Sporcle of the Week: MLB Ballparks

Amongst the cold and depressing month we call February hides the slippery slope to happiness – Pitchers and Catchers!

With baseball just around the corner I retook one of my favorite Sporcles of all-time: Name every ballpark in Major League Baseball. I’m very sloppy and only was able to recall 21 of the 30 but I’ll call it a success.

Who’s ready for baseball!?!?

Real Snow – Watch These Snowboarders Tear Up Their Neighborhood

My skateboarding phase took me from around fourth grade through seventh, but I never lost the excitement for watching extreme sports. While I won’t watch ESPN’s X Games religiously, I certainly make an effort to check out some of the action.

But personally, my most captivating winter “event” is the Real Snow competition. For snowboarders not fortunate enough to live near mountains, these guys videotape themselves making do with whatever street-style is available: spins down library stairs, back flips over swimming pools, plus more.

Real SnowThe reason it’s tough to consider this an X Games event is because of the variation in venue. As is the purpose of the competition, street snowboarders around the world use only what’s in their reach to showcase their skills. In turn, the only way to “apply” for a gold medal is to videotape your show, make the cut, then get voted in by the fans.

Right now it’s down to two. Using only a wound up cord to generate speed, watch Eero Ettala and Frank April tear up the neighborhood with their superior concoction of guts and creativity. To vote, click here.

EERO ETTALA

FRANK APRIL

It’s difficult to excel at extreme sports because of the “been there, done that” factor. It’s like the NBA dunk contest – show me something I haven’t seen. But where’s the glass ceiling? How many spins can Shaun White throw down in big air?

I side in favor of the Real Snow competition because it’s untapped and fresh. Infinite courses in addition to the category’s creativity factor are healthy complements to the unquestioned skill these maniacs possess. Who doesn’t want to launch off the roof of their high school cafeteria?

Here’s me in Vermont last year. I think I’m on the cusp on greatness.


(This whole post I tried to come up with an “ice water in their veins, but they already perform on snow” joke, but nothing seemed unforced. I’ll chalk it down as a fail and try better next time)

Sporcle of the Week: Top 5 NBA Scorers by Draft

I’m a sucker for 90s basketball, and this Sporcle delivers. Since 1992 and until 2011, name the top five NBA scorers from their respective draft class.

Make sure you have 15 minutes to kill. I got 55 of 105 but know I could’ve gotten more. One of those “Oh c’mon I knew that” quizzes.

Happy Sporcling!

SPORCLE OF THE WEEK: TOP 5 SCORERS BY DRAFT CLASS

Lance Armstrong, Choosing Oprah Shows Weakness

By now you have probably heard that Lance Armstrong, probably the most popular cyclist of all time, has decided to come clean about his doping – that all seven of his Tour-de-France titles were won under circumstances not disclosed at his time of victory.

I’m glad Armstrong came clean. By doing so it reveals the seven-time champion could no longer support the weight of the monkey-turned-ape that has weighed on his shoulders since that first injection. It gives me hope he will use this to better himself as a person.

Earlier today my sister and I discussed his legacy. I support anyone who has raised over half-a-billion dollars for cancer research, and he now seems prepared to start a new chapter. Everyone deserves a second chance.

My sister took it from another angle: Why Oprah?

Why the loving, caring, everything’s-gonna-be-okay philanthropist who has limited connection to the sports world? Does Armstrong think he can soften the blow of an image crumble by coming clean to someone known to emphasize the good more than bad?

I had to agree.

To do what Armstrong has done — embarrass an entire sport for a full decade — I think you owe us an interview with Barbara Walters, Stephen A. Smith, Katie Couric, or someone of equal objectivity.

Say what you want about Alex Rodriguez, but he handled this situation better than anyone has so far: admit what you did as soon as you’re accused, accept an interview by a figure in the category above (Peter Gammons in this case), and try to move on.

While I have no doubt Oprah hit all the major points and conducted a professional, emotional, informational interview, I can’t help but think how it would be different if the interviewer was of a different breed. It’s tough to envision Ms. Winfrey unleashing caged anger on someone who single-handedly cheated an entire sport for so long. While I wouldn’t want to see him interviewed by a Tour-de-France beat writer, it would’ve been nice to see him answer the questions of someone more tied to the sports world.

Does his choice of Oprah show he’s not mature enough to accept the beat down he deserves? Or am I over thinking it? For someone who has put on an act of this magnitude for this long, I think we have every right to micromanage.

But who knows? Maybe for the first time we’ll see the cycling fan side of Oprah. I heard every night she stays up late and watches cycling coverage on The Ocho.

Hey Peter Le Fleur, don’t quit on your team. Just do what I did and everything will be okay.

If healthy, RGIII will be the best quarterback in the league by 2015

It started with Michael Vick. A revolutionary quarterback who forced defenses to sacrifice a defender for a spy. A quarterback who can turn a broken play into a 20 yard run.

