Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Roy Halladay Was A Philly Kind Of Player

by Sam Lopresti, OTSL Special Contributor

Halladay immediately burrowed into the hearts of Phillies fans. His loss will sting for a long time.

To baseball at large, Roy Halladay will mostly be remembered as a Toronto Blue Jay. But his untimely death will hit the city of Philadelphia just as hard as Toronto.
He only spent four years of his 16-year career with the Philadelphia Phillies. Only two of those years saw him at the height of his power, but he is firmly entrenched in the lore of this team. He gave us so many incredible memories in that brief time that it’s not a stretch to say he belongs in the pantheon of the ultimate Phillies greats, both because of the memories he provided and because of the way he went about his work.
Halladay arrived in 2010 in a three-team trade that sent prospects to the Blue Jays and another ace pitcher, Cliff Lee, to the Seattle Mariners. That end of the trade puzzled fans, but the main feeling was one of euphoria. The city still wasn’t used to the success that the Phillies had had in the previous three years, and now the best pitcher in baseball was ours! It was the start of something big.
The memories started early. Within a month Halladay had thrown a pair of shutouts—then delivered one of the greatest moments in Phillies history.


I remember it well. As a Phillies fan growing up in New York, watching the team was difficult, but MLB Network was making things easier. I was eating in the kitchen when I turned on the channel and saw they were running bonus coverage: with the Phillies leading 1-0, Roy Halladay was pitching in the seventh inning and hadn’t allowed a baserunner. I immediately called my father, who was having dinner at a family friend’s apartment.
“Dad,” I said into the phone, “Do you have access to MLB Network over there? Roy Halladay is pitching a thingy.”
Thingy is the code my father and I, both respectful of baseball superstition, use when we talk about no-hitters in progress. I immediately clarified: "Actually it's a big thingy" - further code for perfect game.
My dad had watched Jim Bunning pitch his perfect game for the Phillies with his grandfather in 1964. There was no way he would miss this. With the blessing of our friend, who was immediately intrigued himself, my dad turned on the game, and we stayed on the phone together as we watched him complete the second perfect game in team history and the 20th in the history of baseball.

True grit

The 2010 season would be incredible even by Halladay's standards. He went 21-10, the first Phillie to win 20 games in a season since Steve Carlton in 1982. He threw nine complete games and four shutouts, winning the NL Cy Young Award with ease before he put an exclamation mark on the season by throwing the second no-hitter in playoff history in his postseason debut against the Cincinnati Reds, another huge moment in the history of the team crammed into a single year. He arguably pitched even better than he had in his perfect game.
Halladay got out-dueled by Tim Lincecum in the first game of the NLCS that year and took the mound in Game 5 with the Phillies facing elimination. As if the legend of his season could not go any deeper, Halladay suffered a groin injury in the second inning but gutted through six innings to win the game and extend the series. In a blue-collar town like Philadelphia, that kind of grit means something.
Then came 2011, the return of Cliff Lee, the R2C2 rotation, 19 more wins, eight more complete games, and two sparkling performances in the NLDS against the St. Louis Cardinals: eight innings in a Game 1 win and eight more in the heartbreaking Game 5 pitcher's duel with Chris Carpenter when the Phillies were eliminated.
No one thought the window would close on the Phillies or Halladay so soon. Injuries sapped Halladay's effectiveness in 2012 and by the end of 2013, after making only 13 starts, he was out of baseball. The Phillies faded in a similar fashion as injury diminished core players like Ryan Howard and Chase Utley. By 2014 they were the worst team in baseball.

Behind the scenes

The memories the man called "Doc" gave Phillies fans will be remembered forever, but we loved him for so much more than that. In a hard-nosed town like Philly, Halladay's work ethic endeared him to fans almost more than what he did when he took the mound. It rubbed off on every player he ever played with, and players like Kyle Kendrick and Vance Worley never saw the success they did after their career paths took them away from Doc's example.
His work ethic couldn't be summed up better than in this Instagram post made by Utley shortly after the announcement of his death:
My heart hurts writing this. I can still remember the first day we met. It was 5:45am on the first day of spring training when I arrived. He was finishing his breakfast but his clothes were soaking wet. I asked if it was raining when he got in. He laughed and said “No I just finished my workout” I knew right then- he was the real deal. Thank you Roy for allowing us to witness what it takes to be the best. We will all miss you.
That work ethic was backed up by an incredible humility. Perhaps born of his experience being demoted all the way back to Class A early in his career, Halladay never thought of his success as his work alone. After his perfect game, he ordered Swiss watches for 60 of his teammates, clubhouse staff, and front office personnel. Each watch was engraved with the line score of the game, the recipient's name, and the words, "We did it together."
He never hesitated to credit his teammates for his achievements. He called Carlos Ruiz "the best catcher I've ever thrown to" last August, and when he won the Cy Young in 2010, he had a replica of the award made and presented it to his catcher. After being named the cover athlete for MLB 2K11, he made a hysterical commercial that saw him taking signs from a pillow with Ruiz's picture on it to make everyday life decisions like which lunch meat to use.
But there is perhaps no better example of his team-first philosophy than how he responded to the formation of the historic 2011 starting rotation. In the run-up to the season, when Halladay, Lee, Hamels, and Roy Oswalt were being presented as the Four Aces, Halladay took exception to the fact that #5 starter Joe Blanton was being overlooked. To Doc, there were not four aces.  There were five.

