Boston Sports Icon #10 – Boston Marathon’s Heartbreak Hill

Boston Marathon landmark

Heartbreak Hill

Since 1897, the Boston Marathon has been recognized as the world’s oldest and most revered long distance running race.

Sprinting in as my #10 choice in my FREE sports comic book Boston Sports Icons may be viewed as an unexpected entry because it doesn’t qualify as a player, team or momentous moment in sports.

However, whenever iconic Boston sports games, moments or sights are discussed, Heartbreak Hill inevitably surfaces in conversation.

Arguably the most famous piece of running real estate in the world, Heartbreak Hill separates excellent long distance runners from the truly elite.

On Patriots Day each spring, Heartbreak Hill entertains teeming crowds of New England spectators who watch 20,000+ runners courageous enough to scale it. The series of hills that actually comprise Heartbreak Hill appears after Boston marathoners have covered their first 20 miles of the race.

Amateur and professional runners who complete the 26.2 mile course each year suffer from more than dehydration, sore knees and blistered feet. Boston Marathon runners can get their hearts broken at this spot on the hilly course where they first catch glimpse of the finish line.

Located along Commonwealth Avenue in Newton, an affluent suburb of Boston, Heartbreak Hill is the fourth in a series of shorter rolling hills, none rising more than 90 feet in elevation. Heartbreak Hill’s peak stands at only 236 feet above sea level, but its unexpected, 800 feet gradual scale surprises participants with another late climb.

Around the 20 mile mark, marathoners typically find themselves warding off the physical challenge of “hitting the wall.”

In the case of the Boston Marathon, runners hit Heartbreak Hill.

The nickname originated in 1936 during a surprise lead change at the 21st mile mark of the race. Boston Globe’s Jerry Nason reported that eventual champion Ellison Brown streaked past the front-runner and reigning champion John Kelley.

This lead change took place after Kelley already passed him on one of the previous hills and extended an encouraging tap on his shoulder.

Brown’s sudden surge supposedly broke Kelley’s heart and the Heartbreak Hill nickname was born. It marked the exchange of fate for a former, reigning champion and the name became forever synonymous with this legendary location.

Over the years, many broken heart runners have succumbed to Boston Marathon’s biggest obstacle.

However, serious runners from around the globe continue to prepare annually to scale and overcome this daunting and legendary 26.2  mile challenge.

That’s why Heartbreak Hill effortlessly runs away with the #10 spot in my FREE sports comic book Boston Sports Icons.

Boston Sports Stars and Landmarks

Safely download the ebook Boston Sports Icons by clicking on the purple cover above. Enjoy the read.

MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!

MIKE Sports Comic: All Sports Footer

#TBT Sports Blog: Chicago Bears’ Sweetness Walter Payton

Sweetness Walter Payton

The late Chicago Bears’ RB Walter Payton

Today’s #TBT sports blog remembers an immensely talented and super tough Hall of Fame running back simply known as Sweetness.

Ironically, the adjective “sweet” should probably never apply when talking football. Except, that is, when referring to Chicago Bears great Walter Payton.

Respectfully and singly known as Sweetness, Payton effortlessly rushes his way into #21 in my sports comic book Favorite Single Named Athletes. Click on the yellow cover to safely download for only 99 cents the book from Amazon.

Favorite Single Named Athletes

Here’s a chapter excerpt from the book.

Walter Payton’s nickname personified the type of person he was off the playing field. The Sweetness handle was given to him because of the former running back’s gentle nature and engaging, caring smile.

Former Bears coach Mike Ditka proudly called Payton the greatest football player ever. Ditka also said that his star player was even a greater human being.

Few would argue with Iron Mike for making such an audacious claim. Payton’s legacy stills looms especially large both on and off the football field.

During his celebrated 13-year career, Walter Payton held numerous NFL records. They included career rushing yards, career rushing attempts, most yards in a single game, most career 100-yard games, most 1,000 yard seasons and several others.

In addition, Payton was named to nine NFL Pro Bowls and won two NFL Most Valuable Player awards. His Bears team also won Super Bowl XX in 1985.

Sweetness’ most significant accomplishments may have taken place off the gridiron. That’s where he touched countless lives. Payton’s impact has been so profound that the NFL renamed the Man of the Year Award after Sweetness, who coincidentally received the league’s highest honor in 1977.

Payton and his wife Connie started a foundation that has brought national awareness to the growing need for organ donations. Sadly, Payton died in 1999 following a struggle with a liver disease.

It’s ironic that a tough Hall of Fame running back who only missed one game in his illustrious 13-year career – playing in the unofficial NFL Black and Blue Division – would be called Sweetness.

In the case of Walter Payton, the Sweetness nickname couldn’t be any sweeter. It also couldn’t be more deserving.

MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!

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New FREE Sports Comic Book: Boston Sports Icons

Boston Sports Stars and Landmarks

Over 200 years ago, Boston boasted its place as the cradle of American liberty.

But today, the city is celebrated as an American sports capitol.

To many sports fans, Boston is considered the greatest sports town in the United States. It has earned the enviable moniker by emerging as a sports mecca that produces Hall of Fame athletes and championship professional teams.

Once renowned for the revolutionary site of the Boston Tea Party and the courageous midnight ride of Paul Revere, Boston’s current popularity is rivaled by its retinue of noteworthy athletic accomplishments.

Boston sports fans proudly rave about title winning home town teams like the Celtics, the Bruins, the Red Sox and the Patriots.

Also rich in academia, this vibrant New England city lays claim to some of the most prestigious halls of higher learning. It has fathered Heads of State, Nobel Laureates and Captains of Industry.

Despite its historic, academic, political and business laurels, today’s Boston may still be better loved for its sports-centric culture.

The Hub City cherishes not only historic Faneuil Hall and the legendary Old North Church. With a regional pride that runs deep in athletics, it also venerates the hallowed sports venues of Fenway Park and the old Boston Garden.

To honor its rich sports heritage, I’ve penned this FREE sports comic book to acknowledge my top Boston Sports Icons.

The FREE book recognizes Boston’s most famous jocks as well as its most revered sports landmarks.

As a Boston sports lover, you will:

Remember the championship banners hanging from the rafters at the old Boston Garden and never forget the amazingly preserved environs of fabulous Fenway Park.

Read about the quick, diminutive Heisman Trophy winning quarterback and the big, beefy Dominican slugger who corned the market on DH awards in baseball.

Reminisce about the Beanpot, the most storied college hockey tournament of all-time, and ruminate over Heartbreak Hill, the running world’s most daunting and rarified piece of real estate.

Recite the incredible football feats of a brilliant Ugg wearing QB named Brady who sports movie star looks and a supermodel wife.

Relive the glory days of the Celtics’ beloved basketball playing Bird.

Revel in the extraordinary feats of Red Sox immortal Carl Yastrzemski.

And, remember the Bruins’ incomparable Bobby Orr – the best professional hockey player Boston has ever produced.

Lastly, as a bonus, you’ll recall the self-serving antics of Boston’s most famous fictional athlete, Sam Malone, who surprisingly transformed into a national television celebrity.

Populated with clever comics and informative commentary, Boston Sports Icons is a wicked good read for every Boston sports lover.

Click on the purple cover image above to safely download the book.

Enjoy the FREE book, then, pass it along to a friend.

MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!

MIKE Sports Comic: All Sports Footer

 

ESPN’s NCAA Basketball Sportscaster Dick Vitale

Dickie V

ESPN basketball announcer Dick Vitale

ESPN color commentator Dick Vitale has left a lasting impression on the landscape of college basketball.

A 2008 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductee and a member of 15 other sports halls of fame, Vitale has become an American sports cultural icon.

Now that the NCAA college basketball is fast breaking into full swing, it appears as if Vitale shows up nightly on ESPN.

He’s also an expected, worthy choice at #9 in my sports comic book Favorite Sportscasters – available for only 99 cents on Amazon.

