams.

 

The madness, its one of the things that make this country great. It brings people together, whether its your office, study group or family, it brings us together, and that’s the best part of it all.

 

 

Romo Rides off to Free Agency

Marshall Thomas

 

For the first time in 14 years, number nine for the Dallas Cowboys, will not be worn by Tony Romo. On Thursday, the Cowboys plan on releasing the quarterback.

 

The release comes after a season, in which we saw Romo open the season as the starter, only to be injured in the first game. Unfortunately for Romo, his replacement led Dallas to a 13-3 record and a division title.

 

Romo will leave Dallas as the franchise’s all-time leader in passing yards and touchdowns thrown. Only Troy Aikman and Roger Staubach have won more games as a starter for the Cowboys.

 

However, unlike Aikman and Staubach, Romo never won a Super Bowl for the Cowboys. In fact, in his ten years as a starter, Romo only managed to win two playoff games.  His career for Dallas was largely looked at as a failure, due to his missed opportunities in the 4th quarter, and coming up short in big games.

 

For example, the moment most people remember about Romo’s career, is when he botched a snap that could’ve been a potential game winning field goal, in a playoff game against the Seahawks. On another note, in 2009, Romo delivered the Cowboys their first playoff win in 13 years, with a victory over the Eagles.

 

It was a during a Monday Night game against the New York Giants in 2006, where then starting quarterback Drew Bledsoe was benched for Romo (Bledsoe losing his job to a backup, sounds familiar). After that game, the rest was history, Romo led the Cowboys to playoff births in his first two years as starting quarterback.

 

With his release, Romo instantly becomes the most sought after player in the NFL free agency this off season. We’re not quite sure what team will land the veteran and possible Hall of Famer, but we do know, that this former Cowboy has had his last ride in Dallas

 

 

Sweet Potato Pie and I Shut my Mouth

Marshall Thomas

 

“It’s just different down here, son,” said an old man to me. The topic of conversation was college football, and not just any college football, but Southern football. Coming from the great state of Utah, I thought I had experienced what “big time” college ball was about, having been to too many games to count, and having watched ESPN before I could even talk.

 

I was lucky enough to spend two years of my life in the Southern part of the United States, while serving a mission for my church. While most of my time was spent preaching the gospel, being a football fanatic, I took the time to ask the locals about their respected teams, and the game that means so much to them.

 

One of my favorite memories discussing football with these great people, came during church actually, on a beautiful Sunday morning in the South. It was after the first hour of the service, and I found myself in the middle of a heated debate, whether or not Alabama was going to run the table again in the fall. I asked the man, “you excited for this upcoming season?” His responses was classic, “in 36 days I’ll be in Dallas watching Bama stomp on SC, but I’m just a little fired up.”

 

For any football freak like me, anytime you’re in that kind of environment of college football, you’re excited as all get out. I’ll never forget when I saw my first football “shrine” in someone’s home. It was a beautiful room dedicated to nothing but the Auburn Tigers, everything from banners, game programs from the 70’s, and a plaque remembering the game when the Tigers beat Bama in 2013. It was my first shrine, but it was far from the last.

 

My favorite fans to interact with were those who supported the University of Alabama. Ninety five percent of the people I talked to did not attend the University, nor had they ever been to Tuscaloosa. It was the like song “Mountain Music” played by Alabama, where one of the members says at the beginning of the song, referring to a mountain, “yeah, one of these days I’m gonna climb that mountain.” I could almost hear the Bama fans saying, “yeah, one of these days I’m gonna go to Tuscaloosa.” In their homes, family pictures were equally matched by art of Bryant-Denny Stadium, or a portrait of Bear Bryant standing on the sideline. Roll Tide is a term that the children know, and will say extremely often. High school kids most prized memory of their life, is when A.J. McCarron came to a youth football camp in Mobile, and threw them all a pass.

