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The Heckler: A Big Mouthed Sports Fan 1

Posted on September 28, 2015 by Mike Raffone

The HecklerBecause I enjoy his antics, this big mouthed sports fan is an easy choice for today’s Sports Then and Now blog.

This big babbler has been barking from the stands at sporting events since the first chariot races in Rome and original Olympic Games in Greece.

He’s that garrulous guy who plays the role of the annoying fan at games. He’s been seen and heard at every pro game in every sport for as long as fans can remember.

Many observers would say he’s just as bothersome, or entertaining, “now” as he was back “then” at sports events!

The colorful and, at times, irritating big mouth sits court side at NBA games, in the end zone at NFL games or behind home plate at Major League Baseball games and creatively maligns the opposing team’s players. His duty is to toss barbs at the other team and their fans.

Universally known as the Heckler, this super fan ironically may not boast too many fans of his own.

Some fans may find him insulting, but I like him and think he’s an expected, entertaining part of attending a professional sports event.

He’s pretty funny, especially if he’s rooting for the same team.

Plus, I can handle his non-stop heckling – provided he’s seated far enough away and doesn’t make the little hairs on the back of my neck stand at full attention with his non-stop jibber-jabbering.

And, I get a kick out of watching rival fans deal with the Heckler during a game. The guy’s entertainment factor wears off quickly, especially when he’s not cheering for their squad.

Soon, opposing fans within earshot realize this guy has a bullhorn for a voice box and no off switch for his grating trash talk.

During the rest of the game, these same rival fans are constantly on edge, much to my delight and that of all of my fellow fans.

For the rest of the game, I’m entertained by watching these rival fans try to keep themselves in check.

In a fight to the end, they struggle to restrain themselves from dumping their beer on this loud mouthed Heckler.

Because of the entertainment factor he has always provided at games since fans can remember, this timeless irritant and big mouthed sports fan secures a spot in today’s Sports Then and Now blog.

Out of curiosity, what’s your favorite Heckler line?

Let us know. Just keep it clean and leave everyone’s mother out of your response. Lol

MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!


Examples in Excellence: Most Inspiring Coaches of the Last Decade 1

Posted on July 24, 2015 by Brooke Chaplan
Jill Ellis has been successful building the U.S. Women's Soccer Team into a team of stars.

Jill Ellis has been successful building the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team into a team where everyone plays their role.

The greatest sports coaches have the power to inspire their athletes to be better than they’ve ever been and change the whole dynamic of a team. We’ve all seen what an amazing leader can do for an otherwise scrappy team, and here are just a few of the most remarkable examples of the last decade.

Build Teams with Great Players, Not One Great Player
Jill Ellis experienced incredible training as a young coach at UCLA when she was mentored by John Wooden. Now she is the manager of the U.S. Women’s Soccer team.

Ellis creates a clear team concept and teaches each player their role within it. At her father’s suggestion, she learned communication outside her sport. For a while, she was a technical writer. Now she can explain her team vision and help her players to be their best within it. Her background was able to prepare her for seeing a big picture and what each part needs to do to organize a working machine.

Leadership by Listening
Steve Kerr was the first rookie head coach in the NBA to win the championship since 1982. The Golden State Warriors were a team of current and future all-stars, but they needed someone who could pull all the pieces together.

Kerr created a system based on the strengths of his players to maximize the team’s performance. He also empowered his coaching staff to share their ideas and listened to everyone. Most significantly, in the NBA Finals, an assistant coach wanted to change the starting line-up to help them deal with the previously unstoppable LeBron James. Kerr accepted and implemented the idea. Not only did it work, Kerr publicly identified his assistant as the source of the idea. This is one example out of dozens of Kerr giving credit to others for the team’s success.
Read the rest of this entry →

Should Athletes Really Be Role Models? 2

Posted on July 17, 2015 by Ashley Andrews
Charles Barkley has made it clear that he is not a role model.

Charles Barkley has made it clear that he is not a role model.

While many still ponder the question–the likes of Charles Barkley come to mind–the question has already been definitively answered. Between cut scenes of him dunking a basketball on a practice court, he earnestly tells the camera:

I am not a role model. I am not paid to be a role model. I am paid to wreak havoc on the basketball court. Parents should be role models. Just because I dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I should raise your kids.

This was a Nike ad during the heyday of the “Just do it” campaign. When the words, “Just do it” appeared at the end of the commercial, it is not obvious if they are referring to playing basketball, or raising your own kids in a responsible manner. What they most definitely exclude is the idea of using Barkley, or any other athlete as a role model for how you, or anyone else, should live their lives.

There are all kinds of reasons why Barkley’s words should be heeded. Here are a few:

Athletes Make Poor Life Choices

According to Axis Recovery:

Because of these factors (among a number of others), the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids states that sportspeople are “more prone than the general population to substance abuse.”

