Catching Up on the Sports World

Due to work commitments, it has been pretty hard to sit down and write a post (if only I could do this for a living…), but a lot has happened in sports over the past little while that needs to be caught up on.

The Pats deserved it – When the ball went ridiculously and improbably into Doug Baldwin’s hands, it seemed like Tom Brady simply could not catch a break.  He is in the conversation for best players of all time, and his second half performance is among the most impressive in Super Bowl history.  For the first time in some time, Brady ended up on the right side of the score.  Consider his legacy cemented.

The Cavs have turned it on…and they look strong – After an insane (completely and totally insane!) trade deadline in which the Heat appeared to vault back into contention through the pickup of Goran Dragic, the Cavs are the team who look like the top of the town.  They are moving the ball, getting the most of their role players and finally seeing their stars begin to mesh.  Does any team really want to have to play 7 games against LeBron James?  The answer is probably a strong “no”, as now that he has turned it on, it may be tough to stop him.  Take the recent contest with the Warriors – the league’s top defense – in which LeBron scored 42.  It did not matter which elite defender challenged him, he was not able to be stopped.   The unstoppable Cavs seems to be more of a reality, especially in the wake of some key injuries which will be discussed shortly.

The NBA Title is completely up for grabs – Could the Warriors or Hawks or Grizz steal one?  This seemed so far outside the realm of possibility that now that it is probable, it still seems shocking.  Even the Thunder could be serious contenders now that Russell Westbrook is playing out of his mind.  A fun year for the NBA all around in which a lot of surprises could be in store during the playoffs.

Injuries mar an otherwise great NBA season – Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Kyrie Irving, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Chris Bosh and, sadly, Derrick Rose have all missed significant time this season due to injuries.  For Kobe this may be the end; Bosh, is fighting now for his health; Rose may need to accept that he will never be the player we once thought he could be.  Bosh, meanwhile, has blood clots in his lungs, discovered right after the Heat retooled with Goran Dragic.  The injury is a tough break for one of the most eloquent and hilarious guys in the NBA.  Rose ends his season early again for the 4th straight year.  His knees it seems simply cannot take the pounding of his brutal style of play.  Could he reinvent himself as a 6th man on a contender?  Would that not be the most terrifying sight ever?  His next round of contract negotiations will be very intriguing with all the injuries on the board.

Chelsea still in the driver’s seat – Chelsea gave away two much needed points on the weekend, but remain firmly in the top spot.  Matic took a foolish penalty that may have cost them the game, but they still managed to emerge alright.  Now that City has slipped (thanks Liverpool!) it is going to be important for Chelsea to continue to fight through all the way to the end.  Can the team push through to the end of the season as City, United and Arsenal mount a late charge?  Another down to the wire finish could be in the offering.

The 2014 Sporties Awards

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the 2014 Sporties our annual celebration of the best of Sport and the Sports world.  Let’s dive right in shall we:

Game of the Year – Last year of course featured the absolutely bonkers Auburn / Alabama game in addition to the Brady vs. Manning Bowl in which Brady staged an incredible comeback.  This year the contenders are much fewer and farther in between.  There were a couple of crazy baseball games and a couple of crazy football games.  However, the most exciting game I watched?  No question it was the bonkers World Cup match between the US vs. Portugal game which came down to the absolute wire and featured some of the top players in the world playing out of their minds.

Shocking World Cup Moment of the Year – Brazil gets tuned up by eventual champs Germany.  It was relentless, wave after wave of unstoppable strikers and you began to feel worse and worse for Brazil fans.  Simply awful.

Championship Dominations – One theme of the year was definitely beat downs in the finals: the LA Kings, San Antonio Spurs and Seattle Seahawks all cruised to victory over, in some cases, more ballyhooed opponents.  I will also not neglect to mention the Canadian hockey team and their punishing win over the US in the Olympic Finale.

Series of the Year – The best series of the year took place in hockey, and featured the LA Kings vs. Chicago Blackhawks in a war that served as the real Stanley Cup final.

Breakout of the Year – The biggest winners of the World Cup was the Men in Blazers who are single handedly bringing soccer to the masses of America through their insanely brilliant show.  During the biggest sports event in the world, the two men locked themselves in a small room nicknamed “Bob Ley’s panic room” where they proceeded to break down football and culture simultaneously.  When they got home it was a quick shift to NBC Sports where they continued to have the highest rated podcast and a shockingly well rated TV series.  They are stone brilliant and they are now both a must watch, and must listen.

