Go See Your “Uncle Drew”

Growing up a kid in Hoosier Country, we had a phrase we used to use, “basketball is life.” This phrase, simple and elegant, is the premise of the new film starring basketball superstar Kyrie Irving Uncle Drew. The film is based upon the character created in the Pepsi Max ads (if you have no idea what I am talking about, that’s what Youtube is for) following a geriatric basketball player who has no problem putting “young-bloods” in their place. For Drew, basketball is life. The game rules all, because it teaches us how to live together, and work together, and solve any problem.

Uncle Drew follows the title character and blacktop-basketball-legend as he assembles his old team to help Dax win The Rucker streetball tournament in Harlem. After Dax loses his team, Drew agrees to help recruit his old streetball team – despite their falling out – for one last ride to win the tournament. As Drew recruits his team, he teaches Dax about the game (and life) and discovers he hasn’t been as true to his principles as he thought.



Confessions of a Cubs Fan: Ode to Opening Day

I do not care what any of the pessimists say, in my mind, 2016 will always be a great year. Despite the unprecedented celebrity deaths or the political divisiveness, what could possibly be better than the Cubs finally winning the World Series?

I remember last November – packed like sardines inside a Cubs bar, as far as you could possibly be within the continental United States from Chicago – watching Kris Bryant smile as he made the final out of the World Series. My eye’s welled with tears. I passionately embraced random strangers. I cheered and hollered and sang “Go, Cubs, Go” with my new friends loud enough to wake the dead. The improbably had finally happened, the impossible had finally happened, the Cubs won. The Curse of the Billy-Goat was finally broke. In that moment, I couldn’t help but share the sentiment of the final lines of the movie Moneyball (2011).

“How can you not be romantic about baseball?”


The city of Peoria, Ariz., and the Peoria Sports Complex played host to Air Force Week during a 2007 spring training baseball game between the San Diego Padres and the Milwaukee Brewers March 21. Airmen were invited to attend and the Luke Air Force Base Honor Guard posted the colors. The Wings of Blue parachute demonstration team jumped in the game ball. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson)

Making Baseball Great Again

Baseball, our national pastime. For a while there, it seemed like baseball, the sport built on tradition, was not going to stand the test of time. With spring training coming to a close, it seems like baseball fans everywhere should optimistically look forward to a great season.

So why has baseball struggled?

For the early part of the new millennium, baseball has had an issue of branding. After the steroid era, the sport was in a real funk. Having to rebuild a brand, and rethink a sport which had celebrated offensive power for at least a decade. Baseball also needed to regain trust. Trust of the many players who were seemingly thrown under the bus during the steroid witch hunts, and trust of the fans who felt they had been cheated and deceived by the league. Almost a decade removed from the congressional hearings and Department of Justice investigations, the sport seems to be leaving the past in the past and a new baseball is emerging.



Who You Should Vote for NEXT Election!

If you are anything like me, the 2016 Presidential Election has grown into something akin to a trip to the dentist. Physically traumatic, emotionally scaring, and the momentary relief experienced upon conclusion, is rapidly replaced with a burning feeling of dread deep within my gut reminding me that I have to do this all in a few years. That was this election. Our collective angst and displeasure prior to the 8th of November, was rapidly replaced with even greater feelings of anxiety and discontent following the election. Our Nation has evolved into a media circus that is Trump, protests, and recounts. Then, in four years, we get to do it all over again! The only person I know truly ecstatic about the candidate they voted for was my friend Matt, a self-absorbed, egomaniac with sociopathic tendencies who decided to write himself in as President on his absentee ballot. Much like the other candidates on the ballot, he was more concerned with title-leadership and self-meriting than actually serving or finding solutions to make the world better.

Look at the two major Presidential Candidates. Both were accused of criminal activities by their opposition. One candidate possessed all the admirable qualities of a school yard bully. He spent most of the campaign placing blame and infighting, and barely seemed to embrace the ideals of his party. The other candidate was the candidate who was pre-ordained by the party elites and big donors to be the victor of the primary (despite popular support for her challenger) and she didn’t seem to understand how to work this thing we call “email”. You could not realistically place your hopes on Gary Johnson, after a few slip-ups his campaign fizzled out faster than a can of pop left open in the fridge.