Favorite Sportscasters

Here’s a chapter excerpt on Vitale from the book.

…..As CBS Sports sportscaster Vern Lundquist has suggested, the highly animated Vitale is an “acquired taste quote.”

However, all sports fans recognize Vitale’s intense love for – and knowledge of – college basketball.

Fans also admire how the senior citizen sportscaster tirelessly and willingly gives of his time serving the community and those who are sick or less fortunate. Every year Vitale’s foundation has awarded five college scholarships to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Sarasota, FL.

Moreover, this ESPN talking head has served as national spokesman for the V Foundation in its unending fight against cancer. In 2014 alone, the Vitale-led V Foundation gala raised $2.1M for pediatric cancer research.

Vitale’s remarkable career has spanned over 35 years. Dickie V joined ESPN in 1979 and quickly became synonymous with the network’s NCAA college basketball coverage.

Vitale instantly found his niche by creating his own unique expressions that will be forever remembered as part of the language of the college game.

A colorful sportscaster, he has always had a talent for coining popular phrases. College basketball fans can easily recite and apply Vitale’s extensive, cliché-laden vocabulary.

Thanks to ESPN’s Vitale, fans understand that a P.T.P. is that special Prime Time Player. They also know who’s on everybody’s All Rolls Royce Team. Even more, fans know a Dow Joneser is an up-and-down performer on the basketball court.

Dick Vitale has mastered his own college basketball language. Every hoops junkie knows that a blender (an unselfish player) always dishes the rock (passes the ball). The blender can easily pass to a great shooting teammate for a trifecta (three point shot) as he can to a sky walker (great athletic leaper) for a dipsy-doo dunk-a-roo (slam dunk finish).

For a former coach who speaks in corny sentences, leave it to Vitale to connect baby diapers with highly recruited college basketball freshmen. The term Diaper Dandies became famous when Vitale named Carmelo Anthony, Blake Griffin and Kevin Durant to this highly respect breed. His connection created one of the sports world’s most recognized nicknames – the Diaper Dandy.

To borrow another of Dickie V’s expressions, these famous Diaper Dandies later became college basketball one-and-doners. That means they entered the NBA Draft following spectacular freshman seasons.

Admittedly, Dickie V.’s unique vocabulary and overly excited personality may be too much for some basketball fans to bear.

However, this unofficial college basketball ambassador lives out the word “color” in his job. With flowery language and a motor always in overdrive, Vitale energizes every telecast.

Even during slow games, it seems like Vitale is breaking through our LCD screens and appearing front and center right as an uninvited guest into our living rooms.

Dick Vitale combines his love for the game with a heartfelt desire to see all college basketball players succeed.

Corny expressions and over exuberance aside, sports fans, sports can’t do without Vitale’s passion for the game he loves and the boundless spirit for the life he leads.

May Dick Vitale’s enthusiasm keep him just as youthful as the players he celebrates during his ESPN telecasts. That’s right, Baby!

MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!

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Kobe Bryant Passes Michael Jordan on NBA Career Scoring List, But…

NBA star Kobe Bryant

The Black Mamba Kobe Bryant

Yesterday, Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant climbed up another rung on the all-time NBA scoring leader board. He passed Michael Jordan and now finds himself in third place on the list behind Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Karl Malone.

But, last week, the 36 year-old lifetime Laker’s likeability dropped even lower in the minds of many NBA fans like me.

During a team practice, the bumptious Bryant bristled at teammates in an unwarranted profanity laced tirade.

According to an ESPN report, ”Bryant said practice was no different than any other one he participates in except for maybe the fact the media got a court side view of him trying to motivate his younger teammates.

“No, I was just being myself,” Bryant said. “I don’t know if it helps them, but it obviously raises the intensity level.”

Caught on film, Bryant’s “just being myself” behavior has sullied his legacy amongst those who have always admired Bryant and considered the mercurial star one of the greatest all-around players in NBA history.

However, last week the tempestuous Bryant comported himself as an immature potty-mouthed lout unbecoming of a 19-year NBA veteran and perennial all-star.

The ultra-competitive Black Mamba appeared more of a biting, venomous predator instead of the fiercest and fastest snake, for which he was named, on the African continent.

Kobe embarrassingly added to his well-documented acrimonious relationships with other Lakers teammates. Just ask Shaquille O’Neal, Dwight Howard, Andrew Bynum and most notably, Smush Parker, whom Bryant unnecessarily excoriated.

Bryant’s continued pissy attitude and temper tantrums during the autumn of his career may warrant an asterisk next to his name whenever it is mentioned in the future. For example, fans may say, “Kobe Bryant, incredible player, but what an a$$!”

Unfortunately, last week’s hissy fit is what we have routinely come to expect from Bryant over the past few years. Fans have witnessed his murmuring, complaining, whining, moaning and finger-pointing every time this loquacious Los Angeles Lakers guard steps on the hardwood.

Yet, no one in the media says a thing when they should be calling for Lakers management to bury a baby’s binkie in Bryant’s mouth instead of tippy-toeing around the Lakers’ $32 million per year prima donna.

What a disgrace that ESPN and TNT announcers refuse to call Kobe on the carpet for his glaring, glowering and grimacing every time he shows up on camera.

Why don’t we hear TNT’s Marv Albert or Kenny The Jet Smith or Ernie Johnson or Charles Barkley step up with some stones and speak out against the constantly belly-aching Bryant?

Sadly, we see plenty of other pandering ESPN sportscasters like Jeff Van Gundy, Mark Jackson and Jalen Rose molly-coddle Kobe’s contentious conduct and carelessly condone his condescending comments aimed directly at his very own Lakers teammates by giving Bryant a mulligan and saying that’s “Kobe just being Kobe.”

Before Kobe continues to fool himself to think that NBA fans will continue to tolerate his petulant, arrogant attitude, here’s hoping someone bottles up the bickering, babbling Bryant.

Otherwise, we won’t always celebrate Bryant as one of the game’s greatest players and scorers ever.

But, we’ll remember the Black Mamba as an arrogant, ill-tempered snake of a teammate or “Kobe just being Kobe.”

MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!

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The Heisman Trophy

college football's highest honor

The Heisman Trophy

Standing 13.5” tall and weighing in at a hefty 25 lbs., the iconic Heisman Trophy is unquestionably the most prestigious award in all of college sports.

The big bronze trophy easily stiff-arms all other potential choices to be the focus of today’s blog.

Tonight’s 80th annual award ceremony will feature three junior underclassmen: Alabama WR Amari Cooper, Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon and Oregon QB Marcus Mariota.

Already the recipient of four national awards (Davey O’Brien trophy, Johnny United Golden Arm and the Walter Camp and Maxwell awards for player-of-the-year), Mariota is the favorite.

Every December since 1935, the Heisman Trust in New York City awards the beautiful bronze trophy to “the nation’s most outstanding football player whose performance best exhibits the finest of excellence with integrity.”

Votes from 870 sports journalists, geographically located in six sections across the United States, plus previous Heisman Trophy winners and one collective vote from ESPN sports fans, are submitted to the Deloitte accounting firm where the ballots are tabulated and governed by the Heisman Trust.

Since 2005 the annual winner has been selected at the Best Buy Theater in the New York Hilton in Times Square, New York City, before a national television audience on ESPN.

Quarterbacks and running backs have dominated the Heisman Trophy selection process over the years. No primary defensive player has ever won the coveted trophy, although Michigan’s multi-talented Charles Woodson won the prize in 1997 as a game-changing defensive back, kick returner and punt returner.

Florida State’s Jameis Winston, Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel and Baylor’s Robert Griffin III, all exciting, dual threat quarterbacks, have been the most recent recipients of the venerated award.