Sounds enticing, but Vick never was a great quarterback, just one that makes magic with his feet. Vick didn’t throw to a 60% completion percentage until his eighth year in the league and probably won’t win a Super Bowl. And we all know about his turnover rate.

But imagine Peyton Manning with Vick’s legs. Picture Aaron Rodgers en route to a game-winning 78-yard touchdown run after his third and fourth options were covered.

In his rookie season, the Washington Redskins’ Robert Griffin III averaged fewer interceptions per pass than every other starting quarterback (five int. in 258 attempts; 1.3%) and threw to a 65.6% completion rate. For their careers, Manning sits at 65.2% and Rodgers at 65.7%.

Griffin’s numbers
Vick’s numbers
Peyton’s numbers
Rodgers’ numbers

In his seven full seasons as a starter, Vick eclipsed RGIII’s 2012 total of 3200 passing yards only once (2011) and only twice rushed for more yards than Griffin’s 2012 tally of 815.

But it was Griffin’s 4.41 dash in the ’12 combine that foreshadowed his dazzling ground work during the regular season. Like Vick, Griffin can break out for 13 fantasy points on one play (below). Unlike Vick, it seems Griffin can protect the football and throw accurately.

If Griffin can somehow extract enough passing potential to work up to Manning or Rodgers’ level, then his edge in the footrace department would put him at a separate level of any quarterback in NFL history.

Before we get gung-ho, we must acknowledge health when evaluating RGIII’s style of play. If he wants to remain in the league, he needs to become a pass-first quarterback who can dive into the arsenal if needed, not the other way around.

Picture this scenario – it happened week 13 against the New York Giants.

Redskins up a point with four minutes to go in the fourth quarter. The Redskins have the ball and the Giants have two timeouts.

In this situation most offenses run the ball to eat up clock. The defense knows, so late-game situations such as these usually result in a three-and-out and a punt with two minutes or so left.

But with RGIII you don’t hand the ball off, you run the option. The defense now has to worry about a separate threat with a proportion of attention on each. What is usually a gimme three-and-out is now a mind game between Griffin and the defense.

In that game, the Giants couldn’t stop the combination of Griffin and rookie running back Alfred Morris, the Redskins ran out the clock, and took a must-win away from the defending Super Bowl Champions.

Griffin’s unique late-game threat will lead to more wins such as these.

Take this likeable fella and evaluate his numbers. In four years compare his passing numbers the elite ones and his running numbers to Vick’s. If he keeps pace with those guys like he did this season, you could be watching the greatest quarterback of all time.

But let’s get that knee back in order first.

Half-Court Shots Should Not Count as Field Goals

David Stern, NBA Commissioner

During yesterday’s Knicks game, Jason Kidd threw up a wild shot from 3/4 court to end the third quarter. The shot landed nowhere near the hoop, but it was a nice effort.

Kidd is shooting a career-high 45% from three-point range this year, but the aforementioned miss counts against that percentage despite the 2% chance the shot connects.

In today’s stat-driven age, a few percentage points could be the difference between thousands of contract dollars. Logically, a vast majority of players hold the ball in the final seconds of a quarter despite zero risk to your team by chucking one up from 70 feet.

If players are collectively more worried about hurting their stats than helping their team (in this instance), then Commissioner David Stern and the NBA should cater to it.

Treat shots behind half court like shots after a foul – if it goes in, it counts as a three pointer made. If not, then it doesn’t count as a shot attempt.

“Dude Perfect” hits a shot from the top of Texas A&M’s football field. VIDEO

The most exciting part of a basketball game is the buzzer beater. The cherry on top is a buzzer beater from far, far away. (Here’s a compilation of them). By giving players the freedom to hoist one up without personal risk, you’ll see more end of the quarter excitement. In turn, more fans will tune in to end a quarter and potentially add more advertising demand on the commercials following.

From the time I was little and until today, I’ll watch any basketball game if there’s under a minute to go in the quarter/half, just in case I see a fun buzzer beater connect.

Without proof, I know I am not the only basketball fan who does this.

In its current state, basketball is not in its truest form. Imagine this scenario: the Houston Rockets are up by 15 to the Cleveland Cavaliers with 10 seconds to go in the third quarter. As the clock winds down, the Cavaliers’ Kyrie Irving drives to the basket and misses a layup. With three seconds left, James Harden grabs the rebound and holds it – Rockets up 15 to end the third quarter. However, the Cavaliers make a great fourth-quarter push and eventually win by a point.

Now this: without worrying a half-court shot could potentially hurt him down the road financially, Harden takes one dribble, spins around a defender, and throws up a wild, off-balance 60-footer. Swish.

Down by 18, the Cavaliers walk back to the bench with new-found dejection, possibly with the added emotion “maybe this just isn’t our night.” Maybe Harden’s three is the difference in the game. Maybe it’s not, but maybe it is. Maybe the Rockets make the playoffs by a game.

In this instance, basketball punishes the team player.

