Cleveland Cavs’ LeBron James Says “I Stink!”

Miami Heat star LeBron James

The King LeBron James

“I stink.”

Four-time NBA MVP LeBron James uttered these words yesterday morning when peppered about his much ballyhooed Cleveland Cavaliers team’s recent four game skid.

James’ profoundly honest remark showed the greatness others are beginning to witness in this surreal sports superstar.

Unlike the hallow remarks of an arrogant Kobe Bryant or an immature Dwight Howard, James’ transparent words stood in stark contrast and echoed his excellent leadership. They commanded respect.

The King demonstrated true humility by making himself accountable.

LeBron James spoke up when his under performing team needed him, fully prepared to take any forthcoming heat. Then, LBJ took to the hardwood last night in Cleveland and screamed loudly and clearly with his performance.

Besides scoring 29 points in the Cavs’ rout of the Orlando Magic, James dished out 11 assists, collected 4 rebounds and made 3 steals. In addition, his vocal leadership with teammates last night on the court and in the huddle was extremely evident.

“I’m my biggest critic,” James said. “I wasn’t happy with my play the last week. No one puts any more pressure on me than myself. You go out and you just don’t talk about it, you show it too.”

For those who easily disparage James, take a moment and follow how Ohio’s favorite son has shouldered the responsibility for his team’s unexpected poor start.

Though slimmer in build this season, the King’s shoulders are still very broad and certainly strong enough to withstand any and all criticism directed his way.

He accepted blame, pinned it on himself and pledged that he needed to do much better.

And, last night, the King showed the basketball world that’s he’s not just the best player in the NBA, but a true leader who plays his best and leads by example when his team needs him most.

MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!

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Ref Bumping FSU QB Jameis Winston Should Play Other Sports Too

MIKE on Sports Badge

Assured that his behavior is nearly impervious to all reasonable forms of discipline, Florida State University QB Jameis Winston should focus on other sports, too.

The 2013 Heisman Trophy winner has discovered that neither his pushing of an ACC official this weekend nor his numerous reckless, immature actions away from the gridiron at Florida State aren’t subject to the same flags, fouls, faults, penalties, red cards and ejections that nearly every other college athlete on the planet faces.

Winston may have faced a paltry one game suspension earlier this season against ACC rival Clemson, but that’s peanuts compared to the discipline he’d face at other universities more concerned about the conduct of their athletes and reputations of their schools.

NFL officiating guru Mike Piereira and ESPN’s officiating expert both agreed that Winston should have been penalized and ejected for making contact with an official during his team’s close win over Boston College.

Even New York Post columnist Zach Braziller agreed and noted that the NCAA should suspend Winston for his ill-advised action to demonstrate that the FSU QB is not above the game.

But, once again, Winston skated away without a scratch.

That’s why Winston should broaden his horizons to other athletic endeavors at FSU where he could also be a star, while remaining oblivious to the lines on the field and boundaries away from them that his peers must respect and play within.

Based on the shameful, mollycoddled way FSU officials have treated Winston, the star QB should definitely play other sports.

In the spring, he should play more baseball for the Seminoles – because he’d probably never strike out.

He should also pick up tennis between baseball games – because he could double or triple fault on each serve and FSU officials would allow him to serve again.

Winston should take up golf too – because I’m certain that FSU would equip him with a pocket full of mulligans for all 18 holes.

He should definitely try hockey – because FSU boosters would immediately lock the penalty box door whenever he skated by.
He must try basketball – because it would be impossible for him to foul out of a game.

And, the teflon QB should give the high jump a shot – because Florida State will never the set the bar high enough for him to miss an attempt.

Sure, Winston has apologized to his teammates and FSU fans for his inappropriate conduct. But, who now actually thinks this self-absorbed, reckless kid will ever learn?

He may have mentioned that he’s already purposed to overcome the adversity that he’s caused. However, the tone deaf athlete still needs to unplug his ears and start marching to the beat of a different drummer.

Otherwise, he may never be able to play a sport again, not even football, for Florida State.

MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!

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ESPN’s NBA Announcer Doris Burke Knows Her Stuff

NBA announcer Doris Burke

ESPN’s Doris Burke

Recognized as a pioneer in the broadcast booth, Doris Burke has risen to the top of her profession as a sportscaster.

This articulate, knowledgeable and insightful broadcaster knows her stuff. She regularly shares her brilliant basketball mind during NBA, WNBA and college hoops coverage on ESPN and rightly deserves her place among the guys.

Burke got her start as a basketball radio analyst in 1990, but basketball was already in her blood.

Few round ball fans know that Burke excelled as a Big East point guard for the Providence Friars in the 1980’s. A 2000 inductee into the school’s athletic Hall of Fame, Burke was known as an aggressive and heady player during her college years.

In 1986, Doris was named Providence College’s female athlete of the year. She graduated from the New England school as holder of seven individual records for free throws and assists.

Immediately following her playing days, Doris ventured into broadcast journalism. She credits her former husband Gregg who encouraged her to embark upon an improbable career as a sportscaster in an industry overwhelmingly – and perhaps exclusively – dominated by men.

But, Burke’s poise, strength and talent in the booth became immediately evident. Her keen insight and spot on basketball commentary were soon recognized and got her the gig as the first female to ever cover the New York Knicks and Big East college basketball games.

