Thursday, May 26, 2016

Leave it to Buffalo

By Travis Stahl

You ever hear somebody say something and immediately think "duh?"  As in the information they are providing you is so common sense knowledge that for them to even utter the words sounds crazy.  Sometimes, the things that come out of peoples mouths are so obvious we have to stop for a minute and think about if we are really hearing it.  The other day, Doug Whaley who is the general manager for the Buffalo Bills said in a radio interview that he did not believe humans were intended to play football.  Yeah, he said that, on the radio.  The GM for an actual NFL franchise said football is too dangerous for human beings.

Now, I believe we have two different ways of looking at this.  Both are logical and both provide some depth to the comments Whaley foolishly made on the air.  I would also like to note that these two points of view are not contradictory to each other even though they are not related in their tone.  I am just of the opinion that there are couple of different ways of viewing these statements.  However, I will add that neither viewpoint is particularly favorable for Whaley.

The first reaction to this, as I said above, is to think "well yeah dummy, we know that."  We aren't morons. We all know that humans were not intended to be crashing into each other at high rates of speed for three hours at a time.  This is not new information for us regardless of how little mind we paid to it.  Humans were also never intended to travel in space in giant metal tubes yet here we are.  As a race of mammals we have set forth and done thousands and thousands of things we were never supposed to.  Football is just one of them.  We knew this before Whaley let us in on the secret.

The other view to consider is that of NFL upper management.  As a league that is constantly under scrutiny for safety and head trauma the NFL can't be too happy that one of its general managers made a statement like that. The last thing the league wants is one of its team executives calling attention to the dangers of playing football. I'm sure somebody from the league has reached out to Whaley and asked him to please be quiet.  The NFL wants anything related to head trauma to just go away. Stuff like this just keeps it in the spotlight.

Maybe Whaley didn't intend for his comments to come out  the way the did.  But he sure didn't backtrack on them real quickly either.  I'm sure Whaley is a good guy and I don't question his intentions.  He could have just done a better job of getting his point across.  Instead he came off sounding badly and making the league look bad in the process.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

This Was a Great Team

By Travis Stahl

Remember how cool nicknames were?  Every kid wanted a nickname.  I had one just once.  Thankfully it
didn't last long.  In the summer of 1986 I was on the Pizza Hut little league team and we had a "PH" on our hats.  Because I wore the hat everyday Cindy Harrison took to calling me "PH."  Not the letters "P" and "H."  It was the sound "PH" as in the word phase.  I didn't mind because that was a great team to be on.

I know I've written about playing for Pizza Hut before.  You'll have to indulge me.  I spend a lot of time at Morsches now that my oldest daughter is playing softball. I see a lot of the guys who were on that Pizza Hut team with me and it brings back great memories.  We were the regular season and tournament champions that year under coaches Roger Mann and Kevin Lickey and we had a lot of fun. Everyone hated us and we loved it.

We played some tremendous games against the Mets and their coach Terry Baker.  They were some of the most competitive games I ever participated in.  Every game was close and if my aging memory serves me correctly the Mets may have even had the lead at some point.  I know we beat them though in each game which we absolutely loved.  Nothing felt as good as beating the Mets.  I don't know if kids today still feel that way about teams they play against but I know how we all felt after those wins.

What made that team so special was all the different personalities.  Chris Judd, Jim Duff and Brent Lickey were the older kids on the team so we all looked up to them.  Charlie Vasquez never moved until the ball was hit and you weren't sure if he was ever watching the game (he was). Jason Bales was a great catcher.  All the rest of us had to do was not screw it up which we managed to do just fine.  And we had absolute faith in our coaches and did whatever they told us to.

That was without a doubt the best team I was ever fortunate enough to be on.  Not just because we won but because we had fun along the way.  I hope my kids get to experience that, there really is nothing in life like being a part of something like that.  Plus I got a super cool nickname out of the deal.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

LeBron is Underrated

By Travis Stahl

Sometimes I say things and people think I'm crazy.  I'm OK with that.  There are times the things that come out of my mouth don't make much sense.  Today is one of those days.  But before you shout to the heavens that I'm insane I want you to consider something.  What if I'm right?  After you read the next sentence I want you to ask yourself that question.  Because I think somehow we have allowed LeBron James to become underrated.

