Friday, September 4, 2015

Welcome Back Football...The Season Has Arrived!


   It’s about time! After grueling months of preparation and court cases, the NFL season has finally arrived. It’s time for the teams that struggled last year to try and get into the playoffs and finally show if they made the right improvements during the off-season to move past that losing record. Ultimately, that is the beauty of it all isn’t it? Every single NFL season each team, regardless of their previous success or failures, start from scratch with hopes of being a better version of their former selves. Teams such as the Buffalo Bills and the Houston Texans who both last year missed the playoffs by the skin of their teeth (both finishing the 2014 season with 9- 7 records) have to see this season as their coming out parties. Especially with Houston gaining more public spotlight due to their appearance on HBO’s ‘Hard Knocks’ this summer, they have a rare chance to possibly cash in on that extra publicity by putting together a playoff caliber season.

   Then there are the brothers in the Big Apple with the Jets and Giants who both missed out on the playoffs last year as well. The G-Men were formidable in all of their contest last year (without an injured Victor Cruz), but just couldn’t close the deal and ended up with a sub par 6-10 record. Though they did find out that they have a future star wide-receiver in Rookie of the Year winner Odell Beckham Jr. and they will surely be a handful offensively for any team this season. On the flip-side the Jets have gone through a rocky year so far leading up to the season. On one hand they managed to get their former star defensive backs Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie back in the gang-green uniform, making their already solid defense a possible Top-5 contender. Then on the other hand they’ve had some off the field issues occur with their Pro Bowl defensive end Sheldon Richardson (Yes, another marijuana case), thereby having him suspended for the first four games of the season. To add to the matter their starting quarterback Geno Smith has also been sidelined for quite a while due to a physical encounter with a now former teammate, which resulted in him having a broken jaw. 

   While there were cases of players’ unfortunately failing to comply with the NFL’s conduct policy, there has been one situation that has been drawn out and finally dealt with before the season begins next week. Recently the infamous New England Patrioits “Deflategate” court case that has transpired for months (since the end of the 2014 AFC Championship game) has finally come to a close. Orginally NFL Commisioner Roger Goddell suspended superstar and 2014 Superbowl MVP quarterback Tom Brady for the first four games of the 2015 season due to his supposed involvement with cheating during the AFC championship game. After a long dragged out court battle, Brady and his legal team reigned supreme this week and his suspension was lifted by Judge Richard Berman. Though the NFL will inevitably appeal this decision, Tom Brady will now have the right to fully participate this season and with the way Brady plays with a chip on his shoulder, most teams better be prepared for a Patriots team looking to make another statement this season. 

   Yet, through the long wait of the season the most heart breaking occurrence that happens every year throughout the league is the inevitable injury list. The Green Bay Packers lost their lead receiver in Pro Bowler Jordy Nelson to a torn ACL during a pre-season game, while the Carolina Panthers lost their top receiver in Kelvin Benjamin to the same injury. Then there’s the Jacksonville Jaguars who still can’t seem to catch a break as they lose their 2015 first-round pick defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. to an ACL tear before his career begins. It’s an unfortunate part of the game, but it is always hard to see any player go down before the season truly commences. Though as the saying goes, “The show must go on!”… And so it shall. 

   This year will be the year of Super Bowl 50 and that is a very prestigious landmark for the NFL. Many teams will be vying for the opportunity to represent the league in that championship game and it will be an all-out brawl till the end of the season to see which one comes out on top. So some squads that made it to the playoffs last season will undoubtedly be replaced by a couple who missed out. Those who think they were close to the ultimate prize last year will have to find a way to reinvent themselves just enough to make that final push. Everybody wants the Lombardi Trophy, but it’s going to be the team that consistently goes out there and puts it all on the line game in and game out that will achieve that goal, regardless of what happen in the past. It’s anybody’s game, and that is the beauty of this sport. Welcome back football! 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Golden State Wins Championship: LeBron Was A Lone Warrior!

Every few decades there is a superior athlete(s) that enters a sport and revolutionizes the game in ways that will continue to raise the bar to insurmountable heights. Looking within the landscape of the NBA a select few come to mind. In the 1960’s there was Wilt Chamberlain and his dominant run with the Philadelphia 76ers and Los Angeles Lakers. Soon came the duo of legends in Larry Bird (Boston Celtics) and Magic Johnson (Lakers) throughout the 1980’s. Then Michael Jordan led the charge with the Chicago Bulls as the dominant force in the 1990’s gathering 6 championships along the way. Enter the 21st century and now we have LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers who has become a one man wrecking crew on the court over the past decade, while putting up statistics that could rival that of all the great players I’ve mentioned before him. Though Mr. James continues to receive criticism for the path he has chosen to take towards his success, and today was presented a chance to re-write his own legacy within the public eye. Unfortunately basketball, like life, is nearly impossible to win on your own.

           105-97 was the final score of game 6 of the NBA Finals and the Golden State Warriors walked out of Cleveland with their first championship since 1975. This match up was touted the ultimate “one-on-one” battle with the 2014-15 reigning MVP Stephen Curry against the best player in the league LeBron James. With the first two games of the series going into overtime and both teams splitting each game, we were undoubtedly guaranteed an exciting match-up. When the Cavs took the 2-1 lead over the Warriors after game three the sports world was not only witnessing a possible upset (as the Warriors were labeled the favorite to win the series), but a once in a lifetime performance by a single player. James showed his amazing scoring prowess in the first three games, scoring 44, 39, and 40 respectively. Though what truly displayed his dominance was his highly effective rebounding and assist numbers, in which he either led or tied the team high in at least one of those statistics throughout the series. It is easy to see that James was the best player on the court every game, but then that was ultimately the downfall of Cleveland as their post-season came to a close.
LeBron James attempted to do the impossible by single handily carrying his team to the promise land, not because he wanted to but because he had to. With all-star forward Kevin Love out with a shoulder injury since the first round of the playoffs and Kyrie Irving re-injuring his knee during game 1 of the finals, it was literally ‘LeBron and Friends’ vs The Warriors. Though former sixth-man of the year J.R. Smith showed some promise throughout the playoffs he was a streak shooter who could go cold just as fast as he goes hot from the field. Then there was the quick rise and fall to earth of off the bench guard Matthew Dellavedova who played admirably in place of Irvin during the early games (especially with his suffocating defense against Curry), but teetered off towards the end of the series as the MVP began to take over. The only Cavs player that began to constantly contribute alongside LeBron was recently acquired center Timothy Mozgov who played well (when given the playing time) throughout the series.

Ultimately that miniature contribution wasn’t enough as LeBron’s silent 32 point, 18 rebounds and 9 assist performance in game 6 couldn’t pull out a victory. Golden State was clearly the better coached (credit to Steve Kerr) team with an overall better roster; finishing off an incredible season in which they led the western conference and the league with a 67-15 record. Yet, the story that will be remembered unfortunately won’t be the great play of the championship winning Warriors, but the failure of LeBron to live up to the expectations laid upon him by the Cleveland community and the sports media. Though while LeBron is treated like he is Superman, even the “Man of Steel” couldn’t save everyone. Congratulations Golden State!