Even after the election was over, the madness never stopped. With recounts, underway in key swing state, we are doomed to continue living the horrors of the 2016 elections for another month. We knew that no matter who won, we would all lose – our time, our brain cells. Eating raw shrimp left outside on a hot summer day is less nauseating than this past election. Most voters felt trapped between a rock and a hard place, as they were forced to pick the lesser of two evils. America, we could have done better. We should have done better. We need to do better. Today, let’s beginning grooming a unifying candidate for the 2020 election.

America, I have found the solution.


sports post

Livin’ In A Sports-Fans Paradise

maxresdefaultWith the Olympic Games in Rio behind ups and the start of football season around the corner, I came to a realization.  Here in ‘Murica, we are not just about apple pie, gun rights, and freedom – we are also about sports.  In fact, when we really think about it, we would be hard pressed to find a better nation for sports fans.  This is evidenced by the United States’ performance at the Olympic games which ended in 121 total medals.  Few places have both the diversity and depth within their sports culture.  Yes, there are fitter nations or nations with more passionate “futball” fans, but few places have such an abundance of competitive sports.  Those of us within the United States are really fortunate enough to be living in a sports-fans paradise.

But as I watched the Olympics, I could not help but think about the array of sporting events which we have far too minimal exposure to living in the United States.  That got me thinking, what are a few of the other sports from around the world which we do not realize, are even sports.  Sure – football and baseball will always remain the cornerstones of American sporting culture.  We are unlikely to shed the contributions from our Canadian neighbors-to-the-North, basketball and hockey.  The rise in the popularity of soccer and the expansion of Major League Soccer show that it is here to stay.  Since, we have a long history of adapting sports, I got to thinking, what are some of the other sports which would be welcomed in the mainstream American sports culture.  So, in the name of multiculturalism, the shared human experience, and sportsmanship which the spirit of the Olympics breed, I decided to investigate some of the more obscure sports from around the world.  It turns out, most of these are already exist in niche communities in the United States, and I think it would serve us well to integrate these events into our collective, mainstream sporting culture.



And God Bless Football

The former sports writer in me felt compelled to crank this one out.  Football will never be the same.  Peyton Manning, “The Sheriff”, is finally going to ride off into the sunset.  He will be one of the lucky few to do so after winning on the game’s biggest stage.

I remember in 2003 when Manning led the Colts to three touchdowns in the fourth quarter to defeat the Buccaneers.  I remember the 2007 AFC championship game when the Colts overcame an 18-point deficit in the second half to beat the Patriots.  I remember the 2009 Colts – Dolphins game, when Manning carried the team to a victory despite the Colts having the ball for only 15 minutes’ in total possession.  I remember in 2013 when Denver beat Baltimore after Manning threw seven touchdowns in the season opener.  I have seen every game; and as a Hoosier, I am sure my sentiments towards Manning are obviously clear.  Nonetheless, I have no interests in debating his game play or ranking his Hall of Fame career right now.

The press conference to commemorate number 18s, eighteen seasons in the NFL, was somewhat typical.  As expected, the Bronco’s praised Manning for his contributions to the team during the past four years– two Super Bowl appearances, an MVP award, and the most record-setting offense in league history – and thanked him for coming to Denver.  Manning thanked the teammates he played with, the organizations he played for, the coaches he played under, and the fans he played before.  He did so with the eloquence, sentiment, and self-deprecating comedic wit we have come to expect from Manning.  In the end, Manning delivered one of the most memorable and heartfelt retirement speeches in the history of professional sports (at least in my opinion).

But Manning ended his remarks with something I didn’t expect.  He said “God bless each of you, and God bless football.”  God bless football.  And God bless football? (more…)


Trailer Tuesday – Creed vs Southpaw

In an age where MMA fighting is drawing more fans than traditional boxing, because of major letdowns like the recent Pacquiao/Mayweather Jr. fight, there is one arena where boxing is still flourishing – Hollywood.

If you’ve not heard Creed yet, I won’t spoil the trailer for you because it’s a fun reveal. I’ve got high hopes for this film as I am a big fan of the inspiration.

As for Southpaw, this adds another layer of intensity to the genre as it’s penned by the creator of the ultra-brutal FX series Sons of Anarchy. Both films look to offer a refreshing dramatic break from the super-human heroes of late and their dominance of the big screen.

Spectator-less Baseball

SmashCut Talk thumbnailIf a home run is hit and there is no one around to cheer, did it really happen? We’ll soon find out. The Baltimore Orioles will host the Chicago White Sox in riot-torn Baltimore at Camden Yards sans fans in the seats. Because, even though the streets are on fire, people are getting hurt, and the police department continues to investigate another death-while-in-custody case, the game must go on!  I’d be interested in hearing from those that support this decision to play ball, and from those who would prefer a cancellation or change of venue during this time.

