Saturday, January 24, 2015

Sports and Death


My dad passed away in 1996 at the age of 51. I was 27 years old. It was the most difficult experience of my life. There were some dark times, but I made it through. Now I'm a Dad and I talk about him as much as I can to my boys so they can know my father without ever having met him.

Passionate. One of the best adjectives I can pick to describe my father. If he believed in someone or something he was extremely passionate about it. His faith, his family, and music were among the many things he loved in life. He also loved baseball. I picked up on this very quickly as a kid. About this time of year I always began to inquire about Little League and when we could sign up and begin practicing. My dad taught me long division by teaching me how to calculate batting averages because of my love for baseball. His passion trickled down to his son, particularly about baseball.

Growing up in central Illinois, around Peoria, baseball allegiances were split right down the middle. You were either a Cubs fan or a Cardinals fan, since we were about halfway between the two cities. As I always like to say, my Dad brought me up right and we were a Cubs family. I loved listening to Cubs games on WGN. I’ll always be a Jack Brickhouse guy (over Harry Caray) because of hearing his voice so often as a kid. We didn’t have cable television where we lived so we relied on the radio. On Sunday’s the local CBS station would show the WGN feed and we hurried home to watch them after church. Obviously, judging based on my birth year of 1968; my formative Cubs fan years were pretty slim. There were a couple of years where they started out strong and players like Bill Buckner, Manny Trillo and Bill Madlock gave us hope for the future. Alas, it never panned out.

My Dad was also a fan of history. He made sure me and my brother understood the history of the Cubs. It didn’t take much convincing on my part. I devoured any information I could get about baseball and the Cubs. I loved to hear stories about the 1969 Cubs and even though they didn’t win the pennant, my Dad spoke so lovingly about that team. His favorite player was Ron Santo, but he still glowed about Banks, Williams, Jenkins, Beckert, Hundley, etc.… It was clear Ernie Banks was the de facto “guy”. His nickname was Mr. Cub, for crying out loud. I soaked up all the information I could get my hands on about the Cubs. I wanted to play CF for them, or at least broadcast their games on the radio as an adult. My love for the Cubs is unbounded.

Fast forward to 2015. In speaking with many others who have lost loved ones, the most common theme is “it gets easier over time”. And while I agree with that, it is still a wound that can be opened up depending upon events in life that hit you directly in that spot. For example, when Walter Payton died I was devastated. Yes, he was my hero. But it also reminded me of all the time my father and I sat and watched the Bears together as a kid. My knucklehead brother became a Rams fan, so Bears games were special time with just my Dad and me. It was those memories that made me sad that my hero died but also that my Dad wasn’t around to grieve with me.

Ron Santo’s death was very difficult for me. As I stated earlier he was my Dad’s favorite Cubs player. And as we watched Ron fight through Diabetes and leg amputations, we knew his time was short. When I got the news that Ronnie had passed it was a punch to the gut. I felt numb. And all of those recollections of my Dad came flooding back. I cried doubly hard, some for Santo and a lot more for my Dad. These were the times the wound of death was reopened and the pain and hurt returned. Granted it was never as great as it was at the time of his death, but it hurt nonetheless.

The difference between Ron and Ernie was we knew Santo’s time was short. Ernie resembled the father of the relationship. He was immortal. One of the hardest lessons I’ve ever had to learn as an adult? My parents were mortal and wouldn’t live forever. As Cubs fans, we felt the exact same way about Ernie. He was Mr. Cub. He’d endure and be present when the Cubs won the World Series. It would be epic.

I had just returned home last night after broadcasting two high school basketball games and received a text from my brother. It was a link to a 670 The Score report that Ernie had passed away. It all came back. The one guy we thought would always be around was gone. It stung so sharply. The heart (Santo) and the soul (Banks) of those Cubs teams that built our parents fandom were now gone. The links between my parents’ generation as Cubs fans and my generation of Cubs fans were gone. Passing the torch to my sons became more difficult. The history of the beginnings of my life as a Cubs fan is now just a story. No Ronnie to listen to on the radio. No Ernie to see at the games lauding the Cubs to play two. And no Grandpa Crull to tell my boys stories of his Cubs teams.

