Ageless Executioner Bernard Hopkins Retains Light Heavyweight Crown

The Executioner Bernard Hopkins

Boxing’s The Executioner Bernard Hopkins

Amazingly, this ageless boxer did it again last night.

Not only did Bernard Hopkins defeat Beibut Shumenov of Kazakhstan and unify boxing’s sport’s light heavyweight crowns.

But, the 49 year-old fighter beat Father Time in another bout to remain the oldest boxer ever to win a championship belt.

The mere mention of this boxer’s nickname would make most people too fearful to shadow box against him.

Light Heavyweight Champ Bernard Hopkins perfectly personifies his Executioner nickname in more ways than one.

When entering the ring before fights, Hopkins and his management team dress like angels of death in an effort to intimidate Hopkins’ opponent. They wield large axes and wear scary masks, heavy capes and dark hoods.

While in the ring, Hopkins expertly executes his plan which is to knock out all of his opponents.

Though Hopkins’ fighting image may be chilling, his amazing personal path to success as a boxer, businessman and freed felon is beyond thrilling.

Growing up in a rough North Philadelphia neighborhood, Hopkins survived a serious stab wound at age 13. By age 17, he had begun a young life of crime and found himself charged with armed robbery and behind bars for 56 months. While serving his time at Graterford State Prison in Pennsylvania, Hopkins learned to box.

Upon his release, the 22 year-old Hopkins stepped into the ring for his first fight, which he lost. The Executioner didn’t lace up his gloves again for another 18 months. But, when he did, he proceeded to win 22 consecutive bouts and earn his first title fight against Roy Jones, Jr.

In his lengthy and storied boxing career, the 6’1” and 173 lb. Hopkins has squared off against some of the most famous names in the sport.

Defeating the likes of Roy Jones, Jr., Antonio Tarver, Winky Wright, Felix Trinidad and Oscar De La Hoya, the Executioner has compiled an incredible 55 – 6 – 2 record with 32 knockouts.

Back in 2011, Hopkins became the oldest prize fighter at age 46 to claim a world title by beating Jean Pascal in Montreal in 2011 for the WBC Light Heavyweight crown.

Then, last night, the 49 year-old Hopkins did it again.

Life outside the ring has been extremely good to Hopkins. Few will disagree that his best win has been defeating the incredible odds stacked against him as a former crime prone teenager.

However, life inside the ring has not been good at all for Bernard Hopkins’ opponents. Their fates have nearly always been doomed when facing the Executioner.

MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!

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NBA Playoffs Start Today: Will a New Signature Shot or Move Emerge?

Los Angeles Lakers' Kareem Abdul Jabbar

Kareem Abdul Jabbar’s iconic Sky Hook

The 2014 NBA Playoffs formally tip-off today, and a potential new star with a signature shot or patented move is likely to emerge.

That’s because no other team sport celebrates the unparalleled combination of individual creativity and athletic excellence like NBA basketball.

A bevy of young talent in the league should provide ample opportunity for the next shot or move to be witnessed on television or web highlights and then endlessly copied on playgrounds and rec centers around the world.

Signature shots – developed and made famous by accomplished basketball players – memorialize their impact on the sport.

Like Kareem Abdul Jabbar’s Sky Hook, these shots leave a lasting legacy of fun, excitement and enviable skill for NBA fans to enjoy.

Here are my top 10 shots and moves:

10. Cross-over Dribble – the AI and Tim Hardaway ankle breaker.

9.  Pick ‘n Roll – Stockton and Malone’s unstoppable, two man game.

8.  Tear Drop – Frenchman Tony Parker’s “gentle” dagger in the lane.

7.  Step Back Jumper – Larry Bird’s step back with ball over head.

Former Boston Celtic Larry Bird

NBA Hall of Famer Larry Bird

6.  Fade Away – Michael Jordan perfected this un-guardable shot.

5.  Windmill Dunk – popularized by The Human Highlight Reel.

4.  Sky Hook – ESPN called it the greatest basketball move ever.

3.  Finger Roll – The Ice Man’s improbable finish in the lane.

2.  No Look Pass – Magic’s patented pass on a Showtime break.

Los Angeles Lakers Magic Johnson

NBA legend Earvin Magic Johnson

1.  Dream Shake – Hakeem’s spins, fakes, twists and scores.

NBA Dream Shake

Hakeem Olajuwon’s Dream Shake

These are my top 10, but what are yours?

Look forward to your email.

MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!

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Detroit Pistons’ Bill Laimbeer: NBA Bad Boy

If the NBA introduced its popular BIG Marketing campaign back in the late 80s, this former all-star, and Detroit Pistons’ Bad Boy, would easily have been nicknamed the Big Jerk!

That’s because saying his name immediately sparked agitation in basketball circles everywhere – except maybe in the state of Michigan.

One would think words like champion, all-star, terrific rebounder, rugged defender or great teammate would best describe this player.

However, complimentary references to Detroit Pistons’ Bill Laimbeer were, and still are, about as rare as the Chicago Cubs winning a World Series.

His Heinous Bill Laimbeer

Former NBA center Bill Laimbeer

Last night’s debut of the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary Bad Boys brought back to mind the boorish and, at times, brutal play of this gangster of the hardwood.

Known as much for flopping as he was for overly aggressive and downright dirty play, Laimbeer may be the most reviled NBA player of all-time. And, the ESPN 30 for 30 film left few to challenge it.

The mention of the name Bill Laimbeer instantly ignites heated basketball debates. Fans and opposing players cringe upon hearing Laimbeer’s name and quickly vent their disdain toward him.

Even fellow Piston and friend Isaiah Thomas once said of his teammate, “If I didn’t know Bill, I wouldn’t like him either.”