Exit question:  Will the call to keep out the public incite those with violence on their mind to target the Camden Yards?


The 2015 World Cup Starts Soon: Who Cares?

Certainly not FIFA.  And maybe not even the Canadian Soccer Association.  Probably a few corporate sponsors including the upstart carbonated beverage maker known as the Coca-Cola Company; some plucky airbnb users for sure; and definitely Fox Sports.  But after three decades of international play and an on-again / off-again romance with the beautiful game, is it possible to defend an American cultural interest in soccer as played by the most successful national team in U.S. history (sorry, Dream Team)?
uswnt wwc15
The 2015 Women’s World Cup Roster (USA)
Here’s how I see it.


rory pga

Rory McIlroy Finally Crowned in Time for St. Patrick’s Day

rory pga tour xboxOn March 16, one day before St. Patrick’s Day, EA Sports announced that the number 1 ranked golfer in the world, will not only grace the cover of the brand’s latest incarnation of it’s legendary video game, but that the Irishman’s name will also get top billing.  That’s right, the game that revolutionized playing golf from your couch, Tiger Woods PGA Tour will now be called Rory McIlory PGA Tour.  Make no mistake, this is actually huge in terms of how far Tiger Woods’ fall from grace has plummeted.  This isn’t just losing the cover, it’s losing the whole franchise. It would be as if EA Sports decided to replace John Madden’s name from Madden NFL.  Cowher NFL anyone?



The Slap

I don’t know about your Big Game party (if the NFL is gonna sue anyone who infringes on their trademarked name for the NFL championship game, then I will refrain from even exercising my journalistic right to use it and instead will, forever on, only call it the Big Game), but the most talked about commercial of all the Big Game ads was for NBC’s drama The Slap.  Having never heard of the novel by Christos Tsiolkas or the subsequent Australian TV series of the same name, most people watching thought it was joke. In fact, right before the unveiling of the title, someone yelled out in an over dramatic announcer voice – “a new hit show, The Biggest Slap” which cued a laugh and then a collective “whoa” as the the title was unveiled.

After a bit of research (ahem, wikipedia) the book’s plot is revealed:



Is Fantasy Sports is the Last Lonely Island Left For a Sports Fan?

Katy Perry and J.J. Watt for ESPN Magazine

I’m not sure how it started, but I started receiving ESPN magazine in the mail about a year ago – something about airline miles expiring.  The latest issue, of ESPN magazine, is titled The Music Issue.  Katy Perry and J.J. Watt adorn the cover which landed in my mailbox in the off-week right before the Super Bowl.  Flipping through the pages of this sports magazine reminds me of attending a game of any one of the 4 major team sports in the last 15 years.  And that’s not a compliment.  As I already wrote about here, the Super Bowl isn’t for football fans, it’s for the in-crowd – and in a smaller way, so is attending a regular season game of the MLB, NBA, NHL and the NFL.  The magazine is chock full of how music and sports interconnect, the sports empire that Jay-Z is building, and the relationships between sports players and musicians. Interesting stuff for sure, but it’s just noise to me.

In the ESPN Music Issue, Gene Simmons of KISS (who is co-owner with fellow band mate Paul Stanley of the Arena Football League LA KISS), proudly says “You got to try to break the grounds and not do what Grandpa used to do… It shouldn’t be just football, it should be an event!” Oh dear God. Granted an argument could be made that Arena Football isn’t football anyway, so… big deal.


Photo: DirecTV

The NFL Playoff Season Is Over

Photo: Evan Siegle/P-G Media/@PGevansiegle
Photo: Evan Siegle/P-G Media/@PGevansiegle

What a wild final weekend for the NFL. The Green Bay Packers had the NFC title all tied up going into the final 5 minutes of the game before head-butting it all away. Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch suddenly awoke and took over, willing the Seattle Seahawks to an overtime victory and securing a second straight NFC Championship title. Over in the AFC, the mighty New England Patriots offensive line allowed the great Tom Brady to wield his power and dominate the Indianapolis Colts to pave their way to a sixth AFC Championship. Congrats to both teams.

Thus concludes one of the more compelling season of the NFL – on and off the field. From the marijuana suspension for Josh Gordon to the violent domestic abuse of Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson, from the rebirth of Tony Romo to the downfall of 49er coach Jim Harbaugh, from writing off  Tom Brady early in the season to wrongly assuming a championship for Peyton Manning in the playoffs. What a great season to witness for NFL fans.

