#TBT Sports Blog: R.I.P. Boxing’s Raging Bull Jake La Motta

Raging Bull Jake LaMottaToday’s #TBT sports blog remembers boxing’s legendary Raging Bull – Jake LaMotta – who passed away this week at age 95.

Most fighters would think twice before squaring off in the ring against an angry bull of a guy.

But, for opponents in the ring facing the focus of today’s #TBT sports blog, no better nickname expressed the fear and intimidation he wielded as boxing’s Raging Bull.

The always snarling Jake La Motta charged opponents like a bull exploding out of a pen to attack a matador.

This Raging Bull’s bullish boxing style, along with incredible stamina to survive severe beatings in the ring, contributed to his boxing success.

A member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame, La Motta reached the pinnacle of his profession when he knocked out Frenchman Marcel Cerdan in 1949. He captured the World Middleweight Title, a championship that he successfully defended twice.

Named by Ring Magazine as one of the top ten middleweight fighters ever, La Motta retired in 1954 with a career record of 83 wins (30 by knockout), 19 losses and 4 draws.

La Motta’s most notable fights pitted him six times against Sugar Ray Robinson, one of boxing’s all time greats. Their February 14, 1952 bout became known as the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. The bloodied Raging Bull ferociously fought the superior Robinson for 13 rounds before the fight was mercifully stopped and awarded to Sugar Ray.

This fighter’s life outside the boxing ring is as controversial as his accomplishments inside the ropes.

La Motta Autobiography Raging Bull: My Story

Chronicled in his autobiography Raging Bull:My Story, La Motta’s father forced him into fighting at an early age in order to entertain neighbors for money and subsidize the family’s income.

Complex and troubled, La Motta also threw plenty of punches outside the ring. He once confessed to beating up a bookie and left him for dead. He also admitted to hitting his first wife Vikki so hard that he thought he had killed her.

In addition, the menacing Raging Bull admitted to throwing a November 14, 1947 fight against Billy Fox. He supposedly wanted to endear himself to the Mafia.

Accomplished Hollywood Director Martin Scorsese eventually adapted La Motta’s autobiography. The critically acclaimed movie, in which Robert De Niro played the real Raging Bull, won an Academy Award.

In my sports comic book on Favorite Boxers, I feature La Motta in chapter 10.

Favorite BoxersThough I cringe when learning about La Motta’s bad behavior, violent temper and poor decisions in life, I also admire his indomitable spirit to overcome a horrific childhood and excel as a professional boxer.

In his post boxing days, Jake La Motta married seven times. He also pursued other surprising entertainment endeavors like stand-up comedy and ownership of a baseball team.

Since hanging up his gloves five decades ago, La Motta has relentlessly attacked every new venture as if it where one of his former opponents in the ring.

However, anyone who comes close to this colorful, complicated character knows to be as cautious around him as a matador.

And, that’s no bull. R.I.P. Jake LaMotta.

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Friday Sports Funny: Heavyweight Division in Gymnastics

Heavyweight GymnastsToday’s Friday Sports Funny focuses on the Olympic sport of gymnastics

That’s because the sport confuses me. I’m perplexed.

Why does gymnastics discriminate against bigger boned bodies.

Yes, I’m lamenting why larger ladies and girthier guys who would like to wear leotards are getting shafted.

If boxing and wrestling have a myriad of divisions ranging from pint size featherweights to hulking heavyweights, why can’t the same be true of gymnastics?

Gymnastics Discriminates Against Big People

Gymnastics discriminates against big people. Have you ever seen a gymnast taller than 5 feet or heavier than 100 lbs? Of course not!

Listen to my podcast on the Heavyweight Division in Gymnastics and finish your work week with some clever sports humor. Click on the yellow cover below to hear.

MIKE on sports podcastI say we petition the International Olympic Committee to widen the balance beam, reinforce the parallel bars and prepare the pommel horse for some pretty powerful pounding.

Let’s start making XXXL tutus, or in gymnastics lingo, extremely large leotards instead.

Let’s propose a new heavyweight division in gymnastics. Then, we’ll witness television ratings skyrocketing to Olympic sized proportions.

Imagine eager audiences drooling over the prospects of witnessing a 300 lb. hairy-backed Russian named Boris barrel down the mat to mount the uneven bars.

The giant gymnast would not only test the strength of the balance beam, but he’d also somersault, I mean salto, to seismic shakes in the floor exercises.

The entire arena would tremble from his dramatic dismounts.

Like WWE spectators, a new breed of frenetically frothing gymnastics fans would be born overnight.