Current NFL stars Cam Newton (Carolina Panthers QB), Mark Ingram, Jr. (New Orleans Saints RB) and Sam Bradford (St.Louis Rams QB) received the honor in 2010, 2009 and 2008 respectively.

Ohio State University’s Archie Griffin is the only two time winner (1974 and 1975) of the Heisman Trophy. Florida’s Tim Tebow became the first sophomore winner back in 2007, and Winston (2013) and Manziel (2012) emerged as the first freshmen.

In addition, Ohio State University and the University of Notre Dame have witnessed seven winners each from their universities, while USC is the only NCAA school to have its Heisman winner, Reggie Bush in 2005, vacated for accepting improper benefits. Despite its rich football history, Alabama’s only Heisman winner has been Ingram.

What originally began as a great idea by former Auburn, Clemson and UPenn Coach John W. Heisman in 1935 has transformed into college athletics’ most celebrated acknowledgement.

Heisman Trophy winners form college football’s most famous and well-respected fraternity. These players will always be recognized for their extraordinary accomplishments.

Just like the famed Heisman Trophy pose, every college football player would stiff-arm and side-step all would-be competitors to carry home college football’s most prestigious annual award.

And, later this evening, sports fans will find out the name of that deserving college football player.

MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!

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#TBT Sports Blog: 2X Heisman Winner Archie Griffin

MIKE Comic 130 Archie Griffin

Former Ohio State University Buckeye Archie Griffin rushes into today’s #TBT sports blog.

The only two-time winner of the Heisman Trophy, Archie Griffin led the Big Ten in rushing for three consecutive seasons.

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

Legendary Ohio State 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 and consistently broke multiple tackles every time he carried the football.

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 OSU 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.

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 this former Ohio State Buckeye possessed a whole lot of bark and bite whenever he carried the football.

MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!

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Roc Nation Sports CEO Jay-Z: American Royalty?

Jay-Z

Earlier this week at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, visiting British Royals William and Kate attended their first NBA game.

During a break in the action between the Brooklyn Nets and Cleveland Cavaliers, the British Royal couple exchanged pleasantries and chatted briefly with American music icons Beyonce and Jay-Z.

The couples’ cordial court side conversation was shown on the arena Jumbotron and immediately covered by international media.

Respected news outlets USA Today, the U.K. Daily Mail and ABC News even reported that British Royalty met with “American Royalty.”

Seriously?

Established media outlets referring to Beyonce and Jay-Z as “American Royalty” instantly caught my attention. Their choice of words prompted me to research relevant details regarding the seemingly innocuous “American Royalty” comment.

My first stop was the dictionary where Merriam-Webster specifically defines royalty as a person of royal lineage or an individual of regal character or bearing.

Though not birthed by a king or queen, the gracious Beyonce embodies the admirable trait of dignity that befits a person of royal lineage. However, it was clear to me that her husband possessed neither prerequisite to justifiably carry a regal title.

That’s exactly why Beyonce’s hubby became my second stop. And, my casual glance into Jay-Z’s musical background proved not only eye opening, but also demoralizing.

My simple research quickly revealed why mentioning Jay-Z and royalty in the same breath is, as the Brits say, the quintessential oxymoron.

That’s because the famous hip hop artist, music mogul and now head of Roc Nation Sports has been given a free pass in our nation’s culture today by those who refuse to look at his past.

Starting with his first album in 1996, Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter has flexed his recording muscle in ways now reflective of our culture.

We as parents, teachers, managers, leaders and even respectable sports fans have quietly allowed Jay-Z to fill the psyche of our youth with dehumanizing lyrics strung behind catchy music. We’ve acquiesced as this hip hop artist, irresponsibly called “American Royalty” by the media, has seeded the minds of young male adults with a warped, perverse attitude concerning women.

And now, as evidenced by the NFL’s well documented cases of domestic abuse, we’re painfully confronting its outcome.

As a society, we’ve given Jay-Z and other miscreant musical artists carte blanche to poison our minds and those of our growing sons.
We’ve blindly excused these entertainers, cowardly giving them unfettered access in our culture. Their reward has been whopping sales figures in the name of modern day artistry?

Now that professional sports leagues appear to be shouldering greater social responsibility, the Roc Nation Sports CEO’s lyrics must be more closely scrutinized.

Since the official launch of Roc Nation Sports in spring 2013, Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter’s management company has signed an impressive roster of marquee NFL, MLB and NBA athletes.

Because of these new superstar clients, Jay-Z finds himself in the boardrooms of franchise owners and corporate sponsorship giants. As a result, the NFL, MLB and NBA should not tolerate Jay-Z’s past and present wretched rhymes.

I’m curious. Has anyone from the NFL, MLB or NBA offices ever delved into Jay-Z’s recording history to determine whether his catalog of songs best represent the spirit of their sports?

More specifically, the leagues need to ascertain whether Jay-Z’s musical messages extol women in a positive light or denigrate women to testosterone-infused men who think of them as meat for their sexual appetites or punching bags for their frustrations.

If pressed to investigate, league executives would soon discover that Carter and his wife Beyonce don’t lullaby their child Blue Ivy to bed each night to lyrics made famous by Jay-Z, Roc Nation Sports’ CEO.

Certainly, Jay-Z’s songs are protected by our nation’s constitutional free speech laws. But, given the physical and sexual abuse leveled by pro athletes against an increasing number of their wives and girlfriends, why hasn’t the NFL, MLB or NBA spoken up about the hip hop artist’s misogynistic lyrics?

Jay-Z may be one of the most successful and wealthiest music artists in the entertainment industry. But, now that he’s also negotiating some of the biggest pro athlete contracts, why aren’t the heads of pro sports leagues giving a questionable glance at Jay-Z?

If Roger Goodell is sanctioning the player who did the deed, what about glancing backward at the hip hop artist turned super agent whose pervasive rants may have indirectly contributed to misbehavior toward women?

Further, Jay-Z’s Roc Nation enjoys a growing roster of talent. Should we assume then that Kevin Durant, CC Sabathia, Robinson Cano, Geno Smith and especially Skylar Diggans condone their agent’s lyrics? Or are they, too, remaining silent about the impossible-to-ignore messaging which devalues women and the bullying behavior of some of our nation’s most popular athletes? Are we celebrating the music and ignoring the consequences of its outworking?

Why haven’t more people acknowledged the downward, guttural pull of lyrics like those of Jay-Z’s that refer to women as “b#tches” and “h#es” that are referenced in far too many songs.

I’m curious to know. How many Jay-Z songs did Baltimore Ravens’ RB Ray Rice, Charlotte Panthers’ Greg Hardy and other batterers have on their playlists? Researching the matter might make for an interesting university sociology study.

Before lashing out at their wives and girlfriends, did these athletes choose from rhymes like “That’s My B#tch” from Jay-Z’s 2011 Watch the Throne album or “2 Many H#es” from his 2002 The Blueprint 2: The Gift and Curse? Or, did they perhaps refer to “Money Cash H#es” from Jay-Z’s 1998 Hard Knock Life album?

Now, do these rhymes sound like those sung by someone we should call “American Royalty?”

The NFL, MLB and NBA are currently embarking upon a new era of social oversight in managing their hugely successful leagues.
Zero tolerance for domestic violence has rightfully become their collective rallying cry.

Likewise, zero tolerance should be equally applied toward musical artists like Jay-Z or others with ties to the NFL, MLB and NBA if their songs contain misogynistic lyrics or foster callous, dismissive portrayals of women.

Money, music and sports resonate loudly throughout all sectors of our society. That’s why the growing influence of Roc Nation Sports’ CEO and other celebrated musical artists so disturbs me and needs to be addressed.

The NFL, MLB and NBA should no longer give Jay-Z a free pass, and the media should immediately refrain from referencing him as “American Royalty.”

As a society, we all should expect better.

MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!