The three factors referenced in the above quote are:

  • An addiction to performance-enhancing substances
  • An addiction to stimulants to alleviate depression
  • An addiction to prescription painkillers

There are understandable reasons why professional athletes make self-destructive life choices. In no way is this intended to be a judgmental observation. But it seems like the last type of person you want to set up as role models for kids is the kind with ample reason to turn to drugs and alcohol as a necessary evil for getting through the day.

Beyond substance abuse, there are other habits one might not be comfortable encouraging such as gambling and sexually irresponsible behavior. Many of the behaviors of professional athletes can be attributed to the fact that they are all young. Professional athletes tend to retire in their early to mid-thirties, much younger depending on the sport. They often went from rags to riches overnight, without any prior sense of responsibility. Even under the best of circumstances, they are going to make a lot of bad decisions that others simply cannot afford to make. This is the recipe for an unlikely role model. Read the rest of this entry →

State of NCAA Men’s College Basketball is Debatable for What is Best for Game 6

Posted on April 11, 2015 by Chris Kent

As the 21st century moves forward, college basketball is becoming more and more known for the early departures. The so called “one and done era” has been alive for more than a decade. Gone are the days when student-athletes made a splash as a freshman and then continued to do so over three or four years in college.

Look no further than Kentucky for proof of this. Since John Calipari was hired as the Wildcats’ head coach in 2009, Kentucky has been the prime source of the “one and done era.” Add in a few sophomores who decided a second attempt at a Final Four or a national championship was worth coming back for and the Wildcats have been a landslide leader in this trend of kids leaving school early for the riches of playing pro basketball.

A total of seven Kentucky players declared to enter the NBA Draft earlier this week.

A total of seven Kentucky players declared to enter the NBA Draft earlier this week at a press conference shown here.

Last year was no different. After falling two wins short of becoming the first undefeated national champion in 39 years – following their 71-64 loss to Wisconsin in the 2015 national semifinals – , Kentucky announced that seven players from last year’s team have declared for the NBA draft. Among the seven are four starters including the starting backcourt of sophomores Andrew and Aaron Harrison, freshman center Karl Anthony-Towns, and junior power forward Willie Cauley-Stein. The others are forward Trey Lyles and guard Devin Booker, both freshman, along with 7-foot sophomore center Dakari Johnson.

All seven have the ability to play at the next level as either starters or reserves. Some have the potential to start right away for anybody while the fortunes of others will be influenced by how the NBA Lottery turns out. Early mock drafts have Anthony-Towns competing with Duke freshman center Jahlil Okafor – who has also declared for the draft – for the top overall pick. Anthony-Towns is  6-11 and weighs 250 while Okafor is 6-11 and 270. Both were among the nation’s dominant big men last season.

Should all seven of these players be drafted, it would set a new record for the most players selected from one school in a single draft. The Wildcat’s six selections in the 2012 draft – lead by top overall pick Anthony Davis – is the current record. Davis had lead Kentucky to the national title in 2012 in what was Calipari’s first championship. Read the rest of this entry →

Duke and Wisconsin Meet For National Championship 2

Posted on April 06, 2015 by Chris Kent

The national championship of college basketball is here. After an exciting March of dramatic finishes that separated the pretenders from the contenders, the cream of the crop surfaced at The Final Four in Indianapolis, IN this past weekend. Three of the four number one seeds reached the Final Four with Duke, Kentucky, and Wisconsin all winning their regions to advance to college basketball’s biggest stage. Meanwhile, Michigan State was no slouch as a seventh seed. The Spartans reached The Final Four for a nation-leading seventh time since 1999, all under one of the elite coaches in the country in Tom Izzo.

Bo Ryan has taken the Badgers to new heights with back-to-back trips to The Final Four.

Bo Ryan has taken the Badgers to new heights with back-to-back trips to The Final Four.

With the Blue Devils defeating Michigan State 81-61 and the Badgers upsetting undefeated Kentucky 71-64 in the national semifinals on Saturday, Duke and Wisconsin advanced to tonight’s championship game. This is virtually an even game. Both teams have been ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 poll the whole season and have a combined record of 70-7 entering tonight’s title game. The Badgers are 36-3 and won the regular season Big Ten Championship as well as the conference tournament title. The Blue Devils finished second to Virginia in the ACC regular season standings at 15-3 and reached the ACC Tournament Semifinals

before losing to Notre Dame who went on to win the tournament title.

Wisconsin’s victory on Saturday avenged their loss to the Wildcats a year ago in the national semifinals, a 74-73 thriller that was decided on a 3-point basket by then-freshman guard Aaron Harrison. With the Badgers returning to The Final Four this year, Wisconsin has become a national program. Badgers’ head coach Bo Ryan has emerged as a great coach and has brought national prominence to the Wisconsin program in this his 14th year at the helm of the Badgers. This followed his highly successful career in the Division III ranks as head coach at The University of Wisconsin-Platteville where he won four national championships in the 1990’s.