Pod of the Year – After the praise I just gave the Men in Blazers, you would rightfully assume they have won the Pod Award…but this is actually a battle that stretched beyond the sports world!  Three of my must listen pods: the aforementioned Blazers, Hollywood Prospectus and SerialHollywood Prospectus is highly entertaining and funny, and includes the occasional deep dive into the movies of David Fincher or the music of Taylor Swift.  It is fun and light and takes pop culture analysis to a whole new level.  Serial tells the story of a 15 year old murder allegedly committed by a young man named Adnan Syed.  The podcast is hypnotic and brilliantly conceived as we wander through the murky depths of a story where we may not want to hear the outcome.  A truly powerful experience; and a very addictive one as I powered through four pods believing I was only on the first one.  Wait?  Isn’t that only three pods when I actually mentioned four?  Yes, because it is high time someone gave praise to the true return of the Starters.   Last year I was almost out on them, as their 44 minute shows were simply not enough time to properly appreciate them.  Given that their time as “The Basketball Jones” was astounding and creative, it felt a little bit as if they were being contained in a small box that stripped away all their talent.  This year I was on the edge of being out completely when I heard they were cutting down to 22 minute shows.  I was done: I tried, but all their zany antics had been stripped away simply because there was not time.  In some ways it was good because it focused their great and insightful basketball minds.  However…it was putting them in a box.  I was done.

And then I heard the news.  On Fridays, the Starters would be unleashing “the Drop” a return to their old, off the walls ways.  Welcome back boys.  Before the first pod I waited with trepidation and had not looked forward to a pod like that for some time.  When I listened, all my fears vanished.  The boys were back.  In the following weeks, they have truly returned to their off the walls roots where their crazy energy and unstoppable hilarity continues.  What a glorious return.  Another year and you might be the pod of the year: right now it is the Blazers for their consistency.

Sports Books of the Year – I read some great sports books this year, many about football (American and otherwise).  The best: League of Denial by Mark Fairinua and Steve Farinua  / Showtime by Jeff Pearlman / Michael Jordan by Roland Lazenby / The Football Business by David Conn and Against Football by Steve Almond.  Another must read is the William Hill Sports Book winner: Night Games by Anna Krien which takes the microcosm of the misdeeds of the Australian Rules Football league and expands it through the sporting world.  An interesting take on the lengths teams will go to in order to protect their players and the depths players will sink to in order to fit in.  An important achievement and must read book.

Team of the Year – The Kansas City Royals because no other team did what they did, with the expectations that team had coming into the season.  Even in defeat they are worthy.  Runners up: San Antonio Spurs, Team Canada and Seattle Seahawks.

Off Field Moment of the Year – LeBron James returns to Cleveland…as read by Frank Caliendo playing Morgan Freeman.  Runner Up: Wait, is that Vladimir Putin and Sepp Blatter?  What could they possibly be discussing?  Is it possible for all the evil in the modern world ensconced in one luxury box?  Another runner up: remember when Bob Costas got pink eye in Russia?

Sportie Man of the Year – No one and I mean no one, gives Sidney Crosby enough credit.  He deserves to be the Sportie Man of the Year because he guided one of the most dominating hockey teams through a grueling slate to the finals.  It did not look good and certain points but the best players truly shine when it matters most and the way Crosby dominated at both ends of the ice in the final was astounding to watch.  He deserves more recognition for the way he dominates his sport in an especially competitive time: remember when Ovechkin or Crosby was a serious question?  Now it is likely Crosby or Toews.  Crosby though is our Sportie Man of the Year.

Super Bowl Quick Hits

The Super Bowl is in the books and the New York Giants are World Champs.  My Quick Hits:

1) The Epic Day of Football Started Out Right – Man U vs. Chelsea was everything you could possibly want in a football game.  The pace was excellent, you had the premier player in the EPL (Wayne Rooney) and the two premier teams going back and forth in a game that featured six goals (?!) and a fantastic comeback.  Rooney’s first penalty shot was one of the best I have ever seen.  Unstoppable.  A great, great game that set the stage for what was to come. 