RIP Ernie. I’m going to go cry a little more and try to heal my wounds.

I miss you Dad.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Open Letter to a Packers Player

Dear Brandon Bostick,

Don’t blame yourself.

According to the statistics of the game, both teams combined ran 135 plays. To put the weight of the world on your shoulders because of one play is too much weight to bear. We can watch the replays of the game until we are blue in the face and notice numerous plays that affected the game.  Twice in the first quarter, your team had the ball inside the 10-yard line and could not cross the goal line. Is that your fault? No. Take anyone of the five possessions that resulted in field goals and convert ONE of those into a touchdown and all of this becomes moot.

We all make mistakes. Trust your instincts.

It is extremely easy for talking heads to sit on their rear ends and criticize your decision to go after the ball instead of blocking for Jordy Nelson. One, we’ve never been in that position as wannabe athletes. Yes, sports media personalities love to bring attention to themselves and prove how smart they are by carefully dissecting plays. At which point they can easily enlighten us, the viewer, as to how the play SHOULD have played out. Most viewers have never even played football beyond a high school level and have zero notions as to the intricacies of the professional game. Being a tight end, your instincts and job tell you to catch the football.  Those instincts took over and the ball was hanging in the air. You went after it. It didn’t work out like you planned. Dust yourself off and live to fight another day.

I’m sorry.

I’m sorry for all of the idiots who hide behind the fa├žade of Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites to rip you to shreds for the play. As you know, we fans can get very emotional about our teams and the results of their play. The problem is the entitlement fans feel they are deserved because of their fandom. It doesn’t work that way. Those fans that have taken to social media to hate on you are one, not true fans. True fans stick by their teams and athletes through thick and thin, in victory and in defeat. Secondly, they are cowards.  To hide behind the veneer of social media where there are no repercussions for misuse and/or hate mongering is completely gutless.

Don’t let this define you.

Yes, this is rather obvious and you will hear it often. But I took the time to look up your journey to the NFL. Starting at a tiny Division II college, Newberry College, in Newberry, South Carolina struck a cord with me. I attended a small Division II college in southwest Missouri, Southwest Baptist University. I befriended many of the football players at my school. They were great athletes, however, many of them were playing the game in order to get an education. There weren’t any delusions about the possibility of playing in the NFL. One guy got an invite to Cowboys camp, but it opened my eyes to the difficulty of making it in the NFL. You went undrafted in 2012 but continued to follow your dream, work hard and were eventually signed by the Packers in 2013. Your story is a fantastic story. Mr. Bostick, you play at the highest level of professional football! According to the NCAA the probabilities of making it to the professional level are astounding. Only 6.5% of high school athletes play in college. And only 0.9% of those athletes make it to the professional leagues. Added up, the chance of a high school athlete to make it to the pros is 0.03%!! You, sir, are one in a million. Kudos to you. You have defied the odds and made it to the NFL. This is but one play in your career. Don’t let it define you.

Brandon, I am rooting for you. My hope is to see you on the field next year for the Green Bay Packers living your dream of being a professional football player. Let this moment be the fire that motivates you to continue to prove all the naysayers wrong.

Oh, by the way, did I mention I’m a Bears fan?


Shawn

Thursday, January 15, 2015

My Sports Superstition

At least that’s how I’d define it.

I am a baseball guy. From day one it has always been my favorite sport and always will be my favorite sport. If you know anyone who participates in the sport of baseball the notion of superstition is very real. Baseball players are a very superstitious sort. Look no further than Wade Boggs, Hall of Fame Third Baseman, and the fact that he ate chicken before every game as a barometer of superstition in the sport. If you have a great game and you took a certain route to the ballpark – you’re taking that very same route every day until the streak wears off. It’s a natural practice of most athletes, but I believe baseball players take it to the next level. Even ordinary hacks like me participate. When I played slow pitch softball I would succumb to superstition. I like to blow bubbles while playing so I had a few pieces of Dubble Bubble in my hand as I went out to the outfield one night. I grabbed one too many and didn’t want to throw it away so I stuck it in my sock. I had a great game. Guess what I did for the rest of my softball career (which is now over, in case you’re curious)?