Why we truly love him

All these things brought Roy Halladay close to the hearts of Phillies fans. But there is one other thing—perhaps the most important. Something that no one outside of Philadelphia will really be able to understand.
Philadelphia has often lived in the shadow of more glamorous sports cities like Los Angeles and, especially, New York, which is just 94 miles away. Combined with the fact that the Phillies are, by record, the losingest franchise in baseball history, big-time players often pass over the Phils for teams like the Yankees or Mets.
That's why the trade that brought Roy Halladay to Philadelphia in the 2009-10 offseason really struck a chord with Philadelphia fans. Roy Halladay had a no-trade clause in his contract with the Blue Jays. He had his pick where he would go if he moved on from the only team he had ever known. It's why the Mariners pursued Lee as part of that three-way deal, because Halladay had turned Seattle down.
It's this last point that is the foundation that holds up all the other reasons that Doc will be revered by Phillies fans for generations to come despite having such a brief peak in Philadelphia. It's the same reason that Jim Thome and Cliff Lee are treated with similar adoration despite their relatively short careers with the Phillies.
Roy Halladay, the best pitcher of his time, at the peak of his powers, could have gone anywhere he wanted.
And he chose us.
Sam Lopresti is a Contributing Writer to RealSport.
They have graciously allowed us to put this on our blog. 
You can find the originally published version of this piece at

Saturday, June 03, 2017

Tribute to ESPN's "The Sports Reporters"

By Pedro Hazel, Jr. & Steve Ferguson - OTSL's Creators

Sunday, May 7th, was the last showing of "The Sports Reporters" on ESPN after nearly 30 years on the air.  

The show was originally hosted by current Orioles broadcaster Gary Thorne, but was graced by two great hosts: Dick Schapp and John Saunders. Schapp passed away in 2001 and Saunders last year. 

"The Sports Reporters" had a very special meaning for Steve and myself along with Jay Kaplan and former host Joel Mahan. "On The Sportslines" was created to be a cross between "The Sports Reporters" and "The Best Damn Sports Show Period", though we are more irreverent than "Reporters" but not as much as "Best Damn".

The very first show we did in 2001 featured Joel and Steve. I wasn't even on it as I was recovering from the flu. I hosted the second show and continued hosting "Sportslines" until the fall of 2006.  On several of the early shows I hosted I would sit second to right with the other hosts just like John Saunders and the panel on ESPN.  

It's unfortunate that a great show that was a Sunday staple for ESPN for nearly three decades has left the air.  We thought it was one of the most intelligent and well thought out shows ever done that aired on ESPN with the exception of "Pardon The Interruption". 

It's a very sad ending to such a great program, but Steve, myself and the rest of us at "On The Sportslines" will continue to keep the spirit of "The Sports Reporters" alive every time we do our show.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

An OTSL Selection Sunday Conversation

By Steve "The Rabbi" Rabinowitz (OTSL Producer) & Jay Kaplan (OTSL Lead Analyst)

STEVE RABINOWITZ: It's the most wonderful day of the year, welcome to Selection Sunday!  In this column, me and my partner, Mr. Jay Kaplan, will look ahead to what WE think the brackets will look like.  How does this day rank on the ladder of sports days for you sir?

JAY KAPLAN: Oh, this is the appetizer to the Main Course for me. This is where all the back-and-forth and Bracketology dissection finally comes to a head. The Rubber meets the Road today. The interesting thing for me this year, is that unlike most years, the Committee will not really have to deal with much in the way of Bid Thievery.

SR: This is one of those years where the Bubble is very small and there's still a tiny discussion we need to have on that but let's start with the cream of the crop: the #1 Seeds.  Jay, Villanova will be a consensus #1 overall, and despite Kansas losing in the Big 12 tourney, they look like a #1 as well.  The other 2 top seeds are in question, which is shocking.  Some people are saying Duke should get a #1 (which I think is ridiculous) over Carolina, and there's always that question about Gonzaga.  What say you, especially to the former since you're an expert in all things Tobacco Road?

JK: Well Duke has impressed over the last 4 days. First team to ever win 4 games to win the ACC tournament en route to the tournament title. I understand where the argument comes from that they should be a #1 seed. However, I don't see that UNC losing to Duke in the ACC tournament as the reason they lose their #1 seed. The question for me regarding Duke as a #1 is not whether that knocks UNC off the Top Line, but does it knock Gonzaga off the Top Line? That being said, I think you also have to take into account whether Arizona is more deserving as a #1 seed based on how things played out last night in the PAC-12 Tournament Championship game.