 

Florida State fans are no slouches either. Let me make this clear, I hate Florida State, having bled Hurricane orange and green since my birth. Having said that, I was extremely impressed by the dedication and loyalty by those who bleed garnet and gold. You go down Gaines Street in Tallahassee on a Saturday afternoon in the fall, and it’s a glorious sight. Thousands upon thousands of people dressed in Seminole gear, making their way down to Doak Campbell Stadium.  You ask them about Bobby Bowden, and their face lights up like a Christmas tree, “you know, he’s just such a good Christian,” says an elderly woman. “I’ll tell you what, there was one time I saw him at a golf tournament in Thomasville, man still gets around!” You mention anything about the Hurricanes or the Gators, you will get an earful. Even worse, you’re spotted wearing blue, green or orange, and you will get called out, trust me, I’ve been there. Now, you wanna get a Nole angry? Talk to them about Chris Rix, and the early 2000’s. “You know, if we had a decent quarterback those years, or a decent kicker, we would’ve won five more national championships,” says a heated middle aged man, supporting a Columbia FSU fishing shirt.

 

Those who yell War Eagle are not to messed with either. The great part about Auburn fans, is that they’re very distinguished, polished people. Though Alabama has dominated the last decade of the rivalry, Tiger fans are quick to point out that they are more educated than those in Title Town. They speak, almost in reverence, about Cam Newton, and the 2010 season. They will tell you exactly where they were when Chris Davis ran back the field goal to beat the Tide. Mention anything about Nick Saban, and they may not offer you desert.

 

All in all, it’s a beautiful part of the country. You take a drive in Pensacola, Florida, and I guarantee you, that you will see a decal sticker on someone’s car supporting a college football team, every five seconds. You can talk all day about the tradition of USC, or the aura of Notre Dame, but until you are seated down in an old couple’s kitchen, waiting to be served peach cobbler, and hearing about the time Bo Jackson went over the top against Bama, I’m tellin ya son, ya haven’t lived yet.

 

 

The Best Two Years

Marshall Snow Thomas

 

The plane starts to accelerate, as a young man, who has labored in this part of the world, now his home forever, looks down on memories. However, 24 months before, when he landed in this foreign land, he was just thinking what he had gotten himself into.

 

A boy, who has always gotten whatever he wanted, living the ideal childhood.  He has grown up a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints all his life, but he doesn’t know what it means. Like millions of other young men and young women before him, he decides to serve a mission, but he doesn’t know why he’s going. If you ask him why he’s going on a mission, he will answer because he knows that the church is true and wants to spread this joy throughout the world, but he’s been taught that answer since he was eight years old. In his heart, he’s going because he feels obligated to, because his father, grandfather, great grandfather have all served, and because his ancestors came over from England because they believed in this church. Put frankly, it’s a family thing, and its something he has to do, and besides, whats two years?

 

The days draw closer to his departure, he begins looking at suitcases in his room, soon to be filled with white shirts and his fathers ties. His aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents all tell him that it’ll be the best two years of his life, but he doesn’t see that, all he sees is being able to get these two years done as fast as possible, because there are more important things in life.

 

The night before he leaves, it begins to sink in a little. He says goodbye to his friends, girlfriend, and he feels that his world is falling apart. He asks himself how he could leave all this, and is terrified to wake up the next morning. He goes to sleep, for the last time in his own bed, for two years, two long years.

 

Dad wakes him up, today is the day. It is the single biggest day of his life so far, in a life that hasn’t been that hard up to that point. He picks out the suit he’s going to wear, ties a terrible knot in his tie because he hasn’t quite mastered the art of tying ties yet. The house is quiet, nobody really knows what to say. Mom is crying in the back, and deep down, he wants to cry as well, but is trying to act tough so the goodbye won’t be as hard. He can barely eat anything, as a million thoughts are running through his head. The truck pulls out of the driveway, with his bags in the back. He takes one more look at his house, knowing that it’ll be a long time until he sees it again.

 

He arrives at the MTC, his home for the next two weeks. It looks cold and uninviting, as he’s only heard horror stories of this place, and is anticipating the worst two weeks of his young life. He says goodbye to his family, the worst 30 seconds of his life. The brothers he’s fought with for so many years, he doesn’t want to let go. He walks away, holding back the tears, trying to look tough in front of the other missionary that is escorting him. He receives the famous name tag, the one that will be on his shirt for the next two years, “Elder,” and so it begins.

 

Two long, sleepless weeks pass by, its time to board a plane and head to his assigned mission. He’s excited, but nervous as all get out. How will he be as a real missionary? Will the people like him? How many baptisms will he get? Suddenly, he’s feeling more self conscious than ever before in his life. The plane leaves, and he looks down at the Utah mountains one last time.