Yes ... underrated.  Is that even possible?  I would have never thought so.  But consider this for a second, LBJ is about to go to his seventh-straight NBA Finals.  You know who's done that?  Bill Russell.  That's the only person.  So there's that.  Yeah, you can throw back at me that he only one two of those.  I would argue that the loss to San Antonio if the Finals was the only one in which LeBron's team was outplayed on the floor.  Last year James was out there against Golden State with a JV group.

You want to try to use the "he doesn't make his teammates better" argument?  We can go there.  Guess which player is fourth all-time in playoff assists?  Yeppers, it's LeBron.  The only players with more are Magic Johnson, John Stockton and Jason Kidd.  But if you want to make it about points we can do that also.  Fourth on the all-time playoff scoring list you ask?  Yes sire, LeBron James.  I'm not sure we should be surprised by this.

Somehow in the instant flash that is Steph Curry we have forgotten about James.  Curry is doing magnificent things we have never seen before.  We should be excited about him.  But don't lose sight of James because he is getting to the finals and with the rest of the Cavaliers healthy he has a really good chance of winning another ring.  It has kind of been a forgone conclusion that whichever team wins the West wins the ring.  I'm not sure that is the case.

If Cleveland stays healthy they are as much a contender as anybody else because they have the game's best player.  Yes, Curry is the MVP.  But the overall greatest player on the planet is still LBJ and we have lost sight of that.  Most people won't remember that until the finals and that's OK.  It's just so weird that James has flown under the radar this whole season.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Blind Squirel Finds Nut

By Travis Stahl

Huh, I guess Sam Hinkie was right all along.  If you throw enough crap at a wall some of it will eventually stick.  That is the logic I am choosing to explain to myself the Philadelphia 76ers winning the NBA's draft lottery last night.  Hinkie, the former general manager for the team had this crazy plan that if you lose on purpose long enough eventually something good will happen.  Hinkie got fired a couple of months ago.  But he was right, after multiple attempts at winning the lottery and consistently getting screwed over Philly finally hit the jackpot.  Kind of.

First, let's dispel the "lottery is rigged" crap.  No it's not.  Is it a perfect system?  No.  In fact I hate the draft lottery.  But it's entertaining as hell and it is not "fixed" by the NBA.  A few hours before the lottery English illiterate Dikembe Mutombo sent out a tweet saying something about Philadelphia winning the lottery and people freaked out.  Calm down zealots.  Do you really think if there was some kind of conspiracy at foot that they're going to let Mutombo in on the secret?  He wasn't saying "I already know you won," he was saying it as in "I hope you win."  If the lottery was fixed the 76ers are the last team the NBA would alter the odds for to win it.

But they did win it.  They had the best odds of winning it so that kind of makes sense.  The only part of it that doesn't work out for Philly is this draft stinks.  Their choices are now Brandon Ingram of Duke and Ben Simmons of LSU.  Both players are very good.  Neither is what you would call transcendental which is what Philly was looking for.  But either guy can step into that crap-town line-up and help right away.  And, which ever guy they pick will be playing small-forward on what instantly becomes the biggest front-line in basketball as they will be beside Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafur.  Ingram might be able to become Kevin Durant.  Simmons is hard to tell.  He could be Scottie Pippen or he could be Michael Beasly.

Hinkie's plan was to get this top pick eventually and be able to draft a player No. 1 who would change the fortunes of the franchise.  He was looking for the next LeBron James.  At the very least I think they would settle for the next Andrew Wiggins.  Ingram and Simmons aren't in that class.  At least not yet.  So in all the drafts for Hinkie's half-brained plan to come to fruition it had to be this one.  Even when the 76ers win they somehow find a way to lose.  That's the way things go for this team.

The one thing Philly has going for them is they play in the Eastern Conference which only has Cleveland.  If the coaching staff can get anything resembling good play out of the top pick they might be OK.  Especially if the team can also nail one of the 185 second-round picks they own.  Getting two guys to come in and help out would be magnificent.  Don't forget, Philly also owns the draft rights for Dario Saric who is still in Europe and could possibly be here in the next year or two.  Maybe that Hinkie guy wasn't so dumb after all.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Hitting the Lottery

By Travis Stahl

We all have dreams of winning the lottery.  Big money.  All of our dreams would come true.  Tonight is the NBA draft lottery.  I know most of you aren't as excited about that as you are the Powerball but I love the draft lottery.  It's a crazy circus usually fueled by speculations the league has rigged the system.  This draft is horrible.  It stinks.  After Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram with the first two picks it's anybodies guess.  What will be intriguing in this draft is that there are some teams in the lottery whose fortunes could change drastically if they get one of the top two picks.  For Denver, Phoneix, Sacramento and Orlando I would say earning one of those picks doesn't change their team a whole lot.  But look at some of these other possibilities.