Ryan will be matched up against Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski who is no stranger to the national championship game. This is the ninth national championship game that Krzyzewski has lead the Blue Devils to. He is 4-4 in the title game. The two schools met earlier this season back on Dec. 3 in Wisconsin where Duke prevailed 80-70 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Blue Devil freshman center Jahlil Okafor had 13 points and six rebounds while senior center Frank Kaminsky scored 17 points and grabbed nine rebounds for the Badgers. Read the rest of this entry →

Never Mind RPI: Behind The Logic of The Bracket 2

Posted on March 05, 2015 by Ashley Andrews
There is no doubt that Kentucky will be at the top of the bracket when the NCAA Tournament bids are announced on March 15tth.

There is no doubt that Kentucky will be at the top of the bracket when the NCAA Tournament bids are announced on March 15tth.

The schedule says that the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament starts on St. Patrick’s Day, but the ongoing action up until that day can be the real March Madness. The migration from locks, bubbles, and outsiders continues right up until the last whistle of the last conference tournament, and the tiny window in which the committee assimilates all that information into a bracket is arguably the maddest time of March.

Teams like Kentucky, Virginia, and Wisconsin are unlikely to get a surprise come Selection Sunday, regardless of how their final couple of games turn out. But there is much more that goes into settling the field for play, especially starting with the two and three seeds. Before the men’s NCAA basketball tournament hits the airwaves, the committee is hitting the books to set it up. Here’s what (might) be going through their minds:

Peaking At The Right Time
Coaches use this term all the time. They just mean they’re hoping their team is playing their best basketball of the season when March arrives.

The committee wants these teams. They are likely to provide clemency to early sputters. Kansas can write off its early mugging by Kentucky, for example, because their recent results have been far more in line with what’s expected from a premiere team. And early season rankings are disproved annually. Strong play at the end of the regular season and in the conference tournament carries considerably more weight that early-season jitter games. The reason is obvious: Teams that come into March like a lion will provide the most exciting games and the best chance at a deep tournament run.

Losses, Yes. But To Whom?
Herein lies the debate over relative strength of conferences. Gonzaga has been dinged repeatedly for being dominant only because the West Coast Conference is not exactly viewed as hoops heaven, a criticism verified by BYU’s defeat of Mark Few’s squad.

Meanwhile, a different ocean laps against the shores of many of the ACC’s home states, the arena where Duke, UNC, Louisville, and their mates (including Syracuse, which is taking a mulligan on postseason play this year as self-imposed sanctions for compliance no-no’s) have locked up like combative rams in arguably one of the most brutal conferences in the country. Coming out of that fray with four losses will likely shine more brightly from the bracket than only a couple of blemishes in other locales.

But what of the SEC? Georgia head coach Mark Fox insists that the league is being downgraded because Kentucky is clobbering all of them, but that after the Wildcats there’s a high level of parity and quality in the league. Meanwhile there are thousands of fans screaming about the legitimacy of smaller leagues, the home of Cinderella.

Tickets, Please. Tickets. And Ratings, Too.
When it all shakes out, we have to face the reality that the NCAA–non-profit organization or not–is looking to make money. Venues cost money. Officials cost money. Security, staff, hotels, everything involved in the tournament is expensive, and the only way to cover these costs is to make sure that fans are in the seats. A no-friction road to the Final Four, especially in a distant regional arena, could spur many fans to skip early rounds and wait on their favorite to get to Indianapolis. The NCAA doesn’t want that. They want interest in those early games. So the committee may choose to set up a challenge for high seeds that fans may feel is unwarranted, strictly to ensure that those fans come to the games. This could be how seedings mysteriously drift downward for favorites and/or upward for dark horses. A 4/13 game is considerably more worrisome to fans of the favorite than the 1/16 arrangement, which since its 1985 inception has never seen an upset.

The same thing that sells tickets also turns on televisions, and viewership pays the broadcasters’ hefty bills–including those to the NCAA itself. The selection committee must make sure there’s intriguing TV to be had.

These are matters that aren’t settled on the court but in the conference room. While some fans may feel that the bracket should be established with nothing but hard basketball facts, the reality is that the committee must take some of these factors into consideration to keep the tournament accurate and, perhaps most important, financially sound.

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    • Bob Gibson: Big Game Hurler
      October 4, 2015 | 10:33 am
      Bob Gibson

      Bob Gibson

      With the baseball playoffs upon us, the Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month is a two-time World Series MVP who hurled eight complete games in the Fall Classic and still holds the record for strikeouts in a World Series game.

      Throughout his 17 year career with the St. Louis Cardinals, opponents knew they were in for a battle every time they faced Bob Gibson.  

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