This trailblazing woman had made her mark and certainly deserved sharing the courtside microphone with respected male counter parts.

In 2003, Burke’s smooth delivery and likeable personality earned her the Rudy Award for best new face in sports television. Sure, she was an attractive face, but her confidence and astute basketball analysis are what gained her fans.

Besides smashing through the glass ceiling in college and pro basketball reporting, Burke has emerged as one of the top five overall basketball analysts at ESPN. She covers marquee college hoops match-ups, calls key NBA games and serves as the lead commentator for the WNBA.

In 2013, ESPN recognized her basketball knowledge and sports casting excellence when it named her studio host, along with Jalen Rose and Avery Johnson, for the network’s KIA NBA Countdown.

ESPN’s Jeff Van Gundy brazenly gushed that Doris Burke is not just the best woman broadcaster, she’s the best broadcaster period. That’s a bold endorsement from a venerable basketball guru.

Doris is substance over style. She radiates smooth over schmaltz. She reveals her worth as far more than an attractive sideline reporter.

She’s shines brightly as an accomplished basketball analyst who’s rendered gender irrelevant in NBA reporting. Without doubt, she’s paved the way for other deserving, talented female sportscasters in an entrenched male dominated profession.

Read more about Doris Burke and other famous talking heads in Favorite Sportscasters – available for only 99 cents on Amazon.

MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!

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#TBT Sports Blog: NFL Minister of Defense Reggie White

NFL Hall of Famer Reggie White

Minister of Defense Reggie White

Today’s #TBT Sports Blog features one of my favorite NFL players ever because of his incredible career and unforgettable nickname.

During his 15-year career, the imposing defensive lineman known as the Minister of Defense delivered his football version of a fire and brimstone sermon by the way he dominated opposing offenses.

He’s also #5 in my book Spiritual Sports Favorites.

An ordained Evangelical pastor, Reggie White embodied his befitting Minister of Defense nickname. Whenever he set foot on the football field, he constantly administered defensive pressure; and when away from the gridiron, he tirelessly catered to the needs of inner-city youth and those less fortunate through his work as a Christian minister.

NFL.com rated White as the #7 NFL player of all-time, and his storied career validates the lofty choice.

White graduated from the University of Tennessee in 1984 after being named SEC Player of the Year during his senior season. The Minister of Defense then played two years in the now defunct USFL with the Memphis Showboats, earning the 1985 USFL Man of the Year Award.

After the USFL folded, White proceeded to the NFL and starred for the Philadelphia Eagles (1985 – 1992) and Green Bay Packers (1993 – 1998) before retiring in 2000 after his final season with the Carolina Panthers.

During his NFL career, this Minister of Defense played as if his bully pulpit was his unstoppable bull rush into the offensive backfield. Plus, he reaped an earthly award by winning a 1997 Super Bowl XXXL title with the Green Bay Packers.

The Minister of Defense proved why he personified his respected title. He was awarded the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in both 1987 and 1998 and was named 1st team All-Pro 10 times.

White ended his career as the NFL’s all-time sack leader with 198, a record subsequently broken by Bruce Smith of the Buffalo Bills. White also became a first ballot NFL Hall of Fame inductee in 2006.

Sadly, the Minister of Defense answered to a heavenly calling when he passed away prematurely from a respiratory disease in 2004.

Reggie White is best memorialized by former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, “Reggie White was a gentle warrior who will be remembered as one of the greatest defensive players in NFL history.

Equally as impressive as his achievements on the field was the positive impact he made off the field and the way he served as a positive influence on so many young people.”

And all football fans say, “Amen.”

MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!

Hockey’s Zamboni: Baddest Sports Vehicle on Planet

MIKE Comic 106 ZamboniBecause of the tremendous response to yesterday’s blog on the blue line, I’m prompted to focus on hockey again today.

Here’s a fun filled piece on my favorite vehicle in sports.

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

Who hasn’t yearned to climb behind the wheel of this giant tractor and take charge on the ice.

Perhaps the baddest sports maintenance vehicle on the planet, the Zamboni reaches its top speed at just a mere 9 miles per hour.

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

In addition, the monster machine sprays and then squeegees 140 degree water and transforms once rutted and scarred ice into a shimmering surface that mirrors polished glass.

Founded by Frank J. Zamboni in Southern California in 1949, the Zamboni ice resurfacing machine has become the standard throughout arenas around the world.

Approximately 200 custom made machines, at a price of $75,000 each, are manufactured each year.

The Zamboni’s iconic fame has extended beyond the boards of the hockey rinks it resurfaces. In the classic sitcom Cheers, Carla’s husband Eddie supposedly got run over by a Zamboni.

And, in a Peanuts comic strip, a fictional miniature Zamboni once cleaned the ice in a birdbath for Snoopi’s pal Woodstock

This heavy duty “bad to the boni” machine is dear to all who have watched it perfectly restore chunks and grooves in previously pock marked ice.

All the while these same hockey fans were dreaming they were ones behind the wheel of the Zamboni chugging down the ice at a speed most people walk…backward.

MIKE - thee ultimate talking head on sports!

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Why is Hockey’s Blue Line Painted Blue?

the blue line

Hockey’s blue line.

As we head into the height of hockey season, there’s something that I’ve always yearned to know about the sport.

