Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Price of Olympic Gold

By Travis Stahl

What price can you put on winning a gold medal at the Olympics?  Really, to the athlete who wins that medal, you can't put a price on it.  It symbolizes all of their hard work, dedication and time spent away from loved ones preparing for that special moment in time.  Most Olympians train their whole lives just for the chance to win that medal.  Still, let's not be naive.  There is money involved.  Just how much you may ask?

Well, first of all let me bust your bubble about the medals themselves.  The gold medals are 95% silver.  That means each gold medal awarded at the Olympics is worth roughly $550.  Still not bad, especially when you consider the number Michael Phelps has.  But the medal itself is not the only monetary gain for the athletes.  They get paid for winning medals too.

To win a gold medal American athletes get paid $25,000.  Silver gets an athlete $15,000 and a bronze medal is worth $10,000.  Not too shabby right?  Actually yes, it is pretty low. Athletes from Singapore get paid $741,000 to win a gold medal.  Italians bring home $166,000 per gold.  Even the French athletes get paid $55,000 to win a gold medal in the Olympics.  American athletes are at the low end of the pay scale when it comes to winning a gold medal.  Seems weird.  But that isn't the worst part.

After we pay our athletes for winning a gold medal we turn right around and tax them on those earnings.  Yeah America.  Phelps ends up paying close to $30,000 in taxes for the medals he has won at Rio.  Something about that seems seriously wrong and dirty.  We want these people to represent us in front of the whole world, we just don't like them as much as we do multimillion dollar corporations that we give every tax break in the world.  Sorry Phelps, Uncle Sam is going to have to tax you for that swim.

For somebody like Phelps those taxes probably aren't that big of a deal.  He is going to far exceed that in endorsement deals.  In fact Phelps' net worth is close to $55 million.  But what about the athlete who wins one silver medal in one event.  The $12,000 they get to take home after taxes isn't going to carry them too far in their training.  I understand that sentimentally there is no value that can put on a medal.  But if we are going to put a monetary value on it for winning at least treat our athletes fairly.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Titans Make a Classy Move

By Travis Stahl

Too often we see the story in sports about the extremely talented athlete getting opportunity after opportunity handed to them.  Some of those athletes then poo-poo all over each of their chances at the professional level and end up leaving the game with nothing to show for it.  Then happens more than we like mostly because upper management sees the talent level and not character of the player.  Having said that, I think it is important that we acknowledge Tennessee Titans General Manager Jon Robinson for doing the right thing.

Robinson yesterday traded away massively talented wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham to the Philadelphia Eagles.  Green is a huge wide receiver, 6-5 inches tall with incredible speed.  Nobody has ever questioned the talent of DGB.  As a red zone target he is exactly what you want in a wide receiver which is why Tennessee drafted him in the second round last year out of Missouri even after some troubles in college.  Despite all that talent Robinson and the team became very aware that DGB was a lazy player.

Kudos to Robinson for saying enough is enough.  In the Titans first preseason game last weekend DGB was supposed to run a go route as fast he could straight down the field.  Instead, he trudged off the line sluggishly and never gave the play a chance to be successful from the get go.  You can't have that on your football team and Robinson knows that.  To be a good team you have to have players who will sacrifice all out on every play for the betterment of the team.  DGB is not that guy.

In exchange for DGB the Titans got a back-up offensively lineman.  I'm guessing Robinson would have accepted two Philly cheese steaks and some Tastykakes just to get DGB off the roster.  Robinson, like so few general managers around the league, recognized that a guy like that on the team causes more problems then they are worth regardless of the talent level.  It would have only been a matter of time before DGB would have poisoned those around him and created a locker room mess for the Titans to have to clean up.  And at that point the Titans would have gotten nothing in return.