SR: I think overall, if the Zags get knocked down to a #2 in the WEST, they'll take it and say thank you.  Gonzaga actually beat Arizona early in the season on a neutral court so, to take into account that you have a one loss team, who won the regular season and post-season conference titles and you're telling me they are worse than the team that only won in the postseason tourney, and the fact that Arizon has 3 more losses?  Doesn't fly for me.  As for Duke?  The body of work in the regular season PLUS the fact that they looked inferior to Carolina until Berry went out on Friday, makes me think they're a #2.  Love the ACC to death, but I'm not putting someone who was the FIFTH best team in their conference in the regular season on the Top Line.  By the way, the true nightmare for Gonzaga would be if UNC was the #2 in THEIR region.  It'd be the ultimate Screw You from the NCAA.

JK: I have the utmost respect for what Mark Few and the Zags have done, but I would not be surprised if Gonzaga gets knocked down to the #2 line and Arizona moves up to the #1 line.  Top tier teams of the PAC-12 are up there with the top tier teams in any of the Power 5 conferences.  I have a feeling that even if Gonzaga holds on to their spot on the #1 line, whomever the #2 in their region turns out to be will be a team that is likely deserving of a #1.  I agree with your premise that Duke's overall resume is not #1 seed-worthy and I agree that Berry being forced to sit that very long stretch with foul trouble was what turned the tide in Duke's favor.  Granted, Justin Jackson being MIA didn't help, but as I said to you during the game, Berry is the engine that drives the Carolina offense.

SR: Yeah, I kind of wouldn't be surprised if Gonzaga dropped to the #2 line (especially since they were the last overall #1 four weeks ago on the mock bracket the committee revealed), but I think if it comes to Arizona over Gonzaga, I do have a problem and would almost be a bad precedent set by the committee.  Bubble talk is always the other major talk around this time of year; and it's a very small bubble.  Joe Lunardi (and others) have a group of 6 that are in that scary territory: Wake Forest, Syracuse, Rhode Island, USC, Illinois State, and Kansas State.  Which 2 of these teams shouldn't get to go dancing (and remember, Rhode Island is playing today so they might be off this line anyway).

JK: Well, I think that Rhode Island can get in even if they don't win today, but they'd prefer a "Win-And-They're-In" lock.  I have to agree with ESPN's Jeff Borzello that Illinois State is a long shot. They do have a Top-30 RPI and 12 wins away from home, plus a 14-point win over Wichita State in their first meeting.  On the flip side, they went 2-4 against the RPI Top 100, have 2 losses to teams outside the Top 100 and Wichita State blew them out in their next two meetings, including that 71-51 win in the MVC title game.  Lunardi cannot get Syracuse right by his own admission.  I cannot seem to either.  Though if it comes down to them or USC, I'd lean slightly towards the Cuse due to the ACC being the best conference in the country.  The tough part is that they are also being measured against a member of their own conference - Wake Forest - who would seem to have a better case for getting off the bubble and into The Dance if you compared both ACC teams against each other.

SR: Yeah, so watching Seth Greenberg this week, makes me think Syracuse won't get in over USC.  Syracuse's non conference losses are remarkably unimpressive: UCONN, Georgetown, St. John's.  Horrible for a Big East team rather than one from the ACC.  Also, they have NO road victories in conference against anyone outside of the bottom 4 of the conference.  Ridiculous.  Coach Jim Boeheim wasn't there to start the season last year, but he's there now.  No excuses, Syracuse is out.  Illinois State also is out, only because of the fact that there's no reason other than that 27-6 record to put them in.  As much as USC is unimpressive, the way that the top of the PAC-12 is allows me to put a 4th team in.  Everything else seems to fall into place for me:  Rhode Island is playing well late; and has a neutral court win over Cincy; and Kansas State has really played well against the top of the Big 12.

JK: USC does have a solid resume - I just took another look at it and it's better than I remembered - so if you're asking me who they knock out of those 6 teams you mentioned, I'd have to change my mind now and go with Syracuse losing out. USC's resume, like Wake's, is more worthy of getting off the Bubble than Syracuse's upon further review.

SR: OK, so, while we look at the Bubble and the Top, the middle gets tremendously overlooked. So, looking at the brackets, give me one team that you feel will be over-seeded when the brackets come out in a few hours and one that will be under-seeded.

JK: You always save the EASY question for last!  I'm not as high on Baylor as some other folks are.  I think that when the brackets come out they'll be off the #2 line, but even as a #3, I think that may be an over-seed.  As for under-seeded?  I'll be interested to see where Purdue winds up.  Lunardi currently has them as a #4, but the question I have is whether the committee holds their loss to Michigan in the Big 10 tournament against them.  Do they stay as a #4 or do they fall to the #5 line?