Why am I telling you these stories? Because I also believe superstition can be part of fan behavior. And I am a prime example of that hypothesis. I firmly believe that whether or not I watch a game has a direct impact on the outcome of a game. Now, is that superstition or a strange form of superhuman power over the sports universe? Good question. It doesn’t help that most of the teams that I root for are not winning franchises, i.e. the Chicago Cubs, Bears and the University of Illinois sports teams. I am such a fanatic about my teams that it becomes difficult to watch them without getting upset. As a father of young boys I don’t want my sons to be as emotionally involved in their sports teams as I am. Why? There is a fine line between being a fan and having your self-esteem attached to the record of your favorite sports teams. I can get VERY angry watching my teams when they are losing – and the Chicago Bears took it to a new level for me this year. I want my sons to be fans without over investing emotionally.

Back to superstition – because I get so emotionally invested watching my teams, there are instances where I have to turn the television off so that I do not get upset. I feel it’s better to walk away than have my anger towards my team affect my emotional state in my home life. Funny thing is, after turning the game off my team will turn it around and start playing well and possibly win. Here’s the craziness of it all – I feel like I did my team a favor by not watching them which allowed them to win. I had a direct impact on their victory by not watching. Is that superstition?

Case is point – the 2001 University of Illinois football season. They started off the year with three straight victories, including a defeat of #25 Louisville. Their first conference game was against #17 Michigan at the Big House. They lost. Still unsure of how good this team was they won their next two games over Minnesota and Indiana. Neither of those victories carried much weight since those teams were at the bottom of the league. Still unsure of how good this Illini team was they headed a showdown with Wisconsin the next week. Things were going swimmingly until the 4th quarter when Wisconsin made a run and took the lead. I was obviously distraught and turned off the game thinking that this was just another Illini team that couldn’t quite get over the hump. Luckily, I underestimated the clutch play of Kurt Kittner and Brandon Lloyd. The Fighting Illini came back and won the game 42-35.

The following week Illinois was in West Lafayette facing Purdue. As if being emotionally invested in your team isn’t enough, playing an opponent in the area where you live intensifies the passion of the game. Needless to say, when Purdue jumped out to a 13- lead midway through the second quarter my anger/superstition kicked in and off the TV went. Of course, the Illini responded to my turning off the game by running off 38 straight unanswered points for the 38-13 victory. Hmmm, did the clicking off of my television set make its way to the visiting sidelines at West Lafayette? Did Illinois then tell themselves, “Its ok, Crull’s not watching anymore. No more pressure.”? Clearly that wasn’t the case, but it felt like it to me. Is that superstition or just plain craziness? That, my friends, is the power of sports.

Fast forward to the next week; Illinois is playing Penn State. I wait patiently for Illinois to get behind, which they do, 21-7, at halftime. Click. Illinois comes back to win in the second half. I’m enjoying this self-induced power over Illinois football. The next week, at Ohio State, rinse and repeat. Luckily, the season finale against Northwestern wasn’t close and the Illini won the Big Ten Conference and made it the Sugar Bowl as part of the BCS.

Unfortunately the Sugar Bowl did not turn out like the rest of the year. LSU got up on the Illini quickly and in typical fashion I turned the game off. However, this was not a fairy tale ending. Apparently my powers only worked in the Big Ten season and couldn’t overpower the SEC.

Regardless, I finally decided to look up the word superstition online. The definition is “a widely held but unjustified belief in supernatural causation leading to certain consequences of an action or event, or a practice based on such a belief.” Fairly accurate, no?

And that’s not even my best superstition story… sometime ask me about the 2005 NCAA Tournament Midwest Regional Final between Illinois and Arizona. :)

Monday, January 12, 2015

Bandwagon...and the Blackhawks


Per Merriam-Webster the definition of bandwagon is:

band·wag·on
: a popular activity, effort, cause, etc., that attracts growing support

It is quite the narrative (most popular word in sports talk at the moment) when discussing the loyalties of sports fans. I make no bones about the fact that I am:
  • a Chicago sports fan. I grew up in Illinois so my loyalties lie there
  • currently living in Indianapolis
  • an advocate of preaching against the bandwagon phenomenon

Being a high school teacher and teaching a class like sports marketing I get into quite a few discussions about sports and sports teams. This generation is very different than my generation. With the advent of technology fans are no longer created by regions. Again, growing up in Illinois it was all about the local teams. Therefore, I rooted for the Bears, University of Illinois, Cubs (as opposed to the Cardinals since Peoria is close to halfway between St. Louis and Chicago) and the Blackhawks. Nowadays, young people have access to all the major sports teams on cable/satellite television and smart phones. They can root for whoever they choose. And that is where I feel the bandwagon epidemic has evolved.