To Philadelphia I say "Ha."  Gotcha.  The Eagles, like those teams I mentioned at the top, just can't get past the immense talent of DGB.  I'm sure they are thinking they can fix him and make him a good fit for their offense.  Good luck with that.  You can fix mechanics and technique, you can't fix what is in a players heart and it is not in DGB's make-up to be an all-out receiver in the NFL.  If it was we wouldn't be having this conversation.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

These Olympics Keep Getting Better

By Travis Stahl

I'm not quite sure how this has happened, but the Olympics just keep getting better.  Yeah, I know I'm a big dork.  But I love the Olympics and these Rio games seem to be exceeding everyone's expectations.  Just when you think you've seen it all there is another shocking event.  It's crazy amazing.  Like before, I'm not here to run down results for you, you can look those up on your own.  I'm simply here to share my Olympic experience.

On the track - We've finally gotten fully immersed in the track and field events.  If you missed the Ussain Bolt/Justin Gatlin showdown in the 100 meter dash finals you missed out on one of the most riveting sporting events in recent memory.  After Bolt's win to earn his third-straight Olympic gold in the event the other runners were congratulating him as if to say thank you.  Someday those runners are going to be telling their grand kids about the time they were on the track with Ussain Bolt.  Between Bolt and Michael Phelps we have been blessed to see possibly the two greatest Olympians of all time.  Then last night we got the dive as Jamaica's Shaunae Miller leaped/tripped across the finish line to just edge out Allison Felix.  Who does that?  Nobody.  It just keeps getting better.

The little guy - We all expect the big countries like the U.S., China and Russia to clean up and take all the medals.  The best events are the ones where an athlete from some little country comes through to beat the big boys and earn a medal.  Watching Wayde Van Niekerk of South Africa in the 400 meter dash was a thing of beauty.  WVN is coached by this 76-year old little old lady who looks like the grandma next door.  For the finals WVN was running in lane eight, a position no runner has ever won a medal from.  Yet there he was, not only winning the gold but doing so in world record time.  That is the Olympic experience right there.

Basketball - It comes as no surprise that the U.S. women's team is blowing out everyone in their path.  The team is loaded and the rest of the world has nowhere close to the talent the American women do.  But the men's team is starting to struggle.  For whatever reason the U.S. team has decided the best plan for victory is to feed the ball to Carmelo Anthony.  That doesn't work too well for the New York Knicks.  And the U.S. defense has started to look a little atrocious lately.  If the team doesn't tighten things up it could be ripe for an upset and that would be a huge embarrassment.

We've got just over a week left in the Olympics.  It's just amazing how many people I run into who are watching the games as religiously as I am.  Frankly I was stunned.  I had no idea the average person enjoys the Olympics as much as I do.  But it really is just invigorating and gets you jumping out of your seat.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Don't Forget College Football

By Travis Stahl

We've talked quite a bit about the NFL so far leading up to the season.  There's a lot to get to.  But we haven't even gotten to the college football landscape yet.  The college game has changed a lot in the last few years.  Now, instead of trying to figure out who the final two teams will be we try to predict the four teams that will make it to the playoffs.  That's a step towards progress.  However, if you are waiting for some lesser known teams to crash the party and make it to the Final Four I wouldn't hold your breath.

We already know the four playoff teams are going to come from the power five conferences.  The Big Ten, Pac 12, SEC, ACC and Big 12 will comprise the playoff teams and at least one of those guys won't get a seat at the table.  I'm looking at you Pac 12.  The way college football is comprised now if you aren't in one of those conferences you don't have a chance to play for a title.  Is that fair?  Probably not.  But that's another argument for another day.  For now let's just play within the rules the way they are written.

We all know Alabama is going to be in the playoffs.  If you don't think that is the case you need to hit yourself in the head with something.  The Tide don't have a quarterback you say?  Does Nick Saban ever have a quarterback?  No, it really doesn't matter because we all know the 'Bama defense and running game is going to carry the day.  Clemson should return to the playoffs as well.  Last season's runner-up still features quarterback DeShaun Watson who will likely win the Heisman Trophy this year.  The Tigers lost a little bit on defense but quietly Clemson has been one of the most consistent defensive power houses in the country so I think they will be fine.

I think Oklahoma will also be back in the playoffs this year.  The Sooners return electric quarterback Baker Mayfield as well as the team's top two running backs.  What helps the Sooners even more though is that they are opening the season near the top of the rankings and probably won't be seriously challenged in the Big 12 until the end of the season.  The new comer to the playoffs this season will be Michigan.  The Wolverines were soooooo close last year they could taste it.  Jim Harbaugh wins.  That's what he does.  To help things out for Michigan both Michigan State and Ohio State won't be quite as good as they have been over the last two seasons of play.

