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Sports Then and Now


Remembering Sports Greats We Lost in 2016

Posted on December 31, 2016 by Dean Hybl
Muhammad Ali won the Heavyweight Boxing Championship three times during his career.

Muhammad Ali won the Heavyweight Boxing Championship three times during his career.

While it is inevitable that every year we say goodbye to some of those who shaped sports history, it seems like 2016 included more than the normal share of all-time sports legends. Muhammad Ali and Arnold Palmer were not just sports legends, they were national icons whose celebrity transcended sports. At their peak, Pat Summitt and Gordie Howe were synonymous with their respective sports. In addition, the year included the death of several well-known members of the sports media as well as a number of accomplished coaches.

Below is a brief remembrance of some of the sports greats who passed away in 2016:

Muhammad Ali: While it is not difficult to poke holes into Ali’s self-proclaimed moniker as the “Greatest of All-Time”, there is little doubt that during his peak, Ali was one of the most recognized people on the planet. An Olympic boxing champion in 1960, Ali (then known as Cassius Clay), won the Heavyweight title in February 1964 with a sixth-round TKO of champion Sonny Liston. Ali, who was 22-years-old at the time he won the title, maintained the belt until 1967 when it was stripped following his federal conviction for refusing draft induction. It would be more than three years before Ali would return to the boxing ring. During the 1970s, Ali regained the Heavyweight title twice more while participating in some of the most iconic boxing matches of all-time. He fought Joe Frazier three times, winning the last two, and also defeated George Foreman in the “Rumble in the Jungle.” After retiring in 1980, the once polarizing Ali developed into an American icon. His battle with Parkinson’s syndrome over the last two decades saw the charismatic Ali struggle to communicate, but he was often in the public eye.

Ralph Branca: Branca won 88 games and as a three-time All-Star during his 12 year Major League career, but he is best known for giving up the “Shot Heard Round the World” to Bobby Thomson during the 1951 National League Playoff between the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants. He had only eight career wins before going 21-12 with a 2.67 ERA during the 1947 season. However, what Branca is perhaps best known for during the 1947 season was his willingness to stand next to teammate Jackie Robinson at the beginning of the season when others were reluctant. Branca won 13 or more games three other times during his career.

Dennis Byrd: Byrd’s NFL career was cut short in 1992 when he was paralyzed as a result of an on-field hit. He recovered enough to walk onto the field to start the 1993 season and went on to be a motivational speaker. He died as a result of a car accident in October.
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3 Exercises To Increase Stamina – Endurance For A Fight

Posted on December 30, 2016 by John Torgerson

Marathon, black silhouettes of runners on the sunsetStamina and endurance are two terms widely and interchangeably used by most of the people without knowing what it actually means. According to the professionals, stamina refers to cardio functions whereas endurance to the muscular functions.

Therefore, stamina is said to be the ability of a person to work longer instead of harder. Endurance, on the other hand helps the person to exert while staying active for a long period of time, and have the ability to resist, withstand and recover at the same time. For this very reason, every sport requires sports specific stamina as well as endurance training. So, keeping that in mind, here are 3 exercises that will help you build stamina and endurance required to fight like a pro.

Jog, Run, & Repeat

Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? Despite that, it affects the body in a wide variety of ways. Walking, for instance, is a simple, low impact exercise perfect to get more active. But, when combined with jogging or running at a slow speed can get the heart beat elevated. This can be thought as a perfect way to build stamina and endurance. However, this alone won’t do any good while preparing for a fight.

Reason being, in a fight you need to go hard at one moment, catch your breath the other and then again go back fighting hard. So, that means the heart rate won’t stay stable constantly, it will go up and down throughout the fight. Therefore, jog for a moment and then sprint as fast as possible, slow down again for 10 seconds to catch your breath and sprint again. This won’t be easy, you might as well want to give up. Instead keep pushing yourself forward. To build endurance there is no easy way, neither are there any alternatives to running only body wipes to wipe that sweat off. Read the rest of this entry →

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Are the Toronto Raptors Inching Closer to Cleveland Cavaliers?

Posted on December 24, 2016 by Tony Samboras
DeMar DeRozan is emerging as one of the top scorers in the NBA.

DeMar DeRozan is emerging as one of the top scorers in the NBA.

After finishing the 2015-16 regular season 56-26 and only a game behind the World Champion Cleveland Cavaliers for the Eastern Conference title, the Toronto Raptors loss to the Cavaliers in the Conference Finals 4-2. As both teams were exiting the floor, it was clear Toronto may have been but one season away from catching the Champs in both talent and ability.

With a little more than a third of the 2016-17 NBA season already in the books, the Raptors are sitting in a familiar place. With a record of 20-8, they find themselves 1.5 games behind the Cavs for the conference lead with Boston sitting in a distant 3rd with a record of 17-12. Given the parity found in the conference, it looks like the two leaders will battle it out until the end for home court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference Finals.

To get a better idea of whether or not the Raptors have made enough improvements to catch the Cavs, one would have to look inside the numbers. For starters, the Raptors are playing an up-tempo offense that has led to a scoring increase from 102.7 PPG to 112.3 PPG from last season to this season. This has also led to a spike in the number of points allowed per game from 98.2 to 103.0. Overall, that represents an improved scoring differential of 4.8 PPG versus a positive scoring differential change for the Cavaliers of only 1.8 PPG. The 3.0 PPG difference between the two teams is quite significant at this level of play.

The question becomes, “is this sustainable?” because if it is, it might be relevant enough for the Raptors to catch the Cavs and earn that all-important home court advantage heading into the playoffs. All of this analysis assumes both teams will stay healthy, and the Cavs have already been bit by the injury bug with guard J.R. Smith out with a fractured thumb and forward Kevin Love having knee issues. To date, Toronto has nothing to report.