High browed gymnastics judges would probably chafe at the audacity of including beefier competitors in such a dainty sport.

However, this once confusing sport would become instantly popular.

A New Heavyweight Division in Gymnastics Would Be Awesome

A new heavyweight division in gymnastics would be awesome.

It would be the next Summer Olympic Games’ heralded perfect 10!

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#TBT Sports Blog: Two-Time Heisman Trophy Winner Archie Griffin

MIKE Comic 130 Archie GriffinCollege football’s only two-time Heisman Trophy winner, Archie Griffin, effortlessly rushes into today’s #TBT sports blog.

A former standout for the Ohio State University Buckeyes, Archie Griffin led the Big Ten in rushing for three consecutive seasons.

The 1974 and 1975 Heisman Trophy recipient is the only player in Big Ten history to win four Big Ten football titles and start in four Rose Bowl games.

Legendary Ohio State University football coach Woody Hayes called Archie Griffin the best football player he had ever seen. Few people, even Michigan Wolverine diehards, would disagree.

Despite his short 5’9” stature, Griffin utilized incredible speed and power to consistently break multiple tackles every time he carried the football. It’s no surprise that today’s #TBT sports blog features Griffin’s many college football exploits.

Griffin’s Ohio State Debut Was Forgettable

Ironically, Griffin did not begin his storied college career as one might expect. In his first game as a freshman running back in 1972, the Buckeye fumbled his only possession of the game and returned to the sidelines.

However, the Buckeyes running back bounced back quickly. In his second game as a freshman, Griffin ran for an amazing 239 yards. He proceeded to rush for 100 yards or more for 31 consecutive games, an NCAA record.

Archie Griffin’s incredible college career culminated in 1976 when he was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals with the 24th pick in the 1st round. He played for the Bengals for seven seasons.

Soon after, Griffin returned to his home town of Columbus, OH where Ohio State is also located. The modest two-time Heisman winner was immediately welcomed into the school’s administration and eventually became President of the School’s Alumni Association.

Two-Time Heisman Winner Archie Griffin’s Famous Quote

Archie Griffin’s apparent toughness, speed and power are best remembered in a quote credited to this former Buckeye, “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight; it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”

College football history clearly shows that former Ohio State Buckeye and two-time Heisman Trophy Archie Griffin winner possessed a whole lot of bark and bite whenever he carried the football.

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FREE Sports Comic Book on the “Beautiful Game” of Soccer

MIKE FREE Sports Comic BooksCheck out this FREE sports comic book on the “Beautiful Game” of soccer.

Known as football throughout the non-American sports universe, soccer boasts its own unique language, eccentric expressions and unparalleled personalities.

Soccer is the world’s most popular sport by a long shot, in spite of its peculiarities.

For example, soccer inexplicably keeps time in the exact opposite direction of every other sport on the planet.

Secondly, soccer matches, not games, are played by men wearing boots rather than cleats atop a pitch instead of a field.

When overdone, soccer’s inexcusably melodramatic flopping may sully spectators’ enjoyment.

Soccer fans also get flummoxed by the confusing calculation of stoppage time and anti-climactic penalty kick shootouts that decide championship games.

However, this international sport has flourished for generations.

Incredible athletes, iconic coaches and passionate fans cause both the wealthiest and poorest nations of the world to bask in the brilliance of the Beautiful Game.

In this FREE soccer book, you won’t need to fear the sport’s most frightening characters, aptly nicknamed Scarface and The Cannibal.

FIFA football star Franck Ribery

You’ll enjoy reading about the cleverly named and highly entertaining former British soccer players Spice Boy and Calamity James.

England's David Calamity James

You’ll even discover there really was a Fifth Beatle, sort of.

FIFA footballer George Best

You’ll look up to the goal scoring exploits of taller, long-necked stars The Giraffe and Two Meter Peter.

The Giraffe Jack Charlton

You’ll relish in the allure of the Beautiful Game, the cleanliness of a goalie’s extra-tidy clean sheet and the “joie de vie” that a Frenchman named Va Va Voom exudes.

soccer star thierry henry

References to monarchs, leaders and twentieth century politics are captured by this sport. Expect to meet a Kaiser, a Child of the King and come face to face with soccer’s impenetrable Berlin Wall.

You’ll be impressed by a Genius, dazzled by a Magic Dwarf and enchanted by a pony tailed Princess named Mia.

Finally, after a little assistance from soccer’s most debated Hand of God, you’ll finish this FREE read by paying homage to the sport’s most sacred celestial star – Pele.

Kick this book around on your own or flick it to a friend.