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NBA Goliath Wilt Chamberlain Gets Own Stamps

Wilt the Stilt Chamberlain NBA

NBA great Wilt Chamberlain

Last week, the United States Postal Service introduced two Wilt Chamberlain stamps to celebrate the life of one of the NBA’s greatest players of all-time.

Designed by Kadir Nelson, the two Forever stamps feature the 7’1″ Goliath of a player sporting his iconic #13 jersey in both Philadelphia Sixers and a Los Angeles Lakers uniforms.

The USPS debut of the Wilt stamps led me to share this chapter from my Favorite Single Named Athletes book. Enjoy the sports comic book available for 99 cents on Amazon.

Favorite Single Named Athletes

Few athletes so totally dominate a sport that their professional league must enact rule changes to make the games fair for the other 99.9% of the players.

Wilton Norman Chamberlain, simply known as Wilt, so altered NBA games that the league instituted new rules.

Today’s wider lane in the NBA and goal tending penalties were imposed because my #7 choice in Favorite Single Named Athletes vanquished all opposing basketball players.

Chamberlain overpowered basketball opponents whenever he stepped onto the hardwood. The 7’1″ and 260 lb. player effortlessly prevailed over all smaller, less physically gifted competitors. His towering size, strength, scoring ability and stamina empowered him to become the greatest player the NBA ever witnessed when he entered the league in 1959.

Wilt unanimously earned Rookie of the Year honors in 1960 for posting remarkable numbers of 37 points per game (a league best) and 27 rebounds per game. He continued his scoring assault on the NBA by leading the league in scoring for the six consecutive years.

Also known as The Big Dipper, Wilt the Stilt and Goliath, Wilt reigned as an unstoppable force in the pivot – in spite of being regularly double and triple teamed during games.

This Philadelphia native and University of Kansas product now ranks as one of the NBA’s top 50 players ever. A 1978 NBA Hall of Fame inductee, Wilt’s gaudy NBA resume includes 13 All-Star selections, 4 Most Valuable Player awards, 11 rebounding titles and 2 NBA Championships. The first occurred in 1967 with the Philadelphia 76ers and the second in 1972 with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Wilt may best be remembered for becoming the only NBA player to score 100 points in a single game.
On the memorable night of March 2, 1962 Wilt reached the century scoring mark against the New York Knicks in front of only 4,124 fans at the old Hershey Sports Arena. Ironically, the game was not televised. No video footage of that historic night was ever taken.

Wilt retired in 1973. His record included staggering NBA career statistics of 30.1 points per game, 22.7 rebounds per game and 4.4 assists per game. Oddly, his career FG% of 54.0 was higher than his FT% of 51.1.

Wilt also battled his career long nemesis Bill Russell of the Boston Celtics. Many sports fans regard this as the greatest individual rivalry in all of team sports. Russell’s Celtics bested Chamberlain’s teams (Warriors, 76ers and Lakers) seven out of eight times they squared off against each other in the NBA Playoffs.

Wilt’s incredible dominance as an NBA player prompted many NBA fans to root against this giant of a man. The fans treatment of him led Chamberlain to famously respond, “No one ever roots for Goliath!”
Sadly, Wilt passed away in 1999.

Whether you were a fan of the Big Dipper or not, no one can argue that Wilt Chamberlain was truly a dominating Goliath as a basketball player and we can all celebrate the single named legacy of this NBA superstar. There won’t be another one quite like him – Wilt.

MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!

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Grateful For My Favorite Sights in Sports

MIKE on Sports Badge

On Thanksgiving Day, I wrote about how I was grateful for my favorite sounds in sports. See the post by clicking HERE.

The swoosh of the net in basketball, the clanking of the puck off the post in hockey, the crack of a bat in baseball and the sound of a crushing hit in football topped my list of favorite sounds in sports.

As a result of the overwhelmingly positive feedback to my blog, I am writing today about the best things we as sports fans love to see whenever watching a big game.

Here is my list of my 20 favorite sights in sports:

20. Lighting the flame in the Olympic stadium – Gotta love the awesome tradition of the tireless journey of the Olympic torch. After an arduous trip of being passed from torch bearer to torch bearer across many continents, the flame finally lights the bowl prominently positioned in the Olympic Stadium and officially marks the beginning of the games.

19. Capacity crowds – Cheering fans all clad in team colors and packing out a 100,000+ seat stadium or filling a rickety old high school gym is always a wonderful sight.

18. Not having to see these guys in uniform anymore – In spite of their skill and athletic excellence when they played, I love NOT having to see the likes of Brett Favre, Terrell Owens, Manny Ramirez, Jose Canseco and Chad Ochocinco in uniform anymore. It’s very doubtful anyone would disagree.

17. Fly-overs at big games – USA fighter jets buzzing a capacity filled stadium immediately after hearing the National Anthem may now be a thing of the past. But, what a thrill it was to witness these fly-overs in person.

16. Expertly groomed field for baseball game – I love gorgeously manicured grounds! Think of all the suburbanites who would give anything to have their front lawns look as pristine and expertly mowed as your favorite baseball infield or outfield at Yankee Stadium or Fenway Park.

15. Crunching hit on the boards in hockey – This bone rattling play on the ice looks like a train wreck coming right at you if you’re seated anywhere near the glass in the rink.

14. Soccer goal celebrations – You may have to wait endlessly for them during a nil – nil match, but inventive and exuberant post goal parties on the field are always worth the wait.

13. Dimming the lights for introductions – Gotta love the darkening of arenas, anticipating the choreographed starting line-up introductions accompanied by strobe lights, pulsating music and maybe even smoke and pyrotechnics.

12. 4th and inches in a tied 4th quarter game – If you’re watching at home, this sight will force you to put down the chips, place conversations on hold and move to the edge of your seat. If you’re watching from the bleachers, this sight will always bring you to your feet.

11. 5-4-3 double play in baseball – In spite of the brief moments it takes to complete this complex task, turning a double play in baseball is a smooth, quick and efficient sight made to look extraordinarily easy. It immediately excites one set of fans, while totally deflating another.

10. Marching bands – We all love to watch perfectly aligned students wearing swanky costumes and plumed hats while they march in unison. This sight reaches a whole new level as gleaming tubas, clarinets, trumpets, xylophones and drums complete this beautifully choreographed picture.

9. Punt return in football for TD – Sports fans love watching this for two reasons. One is to anticipate a thrilling return and the second is to witness the possible figurative decapitation of the punt returner that will be replayed endlessly on ESPN Sports Center.

8. Championship celebrations – Balloons, bear hugs and falling confetti are accompanied by grateful thanks, bumbled (yet easily forgiven) comments, champagne baths, tears of joy, proud boasts and the raising of expensive trophies. The entire spectacle makes staying up past midnight worth the wait – at least if you live on the East Coast.

7. Technology like the FOX box, yellow 1st down line and ESPN scrolling squeeze box at bottom of the screen – How did sports fans ever survive without them in the days before our multi-media, multi-tasking world?

6. Home run robbing catch – The sight of an athletic outfielder climbing a 12 foot fence to extract a baseball out of mid air that’s about to leave the ball park is both heart stopping and priceless.

5. Perfectly executed screen play in football – With a simple flick from the quarterback and several pulling 300 lb. linemen, successful screen passes will always make the sports highlight reels on ESPN Sports Centers’ plays of the day.

4. Perfectly executed pick and roll in basketball – Especially if they’re run as effortlessly and efficiently as those we see executed by John Stockton and Karl Malone highlights, no basketball fan would want to miss this sight.

3. Perfectly executed squeeze play in baseball – Even when you instinctively know this risky and lightning quick play is coming, it always seems to catch everyone by surprise.

2. Alley oop pass – There’s a reason why the beautiful and exciting sight of high flying flushes off precise alley oop passes always make ESPN Sports Centers’ plays of the day. They’re poetry in motion.