Now, I know what you must be thinking. Wait, it’s not over yet – what about the Super Bowl two weeks from now? I’m sorry to have to break it to you, but for any self respecting football fan, the Super Bowl is not about football. The Super Bowl is an entertainment show. (more…)

Literature You Should Know: Take Me Out to the Ballgame!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, when jerseys and caps are the height of fashion, hot dogs haut cuisine, and peanuts and popcorn the staples of diet, when the crisp autumn air bears colorful leaves and the roar of the crowd as the umpire cries, “Play ball!”

Yes, my friends, it’s time once again for OCTOBER BASEBALL!

After clinching the NLDS yesterday, it remains to be seen whether my beloved Cardinals will get their chance for a twelfth World Series win this year.  But given an assertion made by one of my former creative writing professors that every American poet has at least one baseball poem, I figured it was time to take a quick look at some of my favorite celebrations of the Great American Pastime.

Don’t think ladies should be writing about baseball?  Let me introduce you to a venerable young lady by the name of Katie Casey:

And speaking of Caseys….

Finally, who could forget—well, I don’t know, but probably not; they’re both pretty reliable infielders—

So what are some of your favorites?

My Life Ends Today… Again

Tonight is the night every dorm room, frat house, and alumni club across the country has been waiting for for eight months.  College football begins tonight. And just when I thought my sports life couldn’t get any busier (my life already ended once at the start of Major League Baseball in April), I’m having to prep my TV, laptop, and phone to all be watching multiple games at once.

Opening day gives us some fairly high profile matchups in Division I football, with #9 South Carolina taking on #21 Texas A&M in an SEC powerhouse battle.  Also #18 Ole Miss takes on small conference contender Boise State.

This is an especially important year for college football, with the BCS coming to an overdue end we will see the first attempt at a four-team playoff. The entire infrastructure is being redesigned, which is why I’m looking to make some predictions.  Here are the four teams I am calling to make the inagural playoff.

1. #1 Florida State University

Heisman Winner Jameis Winston
Heisman Winner Jameis Winston

Usually my favor for the Seminoles would be skewed by the fact that I grew up in Tallahassee, but the reigning champs look poised to be just as dominant as last year.  Heisman trophy winner Jameis Winston is getting his second crack at a title with a somewhat unproven receiving core, new runners in the backfield, but otherwise a squad of proven National Champs who are going to be even better with an extra year of experience.

2. #8 Michigan State University

1385483762000-AP-Michigan-St-Northwestern-FootballBegrudgingly, I’ll put Michigan State up here. Although they play in what I consider the weakest of the major conferences, and despite the fact that three of their out-of-conference games are Jacksonville State, East Michigan, and Wyoming, they do have one make-or-break game: Sept 6th vs #3 Oregon. If they can pull off a win over highly touted Oregon, it would immediately push them into the early playoff conversation. And then, besides a midseason matchup with Ohio State, they have a general cakewalk into the playoffs.

3. #13 Louisiana State University

Leonard Fournette
Leonard Fournette

There has to be someone from the SEC. Whether it’s hype or true pedigree, there is a 0% chance of the playoffs not including one team from “America’s best conference.” But why LSU? Well, Alabama has quarterback issues – with fifth-year senior Blake Sims reportedly just beating out FSU transfer Jacob Coker. The lack of decisiveness at the sport’s most important position could prove destructive. Auburn is without Heisman trophy candidate Tre Mason, and I’m not sure they’ll catch quite as many breaks as they did last year. South Carolina could be a difference maker and I was extremely close to picking UGA, but I’m taking LSU. I think last year’s #1 prospect RB Leonard Fournette will be one of the biggest stories in football – with some even picking him as the favorite to win the Heisman trophy. Also, I respect any SEC team who doesn’t book complete cupcakes in their out-of-conference match ups. And while LSU does have Louisiana Monroe and Sam Houston on the schedule, this week’s contest against #14 Wisconsin earns them some brownie points with me in comparison to the rest of the SEC (with some exceptions).

4. #15 University of Southern California

New USC Head Coach Steve Sarkisian
New USC Head Coach Steve Sarkisian

Okay. Yes. This is my alma mater. I’ll admit my bias up front. But a healthy Trojans squad looks about as formidable as anyone in the Pac-12. As long as new head couch Steve Sarkisian can manage the offense better than his predecessor Lane Kiffin, and if they can manage to stay healthy (that means no more jumping out of imaginary windows to save imaginary nephews Josh Shaw) SC could be the nation’s dark horse.