Take Player A, a great shooter in his contract year. He won’t risk taking a wild shot at the buzzer because every miss means less money in his next deal. It’s not that he’s a bad person, just a human being. He doesn’t take any shots behind half court and ends the year 80-200 (40%) from three-point range.

Now Player B, an equally great shooter, but a team player. He doesn’t care about stats. If he has the ball in the backcourt with a second to go in the first quarter, he’ll throw up a prayer because maybe it’ll help his team. He took five half-court shots this year and missed all to make him 80-205 (39%) from three-point range.

At season’s end, the Clippers need a three-point specialist. According to stats, Player A is the better choice, even though their only difference was Player B’s stronger will to help his team.

Mr. Stern, don’t count shots beyond half-court as field goals. Add excitement to the game. Bring back its purity. If I’m tuning in to watch the end of the quarter, so are others, and that means more money in your pocket.

Because who doesn’t want to see more of this:

Why the Knicks are Serious Title Contenders This Season

After a tough loss Monday, the Knicks played what I thought was their best game all season Wednesday against the Brooklyn Nets (box score). They made the extra pass, rotated with energy on defense, hustled, and conveyed to me they were not going to lose.

They committed seven turnovers, none in the third quarter.

Five superstars do not make winning basketball. You need a special concoction of pieces that flow together to make the tastiest mix drink. Assuming health, this 2012 Knicks team has all the ingredients:

The Star – Carmelo Anthony

With Carmelo, you always have a backup plan. If you’re out of sync, he can single-handedly bail you out. He leads the team offensively and will close out games in the fourth quarter.

The President – Jason Kidd

See my post that argues Jason Kidd is the most important player on the Knicks. Kidd’s veteran presence keeps the team in check and keeps Carmelo focused but grounded. He directs the offense and isn’t afraid to tell you when you’re doing something wrong.

The Enforcer – Tyson Chandler

A perennial leader in technical fouls, Chandler’s breadth, intimidation, and blue-collar play polish New York’s interior game. Chandler’s defense and size is the one clear-cut advantage over the Miami Heat, and unselfishness on the boards (slapping the ball out to the perimeter to reset the shot clock instead of trying to pad stats) keeps the Knicks in every game.

The Shooter – Steve Novak

Even when he’s off, he still spaces the floor for Carmelo & Co. Like my dog, you have to give last year’s three-point percentage leader perpetual attention. If you don’t, you’ll get a Wisconsinly cheesy Discount Double Check.

The Defenders/Dirty Workers – Ronnie Brewer, Iman Shumpert

Both have the potential to knock down shots, but their job is to defend, hustle, and rebound. Brewer doesn’t get the credit he should, and Shumpert’s great on-ball defense will both frustrate opponents and keep them out of rhythm.

The Sixth Man/Wild Card – J.R. Smith

He’s the Robin to Carmelo’s Batman. The first one off the bench, Smith keeps the fire burning with his unquestioned offensive ability. His biggest weakness has always been his intangibles (he did not attended practice when he played for China during the lockout last year), but this season evoked a new J.R., one that plays hard defense, hustles, and keeps his dribbling and shooting under control.

The Veteran Cast – Marcus Camby, Kurt Thomas, Rasheed Wallace (and Jason Kidd)

While these guys can’t give you big minutes, their presence at practice and during the game is unquestioned. Their wisdom gives the Knicks a mental advantage over every other team in the league and will be the unsung heroes should the Knicks make a big playoff push.

Mike Woodson – Head Coach

The players respect Mike Woodson. I see the way they play defense for him compared to Mike D’Antoni. Woodson is relateable, smart, honest, experienced, and likeable, a succeeding mix in the eyes of New Yorkers.

Last year with D’Antoni as head coach, New York was second-to-last in turnovers with over 16 per game. With Woodson, this year they lead the league with their record-setting pace of 10.7 per.

The scary thing is the 19-6 Knicks are competing without two indelible pieces – Amar’e Stoudemire (to return within the week) and Iman Shumpert (January).

Iman Shumpert
Iman Shumpert

I’m more excited to get Shumpert back – a great defender who won’t complain if he isn’t shooting. Shumpert is a team player who adds charisma, character, and a beastly high fade to the Garden. His skills and role will cohesively complement New York’s abundance of shooting talent.

Stoudemire will play limited minutes and will undoubtedly make the Knicks a better team. This assumes he doesn’t retard the Knicks chemistry, potentially a serious problem. But with now Woodson as the Knicks head coach, I believe STAT will put his ego aside and concentrate on defense, rebounding, and his elbow jump shot.

The Knicks are playing team basketball. The players’ knows their role and it seems individual goals take a back seat to winning, refreshing for a franchise trying to end a decade of embarrassment.

With a bench stronger than nearly every team in the league (Clippers), this Knicks team feels like one with the “it” factor. If they can stay healthy and Amar’e understands his new role, that Heat-Knicks rivalry we saw in the 90s could make a comeback in the 2013 Eastern Conference Finals.