It is extremely easy to root for teams that are good. And young fans in this day and age take full advantage of that opportunity. Let's take the Pacers for example. After the Malice at the Palace the attendance and fan support for the Pacers declined. Understandably, many fans didn't like the direction of the team. However, if you are a fan of a team, wholeheartedly, you have to stick with them through thick and thin. At that time I began to see many young people become Lakers fans (Kobe), Bulls fans (D Rose) or Cavs/Heat fans (LeBron). Granted, the NBA markets its players as opposed to teams, but staying loyal to your TEAM, as opposed to a player seems more virtuous.

Peyton Manning going to the Broncos is another excellent example. I am continually floored by the number of "fans" who now rock the Manning Broncos jerseys but are still "Colts fans". How is that possible? My answer to them is that they were never truly Colts fans but rather just a Peyton Manning fan. They like to argue with me about their allegiances, but I'm not buying it. As my Dad used to say, crap or get off the pot. :)

Now for me, I get a lot of flack about being a Blackhawks fan. Many sports fans accuse me of being a bandwagon fan because they are now one of the best teams in the NHL. Well, my response to that is usually one statement - my best friend (and roommate) and I went to bars in 1992 to watch the Blackhawks play the Penguins in the Stanley Cup Finals. I can name numerous players from that team and others in the years before they "got good". I also have friends, whom I love, who call the city of Chicago a bandwagon hockey city because fans are now "coming out of the woodwork because they're good". Here's how I would like to refute that statement.

Ownership is vital to the fan support of a team. This city is blessed to have a passionate owner like Jim Irsay. For many years, however, the Blackhawks were owned by one of the worst owners in professional sports, Bill Wirtz. Blackhawks home games were no televised locally because he thought is was "unfair to season ticket holders". At the same time, he would only televise games IF they were picked up nationally, which only happened in the playoffs. He was also extremely frugal, which lead to his nickname "Dollar Bill" Wirtz. He tried PPV for Blackhawks games for $29.95 a month which went over like a lead balloon. Per wikipedia.com "Under the ownership of Wirtz, the Chicago Blackhawks were named by ESPN in 2004 as the worst franchise in sports. In 2002, ESPN ranked Wirtz as the third greediest owner in all of sports."

The Blackhawks fan base, in my opinion, was dormant. The ownership traded the teams best players (Chelios, Roenick, Belfour, and Savard) for financial reasons, they couldn't watch the team on local television, and their beloved play-by-play announcer, Pat Foley was unceremoniously fired by Bill Wirtz as well. It was tough to be a Blackhawks fan. I couldn't watch them at all living in Indianapolis. And then, sadly, Bill Wirtz passed away. His son Rocky Wirt took over and things changed, immediately. He hire John McDonough away from the Cubs and he sought to completely rebuild the organization. He brought back great old timers like Stan Mikita and Bobby Hull. They got Scotty Bowman involved in the organization. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane were drafted. But most importantly, Rocky put the Blackhawks back on Comcast Sports Net Chicago and rehired Pat Foley. You cannot begin to comprehend how important those decisions were in the grand scheme of the club. The fan base got their sunlight back and came out of dormancy, even before they won the Cup in 2010. I can watch them all the time now and it's fantastic.

Dormancy and bandwagonism (word?) are two completely different adjectives to describe fan bases. And I'll be more than happy to tell you how I feel about each.

Until next time...

Shawn



Wednesday, January 07, 2015

The Baseball HOF and It's Voting...

Yesterday the Baseball Hall of Fame elected four new members – Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio. It is the first time that four players have been elected by the BBWAA in the same year since 1955. The controversy that surrounds the vote every year can be intriguing, but when is enough going to be enough for MLB to finally get it right?