That’s my take. Hit me with the hate.

Danny Almonte and the Little Big Scandal

etick_a_almonte01_850The Little League World Series begins today, one of our nations most beloved annual sporting events (along with the National Spelling Bee which I’ve also written about). Almost nothing makes me feel more American than watching these kids reach their dreams, surrounded by a giant cast of generous volunteers. For a brief month in the summer, these 11 and 12 year olds become superstars, and perhaps no 12 year old became more of a superstar on Little League’s biggest stage than the ace of the Bronx Little League in 2001, Danny Almonte. The only problem was, Danny wasn’t 12. He was 14. And after a perfect game and a 3rd place finish, Danny became the biggest scandal in youth sports history. ESPN recently released a 30 for 30 short documentary that investigates the controversy, and exposes the quiet young kid at the center of it. Click here to take a look at this fascinating exposé.


5 Biggest Snubs

emmystatuette__130419054303__130912171435__130914002423__130918203153The Primetime Emmy nominee list came out today and the annual turmoil over who was left unrecognized has begun. However, there is another set of fans who feel unrest over the mistreatment of their favorite celebrities.

I’m referring to the finalization of the MLB All-Star rosters. Today the Final Vote elected Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo and Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Chris Sale as the final members of the NL and AL teams, respectively. Both are extremely deserving (especially Sale, who is at the very least a top-5 starter in baseball right now), but there are several others for whom the politics of these “award ceremonies” proved unjust as ever.

5. Cincinnati Reds CF – Billy Hamilton

Cincinnati Reds CF - Billy Hamilton
Cincinnati Reds CF – Billy Hamilton

Now, he has missed his last few games with a hamstring injury, and he is on a team in the Reds that is one of the best represented teams with 4 All-Stars, but leaving the speedy Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton off the NL outfield reserves was an oversight. Coming into his rookie season, the 23-year old was expected to impress with his speed (and he has, with a spectacular 37 steals, good enough for 2nd in the NL), but the major concern was whether or not Billy would be able to hit enough to make his speed a factor. And he has! Hamilton has shown above-average contact abilities with a .280 avg, and has even demonstrated a little unexpected power with 5 bombs and 6 triples. Again, there are already 4 Reds on the NL roster (three of whom are extremely deserving; I’ll let you decipher who is the fourth) but in an outfield bench that features Pittsburgh utility man Josh Harrison (What?), we certainly could have made room for Hamilton.

4. Atlanta Braves LF – Justin Upton

Atlanta Braves LF - Justin Upton
Atlanta Braves LF – Justin Upton

Okay. If you don’t buy that Hamilton should take Harrison’s spot, you should at least agree that Atlanta Braves slugger Justin Upton should be headed to Minnesota for the mid-season festivities. Upton’s 17 HRs are good for fifth in the NL and he’s no scrub in any of his other categories. A .280 avg., 50 RBIs and 8 steals demonstrate his versatile role in the heart of the second-place Atlanta offense. Arguably the most dangerous guy in this lineup (that includes you, Freddie Freeman), Upton has very quietly put up numbers that are certainly All-Star caliber.

3. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim SP – Garrett Richards

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim SP - Garrett Richards
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim SP – Garrett Richards

Like Upton, young Angels flamethrower Garrett Richards was a Final Vote candidate that lost out. The former reliever has had a breakout season in the starting rotation, playing a major role in the success in Anaheim.  His 10 wins, 2.71 ERA, 14 quality starts, and 119 strikeouts are all good for Top-10 in the AL. Not to mention the fact that his average fastball sits at a sizzling 96.3. It would have been fun to see him throw at Target Field, but the AL pitching staff is admittedly crowded.

2. Houston Astros RF – George Springer

Houston Astros RF - George Springer
Houston Astros RF – George Springer

Another rookie outfielder that was overlooked, elite prospect George Springer has pulled the bottom-feeding Houston Astros out of obscurity. The phenom has knocked 19 HRs and 50 RBIs, despite spending his first two weeks in the minor leagues. In addition, he has already shown prowess defensively with a combination of speed, glove, and arm strength. Yes, his .238 avg is bad, but he has proven to be unexpectedly disciplined.  Springer has gotten on base at an impressive .342 clip (only .006 behind mediocre All-Star honoree, Alex Gordon). He’s a future All-Star, without a doubt, but so far Springer has done enough to deserve a place on baseball’s biggest stage. I wouldn’t have minded watching him in the Home Run Derby either.

