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Posts Tagged ‘NBA’

 

Gift Ideas For the Sports Fan

Wednesday, November 16th, 2016

Wondering what to buy the football fanatic, dance devotee, or basketball booster this holiday season? Disco Sports has you covered! Find jerseys, jackets, hats, and tees from their favorite NFL, MLB, NBA, MLS, and Premier League teams. We also have great small gift items like ornaments, mugs, and water bottles. Take a peek at a few ideas below.

And back for 2016, teach your future sports fans the joy of giving at our Little Reindeer Shop. It’s always a home run with kids & parents alike! Now, bring on the pumpkin pie & christmas cookies!

How do You Get Ready?

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

Athletes are an quirky breed, and it seems like everyone has their own unique pregame routine. Sometimes it’s a motivator, sometimes a relaxer, and sometimes it’s getting every bit of competitive edge you can.

In the late 1970’s one of the most feared cornerbacks in the NFL was Oakland’s Lester Hayes. He went with the Raiders to two Superbowls, and was a five-time Pro Bowl player. He was also a big fan of Stickum, a glue-like substance used to improve one’s grip. Similar to pine tar on baseball bats, in Hayes’ case the application was such that he didn’t necessarily intercept passes as much as they stuck to him like a pest on flypaper. The NFL adopted a rule in 1981 called the “Lester Hayes Rule”, that forbid the use of a sticky substance on any part of the player’s body or uniform. Seems that it was good for catching footballs, but made Lester Hayesthe post-game handshake somewhat regretful.

Hayes wasn’t the only pro to be a fan of sticky stuff. George Brett hit a 2-run homer in the 1983 World Series that should have won the Royals a game over the Yankees. New York Manager Billy Martin, knowing that Brett was a fan of the tar, asked the umpire to take a look at the bat after the hit, and the umpire ruled that it was overly stickified. Brett was declared out and proclaimed the first major leaguer to hit the “game-losing home run.”Berserk George Brett

But it’s not always about getting an edge. Sometimes it’s just a bit of home-brew luck. Soccer player Laurent Blanc kissed the bald head of goalkeeper Fabien Barthez before every game leading up to the 1998 World Cup – which his France squad would go on to win.

Remember our blog about superstitions? Turk Wendell, pitcher for the Mets, liked to hit the mound with fresh breath. He had a vigorous brush before every game, and even brushed his teeth in between innings.

John Henderson likes for someone to smack him across the kisser just before he leaves the locker room for a game. Maybe it’s like a boxer absorbing some sparring blows. Only problem is, Henderson is a 6’7” 330 lb defensive tackle in the NFL. Now who wants that job?

Cricket is a curious sport involving a ball, a bat, and pins. It is somewhat like baseball, but it isn’t. It has some commonality with tennis, but it doesn’t. Fielding players are called “bowlers”, but aside from the “pins”, called wickets, it has nothing in common with bowling. It is played on a pitch, like soccer or rugby, and involves a crease, like hockey. It has little else in common with those sports either. Cricket players (Cricketers? Cricketeers? Chirpers? Jiminys?) have their own set of quirks. South African Neil McKenzie put every loo seat in the clubhouse down before entering the gentleman’s fray, and prepared for his battle by taping his bat to the ceiling. He later spent some time being treated for his obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Sometimes the preparation is a bit of showmanship, meant to inspire the crowd or intimidate the opposing team. Take for example the New Zealand All Blacks. One of the most feared clubs in rugby, they start each match with a Maori War dance. To be honest, I wouldn’t want to engage in physical contest with those guys. Maybe it’s the dance, and maybe it’s because they’re huge and made of muscles. Not sure.

And of course there is LeBron James’s well-known powder toss. Just before every game, James takes a clump of chalk powder (used by many players to keep good control on the ball – not unlike chalking a pool cue) and throws it up in the air in a now signature little cloud. You may have seen it depicted on a certain billboard. You know…before they took it down when James became the NBA’s favorite villian.

Other teams have mass-hysteria rituals. John Brown University fans launch a tidal wave of toilet paper at their team’s first bucket. Great for the fans, but it’s a free basket as it earns them a technical every time. Perhaps a better move is the fan participation stunt of biblical proportions performed prior to every Lawrence Central Catholic High basketball game in Massachusetts. A fan dressed as Moses approaches the horde of red-clad boosters and “parts” the Red Sea to sprint to the top of the bleachers and begin a team spirit chant.  We can’t vouch for the quality of Moses’ shave, but it gets the fans riled up.

