SPORTS! – January 2016

Comics, film, and music are all good and fun, but few things make us excessively fist-pump, scream obscenities at our inanimate television sets, or give us as much blinding pride as our favorite sports teams. These monthly editions of SPORTS! will give quick, digestible downloads of what is going on in the world of sports. Here we will cover the goings on in four major professional leagues: the NFL, MLB, NBA, and BPL. 

nflNational Football League
– MH

As a diehard Sacramento Kings fan, I’ve personally gone through just about all stages of grief as they pertain to relocating a professional sports team. Luckily for me and the rest of the Kings fanbase, the team was saved at the last minute by new investors willing to keep the team in Sacramento. It was one of the hardest times as a sports fan I’ve ever experienced, having been convinced multiple times the team I grew up cheering for would be moving to Seattle. That’s why I’ve been feel a sharp tinge of pain recently for the good people of St.Louis, MO who just recently had their Rams football team relocate to Los Angeles. And it’s not just the Rams. On Tuesday, the NFL voted 30-2 to relocate both the Rams AND the San Diego Chargers to Los Angeles. The two teams are expected to share a new stadium in Inglewood which is expected to be completed in 2019 and where the two teams will play in the interim has yet to be decided. The point of contention here is that Rams owner Stan Kroenke really did nothing to work with the city of St.Louis to keep the team there and his extremely public disdain for the city and the team’s fanbase has greatly infected the relocation story.

In more light-hearted yet no less disturbing news, throughout the 2015-2016 season, there have been a bevy of videos from various Buffalo Bills fans documenting the absurd goings-on at Bills tailgates. There are so many videos in fact, that sports news site Deadspin has a dedicated archive file for these stories called “Billspin.” It is extremely hilarious and extremely NSFW. If you’re ever planning on attending a Buffalo Bills game in the future, you’ve officially been warned.

mlbMajor League Baseball
It may be the offseason, but your January MLB tipsheet has one very important event to illuminate, namely the annual Hall of Fame voting. Few sports institutions garner as much prestige and reverence as Baseball’s Hall of Fame, based in Cooperstown, New York, the mythological home to our national pastime. And, as such a hallowed and well-guarded society, the voting body of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America take their job of inducting new members very seriously. Some would argue too seriously, as the voting process comes under fire annually for either being too selective, too exclusive, or simply too antiquated.

HOF logoTo sum up one hot-button Hall of Fame storyline, Barry Bonds, the greatest hitter in any of our lifetimes, once again missed induction, despite garnering more votes than he did a year ago. And, if he doesn’t receive the requisite 75% of votes within the next six years, he’ll have a much harder time ever getting in (I’ll spare you the Expansion Era or Veteran’s Committee hullabaloo).

So who did get in? One of the two players to be inducted is Ken Griffey, Jr., affectionately referred to as “The Kid,” even in 2010, his final season, as a spry 40-year-old. Not only did the perennial All-Star outfielder earn induction in his first year of eligibility, but he received votes on all but three ballots. That 99.3% means Griffey broke the record previously held by New York Mets pitching great Tom Seaver.

89udgriffey-213x300Griffey Jr. spent the majority of his career with the Seattle Mariners and, as any sports enthusiast of my generation can attest, the release of his Upper Deck rookie card in 1989 was a major turning point in the sports memorabilia market, leading to a huge boom in card and collectibles sales in the 1990’s.

The other guy who made it in? Mike Piazza, one of the best catchers in MLB history, splitting time with Los Angeles and the New York Mets. I saw him take an at-bat as a Bakersfield Dodger in 1991 and he struck out. This guy sucks, I thought. First impressions tend to stick with you, and I swear it had nothing to do with the fact that he was a Dodger.

nbaNational Basketball Association

Few professional sports leagues have done a better job in the last decade promoting its brand and its players than the NBA. Even casual fans can recognize the Warriors’ Steph Curry, and they are fully aware that he is currently the best player on the planet. James Harden is equally recognizable; but unless you actually follow basketball you might be operating under the misconception that he’s in the same class as the reigning Most Valuable Player. Sorry – dating a Kardashian may make him more interesting as a celebrity, and warrant twice as many TMZ appearances as just about any other athlete, but it doesn’t typically translate into athletic success.

porizingis boooooOne player for whom the hype and success are just beginning to develop is New York Knicks rookie power forward Kristaps Porzingis. New York sports fans are legendary for being demonstratively passionate about their teams, and when the 19-year-old from Latvia was selected by the Knicks with the fourth overall pick in the 2015 draft, the fans lost their shit. Hard to blame them, really, since they had just endured the worst season in franchise history and they were desperate to find someone upon whom to pin future hopes. And the legacy of European players selected with high first-round picks has not been favorable. Even less favorable is the track record for basketball players from Latvia. There was Andris Biedrins, who confounded Warriors fans with the depth of his lousiness, and this one other guy I’d never heard of.

porzingis yeeeaaahBut through half a season, “Zingis Khan” has proven that he’s something special. Apparently, as a teenager in Latvia, Porzingis rocked cornrows to impress the ladies. No longer a teenager (he just turned twenty), the now seven-footer is rocking rims and giving the Knicks newfound life in the Eastern Conference.

Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns (chosen first overall) and Philadelphia’s Jahlil Okafor have also been off to impressive starts in their rookie seasons. But Kristaps Porzingis, thanks in no small part to his long, athletic frame and developing confidence, not to mention his improving per-game points, rebounds, and blocks averages, doesn’t look to slow down until every single one of those doomsaying Knicks fans Tweets an offical I-was-wrong apology and Kristaps takes home the 2016 Rookie of the Year award.

bplBarclays Premier League
– IP

Aaron Ramsey is a killer midfielder… literally. A strange phenomenon has followed Arsenal’s all-action star. Several internationally recognized celebrities have died immediately following outings in which Ramsey has scored a goal. One’s first inclination is to suggest that as a star footballer, Ramsey scores often, ensuring that sometimes his goals will precede celebrity deaths. That’s a good skeptical viewpoint, but let’s examine the numbers.

Aaron Ramsey scored against Liverpool on the 13th of January. Fourteen hours later beloved character actor Alan Rickman was announced dead. Four days earlier Ramsey scored against Sunderland, and the next day David Bowie died. The fact that these most recent two were both British actors is a coincidence that has made fans of 69 year old British character actor Tim Curry nervous (who, in all seriousness recently suffered a stroke and is in dire health).

Looking back further shows just how many times this has happened to Ramsey. Eight hours after another goal against Sunderland in 2012, iconic singer of such immortal classics as “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me),” Whitney Houston, died. The same is true of infamous sunglasses lover and despotic Libyan dictator Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs (who had a three day gap after a Ramsey goal), and Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Ladin, who only had a scant four hours of life after Ramsey blasted one in against Manchester United.

Others include actor Paul Walker, psychosex artist H.R. Giger, and Robin Williams himself (America’s Pagliaccio). If one extends the meaning of celebrity to include football stars, the list more than triples, which is the real basis of the superstition. Either way, something is going on between Aaron Ramsey and the Shadow of Death. Now if only Ramsey could lead Arsenal to an EPL victory and UEFA Champions League berth without killing half of the world’s renowned 69 year-old Britons, that would be great.