1. March Madness upset – Skipping work on a Thursday afternoon to watch a Cinderella #15 seed upset a heavily favored #2 seed is exactly why we all readily embrace the spring sickness known as March Madness. Kids of any age will find every excuse under the sun to play hooky from work, school and family commitment.

Contact me at mikeonsports@yahoo.com if you have a few favorite sights of your own for my list.

MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!

MIKE Sports Comic: All Sports Footer

Happy 58th Birthday to Boston Celtics Great Larry Bird

Former Boston Celtic Larry Bird

NBA Hall of Famer Larry Bird

This Boston Celtics legend is revered in the same breath as other iconic Boston sports heroes – Carl Yastzremski, Bobby Orr, Doug Flutie, David Ortiz and Tom Brady.

Though he formally retired 22 years ago, Larry Bird is still idolized by Boston sports fans. That’s why it’s no surprise that the beloved “Hick from French Lick” (Indiana) is trending today on Twitter as fans offer him their best wishes on his 58th birthday.

Coincidentally, I will feature this same NBA Hall of Fame forward in my new FREE sports comic book – Boston Sports Icons – scheduled for release next week.

Here’s a chapter excerpt form the book…..

Fondly remembered for step back jumpers, swishing nets, non-stop jabbering and long white legs in short green shorts, Bird is best known for winning basketball championships in Boston.

Most notably, his single name recalls multiple NBA banners hanging above a parquet wood basketball court in Boston. And, his #33 jersey hangs proudly over center court with other Boston Celtics greats like Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, Tom Heinsohn, John Havlicek, Sam Jones, Satch Sanders, K.C. Jones, JoJo White, Cedric Maxwell, Kevin McHale, Robert Parrish and Dave Cowens.

Larry Legend, the Hick from French Lick (IN) or simply Bird ranks is one of the most beloved basketball players in history. No first name or explanation is needed to identify the species of this once brilliant basketball playing Bird.

In 1978, Bird, along with Los Angeles Lakers’ legend Magic Johnson, battled in the NCAA Men’s Championship Game. The two forged the beginning of a basketball rivalry that would enrapture basketball fans for the next 13 years.

Voted college basketball’s best player as both the Naismith and Wooden Award recipient in the 1978-79 season, Bird finished his college playing days at Indiana State with a 30.3 career scoring average. He went on to play for the Boston Celtics who shockingly and shrewdly selected him as the 6th overall choice the year before they drafted him in the 1978 NBA Draft.

Bird’s ascent in the league was instantaneous. Not only did he live up to his initial billing, he soared past the Boston Celtics’ and NBA fans’ expectations.

In 1979, Larry Legend won the NBA Rookie of the Year Award. He also teamed with 7-footer Robert Parrish and 6’11” Kevin McHale to form one of the greatest front lines in NBA history. All three players were eventually elected into the NBA Hall of Fame.

During his career, Bird won three NBA Championships and three NBA Most Valuable Player Awards. A 12-time All-Star, Bird retired in 1992 with outstanding career numbers: 24 points per game, 10 rebounds per game and 6 assists per game. As his stats confirm, this deadly shooting Bird was regarded as both a highly skilled offensive player and a terrific rebounder.

During his entire NBA career, the blue collar Bird battled against his college nemesis Magic Johnson and established one of the NBA’s greatest individual rivalries. During the 1980s, Bird’s Celtics and Magic’s Lakers played as if their clubs were the only two NBA franchises competing for an NBA title.

The storied rivalry between Bird and Magic is memorialized in books and television documentaries. That same rivalry is credited for having transformed the NBA into the wildly popular professional sports league it has become today.

The Bird and Magic relationship culminated in their playing for the 1992 USA Olympic Basketball Team in Barcelona, Spain. As members of the original USA Dream Team, Bird and Magic helped revolutionize the sport and became the first two global basketball icons.

Unlike his nemesis Magic Johnson who would become a household name, the intensely private Hick from French Lick chose a different way of living his life.

Despite Larry Bird’s private lifestyle, there’s no doubt this immediately recognizable, single named athlete has left an indelible mark on the sport of basketball. He continues in the game today as an executive with the Indiana Pacers organization.

Larry is certainly is one Bird who soared above his competitors.

Check back again to this site next week, where Bird as well as several other Boston sports heroes will also be featured in my new FREE sports comic book titled Boston Sports Icons.

MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!

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10 Greatest NBA Signature Shots & Moves

NBA Dream Shake

Hakeem Olajuwon’s Dream Shake

No other team sport celebrates an unparalleled combination of individual creativity and athletic excellence like NBA basketball.

Signature shots and moves, developed, honed and made famous by accomplished NBA basketball players, memorialize their impact on the sport. They leave a lasting legacy of fun, excitement and enviable skill for basketball fans to enjoy.

In this chapter, I’ve focused on what I believe are the basketball’s 10 greatest signature shots and moves. They’re all instantly identifiable because they were birthed by perennial All-Stars and NBA Hall of Fame players.

These highly skilled athletes transformed the pro game into a fast-paced, high-flying and super-entertaining sport.

Here’s my list:

10. Cross-over Dribble – Initially admired when Boston Celtics legend Bob Cousy crossed over opponents in the 1950s, this signature move soon catapulted to an entirely new level. Tim Hardaway shaked and baked his way past would-be defenders in the 1980s. Then, Allen Iverson froze and flummoxed opposing guards in the 1990s. Now, Kyrie Irving carries on the “ankle breaking” tradition of the cross-over move as a modern day NBA star.

9. Pick ‘n Roll – The standard for the pick and roll has been, and will probably always be, John Stockton and Karl Malone. Better than any other combo in the history of the sport, these two NBA Hall of Famers effortlessly, efficiently and successfully executed the pick and roll in all their years together in Utah.

8. Tear Drop – Many shorter guards have tried this soft shot close to the basket while longer, athletic shot blockers have attempted to swat it away. However, speedy NBA All-Star Tony Parker of the San Antonio Spurs has perfected his gentle flick of the basketball. It descends from its highest point of release like a tear gently dropping from an eye and tickles the twine as it passes through the cylinder.

7. Step Back Jumper – Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors and Reggie Miller, formerly of the Indiana Pacers, are to be praised for the picture perfect form of their step-back jumpers.

However, no one in NBA history shot it as often and on the biggest stages of the NBA Playoffs as 3-time NBA MVP and 3-time NBA Champion Larry Bird.

Former Boston Celtic Larry Bird

NBA Hall of Famer Larry Bird

6. Fade Away Jumper – Only one NBA player should come to mind when referencing the best fade away jumper of all time – and that’s Michael Jordan. MJ perfected this un-guardable shot which he used brilliantly in winning six NBA titles during an illustrious career that will never fade away.

5. Windmill Dunk – The windmill dunk was only one of an assortment of exciting, gravity-defying flushes popularized by one of the greatest NBA leapers of all-time, Dominique Wilkins. This former Atlanta Hawks all-star’s dunking ability was so prolific that his dunks and overall athletic play led to Wilkins’ clever nickname The Human Highlight Reel.

Human Highlight Reel Dominique Wilkins

Former Atlanta Hawks’ Dominique Wilkins

4. Sky Hook – The NBA’s greatest scorer ever birthed the nickname of this shot by perfecting an unstoppable move. Kareem Abdul Jabbar of the LA Lakers effortlessly released the ball high over helpless defenders who appeared glued to the hardwood, unable to block his shot attempt. ESPN boldly called the sky hook the deadliest shot the NBA has ever seen. #33 could unleash his un-guardable shot whenever, wherever, however and on whomever he faced on basketball courts across America.

Los Angeles Lakers' Kareem Abdul Jabbar

Kareem Abdul Jabbar’s iconic Sky Hook

3. Finger Roll – One of the most prolific scorers in NBA history, George Gervin, or The Ice Man’s brilliant stroke and dizzying array of shots made him impossible to guard. At 6’7” Gervin was too long for shorter guards to cover as he easily shot over them. At 185 lbs. Gervin was also too quick and athletic for taller players to guard. Gervin easily drove by bigger opponents and finished his drives with a stop-on-a-dime pull-up jumper, a fluid reverse lay-up or his famous finger-roll signature shot from just about anywhere in the lane.