In one semi-final game Alabama will knock off Clemson and in the other it will be Oklahoma beating Michigan.  In the title game the Alabama defense will be able to contain the Oklahoma running game and earn yet another National Championship.  Yeah, it might not play out that way.  But would you really be willing to consider another alternative that would make as much sense?  This is what Alabama does, they win championships.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Why I Loved Wrestling

By Travis Stahl

Why are Cubs fans Cubs fans?  How could possibly grow up liking the Dallas Cowboys?  Good questions.  When we are young we gravitate towards certain teams for many different reasons.  We like the uniforms, the players, the style of play.  Fans become fans for a reason.  It all starts somewhere.  Until the World Wrestling Entertainment purchased WCW and essentially ruined professional wrestling I loved it.  I watched all the time.  Since the WWE took over I haven't watched once.  But I still remember how I fell in love with wrestling.

Back in the day there was no WWE.  Wrestling was made up of several small, regional wrestling companies.  Verne Gagne operated the AWA around Minnesota, you had Mid-South Wrestling out of Georgia and around here we had the WWA out of Indianapolis.  The World Wrestling Association was owned and operated by Stan Hubler and William Afflis.  You may remember Afflis better as Dick the Bruiser.  We got to see the WWA every Saturday afternoon on channel 55 out of Fort Wayne and thought it was just about the greatest thing we had ever seen.

Dick the Bruiser was the man.  He was always the WWA heavyweight champion.  The Bruiser would have some pretty epic matches against the likes of Jimmy Valiant and Ernie Ladd.  Every once in a while he would face Baron Von Raschke or The Crusher.  We would cheer for good guys like Yukon Moose Cholak and Bobo Brazil.  The WWA had a share talent agreement with the AWA so every once in a while a wrestler like Barry Windham or Harley Race would show up for a while to take on somebody like Ox Baker.

There was no jumping off the top rope and doing three flips.  There were no steel cage matches or flashing lights with music.  In fact, it wasn't fancy at all.  It was two guys who looked like they occasionally lifted weights, frequently drank beer and used to be pretty athletic putting on a show in the ring.  The WWA, like the other small wrestling companies at the time were local shows traveling between Louisville and Detroit because they loved doing it.  Then slowly as the WWE machine started rolling it gobbled up all the smaller wrestling companies and put them out of business.

Was the WWA better than the wrestling we got from the WWE of the early to mid-80's?  Probably not.  In fact, for me, the WWE just built on what I really liked with the WWA.  Sure, slowly over time it became more about the pageantry and less about the wrestling.  Heck, Dick the Bruiser's signature move was just throwing a guy across the ring.  But that's where it started for me.  Sitting in the living room on Saturday's watching classic local wrestling.  They have some of the old matches on YouTube if you want to check it out and see what I'm talking about.  Trust me, you won't be disappointed.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Weekend Update

By Travis Stahl

I feel like Kevin Nealon.  But a lot happened this weekend.  We survived the doldrums of summer and then the last few days the sports world has been filled with interesting things to talk about.  It's about time.  The Olympics are here.  Football is supposed to be here.  And ARod won't be here for much longer.  Let's get this thing started.

What a Shame - The Hall of Fame game in Canton, Ohio gets blown a little out of proportion just because it is the first real football anybody has seen since February.  It's still just a preseason game.  But we really don't care because it's football so we will watch it.  And then, somehow, they managed to ruin the field and make it an unplayable surface.  How does that happen in a game in an NFL game?  This isn't me out there trying to get the thing ready it's professionals.  Apparently they loaded the field turf with extra rubber pellets before they painted the center logo and end zones.  Because they put so many extra pellets the paint turned those areas into virtual concrete.  My favorite part was that it took the players and coaches to be on the field to notice the problem.  Good work.

