Monday, August 31, 2015

Eagles Hold Off Whitko

By Travis Stahl

County rivalries are the most intense battles in high school football.  Those games become so much more personal when you know the people on the other side line.  Friday was the renewal of the Battle of the Eel River as the Columbia City Eagles football team hosted county rival Whitko.  It was a defensive battle throughout as a field goal decided the game for Columbia City and the Eagles sent the Wildcats home with a 10-8 loss.

Both teams were held scoreless in the first quarter.  Columbia City struggled early with some high snaps from the center to quarterback Ryan Mosher.  But the Eagles defense kept the team in the game and got a key stop early as Whitko had driven the ball down deep into Eagles territory.  Whitko fumbled the ball on the drive and the Columbia City defense fell on the ball to keep the 'Cats out of the end zone.

Columbia City got the on the scoreboard with the team's first touchdown of the season just before halftime.  Carson Reed scored on a nine-yard touchdown run.  The crucial points for the Eagles came in the third quarter.  The team had driven down to the Whitko 19-yard line before the drive stalled.  Kicker Corey Behm booted a 36-yard field goal through the uprights to put the Eagles up 10.  The Columbia City defense held from there only allow Whitko to reach the endzone one time and preserve the win.

Mosher threw for 102 yards on the night and Reed added 44 yards on the ground.  Davin Lawrence ran the ball for 31 yards in the win and Josh Christen caught a pass for 36 yards.  Defensively Bronson Ball had a team-high 11 tackles.  Austin Martz added seven tackles including a sack.

Columbia City travels to Bellmont Friday night with kick-off set for 7 p.m.

Friday, August 28, 2015

The Name Game

By Travis Stahl

Sports is entertainment.  It is fun for us.  I was reminded of this last night when I was at a high school soccer game.  One kid on a team apparently had earned himself a nickname because his teammates were constantly call out the new nomenclature in an attempt to get him to pass them the ball.  I couldn't help but bust out laughing every time I heard a kid scream "Porkchop, I'm open."  It seemed ironic that I was introduced to this nickname on the day former NBA player Daryl Dawkins passed away.

Dawkins, for those of you who don't know, was one of the original showmen of the NBA.  Dawkins was a massive man who played for the Philadelphia 76ers from the mid-70's up into the mid-80's.  He was famous for his nickname, "Chocolate Thunder," for shattering backboards and for giving names to his rim-shaking slam dunks.  Dawkins was extremely famous but was never as great a player as he was a talker.  But he brought entertainment to the game on a different level.  That's missing now.  We don't have anymore "Chocolate Thunders."

I know I've said this before, but I miss the nickname in sports.  Not the Chris Berman nickname which is applied mostly for comic relief.  I'm talking about a real nickname that is given to somebody based on their behaviors or personality or their play on the field.  Magic Johnson was given that name because of his unbelievable play on the court.  Hammerin Hank Aaron could hit a baseball a mile.  Mean Joe Green was called so for a reason.  That is how we identified with players when we were kids.  If you were talking about Pete Maravich you never just called him Pete Maravich.  You always referred to him as Pistol Pete Maravich.

Who do we have like that now in the world of sports?  Anyone?  Bueller?  We've got Tiger Woods and that's about it.  No, Tiger is not his given name.  Has sports journalism lost all sense of creativity?  It seems so.  That is how most players earned their nicknames back in the day.  Some local sports writer would see them play and write an article in which they would say "Johnson passes the ball like a magician."  Bam, Magic Johnson is born.  I liked that.  Nicknames make the game more fun.

So, here is my solution.  I am going to rack my brain to come up with some legitimate nicknames for current athletes.  I will welcome all suggestions.  Next week we will write an article with some of the best nicknames we can come up with.  We're talking real nicknames here, don't send me any crap about Tom Brady and air pressure or Tony Romo and playoff wins.  We want real nicknames.  And go.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

High Fashion

By Travis Stahl

Everyone knows what impeccable fashion sense I have.  I mean come on, nobody can put together a t-shirt with a pair of jeans or some shorts the way I can.  It's a gift.  Clothes are an extension of who we are.  People will tell you they wear clothes for comfort but really we wear clothes because we want other people to see us wearing the clothes.  It's our subtle "look at me" moment.  As sports fans, the clothes we wear typically represent our favorite teams.  As kids when we got the chance to wear a sports related shirt it was just about the coolest thing ever.