With essentially the same group of players on the floor, the biggest improvement has come from star shooting guard DeMar DeRozan, who has ratcheted up his game up another notch, scoring at a rate of 27.9 PPG, up from 23.5 PPG last season. While he has increased the number of shots he has taken per game, he has also improved his shooting percentage from 44.6% to 48.2%. He has also improved his rebounding and steals, which shows he’s more focused on defense. Read the rest of this entry →

DeMarcus Cousins – Wasted Talent in Sacramento?

Posted on December 24, 2016 by Tony Samboras
DeMarcus Cousins is getting quite frustrated with the continued losing in Sacramento. How long will it be before a trade is best both for him and the franchise?

DeMarcus Cousins is getting quite frustrated with the continued losing in Sacramento. How long will it be before a trade is best both for him and the franchise?

It’s been a long time between drinks of playoff water for the NBA’s Sacramento Kings. The last time they made it to the playoffs was in 2005-2006 when they lost in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs to the World Champ San Antonio Spurs in a series that went to 4-2. Since then, they have failed to finish above .500 for 10 consecutive seasons while compiling a dismal record of 277-527 for a winning percentage of  33.78%.

During that time span, the team has had a number of talented players who have come and gone. Over the last six years, power forward DeMarcus Cousins has done all a man can do to turn the franchise around. While certainly culpable for being a general pain in the butt on a team that has had more than its fair share of issues and distractions, the talent this man possesses is far beyond question.

Ever since he came over as the 5th overall pick in the 2010 from the University of Kentucky, he has matched up well against some of the best power forwards in the game. In his first couple of years, his temper and overall demeanor stood in the way of his reaching an elite level of play. With that said, there was no denying the talent was there in a body chiseled from rock.

Over his first three seasons, he averaged right around 17 PPG while proving himself to be quite effective underneath both the offensive and defensive boards. It wasn’t until the start of the 2013-14 season that he started harnessing all that destructive energy into something positive. The result was an invitation to the All-Star game and honorable mention on the All-NBA team after averaging just over 22 PG with 11.7 RPG. Read the rest of this entry →

The Cleveland Browns Have Finally Reached a Point Where They Can’t Get Worse

Posted on December 24, 2016 by Tony Samboras
Even former Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III has been unable to help the Cleveland Browns win in 2016.

Even former Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III has been unable to help the Cleveland Browns win in 2016.

The once proud Cleveland Browns organization is in tatters. With a current record of 0-14 and two games remaining against teams they figure to struggle against, it seems a certainty the team will fulfill the ultimate in futility for an entire season. After finishing last season 3-13, which included losses in its last six games, the Browns look intent on going into next season with an active 22-game losing streak and a long path back to even being competitive.

This will be the team’s 13th year in a row that they have failed to make the playoffs. That’s the second longest current streak in the NFL (behind only the Buffalo Bills). Going into next season, they face the distinct possibility of breaking the record for consecutive losses by an NFL team. The current record stands at 26, which was set by the expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers from its inaugural season in 1976 until towards the end of the 1977 season. This is not the kind of number the Browns want to find its name next to in the record books.

Looking at this year’s stats for a silver lining in another exercise in futility. Four different quarterbacks have recorded starts on the season with USC rookie Cody Kessler leading the way with 1,469 yards passing with 6 TDs and only 2 interceptions. Unfortunately, nagging injuries and inconsistent play landed him on the bench in favor of team retread Josh McCown. On the season, McCown has completed only 54.5% of his passes for 1,100 yards and 6 TDs and 6 interceptions.  It might be too early to give up Kessler, who showed some ability to compete earlier in the year, but the rest of the QB corps seems to have more questions than answers. Read the rest of this entry →

Game Changer: The Bleed-through of Analytics in Traditional Sports and Poker

Posted on December 23, 2016 by Josh H

pokerThe argument about whether poker is sport or not has been going on for a while now. There are strong arguments from both sides. Some call poker a game of luck. They believe that’s what it is and that’s what it always be. Others see it as a competitive activity resembling traditional sports, minus the physical activity.

While the lack of physical activity in poker can’t be denied there is another point of intersection that certainly exists. We’re talking about the application of analytics that’s present in both traditional sports and poker. Some of the best sports teams out there heavily rely on crunching numbers to prepare for upcoming games. They use the gathered data to set up their formations, figure out the best lineups, and much more.

Serious poker players do the very same thing. When not at the tables they crunch numbers. They are trying to locate weaknesses of their opponents and areas where they could improve their own game. Like with traditional sports, the bigger the sample the better the results.

Traditional Sports and Analytics

Numbers and statistics have a prominent role in nearly every aspect of modern-day sports. However, their application is best visible in the process of drafting players. This is when data experts need to shine and show what they know.

The market for players in popular sports is a huge one. Finding the right fit for the team of one or two players that will fix the biggest leaks can be a painstaking process. Without the help of analytics most of it is just pure guessing and gut instinct. With analytics there are concise numbers demonstrating one’s abilities in different areas. No longer will teams spring out big money for the proverbial cat in a bag. Before they bring someone in as either a free agent or a draftee they want as much reassurance about what to expect.

Apart from drafting players, analytics are also very useful when it comes to determining a team’s efficiency. This can best be seen in the NBA where several cameras installed in nearly every arena track movements of every single player. With this information teams can figure out what needs changing and how efficient particular players are during the game. From speed to passes and shot trajectory everything is converted to numbers and graphs. Read the rest of this entry →

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