Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Biblical Mandible

At 92 years of age this man of many stories walks into a room filled with people. Most of them are only half his age and never even witnessed one of his glorious fights. The Children are only privy to the tales told by their fathers and uncles about "The Bronx Bull," but I get the feeling today he might be inspired to share a past experience of his days at the top of the middle-weight division or the time he spent with Hollywood's elite.

Jake LaMotta fought 106 professional fights in only 13 years (1941-1954). At the height of his boxing career in 1949 he won the National Boxing Association Middleweight Title. LaMotta fought Sugar Ray Robinson, who many consider as the "pound-for-pound" greatest fighter ever, 6 times. He only defeated Robinson once, but was never knocked down in their fights. In fact, LaMotta's lone suffered knock-down occurred against Danny Nardico in 1952. No one was able to take a punch like "The Raging Bull." Boxing Announcers described his chin as "the granite jaw" & "the biblical mandible."

He sits at the table, signs his John Hancock and shakes hands with every extended paw. The old man still commands the room and smiles at the faces of kids who don't know his name, but will someday. One patron brought a picture of The Champ with Paul Newman from the 1961 film, The Hustler. Jake smiled and said, "What a classy guy that Pauly."

Amazing this man is still going strong after all the years. He's got a website, a fiancee and plenty of Bronx-charm to go around. Jake LaMotta is best known
for fighting, but his stage and business careers have been just as successful. His name and face are recogizable by any sport-loving American. It was a pleasure meeting you Mr. LaMotta. Thank you Sir for being so Great.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

aka Lew Alcindor. The Most Underrated Basketball Player Ever.

If Lew Alcindor were a rookie in 2013, he would have come into the NBA his legend already preceeding him. As a high school player in New York City, his teams won championships. In college at UCLA, Alcindor made coach John Wooden a Legend by leading the Bruins to a record 71 game winning streak, with an overall 3 year mark of 88 wins and 2 losses. Lew was a 3-time NCAA National Champion, 2-time Player of the Year and 3-time NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player. In 1969, Alcindor graduated college and was drafted 1st overall by the Milwaukee Bucks, beginning an NBA career that would span twenty years.

The World was in the midst of Revolution & Cultural Change in 1969. Kennedy & King were gone, but their life's work was slowly being realized. The Vietnam
War was in full effect. People in America were angry, confused, stoned, afraid, optimistic and pessimistic. The Old Guard was being driven out by A New Guard of Evolved thinking and living, but the changes would be gradual at best. The NBA had been in existence since the late 40s, so they too were experiencing the same Cultural Shifting. Players like Wilt Chamberlain & Lew Alcindor would play significant roles in changing perceptions and influencing the American Sports Landscape as a whole.

Lew Alcindor became Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, as his spiritual awakening began at UCLA and came to fruition after winning the 1971 NBA Championship. Abdul-Jabbar would become the NBA's Most Valuable Player a record 6 Times. He dominated the NBA with an all-around game that would allow his teams to win 6 NBA Titles. His patented Skyhook shot was unstoppable and he was able to hit it with both hands, making him a lethal scorer from any direction to the basket.

His statistics are as mind-boggling as his success. 38,387 points (1st), 17,440 rebounds (4th), 3189 blocks (3rd), 5660 assists (37th). Yeah, Kareem
dished more assists than NBA Greats, Guards Dennis Johnson, Allen Iverson and Michael Jordan. A One-Man Wrecking Crew of Offensive & Defensive Supremacy, Kareem is the most Skilled & Efficient Center to ever play Basketball. No player contributed more to his teams successes than Abdul Jabbar, with the exception of MJ. Where Russell, Chamberlain and Olajuwon get most of the Pub, Abdul-Jabbar gets clear distinction as the Best through the Numbers and the Championships.

Magic was the enthusiastic personality of the Lakers, but Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was the blood and guts. Magic made the flashy passes, but Abdul-Jabbar made the baskets. Magic led all the fast-breaks of the Showtime Lakers, but Kareem created those possessions with the Blocks & Rebounds. Kareem made Earvin 'Magic' & 'Showtime' a Winner.

Behold the Starting Center of the NBA ALL-TIME TEAM.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

100% Guarantee

Who knew Greg Maddux was so beloved?

I heard the headline postulating Maddux's case for unanimous selection and thought, "Ok, that's the first time I've heard that question posed about him." And on the day before the results are to be announced?