All They Do is Lin

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

Are you a witness to the Linsanity? If you haven’t noticed, there’s a fever sweeping the nation – even the world. And the only cure? More Jeremy Lin.

Another star basketball player – no big deal, right? Not quite. There’s something a little…different about this 23-year-old phenomenon. Let’s take a look at where this guy came from.

Lin played high school ball in Palo Alto, California, where he was a senior year captain.  He was first team All State and was a California Conference player of the Year.

Lin wanted an Ivy League education and had his sights set on UCLA or Stanford, but neither school wanted him.  Harvard said that they could get him playing time, but the school offers no athletic scholarships.  So Lin just went.  He did great at Harvard, being the first Ivy League player to record at least 1.450 points, 450 rebounds, 400 assists, and 200 steals.  He was a finalist for the John Wooden and Bob Cousy awards.  Through all of this, he managed to get to class and graduate from Harvard with a degree in Economics.

After college, Lin threw his name in the hat for the NBA.  While nobody bit, he did get offers to play on some Summer Leagues and in some mini-camps.  After a brief stint with the Golden State Warriors and an even briefer one with the Houston Rockets, Lin was picked up by the perennially struggling New York Nets. He was, in fact, bumped down to the Developmental League for a brief time, but after an impressive triple-double game he was brought back to the Knicks bench.

Then starter Baron Davis got hurt. Coach Mike Di’Antoni was considering cutting Lin, but with such a struggling team he figured why not see what the kid can do on the court. So in their next game against the Nets, Jeremy Lin went on the court.

February 4  – 25 points, 7 assists
February 6  – 28 points, 8 assists
February 8  – 23 points, 10 assists
February 10 – 38 points, 7 assists (beating out Kobe Bryant’s 34)
February 11 – 20 points, 8 assists
February 14 – 27 points, 11 assists (oh yeah, and also this game-winning last-second three)
February 15 – 10 points, 13 assists

These are not good numbers. These are GREAT numbers. These are record-setting numbers. And yet the numbers don’t tell the story; they don’t fully explain Linsanity.

You see, this doesn’t happen in the NBA. It just doesn’t happen. Of all the big-time sports in America, professional basketball is the most talent-driven and the most star-driven. And the talented are known quantities – often heralded since before high school as future stars. Stars played in the McDonald’s All-American Game when they were in high school. Stars were recruited to NCAA Tournament-caliber programs in college. Because when you have the talent, it gets noticed.

Except…it doesn’t. Not always. Not this time. Lin played for Harvard. Lin isn’t an abnormal physical specimen. Lin is Asian-American (unlike Yao Ming, who is Chinese). There is plenty, and I mean plenty, of discussion on the web about what sort of a factor race plays in the story of Jeremy Lin – and I’m not interested in rehashing that here. Suffice to say that when an athlete is able to overcome expectations and defies the conventions of their sport – be it conventions of race, nationality, physical factors, alma mater, or others – it is always worth celebrating.

What makes Jeremy Lin’s story so fantastic is all the angles – the unlikely hero who was never given a real shot is given one chance before being cut and becomes the redeemer of his struggling team and an overnight sensation. Now that’s a good hook.

Have You Seen History in the Making?

Monday, February 13th, 2012

A note from a friend brought about a flashback from childhood.  A local high school was honoring a number of teams from the 70’s and 80’s, inducting them into a new school Hall of Fame, and remembering their coach.

If you followed high school basketball in the Washington Metro area during that era there were names that inevitably came up.

DeMatha.  Coached by Morgan Wooten and lists as alumni Adrian Branch, Kenny Carr, Danny Ferry, Sidney Lowe, and Bernard Williams.  DeMatha played Power Memorial High School in a National Championship game in 1965, a game that many refer to as the “Greatest High School Game Ever.”  DeMatha beat a Power team that was led by one Lew Alcindor, later to become Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.  Coach Wooten was there for almost 50 years and amassed a record of 1,274-192.  He turned down some pretty sweet offers to go to the college ranks (Georgetown, Duke, Wake Forest), but stayed at DeMatha.  It was his home.  The Basketball Hall of Fame has an award named after him.