Let’s look at the four who got elected yesterday. Pedro and The Unit are no brainers in my opinion. Two of the most dominant pitchers I have seen in my lifetime and of all-time. Very easy picks. But here’s where the process gets ridiculous. How can voters NOT vote for Unit or Pedro on the first ballot? I have never understood the logic in purposely leaving someone off the ballot just because it’s their first year of eligibility. Either they’re a HOF or they’re not. Are the writers that jealous because they couldn’t play? Is it a power trip for them to hold someone’s legacy in their hands? The process has to change.

Anyway, it gets interesting for the other two inductees. For me, John Smoltz gets in because his postseason performances bolster his stellar regular season numbers. One stat you need to know about Smoltz – his postseason starting record was 21-4 and in those four losses his teams scored him a grand total of four runs. Plus, any player who can be a dominant starter and then transition to a dominant closer is pretty special.

Finally, we get to Craig Biggio. And this is where my opinion of the status of the Hall of Fame becomes clear. First let me say that I loved Biggio as a ball player. Even though he played in the same division as my beloved Cubs I loved watching him play because he played the game the right way. He and Jeff Bagwell (who deserves to be in the Hall, btw) were two of my favorite non-Cubs.

Now, here is my hardline stance about the HOF. There are two types of players eligible to be enshrined in the HOF - ones you’ve seen their entire career and those you haven’t. For the latter, I have to completely rely upon statistics and comparisons. For the former, I have a simple test - were they they absolute best at their position in their league for an extended period of time? And that’s just the start. This, to me, is where Biggio falls short. The bigger problem is that Biggio hit the “magic” number - 3000. You get there you’re getting in. But that’s my gripe. Longevity is a great attribute to have as a player. yet it can skew our view of the player as well.

For any argument like this I love to browse to www.baseball-reference.com and hit up the JAWS and Similarity Scores sections. Jay Jaffe created the JAWS statistical comparison based on WAR. At the same time, the Similarity Scores rank the player in relation to other players in MLB history. Let’s look at Biggio. He is ranked as the 14th best overall 2B in MLB history. Not bad, but he is behind non-HOF’s such as Bobby Grich (7th), Lou Whitaker (11) and Chase Utley (12). As you may or may not know, Lou Whitaker and Bobby Grich have never even sniffed entrance into the HOF. Does this diminish Biggio’s case? I think so. At the same time, his statistical comparisons help his case as he is compared to Robin Yount, Derek Jeter, Roberto Alomar and Joe Morgan. Some statistics that stand out to me in the case for Biggio are that he was an All-Star only 7 times, a Gold Glover four times, and Top 5 in MVP voting twice. His case makes it very difficult for me to decided definitively if he is a slam dunk HOF or not.

A better comparison may be a battle of 3B - Brooks Robinson and Ron Santo. Robinson was a first ballot HOF and Santo had to wait for the Veterans Committee once he had passed away. Let’s look at the stats.

Initially, Brooks page makes a strong case as he was a 15 time All-Star and a 16 time Gold Glover. He even won the AL MVP on 1964. No-brainer, right? Let’s dig deeper. He only batted over .300 TWICE and only lead the league in an offensive statistic ONCE - RBI in his MVP year of 1964. As I scroll down to the JAWS and Similarity Scores area is when the red light really goes off for me. He is ranked 8th overall in MLB history as a 3B, BEHIND Ron Santo. And as I look at the the players on that list, the closest rivals in the AL at the time he played don’t show up until 15 and 16 (Buddy Bell and Sal Bando). His “similar player comparison” is Buddy Bell. If that doesn’t speak volumes, I’m not sure what can because nobody believes Buddy Bell is a HOF.

Ron Santo, however, was a the victim of baseball writers for years. The first statistic that stands out is that he is ranked ahead of Brooks Robinson in the JAWS scores for 3B. Secondly, in his early career he had to play in the shadow of HOF Eddie Mathews who is ranked 2nd in history at 3B (only surpassed by Mike Schmidt). Santo was a 9 time All-Star and a five time Gold Glover. He also finished in the Top 5 of NL MVP voting twice. Santo also finished with almost 80 more HR’s and just less than 20 RBI’s than Robinson in EIGHT less years.