2) More than anything the Pats beat themselves – Dropped passes, Brady’s INT, and a lack of discipline led to the Pats losing as much as anything the Giants did.  The Welker drop in the fourth with four minutes to go gave the game to the Giants.  At that point their win was assured, such is the power of Eli Manning.  Those dropped passes killed strong drives and were uncharacteristic of the Pats.  “Thank you,” says Eli Manning. 

3) Eli was Eli – Out of respect for the integrity of the game, for the next section I will resist the urge to take shots at the athlete I reserve a special kind of hatred for.  Here goes (cue ulcer formation!):  Eli Manning now has a higher Super Bowl winning percentage than Tom Brady (3 of 5), Peyton Manning (1 of 2), Big Ben (2 of 3), John Elway (2 of 5) and Philip Rivers (0 of 0).  Was he brilliant?  No, but he got the job done when he had to.  He is completely unflappable when the game is on the line.  It was like he was in practice during the preseason.  For the third straight year a QB that we consider one of the best ever (Brady, Big Ben, Peyton Manning) has lost a Super Bowl.  Eli played mistake free and did just enough to win.  We now have to ask ourselves the question: which Manning would you rather have?  Obviously Peyton is the “better” of the two, but Eli is now the “winner” in many ways.  One more and he ties Brady. 

Congrats (huge shudder) two-time Super Bowl Champ Eli Manning.

The Pick

The big game is upon us and it is pick time.  Most of the experts are going with the hotter team – The Giants – but…a few reasons why I am making my pick the Pats.

1) The Giants play best as underdogs and they are no longer underestimated – The Giants have walked around all week like the favorites they are.  Many of their defensive lineman have discussed how overrated the Patriots are simply because of the Belichek and Brady combo, but before the playoffs – the Giants D was among the worst in the league.  Their front four have played very well leading up to the big game, but no one handles pressure like Tom Brady.  They will not rattle him.

2) Always pick greatness – Brady has a chance to cement his legacy as one of the greatest ever (even though he is already) and join a select company of players with four Super Bowl wins.  If he is successful he will have taken four completely different teams to titles.  I will root for greatness every single time.

3) One of these days, Eli’s luck will run out – I am not saying Eli is going to go out and throw four picks or completely self destruct, but at some point his incredible luck is going to run out.  Inevitably it always does.  The signature Eli Manning throw has become one under pressure where he simply heaves the ball up and one of his recievers miraculously comes down with it.  Occasionally the ball is tipped a couple of times.  Those always seem to work out for Eli.  Eventually they will not.  Hopefully in the Super Bowl.

4) Give Bill Belichek an inch… –  Anytime you give the master (okay Devil) a chance to plan for two weeks, he is going to come away with a fantastic game plan.  The Pats will have defensive looks that will straight out confuse Eli, and their offense will just move another interchangable part in to take the place of Gronk.  The Giants are too thin at corner to beat Brady. 

My Pick: Pats 30 – Giants 20

 

 

Week 1 Super Bowl Quick Hits

A few NFL news and notes from this past week:

1) Time to relax on the Peyton Manning situation – I have long tired of the daily updates on Manning’s status and the endless speculation as to where he might go…and if he gets there.  Are the Colts going to let him go?  Are they going to keep him and Andrew Luck together?  How does Peyton feel about that?  All of it makes me extremely uninterested.  Do the Colts know what they are going to do?  Probably.  My position: let it happen.  Whatever happens with Manning is going to happen regardless of how the media tries to force the Colts into a difficult decision.  Let’s figure out where Manning is going when he has been released, not before.  This week we should rightly focus on (*shudder*) Eli. 

2) The Giants are playing up the underdog card and it might go against them – All week long it seems like the Giants have been the pick to win, and in making them so the Pats have become extremely dangerous underdogs.  Can the Pats D play well against the Giants offence?  Probably not, but regardless of the players involved this will be a close game.  No one is predicting an offensive explosion one way or the other.  The Giants are the hotter team coming in, but they had to give their everything to beat the Niners.  Do not sleep on the Patriots and Tom Brady. 

3) Legacies can be made – This Super Bowl has the opportunity to be particularly special; Tom Brady can win his fourth and get some measure of revenge for the loss against the Giants.  On the other side, Eli Manning can cement is position as (yes it is true) the winningest Manning ever.  Overall, I want to see greatness triumph, and Tom Brady put his foot down as possibly the best winner to ever lace up cleats. 