SR: Michigan is one of the hottest teams in the country, so if Purude falls, I think it'll be more because of the Big 10 as a whole, not that loss.  Best game I saw this week.  As for over-seeded, I can't help but not understand what the obsession over Florida State is.  They have two wins against the RPI top 50 away from home: one against Miami (borderline top 50) and one against Virginia, which happened in December.  As a Top 4 (they currently are a #4), FSU will get the luxury of spending the first weekend in Orlando and I don't think they deserve that.  Under-seeded?  How about some love for the American conference!  I'll go with the double answer of Cincy/SMU.  Neither are a Top 4 seed, which is shameful.  SMU has one of the longest winning streaks in the country and have beaten everyone in front of them, including Cincy on the road.  Meanwhile Cincy, along with their 2-loss American conference record, has wins over Xavier and Big 12 Champion Iowa State.  Whoever wins deserves a #4 seed, loser deserves a #5 and can have a good case for getting a #4 as well.  Remember, UCONN won the title as a #7 seed 3 years ago, and the reason they were seeded that low was their standing in the American conference.

JK: I am VERY familiar with your feeling that the AAC doesn't get the appropriate amount of respect from the committee.  Cincinnati as a #5 and SMU as a #6 by Lunardi does seem to be at least one line lower than maybe they should be, but again, I think this is due to how the AAC is viewed.  As for FSU, they are getting the benefit of the ACC and the fact that they are the best conference in the country.  Going 12-6 in the ACC is impressive and they have an overall RPI of 12. Their Strength Of Schedule (SOS) and Opponent's SOS are both in the Top 25.  I understand why they'll get a #4 seed and I'm not as adamant in my opposition to it as you are.

SR: See, it's just that outside of Tallahassee, FSU hasn't had that "show me" moment this season.  I would say the same thing about Notre Dame, BUT the way they played on a neutral court against "Big Bad Duke" last night proved me otherwise.  They'll be properly placed as a #4 or #5 seed.

JK: I understand where you're coming from on FSU.  They don't look like a marquee team, but it's tough to be one in the ACC outside of Tobacco Road.  I do agree with you about Notre Dame.  Not a fan, but much respect and yes, a spot on the #4 or #5 line will be deserved.  Before we sign off, I'm interested to get your take on a potential double-digit seed that could make some noise.

SR: I'm going to cheat again and give you two answers: Middle Tennessee State is going to be a #11 or #12, and after what they did as a #15 against Michigan State a year ago, I say watch out.  Add to that a win vs. Vanderbilt this year, and I'd say they'll be a very popular upset in Round 1, and I think a lot of people might move them to the Sweet 16.  The other one?  Take a flier on Vermont.  They are going to be the only team in this field that will not have lost this calendar year.  This is the most talented team since the one that beat Syracuse back in the first half of the LAST decade.

JK: Vermont was the team I was looking at.  They're likely to be a #12 seed and they've pulled the #12 vs. #5 upset in the past.  MTSU is interesting, I'll be keeping an eye on them.

SR: All of these are things we'll be keeping an eye on when the bracket comes out in just a few hours.  Please also keep a look out for our OTSL March Madness Special airing LIVE on MNN3 this Thursday, 3/16/17 at 9pm, and up online this weekend on our YouTube channel http://www.youtube.com/onthesportslines.  For Jay Kaplan, I am The Rabbi, Enjoy the upcoming Madness!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Phil Jackson: From Savior to False Prophet

By Anthony Strait, OTSL Analyst

Flash back to March 18, 2014; Phil Jackson received a thunderous standing ovation as earlier in the day he came home. The man with eleven NBA championships as a coach had officially returned to the franchise where he won two as a player. Phil was a member of those beloved New York Knicks teams that won championships in 1970 and 1973 when the Knicks were the ultimate definition of that word: TEAM. On this day Jackson was now christened as the latest supposed savior to a team that had struggled to maintain any success since 2000. Knicks owner James Dolan had fired GM Glen Grunwald before the 2013-14 season started, mere months after the team Grunwald put together won 54 games, a division title and then their first playoff series win in over a decade. Now Dolan was again bringing in a big name to save a franchise that has made self-sabotaging more common in Midtown than rush hour traffic. Only this time it was the man who once helped the Knicks win titles as a player and also prevented them from winning more while coaching a man named Michael Jordan.

Now flash forward to the present.  Days before the trading deadline in the middle of yet another lost season for the Knicks. The love and optimism that was felt at Madison Square Garden back on that March night has disappeared. The aura now felt is one of confusion, chaos and turmoil. A star player in the midst of constant trade talks and a owner now embroiled in a ugly PR nightmare with a beloved former player. Lost in all this is the job Jackson has done since March 18, 2014.  Three years in and the numbers speak for themselves: 72 wins to 149 losses along with three different head coaches and 45 different players. The man known as “The Zen Master” has created more madness by his actions as well as his ill-timed words. The Knicks need to save face and admit to themselves that yet another big name is just that: a big name. Phil is no savior and now they need to move on in an act of salvation if winning basketball is to return to Madison Square Garden.