The problem? Robinson had the infamous 1971 World Series where he was the “human vacuum cleaner” at 3B and helped the Orioles win the World Series. Are those few games enough of a disillusion to negatively affect Ron Santo’s HOF induction for all those years? I believe so. The writers are enamored with great performances and I understand that concept. However, at what point does the body of work not make the definitive decision?

It is a very slippery slope the voting for the Baseball Hall of Fame. And it needs to be changed. Not just in the manner of who votes, but the conviction of the votes. I believe every voter should have to release their results with explanations of said votes. I’ve voiced a few of my convictions on HOF players and you may not agree. That’s OK, but that’s also what helps make baseball the greatest game in the world.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Well....this is the year.

No, I am not talking about the Cubs winning the World Series, which would be nice. I give it a couple of years....and Vegas is getting a little ahead of themselves with the odds.

But I digress. In the last few months of 2014 I've done some serious thinking about my life goals and have decided it's time to crap or get off the pot. I'm 46 years old and I  need to stop dreaming about things I want to do in my life and start making sure the rubber hits the road. So I have made two commitments, not resolutions, for 2015 - writing and running. I need to exercise my mind and my body. One of my bucket list items is to write a book. Well, in my thought processes I came up with what I want to write my book about, but I feel as if it is like being an athlete - practice makes perfect. I can't, in my mind, just start writing a book. I need to hone my craft. That's where this blog come into play. This is my practice. Bear with me - the subject matter will vary like crazy. Well, maybe not. :)  Most of my musings will be about sports but I'm sure I'll sprinkle in some pop culture and family stories as well. Here's to a new year!

Normally I would hit a various number of topics on a Monday after a busy sports weekend, but one story stood out to me this weekend and that will be the focus of my first post - Stuart Scott.

I didn't get to watch ESPN regularly until I was in college in the late 80's. We lived in the boondocks of Central Illinois and didn't have cable until I went to the big city of Bolivar. MO for college. As a sports fan, this was a dream come true. A 24 hour sports channel? Are you kidding me? Heaven. I watched it non-stop. The signature show was obviously SportsCenter. In my early days there were the no-nonsense anchors for the show - Chris Berman, Bob Ley, Linda Cohn, Tom Mees and Chris Myers. At this point, I didn't know that the show could be anything more than just feeding me sports highlights and I was ecstatic with it. Little did I know...

Early in the 90's the show started to evolve and more personalities were hired to anchor SC. The two that stand out the most are Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann, calling it "The Big Show" during the 11pm SportsCenter. My eyes were opened as to the personality that could come out of the anchor while giving you the highlights and  news. Being a people person, this fascinated me. And I was even more hooked, if that's possible. And then, the crew came on. Rich Eisen, Craig Kilborn, Robin Roberts, Steve Levy and Stuart Scott. They made the show FUN. It's as if fans got a hold of the cameras and allowed us to see the highlights as if we were all hanging out together at someone's house going round table about sports. It was great.

Don't get me wrong. I didn't like everyone. To this day I cannot stand Chris Berman. He seems so contrived to me it's ridiculous. Olbermann started to wear on me as the "guy who is smarter than you and never lets you forget it" vibe. So I gravitated towards Eisen and Scott. Their personalities complimented each other so well during the broadcasts that it was must-see TV for me. At first, Stuart was difficult to for me to follow, but as I got out of college and on to my own and met other African-Americans his musings became language I understood and could find funny. It was almost as if he was a Civics teacher for life. He made no bones about the fact that he was going to be who he was, whether you liked  him or not, because he believed in himself. There have been MANY anchors that have sat at that desk that were not transparent and came across as fake and unbelievable. One thing you could never call Stuart was unbelievable.

As I have grown older I must admit I have grown apart from SportsCenter. The 90's were the zenith of the show, like SNL, and as society has changed, so has the people who sit at the desk. Don't get me wrong, I love Lindsey Czarniak and John Anderson and anchors like them. However, it's not the glory days of my youth and there was one guy who was still there as the conduit from that age for me - Stuart Scott. I knew he had been sick with cancer. What I didn't know, until the ESPY's this summer was that it bad. Cancer is a scary thing. My wife was diagnosed with breast cancer in November of  2014 so I have a pretty good idea of how scary the word cancer can be to someone. Thank the Lord my wife is now cancer free. Stuart was not as lucky.