And, after watching last night’s doc, few NBA fans would like the cold, callous and cocky Laimbeer who appeared to still carry a boulder sized chip on his shoulders.

Yes, the nickname His Heinous – meaning scary, evil, rotten, awful and beastly – expertly describes Bill Laimbeer for his nasty play on the basketball court. A University of Notre Dame grad, His Heinous was that NBA player most fans loved to hate.

That’s why he also elbows his way into #23 in one of my sports comic books Scary Sports Comics.

MIKE FREE Scary Sports Comic BooksClick on the purple cover above to safely download my FREE book Scary Sports Comics.

In addition to His Heinous Bill Laimbeer, read about The Undertaker, The Executioner, The Embalmer and more in the book.

Their nicknames may seem intimidating, but their presence on the basketball court would not be nearly as scary as driving the lane against former Detroit Pistons’ Bad Boy – Bill Laimbeer.

MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!

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The Royal History of the NHL Stanley Cup Trophy

Stanley Cup trophy

The NHL Stanley Cup

Since the 2014 NHL Playoffs officially started last night, I thought I’d share the storied history behind the sports world’s most prized, tradition rich championship trophy – the Stanley Cup.

Hockey players may not be able to touch this venerable silver chalice before earning it. However, they can certainly read about it here.

Considered the most revered championship trophy in all of professional sports, this coveted Canadian cup was originally advocated by a genuine British royal.

Appointed by Her Majesty Queen Victoria, British-born Frederick Arthur Stanley, Lord of Preston and Earl of Derby, became the Governor General of Canada in 1892.

During his first winter in Canada, Lord Stanley attended the Montreal Winter Festival and immediately fell in love with the sport of hockey.

As a result, he formally commissioned the Dominion Hockey Championship Cup in 1893, which eventually evolved into a cultural symbol for Canada.

The Holy Grail of Hockey was originally a challenge cup, but was not exclusive to any particular league. However, in 1910 the Dominion Hockey Championship Cup officially changed hands, and the now defunct National Hockey Association took possession of the 7.26 inch tall, 11.42 inch wide and 35.25 inch long silver trophy.

Sixteen years later, the cup transitioned again. In 1926 the NHL assumed control and established the Stanley Championship Cup as the de facto championship trophy of the NHL.

With 23 titles to their credit, the Montreal Canadiens lay claim to winning the most Stanley Cups in NHL history. Henri Richard holds the record for the most wins as a player with 11. His teammate Jean Beliveau boasts the most (17) Stanley Cups with 10 as a player and 7 as an executive with the team.

Ironically, Phil Housley is the longest tenured NHL player to have never drunk the champagne toast from the Stanley Cup. Housley skated from 1982 – 2003 and played in an amazing 1,495 NHL games, but never enjoyed the victory skate around the rink while cradling the 34.5 lb. coveted cup.

Hockey’s greatest player ever, Wayne Greztky or The Great One, claims four cups on his otherwise unparalleled personal hockey resume.

The Great One Wayne Gretzky

The NHL Great One Wayne Gretzky

Tradition holds that after an NHL champion is crowned, winning players, now empowered to actually touch the cup, can drink victoriously from the silver chalice while basking in their celebratory skate.

Further adding to the lore and mystique of this revered NHL award, a replica of the cup will journey to the home city of the winning team for up to 100 days. Fans get to photograph it, but, like most other regal treasures, never get to actually touch it.

During that limited 100 day time span, the winning players may admire their newly engraved names that are listed alongside previous Stanley Cup winners.

To maintain its lofty and royal status, the original Stanley Cup remains under lock and key, safely housed in a bank vault at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, Canada.

Regardless of whether fans see the real cup or merely its replica, this cherished silver chalice is arguably the most prestigious trophy in professional sports.

Expect to read more about the Stanley Cup and other “royalty” in sports in my new sports comic book Favorite Sports Royalty available on Amazon next month.

MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!

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Olympic Swim Champ Michael Phelps Announces Comeback

Michael Phelps

Olympic Swimming Champion Michael Phelps

In a surprise announcement this week, the Baltimore Bullet plans to stick his big toe into the chlorine water once again.

The most decorated Olympian ever, Michael Phelps, announced that he will be coming out of retirement.

Phelps expects to be back in the pool this month to participate in the April 25 and 26 Arena Grand Prix event in Mesa, AZ.

Swimming fans have speculated that Phelps will test the waters in Arizona as he ponders a possible fifth Summer Olympics to be held in Rio de Janiero in 2016.

Winner of 22 total Olympic medals, twice the amount of the next top medalist, Phelps will only swim in short races in Arizona. Wisely, the 28 year-old will avoid the longer swims as well as the grueling individual medleys.

Bob Bowman, the swimmer’s longtime coach, told The Associated Press on Monday that Phelps is entered in three events — the 50- and 100-meter freestyles and the 100 butterfly.

“I think he’s just going to test the waters a little bit and see how it goes,” Bowman said. “I wouldn’t say it’s a full-fledged comeback.”

Though most fans don’t expect Phelps to be as dominant as he was in the 2008 Beijing Games or the 2012 London Games, they are ecstatic to learn that he will be back in the pool.

The 6’4″ and 194 lb. Baltimore native is best described by former Olympic swim champ, Mark Spitz, who set an amazing 33 world records and won seven gold medals in the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, Germany.

When appearing on the Today Show in August 2008, Mark Spitz remarked about Phelps, “He is the single greatest Olympic athlete of all time. He will probably be the single greatest athlete compared to anybody in any century – the 20th, the 21st and whatever.”

It marked an incredible compliment from another legendary Olympic swimmer.