1. Detroit Tigers 2B – Ian Kinsler and Minnesota Twins 2B – Brian Dozier

Detroit Tigers 2B - Ian Kinsler
Detroit Tigers 2B – Ian Kinsler
Minnesota Twins 2B - Brian Dozier
Minnesota Twins 2B – Brian Dozier

Yes. It’s a tie for number 1. I simply could not choose, because both of these AL second basemen were denied a much-deserved roster spot. Veteran Ian Kinsler has been extremely productive all around in his first year in Detroit. Kinsler has hit .303 for the first-place Tigers, along with 11 bombs, 9 steals, and a whopping 62 runs that are good enough for second in the AL.  Second to… ? That’s right. Minnesota Twins keystone Brian Dozier. The Minnesota favorite is on pace for a 30-30 season, matching 15 swipes with 16 longballs. And, as mentioned, his 65 runs are best in the AL, again, proving his .338 OBP to be more important than his lackluster .235 avg. Most importantly, he’s the hometown hero! It’s a shame he’ll miss a chance to represent in front of his city.

I was shocked to hear that Angels SS Erick Aybar got the nod to replace injured Alex Gordon while both of these middle infielders remained at home. Nothing against Robinson Cano, who was voted by the fans as the AL starter, but the only second baseman who has been better than these two is the Astros’ diminutive speedster Jose Altuve. I’m just thankful AL Home Run Derby captain Jose Bautista acknowledged Dozier’s snub by selecting him to the AL Derby squad.

That’s my list. Who did I forget?

Turf luck

The rest of the world can have the NBA and NHL Finals, because I want to talk turkey (actually, that’s my other blog)–specifically soccer turkey in the form of next year’s world cup. You know: the one played on stadium sized fields, with regulation sized balls, but by humans that aren’t men (read: the ladies). The World Cup that has, for some time, been ticking off a number of highly visible players from around the globe, specifically because of host country Canada’s curiously frugal choice to stick with artificial turf instead of installing real grass.

The advantages of using grass are nearly limitless (safer for players, cool jersey stains), and yet player-advocates seem to be hollering into the middle of a wind tunnel buried somewhere in the center of Earth’s core which can only be accessed by way of Mordor. Particularly disappointing (though not surprising given its “leadership”) has been the lack of pressure from FIFA to upgrade the fields in time for 2015.turf_toe

Despite the popularity of the 2011 WWC, and the crazy addictive games of the 2012 Olympics (the Women’s final was the most-watched event in the history of NBC Sports), the 2015 WWC only attracted two bidders–the aforementioned neighbors to the north, and Zimbabwe. (To compare, the 2011 WWC had six bidders.) Perhaps Canada, who won the bid in March of 2011, thought they were getting a bargain. The 2007 World Cup proved to be significantly less monumental than the ’99 tournament, and 2003 was a bit of an organizational nightmare, as the US scrambled to replaced original host China after that whole SARS scare. But then 2011 happened, and the world watched. And 2012 happened and the world tweeted. And maybe if you’re Canada you’re thinking “We don’t have time to fix our fields any more,” or, more likely “We thought no one would care.”

Look. I get it, Canada. You want to save a few bucks. But there are lots of ways to save money without cutting corners. For example, I buy cheese in blocks instead of pre-sliced (for more info on that, check out my cheese blog).

So, here’s my pitch to FIFA: let Zimbabwe host. Sure, they were never gonna get the bid thanks to corruption allegations, but since when has FIFA been preoccupied with rules or their enforcement? If anything, the signal FIFA is sending is that you’re not legitimate until fraudulent markets decide you’re worth exploiting. Luckily, women are great at being exploited! Players could even get in on the betting. And then maybe they could buy Canada some real grass.

Scripps National Spelling Bee: Fantasy League

This past week, ESPN televised what is perhaps the most exciting annual event in sports. No, not the Super Bowl, not the Masters, not the World Series. Instead, families huddled around their TVs to watch their favorite middle schoolers spell words that no one has ever heard of…

It’s certainly a strange phenomenon, with growing popularity due to the prime time ESPN coverage and the release of the movie Akeelah and the Bee in 2006The Scripps National Spelling Bee has become a cherished event by many in our nation, and I am no exception. There’s something about it that is just jaw-droppingly fascinating.