From the moment the 2013-2014 Knicks season ended and Phil went over his options he made one questionable decision and only compounded it with more questionable decisions. Jackson fired Mike Woodson instead of allowing him to coach the last year of his contract as Jackson himself made the transition from coach to front office. One would think an individual in Phil’s shoes would keep things intact just to make transitioning easier. When he missed out on Steve Kerr he settled on the just retired Derek Fisher. Jackson’s biggest mistake was not hiring an inexperienced coach to lead a veteran team but rather insisting that the coach run the Triangle offense that Jackson and Tex Winter made legendary. Flawed logic considering today’s NBA which now incorporates small lineups and three-point shooting more than ever.  The Knicks struggled learning the Triangle and eventually Phil decided to press the reset button and blow up the roster. Gone were JR Smith and Iman Shumpert – who would later help the Cavaliers win a championship. The Knicks finished with the worst record in franchise history – 17-65 – in Jackson’s first full season as team president.

He got lucky when Kristaps Portzingis fell into his lap in the 2015 draft but it’s really the only positive on a resume full of negatives. The Knicks improved by 13 games in 2016, but a solid start was derailed by a lengthy losing streak and injuries ruined any hopes of a playoff spot. Phil fired Fisher after a 23-31 start and again pressed the reset button after the season. The building blocks he installed gave way to veterans like Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose in a shift from rebuilding to Win Now mode. It seemed to work at first in December. The Knicks were 14-10 and sitting third in the East when Jackson managed to put his foot in his mouth with controversial remarks involving LeBron James. Jackson referring to James’ business associates as his “posse” was both dumb and insensitive. In typical Jackson fashion, he offered no apology. The comments bashing Carmelo Anthony for not passing in spite of numbers showing differently only began what would now be weeks of a public tug of war against his own star player.

Nowadays Phil Jackson is symbolic for everything that has plagued the Knicks for so many years: lack of continuity, lack of patience, lack of an actual plan and poorly timed bad PR. He passed on interviewing guys like Tom Thibodeau and Frank Vogel while rumors swirled he would give the head coaching job to interim coach Kurt Rambis full time with the Triangle again in mind. He settled on Jeff Hornacek but it still feels like Phil is trying to coach from afar. In his mind the lack of Triangle offense is why the Knicks are struggling; not the realization that his team is among the worst defensive teams in the league. He wants to rebuild around Porzingis but now have Noah’s $72 million contract eating up payroll for the next few years. The guys he traded like Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton are still producing for other teams. Meanwhile many of the guys he got back in return are no longer with the team. His failure to build a contending team has now resulted in him throwing Melo – a man he convinced to stay and trust the process – under the bus. Three years later and constant changes from a man brought in to bring stability has resulted in a record more than 80 games under .500. Phil “The Savior” is now Phil “The False Prophet”.

In a season that has derailed both on and off the court, whether it’s the trade rumors swirling around the best player or the owner’s poor treatment of team alum, Phil Jackson is in the middle of it all. The Knicks have failed yet again to learn from their past by delving into their past for a big name. Phil with his rings and resume was supposed to bring instant credibility. Last summer those rings were not even good enough for Kevin Durant to sit and have coffee with Phil so you can only imagine how little those rings look now as the team’s bad reputation sweeps through the league. Jackson’s epic failure as President leaves the Knicks more in shambles than before he came home. New York was 127-103 with three playoff appearances and a division title. The team with Phil managed a 17-win season and a game of musical chairs to see all the different players who have worn a Knicks uniform. It’s time both part ways for no other reason than salvation. For Phil it’s his legacy and for the Knicks it’s to bring in someone who can do the job and revive the franchise without the fanfare.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way but when you think back to that night in 2014 Knicks fans in the building at the corner of 33rd and 7th and all around NYC wanted to believe. Unfortunately the man hired to save the Knicks instead has turned into an out of touch Old Man. Knicks fans deserve better; Carmelo Anthony deserves better; even James Dolan who kept his word about staying out of Jackson’s way deserves better. The franchise does need to rebuild, but the simplest solution is really to move on from the Era of Zen. Where one becomes a false prophet not because they fail but rather because they don’t realize that they have failed.

Phil will never admit it to himself so it’s up to the Knicks to do it for him.

Saturday, September 03, 2016

Freedom of Speech: A birthright…Not A Convenience

By Anthony Strait, OTSL Analyst

            For the last few days, the biggest sports story that everyone seems to have an opinion on is what San Francisco Quarterback Colin Kaepernick did in protest this past weekend. The issue I have personally taken with over the past couple of days isn’t his protest of sitting in silence during the National Anthem. It surely isn’t his explanation to bring attention to social injustice particularly police brutality. My personal feeling is while I disagree with his method, I respect his right to his freedom of speech and expression that is his given right as an American citizen. The issue I have with this whole situation is the hypocrisy that has reared its ugly head once again in an America that at some point became a place where freedom of speech is allowed but only if you say something that everyone agrees with. The fact that we are so willing to punish dissent is against the very principle behind the first amendment right that gives us the freedom to express our views without consequences.