Michael Phelps‘ resume supports Spitz’s comments. Phelps swam all four disciplines (freestyle, breaststroke, backstroke and butterfly) with exceptional skill. He also served as the world’s best anchor on several world record setting USA relay teams.

During his dozen plus years in the pool, this former 2008 Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year has collected a whopping 71 total international medals – 57 of them gold – during his career.

Phelps also set a staggering 39 world records during his countless hours in the pool.

As the most decorated Olympian ever, Michael Phelps is also an easy choice to top my list in my sports comic book Olympic Favorites.

MIKE Vol 6 Olympic Comic CoverSplish splash.

MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!

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Major League Baseball Celebrates Jackie Robinson Day

MLB great #42 Jackie Robinson

Brooklyn Dodgers’ #42 Jackie Robinson

Today we honor the courage of a remarkable man and exceptional baseball player by celebrating the brilliant initiative of a sports commissioner.

On April 15, 1997 Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig mandated an unprecedented edict. It was never before witnessed in any American professional sport.

Selig ordered all Major League Baseball teams to officially retire the #42 jersey in honor of Brooklyn Dodgers great Jackie Robinson.

Selig’s historic move recognized Jackie Robinson on the 50th anniversary of his 1947 debut. On that day Robinson became the first black baseball player in the modern era to cross the color barrier that existed in the sport.

Its hard for us to image today, but Jack Roosevelt “Jackie” Robinson’s bold, courageous decision to break the color line in 1947 opened the gates for other worthy, yet unfairly discriminated against, black baseball players. Thanks to Robinson, other talented black baseball players quickly followed and begun playing on other previously all white teams in Major League Baseball.

As a player with the Brooklyn Dodgers, #42’s fortitude also kindled dialogue beyond the baseball diamond when it came to our country’s ugly segregation policies. Many attribute that Robinson’s brazen baseball move of crossing the color barrier helped propel the long overdue and ultimately successful Civil Rights Movement.

Robinson’s heroic and individually spectacular personal life story warrants his inclusion at #2 in Favorite Overcoming Athletes. This blog is an excerpt from that book.

MIKE's 10 Best Series Book 2 Overcoming Sports StoriesThe major motion picture entitled 42 (release date: April 2013) chronicles Robinson’s struggles and success as one of America’s most respected athletes ever.

When he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947 as a 28 year-old rookie, #42 overcame significant public scrutiny as well as regular cruel and unnecessary racial abuse. He was the target of ugly taunts, knock-down pitches and hateful insensitivity directed at him because of his skin color.

However, the Dodgers’ tough talking manager Leo Durocher took a firm stand in defense of Robinson. Also, legendary Dodgers shortstop Pee Wee Reece’s comment in support of Jackie Robinson will never be forgotten. While standing with his arm draped around Robinson’s shoulders, Reece said, “You can hate a man for many reasons. Color is not one of them.”

The son of a Georgia sharecropper and a Southern California domestic laborer, Jackie Robinson immediately proved his mettle and demonstrated his athletic excellence. Despite the racial abuse he suffered, Robinson rose above the fray.

Instead of fighting back on the low ground, he immediately made an impact on Major League Baseball and quickly became a rising star.

Robinson was voted Major League Baseball Rookie of the Year in 1947. Soon after, he won both the National League batting title and the National League Most Valuable Player Award in 1949.

Jackie played his entire ten year career with the Brooklyn Dodgers. A first-time ballot Hall of Fame inductee, Robinson’s career accomplishments included six all-star games, a World Series Championship in 1955 and impressive lifetime stats of a .311 batting average, 1,518 hits, 137 home-runs, 734 runs batted in and 197 steals.

In addition to being selected to Major League Baseball’s All-Century team, Jackie Robinson was named #44 on The Sporting News’ list of top 100 baseball players ever.

As a result of what he accomplished after formally hanging up his baseball cleats in 1956, this remarkable athlete became a cultural icon.

Robinson is widely admired and credited for overcoming other barriers beyond the baseball diamond. He broke additional color lines that existed in mainstream America at the time.

ABC Sports hired Jackie Robinson as the first ever black sportscaster ever to cover Major League Baseball. In the late 50s, Robinson crossed a business barrier and became the first ever black Vice President of a major United States corporation when appointed by Chock full ‘o Nuts Coffee.

Before his death in 1972, Robinson accumulated a never-to-be duplicated resume as a distinguished retired athlete.

Besides his Major League Baseball Hall of Fame induction, Robinson chaired the NAACP.

Plus, he received our country’s two single greatest non-sports related individual honors; i.e. the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Medal of Honor.

TIME Magazine named Jackie Robinson among the top 100 most influential people of the 20th Century.

TIME Magazine’s ranking not only honored a most worthy athlete, but also a courageous American who helped transition our country away from its ugly discriminatory past.

Jackie Robinson easily slides into our hearts as a true American hero.

MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!

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Clever Sports Comic Book: Makeable Putt in Golf

MRO 76 Makeable Putt w borderWatching this weekend’s incredible coverage of the Masters golf tournament in Augusta, GA immediately brought back painful memories of my own golf game.

As a career duffer, I have a bad short game and my putting is worse. I struggle at times to make the simplest shots on the golf course.

That’s why I’m sharing one of the chapters from my FREE book Clever Sports Comics. It features one of my favorite sports comics ever.

You don’t need to be a PGA golfer to understand this ridiculously obvious sports cliché.

I love this comic in which a golfer stands over his putt before an apparently easy cavernous hole on the 16th green.

In this case, the caddie doesn’t appear too confident. It’s evident that the caddie’s fingers are crossed and his facial expression shows that he’s a bit worried.