Ansun (left) and Sriram (right)
Ansun (left) and Sriram (right)

This year was an especially legendary year, as the spellers were so good they actually ran out of words! That’s right, Sriram Hathwar of Corning, New York and Ansun Sujoe of Fort Worth, Texas were named co-champions after exhausting the list of designated final words. What made it even more interesting is that both spellers actually missed a word in the same round, forcing them to continue the duel.

So that got me thinking. As a massive sports fan, I have been drawn into the world of fantasy sports. Using the talents of big-leaguers to gain bragging rights against friends and co-workers has gained popularity every year.

But the Spelling Bee, despite being one of the most heralded sporting events in the country, has never had the opportunity for fantasy. Until now. I have drafted the rules to a Scripps National Spelling Bee Fantasy League. Follow the guidelines below and prepare to assemble your roster of encyclopedic adolescents.


League Rules:


  1. General leagues will be made up of 10 teams.  There are 50 spellers in the Scripps National Finals.  Therefore, each team will have 5 spellers on their roster. Other leagues’ roster sizes will be determined by the number of teams in the league (10 max), but the number of active total roster members cannot exceed 50.
  2. The original draft order will be random and the draft style will be serpentine (1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1,1,etc.) before the final day of competition.
  3. Players will have time before the semi-final round to determine their drafting strategy.  Will you draft seasoned veterans who came oh-so-close last year?  Or are you likely to go after pedigree, drafting the younger siblings of previous champions?  As a former homeschooler, I will be seeking out the spellers who forgo the traditional schooling model to sit at home with Mom and study Latin etymologies.


  1. Trades between teams may be done at any time after the draft.   There is no limit to the number of trades that can be made.
  2. At all times a “Free Agency” pool will be available to all teams that includes all spellers that are not currently on a team.  General Managers can add and drop spellers as they choose, so long as their roster does not exceed 5 spellers.  The Free Agency pool can be used to replace eliminated spellers up until the Championship Finals.
  3.  If a “Keeper League” is ever made available, players on a roster at the conclusion of the Spelling Bee will remain on the roster for the following year (which may make drafting the lone 5th grader more valuable).


  1. All seedings and championships will be based on total score in comparison to all other teams.  There are no matchups or brackets.
  2. Each speller will amass 30 points for the first correctly-spelled word.  For every following word there will be an additional 5 points (30, 35, 40, 45, etc.).
  3. Additionally, spellers will earn points based on the rarity of the letters in their word.  Each letter has a point value (just as it does in the game Scrabble).
  4. The winner of the league will be determined by the score accumulated between the Semifinal and Final rounds (the 3rd day of the Scripps National Spelling Bee).

Optional Rules

A league may also choose to implement additional rules that add a new facet to the competitive atmosphere.

  1. A team is deducted 10 points if an eliminated speller goes to sit on his or her parent’s lap.
  2. A team is deducted 20 points if a speller cries.
  3. A team is awarded 10 points for every word with four or more syllables a speller uses in an interview.
  4. A team is awarded 30 points if a speller already knows the definition to his/her given word.

All I need now is a partner to help me code this thing for next year.

If a Spelling Bee fantasy league interests you, or if you have some adjustments to make to the rules, let us know!

World Cup Anxiety

Landon Donovan was left of the US 23-man roster
Landon Donovan was left of the US 23-man roster

The United States national team has announced its 23 man roster, a roster that is somewhat controversially lacking the decade-long face of US soccer, Landon Donovan. Squad coach, Jurgen Klinsmann, elected not to include Donovan on the national roster for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

It’s strange to imagine the national team without its captain, but we’ll get a look at the team tonight in a friendly against Azerbaijan. Perhaps after tonight we’ll better understand Klinsmann’s decision. Regardless, the US has a tough draw, with a group that includes all strong teams: Ghana, Portugal, and Germany. There will certainly be controversy if the team doesn’t perform, but as many have said, the coach must have seen an advantage in cutting Donovan.

Tonight’s match is on ESPN. Check in to get a look at this year’s squad.

UPDATE: The United States defeated Azerbaijan 2-0. Goals were scored by second half substitutes Mix Diskerud and Aron Johannsson.