I gave up keeping count of the people who said what Kaepernick did was disrespectful to our military and those who fought to protect his freedom. Even with Kaep’s statement of his respect towards our military and those who served, people still have their minds made up. Kaepernick is labeled un-American because he protests in a non-violent manner and disrespected the flag. But how much of this is really based on our own personal feelings towards the American flag as opposed to what are actual facts about what the flag stands for? Any game or event you go to you will see people stand and honor the flag and our military. That is how we choose to interpret the flag; it’s not how everyone SHOULD interpret the flag. As much as we don’t acknowledge it, the national anthem does not mean the same for all. In a stadium filled with thousands of people; you never know if there is one person who sees the flag as a symbol of greatness while someone else may see it as a symbol of what’s wrong. You can always have a person who came to this country for a better life see it as a symbol of hope while a man next to them sees it with anguish as he still grieves over the child he lost in war. We are basing Kaepernick’s stance on how we have always personally viewed the anthem and flag, which is unfair. Everyone’s meaning is different but the right to be different is what is supposed to set the United States apart from others. The US Constitution exists for that very reason.

The hypocrisy in those condemning Kaepernick isn’t just reserved to the flag. How many of those who criticize Kaepernick just months ago praised the late Muhammad Ali? Everyone in the sports world from the likes of Drew Brees to Kaep’s former coach Jim Harbaugh spoke out against him. But these two along with so many in the world praised the legacy Ali left behind due to his willingness to fight for what he believed in. Why is it okay in one case but not okay in another? Kaepernick is risking his own livelihood to use his platform to take a stand on something he feels strongly about. Ali lost three years of his career and was deemed un-American for not fighting in Vietnam. Today his life is celebrated not just by his boxing career but his role in civil rights. How many NFL players have given lengthy quotes on how they feel about Kaep sitting during the national anthem but remain silent on issues such as domestic violence or the possibility of having a gay teammate? Funny how these same NFL players also don’t mention how the league was paid over $5.4 million by the defense department between the years 2012-2015 to be a propaganda machine. For all of the talk about how the flag enables Kaepernick’s freedom of speech and right to protest, why are those saying it having a hard time simply disagreeing without disparaging the idea that Kaepernick only did what so many Americans do daily? There is nothing wrong with honoring the military as there is never enough appreciation that can be shown for them. But it doesn’t mean those who are honored and serve have exclusive rights to the idea of patriotism and our anthem.

As bad as the sports world has been, the fans and social media have been far worse in this matter. You don’t have to go far for proof. Colin Kaepernick’s Twitter handle alone showed the ugly racist backlash he received that almost works double towards proving his point that racial injustice still exists. Fans ask athletes to take a stand on social matters all the time. The moment one does and it’s something fans don’t agree with they are told to shut up and play and they don’t relate because they make millions. Is the problem with the athlete who takes a stand or the fan who can’t get past his salary or how many fantasy points he is losing to notice someone with remote power and influence is trying to make a point? The talks of “There are other ways to protest” are never followed up with actual ways to protest, at least one that hasn’t been tried yet and would really work. Kaepernick, whether you agree with it or not, took a non-violent approach. That is a far cry from some of the violence protests seen at a Donald Trump rally or even those at a few Black Lives Matter rallies. Colin did not burn a flag -- which was very commonplace during protests of the Vietnam War -- nor did he use the sidelines to perform a staged fake death, which were held frequently a decade ago to protest the War in Iraq. With my own two eyes I saw people on Facebook speak strongly against Kaepernick’s approach who I remember took part in those staged fake deaths while attending Hofstra University years ago.

The issue here isn’t simply agreeing or disagreeing with Kaepernick. As American citizens you, me and anyone who has an opinion are well entitled to their right to disagree with Colin Kaepernick. It is your God-given first amendment right to not support the 49ers or never watch a NFL game again if you choose to. What is lost in all of this is recognizing Colin is within his first amendment rights to his beliefs and to express them in a non-violent manner. For those who say he should go to another country is in itself disrespecting the rights afforded to anyone who lives in a country that encourages free speech without any repercussions. Kaepernick has vowed to continue sitting until change of some form is made knowing that his days as a 49er and possibly NFL player may be numbered. You are entitled to your freedoms to choose either side of this argument as you see fit. Just keep in mind that he is entitled to his and infringing on it based on not agreeing with it goes against the very heart of the first amendment that the Constitution and American flag for many represent as core values of our freedom.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Women in Sports: What We Still Haven't Learned

by The Rabbi, OTSL Video Editor/Producer

I am a chauvinist.

Yes, I know that's a very harsh first line, to say such a thing about myself, but the truth of the matter is this: you are all chauvinists too.

Why you might ask?  It is simply because of the fact that we have not treated women right in sports.