I understand that in hockey games two blue lines proportionately divide the rink into three equal zones, thus separating the offensive and defensive ends from the center-ice or neutral zone.

In addition, I’m aware that these blue lines are important in determining whether a player is off-sides. That occurs when an offensive player crosses the opposition’s blue line and enters the offensive zone before the puck arrives.

However, what I didn’t know has always bugged me. Why paint these lines blue? And, what specific shade of blue are they?

It took some digging to locate the answers. The NHL specifically chose PMS 286 Classic Blue for the two 12” thick lines that extend the width of the ice and are located 60 feet from each goal.

Most hockey fans have long believed that the blue lines are PMS 282 Navy Blue which has a similar hue. But, Classic Blue is actual color.

However, what I could not determine is why blue was the color chosen. So, can anyone explain to me why the lines are painted blue and not purple or orange or green?

For the sake of ease, why didn’t the hockey hierarchy or even the rink people just paint them red like most of the other lines on the ice?

I’m sure many other sports fans like me have often pondered these same questions because the blue line is the same color blue in every NHL arena, Hockey East venue and youth hockey rink.

My inquisitive nature even spawned another simple, but poignant question that may arouse your my hockey curiosity, too.

What Canadian a century ago made himself king and said, “Aay, I hate purple, orange and green, so let’s paint the dang line blue!”
Exactly who was the guy and did anyone ever challenge him?
Furthermore, my digging into hockey’s blue line decision led me to another determination.
Hockey’s blue line can be very prejudicial.
How the heck do you tell a color blind kid to skate like the dickens to the blue line when he couldn’t even tell you if a stop sign is red?
You know I personally like the color blue, but let’s be fair here.
Did purple, orange or green ever have a chance?
MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports.
MIKE Sports Comic: Hockey Footer

NFL Instant Replay: Anything But Instant

NFL instant replay

Football’s instant replay is anything but instant!

Allow me to start my work week by venting over the endless and agonizing stoppages in play during NFL games.

NFL instant replay is anything but instant. Actually, it’s probably one of the most agonizing experiences in all of sports.

The NFL instant replay process irks me even more than multiple pitching changes in the late innings of a baseball game or the proliferation of timeouts during the final two minutes of a college or NBA basketball game.

Football fans can read thousands of pages of Congressional legislation – twice – faster than a ref can sort out the very same play that he and his NFL officiating crew just witnessed live only a few moments ago. Just how difficult can it be to make a decision?

Ironically, fans at home will raid the refrigerator, hit the head and update their fantasy picks, only to find themselves stewing on the sofa as the zebra clad man in charge slowly and seriously studies replays from every conceivable angle under a cloaked hood.

His decision should be easy, but it’s NOT.

The actions of the main man in stripes always seems slower than that of a slug’s.

Exactly what’s the ref doing under that black curtain? Checking emails? Watching ESPN Sports Center? Tweezing unwanted facial hairs Calling Domino’s for a post-game delivery?

Or, reading an unabridged edition of War and Peace?

NFL brass needs to act fast, or instantly, to bring the instant back into instant replay.

Otherwise, impatient football fans like me, God forbid, start watching soccer instead.

MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!

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Executioner Bernard Hopkins No Longer Ageless Wonder in Ring

The Executioner Bernard Hopkins

Boxing’s The Executioner Bernard Hopkins

49 year-old boxing champ Bernard Hopkins has gone by a handful of nicknames during his long and successful career.

B-Hop, The Alien, Ageless Wonder and The Executioner have been colorful monikers tied to the seemingly ageless boxer.

However, before 8,545 fans last night at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, NJ, the badly beaten B-Hop will now be tagged with new nicknames of a more timeworn and antiquated nature.

The oldest boxer to ever win a world title, defend a title and unify a weight division looked every bit the 50 year-old he will become in just two months. He was decisively defeated.

B-Hop had little “hop” in his step, seemed like a lost “alien” in the ring and got “executed” by a much younger and superior fighter. Knocked down in the 1st round and pummeled throughout the fight, it was a miracle Hopkins survived without being knocked out.

Undefeated Sergey Kovalev totally dominated Hopkins and retained his light heavyweight belt. The heavy-handed Kovalev remains unbeaten in his career at 26 – 0 -1 with 23 KO’s.

Last night, the “Krusher” as the Russian is called, scored the widest margin of victory ever against the highly respected Executioner.

Kovalev won every round on the three judges’ scorecards and even landed 38 punches on B-Hop in the 12th and final round.

According to CompuBox, Kovalev connected on 166 of 585 punches, while the much elder Hopkins only landed 65 of the 196 he threw.

At times, it was tough to watch the one time Ageless Wonder in the ring with the stronger, faster and far more powerful Kovalev.

In the past, the mere mention of Hopkins’ Executioner nickname would have made most people too fearful to shadow box against him.

For three decades, the now former Light Heavyweight Champ Bernard Hopkins perfectly personified his Executioner nickname. He not only executed his fight plan, but he also defeated 55 formidable opponents he faced between the ropes.

However, neither was the case last night for the Executioner.
Hopkins’ defeat now leaves many fight fans to wonder just how many more times the once Ageless Wonder will step back into the ring.

If he fights again, an even older B-Hop will probably succumb to another younger and more resilient opponent.

Hopkins will more than likely resemble a lost, displaced “alien” in the ring than the confident, successful Executioner that boxing fans would like to remember him.