This comic paints a great picture for all of us NOT to take the seemingly simple things in life for granted – like in this case – a makeable putt on the 16th.

MIKE Vol 7 CleverClick on the purple cover for my FREE sports comic book.

MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!

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Pac Man Defeats Bradley in WBO Title Fight: Now Can He Beat IRS

Championship fighter manny pacquiao

Boxer Manny Pac Man Pacquiao

At the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas last night, Manny “Pac Man” Pacquiao defeated Timothy Bradley, Jr. to regain the WBO welterweight title.

Pac Man’s unanimous decision dispelled all doubts that Father Time had caught up with the 35 year-old Filipino fighter.

Pacquiao, now 56-5-2 with 38 KO’s, outperformed Bradley, now 31-1 with 12 KO’s, on a number of fronts. He connected on 35% or 198 of 563 total punches thrown and outranked Bradley in overall power punches 176 – 98 connected.

Last night’s Pacquiao win serves as redemption of sorts for Pac Man. Many boxing fans thought Pacquiao had passed his prime and would not be able to reclaim the championship belt that they believed was robbed from him in his 2012 title bout against Bradley. Pacquiao shockingly lost in a highly controversial split decision.

However, the eight division world champion boxer quieted all critics by displaying his quick and powerful punching excellence in the ring last night. Even the dethroned Bradley graciously conceded that the challenger (Pacquiao) won the fight, “He was a better man tonight. Dude still has it.”

However, a giant question remains that will only be answered outside the ropes. Will Pacquiao still have it, namely the purported $20 million guaranteed purse, from last night’s title bout?

Well, not if the Philippines’ Bureau of Revenue or the American IRS have their way as each agency formally has Pacquiao under audit.

Both tax collecting agencies may soon arise as the fiercest threat the boxer has ever faced in his long career. The Filipino is believed to owe as much as $50 million in back taxes.

Although Pacquiao’s business advisor Michael Koncz is confident his client’s tax problems will be resolved, the boxing world braces just how powerful a financial pucnh Pac man will take on the chin.

MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!

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Augusta’s Amen Corner Featured in “Spiritual Sports Favorites” Comic Book

Amen Corner at Masters Golf Tournament

Golf’s Amen Corner at Augusta National

As golf fans celebrate this weekend’s Masters tournament at Augusta National Golf Course, allow me to share an excerpt from my sports comic book Spiritual Sports Favorites.

In addition to the Hail Mary Pass, the Immaculate Reception, Touchdown Jesus, the Minister of Defense and Pigeon Heaven, Amen Corner easily chips into the book.

MIKE Spiritual Sports FavoritesHere’s more about golf’s legendary Amen Corner…..

…..Six-time Masters champion Jack Nicklaus called the par three, 155 yard 12th hole the toughest short hole in golf. Plus, the unpredictable swirling winds, Rae’s Creek and the overall length of the par four 505 yard 11th hole and par five 510 yard 13th hole contribute to the enormous difficulty of this gorgeous piece of golfing real estate.

In a 1958 Sports Illustrated article, golf writer Herman Warren Wind coined the name of this signature stretch of tough play. He wanted to create a catchy nickname for this glorious combination of beautifully designed, yet extremely challenging holes.

Much like baseball’s Hot Corner and football’s Coffin Corner, golf’s Amen Corner was officially born.

When founded by golfing great Bobby Jones in 1933, all of the course’s holes were named after Georgia’s local shrubs and trees like Azalea on the 13th, Golden Bell on the 12th and White Dogwood on the 11th.

However, professional golfers who have succumbed to these harrowing holes of Amen Corner have ironically renamed them more appropriate plant names like Poison Ivy, Hemlock Dropwort and Venus Fly Trap.

Since 1958 the aura of Amen Corner has intensified.

Golf’s most alluring, yet tormenting three hole challenge has historically decided the outcome of the Masters.

golf legends like Byron Nelson in 1937, Sam Snead in 1949 and Arnold Palmer in 1958 all played heavenly through this troublesome stretch of God’s gift to golf. Each golfer arose to wear the iconic Green Jacket given to the Masters Tournament champion.

Though beloved, admired and perhaps even cursed by professional golfers, this prized piece of Augusta National Golf Club known as Amen Corner remains the holiest three holes in golf.

Amen to that!

MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!

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Michigan’s Big House to Host Manchester United vs. Real Madrid Soccer Game

FIFA football star Robin Van Persie

Manchester United’s Robin van Persie

No one was surprised to learn that within a 24 hour time span a colossal football game sold out at the University of Michigan’s iconic Big House 100,000+ seat stadium.

However, what did surprise, better yet shock, sports fans is that the sell-out for the August 2, 2014 game did not pit legendary rivals the University of Michigan Wolverines versus the Ohio State Buckeyes in NCAA college football action.

Instead, the marquee match-up will feature the two top international football (soccer) teams in the world: Manchester United and Real Madrid. These squads will face each other, ironically, on the Big House’s gridiron turf transformed into a soccer pitch.

But, the Big House is no stranger to hosting big-time sporting events not involving a pig skin. Earlier this year, the massive stadium hosted the NHL Winter Classic featuring the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings. The game boasted the NHL’s largest single attendance record at 105,491.

This summer’s contest is one of several games in the inaugural ICC, International Champions Cup, sponsored by Guinness. Because of the global following of both teams, the Real Madrid versus Manchester United contest is expected to shatter the single game attendance record of 101,799 for soccer in the United States.

The post FIFA World Cup event will showcase many of the top international football clubs in the world like AC Milan, AS Roma, Liverpool FC, Manchester City and Greece’s Olympiacos.