St. John’s College High School.  Led by Joe Gallagher, he was one of the first high school coaches in the country to amass 900 wins.  Gallagher started at St. John’s in 1947, returning to his alma mater.  He coached at St. John’s for decades, and for 21 years was also their football coach.  A two-sport coach!  In 1987, he coached in the first match-up between two 800-win coaches.  Who did he face?  DeMatha and Coach Wooten.

This flurry of nostalgia wasn’t brought about by the boys, or by DC Metro sports.  The high school honoring their teams and coaches was the Academy of Holy Cross in Kensington, Maryland.  The Academy of the Holy Cross is an all-girls Catholic school.  In 1975, Debbie Sheahan talked her dad into becoming the basketball coach.

In 1975 Debbie and her teammates were playing in one-piece jumpers.  Bill Sheahan coached his first team to a 27-3 record.  His next year saw a 27-1 record.  In 1977 the Holy Cross Tartans started winning every game.  They did this for the next five years.  Coach Sheahan led his girls to six consecutive International Association of Approved Basketball Officials Championships, five consecutive Catholic League Titles, and his program recorded an unthinkable 115-game win streak.  Coach Sheahan led the Tartans to championships, titles, and tournaments all over the country (and a few games in Europe!)  He taught his girls to play hard, play smart, and to use assets to their advantage.  He coached a team, not a bunch of tall girls.  His son, Brian, remarked that his dad was proud of the fact that in 45 years of coaching he had never had a technical.  Brian knows a thing or two about basketball; he played for Coach Wooten at DeMatha and came here to play for the University of Richmond until a heart condition pulled him off of the paint.  It may have been something in the genes, but the Spiders kept him as a coach.

And Coach Bill?  No stranger to area play.  He was a graduate of Gonzaga whose archrival was…St. John’s College High School.

Rivalry and camaraderie go hand in hand in a community like that and childhood memories bring back preparations for summer camps.  Coach Bill would join forces with Coach Wooten and Coach Gallagher, and we would see people like Lefty Driesell (University of Maryland Coach 1969-86), Patrick Ewing, John Lucas, Len Elmore, and all sorts of Washington area alumni who had gone on to college or NBA success.  These Metro-area basketball kingmakers would open their hearts and charts to kids from all over who wanted to learn how to win.

Back in those days we all lived and breathed basketball.  Some of the best games to watch were not, however, at Cole Field House, the Capital Center, or Georgetown’s McDonough Arena.  They were in the small, crowded gym at Holy Cross.

Maybe the next time you get a hankering for some sports you’ll head over to St. Gertrude.  If you need some hoops, perhaps you’ll see the Godwin girls.  A glance at Collegiate?  A hint of Hermitage?

Our area is chock-full of great athletes in both our public and private schools.  Over the past 40 years the girls have become as good as the boys.  The games are emotional, fun, competitive, and exciting.  It won’t cost you a lot, and you won’t be helping to make the payment on a new Bentley.  You should check one out.  Who knows; maybe you will be the one to see history in the making.

 

Passing for Faith

Friday, January 20th, 2012

He was ranked as one of the top high school quarterbacks in the country.  He was heavily recruited and went on to attend the University of Florida, where he led the team to a National Championship.  He went on to win the Heisman trophy, and was a high draft pick in the NFL.  He is most well known for his faith.

Tim Tebow?

Nope.  Danny Wuerffel.

Every time that Tebow took a knee on national television, or said his post-game thank you’s we heard about his faith.  But he is hardly the first high-profile player to be of strong religious conviction.  Is it really such a big deal if he expressed his faith?

Wuerffel grew up the son of an Air Force Chaplain, and his faith has never been far from his life.  While spending time in New Orleans as a Saint (any irony there?), he began working with Desire Street Ministries.  They work in impoverished neighborhoods trying to make them better places to live and work.  In a recent interview with CNN, he talks of driving to the Superdome.  If he turned right, he would go to practice, but if he turned left, he would go to Desire Street.  After stints with a few teams and a run-in with Hurricane Katrina, he turned left.  His own personal Road to Damascus.

Reggie White from USA TodayReggie White was one of the most feared defensive ends to ever play football.  A University of Tennessee All-American who is in both the College Football and Pro Football Hall of Fame, he played for the Eagles and Panthers, but is best known for his many years of mayhem in Green Bay.  It was there that he won two Super Bowls and was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year.  His teammates nicknamed him the “Minister of Defense”, which not only reflected his skills as a pass-rusher and team leader, but also his standing as an ordained minister.