2. No Look Pass – This patented pass play will always be associated with the over-sized point guard known as Magic. At 6’9”, Earvin Magic Johnson’s brilliant court vision, athleticism and exceptional ball-handling ability made him one of the most prolific passers in NBA history. Skilled at running the fast break for the fast-paced LA Lakers Showtime attack, Magic’s no look passes regularly found fellow NBA All-Stars as they finished the Showtime break before celebrity fans in the old Forum with a dunk or easy lay-up.

Los Angeles Lakers Magic Johnson

NBA legend Earvin Magic Johnson

1. Dream Shake – Hakeem Olajuwon used a string of spins, fakes and twists that became known as the Dream Shake. Hakeem’s unstoppable move resulted in either an unguarded fade away jump shot or a fast, explosive move to the basket. “Un-guardable,” claimed rival big man and two-time NBA champion David Robinson of the San Antonio Spurs when referencing Olajuwon.

Olajuwon credits the great footwork he learned as a youth playing soccer in Nigeria. This childhood skill added to the amazing success of his Dream Shake move during his decorated 18 year NBA career.

No other sport like basketball has given rise to such incredible individuality in a team sport.

That’s why these signature shots also deserve to be included in my FREE sports comic book Best About Sports.

FREE Best About Sports

Email me at mikeonsports@yahoo.com if there’s a signature shot or move that you feel should be on this list too.

MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!

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It’s Time to Retire Old Sports Cliches

Take What the Defense Gives You

A team taking what the defense gives them.

Much has changed in sports over the years.

Athletes have gotten bigger, faster and stronger. Salaries have skyrocketed. And, ESPN media coverage has become ubiquitous.

However, some sports cliches, which should have succumbed to obsolescence or political correctness, still remain in sportscasters’ collective vocabulary.

These dated clichés, especially in football, need to be retired. I think they represent what’s worst about sports because sportscasters insist on utilizing sophomoric language from a by-gone era

Old, outdated football clichés should join leather helmets, the Statue of Liberty play and horse collar tackles as a thing of the past.

Others require further interpretation because they are confusing. Not even the most knowledgeable sports fan can accurately explain what some of these sports clichés actually mean.

In addition to confusing references to fumblerooskies, slobbernockers and donnybrooks, here are a few examples:

Running the table

This well known cliché has always troubled me.

Furthermore, I find this ageless sports expression to be confusing.

Why select a table to recognize the incredible accomplishments of an undefeated team which has successfully run through the season with an unblemished record?

What’s the origin of this senseless expression?

Why choose a table instead of a battlefield, a dangerous slope or expertly defended turf. Don’t those references sound more exciting?

I’ve never gotten this confusing sports cliché?

Take what the defense gives you

As brought to life in this blog’s comic, here’s a lame sports cliché that could come back to haunt you. It’s a lot more confusing than originally thought.

For instance, instead of candy and flowers as seen in this comic, what if the defense wants to give you a black eye?

Did you ever think of that? Kinda of confusing to hear your coach tell you to take what the defnse gives you?

Monkey on your back

Regardless of the sport, the invisible monkey on athletes’ backs exists whenever they’re unable to defeat certain opponents.

Serious problems and formidable foes sometimes hold sway over NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL teams.

Getting the monkey off one’s back requires hard work, persistence and mental tenacity. Once it’s done, you will have gotten over the hump, turned the corner and gotten off the schneid – to borrow a few more sports clichés.

However, the same confusing questions remain. What is the actual origin of this monkey. Why has its genesis, name, age and reason for picking certain teams over others never been reported.

Regardless of the sport, these are some of the unanswered questions that have always confused me.

Write me at mikeonsports@yahoo.com if you want to share some ridiculously outdated sports cliches that should also be retied.

MIKE –thee ultimate talking head on sports!

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#TBT Sports Blog: Jesse Owens 4X Olympic Champion

the Buckeye Bullet Jesse Owens

Olympic Champion Jesse Owens

Before MLB’s Jackie Robinson, the NFL’s Jim Brown, the NBA’s Wilt Chamberlain or boxing’s Joe Louis, track star Jesse Owens was regarded as the USA’s first ever African American sports icon.

In today’s #TBT sports blog, let’s remember this extraordinary individual who flew past his competitors on the track and soared above the hate and discrimination that he faced away from it.

Owens is also an easy choice at #7 in my sports comic book Favorite Flyers in Sports available for only 99 cents on Amazon.

Book 12 Favorite Flyers in Sports

The son of an Alabama sharecropper, James Cleveland Jesse Owens battled pneumonia as a sickly child before his family moved north to Cleveland, Ohio.

Years later, a much stronger and healthier 5’10” and 165 lb. Owens blossomed as an outstanding track and field athlete at Ohio State University.

Named the Buckeye Bullet for how quickly he flew around the track, Owens shattered sprint and long jump records during his college days. He won eight individual NCAA individual championships.

Perhaps the greatest single day accomplishment in track and field history occurred on May 25, 1935. Owens tied the 100 yard dash world record and broke three other world records in the long jump, 220 yard dash and 220 yard low hurdles.

What makes Jesse Owens’ feats so amazing is that his incredible performances in all four events took place in the time span of less than one hour.

Owens’ success continued after his college days.

He is best remembered for his magnificent performance at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, Germany. Jesse Owens captured four gold medals. He won the long jump, 100 meter dash and 200 meter dash and anchored the USA’s 4 x 100 meter relay team.

Wins aside, the most dominant athlete at the 1936 Berlin Summer Games may be more admired and respected for the way he excelled on the world stage.

In spite of German dictator Adolph Hitler’s desire to showcase what he believed was white Aryan supremacy, this black skinned American athlete blasted past all would-be competitors.

Jesse Owens’ success at the Berlin Olympics even prompted a German sports apparel maker to present him with the first ever sports sponsorship contract for a black athlete.

Sadly, Owens’ respectability and celebrity status in Europe wasn’t similarly honored when he returned home. In a gathering at a New York landmark before the start of a ticker tape parade, Owens was forced to take a freight elevator to meet up with his victorious fellow Olympic athletes – simply because of his skin color.

Following the 1936 Olympics, Owens found employment by racing against cars and horses in carnival type events. He played briefly with the Harlem Globetrotters and later served as a motivational speaker. Often when he traveled, this great Olympic champion was forced to stay in separate black only hotels and eat in black only restaurants.

One of the greatest athletes of the 20th Century, Jesse Owens was eventually acknowledged for his accomplishments.

In 1976, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from former President Gerald Ford. In 1980, former President George H. W. Bush presented Owens with the Congressional Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award.

Oddly, Jesse Owens chain smoked cigarettes for 35 years and died of cancer in 1980. This remarkable Olympian may be remembered as one of the greatest track and field athletes of all time.

Equally importantly, the Buckeye Bullet will always be loved and respected for the way he utilized his athletic fame to break through the scourge of racism.

MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!

MIKE Sports Comic: Olympics Footer

FIFA’s Ronaldo & Messi Invaluable as Facebook Advertisers Too

FIFA football's highest individual honor.

FIFA Ballon d’Or Trophy

FIFA Ballon d’Or winners Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo just aren’t priceless to their teams for putting the ball in the back of the net during La Liga and UEFA Champions League games.

The two best international football players on the planet also boast staggering Facebook fan page followings that are extraordinary valuable to interested advertisers.

Repucom, the German based global leader in sports marketing research, cites four-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi and two-time Ballon d’Or winner Ronaldo as the two most prized athletes in the world for social media marketing campaigns.