Greg Maddux is a clear first-ballot-HOFer. He won 355 games with a 3.16 ERA in twenty-three seasons, won a World Series, a record 18 Gold Gloves and is a 4-time Cy Young Award Winner. Even more impressive than those numbers is the fact that Maddux pitched during the apex of the Steroid Era. Though there are no metrics or measureables entailing the discrepancy between a steroid user and a normal player, one can simply look at the numbers to determine the significant increase in offensive efficiency during Maddux's career. Some MLB'ers loved to use the explanation, "Big Muscles don't help you put the bat on the ball." Uh yeah, actually they do. Bigger Muscles equal a quicker bat. More bat speed allows a batter to get to pitches they otherwise would not hit on the sweet spot. And hello, the ball goes further when you have a quicker bat due to greater strength & bat control. Rocket-Science!

A 23 year pitching career in smaller ballparks through the heart of the Steroid Era with a live baseball; an Earned Run Average of 3.16 makes quite an impression when you do the mental math and figure if everything were equal, 400 wins and a 2.50 ERA are probably truer statistics for the "Mad Dog."

Maddux was well-known for his perfect mechanics, superior control, painting corners of the plate, crazy ball-movement and keeping batters off-balance to folly. He was also a notorious clubhouse prankster with a zeal for performing some pretty grotesque gags. Tom Glavine has done several candid interviews describing Maddux's twisted sense of humor, from a positive perspective.

The Defense Rests. But the Prosecution must proceed. He only won 1 World Series. He did not excel in the Post Season. And his questionable clubhouse
character probably endured him to teammates, but to an 'esteemed' BBWAA member it could possibly be seen as sophmoric and below HOF character standards. Sounds pretty lame, but in Hall of Fame voting it only takes 1 in over 500 writers to defeat unanimity.

That's why it's never been done. Babe Ruth could have pitched his way into the Hall, but instead batted. No one else in the history of the game can make that claim but it didn't matter to the BBWAA. Roberto Clemente died feeding natural disaster victims, but still only got 92.69%. Jackie Robinson & Cal Ripken are two players you'd think had a chance at 100%. Nope. They got 77.5 & 98.53 percent.

So a Unanimous Baseball Hall of Fame Selection will probably never happen. And though Greg Maddux was great, he was certainly not the greatest ever. Top 10 yes, but not the best ever. All the fuss over Greg Maddux's HOF vote percentage is pretty laughable to me. Now if Barry Bonds got in on the first ballot that would've pissed me off. Make him and Clemens wait till their 15th year to put them in.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Man's Game
The Hits of yesteryear have become a forbidden art. Old clips captured by NFL Films, narrated by the legendary voices of John Facenda & Harry Kalas depict the violent, gladitorial game as it was meant to be; Adversarial & Barbaric at it's very core.

Though NFL Football is still a brutal sport with great bodily risk for every player, the game is no longer a crash-test exhibition of hit-as-hard-as-you-can mentality. Head injuries and the tragic, long-term health effects on players from your father's NFL, contributed to a $765 million compensation settlement and the changing of several rules to protect the future health of NFL players.

Past is Prologue. The NFL became rich due to the sacrifices and brilliant play of its players, as well as the superb marketing from owners and executives. The game owed a debt to the ones who came before, which is one reason for the settlement. Higher-ups were forced by debilitated ex-players to atone for neglecting their workforce, specifically, for withholding crucial information about the damage and health risks created by the severe head-trauma they were inflicting & experiencing playing the game they love. Which was the opposition's exact case for rebuttal. 'Players knew what they were doing, they signed up for it.'

Fortunately, the Law is balanced and the NFL has very deep pockets, so after years of litigation they finally decided to fork over a few dollars for the guys that made Football America's New Fav Pasttime. 765 million may sound like a lot, but for the more than 4500 players involved in the suit, it only equates to about $170,000 each. And that's without any payment to lawyers so chop that down to about 100k, kindly.

Fact is the NFL corportation got off easy. 765 million is not even 1/10 of the revenue the NFL makes in a single season. So basically for the 20+ years the NFL knowingly withheld the information about Traumatic Head Injuries and the effects their game had on their employees, they were able to pay off 4500 ex-players with roughly the amount of money an average player makes in 1 regular season game.

Yes, NFL Players knew the game was hard on their bodies. Yes, they still made good money playing the game. But the NFL needed and still needs to do better in taking care of their own. The insane profits Owners are making need to be utilized fairly. Players and Ex-players deserve to be cared for, without going broke.