A 3-time Super Bowl winner, Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton is also the son of a Pentecostal minister.  He attended the first-ever Fellowship of Christian Athletes camp.  In a recent editorial in the Wall Street Journal he wrote of prayers before games that ended, “Amen.  Now let’s go kill those (expletive deleted)’s!”

And it’s not just football.

Mike Piazza of the Mets and Dodgers has never hidden his Catholicism.  He travelled to Rome, where he visited the Vatican and met Pope John Paul II.

As a long-time fan of Caddyshack, we fondly remember the scene of the Bishop playing the round of his life.  When Webb Simpson won the Greater Greensboro Open last year, he threw the trophy over his head and gave a shout-out to his maker.  Webb went to Wake Forest on an Arnold Palmer scholarship.  It was there that he majored in religion, with a minor, we can only assume, in golf.

Mohammad Ali was the World Heavyweight Champion in 1967 when he refused to go to Vietnam.  He was a conscientious objector on religious grounds.  His belief in Islam told him not to go.  He was publicly criticized and his objection and his faith have followed him to this day.  But like many of his public pronouncements, he was never shy about it.The Greatest

In a subtle irony, one of the greatest fights for The Greatest was with George Foreman.  Big George was beaten up pretty bad by Jimmy Young in 1977.  The man that Ring magazine called one of the greatest punchers of all time was exhausted, and fell ill in the locker room after the fight.  It was there that he was said to have had a life altering experience that led him to give over his life to his faith.  When he’s not trying to sell you cooking implements, George is an ordained minister.

Dikembe Mutumbo was a fearsome center in the NBA.  He practiced his religion while growing up in the Congo, and returned there upon retiring.  His continued work with the United Nations and CARE led President George W. Bush to mention him in a 2007 State of the Union address.

Bill Goldberg started off as a gridiron star, but became famous as a professional wrestler.  He is one of the few men to have defeated Hollywood Hulk Hogan.  Goldberg (“Who’s Next!) never hid his Judaism and is active in several charitable causes.

Tim Tebow may not be the subtlest player when it comes to taking a knee.  He is far from the only player to thank someone other than the coach after a big win (Why do players never blame a higher power after a crushing loss?).  The jury is still out about whether or not Tebow has any hope of having a career in the NFL.  He’s not exactly known for his passing or decision-making in the heat of battle.

At the end of the game, do we really care that he displays his faith?  Is his display any more arrogant than a Terrell Owens celebration?  Tebow plays football.  Who he plays for is up to him.

 

Should We Pay Our College Athletes?

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012
Scott Stadium at UVA

Mark Emmert is the president of the NCAA.  You know that acronym, right?  It’s the National Collegiate Athletic Association.  THE governing body of college athletics.  That bastion of amateurs.

Emmert had proposed a rule that would allow schools to pay scholarship athletes a $2,000 a year stipend in addition to scholarships.  You know, to buy a pizza, or go on a date, or get a new video game.  The money would help these young men and women enjoy some more of the perks that come with an institution of higher learning.  When asked if this wasn’t just a pay-for-pay plan he got all testy.  This notion of somehow “paying” athletes would be to “convert our student athletes to employees of the university-that would be the death of college athletics.”

Over 125 athletic directors and conference commissioners balked and said that the schools couldn’t afford it.  The NCAA went back on their proposal.

The University of North Carolina is working on a $77 million dollar renovation of their 100,000-plus capacity football stadium.  The University of Texas paid their head football coach $5.1 million this season.  CBS and Turner Broadcasting paid the NCAA, (not the schools) over $770 million for the television rights to the March Madness Tournament.

Did you catch that last one?  Three quarters of a BILLION dollars for THREE WEEKS OF BASKETBALL!  That’s almost as much in TV rights as the N.B.A. got for last year’s 6 months of play.  It washes out to $10.8 BILLION over 14 years.  Writing “billion” in all caps only helps to emphasize what a ridiculous amount of money that is.

One might argue that a high-performing player in college is going to have a world of opportunity at the professional level and would make up for lost revenue.  Not so much.  Of the 5,500 or so Division I basketball players who hit the courts for schools last year about 50 of them ended up on an N.B.A. team.  The pro teams often pay coaches less than what schools offer.   Many people were excited when Rick Pitino decided to go back to the college ranks.  Perhaps he needed to work with the kids again?  Doubt it.  His last year with the Celtics he made $5 million and the Louisville Cardinals are paying him $7.5.