It’s now time, B-Hop. Don’t seek to satisfy your ego and prove the doubters wrong. Please retire. Undefeated Father Time is an opponent you will never beat.

MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!

MIKE Sports Comic: Boxing Footer

Favorite Sportscasters: PTI’s Wilbon & Kornheiser

ESPN's PTI

PTI hosts Tony Kornheiser & Michael Wilbon

ESPN claims that sparring sportscasters Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon have made their PTI, or Pardon The Interruption, show the most successful of its kind in sports television.

Without doubt, the PTI show features two of the brightest and most entertaining former sportswriters who’ve ever found their way into a television broadcast studio.

So, as Tony Kornheiser likes to say, “Let me axe you something.”

Can any sports fan possibly name a better sports talk show?

What American sports fan doesn’t tune into PTI while preparing their nightly meal?

And, to borrow another likeable line from the show, “who’s ya boy!”

Is it Tony or Michael? Or, like me, are you a fan of them both, but not necessarily at the same time?

Who doesn’t side with the snarky Kornheiser one night only to flip-flop and support the more polished Wilbon the next night?

Since Pardon The Interruption debuted in October, 2001, the dueling duo has recorded more than 2,500 thirty minute episodes in a studio decked out with cardboard cutouts, bobble heads and memorabilia of famous sports celebrities.

Kornheiser and Wilbon agreed in May 2014 to continue their colorful quarreling and non-stop banter about sports for another few years.

Both signed multi-year contract extensions with ESPN and will host the network’s PTI program as well as contribute in other ways.

The razor sharp team also forms my #2 pick in my new sports comic book Favorite Sportscasters.

Favorite Sportscasters

The Kornheiser and Wilbon pair entertains, educates and energizes sports conversation each night with dinner time commentary on ESPN.
These talking heads are smart, savvy and well versed about all things pertaining to sports. Each cut his teeth in sports journalism at the Washington Post.

Born in 1958, the Northwestern alum Wilbon retired from the Post in December 2010 after decades covering college, MLB, NBA, NFL, Super Bowls and 10 Olympic Games.

In addition, Wilbon penned a column about the culture of sports for the Washington Post. He’s also edited Charles Barkley’s two latest books Who’s Afraid of a Big Black Man and I May be Wrong But I Doubt It. Both books were New York Times bestsellers.

The elder Kornheiser (born in 1948) graduated from Binghamton University and got his start in journalism writing for Newsday in New York and then the New York Times before honing his craft as an opinionated, sarcastic columnist with a touch of humor for the Washington Post.

Kornheiser also enjoyed national fame for two years in the broadcast booth on ESPN Monday Night Football. He still hosts his own radio show and retired as a writer and columnist after spending 20 years with the Post.

Peppered by clever questions by straight man Tony Reali, Kornheiser and Wilbon play off each other perfectly in the ESPN studio. They add insight, angst and color to expertly scripted segments Mail Time, Toss Up and Over / Under.

PTI is emblematic of bar room banter, work place chatter and casual conversation about sports covering all walks of life in America.

Sports fans may not like Kornheiser (which I can totally understand) or Wilbon (which I can’t fathom at all), but everyone agrees this pair knows its stuff.

Researched, passionate and poise, they deliver sports debate better than any duo in the broadcast booth.

As Wilbon said, “Tony and I agree more than we disagree,” he said. “We just get there loudly.”

Wilbon is absolutely correct. So, don’t forget that, Knuckleheads!

MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!

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Finger Pointing & Tongue Wagging Dominating Sports News

MIKE on Sports Badge

Taunting, finger pointing and tongue wagging have been dominating sports headlines lately.

Instead of focusing on their specific jobs, some well known sports personalities have directed their energy in non-productive ways.

When they should be comporting themselves as respected sports celebrities, they’ve acted as tawdry as the Kardashians and become as guttural as the Real Housewives of New Jersey.

For sports fans like me, their attitudes are tough to take. Their behavior has been foolish and not the least bit entertaining.

As a sportswriter myself, I desire actual sports action when tuning into a game or race. I don’t want to hear about or watch multimillionaire athletes, sportscasters and NASCAR teams behaving like 11-year-olds squabbling and squawking in the schoolyard.

I’ve had enough. The woofing we’ve witnessed within the past couple weeks has been both pathetic. For example:

We’ve watched the always irritable Kobe Bryant snipe and snarl at former teammate Dwight Howard. When Bryant should have been focusing on leading his salary-cap depleted team to its first victory this NBA season, he was childishly chastising a chiseled 6’11” specimen who could squash him like a grape in an instant.

We’ve laughed at the pit road ruckus at last week’s AAA Texas 500 involving the beer bellied race team members for Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski. Now, how funny would it have been to see several overweight grease monkeys chase each other around a NASCAR track and actually throw a punch or two.

We’ve witnessed ESPN’s talking heads Bill Simmons and Mike Golic brandish their bravado from the broadcast booth. Then, these two out-of-shape weenies preened like peacocks and cackled like cocksure combatants in a war of words on Twitter.

And, we’ve painfully put up with the needless bickering between the Cavs’ LeBron James and Kyrie Irving as well as the Bears’ Brandon Marshall and the litany of guys he regularly lashes out at in Chicago.

Come on, guys, grow up.