The 30 year-old Repucom has become established as the research provider of choice for over 1,000 of the top rights holders, brands, agencies and broadcasters in sports and entertainment worldwide.

According to the German sports marketing agency, a Cristiano Ronaldo Facebook post is worth approximately $143,750 of advertising for the brand he’s endorsing. A Ronaldo social media ad yields twice the amount in advertising revenue that a similar Lionel Messi Facebook post would command.

According to this morning’s Facebook count, Ronaldo’s page shows 103,224,423 fans compared to Messi’s “paltry” 76,266,046.

Just watching both players on the pitch, it’s easy to understand why they are so popular.

Ronaldo’s famous step-over move and ferociously powerful shots earned him the nickname Magic Feet as he regularly dazzles fans and frustrate defenders. He’s done it not only with Real Madrid, but also for his native Portugal in international play.

With no apparent weakness in his game, Cristiano Ronaldo is considered the complete soccer player. He’s always more than capable of scoring at any time against any opponent with his head or, in his case, his Magic Feet.

In the same way, would-be defenders on the soccer pitch find the pesky, but powerful, Lionel Messi to embody his Atomic Flea nickname. Messi feeds off his opponents’ inability to stop him as the soccer ball appears attached by a string to his feet.

Global football fans adore this tiny, wingless center forward. And, like Ronaldo, this human Atomic Flea always seems to take a bite out of the back of the net when he flitters onto the soccer field.

Repucom may have valued both Ballon d’Or winners’ impressive monetary worth to interested marketers.

However, for Ronaldo’s Real Madrid team and Messi’s FC Barcelona squad, allow me to borrow a popular Master Card advertising jingle.

Both are priceless!

MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!

MIKE Sports Comic: Soccer Footer

NY Red Bulls’ Thierry Henry Plays Last MLS Game

soccer star thierry henry

FIFA footballer 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 has been long regarded as one of the world’s top strikers, a global fan favorite and one of the best players ever in Major League Soccer history.

However, the New York Red Bulls’ elimination from MLS Cup play with its loss on aggregate goals to the New England Revolution marked the 37-year-old Henry’s final match with the club.

“The decision has always been that I would leave after the duration of my contract,” Henry said.

The highly skilled Frenchman will be missed by MLS fans for far more than his flashy footwork on the football pitch.

Though he never won a MLS Cup during his four and a half years with the Red Bulls, Henry will be remembered for serving as an ambassador for the beautiful game. Like David Beckham, Henry helped advance the sport on American soil.

Henry left Europe over four years ago to sign with the New York Red Bulls. His storied career included stints with the world’s top football clubs. He 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 in 1998, Henry’s trophy case comprises two EPL titles and three FA Cups with Arsenal and an astounding six total titles with FC Barcelona. In 2009, he helped Barca win the UEFA Champions League title.

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

Here’s wishing the beloved Frenchman success in his next endeavor as a adviser, coach or executive.

Fans are happy to hear that Henry plans to remain involved in the sport he played with such excellence and panache.

MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!

MIKE Sports Comic: Soccer Footer

Favorite NFL & NCAA Football Cliches

MIKE Vintage logo

During the recent holiday weekend, NFL and NCAA football games dominated sports coverage on television.

It was impossible to miss the cliché laden language of those in the broadcast booth covering the games.

The announcers’ exaggerated expressions, at times, poetically captured the way football fans also describe teams, plays and games.

Fans could easily relate to the broadcasters’ ridiculous remarks crudely couched in the language of metaphors and hyperbole.

How funny would it be if these figurative football clichés were actually taken literally!

Check out my coveted top 10 list:

10. The quarterback’s pass was a wounded duck – Much to the dismay of animal rights activists everywhere, this football cliché offers fans a perfect word picture of a quarterback under throwing an open receiver with a wobbly, barely flight ready pass resembling an injured duck.

9. The other team is icing the kicker – It would definitely be a hoot watching a bunch of defenders dipping the other team’s kicker into a frozen pond?

8. The quarterback has a rifle for an arm – Anti-gun lobbyists wouldn’t be too happy about this one. Imagine seeing a player load a rifle or in this case his “arm” as he drops back to pass during a nationally televised game.

7. The quarterback has happy feet – I’d love to see athletically gifted quarterbacks like Johnny Manziel, Russell Wilson and Rice dancing around the pocket while musical notes rather than pieces of grass and dirt would form a wake behind their feet.

5. The team has shown blanket coverage in the secondary – This would be a sight. Imagine a bunch of large fleece winter blankets strewn over the football field and frustrated wide receivers buried beneath them.

4. The fullback is pushing the pile – Instead of diving head first like a battering ram into a pile of linemen, imagine a 6’2” and 250 lb. blocking fullback actually pushing a gigantic pile of dirt and stones with helpless defenders atop it into the end zone. Priceless.

3. The running back coughed up the football – What a sight this one would be. Picture a fast and quick running back, crouched down on his hands and knees. A series of retching up chucks a slimy football onto the grass.

2. The defense flushed the quarterback out of the pocket – I’d love to see a bunch of linebackers and defensive backs handling giant fire hoses pointed at the opposing team’s quarterback. Their objective is met as he’s washed away on his butt farther down the football field.

1. The defense just buried the quarterback – As players from both teams stand somberly around the grave site holding shovels, can you imagine a group of big, burly defensive linemen lowering a casket with the opposing team’s quarterback in it?

Write me at mikeonsports@yahoo.com if you have a few favorite Football Cliches for my list.

MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!

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Timeless Sports Quotes

Marv Albert

Iconic sayings are those which have withstood the test of time.

Julius Caesar’s “Vedi Vidi Vici” (Latin for I came, I saw, I conquered), Jesus’ Golden Rule “Love your neighbor as yourself,” and the poet Horace’s adage “Carpe Diem” (seize the day) are as nearly well known today as they were in centuries past.

In the world of sports, expressions, clichés and quotes have also been memorialized.

Sports fans learn these quotes at an early age and repeat them regularly throughout their lives. They apply them not only to sports games they watch, but even to the everyday problems they face.

In this case, these timeless sports sayings fit nicely into my book sports comic book on Amazon of all-time Favorite Sports Quotes.

Favorite Sports Quotes

Here ya go…

Whenever we don the name of a certain company’s athletic apparel, we’re reminded to “Just do it!” as Nike’s marketing campaign suggests, whether on the playing field or strategizing in the boardroom.

We enthusiastically shout “Goooooooooooal!” whenever we witness a score during a soccer match and mimic Univision sportscaster Andres Castor’s immediately recognizable expression.

Thanks to Marv Albert, NBA announcer on TNT, we recite, “Yes!” whenever we passionately affirm something.

We recall Jim Valvano’s famous ESPY Awards words, “Never give up!” and apply them to every difficult situation we encounter in life.

When we’re getting ready for a game, a sales call, a test or a challenge of any kind, we’ve probably uttered the war cry, “Let’s get ready to rumble!” All thanks to Michael Butler, WWE Ring Announcer.

Who hasn’t watched an NFL kickoff return for a touchdown and shouted, “He… could… go… all… the… way,” obviously in tribute to ESPN’s Chris Berman.

“Back, back, back, back, back!” is another Chris Berman favorite quote. We’ve all repeated it in the ESPN sportscaster’s signature, staccato style with emphasis on the letter “b”.

ESPN Announcer Chris Berman

ESPN’s Chris Berman

“Havlicek stole the ball. Havlicek stole the ball!” We love uttering this NBA classic originated by the lips of legendary Boston Celtics announcer Johnny Most.

“Cubs win! Cubs win!” Harry Carey said it. Too bad it wasn’t after a World Series. Sorry Cubbies fans!

“There’s no substitute for guts.” Legendary Alabama Crimson Tide football coach Bear Bryant gifted all sports fans with this universal quote.