For all of the good advances we have seen over the last few years, most notably the hiring of Becky Hammon by the Spurs as the NBA's first female full-time assistant coach and the hiring of Kathryn Smith as the NFL's first full time female assistant coach, we have treated the woman's place in the world of pro and amateur sports even worse than before.

Before we get to the issues at Tennessee (the reason I'm writing this column) let's just look at a few reasons why our treatment of women in what is a male-dominated field is still tremendously wrong.

A little over a year ago, the NBA got into a little bit of hot water when, after a game, Chris Paul (who is only the head of the National Basketball Players Association) criticized a female ref after calling a technical foul which Paul thought he didn't deserve.  Postgame, Paul said about the technical foul, "That's ridiculous. If that's the case, this might not be for her."  The technical was one of many the Clippers received in that game in which they were routed.  If that were a male ref calling the foul, would the situation have been the same?  I doubt it.  Even if it was, the person who is the spokesman for NBA Players should not be saying things like that.  

Last year, ESPN employee and former softball star Jessica Mendoza became the first female to be a color commentator for an MLB Playoff game (and she did the job well enough to get asked back into the Sunday Night Baseball booth this year).  While this was a moment that was celebrated by many, there were some people who were outraged that a woman was taking what some called a "man's job" and what's even more disgusting was a tweet by Atlanta sports host Mike Bell saying this:

"Yes tell us Tits McGhee when you're up there hitting a softball you see a lot of 95 mile an hour cutters"

Bell got suspended for this tweet, but a short suspension doesn't hide ignorance.

Finally, let us take a look at what's going on at Louisville.  The accusations made by a former prostitute a little less than six months ago that between 2010-2014 Louisville basketball players and recruits were at dorm parties where strippers were the entertainment provided by a former assistant coach.  Also, some of the (non-college) girls at these parties were having sex with these former players after that same assistant coach paid for it.  So they were, in a not so nice term, whored out. 

There were two dozen of these such parties.  Louisville has a self-imposed postseason ban this year because of this, with probably more to come from the NCAA.  You know, because the only people that should be punished are the kids who probably had NOTHING to do with these allegations.

So from those three examples we've established that players and media personalities think a woman's place in a male-dominated game should be non-existent, other than to provide "entertainment" to those "hard-working" male athletes and coaches.

Then there's the University of Tennessee, a school with so many sexual harassment allegations it showcases those examples as well as any male "pig" ever could.  I'm not even going to mention Peyton Manning in this article.  The allegations of what he did to a female employee of UT in 1996 just solidify this even more.  Let's stay more recent.

First, as you may have heard, a lawsuit is currently being filed by EIGHT former female UT employees basically saying that the institution "created a culture that enables sexual assaults by student-athletes, especially football players, and then uses an unusual, legalistic adjudication process that is biased against victims who step forward."

It's a huge claim, one that has examples going back to the 1990's, which includes claims from last Spring that a Vols football player, accused of sexual assault, had his suspension lifted just to take finals, so that same player could be eligible to play the next season.  That same player’s lawyers allegedly were ALLOWED to contact witnesses that were going to be called during UT's investigation.

Second, three years ago, an alleged rape allegation against then UT football player Marlin Lane was essentially never disclosed because of pressure that was put on his alleged victim by fellow UT students and administrators.  Even though the rape claim against Lane was never reported (and he was suspended while the allegations were still pending for Spring games and summer practices), details have come out that the woman never pressed charges because she was threatened on Twitter, and even threatened over the phone by Lane's girlfriend.

Finally, a year and a half ago, another UT student was claimed to have been raped by football players A.J. Johnson and Michael Williams.  That night, another fellow player, Drae Bowles, drove the woman to the hospital as she was hyperventilating and crying.  What happened to Bowles next by players and coaches is beyond disgusting.

One linebacker allegedly beat up Bowles and punched him in the mouth, two other players (including Lane) said "people get shot for that sort of thing", and even (still currently as of this writing) head coach Butch Jones called Bowles "a traitor".  So, even the people who want to stand up for the rape victims are outcasts.

Tennessee could have done the honorable thing and taken these allegations as seriously as they should have been, but what would have been smart about that?  Instead, all 16 of Tennessee's head coaches had a press conference earlier this week, in a move that screamed PR at its worst level, to basically say why women were just "as equal" at UT as all the men were.  Examples of statements included:

"It's amazing to me to see the support of our female athletes," said Vols women's basketball head coach Holly Warlick, a move that came after a UT media relations assistant halted an interview last week with one of her star players about the allegations.

"Our competitors are using (the culture perception) against us," head coach football Butch Jones said.  This cites what the interview was REALLY about, telling recruiters that everything is going to be OK.  Don't believe the truths!

Finally, this gem, “These stories aren’t being told,” said softball co-coach Karen Weekly. “That’s why we’re here today — because we want people to hear the positives.” 

Yeah, that's about all that was for.