The sell-out undoubtedly buoys the confidence of American soccer fans knowing that the beautiful game is increasing in relevance and popularity on USA soil.

Soccer fans in Michigan won’t need to travel to Europe this fall or to Brazil this summer to witness two of the world’s best teams and two of the game’s finest players in Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid and Robin Van Persie of Manchester United.

FIFA footballer Cristiano Ronaldo

Magic Feet Cristiano Ronaldo

Both football clubs are valued as the #1 and #2 riches franchises in all of sports. Each has paid a king’s ransoms to sign FIFA stars Ronaldo and Van Persie to long term deals.

In addition, the storied franchises are no strangers to winning. Man U has claimed 20 English Premier League titles, while Real Madrid has captured 32 Spanish La Liga crowns.

The monumental match was made possible because of the vision of Relevant Sports CEO Charlie Stillitano. An equally surprised Stillitano remarked, “We were confident fans would recognize the magnitude of this contest between the two most famous teams in the world but the response surpassed our expectations.”

Way to think big, Charlie.

And, way to be big, University of Michigan’s Big House.

Now, fans, let’s officially break that USA soccer attendance record this summer.

MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!

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FIFA President Sepp Blatter Must Red Card World Cup Song “We Are One”

Brazilian soccer great Pele

The new 2014 World Cup song may even have Brazilian soccer great Pele wincing.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter must immediately take one of the personal red cards out of his professionally tailored suit pocket.

The 78-year-old international football honcho needs to book the bumbling blokes that produced the official FIFA 2014 World Cup song.

“We Are One” (Ole Ola) hit the web yesterday before its anticipated May 12th release and quickly garnered 4 million YouTube hits.

However, the reaction to the 3:47 dance song, featuring Pitbull, Jennifer Lopez and Brazilian diva Claudia Leitte, failed to find widespread acceptance among international football fans.

Eager to hear the next worldwide smash hit, expectant fans reacted negatively to the new World Cup theme song.

Fans’s comments on the web mirrored the same underwhelming way quizzical players responded to the introduction of the Adidas Jubalani used at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Others, like me, immediately found the song as irritating as the scores of shrill vuvuzelas blasting away at the 2010 games in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town four years ago.

Still others joked that they witnessed Pele wincing, the girl from Ipimena scowling and the beloved Christ the Redeemer statue covering his ears as he stood atop Mount Corcavado with outstretched arms overlooking the beaches of Rio de Janiero.

The new disjointed World Cup theme song should have been better, much better.

With international stars like Pitbull and Lopez, the lyrics should have been more discernible and the muddied stadium sounds in the background less intrusive.

The song confused me with the unnecessary Pitbull echoing. It also appeared to be a medley of three individual songs crammed into one, screaming for more time in the editing room.

Fans will struggle to sing along. Plus, some may need to nap during the seemingly endless four minute song.

Like the infrastructure challenges that Brazil faces to prepare for the June kick-off of the world’s biggest sport’s spectacle, the “We Are One” song needs more work, too.

That’s why FIFA President Sepp Blatter needs to red card the official new World Cup song to actually, as the lyrics go, “show the world we are one,” in liking it!

MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!

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Hockey’s Zamboni Driver: One of my Favorite Non-Athletes in Sports!

Hockey's Ice Resurfacing Machine The Zamboni

Hockey’s Zamboni

Here’s a sneak peak at one of my chapters in my next FREE sports comic book entitled: Favorite Non-Athletes in Sports!

He’s the Zamboni driver – a dream job for hockey fans everywhere.

…..Driving this clunky resurfacing vehicle would satisfy nearly every hockey fan’s fantasy.

Hoards of hockey fans have yearned to climb behind the wheel of this tractor and take charge of the ice.

Barrelling down the ice at a top speed of just 9 miles per hour and operating the baddest maintenance vehicle in all of sports, the Zamboni driver cruises in at #7 in Favorite Non-Athletes in Sports.

Who doesn’t envy the guy sitting in the best seat atop the rink?

The driver of the boxy Zamboni expertly scrapes, collects, washes, resurfaces and smooths the ice for hockey games and skating competitions.

The Zamboni driver deftly manages his monster machine as it sprays and then squeegees 140 degree water onto the ice. Miraculously, once rutted and scarred ice transforms into a shimmering surface that looks like polished glass.

Developed by Frank J. Zamboni in Southern California in 1949, the Zamboni ice resurfacing machine has become the standard throughout arenas around the world. At a price of $75,000 each, approximately 200 custom made machines are manufactured and distributed each year.

The Zamboni’s iconic fame extends beyond the boards of the hockey rinks it resurfaces. It was once featured in the classic sitcom Cheers when Carla’s husband Eddie supposedly got run over by a Zamboni.

In a Peanuts comic strip, a miniature Zamboni once cleaned the ice in a birdbath for Snoopi’s bird pal Woodstock.

This heavy duty “bad to the boni” machine is dear to all hockey fans. Expertly restoring chunks and grooves in previously pock-marked ice, countless fans secretly dream of being behind the wheel.

To hockey purists, it doesn’t matter that the Zamboni driver moves along at a glacier like speed. At a whopping 9 miles-per-hour, it’s still a blast to drive.

The Zamboni is loved by hockey fans across the globe.

And, it’s easy to understand how the Zamboni driver chugs his way into the #7 spot in Favorite Non-Athletes in Sports – scheduled for release in early May 2014.

MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!

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Frosty NCAA Title Game Dialogue Between UCONN’s Auriemma’s & Notre Dame’s McGraw

For the first time ever as a sports fan, I’ll be tuning in tonight to a women’s college basketball game.