Los Angeles Lakers - The Lakers might not get to keep their pick.  But if they do keep their selection they would be adding one of those two players to a core of DeAngelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle.
Philadelphia 76ers - Nobody wants to see this work out for Philly.  The 76ers though could end up with two lottery selections.  I'm guessing they would draft two centers.
Chicago Bulls - Just imagine if the Bulls could land Simmons or Ingram to pair with Jimmy Butler and Derrick Rose.
Milwaukee Bucks - This team is right there as it is.  Throw a top-two pick into the mix with Jabari Parker and the Greek Freak and this team would be scary good.
New Orleans Pelicans - An Anthony Davis combo with Simmons/Ingram could dominate the league for years.
Toronto Raptors - Yeah, the Raptors own a lottery pick.  This team could come off an appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals and add one of the draft's best players.
Utah Jazz - There is so much talent already here and the Jazz were battling for the last playoff spot in the West this season.
Boston Celtics - This is intriguing for a different reason.  If the Celtics get one of the top two picks they will almost certainly trade it for a veteran star.
Minnesota Timberwolves - Karl Anthony-Towns, Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine, Ricky Rubio and Simmons or Ingram as the starting line-up!  Get out of here.

If the Bucks, Bulls, Pelicans or Jazz get one of the top two picks I think that immediately vaults them into the playoffs.  Philly and LA are still a couple of years away from being seriously competitive.  If Boston or Toronto gets one of the top two guys that really improves their standing in the East and probably puts them into another level of title contender that Cleveland would have to be very worried about.  I'm rooting for the Pelicans to get this top pick.  I like Davis and want him to stay there and help that franchise grow.  No team needs to nail this lottery more than New Orleans.

Monday, May 16, 2016

CC Football Record Holders

By Travis Stahl

A lot of recent attention has been paid to developing new athletic fields and practice facilities for the new Columbia City High School.  Having an eye towards the future is always exciting.  The future is a culmination of all the historical milestones players post in their careers.  And Columbia City certainly has some historical performances from the Eagles football program.  There are some record holders in the Eagles history who are names everyone would expect.  But there are others who put up great career numbers who have been overlooked.

Passing records for the Columbia City football program aren't too surprising.  Nearly every record for the Eagles quarterbacks are held by one person, Logan Rehrer.  Rehrer is the leader in career yardage (5,308), pass completions (263), pass attempts (488) and passing touchdowns (42).  Rehrer also holds every single-season passing record as well as the Columbia City for most yards in a season at 2,648.
The second-leading passer in the history of CC football is Levi Knach who threw for 3,593 yards and 36 touchdowns.  Adam Goss is third with 2,874 and 28 touchdowns and Troy Horn is fourth ont he all-time list with 2,867 yards and 20 career touchdowns.

Catching passes as a receiver in the Eagles offense has never been a highlighted position.  But a few receivers managed to break that trend and have outstanding careers.  Saying which receiver is the career leader depends on what statistic is used to rank Eagle pass catchers.  Jared Murphy leads the team with most career receptions with 94.  But Kyle Rucks heads the all-time list with most receiving yards with 1,728.  Rucks is also the all-time leader with 24 receiving touchdowns.  Murphy has 12 career receiving touchdowns.

Lewis Fuller is third on the receiving list in both categories.  Fuller ended his career at CC with 84 catches for 1,434 yards.

Columbia City has always prided itself on its running game.  Running backs in the Eagles offense were fed the ball repeatedly as the means of moving the team down the field.  For years Randy Metzger was the career leader in nearly every Eagles rushing category.  But some of Metzger's records have fallen in recent years.  Metzger is still the all-time leader in carries (444) and yards (2,462).  