The slippery slope is that if you look at a student athlete the wrong way you risk jeopardizing that player’s scholarship and college career.  You also put the school and its program at risk.  A player cannot accept gifts, money, favors, or any other assistance or preferential treatment based on his membership in an NCAA team.

Sort of.

Schools fly players all over the country.   Coaches and players use their exposure to generate millions in revenue for off-season clinics.  Players get tutors and academic assistance.

Ohio State’s coach Jim Tressell was fired after it was found that he knew of players exchanging football swag for money and free tattoos.  The NCAA let the team complete the 2009-10 season, and then sanctioned the team.  Ohio State decided this past fall to forfeit the last few games and Bowl wins of last season, but by that point who cared?  The money was already in the bank.

Consider the Curious Case of AJ Green.

Green was a wide receiver at Georgia.  He wanted to go to spring break with his friends, and like many college students, didn’t have enough money.  Green had something else, though.  He had the actual jersey that he’d worn the year before when he represented Georgia in the Independence Bowl.  So he sold it.  The NCAA suspended Green for four games for “violating his amateur status.”

During the season, during the NCAA investigation, and during Green’s suspension, fans and faithful lined up at the Georgia Bulldog bookstore and at other willing vendors and bought jerseys.  Georgia Bulldog jerseys.  Many of these jerseys had Green’s name on them.  These fans and faithful UGA’s paid almost $40 a whack for this piece of fan-swag.  All of this while Green saw not a penny and was penalized for using his ‘personal’ property.

The same sort of finger pointing went on about Cam Newton and whether or not he accepted or solicited money from an agent while still a “student-athlete.”  While the NCAA went after Cam, he and his teammates hit the gridiron in Auburn red every week.  Courtesy of Under Armour.

Disco Sports wrote earlier in the season about the fashion statement being made by the University of Maryland Terrapins on the gridiron this season.  Let’s put that in context:Terrapin by Under Armour

Under Armour paid the Terps $17.5 million for the rights to provide uniforms for the fine young men of the football team.  It includes a little over $2 million per year in actual product.  “We will pay you almost $5 million dollars per year to let us give you $2 million in products.”  Since it doesn’t seem to make sense we’ll lay it out:  if you look at this photo you can count 9 Under Armour logos and that doesn’t count a headband, wristband, sideline gear, or the back of the uniform.  Do you think that anyone makes any scratch of off that?

How many of you got gaming systems for Christmas?  EA Sports sold almost 3 million copies of their NCAA Football game in 2011.  Did people buy it because of the “NCAA” logo?  No.  They bought it because of the teams and players represented.  Heck, we make some money selling college football gear.

There’s nothing wrong with someone making a buck off a successful franchise or someone’s allegiance to a school.   But why not give some of that back to the players?  If you gave college hoopsters some loot for what they do, how many of the 5,450 players who didn’t end up in the N.B.A. would end up using it to actually go to school?  How much money would they spend on graduate programs or to perhaps start a business upon graduation?

Now THAT’S a stimulus package for the Iowa Caucuses.

The SEC recently became the first conference to pass the BILLION-dollar mark in annual revenue.  This may sound socialist, but as sports fans we think that this wealth should be spread around.  As capitalists in a free-market economy, we say give some back to the employees who earned it.

Just Play the Game and Roll With It

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

A late season interview with a member of the Washington Redskins heard him remark that a win (while rare for the ‘Skins this season) was fun.  They just played the game, had some fun, and rolled with it.  Some recent antics in sports would seem to dispute that sentiment.

In a game that was billed as the “Crosstown Shootout”, local rivals Xavier and Cincinnati faced off in an annual hoops contest.  Both schools are in Cincinnati, and the annual game is looked forward to by many, much like a VCU vs. U of R game here.

In interviews and on social media during the week leading up to the game there was a significant amount of jawing and braggadocio.  Players and fans of both schools claimed prowess and challenged their opponent’s abilities.  Then came game time.