When I was a kid there were basically only six shirts I ever wanted to wear and they were all sports jerseys.  I had three Cowboys jerseys, two were Danny White and one was Tony Dorsett.  I of course had to have the home and away for White.  I also had a Lawrence Taylor jersey and one of former Seahawks running back Curt Warner.  I also, for some reason, had a jersey of former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Steve Bartkowski.  Those were the only clothes I would wear.  I believe I even has some school pictures with those shirts on.  See, high fashion at such a young age.

As I got older I figured out that wearing an actual shirt that I played in was just as good as that of a professional football player.  Remember those old mesh "jerseys" we got every year at Columbia City football camp.  Tell me those were not the coolest things ever.  We used to wear those things all the time.  During the summer we would all have sun burns of little dots all over us from the holes in the shirts. If you threw a t-shirt on underneath those jerseys you could wear them to school too.  By the time you got to seventh or eighth grade you had a whole wardrobe of those jerseys in multiple colors.  Plus, if you played football in seventh or eight grade then you also had your game jerseys you got to wear to school on game days.

Any time I see a kid wearing a sports t-shirt or jersey now I always go out of my way to say something.  The world is a much smaller place now so kids can have their parents track down clothing for any team at any time.  Buying a San Diego Chargers t-shirt or a Seattle Mariners hat is now just a click away on the internet.  Because it is so easy kids now can be a fan of any team and easily don their favorite duds to show who they like.  For that matter you can go online and custom order a jersey for any sports team you want.  If your favorite player growing up was Dolphins receiver Jim Jenson you could have a jersey of his at your house in about three days.

Remember, the word fan is short for fanatic and that is what we all are.  Nothing shows our support more than putting on a shirt for the world to see of our favorite team.  Think about it, if you go on vacation down to Florida one of the shirts you might wear is an Indiana basketball shirt.  You know, just to let everyone know you are from Indiana and love the Hoosiers.  Every time I see somebody walking around in a Cowboys shirt I never hesitate to say "nice shirt" just to let them know I'm a fan to.  It seems dorky, I know.  But clothes make the man ... I mean the fan.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Price is Not Right

By Travis Stahl

Money talks and you know what walks.  That is the way of the world.  In sports, teams get money from all kinds of places.  They receive money from television contracts, merchandise sales and advertising.  But they also receive a lot of money each season from you and I.  The fans.  We are the ones who have to pay top dollar if we want to go sit in the stands and watch a team play.  Is it worth it?  At some point fans reach the limit they are willing to pay to watch a team play and for some sporting events that threshold has already been crossed.

If I want to go watch a Tin Caps game with my wife and two daughters it's going to set us back about $50.  That's not bad.  For most middle-class families that is doable.  But if my family wanted to attend a Colts game or a Pacers game that price tag jumps up dramatically.  Don't get me wrong, I know there is a big difference between the Colts and the Tin Caps.  However, shouldn't professional sports teams be a little more accommodating to the fans?  It would just seem like good business to try to draw as many people into the arena or stadium as you can.  A fair price would accomplish that.

Last year I was looking into possibly buying tickets for an Indiana University football game.  I thought it would be a good experience for my kids.  For the first game of the year, I think it was against some small school from Texas, the tickets were $20 a piece.  Not bad.  Two weeks later those same seats were $49 a piece because the opponent was a conference foe, either Maryland or Rutgers.  That's excessive.  Especially when it is the same seat.  I'm sure there are a lot of people out there who would love to go to a football game like that but can't because it isn't economically possible.  The people who can't afford to spend $400 on an IU football game are probably the biggest fans.

Listen, I'm not an economist but I understand inflation.  I know that over time the price of goods increases.  The days of paying $20 to get in to a Pacers game at Market Square Arena and sit mid-level are long gone.  I get it.  But teams should be willing to let fans pay a little less to sit up in the cheap seats.  There's no reason anybody should have to pay more than $20 per ticket to watch the Pacers if they are willing to sit in the upper arena.  That would be affordable.  Heck, we used to only pay $12 for tickets to IU football games and you can't tell me the demand for those tickets has skyrocketed.