Can’t you see how petty and silly it is to stoop to such immaturity?

Maybe as fans we should forget the basketball court, football field, NASCAR track and broadcast booth and bring out the octagon, drag in the wrestling mats and set up the boxing rings.

Let these malcontents settle their differences “mano to mano” instead of taunting, barking and exercising vocal chords. It’s getting tiresome.

That way we can all return to turning on the tube or the radio to watch or listen to actual sports.

MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!

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#TBT Sports Blog: William “The Refrigerator” Perry

The Fridge

William The Refrigerator Perry

Today’s #TBT sports blog focuses on my favorite football “appliance” of all-time who once uttered this clever phrase, “Even when I was little, I was big.”

These words were spoken by the likeable, extra-large William The Refrigerator Perry, one of the most beloved big men to ever wear an NFL football jersey.

No one really knows who gave Perry, #4 in my sports comic book titled NFL Favorites, his Refrigerator nickname. But, it’s not hard to guess how the big fella got it.

NFL Favorites

Teammates would tell stories about Perry’s ability to eat huge amounts of food. And, everyone thought his big, square shaped body looked like a refrigerator.

The Refrigerator, or Fridge for short, became an instant NFL fan favorite. The Chicago Bears drafted him as a defensive lineman out of Clemson with the 22nd pick of the first round of the NFL Draft.

However, Perry became famous when Bears coach Mike Ditka unexpectedly used him as a fullback on short yardage and goal line situations.

At 6’2” and 375 lbs. the extra-sized Perry was not only a pile-driving blocker out of the backfield. He was surprisingly nimble for a man of his size. The Refrigerator was certainly not a gimmick because he scored five touchdowns for the Bears out of the backfield.

Perry played for ten seasons in the NFL. He did not develop into the dominant defensive force the Bears hoped he would become. Perry’s career spanned 138 games in which he totaled 29.5 sacks.

The Refrigerator’s career highlight occurred in 1986 when the Chicago Bears dismantled the New England Patriots 46 – 10 to capture Super Bowl XX.

As a bit of NFL trivia, Perry’s Super Bowl ring had to be specially made. The extra large ring needed to fit his ring size of 25, making his the largest Super Bowl ring ever.

After retirement, the entertaining Perry continued to live large in the eyes of sports fans. The Refrigerator went on to perform in Worldwide Wrestling Federation and professional boxing celebrity matches.

The Refrigerator also promoted his own barbeque sauce, recorded his own rap songs and served as a substitute for a Lingerie Football League game. He even entered Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Championships.

Whatever the likeable William Perry did on or off the football field, he always did it with a smile.

Fortunately, the popular Perry is still grinning despite reckless, unfounded reports of his death in 2013.

Perry also did everything in a very big way – just like the heavy duty kitchen appliance he was named after – The Refrigerator.

MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!

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Rooting For Anybody But! A Sports Fan’s Right

MIKE Vintage logo

Sports is a universal phenomena. It transcends religion, cuts through cultural ties, eludes ethnicity, ignores bank accounts, doesn’t care about political affiliation and fails to distinguish between sex, weight, height, age and even familial bonds.

Your favorite team is your favorite team – not your dad’s, your sister’s or even that of your spouse. Your inalienable right as a sports fan is to root for whomever you want.

Sure, your choice may defy logic, strain family ties, break stereotypes and shatter urban myths. But it’s still your choice, one that should never be forced upon you at any time.

The right to root for your team and your favorite player is buried deep down in your DNA. It’s your privilege, your prerogative in spite of what others think or say.

Not only is it your right to choose your favorite team, but I propose it’s also a God-given sports right to cheer against another team. That’s why I am gloating over the Los Angeles Lakers 0 – 5 start to the NBA season.

It’s healthy and even cathartic to vent your sports fan frustration toward bitter rivals who have beat up on your boys too often in the past or carry themselves in a far too confident manner. Articulating your angst by deciding “Anybody, but…” is what’s Best About Sports.

For example, it’s OK if the continued, unabated success of college programs like Duke and Kentucky basketball or Alabama and USC football ruffle your feathers.

It’s understandable if the 27 World Series Championships that New York Yankees fans routinely bring up in baseball conversation makes your blood start to boil.

It’s alright if the preponderance of championship banners hanging over the courts at Staples Center in Los Angeles or TD Bank North Garden in Boston cause you to grind your teeth.

It’s a part of the game when storied soccer teams like Manchester United, FC Barcelona and Real Madrid spend boat loads of cash to consistently attract the top talent in the world and make you want to scream as your local club wallows in mediocrity.

Hey, maybe the original America’s Team (the Dallas Cowboys), the wanna-be America’s Team (the New England Patriots) or the most likely choice from Titletown for what should be America’s Team (the Green Bay Packers) give you indigestion at the sound of their names.

No worries, man! Just ease up. Flip on ESPN Sports Center and relax.

It’s perfectly okay to blow off some steam. Remember that you’re just fine. Allow that cup of sports angst to spill over as much and as long as you want.

Remember, it’s your Constitutional sports right to root for – or against – any team from any town at anytime. That’s why this chapter belongs in my FREE sports comic book Best About Sports.

FREE Best About Sports

In my house, the sports motto has always been, “Anybody but…”

MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!

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Chris Botti’s ESPN Monday Night Football National Anthem

MIKE Small Circular Badge

Attending a big game is always exciting.