If you love the Beautiful Game, please share these clever comics and the appealing history of the sport with fellow soccer fans.

And, best yet, the book is FREE! Click HERE to safely download.

MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!

Friday Sports Funny: Keep Politics Out of Sports

keep-politics-out-of-sports

Today’s Friday Sports Funny dusts off one of my original MIKE on Sports! iTunes podcasts.

It’s titled: Keep Politics Out of Sports!

You see. I’m a sports guy, not a political pundit.

I’m also a firm believer that it’s our responsibility as fans to keep politics out of the sports world.

Sports should always be fun and should never involve political talk. Otherwise, it just gets ugly fast.

Watching great athletes and big games we love must remain an escape from our daily grind.

There must never be any meddling from muckrakers or well intentioned athletes lobbying for our vote or public sentiment.

I deplore protests, prepared statements and any kind of political platform at sports events. And, I consider the American flag a unifier of our great nation, never to be trod upon, defamed, burned or disrespected.

As a Sports Fan I Just Want to Watch the Game

As a sports fan, I just want to watch players play and not witness them plead, pimp or pander to my emotions or sense of duty.

Sports should always evoke passion directed at our favorite team, and NOT instigate angst toward a pompous politician or a controversial social issue.

That’s why prognosticating on politics makes me a little persnickety.

MIKE on sports podcastClick on the yellow cover to listen to this podcast.

I’m passionate about keeping sports fun and that means keeping politics out of the games. That’s why I recorded this cheeky podcast on iTunes.

It’s meant to be clever and light-hearted and aimed at directing our attention away from this month’s election and refocusing our energy on the games we love.

Let’s leave politics to the Republicans and Democrats to duke it out.

Then, an Independent Republicrat like me can focus on college basketball and football polls (chuckling) instead of the latest political straw poll.

So, subscribe to the podcast. Share it with a friend. Then, rate and review me.

And, let’s keep politics out of sports!

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#TBT Sports Blog: 1927 New York Yankees’ Murderers’ Row

1927 New York Yankees RowToday’s #TBT sports blog looks back at the 1927 New York Yankees championship team known as baseball’s Murderers’ Row.

Baseball historians have called the legendary 1927 Yankees the best Major League Baseball team ever.

Yet, back in the 1920s, fans, opposing players and the media that covered this New York Yankees team simply referred to the key members of this frightening, famed squad as Murderers’ Row.

With such a chilling nickname, it’s easy to see why I booked these so-called “murderers” in the #1 spot of my sports comic book Deadly Sports Stuff.

Click HERE to safely download the book for 99 cents from Amazon.

The first six batters in the New York Yankees’ line-up (no pun intended) in 1927 posted the most staggering statistics ever witnessed during a single Major League Baseball season.

Yankees’ Murderers’ Row Batters “Killed” Pitchers

The Murderers’ Row batters simply killed opposing pitchers. Their dizzying numbers included a remarkable .307 team batting average, a whopping .489 slugging percentage and an incredible 975 total runs scored. That’s 371 more runs than the teams they faced.

The Yankees easily ran away with the American League pennant that year by a 19 game margin with a 110 – 44 record. They also swept the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1927 World Series.

As a team, the 1927 New York Yankees were written about in a 1962 book entitled Murderers’ Row and were featured in a 1966 film by the same name.

Plus, the team’s amazing 1927 performance included stellar individual seasons by American League Most Valuable Player Lou Gehrig who hit .373 and drove in an MLB record 175 runs.

That same year Babe Ruth posted similar MVP numbers. Ruth batted an impressive .356, batted in 164 runs, belted a league record 60 home runs and recorded the highest slugging percentage ever at .772.

League rules barred him from being included in the 1927 MVP voting because he had won the same award the previous year.

The Other 1927 New York Yankees “Murderers”

A list of other “murderers” in the 1927 New York Yankees line-up contributed mightily to the team’s overpowering success. These players also had eye-popping batting averages. Earle Combs batted .356, Mark Koenig .285, Tony Lazzeri .309 and Bob Muesel .337.

Along with their manager Miller Huggins and pitchers Herb Pennock and Waite Hoyt, Ruth, Gehrig, Combs and Lazzeri were all inducted into Cooperstown.

The 1927 New York Yankees’ Murderers’ Row continued their tormenting ways for a second season. It resulted in their sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1928 World Series.

In 1927, the death knell may have come quickly on the baseball diamond to those pitchers who faced them. However, this super team of New York Yankees lives on in baseball lore.

It’s arguably the best Major League Baseball team ever assembled and a terrific post for my weekly #TBT sports blog.