After Xavier led most of the game and seemed to have victory in hand, the verbal taunting that had ruled the contest blew up into a physical altercation.  With less than 5 seconds left in the game, a Xavier player pushed a Cincinnati player, benches cleared, and fisticuffs ensued.  Players grappled, swung, kicked, and coaches struggled to clear the floor.  In a most egregious display, one player was caught with a blindside punch that left him on the floor, and as he struggled to cover himself was kicked repeatedly.  The end of the melee saw a player standing on the scorer’s table celebrating with the crowd.  At this point, referees called the game.

Things got really interesting after brawl.  For some inexplicable reason, Xavier coach Chris Mack made some of his players available for a post-game news conference.  Tu Holloway of Xavier, who was the celebrant of the scorer’s table, said that their behavior was to be expected.  “That’s what you’re going to see.  We’ve got a whole bunch of gangsters in our locker room.  That’s what we said we were going to do, zip ‘em up,” said Holloway.  Like, zip up a body bag?  Because that’s what gangsters do?

Did we mention that Xavier is a 180-year old Jesuit, Catholic school?

It was a little different across the hall.  Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin lit into his squad and took away their jerseys.  They didn’t deserve them.  He then went in front of the cameras and lamented that most of his squad would be lucky to be representing the school come Monday.  More to the point, he would be lucky to be coaching the team.  Cronin told reporters, “It’s a complete embarrassment no matter who started what.  Toughness is doing the right thing.  True toughness, you walk away from it.”

An Ohio prosecutor was considering pressing charges against some of the aggressors in the brawl.  He later declined to move forward as the schools seemed to have things in hand.  Yancy Gates, who knocked Kenny Frease to the floor with the blindside, received a 6 game suspension.  Tu Holloway, a brazen ringleader, was suspended for one game.

Really?

In 2009, Oregon Ducks running back LeGarrette Blount punched an opposing player after a game.  He was “suspended” for the rest of the year.  He ended up sitting out ten games and is now a Tampa Bay Buccaneer.

Texas Ranger Yorvit Torrealba is keeping in shape this winter by playing in Venezuela.  It was there that the catcher struck an umpire after striking out.  Venezuela has suspended him for 66 games, which is effectively the rest of this year and next season.  Major League Baseball and commish Bud Selig are “looking into it”.

James Harrison of the Pittsburg Steelers and Ndamukong Suh of the Detroit Lions have been fined, chastised, suspended, and vilified.  Both use questionable tactics, but in Suh’s case, he was actually suspended for stomping on a player after a whistle.  Harrison has survived by paying several hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.

And at last we see the return of the NBA.

Players and owners went back and forth for months to see who was greedier.  Just when Disco Sports fans thought all was lost, they came to terms.   Our Christmas gift this year was to get to watch some professional basketball.  In their first game of a ridiculously short season, Kevin Garnett of the Boston Celtics put his massive hand around an opposing player’s throat.  Perhaps he mistook the nape for a Spaulding.  Kevin’s penalty?  Nada.

If any of these players were gloved up and squaring off in the Octagon then some of this would make some sense.  But it doesn’t.  The New York Times recently did a series on Derek Boogaard, an “enforcer” in the NHL.  An average skater and mediocre stick-man, Boogaard was, at well over 6 and a half feet, respected for his fists.  In a career that took him from Minor League Canadian hockey to the New York Rangers, he played in almost 300 games, scored less than 20 points, and spent over 600 minutes in the penalty box.  He died of a drug overdose of painkillers mixed with alcohol and an autopsy showed a degenerative brain condition caused by concussion.  He was 28.  At least one NHL player has admitted to retiring rather than having to face Boogaard on the ice.

Not a fan of the hockey fight, either.

If two people in a parking lot contested the same parking space and an altercation ensued, there would be consequences.  If one shopper sucker-punched another, charges would be pressed.  If a dispute at the drive-through saw a driver reaching through the window and choking the attendant, someone would be facing jail time.

“sport:  (spohrt) noun:  diversion; recreation; pleasant pastime.  an athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess.”

It’s fun.  Just play the game and roll with it.

 

 

 

 

What’s Your Rabbit’s Foot? Disco Sports on Superstition.

Friday, December 9th, 2011
Brian Wilson and The Beard

“Look at the ball.  Don’t look up.  Don’t look up.  Back one step, two steps, and three steps.  Don’t look up.  Don’t look up.  Left once.  Left twice.  Darn.  Looked up.  Look at the ball, don’t look up…”

We’ve all seen the pre-kick ritual.  Watched the player at the foul line bounce once, twice. Watched the golfer look and wiggle and look and wiggle.  Many of us have heard the yell, “Mom!  Where’s my lucky hat?”  We have our own quirks at Disco Sports.