Feeling the excitement of the action or experiencing the pulsating pressure only steps away from the court, field, pitch or ice are definitely reasons to celebrate.

Professional sports teams and big-time college athletic programs are rapidly evolving into modern day versions of the famed Barnum and Bailey Circus. These pro teams and college programs eagerly compete for sports fans’ entertainment dollars.

Lots of time, talent, creativity and money are invested to ensure fans at the big game enjoy the experience and feel compelled to return to these modern sports world’s big top known as arenas and stadiums.

Not only do pro and college teams spend handsomely to choreograph in-game entertainment, but they also plan carefully in scripting pregame festivities to captivate fans.

And pregame entertainment doesn’t get any better than what ESPN Monday Night Football coverage provided from Met Life Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ last night.

Chris Botti’s magnificent trumpet rendition of our nation’s National Anthem before an NFL game’s opening kickoff was superb.

Following a gorgeous piano intro, the trumpeter’s brilliant solo brought many spectators, and even Indianapolis Colts’ WR Reggie Wayne, to tears.

Viewers watching on ESPN witnessed a sensational celebration of our country’s national pride. Fans, players and coaches stood at attention with hands over hearts. Volunteers helped unfurl then hold in place a giant stars and stripes at midfield. And, everyone in attendance stood in silence and watched, listened and appreciated Botti’s incredible trumpet tribute.

In capping off the National Anthem performance, ESPN offered a panoramic, aerial view of Met Life Stadium with fireworks exploding and then cascading into the crystal clear night.

Even before the ESPN Monday Night Football opening kickoff, last night’s game coverage was amazing. It made every fan proud in attendance or watching at home to be an American.

http://uproxx.com/sports/2014/11/here-is-the-magnificent-national-anthem-from-monday-night-football/

Thanks, ESPN and Chris Botti, for making last night special.

MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!

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FREE Sports Comic Book: Favorite Football Cliches

blue collar For a fun way to kick off the work week safely download my FREE Football Comics book.

It’s a collection of 25 clever football comics that bring to life familiar football terms and lampoon old gridiron clichés.

A bit of football history and trivia accompanies each comic.

Inside, you’ll learn the history of the Heisman Trophy and the origin of the Greatest Show on Turf.

You’ll enjoy reading about one of the brightest, but oft-injured, new NFL stars – RGIII – and the greatest play in NFL history – the Immaculate Reception.

You’ll speculate how the Hail Mary Pass defies statistical probability.

Plus, you’ll witness how football teams fail to win games because they figuratively shoot themselves in the foot.

You’ll smile at iconic football nicknames like Cheeseheads, Touchdown Jesus and Minister of Defense.

And, you’ll cringe at arcane football expressions that are still in use today like telegraphing the pass and circling the wagons.

You’ll laugh when talented corner backs apply actual blanket coverage on opposing receivers and cagey players literally steal a play from the other team’s playbook.

The impenetrable Steel Curtain may make you feel a bit restrained and a frightening buzz saw may motivate you to prepare for challenges and avoid running into to one yourself.

Whether you root for a blue collar team or a really young team, you’ll want to play your tail off at gut check time.

So, before the kicker tacks on the extra point, it’s time to step up and check out this FREE Football Comics book.

MIKE FREE Sports Comic Books

That’s right! Hurry up and read this book before your opponent drives that proverbial final nail in your coffin.

Check out these Free Football Comics as well as the XOXO’s of football’s favorite cliches. Read on and you’ll see what I mean.

MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!

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Sports Royalty: Team Nicknames

sports teams with royal names

At the college level and throughout the professional ranks, clever team nicknames flood the landscape of sports.

These unique names capture the essence of the city their team represents or personify a school’s history, geography or tradition.

Plus, they can be both educational as well as entertaining.

Team names cover the spiritually themed: Saints, Demons, Friars, Bishops and Crusaders. They also comprise the animal kingdom with names like the Gators, Mustangs, Bears, Eagles and Buffaloes.

Even weather centric references like Hurricanes, Gaels, Cyclones, Storm and Tornadoes make up another clever collection of intimidating team names.

However, at #10, the noblest category of team names rightfully starts Favorite Sports Royalty.

Favorite Sports Royalty

With its sovereign assortment of majestic monikers, royal names reign supreme over both college and pro sports.

In this chapter, we pay homage to cleverly coined teams who metaphorically sit on thrones, oversee estates, govern nations, lead countries into battle or preside as potentates over geographic areas.

The world of sports furnishes us with kings, barons, knights, chiefs, dukes, dons, lords and other governing authorities.

In the college ranks, we look no further than Durham, NC where the NCAA’s Duke University calls home. The mighty Blue Devils, or Dukies, have wielded their power and authority over college basketball as a genuine duke would preside over his people.

In addition to Duke, there are plenty of other regal names that surface in college sports. You’ll find Monarchs from Old Dominion University, Lord Jeffs at Amherst College, Dons from the University of San Francisco, Regals from Cal Lutheran and even more Dukes from James Madison University.

You’ll even find Barons from at least three schools and seven teams nicknamed Royals from assorted colleges and universities.

Plus, let’s not forget the Knights. They may rank at the bottom of the royal, noble and chivalric order, but they’re regals nonetheless.