I know I'm a cheapskate.  My wife reminds me all the time.  All I'm saying is it would be nice if sports teams would give the little guys a chance.  Keep in mind, watching a game at home on an HD TV is pretty entertaining in itself.  You don't have to drive anywhere, parking is free and the snacks and drinks are a lot less expensive.  Teams need to realize that is what they are competing against.  The draw to get people out of the lazy boy and into the arena could come from greatly reduced ticket prices.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Jax Can't Figure it Out

By Travis Stahl

We make fun of teams who are constantly losing.  It's funny.  Why can some teams just not get out of their own way?  You would think that after years and years of selecting at the top of the draft some teams would figure it out.  But they don't.  They can never find the right general manager and coach to draft and sign the right mix of players to formulate success.  Lady and gentleman, may I present your 2015 Jacksonville Jaguars.

When was the last time Jax was good?  The Fred Taylor era?  Yeah, we're calling it an era.  That was it.  I know the Jags haven't been around as long as the laughable Raiders and they certainly aren't in the spotlight as much as the hapless Jets.  I think that is why we fail to realize just how horrible the Jags have been.  They had that one good run with Taylor at running back and Mark Brunell under center plus they had two great receivers in Jimmy Smith and Keenan McCardell.  Now they have nothing and they haven't for years.

Quick ... who is the head coach of the Jags right now?  See, you have no idea.  It's some guy named Gus Bradley.  It certainly doesn't help that Jax shuffles through head coaches every other year.  But the real problem is in players acquisition.  The Jags stink.  One time they drafted a guy out of Arkansas named Matt Jones to play wide receiver in the first round.  That wouldn't be horrible but Jones played quarterback in college and liked cocaine.  Then they drafted Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon in the first round.  Every other team in the league did their homework and knew Blackmon basically lived at a bar in Stillwater.  The Jags had no idea.

You can blame head coaches and general managers all you want but the truth is Jax needs a cultural change from the top down.  It has to start at the top and filter into every area of the team, including the scouting department which apparently has surpassed Cincinnati as the worst in the league.  If you want to win in the NFL it isn't that hard anymore.  You find a couple of core guys, develop them with good coaches and grow up as a team.  Jax can't do one and two on that list so they certainly can't get to three.  It's funny when the Raiders lose like this but it's just not as comical in Jacksonville.

Here's another quiz for you, name me one Jags receiver.  Can't do it?  Me either.  Who is poor quarterback Blake Bortles supposed to throw the ball to?  He has no offensive line, no wide receivers and only the hope that free agent tight end Julius Thomas can create some mismatches in the secondary.  Right now at running back the Jags have Toby Gerhart, former Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson and Alabama rookie TJ Yeldon.  That running back trio might be good if there was anybody to block for them but there isn't.

Is there any way possible to look at all of this combined and think the Jags are going to get past five wins any time soon?  Nope.  And five might be shooting a little too high.  I feel badly for Jax, more so than a team like Oakland.  Especially as much as their fans have to listen to whispers about Los Angeles.  I don't think that will happen but you never know.  A change of scenery might do them some good.  Plus, if the team is in LA we might get to see pictures of Gus Bradley and know what he looks like.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Woud You Let Your Son Play Football?

By Travis Stahl

Sports is supposed to be fun.  That's why kids play the game.  They start out playing in their back yard with their friends.  Whiffle ball turns in to baseball and two-hand touch turns in to tackle.  This is where kids develop a love for sports, from playing it with their friends.  That love for the game can then grow over time as kids progress through middle school and high school, possibly playing football along the way.  More than ever before though we have to stop and wonder, how safe is football?

Would you let your kid play football?  I know at every level of the game technology and coaching are doing everything possible to try to limit injuries, particularly concussions.  I heard a crazy stat though yesterday.  Of the last 81 football players who have died and allowed scientist to study their brains post mortally, 78 of those players had advanced stages of CTE.  CTE is a degenerative brain condition brought on by continued trauma to the brain and can lead to depression, severe memory loss, mood swings and dementia.  There is a definite link between playing football and CTE.  At what level though do we become concerned about that?  Middle School?  High School?