I was awoken yesterday morning, sleeping in because I have been sick, by a notification on my phone. It was a SportsCenter update and it said that Stuart Scott had passed away. I immediately logged on to Twitter and began to scroll through all of the condolences. The one that broke me was Rich Eisen's beautiful eulogy on the NFL Network. I came downstairs in tears and my wife wondered what was wrong. I showed her the video and we cried together. She understood my love for sports and how this impacted me. I never met Stuart Scott. But through the TV we became friends because of a passionate love of sports. I lost a friend yesterday. And he was only three years older than me. It is sad, but it has been therapeutic hearing all of his friends tell stories about Stu. He will live on through the magic of TV. But I pray for his family, especially his daughters in this rough time. I've lost my Dad as well, at the age of 27 and I know how tough that is as well. So please keep them in your prayers.

Rest in peace Stu. You were always as cool as the other side of the pillow.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

If I Were Booking WrestleMania 29....

I wrote this a couple of weeks ago and I tried to stick with the current storylines as best as I could. Some things have changed since then but these could still work.

Dark Match – Divas Championship that no one cares about

U.S. Heavyweight Championship – The Miz (challenger) vs. Antonio Cesaro (champion)
The Miz comes out with Ric Flair at his side. It’s a great match, back and forth, between both. Near the end of the match, Fandango comes out with two dancing partners. As he is watching the match The Miz locks in the Figure Four to Cesaro. Flair gets excited and starts dancing. He hops up on the apron to “distract” the referee while The Miz keeps cinching in the Figure Four. Flair comes through the ropes, yells “Wooo!” and drops an elbow on The Miz!! OMG. Just as quickly, Fandango leaps into the ring and covers the immobile Cesaro and gets the three count. Fandango screams “You will know my name!!” and then smiles and offers Flair one of his dancers as the leave the ring together.

Your NEW U.S. Heavyweight Champion – Fandango.  

Fatal Four Way – Tag Team Championship Match – Team Hell No (champions) vs. Prime Time Players vs. Broadus Clay and Tensai vs. Damien Sandow and Cody Rhodes (challengers)
Crazy weird fight and brouhahas break loose all over the place. At one point Broadus and Bryan are in the ring while everyone else is on the outside except Kane, who is on the apron. Broadus is destroying Bryan, but he makes an escape and tries to tag Kane. Kane jumps off the apron and walks away. Bryan is devastated as he watches Kane leave – then from behind Clay and Tensai double team Bryan and get the pin. Then the dancing begins…  

Winners and NEW Tag Team Champions – Broadus Clay and Tensai  

Intercontinental Championship – R-Truth (Challenger) vs. Wade Barrett (champion)
Blah-blah-blah. Barrett wins with Colin Farrell at ringside to promote their crappy movie.  

Winner and still Intercontinental Champion – Wade Barrett  

Chris Jericho vs. Dolph Ziggler with AJ Lee and Big E Langston
One of the best matchers of the night. Both combatants have control at certain points. AJ and Big E try to get involved on certain occasions. At one point, when Dolph is incapacitated at ringside, Big E tries to interfere. Vickie comes out and starts wailing on AJ while Chris locks Big E in the Walls of Jericho. Booker T comes down and throws out everyone from ringside. Vickie and AJ fight back up the ramp as Big E tries to break them up. Chris and Dolph go at it. Dolph tries to hit the Fameasser, or whatever he calls it, but Jericho pulls an amazing counter and locks in the Walls of Jericho. With no one to help, Dolph passes out and loses the match.  

Winner – Chris Jericho  

Mark Henry vs. The Big Show
This is a Body Slam Match, the person who can body slam the other wins. Both go back and forth and near the end (thank god), Big Show hits Mark Henry with the punch. Mark doesn’t flinch. Big Show looks at his fist and hits him again. Once again, Mark doesn’t flinch. Mark yells “This is what I do!” Big Show looks at his fist and walks out of the ring. As he is walking up the ramp out comes Alberto Del Rio, RR, Sheamus and anyone else who has been victimized by the punch. Big Show goes back down to the ring and gets bodyslammed by Mark Henry and the ring collapses.  