4) Has the Pro Bowl ever been more meaningless? – Now that the Pro Bowl takes place during the Super Bowl interim, it has become totally null.  None of the players on the Giants or Pats will take part and several of the best players in the league are not there (Brady, Manning, Cruz, Welker, Hernandez, Gronkowski).  Do the players from the Super Bowl not deserve a trip to Hawaii to represent the league?  Terrible choice by the league. 

One week to go. 

 

NFL Divisional Round Quick Hits

Still recovering from the incredible 49ers victory, but here are my thoughts on this week’s games:

Saints vs. 49ers – With one throw, Alex Smith justified his number one selection and joined the 49ers Pantheon of last minute TD thrower (alongside Joe Montana to Dwight Clark and Steve Young to TO).  Given that some foolish people (Editors Note: Me) picked the 9ers to be in serious contention for Andrew Luck, this victory is all the sweeter.  San Fran has a great young core, and Alex Smith showed his true self in the final minutes when he not only called his own number on a gutsy third down TD run, but also showed his great arm.  Smith is more than a game manager, and in many ways the 49ers are a better version of the Trent Dilfer Ravens.  They can run, play incredible defense and have a QB that takes care of the football and does not turn it over.  New Orleans, meanwhile, struggled a little on Offense and anytime Drew Brees has to throw the ball more than 60 times it is not a good thing.  New Orleans must hate playing the NFC West out of the dome (first Seattle and now San Fran!).  I believe that the 9ers have what it takes to make the Super Bowl and they will be a tough out for whomever they play next.

2) Broncos vs. Patriots – And thus begins Bradymania.  Tom Terrific threw six td passes (nearly breaking Steve Young’s immortal record and sending me into serious cardiac trouble territory) and this one was never close.  The Tim Tebow movie will end with the touchdown against the Steelers, followed by the Coda – defeated the following week by the eventual Super Bowl Champs, New England.  The defense looked good for the Pats for the first time all season.  Their scheme was excellant, and I have no doubt it will be equally as good for the Ravens.  They looked pretty Super yesterday. 

3) Texans vs. Ravens – A closer game than this one had any right to be, the Texans should have won this one.  This was their game, the Ravens were simply not that strong.  Yet, Houston lost due to their inexperience at QB and the pressure they were facing.  The Ravens had simply been there before.  TJ Yates gave the Texans more than they had any right to expect but you cannot win with 3 ints  even with Foster showing why he is probably the best back in the NFL.  Maybe next year, Houston.  Maybe next year.

4) Giants vs. Packers – Secretly, we all knew this was going to happen.  The Packers had to play a bad game, and like the Patriots of last year, they chose the worst possible time to do it.  They were genuinely awful today: dropped balls, could not cover anyone, turnovers, taking no advantage of the Giants turnovers…etc.  The Giants (who I would like to point out would not have made the playoffs at all had  Jason Garrett not iced his own kicker agaist Arizona) are now the hottest team in football thanks to a couple of weeks in which they played against some truly terrible defenses.  Not next week.  Next week they play a real team, on the road, that has already beaten them.  Next week they come to the only team that played more inspired ball this weekend.  Next week, they come to San Fran.

2012 – A Look Ahead

Happy New Year, and allow me welcome you to 2012!

What am I looking forward to in 2012?

A Miami Thrice Title! – No more LeBrondowns or meltdowns in the face of overwhelming pressure; this should be Miami’s year.  LeBron looks focused and dedicated to destroying the NBA, one team at a time.

Choosing an EPL Team – I have casually followed the EPL (and Man U) for years but the brilliant Men in Blazers Pod and my Tottenham buddy, Whisper Winnett are making me push myself to declare allegience to a team.  Any suggestions?  Chelsea?  Man U?  Man City?  Arsenal?  Liverpool?

Reading More Sports Books – A few titles I am looking forward to in the New Year are(*note that almost none of these books are actually being published in 2012): The Dream Team by Jack McCallum; A Season on the Brink by John Feinstein; Veeck as in Wreck by Bill Veeck; Ball Four by Jim Bouton; Unfinished Business by Jack McCallum, The Game of Our Lives by Peter Gzowski and Fever Pitch by Nick Hornsby. 