 

The plane touches down, he’s greeted by his mission president and wife, and two other missionaries. He tries to make a good impression, which is why he wore his special Brooks Brothers tie that day. He drives around this mysterious city that definitely isn’t Salt Lake.

 

He’s assigned to his first area, with a companion that he tries to impress right of the bat. The first few weeks go by, not great, actually they’re terrible. You actually have to work out here? He thought that you knock about 5 doors, and baptize an entire ward? He hasn’t ridden a bike since the Clinton administration, and now he’s riding one everyday. He’s riding in the rain, in the heat, over hills and through traffic. Everyday he wakes up and cries, begging someone up above to make the time go faster. He desperately tells people that this church is true, but he doesn’t know it for himself. Moments of happiness and good times, are replaced by long bike rides, unkept appointments, and mean people.

 

The first six months go by. He’s starting to get the hang of it, but still he struggles. He realizes that he can go through the motions, and still be an ok missionary. He reads the scriptures, but they’re just words, right? He testifies of this guy named Jesus Christ, but in reality, he has no idea who he is. He says he’s happy, but deep down, he wants to go home everyday.

 

The next six months go by. Thank goodness you’ve made it a year, but wait, you still have another year of this? Another year of sweating profusely, gaining weight, going through the motions? The people are great, but home still dominates his thought process. He’s tired, and realizes that he’s still the same person he was when he left Salt Lake. He thinks, this is supposed to be the best two years, why don’t I feel it? He decides to change.

 

Through the next year, he experiences what the prophet Alma said, “a mighty change of heart.” He reads his scriptures, every chance that they get. Of course these words are true, I know it! He tries to share it with everyone he can talk to. He gets up each day, excited to walk the streets, and see if he and his companion can walk the soles out their shoes. Prayers become more meaningful, he gets to know his Heavenly Father. When he teaches people, he knows what he is saying is true. He stops memorizing a line that he’s prepared to say at a certain time in the lesson. He finishes the Book of Mormon, and restarts it the next morning. Sleep is not important, what is important is gaining more knowledge, reading until his eyes can’t take it anymore. He goes to sleep, happy, happy and grateful for the person he’s becoming. He loves his fellow missionaries, and hugs the elders every chance he gets. He creates friendships that will last his entire life. He’s smiling more, he’s smiling all the time. Sure its hot out here, but think about the fun we’re having! He loves the people, he absolutely loves the people, he would do anything for them, he gives ties off his shirt to complete strangers. He loves Sundays, he stays as long as he can after church so he can talk to the members more. He loves going over the members homes for dinners, and talking about their family, and making jokes, joking about himself.

 

Somewhere in that time, he finds a friend, a lifelong friend, a friend that has been there all along, but just hasn’t know it. That friend, is the Lord Jesus Christ. He comes to know of a Man, who performed an act, on a quiet night outside of Jerusalem, in a garden, that changed the outcome of the world, forever. He believes, and knows, that through that act, he can change, the people he teaches can change. When he talks about Him now, he gets teary eyed, he knows who He is. He realizes that this is His church, and that makes him happier than anything in the world.

 

That last year fly’s by, and it feels like six months. He realizes that his time is drawing to an end. Older missionaries, that were his heroes, are now gone. Groups of missionaries leave, until its his time. He packs his bags, for the last time. He can’t control his excitement to see his family and friends, but he can’t imagine life without the mission. He makes his last drive to the place it all started, bags in the trunk. Its his last night, and he can’t sleep. Laid out on his bed, is the suit, shirt, tie and shoes he’s going home in, the outfit he’s going to hug his mom in. In 24 hours, he will be home, surrounded by friends and family. His plane leaves, not knowing where time went, wishing he could hug everyone, every single person that he taught. He looks down on the streets where he walked, the city that is his home now, and will always be home.

 

His plane lands, he’s in the terminal, the mountains of Utah are outside the window. His family and friends are waiting at the bottom of the escalator. He’s read thousands of pages of scripture, tied thousands upon thousands of ties, talked to thousands of people, walk and biked who knows how many miles. But above all else, he has one testimony, his own, the one that he made, the one that he prayed for, studied for, cried for, and worked for. He knows that his mission has been accomplished, and realizes that its over. He walks down the escalator, amid the cheers, tears and laughter. Its over, 2 years, just like that. Later that night, he takes off his tag, for the last time, sleeps in his own bed, a changed man.