Monday, April 29, 2013

Jason Collins and the Art of Trailblazing

The attitude with sports in general is leave everything extra going on in your life at the door once you step on the field/court/whatever. It sounds like for Jason Collins' 11 years in the league, that is exactly how he went about his business. Jason Collins is a normal guy attempting to make a living as is everyone else in the league and the question is why should his homosexuality change his work? It doesn't. Bill Simmons said today "sports is our toy store with our heroes and villains. We have so much invested in guys we barely know and we like it to be as life-like as possible, and this is exactly what this does". I completely agree with him. Someone please tell me where this is wrong in coming out? It's in no way selfish, it's merely drawing attention to an issue that sooner or later was going to be addressed. For the gay athlete community, the perfect guy stepped up and began to blaze the trail.
But in reality, is this a big deal? It is but it isn't. Yes, he is the first openly gay player in professional male sports, but it is not a big deal in the respect that he is a normal guy and this should be a normal situation where the overwhelming reaction should be "well okay, nothing wrong here". And for all those out there who believe it is wrong these individuals in sport who are coming out get more support then a christian Tim Tebow are insane. Is it harder to be openly gay or openly christian?..... Okay thank you, I hope this becomes normal and players no longer have to publicly announce they are are gay. It is offensive that in modern ay society we are so intolerant to the point where an individual has to come out and announce their sexual orientation in order to start a movement. I hope eventually that we can get rid of this "closet" in sports so that players no long have to come out of the closet, they may just interact as normal people like many of them already do.
Lastly, I'd love to applaud Collins. In the conference finals a couple years ago, LeBron James played like complete garbage and we all assumed he had some problems conflicting with his play causing the terrible play. Imagine being Jason Collins and always having this internal fear within you as a black male in a culture which was not always the most welcoming to players who are different. African American males carry an image as homophobic, while not always true, carries a some truth in the NBA. A culture which thrives off of individual success, translating into wealth, which translates into women. Countless NBA players have stories of players of a contingent of their team partying and going to strip clubs night in and night out. Players having girlfriends various cities aside from their wives. Being an individual who does not fit that mold, yet surrounded by it, must be somewhat overwhelming and it takes a strong mental individual to persevere through it. Collins went to work for 11 years with the prospect that one of his teammates may notice that he didn't partake in any of this and that is why it is so impressive. Jason Collins stayed true to who he was throughout his entire career. He came to his work everyday and was a true professional who has assumed countless leadership rolls on various teams. That is who Jason Collins is.-Josh Neighbors

Thursday, April 4, 2013

National League Preview

The National League. The league with more strategy involved, the league where pitchers get to embarrass themselves at the plate, and the league that has produced the past three World Series Champs. As the season is in its preliminary stages, it is quite too early to see who is going to be the best of the best, but I am going to give you a little idea as to who to look out for in this upcoming season.

NL East: The NL East this year will definitely be the most exhilarating race to watch. I am sorry to say that the hardships endured by Mets fans will have to continue for at least another year to come. The Marlins may have the strongest man in baseball in Giancarlo Stanton and a decent lineup, but a severe lack of pitching is what will prevent them from being able to do any sort of damage. A veteran Phillies team has potential to possibly make an impact in the East, but my main concern is the age. I just do not see them being able to endure a whole season without being affected by the injury bug. Where it really gets interesting is starting with the Braves. They arguably made the biggest offseason noise in the Bigs by acquiring the ever-so athletic Upton brothers, helping them create a pretty solid lineup, and an impressive pitching staff followed by the best closer in the game in Craig Cimbrel, they look like a sure division winner. But to quote the great Lee Corso, “Not so fast my friend.” The Washington Nationals are the best team in the NL East because If you try to find a flaw in the Nationals it is quite the tough task. A young team but extremely talented led by young superstar Bryce Harper, and Cy Young candidate Stephen Strasburg. You put a deep bullpen with live arms behind that team, well its safe to say they are a lock.
NL Central: The teams in the NL Central lost a multitude of wins with the departure of the Astros. However, they can still rely on my good ole Cubbies. The Cubs are in fact on the right track but are definitely still in a rebuilding mode. The Pirates lack a quality pitching staff, and even though they have a decent lineup led by Andrew McCutchen, they have some serious work to do. The Reds and Brewers are in similar spots with a few bright spots on their teams, but really nobody that blows you away. Besides Uroldis Chapman, but you just cannot win games because of one reliever if you are the Reds. The Brewers had a nice pickup in Kyle Lohse, but again this is not enough. This leaves the St. Louis Cardinals. Although their pitching staff isn’t incredibly impressive, their high powered lineup is enough to take the Central.
NL West: There is going to be some fun out west. However, this fun will not be taking place in Colorado as the Rockies, despite a high octane outfield consisting of Dexter Fowler, Michael Cuddyer, and Carlos Gonzalez, lack the pitching to do anything special.
The Diamondbacks also lack just about everything.( Although Paul Goldschmidt is one of the more underrated players in all of baseball). The Padres are really nothing short of a disaster this year, as they have nothing that makes you have any optimism for their season(but those camo uniforms are sick). This leaves us the Giants and the Dodgers. The only thing that separates the two is the fact that LA has a stronger lineup have one of the top pitchers in Clayton Kershaw, who also demonstrated his hitting ability with a solo shot in his first game. Thus, the Dodgers will win the West.
Cy Young- Despite Clayton Kershaw having a very impressive year, the NL Cy Young will be awarded to Stephen Stasburg this year. His stuff is nasty and supported by one of the best defenses in the MLB, he should have no trouble getting the job done this year. He has served his time with the injury precautions ending his season prematurely last year, but this year is his time.
MVP: Also from the Nationals, Bryce Harper will be the NL MVP of this year. Even though it is only his second year in the majors, he has already shown this year what he is capable of. With the Rookie season out of his way, he will be lighting up the National League this year in route to an MVP.
Overachiever: The team that will overachieve this year are the Pirates. This may seem like a bold choice, but the past two years, they have made great progress. I have no reason to think that even with another young, unproven team, they can not do what they have recently, and catch the interest of everyone.
Underachiever: The biggest underachiever will be the Philadelphia Phillies. Although they do have a plethora of talent, this talent will struggle to remain consistent throughout the season. As a result, a playoff capable team will be nothing but a pretender this year.