USC Being Bowl Eligable – Let me be the first to present your 2012 National Champs, the USC Trojans.  Led of course by Heisman Trophy Winner (and #1 pick) Matt Barkley.

An Awesome Super Bowl – This year’s ultimate contest has all the earmarks of a classic, regardless of who gets there.

The Continued Emergence of Greatness – Some of the best players ever in the history of their respective sports are in the twilight, prime or beginning of their careers.  The NBA has a particularly large talent pool (and boom) and the NFL is watching some All-Time Greats go out (Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady).  The NHL hopes and waits that Sidney Crosby can return. 

Another year beckons, and in sports – as always – it threatens amazing things.

The 2011 Sporties!

Welcome to the first annual Sportie Awards!

The Sporties cover the entire world of sports in a variety of catagories.  Get ready to be amazed…

Ready?  Okay, here we go, without further ado, your 2011 Sportie Winners:

Game of the Year – World Series Game 6

Given that some are calling this the best baseball game of the past 50 years, it definitely gets this year’s Sportie.  The twists and turns in this game had your stomach in knots and it was impossible to move for the duration.  Probably the most entertaining baseball game I have ever seen. 

Best Sports Moment – Aaron Rodgers putting on the belt after winning the Superbowl.

Not only did Rodgers completely erase all doubt and blow away the last Favre lovers (given that he is better) he did it with a team of vets and youngsters who played harder than anyone else.  Every now and again the right guy takes one. 

Sports Books of the Year

Net Worth by David Cruise and Allison Griffiths – Imagine a world where the entire system of Government is corrupt and run by a brutal dictator.  This is not about the USSR but rather the illustrious history of the NHL detailed brilliantly in Net Worth.  The best thing the authors do is provide indelible portraits of former (and future) greats / horrible people such as Ted Lindsay, Gordie Howe, Eddie Shore and Eric Lindros.  Their takes are unique, insightful and at times, utterly devestating.  Easily one of the most infuriating sports books ever written. 

Loose Balls by Terry Pluto – The 2nd funniest basketball book ever written (behind Bill Simmons epic tome) is an oral history of the wild ABA years featuring so many hilarious anecdotes that it becomes impossible to put down.  The characters are  outrageously larger than life and rendered brilliantly human.  My favorite story: Marvin “Bad News” Barnes on a morning plane that took off at 8AM and landed at 7:59AM – “I ain’t flying on no time machine.  I ain’t taking no plane that goes back in time.”

Diving into Darkness by Phillip Finch / Blind Descent by James Tabor – What sort of person can reach the pinnacle of sport diving?  What sort of person could push themselves to not only dive as deep as possible but into a cave?  Finch takes on the likes of two men who make an epic cave dive…and the one who must fight to survive.  So vivid are his descriptions that the reader is transported along into the abyss.  Tabor tackles an even more harrowing quest to discover the deepest place on Earth.  He follows the Bird / Magic of the caving world through their harsh journeys fraught with danger.  Both books are claustrophobic reading experiences that challenge as well as entertain. 

Most Devestating Moment – Game 7 Stanley Cup Finals

Not only did we have to suffer defeat, but we also had to deal with all of Surrey rioting and looting Vancouver stores.  Thanks once again for improving our Post-Olympic Image Surrey. 

Pod of the Year – Men in Blazers

I had essentially planned on giving this to Bill Simmons BS Report forever, but the Men in Blazers stole my heart.  Easy to do with an informative and hilarious look into the world of futbal.  How can one not burst out laughing when each week they are treating us “Great Friends of the Pod” to exchanges like the following:

Michael Davies: “If you could have dinner with Gregori Rasputin or John Terry who would it be?”

Roger Bennett: “You’re asking me to choose between a man who is a serial rapist, cult leader, who once raped a nun…and Gregori Rasputin?” 

Michael Davies: “Just so we are clear, Rasputin was actually the nun raper.”

Roger Bennett: “I would take Rasputin since he is dead – the conversation would be better.”

Sportie Man of the Year – Lebron James

Everyone just stopped reading, but hear me out: who else garnered more ink or attention this year than LBJ?  Be it for his epic collapse or his epic play, he was the man.  Period.  We could not get enough of him when he was dominating and we could not get enough when he was disappearing.  Ultimately the choice is clear. 