Where is the line between ritual and superstition?  Coaches and sports psychologists have long believed in the importance of a ritual and visualizing a goal.  Much of it helps to build and maintain a particular technique.   A good practice swing.

A study of collegiate athletes in the NCAA found a couple of interesting things:

  • Athletes in individual sports (golf, swimming) had a higher belief in superstition influencing results than team athletes.
  • Female athletes were more influenced than male athletes.
  • Gymnasts used more superstitious rituals than football players.

A different study of Canadian collegiate athletes found variations in the rituals by sport:

  • Hockey players focused on equipment.
  • Basketball players on action like sinking the last warm-up shot.
  • Volleyball players on food.
  • Swimmers on the color of a suit.

Maybe it’s Tiger Woods and his red Sunday shirt.  Maybe it’s Brian Wilson and his beard.  Superstition certainly makes the leap to the pros.  Tiger and Brian aren’t alone.

Kevin Rhomberg of the Cleveland Indians would only turn left.  He also had to touch anyone who touched him.  If he was tagged out he would return to the base to touch the player that tagged him.

Jason Terry of the Dallas Mavericks took a page from Michael Jordan, who famously wore his North Carolina shorts under his Bulls gear.  Except that Terry sleeps in the shorts of his opponent’s team before each game.  At least they were clean.  Steve Kline, a pitcher for the Cardinals would pick a hat, and wear it for every game.  One hat, all season, no washing allowed.

Sometimes it’s food.  Brian Urlacher started each game day with 2 chocolate chip cookies.  Never one, never three.  LSU Coach Les Miles also has a pre-game ritual meal.  He chomps down on a piece of turf.  Keeps him connected to the game.  Does he have to floss after Astroturf?  Wade Boggs was famous for his chicken dinners.

Boggs was also famous for his punctuality.  He always took batting practice at 5:17 and ran sprints at 7:17.  He must have been an influence on slugger Larry Walker.  Walker played for the Rockies, Expos, and Cardinals.  Every batting practice?  3 hits and a rest.  3 swings before every at-bat.  He always set his alarm for 33 minutes past the hour, got married on November 3rd at 3:33 p.m., bought tickets for charities in blocks of 33 seats in section 33, and requested a salary of $3,333,333.33.

Turk WendellThe Kindred Soul Award goes to the duo of Turk Wendell and Mark Fidrych.  Both right handed pitchers, both fan favorites, both superstitious.  Both were notorious hand-shakers, and both had an aversion to the foul line, leaping over it going to and from the dugout.  Fidrych started each inning by carefully grooming the mound and talking to his baseball, while Wendell ended each by brushing his teeth.  Wendell made a fashion statement with a necklace made from the teeth of animals that he’d killed, while Fidrych made his with a mane of unruly hair that earned him the nickname “Bird”, as in Big Bird.  Fidrych liked to take a victory lap around the mound with every strikeout, while Wendell kept his eyes on his catcher.  If his catcher stood, he would squat.  When the catcher went back to his squat, Wendell would stand.  This dance continued into the dugout and the clubhouse.  Musical Bullpen Chairs, anyone?Mark "Bird" Fidrych

 

 

Superstition isn’t limited to baseball or basketball.

Patrick Roy of the Montreal Canadiens was one of the best goalkeepers of all time.  It all started with his goal.  He would start at middle ice, skate backwards to the goal, and whip around at the last minute.  He liked to scare the goal into submission.  He thought that they would shrink in fear.  Like, physically get smaller.  He wasn’t without respect, though.  He would frequently talk to the goal, offer encouragement, and thank the posts for deflections and protecting him.

I wonder if he played against Bruce Gardiner of the Ottawa Senators?  Early in his career, Gardiner was having trouble putting the puck in the net.  A veteran player suggested that he was perhaps too nice to his stick.  “Go dunk it in the toilet.  Show it who’s boss!”  He did, he scored, and for the rest of his career took his equipment to the lavatory before hitting the ice.