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Labor Day: No Rest for Refs, Officials & Umpires

NFL instant replay

Labor Day is traditionally a national day of rest for American workers.

But, refs, umpires and hard working sports officials who oversee all the action on the playing field, basketball court, hockey ice, soccer pitch, etc. never seem to get the day off.

Today’s sports blog asks fans to take a moment and appreciate refs, officials and umpires.

That’s right. I am asking you to show some love for the guys wearing the stripes and squatting behind the plate.

After all, it is Labor Day today. We’re all probably resting while the guys and gals in stripes are probably working somewhere in the heat or rain and taking their share of non-stop, unmitigated abuse.

Fans Don’t Appreciate Refs

Sports fans usually don’t appreciate refs. And, that includes me!

Refs normally work every holiday. Not just Labor Day, but Christmas, New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Flag Day, ML King Day, National Grandparents Day, Ground Hog Day and every other holiday. In doing so, they allow fans to enjoy their sports while lounging on the sofa in front of a big screen or relaxing at a bar with friends while devouring a basket of chicken wings.

Every sports fan sees refs, officials and umpires at every game in every sport at every level. The guys and gals with the whistles never actually play in a game, but they’re most deserving of our appreciation; otherwise, there wouldn’t be any games at all.

Their presence is absolutely essential. These invaluable people who preside over games, blow the whistles, make the calls, enforce the rules and enact all the penalties.

They work tirelessly both indoors and out, in both good weather and bad, and during all hours of the day.

Refs Get No Rest

They never get to rest, but remain on their feet or skates for the entire length of their respective assignments.

In the blink of an eye, these under-appreciated, but essential participants in every game make critical decisions that can be carefully reviewed and callously criticized countless times on national television – often with the benefit of super slow motion and high definition cameras.

indisputable video evidence

Acting as both judge and jury, they make crucial calls that can effect legacies, decide championships and even determine the future worth of player contracts. Yes, they’re the guys under the hood on NFL sidelines.

Plus, their hazardous professions go completely unnoticed by the average sports fan. When working behind the plate, these non-players take fastballs off their shins. Also, they occasionally get steamrolled on the football field by 300 lb. linemen.

Too often, they find themselves checked into the boards by overly aggressive defense men and struggle to keep up with gazelles on both the basketball court and soccer pitch.

Few ever know their names. They’re mocked, yelled at, glared upon, ridiculed and cursed.

Only referenced at sports events when their judgment is brought into question, these non-athletes never receive the credit they deserve.

Zebras, Blind Mice and Dastardly Devils

Yes, they’re the zebras, the blind mice and the dastardly devils that may – or may not – blow their whistles in your team’s favor.

These officials, umpires or refs, maintain order on the hardwood, the ice, the pitch, the gridiron and the baseball diamond.

Without them, there would be no games at all. Let’s all try appreciating refs, officials and umpires. Go on, sports fans, you can do it, too!

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#TBT Sports Blog: R.I.P. Former Villanova Coach Rollie Massimino

MIKE sports comic - Villanova 1985 NCAA ChampsToday’s #TBT sports blog honors legendary Villanova basketball coach Rollie Massimino who passed away yesterday at age 82.

Still actively coaching at NAIA school Keiser University in West Palm Beach, FL, the “basketball lifer” is best remembered for guiding the Villanova Wildcats to the 1985 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship.

College basketball players, fans, coaches and pundits have claimed that on that memorable day the Villanova Wildcats emerged as the closest a college hoops team has ever come to playing a perfect game.

Others have cited that April 1, 1985 marked the greatest upset victory in the history of NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Championship Games.

The iconic win captivated college basketball fans. At Lexington, Kentucky’s Rupp Arena, Villanova captured its first ever NCAA men’s tournament crown under its likeable chubby coach Rollie Massimino.

Massimino Will Never Be Forgotten

However, away from the hardwood, Rollie Massimino will never be forgotten for the man and mentor he became. Apart from his watershed moment in 1985, his legacy will remain for the indelible positive impact he personally made on others.

Colorful, energetic and fiery at times, Massimino was totally authentic. The New Jersey native embodied the college coach basketball fans loved to love!

Fans won’t easily forget images of the man’s messed hair, askew tie and un-tucked buttoned down shirt that just could never remain inside his trousers.

Winner of 816 college games, Massimino had few distractors.

Even Big East coaching adversaries Jim Boeheim, Lou Carneseca, Jim Calhoun, Bill Raftery and John Thompson, Jr. failed to find fault with the exuberant little guy incapable of sitting quietly on the Wildcats bench.

And, his former players and assistant coaches adored him.