NFL Quick Hits Week 2

Week 2 is almost behind us, here are the Quick Hits:

1) Tom Brady is playing out of his mind – In two weeks he has put up a 517 yard game and a 423 yard game.  He has thrown for seven touchdowns.  Try stopping him.  If not for his recent Uggs commercial he would be in contention for greatest man alive. 

2) We could be looking at a Packers / Patriots Super Bowl – These have been the two most impressive teams thus far.  No offense meant to the Saints, Bills, Texans or Jets.  The Super Bowl could have a final score of 48 – 45 the way these teams play defense. 

3) Tony Romo comes up big – Sure the 49ers horribly choked away this game (thanks again for all the memories Alex Smith!) but that would underestimate the contribution of Big Tony.  Throwing for 350+ yards and 3 tds with a broken rib takes real guts.  Romo had no choice but to step in and show real grit.  The victory means more than anything else.

4) Remember when it took two seasons for the Lions to get two wins? – Not anymore thanks to Matt “Please, please, please, please, please Stay Healthy” Stafford.  When he plays, he is for real.  Another great day for the former number one pick.

5) Cam Newton?  – Newton is still raw but he is showing real promise, a ton of it because he has developed a good connection with Steve Smith.  A couple of dicey decisions but otherwise a solid performance.  He may want to stay away from Charles Woodson in the future though.  Props to Andy Dalton as well for his fine performance.

6) Injuries continue – Jamaal Charles out for the season.  It takes a couple of key guys every year to remind us just how violent and brutal the sport is. 

7) Still not sure what to make of the Jets – Can Mark Sanchez carry a team to the promised land?  I still have no idea, and I do not believe we will find out any time soon.  Some of the throws he makes are Eli Manning-outrageous confidence-esque.  He has too much faith in his own abilities than he should have. 

8) Rex Grossman 2-0 – Can the season get any more bizarre than this stat? 

Until next week. 

 

 

The Bobby Baun Hall of Fame

A few years ago (okay, 47 years exactly),a man  a legend named Bobby Baun broke his leg in the Stanley Cup Finals against the Detroit Red Wings.  He was hit in the ankle with a shot, went off to the training room and was told the following: His leg was broken.   

Most athletes would have quietly accepted their diagnosis and returned to the bench in their street clothes – some NBA players…(cough, cough Andrew Bynum) would have enjoyed it – Baun took another route.  He asked for his leg to be frozen and then inexplicably returned to the game

Had the tale ended then and there, Mr. Baun would not be the namesake of the following Hall of Fame, however, the story was far from over.  Baun not only returned to the lineup, he went on to score the winning goal in overtime.   Yes, the man continued to play with a broken leg even when the game went to overtime.  Then he scored the game winner, with the series on the line for the Leafs. 

Baun was far from finished – he went on to play in Game 7 and help lead the Toronto Maple Leafs to the Stanley Cup.  The fellow in the picture on the right who shows no indication of the broken leg while he jubilantly celebrates with Lord Stanley is the Patron (Padrone and Godfather) of only the most dedicated and resiliant in sports history.  The Bobby Baun Hall of Fame honors those who fought through normally horrendus injuries or illness to play in the toughest of times.   

How does an athlete become eligable for The Bobby Baun Hall of Fame?  

1) The injury / illness must be significant Playing with a slight head cold does not count for anything here.  The injury must be serious enough that the player would normally sit out but instead choses to tough it out. 

2)  Only playoff time counts – An injury sustained during the regular season and played through is important, but in the playoffs there must truly be no such thing as an injury.  The stage on which the athlete played through the injury definitely plays a factor: if your team is being massacred in the first round and you play through a torn knee does not mean as much as triumphantly returning to a Stanley Cup Finals game with your team on the brink of elimination and scoring the winning goal in ot despite your broken freaking leg! 

3) The return to the Game / Series must have a positive impact on your team – If you should not have played and made the team worse, you will not get as high a place in the Bobby Baun HOF; conversely, if the team won and you were the reason, your rank will be much higher.  Ideally, the team should win the Championship led by the injured player.

4) Lifetime durability will be given a special section. 

5) Andrew Bynum / Wilt Chamberlain / Greg Oden / Alex Mogiliny need not apply.  Additionally, playing hungover does not equal playing with an injury.  Sorry 1990’s Cowboys.   