Like most fans who constantly troll the web for sports headlines, I’m casually aware of tonight’s unprecedented NCAA championship game between two undefeated women’s college programs – the 37–0 University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the 39-0 UCONN Huskies.

Although I’ve recently learned about the game’s extraordinary stars, ND’s Kalya McBride and UCONN’s Breanna Stewart who will lead their teams into tonight’s title game, I’ll be watching for a totally different reason.

My personal interest lies in witnessing the soap opera saga unfolding between the women’s college game’s two best coaches – UCONN’s Geno Auriemma and Notre Dame’s Muffet McGraw.

The female player’s name in this comic may be Frost because this talented free throw shooter metaphorically has “ice water in her veins.” However, her chilly sounding last name pales in comparison to the icy relationship between tonight’s rival coaches.

The clash on the court in Nashville this evening may be upstaged by the silly cat fight on the sidelines between two successful college coaches who should lead by example and comport themselves more professionally.

Auriemma is the sport’s most decorated coach with 8 NCAA titles to his credit, while McGraw is the game’s hottest product with 1 championship and UCONN giant killer instincts.

However, both are acting like spoiled children and talking with surprising immaturity that they more than likely counsel their very own players against.

Jealous acts, unnecessary mud slinging and an intractable unwillingness to make peace between themselves have sullied what should be the biggest night in the history of NCAA women’s college basketball.

Auriemma’s and McGraw’s behavior serves up fodder better suited for a championship fight than a championship women’s basketball game.

The ever slick Auriemma coyly responds to all questions pertaining to McGrath and her team. And, not to be outdone, McGraw takes the gloves off when referencing Auriemma.

ESPN even reported McGraw as saying, “We are past the point of a relationship. I think the civility got lost.”

http://espn.go.com/womens-college-basketball/tournament/2014/story/_/id/10745912/women-final-four-2014-coaches-war-words-not-bearing-title-clash

McGraw also shamefully refused to stand and congratulate UCONN’s Stewart when acknowledged for receiving the Naismith Player of the Year Award because she thought her star McBride should have received it. How petty!

Enough of this nonsense already. Stop acting like such small minded coaches! Children a younger than you are watching. Grow up.

Tonight’s game should be about the excellence of the two teams that will face each other and NOT about your egos and bumptious pride.

We’ve all heard the axiom that the college game, unlike the NBA game, is all about the coaches.

But, just tonight can it be about the players.

Remember, it’s my – and maybe many others’ – first time ever to watch a women’s college basketball game. Let’s make it epic!

MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!

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NCAA March Madness: There’s No Tomorrow

No Tomorrow April 7Sure this comic is overly dramatic, but it proves a point.

In the case of this year’s NCAA basketball tournament, there’s really “no tomorrow” as the old sports cliche goes for either the Kentucky Wildcats or the UConn Huskies.

Tonight’s April 7th NCAA title game marks the end of the season for both squads. It’s also the culmination of one of the most exciting March Madness tournament’s in recent memory.

As of tomorrow April 8th, no other opportunity exists for either team to bring home the NCAA championship trophy.

In addition, this evening’s improbable championship game showdown pits a #8 seed against a #7 seed, showing the incredible parity that exists in college basketball.

Until tonight’s 9:10pm tip-off, college basketball fans will speculate if Kentucky can muster another last second comeback victory as they’ve done in their two previous games.

Other fans will ponder whether UConn’s talented and defensively disruptive guards will dominate the perimeter as they did against the Florida Gators’ back court in the national semifinal game.

Whoever wins, the winning team will certainly have earned the coveted hardware . Each team has overcome amazing obstacles to get to this stage in the tournament.

UConn overcame a three point deficit in the final minute of its game against St. Joseph’s when the Hawks even had possession of the ball.

And, all hoops fans know about Kentucky’s remarkable run against a stacked field of opponents. The Cats beat a tough Kansas State squad, undefeated #1 seed Wichita State, fierce rival Louisville, the seasoned Michigan Wolverines and a terrific Wisconsin team to advance to tonight’s title game.

There may literally and figuratively be “no tomorrow” after tonight as far as the NCAA tournament is concerned.

However, whoever wins this evening, both teams can celebrate tomorrow and in the years to come about their incredible success in this year’s March Madness.

Here’s hoping the madness continues for just one more night!

MIKE FREE Vol 1 March Madness ComicsClick on the purple cover above to safely download my FREE NCAA March Madness comic book.

MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!

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NCAA March Madness: Kentucky & Uconn To Play For All the Marbles

NCAA All The MarblesThese days, people don’t think about playing marbles.

Yet many years ago, playing marbles was popular. Despite the game’s disappearance, every serious athlete still knows what it means to “play for all the marbles.”

And, especially if you’re a member of the Kentucky Wildcats or Uconn Huskies playing for all the marbles, metaphorically speaking, is all you’ll be thinking about until 9:10pm on Monday night April 7th!

ironically, both of the storied college basketball programs failed to qualify for last year’s NCAA post-season tournament.

But, in this year’s Big Dance, mercurial Kentucky coach John Calipari and first year Connecticut coach Kevin Ollie will vie for tomorrow’s night’s coveted cup of gleaming marbles.

College basketball fans should expect another down-to-the-wire finish from Kentucky which advanced to tomorrow’s title game with another last second shot by a precocious freshman.

And, don’t count the Huskies out even though their more seasoned starting five doesn’t compare with the remarkable pedigree of Kentucky’s fabulous five freshmen starters.

Just like in this comic, confident coaches Calipari and Ollie will soon be directing their players’ attention to a figurative giant trophy labeled NCAA Championship.

With plenty of gleaming marbles piled high, it’s clear that this championship cup carries “all the marbles”.