While everything in that press conference was all about the rosy picture going on at Knoxville (male coaches even come to women's games!), the crux of the matter wasn't mentioned till 25 minutes into the love-fest (neither was the lawsuit nor the damning allegations) and it was mentioned indirectly by a reporter asking a question, not by any of the coaches themselves.  In addition, those allegations against Butch Jones weren't revealed until 48 hours after the press conference, which just solidifies the disingenuous tone of the PR fest to begin with.

So, as we reach the end of this column, here's a little recap about what we've learned about the culture of women in sports (and all of these examples have taken place or have been revealed in the last 14 months):
  1. If a woman does all the things a man does in a position of power like referee, be prepared for extra scrutiny.
  2. Women are subjected to online bullying, regardless of how good of a job they do, just because they are a woman.
  3. A woman's main place in the male dominated college world is to be used as sexual escorts or victims.
  4. When it all comes down to it, the rights of victims only come second to a school's athletic success.  

While the allegations that have recently come out against Louisville and Tennessee reveal an abusive culture related to football and basketball on campus, rest assured they are most likely not the only colleges or even professional sports teams where this exists.

This may resonate with you, the reader, or it may not, but the fact that this isn't more of forefront issue in the world of sports or the fact that we don't care about this more as a society makes all of us…chauvinists.   

Saturday, February 13, 2016


by The Rabbi, OTSL Video Editor/Producer

If you watched media coverage in the two days after the Super Bowl, all we heard was about Cam Newton.  Why didn't Cam Newton dive for that fumble?  Why did Cam Newton say nothing to the media?  Why is Cam Newton so cocky?

One more question should be asked:  Why are we focusing on the QB of the team that lost Super Bowl 50?

What the winners did (oh by the way, that would be the Denver Broncos) in the NFL's Golden Game was extremely historic.  Historic in so many different ways, that when people look back at this Super Bowl 50 years later (Super Bowl 100?  Perish the thought) they’ll shake their heads in disbelief.

The Denver Broncos made history by being the first Super Bowl team to win having less than 200 yards of total offense.  That last sentence is just mind boggling to me.  When you looked at the field on Sunday, fans had a very good idea that we saw a shell of the Peyton Manning who played in three previous Super Bowls.  What we didn't know was this wasn't a shell of a former great, this was basically a shell fragment. 

Peyton, who seemingly had one job on the field in managing the game, was responsible for one interception and one fumble.  It got so bad in the second half for Manning, that it kind of looked like in my view that Head Coach Gary Kubiak didn't let him do ANYTHING.  Not even a pass over ten yards.  The best pass that Manning threw, especially in that second half, was the two point conversion he threw to make the score 24-10.  It was probably the last pass of his career.

Emmanuel Sanders was virtually the only reliable target for the Hall of Fame QB (he had almost four times as many receiving yards as anyone else did Sunday night).  The running game was decent enough, as CJ Anderson went for 4 yards a carry (23 for 90yards).  All those numbers and the fact that the offense for Denver was basically two people makes it even more amazing that the Broncos were not only leading the entire game, they didn't look like they were in trouble.

Now, we get to the Defense of the Super Bowl Champions.  Orange Crush is not even the best way to describe this unit right now, but only because they are SO much better than their predecessors ever were.   On Sunday, they hit Cam Newton 13 times.  Eight Broncos got to the QB who ran the league's number one offense in 2015.  As you all know by now, the chosen one got sacked six times on the night (they also sacked Ted Ginn Jr. once), with Denver's bookend Outside Linebackers Demarcus Ware and Von Miller getting credit for 4.5 of them.  The only other team to get seven sacks in a Super Bowl?  The 1985 Chicago Bears. 

This postseason Denver got to their opponent’s QB 33 TIMES, which is an unbelievable stat considering the other two signal callers they manhandled were Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger, who are responsible for five Super Bowl wins.  When you take into account Von Miller's two strips of Cam on Sunday, the final score of the NFL's Golden Game should really read as: Broncos Defense 14, Panthers 10.

Since the 2000's the NFL has been a game dominated by offense.  “You can't win a game without a great QB performance” people always say.  Super Bowl Sunday proved different.  Since 2000, I've only truly seen two Super Bowl winning performances that have been on par with Peyton Manning's on Sunday:  Trent Dilfer in Super Bowl 38 for the original team who won with only defense, the Baltimore Ravens (153 yards, 3 sacks, 1 fumble); and Big Ben Roethlisberger in the last anniversary game for the NFL, Super Bowl 40 (9-21, 123 yards, 2 INT's).  Being responsible for a single TD (Dilfer throwing, Big Ben running) in their respective Super Bowls was really the only positive thing either of them did.  Peyton really can't even take any credit for that.

That Sunday showed us things we've never seen before from a WINNING team in a Super Bowl.  Whether it be because of the Broncos own futility on offense or their amazing defense; either way, it’s truly historic.  And either way, the DENVER BRONCOS are the TRUE story of Super Bowl 50, not the Carolina Panthers.

Or you know, we can talk more about how Cam is a sore loser again, your call.