Known for his fatherly familiarity, Massimino was widely regarded for gathering former players and colleagues, even protege Jay Wright, at dinners and get togethers in order to offer insight, guidance and lots of laughs.

The kind of college coach for whom most parents would want their son to play, Massimino will always be remembered for Villanova’s epic run to the title in the 1985 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

However, those who knew him best will forever praise him for being a role model as father, mentor and coach.

R.I.P. Rollie Massimino.

MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!

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2 Cent Tuesday: Detroit Lions’ Matthew Stafford’s $135 Million Contract Extension

2 Cent Tuesday sports blogToday’s 2 Cent Tuesday sports blog questions the enormity – and absurdity – of Matthew Stafford’s whopping five-year $135 million contract extension with the Detroit Lions.

Wow, a $135 million contract extension!

That’s a lot of jack for an NFL player!

The Ford Family, owners of the Detroit Lions football franchise, awarded the monstrous, record setting contract yesterday to a good, but not great NFL QB.

More Than Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers & Russell Wilson Earn

At $27 million per year, Matthew Stafford’s contract ranks as the most lucrative deal in league history. It’s enormous and absurd all at the same time. And, it’s more than Super Bowl winning quarterbacks Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson earn each season.

I don’t believe that I’m the only incredulous football fan who has guffawed at the Detroit Lions’ king’s ransom given to a guy who’s never won an NFL Playoff Game let alone compete for a Super Bowl ring.

Plus, he plays a brutal sport, beset by ever growing horror stories surrounding players’ long-term health, where the inevitability of injury is far greater than that of professional basketball, baseball and soccer players.

Detroit Lions management argues that the franchise is just offering market value, while NFL pundits are claiming that Matthew Stafford’s deal establishes a new level on the value of elite QB contracts and fans should expect an even higher bar to be set in the future.

However, how much longer until many fans, struggling to make ends meet and upset with the league’s handling of the Colin Kaepernick inspired protests, say enough?

In addition, will Billionaire owners say “no mas” when their star QB’s contract comes up for renewal?

Or, will these same owners finally negotiate performance based incentives in future contract extensions instead of spending like drunken sailors on shore leave?

$27 million per year for Matthew Stafford!

It seems unfathomable and irresponsible and places an impossible weight on Stafford to perform and quickly deliver championships to one of the last remaining NFL cities without a Vince Lombardi Trophy.

Certainly, the overall number one selection in the 2009 NFL Draft has become an admired professional as he was named to the 2009 NFL Pro Bowl. Plus, the former Georgia Bulldog has amassed an impressive 278 yards-per-game passing average to date that rates as the best ever in the NFL after eight seasons.

Matthew Stafford’s Pedestrian 51 – 58 Winning Record

However, Matthew Stafford’s pedestrian 51 – 58 career winning record begs football fans to question the absurdity of Stafford’s contract.

To break down Stafford’s mega deal in simplified terms, let’s do the math after analyzing Lions’ 16 games in 2016 along with the 64 average number of passing plays per game Matthew Stafford attempted in 2016.

$27 million annual contract divided by 16 games equals $1,687,500 per contest divided by 64 average passing play per game equals $26,367 per pass lasting an average length of 7 seconds per play. Yowza!

$26,367 per pass is a passer efficiency rating to write home about.

It sure is enormous, but to the working guy with a growing discontent with the NFL, it’s absolutely absurd!

And, that’s my 2 cents!

Anxious to hear your opinion on the new Matthew Stafford contract.

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#TBT Sports Blog: Former FIFA & MLS Star Thierry Henry

soccer star thierry henryToday’s #TBT sports blog recalls the lauded former MLS All-Star and once FIFA great and French World Cup champion Thierry Henry

Thierry Henry’s breakaway speed, splendid soccer skill and passion for life (popularized by Renault Clio television commercials in Europe) spawned his nickname Va Va Voom.

It’s no surprise that this electrifying, handsome Frenchman was widely regarded as one of the world’s top strikers and a global fan favorite.

Henry’s storied career included stints with the world’s top football clubs.

The dazzling striker played for Juventus in Italy’s Serie A, Arsenal in the English Premier League and FC Barcelona in Spain’s La Liga.

In addition to his coveted World Cup Championship with France, Henry’s trophy case comprises two EPL titles and three FA Cups with Arsenal and an astounding six total titles with FC Barcelona.

FIFA Fans Chanted Va Va Voom!

It’s easy to understand why soccer fans have shown their love for the highly accomplished and immensely popular Henry whenever and wherever he hit the pitch by showering him with chants of Va Va Voom!

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