NL Champions: The NL champions this year will be the Washington Nationals. If they can stay even relatively healthy, they should have no trouble winning the NL this year. With the potential MVP and Cy Young candidates, a top to bottom high quality lineup, and a reliable bullpen, you can count on the Nats to win it all this year.-Ben Greer

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Recognized Territory

Let me begin by saying that golf is hands down the most difficult sport for one to achieve greatness in. The old cliche "you just have to beat the course" is completely untrue. You have to beat a field of 70 other guys(granted you make it that far). Before 08' the chances were that one of those 70 guys, was Tiger Woods. If you were playing in an event, especially a major, and were close to or held a share of the lead after 54 holes, chances are the man in the red shirt was in your group. If he wasn't, you knew exactly where he was and exactly how close he was to you, or how far he was distancing himself from you. If you were fortunate enough to have him in your group, you could feel the nerves and the pressure as each shot was magnified, not by the TV coverage or the galleries of fans or caddies, but by the shear knowing that the eyes of Tiger Woods were fixated on you. Glaring, unchanging, menacing, intimidating and cold. On top of that, the only person in the entire crowd rooting for you is your family and your caddie. You are in the position many before you have folded in, and the pressure is indescribable. Once the Tiger had you in his sites, your failure was imminent.
For years Tiger Woods had this incredible aura of intimidation, sparked by a competitive nature only associated with the likes of Jordan, Bo Jackson, Kobe Bryant. Every miraculous aspect which made Tiger great contributed to his downfall being one of the biggest in the history of scandals. Tiger lost a mental edge in a sport which demanded an unflappable one to achieve any form of consistency. Before I get to the part where I say I am right and ensure you that Tiger Woods return to dominance is imminent, let me say thank you to my father for turning me into the El Tigre fan I am today, because I would not have this opinion if I hadn't been.
Down to business, for those of you were convinced that Tiger would never return to dominance you obviously have viewed a small amount of Tiger Woods performing previous to the release of his infidelity. How does one with the competitive spirit, the unmatched drive, and knowledge of greatness fall to such a low level and not arise back to his previous position of power? For people like Tiger, winning is everything. Many were outraged by the Nike's add which depicted Woods staring down a put and a bold caption which reads "Winning takes care of everything"-Tiger Woods, World #1. The statement, while obviously not true, sends a clear message to all. Tiger is back, and Nike(who stuck with Tiger through his whole ordeal) are now showing off their long lost star. 
In golf, familiarity is key. Tiger has won 3 events this year and all 3 have come at places where has won multiple times. Tiger is no stranger to the "tradition unlike any other", which is only a week away and his confidence is soaring. With 3 wins, the worlds #1 ranking, and a budding relationship with Lindsey Vonn(which believe it or not does help) Tiger is back in familiar territory. I knew he'd be back, every Tiger fan knew he'd be back. There is just one last step on his road to redemption and Augusta National is the location.-Josh Neighbors