In college sports, warring knights actually comprise a diverse palette of colors. Schools range from Scarlet Knights at Rutgers, to Blue Knights at Urbana (OH) College, to Golden Knights at the University of Central Florida and finally to Black Knights at West Point.

Even the sport of kings, horse racing, is represented in the college ranks with the regal Thoroughbreds from Murray State.

Not to be outdone, as king of the jungle, the Lion is the nickname of choice for 11 NCAA sports teams.

At the professional level, there is no shortage of kingly or royal names either. And, Kansas City seems to have cornered the market on nicknames involving crowns or royal headgear.

The city’s pride, the NFL Chiefs, signifies royalty among Indians. But, Kansas City proudly boasts Major League Baseball’s Royals, too.

Ironically, the town’s former NBA franchise was known as the Kansas City Kings. That regal title is now taken by the league’s Western Conference team known as the Sacramento Kings.

The Kings nickname finds its way on the front of NHL jerseys, too. It‘s fitting that hockey’s greatest player ever, Wayne Gretzky or the Great One, wore a Los Angeles Kings jersey at the end of his career.

In international football or soccer, a sports fan needn’t look far to acknowledge two of the most majestic and noble names that dominate the world’s most glorious game.

Chelsea in London, with its 100 year-old tradition, has changed its badges (patches worn on shirts) over the years. However, the genesis of the team’s nickname, the Blues, has always remained.

The Blues name derives from not only the team’s royal blue uniforms. But, it also is recognized by the image of the badge’s lion which is emblematic of the Viscount of Chelsea, one of the royal families governing London in the early 1900s.

The jewel in the crown of royal nicknames belongs to Real Madrid. A regular UEFA Champions League contender, it’s the home team to some of the greatest FIFA footballers in the world like Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Sergio Ramos, Xabi Alonso and Luka Modric.

In addition, Forbes Magazine valued Real Madrid as the world’s most valuable sports franchise at a staggering $3.3 Billion.

Now, that’s a king’s ransom!

In addition, it’s a primary reason why regal team nicknames start this book Favorite Sports Royalty.

MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!

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NCAA Football Success: Sticking to the Game Plan

MRO 15 Stick to Game PlanElmer’s Glue, Scotch Tape and Velcro can be critically important to understand the next overly used sports cliché.

Without these essential supplies, we can easily see how not “sticking to the game plan” can be detrimental to an NCAA football team’s success.

Coaches like Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen, Auburn’s Gus Malzahn, Notre Dame’s Brian Kelley and Alabama’s Nick Sagan spend untold hours with their assistant coaches constructing game plans to put their teams in the best position to win.

If their players fail to follow the simple instructions, their team’s chances of winning the game are jeopardized.

Too bad that #3 in this comic slipped off the page of his team’s game plan! The tape on his helmet and paper clip on his leg just didn’t do what they were supposed to do.

The coach in this comic sporting the Bear Bryant inspired fedora is admonishing his player for failing to do what was instructed during the pre-game pep talk.

He’s even pulling some extra tape from the dispenser to adhere to his player, so that #3 can better stick to the team’s game plan!

The comic may exaggerate #3’s mistake, but it proves just how important “sticking to the game plan” can be for an NCAA football team’s success.

MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!

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LeBron James: Did NBA King Leave His Talents in Miami?

Miami Heat star LeBron James

The King LeBron James

LeBron James may have taken his talents to South Beach several years ago, but, based on last night’s much ballyhooed home opener in Cleveland, it appeared as if James unintentionally left his surreal basketball skills behind in the Sunshine State.

The normally resplendent King looked like a mere commoner in the Cavaliers surprising loss to an average New York Knicks squad. With 5 for 15 shooting and an uncharacteristic eight turnovers, James seemed out of sorts on the floor with his new teammates.

A highly energized LeBron James may have embraced his historic return to Ohio; however, his play was simply pedestrian. He was unrefined, not regal. He looked knobby and not the least bit noble.

Fans, which have come to expect brilliance on a nightly basis from the four-time NBA MVP and two-time champion, witnessed the NBA’s Witness bumble his way through coach Dave Blatt’s new office. The best basketball player on the planet simply had an “off” night.

The electric Cleveland crowd left a beautifully revamped Quicken Loans Arena deflated by a sloppy opening night loss and few LBJ highlights to admire on the Q’s massive new scoreboard.

Even celebrity onlookers Usher, Justin Bieber and Johnny Manziel exited the Q underwhelmed by the King’s vapid performance. It appeared as if the only things James did well last night were starring in his new, much hyped Nike commercial and bringing back his pre-game chalk toss ritual.

However, last night was only the first of an arduous 82 game slate for the Cavs. There is no need to panic in Ohio just yet. The savior of the city, really region, will find his form and will ultimately gel with stars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. The accomplished and competitive James will quickly return to his royal form.

LeBron haters, Miami Heat fans and those who habitually criticize can frolic in the King’s rough start on TNT last night. But, make no mistake. Ohio’s native son, who forsook his homeland for a spell, has returned.

James has brought back his incomparable talents, his heart for Ohio and, most importantly, his unquenchable desire for a professional sports championship that Cleveland has not enjoyed since 1964.

MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!

#TBT Halloween Sports Blog: The Nigerian Nightmare

former Kansas City Chiefs RB Nigerian Nightmare Christian Okoye

The Nigerian Nightmare Christian Okoye

NFL defensive players lost plenty of sleep the night before they faced this Enugu, Nigeria native on the football field.