Winner – Mark Henry  

War Games Match – Two Rings Enclosed by a Cage: Sheamus, Ryback, Orton and HHH vs. Team Heyman – the Shield and Brock Lesnar
Earlier in the month, Brock accepted HHH’s challenge with one caveat: if he wanted a fight they were going to do it on Heyman’s terms, which is the War Games. Triple HHH agrees and gets Sheamus, Ryback and Orton to be his partners. Longest and most brutal match of the night: Team Heyman wins the coin flip and gets the first entry at 5 minutes. Match starts with Ambrose and Orton. In succession, here are the entrants: Rollins, Sheamus, Reigns, Ryback, Lesnar and HHH. Trips and Lesnar go off into their own ring and proceed to get into a bloody mess together. After the beating commence, the Shield tries to protect Lesnar from HHH, but then Vince, Steph, Shane and HHH’s kids come down to ringside to cheer HHH on. With this the faces fo wild and it ends up with Ryback and HHH double teaming Lesnar and HHH pedigrees him and gets the pin. HHH walks off with his family. Once they get to the top of the ramp, HHH thanks the fans and officially retires.  

Winners – Sheamus, Ryback, Orton and HHH  

World Heavyweight Championship Match – Jack Swagger w/Zeb Colter (challenger) vs. Alberto Del Rio (champion)
This is a back and forth match; where even Zeb Colter and Ricardo Rodriguez get into a ringside scrap. Both competitors put on their finishing moves, but Jack is close to ropes when ADR puts on armbar so he gets a reprieve. ADR kicks out of Swagger’s finisher and Zeb jumps up on the apron. Jack goes over and Zeb hands him a foreign object. ADR comes over and drop kicks Swagger and he knocks Zeb off the apron. But Jack gets up and hits ADR with the brass knucks and gets the three count. Just as he is celebrating AJ comes down to the ring and distracts Swagger as Ziggler and Big E come from behind and beat him up. Dolph then cashes in the MIB and gets the three count.  

Your NEW World Heavyweight Champion – Dolph Ziggler  

The Streak Match – CM Punk vs. The Undertaker
This is going to be an awesome match. Longest match of the night with both contestants going back and forth. After about 35 minutes Taker hits a Tombstone but Punk kicks out of it. After more action Punk hits the GTS. But Taker kicks out. Punk hits the GTS again, Taker kicks out. One last time Punk hits the GTS and Taker kicks out. As the last GTS is being put on Taker, Mick Foley comes down to ringside. He pleads with Punk, “He’s not human, you can’t win!” Punk listens to Foley and walks away, being counted out. Foley convinces Punk to give him the urn. Taker goes to 21-0, but Punk doesn’t lose. Once Punk is counted out Foley jumps in the ring and screams at Taker – “This is for Hell in a Cell” and takes the urn to Taker, beating him within an inch of his life. As Foley is leaving, Kane meets him on the ramp and beats him to a pulp. He them slams Foley off the ramp. Kane then gets the urn from Foley, he then lifts it up in the air at ringside. Taker rises. Kane and Taker hug and lift the urn together in tribute to Paul Bearer.  

Winner – Undertaker  

WWE Heavyweight Championship Match – John Cena (challenger) vs. The Rock (champion) Typical WWE Heavyweight match with both guys having runs of success. It’s pretty much just like last year’s match except the ending – as the match is finishing Punk comes down and watches from ringside. He does not interfere, however. Cena tries AA and Rock kicks out. Rock tries Rock Bottom and Cena kicks out. Vince comes down to the ring and it looks as if we may have another “corporate champion” as it was back in the Attitude Era. But then, The Shield comes down from the stands and seeks justice after their loss in War Games. They beat down Rock, Cena and Vince. CM Punk just watches and then walks away at the end of the match, laughing, but taking no credit for The Shield. Match ends in a double count out after The Shield triple power bombs both Rock and Cena. They kidnap the WWE belt and tell everyone that the champ won’t get it back until justice is served. End of show.  

Winner – no one. Double count out.