And, tomorrow night’s March Madness championship game, both Kentucky and Uconn aspire to the take home the prize as both teams play their best “for all the marbles!”

MIKE FREE Vol 1 March Madness ComicsClick on the purple cover above to safely download my FREE NCAA March Madness comic book.

MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!

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The Undertaker of the WWE Featured in Deadly Sports Stuff

Here’s a chapter excerpt from my new sports comic book entitled Deadly Sports Stuff.

When it comes to reporting on deadly things in sports, the fake sport of professional wrestling conjures up the most frightening images.

Since 1993, Mark William Calaway has expertly embodied The Undertaker nickname and ranks as the most tenured WWE wrestler of all-time.

The Undertaker doesn’t need to use his famous Choke Slam, Hell’s Gate or Tombstone Pile Drive moves to be profiled in this book.

His success in the ring rather than his frightening nicknames earned him the #3 ranking in Deadly Sports Stuff.

MIKE Top 10 Book 7 Deadly Sports StuffOnce known by an assortment of macabre monikers like Big Evil, Mean Mark, Master of Pain, The Painkiller and Lord of Darkness, Kane the Undertaker debuted in the ring in 1993.

He eventually dropped the first name Kane and became simply The Undertaker. However, he kept his consistent mean and morbid persona and subsequently compiled impressive career earnings of approximately $16M, according to Celebrity Net Worth.

When entering the ring, Calaway has regularly appeared sporting deathly black eyelids and wearing long black medieval clothing.

At 6’ 10” and nearly 300 lbs, The Undertaker intimidates, then systematically and metaphorically buries all of his opponents.

As one of WWE’s most popular stars, this cadaver-like personality holds an unblemished 21 – 0 lifetime Wrestlemania record.

In addition, The Undertaker has captured 18 Wrestlemania titles in a row, the longest record in the history of the sport. He’s also an eight-time individual world champion and a six-time World Wrestling Federation tag team champion.

While becoming perhaps the best wrestler of his era, The Undertaker has employed a range of noteworthy signature moves.

Calaway has used his famous Choke Slam, Hell’s Gate and the Tombstone Pile Drive moves when competing in events specifically and appropriately named after him.  These deadly sounding sports events included The Casket Match, The Last Ride, The Buried Alive Match and Hell in a Cell.

On a personal level, the giant sized wrestler once played basketball at Texas Wesleyan University during the mid 80’s. Given his rough and tumble predilections, it’s easy to understand why Calaway has also become a huge MMA and boxing fan.

Ask.com defines an undertaker as someone who makes funeral arrangements in order to prepare a dead body for cremation or burial.

However, when it comes to sports, the WWE is dead on when it declares Mark William Calaway, arguably one of the greatest wrestlers of all-time, as The Undertaker in its fantastic fake sport.

MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!

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NCAA March Madness: Remembering Never Nervous Pervis Ellison

MIKE Comic 138 Never Nervous PervisOn the eve of this year’s NCAA Final Four, here’s a March Madness memory about a very precocious teenager. He became the hero of the championship game and earned one of the neatest and most appropriate nicknames in college sports history.

This piano, tuba and trombone-playing freshman probably gave his best performance ever, not with a musical instrument, but rather with a basketball in his hand.

He’s also my #8 in my book on all-time NCAA Basketball Favorites.

MIKE Sports Comic Book: NCAA Basketball FavoritesIn the final minute of the 1986 NCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship Game against favored Duke, Pervis Ellison became a star. He earned the iconic nickname Never Nervous Pervis for doing what most shy teenagers still wearing braces on their teeth could never do. He excelled under immense pressure on national television.

The 6’9” freshman grabbed a missed shot and scored with 38 seconds left in the title game. Then, he calmly converted both ends of a one and one free throw opportunity with just 11 seconds to go in the championship contest.

Ellison’s heroic performance sealed the NCAA Men’s National Basketball Championship for the University of Louisville and got him named Most Outstanding Player of the tournament. He also finished the Duke game with 25 points and 11 rebounds.

While other teenagers would probably struggle under such pressure, the very calm and confident Never Nervous Pervis excelled.

Even Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski recognized Ellison’s fantastic game by citing that the freshman was truly magnificent.

Ellison remained at Louisville for another three years. He finished his career as the only player in school history to total more than 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds. He was also Louisville’s all-time career shot blocker and had his #42 jersey retired in 1989.

Never Nervous Pervis Ellison graduated from Louisville and became the number one overall pick of the Sacramento Kings in the 1989 NBA Draft. Injuries unfortunately slowed Ellison’s NBA career. His best season was in 1991- 92 when he was voted the league’s Most Improved Player for posting averages of 20.0 points, 11.2 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game.

This Louisville star will always be remembered for his surprising heroics in the 1986 NCAA title game against Duke.

That’s when this calm and collected 18-year-old rightfully earned his never-to-be-forgotten basketball nickname – Never Nervous Pervis.

MIKE FREE Vol 1 March Madness ComicsClick on the purple cover above to safely download my FREE March Madness sports comic book.

MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!

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NCAA March Madness: Remembering Houston’s Phi Slamma Jamma

MIKE Comic 22 Phi Slamma JammaLet’s take a look down March Madness memory lane at arguably the greatest team to never win an NCAA title.

This fabulous squad electrified NCAA college basketball fans in the early 1980s.

NBA Hall of Famers Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler teamed with other long, athletic and talented basketball players at the University of Houston.

Together, they formed the fictional dunking fraternity known as Phi Slamma Jamma – the #3 choice in my sports comic book NCAA Basketball Favorites.