Adios - See ya Alex Rodriguez, wouldn't wanna be ya.  ARod, who has been benched by the New York Yankees for much of the last month, announced yesterday that this Friday will be his last game.  Rodriguez is retiring and becoming a special adviser and coach for the Yankees.  We got to see ARod sit there at the news conference and cry about how much he loves this game of baseball.  You know, the game he cheated for the better part of his career.  You don't get to tell us how much you love baseball when you were the dirtiest player in the game.  Now go away.

Rio - I'm not going to sit here and run down what athletes won which medals.  You can do that on your own.  I love the Olympics, especially the summer games.  So far we've seen a cyclist slam into a curb, a Frenchy gymnast break his leg, I watched a Croatian water polo player straight up punch an American in the gut and every time there is a race in the pool somebody sets a new Olympic or world record.  So far Rio has been awesome.  The only thing you know for sure is that every time you turn the TV on something great is going to happen.  Heck, last night Katie Ledecky won her race to win a gold medal by five seconds.  Five seconds!  She had turned around and started celebrating before the next swimmer touched the wall.  If you think I'm kidding about how much fun these Olympics have been you are missing out.  Last night there was a 40-year old woman from some Eastern Block country doing the vault in gymnastics.  And she was good.  You would have laughed out loud last night if you saw me watching synchronized diving.  The Italians would pull off some amazing dive and I would yell something.  Then right after them the Chinese would throw down some dive that just put the Italians to shame and I would yell even louder.  Go Olympics!

We've got two more weeks of Olympic games, then we an start getting serious about the NFL season starting.  You're not required by state law to care about baseball until the playoffs begin.  I looked it up.  Plus college football is getting ready to begin also.  Late summer and early fall is the best time for sports we just got a bonus this year with the Olympics.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Puig Out

By Travis Stahl

Man, what a crazy week for Major League Baseball at the trade deadline.  The Mets added another great bat in Jay Bruce.  The Indians bolstered the league's best pitching staff.  And I don't know if anybody has noticed or not but the Texas Rangers are just loaded top to bottom.  But you know what we learned most this week as teams across the land made bold move after bold move?  We learned we should always believe Don Mattingly.

You remember Mattingly right?  He was the manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers until they fired him.  Mattingly wanted to take a strong stance with Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig and try some tough love.  The organization disagreed and so Mattingly was fired.  Turns out Puig and the Dodgers may have needed Mattingly more than they thought.  After trying to trade Porky Puig at the deadline and finding no takers LA tried to send the outfielder to the minors only to see him instead just walk away from the team.

Puig is one of the most fascinating stories sports has ever had to offer.  He came out of nowhere two years ago to become an all-star.  Puig has the build of former two-sport star Bo Jackson at 6'2 and 250 pounds.  He could hit for power, was lightning fast and had that air of superstar about him.  Fans loved him.  What we quickly learned about Puig is that while the Dodger fans couldn't get enough of the powerful outfielder the rest of the team and the manager weren't as impressed.  Thus the power struggle with Mattingly and management began.

There are unwritten rules in baseball.  Most of them are dumb but some are not.  Puig didn't care.  He was constantly late for team meetings and batting practice.  He wouldn't run out ground outs.  There were even times in the field where you could see he wouldn't put all his effort in to chasing down a fly ball.  But last year Puig's numbers were still productive.  He was helping the team win despite all of his what seemed to be lazy traits.  So Dodgers management decided they could tolerate Puig as long as the bat kept connecting and he was at least showing up to the games.

Then this season happened.  Puig's numbers have plummeted.  Maybe it's just one of those slumps baseball players go through at the plate.  Or maybe Puig hasn't been putting the work in.  Regardless the reason LA tried to move Puig at the trading deadline and found no takers.  Nobody.  The Red Sox wouldn't touch him.  The Yankees wanted nothing to do with him.  The risk to acquire Puig had grown to high and no team was willing to roll the dice.

I don't ever remember a player going from bursting onto the scene to out of the league in a faster time.  Sure, Puig could still catch on with another team.  But is he willing to do the work to do so?  Is he going to be willing to accept a minor league assignment to prove his worth?  That will show teams how interested he is and how much he loves the game.  If he isn't willing to go through a stint in the minors to show teams what he can do than we may have seen the last of Yasiel Puig.