Sterling is Out

We can all breathe a small sigh of relief knowing that the Los Angeles Clippers owner has met with a strong punishment.  Donald Sterling, revealed to have made several shockingly racist remarks in a recording broadcasted by TMZ, has encountered a

Donald Sterling
Donald Sterling

lifetime ban from the NBA, as well as a $2.5 million dollar fine.  NBA commissioner Adam Silver has sent a message that there is no room for this kind of racism in the league. It is a victory, yes, but the weight of these comments still stings. I’m just happy to call this a bright new day for the NBA, after what has been a truly tragic week.

To continue an optimistic day for basketball, my hometown Washington Wizards defeated the Chicago Bulls to advance to the second round.  Just an added plus to a basketball fan who has seen better days.

Comissioner Silver indicated that he will also encourage the board to force the Clippers to be sold out of Sterling’s hands. We can only hope that the motion goes through, and that the power of bigotry can be squashed by tolerance and justice.

A funny thing happened on the way to the World Cup

Last evening, on the heels of a 2-0 victory against once-upon-a-time-rival China (what’s up, 1999?), it was announced that the head coach of the United States Women’s National Team–i.e., the face of women’s professional soccer–had been canned. An interesting move for a team that spent a considerable amount of time vetting longtime, legendary coach Pia Sundhage’s replacement, and one that, despite the late hour, whipped social media into a frenzy.

Given the tumultuous history of the USWNT in the last decade, there will be no shortage of speculation about what caused U.S. Soccer head honcho Sunil Gulati to terminate head coach Tom Sermanni (formerly famous for being the Scotsman with the least Scottish-sounding name).


The Women’s National squad fared poorly (by which I mean a 7th place finish, including a loss to Sundhage’s new squad, the Swedish national team) in the most recent Algarve Cup, a longstanding yearly tournament hosted by Portugal that the USWNT has typically dominated. But the USWNT has never been short of vocal players who ultimately get what they want, and they’re also not used to losing so much in so little a time.

With approximately 18 months to prepare for the next FIFA Women’s World Cup, U.S. Soccer is undoubtedly scrambling to find the perfect, player-approved, results-oriented coach. Or, you know, maybe Pia could start returning her messages!


My Life Ends Today (And I Couldn’t Be Happier)

It's Finally Opening Day
It’s Finally Opening Day

That’s right.  It’s Opening Day!  The great ballparks across the US are opening up today and we’re finally getting baseball back.

So here’s what my productivity level is going to do:

Richard Mattox: Productivity During Baseball Season
Richard Mattox: Productivity During Baseball Season

All other aspects of my life will be put on hold from 4-10 pm every night.  They will be replaced by gallons of useless knowledge about who has a great BABIP and which midseason minor league call up has the best potential.  Some people say the nation’s pastime is falling away, but to me there’s still nothing that makes me feel more American.

My O’s (that’s Baltimore Orioles) made a few late signings this offseason and look poised to make noise in a competitive AL East division.  We’re all just praying Chris Davis’ 53 homer season wasn’t a fluke.

Chris "Crush" Davis: 53 HRs
Chris “Crush” Davis: 53 HRs

How do you feel about Opening Day? Have you been counting the days since October? Or do you find baseball to be unbearably slow? What are you looking forward to most in the 2014 season? Let us know!

Brooklyn Boondoggle Saints

Remember how some New Yorkers got so upset about the Atlantic Yards Project, aka the Barclays Center, aka “Operation Relocate the New Jersey Nets to Brooklyn Because Brooklyn is More Hip Than Jersey*,” that they decided to make a documentary about what would happen to the outer borough if the Project developers got their way?  And blah blah blah “eminent domain” / bold-faced illegal land grab / displaced persons–total snoooozfest. Because here’s what actually happened.

According to Deadspin:

In exchange for giving Forest City Ratner more than $300 million in public subsidies to build the Barclays Center in downtown Brooklyn (and that’s not counting additional tax breaks and below-market land), the developer promised to give back to the community, including affordable housing, and new railyards. Precisely none of that has materialized. The only tangible giveback to the community? A storage meditation room.

I honestly don’t know what Deadspin is whining about. A meditation room is the perfect place to come when you’re seeking refuge from record-shattering New York winters, or brainstorming where you and your family are going to live now that you’ve been kicked out of your home. Plus, there are only approximately 919 houses of worship in Brooklyn, so the meditation room was definitely needed.

Man, I love a happy ending. Now, will someone please get a security guard to unlock this room so I can rejoice (quietly, of course).

*As of this posting, the Brooklyn Nets are in second place in the weakest conference in the National Basketball Association. Which is still better than being in New Jersey, apparently.

Homes used to go here. Now, more importantly, it’s where GQ has a barbershop.