If you’re a life-long Redskins fan, there are probably some players and seasons that you’d like to forget.  Do you remember journeyman punter Reggie Roby?  Not the fastest release, not the best hang-time.  The Redskins were one stop in a career that sent him all over the league.  Why do we remember him?  He always wore a watch.  Always.The late Reggie Roby

 

 

Hate to Say We Told You So, but…

Friday, December 2nd, 2011

We shared some news about this back in the summer, but it’s getting a bit more real now.  The Radiological Society of North America, a leading group of professionals who take and analyze scans and x-rays, just shared the findings of a study on soccer players who head the ball.

They looked specifically at players who had been at it for a while, and players who headed the ball 1,000 to 1,500 times per year.  These “super headers” showed a significant difference in brain matter for the regions that control attention, memory, executive functioning and visual functions.

They went on to say that the results were similar to people with traumatic brain injuries.  Some have likened the findings to similar studies on football and hockey.

This shouldn’t come as shocking news.header grimace

Lori Chalupny was a captain of the U.S. Women’s team.  She struggled to play in the World Cup because doctors were arguing about clearing her to play following a history of concussions.

Alecko Eskandarian was the MVP of the 2004 MLS Cup final.  He had several in a row, and after flipping in his D.C. United debut was out for several seconds, and upon regaining his feet ran sideways for 15 yards while his teammates tried to steer him towards the sidelines.

Taylor Twellman was an MLS MVP who finally retired in 2010 after a series of concussions.  His forte?  Headers in the penalty area. MLS Commissioner Don Garber called him “our Tom Brady” and he was one of the league’s leading scorers.  Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated said that his success was the result of throwing his head at the ball “with the force of a bird smacking a window”.

Twellman knew he was in trouble when he went to watch the NBA Finals.  When he closed his right eye he could still see Phil Jackson sitting right next to Doc Rivers.  The only problem was that Jackson and Rivers were on opposing benches at opposite ends of the floor.  Now that’s blurred vision!

In 1999, researchers at McGill University Health Center in Montreal, Canada did a comparative study of college soccer and football players (yes, Canadian football is still alive).  They found that the instance of players feeling the symptoms of a concussion was pretty even between both sports.  The duration and severity was pretty close too.  They also found, somewhat surprisingly, that female soccer players had a slightly higher percentage of concussion than their male counterparts.

None of this is strong enough to call for regulation, but the professionals doing these studies did make some recommendations.

They suggested that youngsters should be wary of excessive heading.  A younger player is much more likely to suffer a brain injury.  They also warned against drills where players repeatedly headed the ball back and forth for extended periods.  They also encouraged the use of headgear and mouthguards, neither of which are very popular with players.

At Disco Sports we like soccer, and like the fact that it moves quickly, involves great footwork and great teamwork.   A well-placed header is like a perfectly executed crossing pass on the gridiron.  But a bird smacking a window?  Ouch.

There’s a reason it’s called a “Game”

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

My name is Chris Crews.  First time blogger here, long time Disco Sports fan.

I grew up in Washington, D.C. and while it hasn’t always been easy I am a lifelong Redskin’s fan.

I try to follow some of my teams but don’t get a lot of time to watch on TV.  I did, however, see some of the ugly antics in the NBA playoffs.  Lamar Odom, Andrew Bynum and Ron Artest should be ashamed of themselves.

If you take a quick stroll through Sports Illustrated online the headlines are saddening.  Aside from the mayhem in the NBA:  Nascar drivers are fined for a pit road brawl.  Hockey players are fined for cheap shots.  College football players are suspended for off campus arrests.  Soccer’s World Cup is cheapened by a vote buying scandal.  Baseball benches clear after an exchange of words on a routine play.  The only sport without a serious scandal or infraction at the top of the headlines is Mixed Martial Arts.  Go figure.

YouTube isn’t much better.  On any given day you can find video of some sort of brawl, fight, melee, ruckus or riot.  I’ve seen footage of European soccer houligans but lately the scenes are at the college and frighteningly the high school level!

When I was a kid I wanted to throw like Sonny Jurgensen, hit like Eddie Murray and drive like Petty.  My child today is watching his stars throw equipment, hit opposing players and get arrested for drunk driving.  Some role models, huh?

I’m all for my kid being involved in a team sport.  I think it teaches him a great deal about commitment, integrity, passion, and cooperation.  I guess my job is to teach him sportsmanship.  Most of our professional sports started out as gentleman’s games.  Today there is a great shortage of gentlemen, but they are still called games.