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Sports Then and Now



Cynthia Cooper: The WNBA’s First MVP 9

Posted on July 03, 2011 by Dean Hybl

Cynthia Cooper

The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month for July stole the show during the first year of the WNBA in 1997 and helped create the first dynasty in the women’s basketball league.

Despite having a number of younger stars like Lisa Leslie, Rebecca Lobo and Sheryl Swoopes in the league, Cynthia Cooper stole the show in the early years of the WNBA as she was the league MVP during the first two seasons and helped lead the Houston Comets to the first four league titles. Read the rest of this entry →

Brave Throat’s Plan B 8

Posted on July 27, 2010 by John Wingspread Howell

This is the fifth and final installment of a sports satire

Could the WNBA be the answer to what ails sports in Buffalo?

I thought he’d given up on me. It has been almost a year since I first heard from Brave Throat. Despite my best efforts to light a fire under the idea of bringing the Braves back to Buffalo,  I had received less than a grand and a few season tickets in commitments—and to be honest, was eventually distracted by life and gave up on the idea.

I’ve been looking over my shoulder, though, fearful that he’d eventually show up in a more Dickensian form, terrorizing me with dream-travel to a Buffalo future sans the Bills and Sabres. I was already imagining it—Buffalo back in the AHL and the AFL as in (the new, old) Arena Football League.

But, no. He was understanding of, if not completely resigned to my failure.

As I suspected, he would not use text messaging to get my attention. He simply popped into my room when I was asleep last night, appearing as some kind of hologram. He had company. Randy Smith. That threw me for a loop.

The two gave me a moment to absorb, then Ranallo aka Brave Throat spoke up.

“OK, John,” I think I over-estimated Buffalo. I should’ve known.” Read the rest of this entry →

WPS and Fans to Each Other: Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? 3

Posted on May 03, 2010 by John Wingspread Howell
WPS: APR 25 Breakers at Athletica..

The WPS is off to a great start to 2010, but increasing the fan base for the league is a challenge.

Whenever a new major sports league comes to town there is that familiar insecurity that one often feels when beginning a new relationship. The league and its teams worry that after the honeymoon, fan interest will fall off. Fans are reluctant to give their whole hearts to the home team because they’ve been hurt before (as in WUSA).

It becomes a chicken and egg situation. Fans are reluctant to commit for fear the team or the league might fold, and if the franchise or the league folds, it is usually due to lack of fan support.

Where women’s sports are concerned, there are additional complications. Again, using the relationship metaphor, there is a sense in which the media plays the role of the fans’ extended family.  Often the extended family’s attitude toward a prospective partner can douse the flame before it ever ignites.

If the local media don’t give the new suitor a stamp of legitimacy, many fans will not consider a first date. Sure there are the rebels and the ones who are in love at first sight, for whom the family’s opinion be damned, but there is a much larger group that just won’t be open to a first date with someone who is not considered “relationship material” by the family or the community.

Soccer has had to fight hard for media attention in most American media markets, although after more than a decade, MLS has earned respect, has established a solid fan base, and looks to be a permanent and still growing fixture in the American sports landscape.

Women’s sports have had to fight twice as hard, however, to earn the same respect. That is true of the WNBA, despite its relationship with the NBA. And women’s soccer has an even greater hurdle to achieve the stamp of legitimacy because of its double curse: being both a women’s league, and a soccer league, further exacerbated by the failure of WUSA and the wounds left by that experiment that in some cases have not yet healed . Read the rest of this entry →

Waiting For The Weekend: A September Smorgasbord 0

Posted on September 18, 2009 by Dean Hybl
Waiting for the weekend

This is the time of the year when the sports world offers a venerable smorgasbord of opportunities for sports fans to feed their hunger for action.

Whether it is the NASCAR Chase, the playoff push in baseball or the heating up of action in college and professional football there is something for everyone. And, to add some dessert, the WNBA Playoffs are starting, the hockey exhibition season has just begun and in just a couple weeks NBA teams will be starting training camp.

The Chase for the Cup
Having grown up in Southside Virginia less than an hour from the track where Jeff and Ward Burton cut their teeth in South Boston, I have always enjoyed NASCAR.

In the days before every race was wire to wire on live TV, I remember listening to NASCAR on the radio and visioning in my mind the battles between Richard Petty, Cale Yarborough, Buddy Baker and the other great drivers of that era.

Even today, I still believe that NASCAR is more compelling to listen to than to watch as you lose the monotony of watching the drivers make continual left hand turns and instead are paying close attention so you are ready when the announcer suddenly blasts out “And we’ve got trouble in turn three.”

So, NASCAR is now starting its version of the playoffs, the 10-race “Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.”
Read the rest of this entry →

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  • Vintage Athlete of the Month

    • Earl Morrall: The Perfect Backup
      November 16, 2019 | 10:46 am
      Earl Morrall

      In a career that started in 1956 and ended in 1976, the Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month was never really a leading man, but he seemed to be part of the supporting cast for many huge moments in NFL history.

      The second overall pick in the 1956 NFL Draft out of Michigan State, Earl Morrall joined a San Francisco 49ers team that already included the famous “Million Dollar Backfield” of Y.A. Tittle, Hugh McElhenny, Joe Perry and John Henry Johnson.

      Morrall started four games during his rookie season, but just before the start of the 1957 season was traded along with guard Mike Sandusky to the Pittsburgh Steelers in exchange for linebacker Marv Matuszak and two first-round draft picks.

      Read more »

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