“Do you believe in miracles?” NBC sportscaster Al Michaels uttered these timeless words during the 1980 Winter Olympics semi-final hockey game following what is considered the greatest upset in team sports. Decades later, we still believe in miracles in all sports.

“To be the man, you need to beat the man.” Pro wrestler Ric Flair’s famous simple words couldn’t be any truer for aspiring champions in any sport.

“No mas.” Retired boxer Roberto Duran spoke these simple words that others should speak sooner whenever they’re overwhelmed in an adverse situation.

Former World Champion Roberto Duran

Roberto Duran – famous for the timeless “no mas” quote!

“Gentlemen, start your engines.” Tony Hulman, the late owner of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Vroom vroom! This saying could apply to just about anything in life.

Yes, these timeless sports quotes will continue to endure because they relate to us – whether we’re watching a game or facing a life challenge.

And, in the timeless words of legendary sportscaster Marv Albert, we can all say “yes” to that!

MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!

MIKE Sports Comic: All Sports Footer

Detroit Lions’ WR Calvin Megatron Johnson Sets NFL Receiving Mark

NFL receiver Calvin Johnson

Detroit Lions’ WR Calvin “Megatron” Johnson

Yesterday, Detroit Lions’ WR Calvin “Megatron” Johnson became the fastest player in NFL history to reach the 10,000 yard career receiving mark.

In addition to scoring two touchdowns, Johnson hauled in nine passes for 109 receiving yards to lead his Lions over struggling NFC Central rival the Chicago Bears.

It’s no wonder why Johnson, along with defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, were voted as the most feared players in the NFL, according to a 2013 ESPN.com survey of 320 players.

Upon learning about the physical struggles of the amazing Lions wide out last season, Johnson also earned my vote, and probably those of the same 320 NFL players polled by ESPN, as the most respected player in the league.

Lions General Manager Martin Mayhew commented on his star receiver’s ailments following surgeries to #81’s knee and finger.
“Johnson played the entire season with a finger really that was pointing perpendicular from his body. He tried to catch the ball like that. He would never complain about that, but certainly that was a factor, I think, in the way he played.”

In spite of injuries that would sideline most other players, Johnson lived up to his clever Megatron nickname. The 6’5” and 245 lb. wide receiver played as if built like titanium.

During his career, Johnson has also demonstrated that, in spite of his nagging injuries, he could regularly transform himself, like the Hasbro robot for which he was named, into the NFL’s most dynamic and feared offensive player. His 4.3 second speed and 44” vertical leaping ability enabled him to easily soar over frustrated defensive backs unable to guard him.

However, what impresses me most about the high flying Megatron is his consummate professionalism on and off the field. I never hear him complain. Nor does he ever make excuses that his lingering ailments limited his always expected electric performances on the football field.

In a star powered position that usually attracts double team defensive coverage as well as intense media scrutiny, the Lions star set a new standard for the wide out position that normally induces narcissistic personalities.

Most NFL fans grumble at the tantalizing talent, raw athleticism and elusive speed of wide-mouthed wide-outs like Dez Bryant, Steve Smith and DeSean Jackson.

But, let’s face it. Who is really going to miss their boorish behavior, petty pouting, childish on-field antics and tiresome, off-field self-promotion of those football divas?

When you’ve got a guy like Calvin Johnson, it’s easy to cheer for Megatron who’s easily transformed the wide out position in the NFL.

MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!

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Happy Thanksgiving: Grateful For My Favorite Sounds in Sports

MIKE Small Circular Badge

Happy Thanksgiving!

While consuming lots of turkey today, sports fans will also feast on the non-stop college and professional football, basketball, soccer and hockey games available on television.

In addition to being grateful for the amazing plays and the smorgasbord of sights we witness while watching these games, sports fans should also be thankful that big games don’t merely satisfy our visual appetites.

As sports fans, we also eagerly drink in the alluring sounds that add to our experience as spectators.

Here’s my list of my favorite top 20 sounds in sports.

20. Swish of the net in basketball – This is not only a beautiful sight. The sudden rippling sound that accompanies the dancing basketball net indicates that a sweet stroking shooter has just buried a jumper.

19. Eruption of the home team crowd – A home court or home field advantage is never more evident than when diehard fans simultaneously erupt in boisterous applause. This thunderous din is a welcome sound whenever a touchdown in football, a basket in basketball or goal in hockey gives the locals a lead.

18. British soccer announcer Ian Darke expressions – Few Americans know of this silky smooth British broadcaster. However, Ian Darke’s World Cup coverage for ESPN showcased an unparalleled skill that expertly, efficiently and poetically broadcasts soccer on the sports world’s highest level.

FIFA announcer Ian darke

ESPN Announcer Ian Darke

17. Crack of bat in baseball – The crack of the bat is undeniably one of the most beautiful sounds in all of sports. Whenever fans hear this sound, they turn in unison to see where the ball is headed.

16. Tee shot off a Big Bertha driver in golf – seems like the after-socks of its reverberating sound can be heard miles away from the golf course.

15. National Anthem at Super Bowl – always gives me goose bumbs and makes me proud to be an American.

14. Crushing hit in football – the powerful collision of shoulders pads and helmets (ouch!) may sound like a car wreck at times, but the palpable sound nearly always leads to a replay that more than likely makes a Sports center Top 10.

13. Starter’s gun in any sport – clearly determines that the action, whether in the pool or on the track, has officially begun and the cheering, howling and nail biting can now begin.

12. Shushing sound a hockey player makes when he stops suddenly and sprays ice shavings off his skates - you know what I mean!

11. Singing at an English Premier League game – a wonderful British soccer tradition even when sung by drunken, unruly, off-key hooligans. I could never see Cheeseheads in Green Bay, Hogs in DC, Terrible Towel wavers in Pittsburgh or any other NFL team fans adopted this tradition in their city anytime soon.

10. Gentlemen, start your engines! – okay, you’re lying if you say you haven’t used this legendary Indianapolis 500 starter’s saying before backing out of your garage.

9. Knock out punch in boxing – ouch! This immediately identifiable sound usually comes with a listener’s personalized grimace.

8. Pop of the catcher’s mitt – even if you’re seated in the most distant from the plate in Pigeon Heaven in a stadium filled with 50,000 fans, you can hear, almost feel, this beautiful baseball sound. Plus, with your binoculars, you focus on the catcher and look for the accompanying little puff of smoke arising from his mitt.

7. Silence after or when watching an ESPN college basketball game with DickieV announcing – Dick Vitale may be passionate for NCAA college basketball, but his incessant screaming, Pollyanna platitudes and corny expressions makes me seasick. I usually mute the game.

Dickie V

ESPN basketball announcer Dick Vitale

6. Puck clanging off the post in hockey – this distinctive sound always seems accompanied by a hush as fans in the arena know that the scoring of a goal was just missed.

5. Marching bands at a NCAA BCS Game – love to watch perfectly aligned students in swanky costumes and plumed hats march in unison while playing tubas, clarinets, trumpets, xylophones and drums.

4. “Gooooooooooooooooooooooooal!” – we’ve all burst out in celebration and “borrowed” this infectious expression while watching a soccer match on television or scoring our own goal in a rec game or even fuseball at a local bar.

3. Hammond 3 organ – would never listen to organ music in my car or add it to my play list. But, hearing a Hammond B3 pipe out Take Me Out to the Ball Game at a baseball game or tickle the keys with an energetic dunt dunt dunt da dunt to get the crowd revved up at a hockey or basketball game is nothing short of a religious experience.

2. Hockey horn – the perfect sound for a rough and tumble sport that sounds like a cruise ship is ready to dock in your living room.

1. ESPN’s da da dunt, da da dunt – without doubt the siren song of sports guaranteed, when heard, to interrupt dinner or any conversation anywhere.

Email me at mikeonsports@yahoo.com if I missed one of your favorite sounds in sports.

Happy Thanksgiving!

MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!

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