6) Superstars stepping up means more – Let’s face facts: if Michael Jordan plays with an injury and dominates, he will have a larger overall impact on his teammates then if Bill Wennington triumphantly returns from a torn clapping hand. 

7) A new class is eligable each year at the end of August.

Without further ado, some of the initial inductees to the Bobby Baun HOF:

Baun, Bobby – See above.

Jordan, Michael – Scoring 38 points in an NBA Finals Game was a frequent occurance for His Airness.  Scoring 38 points with a brutal flu and single-handedly leading his team to victory in Game 5 the 1997 NBA Finals was a once in a lifetime event.  Jordan was weak, feverish and collapsed in Scottie Pippen’s arms at the conclusion of his Epic Game.

Elway, John – We are slightly cheating here because we have no proof Elway was actually injured at any point in the Super Bowl…but he most certainly was.  When he stretched out and took a brutal hit to gain a crucial third down in the fourth quarter against Green Bay it showed just how much Elway wanted his first ring.  He definitely earned every inch of it and personified winning at all costs to an entire generation. 

Ripken Jr, Cal / Favre, Brett – Special mention goes to these two men who fought through all kinds of injuries (including, in Ripken’s case a freak broken nose at an All-Star photo shoot) and emotional trauma (the death of Favre’s father) to become the “Iron Men” of their respective sports. 

Howe, Gordie – Not Hockey’s Iron Man…but he should be.  “Mr. Hockey” excelled for nearly four decades in Pro Hockey (you read that right…4 decades) and played well into his 50’s (even making an All-Star Game in the WHL).  Tough as nails and one of the greatest hockey players ever, Gordie simply did not believe in either aging or injures.

Pierce, Paul – In Game One of the 2008 NBA Finals, Paul Pierce was carried off the court after a nasty collision.  The Lakers proceeded to have their way with the Celtics.  Pierce had never made it past round 2 in the playoffs until this point and he made the most of it.  His dramatic return led to a Celtics victory in the Game and completely shifted the entire series.  Rumors swirl about the actual degree of his injury but his impact on the game and series upon his return negates all speculation.

Yzerman, Steve – Stevie Wonder injured his knee early in the 2001/2002 Campaign and while this would have stopped most NHL’s cold, he had other priorities.  Chief among them was winning the Stanley Cup.  Playing on one leg for the entire season and playoffs, Yzerman was able to achieve his goal.  In the process he won the Conn Smyth trophy and essentially willed the Red Wings to victory. 

Koufax, Sandy – The 1965 World Series is one that has gone down in history due to the remarkable performance of Sandy Koufax.  His arm had been bothering him all season and by the World Series appeared to be in serious danger of falling off.  Despite the pain, Koufax dominated all season…then refused to pitch Game 1 of the Series because it fell on Yom Kippur.  (At this point you are wondering how he could possibly be eligable for the Bobby Baun HOF…but just you wait…)  Koufax pitched a complete game shutout in Game 5, leading the Dodgers to a 3-2 Series Lead…then returned to pitch Game 7 on two days rest – with his still injured arm.  All Sandy did in Game 7 was throw a three hit shutout to clinch the series.  Shockingly, he was voted MVP. 

Kesler, Ryan – Against the San Jose Sharks, Kesler “blew a tire” and was carted off while panicked Canucks fans went into near cardiac arrest.  Fortunately, not playing was definitely not in the cards and Kesler immediately returned to score the goal that sent Game 5 to OT.  He would play the entire 2011 Stanley Cup Finals on one leg. 

Rondo, Rajon – After a bad collision with Dwyane Wade, Rondo got up and his arm was pointing the wrong direction.  He left, then came back and proceeded to win Game 3 singlehandedly.  Unfortunately, the Miami Heat realized he could not play defense and torched him the rest of the series.  He makes the HOF for his immortal post-game comments; when asked how his arm was, Rondo responded “Still broke, hurts pretty bad, but I’ma keep playing”.

Bossy, Mike and the 1983 Islanders – The 80’s Islanders played through everything.  After defeating Wayne Gretzky’s Oilers in the 1983 Stanley Cup Finals, Gretzky and Kevin Lowe noted that no celebration came from the Isles locker room.  Instead, everyone was hurting and getting treatment.  Lowe commented “that is what it takes to win”. 

Exactly

Ladies and Gentlemen, your Inagural Class of Inductees for the Bobby Baun Hall of Fame.