Josh Monesmith is second on the all-time list with 361 carries for 2,362 and Braden Myer is third with 451 yards and 2,342 yards.  Cory Sievers is the team's fourth all-time leading rusher with 268 carries for 2,261 yards and Joel Cearbaugh is No. 5 wit 409 carries for 2,184 yards.  Sievers also averaged an amazing 8.4 yards per carry during his career.

Myer holds the record for most rushing yards in one season.  In 2014 he ran for 1,304 yards.  Monesmith had 1,268 yards in 1,268 yards in the 1997 season and in 1990 Chris Judd carried the ball for 1,144 yards.

Judd also holds the distinction of being the all-time leading scorer in the history of Columbia City football.  Judd scored 198 points in his career for the Eagles.  Myer is second on the list with 182 points and Sievers is third at 168 points.

Defensively there are some impressive records in the books also.  Bronson Ball has started at linebacker since he was a freshman at Columbia City and he is already the team's all-time leading tackler.  Ball has 175 career tackles so far.  He also holds the record for most tackles in one season with 104.  Bart Cook is still the Eagles all-time leader in career interceptions having picked off the ball 17 times in his career.  In the 1988 season Cook intercepted 11 opponent passes.

Not all defensive stats were kept throughout the history of the Eagles program.  And, some stats were kept for individual seasons but not for a career.  That leaves people with only one year of information to look at in determining a players accomplishments.  For instance there are no career numbers for quarterback sacks.  However Jason Bales has the record for most sacks in one season with 11.  Jason Dohm had 24 tackles for losses in 1993 to set a record and the most fumble recoveries in one season belongs to Tyler Anglin with seven.

There have also been some big plays in special teams for the Eagles throughout the years.  In 2000 Craig Smith set a record when he returned a kick for 97 yards.  Two years later Kyle Nelson set a record for CC when he returned a punt for 92 yards.  Fuller holds the all-time record for kick-off returns for touchdowns as he brought back three kicks in his career.

In 2020 Columbia City will be playing football on a brand new football field.  Eventually some of these career numbers are going to be broken on that new field.  History lives forever.  The former Eagle players are what makes the program special and unique.  They are the building block for every generation that follows.  While we might forget who holds a record from time to time we never forget the impact those players had on the program.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Thunder Buddies

By Travis Stahl

You know those players where sometimes all they need is the light bulb to click on?  They have all the physical tools in the world and can play the game with the best of them.  Yet sometimes the mental part of the game trips them up until one day it all comes together.  It all came together this week for Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder.  Last night the Thunder eliminated the mighty San Antonio Spurs in just six games and now move on to the Western Conference finals to face Golden State.

We all know the deal with OKC.  They are loco.  Westbrook is a loose cannon.  Kevin Durant can shoot them out of games.  Not right now.  Instead it is Westbrook passing instead of shooting and Durant taking wise shots.  It's Steven Adams playing like an All-Star big man and Serge Ibaka playing defense and rebounding.  That works and it works very well.  So well in fact that after game one of this series which was a blow-out win for the Spurs that OKC really had control of the next five games.  This is the team we expected the Thunder to become after they lost in the Finals to Miami four years ago.

OKC needed this series and they needed it more than just in the sense of trying to advance in the playoffs.  Durant is a free agent after this season.  We've had to listen to endless hours of mind-numbing conversations on "where will Durant play next year."   Durant likely was never going to leave the Thunder.  He likes it there.  But another early exit from the playoffs in which Durant was forced to watch Westbrook dribble around on his own for most of the shot clock was not going to sit well.  This helps in a big way.  Beating a team as good as the Spurs shows Durant what this team is capable of accomplishing.

So now it's on to Golden State.  The Warriors took three of four games from OKC this year but it was close.  Remember the one win by GSW came courtesy of a miracle shot from Steph Curry.  This series will be close.  For OKC to have a chance at winning it needs to find that third scoring option.  Maybe that is Adams.  Golden State has too many guys putting the ball in the bucket to think Durant and Westbrook can shoot it out with them alone.  If OKC can get something out of Adams, Ibaka or Dion Waiters it certainly makes this series that much closer.

Maybe this is the step we've been waiting for OKC to take.  We all thought when the Thunder lost that finals that the team was built to start making regular appearances there but it hasn't happened.  San Antonio and Golden State continued to dominate the West and OKC kept beating themselves or suffering injuries.  Now healthy this is the team we all thought OKC would be.  This should be a great series with a trip to the finals on the line.