Unlucky for them, he’s the focus of today’s special #TBT Halloween sports blog. He’s also #5 in my book Scary Sports Comics.

Former Kansas City Chiefs running back Christian Okoye’s incredible combination of size, athleticism and strength instilled intense fear into those he faced on the football field. That fear earned him the nickname Nigerian Nightmare.

And rightfully so! The quick and fast 6’ 1” and 265 lb. running back regularly ran over or shed most would-be tacklers. A two-time Pro Bowl selection, Okoye led the NFL in rushing in 1989. He was also named AFC Offensive Player of the Year.

The 1991 video game Tecmo Super Bowl popularized Okoye’s punishing running style by featuring the Chiefs ball-carrier as impossible to tackle.

Until a nagging knee injury pre-maturely ended his career in 1992, the Nigerian Nightmare played six NFL seasons. He scored 40 touchdowns and averaged a respectable 3.9 yards per carry.

Ironically, Okoye got his football start strictly by happenstance. He was a seven-time college track and field champion in the shot put, discus and hammer throw at Azusa Pacific.

#35 only reluctantly joined the school’s football team after his native Nigeria overlooked him for a spot on its Summer Olympic Team.

In addition to his track and field accolades, the NFL awarded Okoye the 1988 Ed Block Award for inspiration, sportsmanship and courage.

Christian Okoye may have been a nightmare for defenders to bring down on the football field.

But, this Nigerian Nightmare’s electric smile, gentle spirit and engaging personality have served him well off the gridiron where his life plays out more like a pleasant dream.

MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!

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A Crucial Catch: NFL’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month

NFL A Crucial Catch

Thanks again to the NFL for making A Crucial Catch.

The league’s A Crucial Catch campaign will conclude at the end of the month, and the NFL needs to be acknowledged for its support of this critical cause each October.

Media and fans have been quick to criticize the NFL for the botched manner in which it unintentionally handled some of the egregious off-field incidents of its players.

From the Josh Gordon suspension to the Ray Rice fiasco, America’s most successful professional sports league has been microscopically evaluated on every decision it’s made and action it’s undertaken.

Despite many valid criticisms, the NFL needs to be recognized for the positive social message it annually evangelizes on behalf of the American Cancer Society with its A Crucial Catch marketing campaign.

Since 2009, the NFL has designated October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month and has actively promoted the distinct symbol of a pink ribbon entwined with its iconic logo.

During the month, NFL players are allowed to skirt the normally stringent NFL uniform standards by donning pink gloves, cleats and socks. The league also sells officially licensed NFL pink merchandise and even auctions off player gear to raise funds for cancer research.

By promoting the pink ribbon and encouraging players to wear pink apparel on the football field, the NFL has publicly, and admirably, promoted a most worthy social cause.

All 32 NFL teams actively participate in this month long promotion.

In partnership with the American Cancer Society, A Crucial Catch raises awareness for early detection of breast cancer for women 40+.

In the past three years, the NFL estimates that the A Crucial Catch message has educated 72,000 women, facilitated 10,000 free screenings and raised more than $7 million. And that’s good news from the NFL.

Though the NFL has made positive strides in promoting awareness for breast cancer with its A Crucial Catch campaign, the league can still do far more, not just with cancer education, but also with other serious social issues like domestic violence.

With Commissioner Roger Goodell’s appointment of several socially conscious, educated and successful women to his staff, expect more positive social change from the league.

With ubiquitous television coverage, the NFL can be a powerful force for awareness and change concerning the ugly issues that afflict far too many people in our society.

May the popularly accepted A Crucial Catch serve as the example of the an admirable public service campaign that the NFL has launched and serve as a harbinger for many more.

MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!

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Sudden Death Overtime: Morbid Sports Expression

sudden death

It’s one of the most morbid expressions in sports.

Not only does it serve as a fitting blog during Halloween Week, but it also finds a sport in my sports comic book Deadly Sports Stuff.

Sudden Death Overtime is the designated period of time that follows after regulation time when the score of the game is still tied.

This added, tie-breaking time provides a knock-out stage in a game where the next score wins.

The NFL, NHL and PGA all have their versions of Sudden Death Overtime, while FIFA recently changed theirs to a new format only a few years ago.

New FIFA rules call for Sudden Death penalty kicks when two 15 minute periods and five regular penalty shots still result in a deadlocked match.

In other sports, the NHL playoffs have utilized Sudden Death Overtime since 1919.

In the PGA, when a tie calls for another 18 hole round, it’s always followed by a Sudden Death Overtime hole-by-hole playoff if the players are still tied.

In the NFL, a Sudden Death Overtime has recently been updated beginning with the 2011 playoffs.

When it comes to Sudden Death Overtime in any sport, one certain similarity remains; suspenseful, nail biting action is guaranteed to bring fans to the edge of their seats.

The threat of an abrupt ending to anything in life, especially in sports, always grabs our attention.

It certainly may be a callous and morbid way to describe the tie-breaking action to conclude a game.

However, all sports fans are magnetized by the excitement that comes out of Sudden Death Overtime.

For more “frightening or morbid” stories, click on the red cover below and safely download Deadly Sports Stuff from Amazon.

Deadly Sports Stuff

Enjoy the read.

MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!

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