MIKE NCAA Bball Comic CoverHouston Post sportswriter Thomas Bonk first used the Phi Slamma Jamma nickname in 1982. This fun phrase replaced the less popular label of Texas’ Tallest Fraternity. It married the high flying dunking style of basketball with Greek fraternity life found on college campuses.

The University of Houston Cougars quickly adopted the splashy, new nickname. They even proudly displayed the name on the back of their warm-ups during games.

Phi Slamma Jamma teams were coached by legendary Guy V. Lewis who won 592 career NCAA games. Coach Lewis’ record included 27 consecutive winning seasons and five NCAA Final Four appearances.

During a time when college basketball coaches encouraged a more conservative style of play, Coach Lewis was a maverick. He shaped his athletic squads to use their speed, quickness and athleticism in a more wide open game.

Lewis even joked about how much he liked dunking because it was such a high percentage shot. Today, everyone dunks. Duh!

Under Coach Lewis, Phi Slamma Jamma appeared in three Final Fours between 1982 and 1984. However, they lost to the University of North Carolina in 1982, North Carolina State University in 1983 and Georgetown University in 1984.

In spite of the hype, the University of Houston Cougars team was made up of far more than dunkers who played frenetic playground style basketball.

Phi Slamma Jamma members Olajuwon, Drexler, Larry Micheaux, Benny Anders, Michael Young, Alvin Franklin and Reed Gettys could not only run and jump, but they could win, and win regularly.

In perhaps their best year, the Cougars held the nation’s number one ranking for most of the 1982- 83 season. The team built an impressive 31-2 record before advancing to the NCAA Championship game. They lost on an air ball shot that NC State’s Lorenzo Charles tipped in at the buzzer. Charles’ basket secured the late Jim Valvano his only NCAA championship.

The Houston Cougars pioneered a highly entertaining and energetic style of basketball that NCAA college basketball fans had never before seen. Because of their exciting, up-tempo play, the Cougars ushered in a new norm for NCAA college basketball.

In addition to their above the rim wizardry, these dunking, scoring and winning Cougars, best known as Phi Slamma Jamma, may be college basketball’s best team ever to never win an NCAA title.

MIKE FREE Vol 1 March Madness ComicsClick on the purple image above to safely download my FREE March Madness sports comic book.

MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!

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ESPN’s Ian Darke: The Velvet Voice of the 2014 World Cup

FIFA announcer Ian darke

ESPN Announcer Ian Darke

The velvet voice of international football’s (soccer’s) Ian Darke may still not be as universally popular in the United States as in other parts of the globe.

However, thanks to a new ESPN commercial, filmed in collaboration with the creative agency The Vault, Darke should immediately become better known in scores of American households in time for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil this June.

With a fantastic facility for words, this famous British broadcaster is beloved by soccer enthusiasts around the world.

In most parts of the planet, Darke’s international football fluency and legendary quintessentially British delivery mirror the enormous popularity of American born sportscasters Bob Costas, Al Michaels, Chris Berman, Vin Scully and Charles Barkley.

With the rapid, continued growth of soccer predicted here in the USA, so is the ascent of the sport’s premier sportscaster.

Darke’s broadcasting aplomb, coupled with excellent elocution and enunciation, make him ESPN’s perfect pick as the voice of their extended 2014 World Cup coverage.

ESPN’s clever commercial hints at Darke’s witty humor as well as his deft and brilliant understated delivery.

The razor sharp soccer sportscaster’s command of the English language as well as his poetic depictions of simple plays on the pitch make the soccer viewing experience that much more enjoyable. Fans will equate Darke’s delivery with Shakespearean like references.

With a microphone in Darke’s hand, the beautiful game sounds even more exquisite. Darke’s famous expressions like “a rapier thrust on the break” to describe a strong counter attack sounds like William the Braveheart leading the charge. His describing “football in a phone booth” immediately provides a spot on word picture of improper spacing on the pitch.

To him, a quick, easy pass made to look simple is a gentle flick. A great defender can pick the locks of any defense. And, contesting every blade of grass or straining every sinew are Darke’s way of translating for American viewers that the players are giving 100%.

Darke brings to life the eccentric terminology of international football.
His British syllabication (agane for again and bean for been) will have viewers mimicking him minutes into a match.

Plus, Darke’s eloquent vocabulary provides the ideal translation of weighted passes, clean sheets, equalizing goals, shots on frame, splashy kits, faster pace and bringing sides level in a way an uninitiated American audience can appreciate.

Ian Master is a master of his craft in international soccer reporting.

Expect an American viewing public to soon acknowledge this golden voice in the broadcasting booth.

MIKE FREE Vol 4 Soccer ComicsClick on the purple image above to safely download my FREE sports comic book on soccer.

MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!

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NCAA March Madness: Raining Threes

MRO 59 Raining 3sThis comic perfectly depicts sharpshooting basketball teams that excel at three point shots.

Check out their opponents. They stand helplessly under a giant umbrella as raining threes cascade upon them.

Differing shapes, sizes and colors of assorted rained down threes lead us to conclude that the opposing team’s three point shooters are really good.

To stymie the seemingly endless barrage of three pointers, the sheltered team in this comic needs better perimeter defense and not just a giant umbrella.

Otherwise, sportscasters will be quickly reporting this squad’s quick exit from the raining threes of March Madness.

Just ask the coaches of long range shooting squads like Creighton, Villanova, Duke, Michigan and Louisville. They proved that their three point mastery enabled them to enjoy successful regular seasons.

However, unlike the flummoxed defenders in this comic, their opponents figured out how to defend their three point excellence and eliminate them from this year’s tournament.

MIKE FREE Vol 1 March Madness ComicsClick on the purple cover above to safely download my FREE March madness comic book.

MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!

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