If you play football you are going to get hurt.  That's a fact.  Nobody walks away from the game without an injury.  Depending on how much football you played the game will give you daily reminders in your knees, hips and ankles of the punishment you endured.  Not to mention the possible lingering side affects from concussions suffered during the game.  People who played football will tell you they wouldn't trade the experience for anything in the world.  They're right.  Nothing else you will ever do in your life can compare to playing football.  The shear excitement of every play, the speed at which the game travels and the constant contact can't be duplicated by anybody.

That may be why football is killing itself.  Unintentionally of course.  But as athletes become more refined they become faster and stronger.  It's just math.  A 245 pound man hitting you at full speed is much more damaging than a 200 pound man doing the same thing.  Players today are much bigger and much faster than they were 30 years ago.  As a result more players get hurt.  Don't get me wrong, football has always been dangerous.  It is just more so now and at every level of the game.  I think it is something every young man should experience but it is not a game for the faint of heart.  You will get hit and it will hurt.

But what is football to do?  It is the most popular game in America.  You can't stop football.  It's not possible to just turn off a billion dollar industry.  The game will have to continue to evolve and find ways to self-sustain.  If you kill off the very thing that makes your game the best you won't be around for long. The question more and more parents are having to ask themselves is whether or not they will allow their children to play football.  Is the risk worth the reward?

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Waiting for Rex to Fail

By Travis Stahl

As a fan of the Dallas Cowboys I know everybody hates my team.  I get it.  Jerry Jones is arrogant.  Jason Garrett is aloof.  Tony Romo makes bad throws.  As a fan of America's team I have to accept that other people are jealous.  But that doesn't stop them from hating on the Cowboys.  The teams I dislike in the league tend to change over time based on coaches and players who are on that team.  For the longest time I couldn't stand the Chicago Brown Bears.  Now I can tolerate them.  What I can't tolerate is Rex Ryan.

I could not stand Rex when he was with the Jets and I can't stand him now that he is in Buffalo.  I don't agree with this coaching style, I can't stomach the way he stands in front of the media talking about how the Bills will win a Super Bowl and I just down right hate how he refuses to institute anything resembling an offense.  Heck, I didn't even like Rex's dad Buddy.  The routine grew really old very quickly in New York and I'm guessing it won't take long for the Rex Show to wear out it's welcome in Buffalo.

Listen, I understand all the huffing and puffing he does.  You've got to get the players and the fans re-energized after years of being a terrible franchise.  Rex will have the Bills somewhat successful this year just because he will be able to amp-up what is already a pretty outstanding defense.  It will be the same model that we saw unfold with the Jets.  Buffalo will be really good this year and maybe next year.  Then after that Rex will still have nothing that looks like an NFL offense, the defense will be falling apart and the fans will be paying to have planes fly over the stadium with signs that say "Fire Sexy Rexy."  It's going to happen.

People who think Rex is going to get this team to the playoffs are off their rocker.  Right now the quarterback battle for the starting position is between Matt Cassell and Tyrod Taylor.  And it's a legitimate battle.  One of those guys is going to be the starter.  Do you realize how bad that is?  The funny thing about it is former first-round pick E.J. Manual isn't even in this conversation to be the starter.  Sure the Bills have LeSean McCoy at running back and Sammy Watkins at wide receiver.  McCoy over the last three years has had more rushes for negative yardage than any other player in the league.  He's a backfield dancer.  And poor Watkins might be a star if there was somebody to throw him the ball.

Put all that together and you have a team that isn't making the playoffs.  They aren't better than the Miami Dolphins in their division and they certainly aren't close to the New England Patriots.  Don't be tricked into thinking because Rex is now on board this team is on a mission to win.  Rex will tell you that all day long but that doesn't make it so.  Which is one of the reason I can't stand the guy.  I'm all for being enthusiastic but be realistic about what your team can and can't do.  Rex hasn't learned that lesson.  Until he does he's on my list.