Playoff baseball, football in full swing and the start of basketball and hockey seasons. What more can I want? Let me tell you.
It’s almost that time of the year when all four major American sports are in action. That makes me happy and excited in all sorts of ways. No hot takes there. In honor of this momentous occasion, I spread out my five takes across the sports (and college football) to hit everything I could. Get mad at these takes? Let me know. I love a back and forth about it. Love it, let me know too. Don’t forget to look at what I wrote last week either.
1. Hating the MLB Wildcatd game is just dumb
Want to know how to improve the postseason for a professional sport in one word? Urgency. Players going full boar, knowing that any singular moment could end the season and chase of a championship. You see some of the most memorable moments come in do-or-die games across all the sports. But unfortunately, those games don’t happen all that often.
That all changed when Major League Baseball added a second wildcard team in each league and created the one-game Wildcard playoff before the Division Series. And guess what. It’s freaking awesome.
Baseball is too long to begin with. There are too many games. The games take too long. Asking anyone to sit in front of their TV three hours per game, 162 times a year is just insane. It’s physically impossible. Maybe in the 1950’s this was possible. But today? No fucking chance.
That’s what makes the Wildcard game so awesome. Game 163. Nine innings to see if your season continues or ends. Every pitch is amplified 10-fold. Each ball in play requires a little extra attention to detail to make a play. Players are amped up. Stadiums are packed. It’s how sporting events should be.
After the grind of 162 games, you have one chance. No redos. No series. Just give it a go. Mano y mano. Top pitchers going at it. Give it to me. All of it.
And I’ll stop you right now with the argument of “Playing series all year and having your season come down to one game is dumb and not how baseball is played.” Too fucking bad. Want to avoid the Wildcard game? Be better. Win your division and quit bitching. It’s must watch TV, and a great addition to the playoff structure.
2. Josh Norman deserves a medal for showing how much of a mental midget Odell Beckham Jr. is
Shame on me for not recognizing this earlier than the past couple weeks. I dropped the ball on that. And I know that this will upset our fearless leader in Mr. Murray. But guess what? Odell Beckham Jr. is a headcase. Hat tip to Josh Norman for exposing that last year, and putting out there to the rest of the NFL and football fans everywhere that ODB is completely incapable of handling any controversy on the field.
It started when Norman played extremely physical and a little dirty on Beckham last year. Jawing back and forth, going at it before and after the whistle. I thought it was a one time thing. Boy oh boy, was I wrong. Before that moment, ODB was an electric young receiver. After that, and especially into 2016, he’s another me-first wide receiver who is easily taken off his game with any controversy put in his way.
That happened again on Monday night against the Vikings, as Beckham and Xavier Rhodes got into it multiple times in the game. Beckham got hit hard out of bounds (a little late and probably deserving of a penalty) and he retaliated. Beckham got hit with a personal foul and a 15-yard penalty. He was taken off his game instantly.
And then on Tuesday, Beckham comes out and says that he’s not having fun playing football anymore. Whoa baby, is this guy a candy-ass in any situation that doesn’t perfectly go his way. Cornerbacks around the league have to be licking their chops going against Beckham. A little smack talk, a couple borderline hits and Beckham will be a non-factor the rest of the game.
So thank you Josh Norman, for enlightening the rest of the world just how fragile ODB is. He can make all the crazy, one-handed catches he wants. All it takes is a little hostility, and Beckham is done. That can’t happen to one of the most talented receivers in football.
Editor’s Note: Tim, I gotta say, I don’t know what you’re talking about. Everything is fine in Giants country. Just dandy. Like Odell said yesterday, it’s impossible to knock him off his game. The career low in yards and hissy fit this afternoon on the radio were not impacted by other people at all. You can’t get in his head. He’s focused on the team. Everything is fine and it’s all gonna be okay.
3. Write the Cavaliers-Warriors NBA Finals matchup in pen because the season is already over
There were a couple of big name moves in the offseason (Al Horford to the Celtics, Dwyane Wade to the Bulls, Kevin Durant to the Warriors, etc.) but outside of Durant, not a single one of them matters. And even Durant leaving OKC for Golden State didn’t really matter. The NBA Finals will, once again, be a matchup between the Warriors and Cavaliers. Yawn.
If you couldn’t tell before now, I’m really not an NBA fan. Basketball was never my sport, but I’ll tune in every now and then when hockey isn’t on during the week. The biggest reason why the NBA can’t suck me in, though, is because everyone knows what the Finals/conference finals will look like before Opening Night.
Basketball, more so than any other professional sport, is superstar driven. The teams with the most superstars almost always (just about every year) make it to the final four. And if the last two years are any indication of that, then next June it will be Part III between those very two teams. LeBron James, Kyrie Irving & Kevin Love will face off against Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green & Durant for the Larry O’Brien trophy.
Unless there is a catastrophic injury on one of those teams, that will be the Finals matchup. The NBA regular season is just so boring because the end of the story is so predictable. That’ll be the case this year. Maybe some team will get eliminated in a later round than last year (I’m looking at you, Celtics), but in the end it’ll be Cleveland and Golden State. Ho hum.
Editor’s Note: Time to defend the NBA against Tim once again. Everyone always says this about the NBA, and its true to a certain extent. There’s no doubt that the smaller teams in basketball allow one or two or three (or four) great players to control a series or even a season. But no one thought the Warriors would be the Warriors before Curry and Thompson became freaks of nature. Let’s let a season unfold before we crown anybody.
4. All of these head shots in the NHL preseason are a terrible look for the 2016-17 year
It’s less than a week to go before the start of the NHL regular season. I’m pumped for that. But you know what I’m really not looking forward to? Guys targeting the head and laying people out from behind on a regular basis. So far in the preseason, that has happened way too much for my liking.
So far in the preseason, four players have needed meetings with the Department of Player Safety for big hits. Niklas Hjalmarsson of the Blackhawks, Radko Gudas of the Flyers, Andrew Shaw of the Canadiens and Tanner Pearson of the Kings have crossed the line on some hits in the preseason. I’ll stress that again, the PRESEASON.
Come on boys, let’s settle down a little bit. Three of these hits were directly to the head, with the outlier being Gudas. His hit from behind on Jimmy Vesey of the New York Rangers was a dangerous hit, no doubting that. But, Vesey did stop on a dime and put himself in a vulnerable situation. I still don’t think Gudas can follow through on that hit, but it’s at least defensible.
The other hits? Woof. Not a good look for these players and the league in general.
Hockey is a fast game. It’s a dangerous game. And it’s a contact sport. Hits are inevitable. But four different dangerous, possible injury-causing hits in four different games in the preseason? Not a good start. Players need to take control of their game, and eliminate these hits to the head.
5. Let’s pump the brakes on calling every last-second play a Hail Mary
This is probably a nitpick. And it’s definitely an unpopular, fun-sucking opinion. But the term Hail Mary in football is supposed to be for a play that needs a prayer answered to have it happen.
So far in 2016, there have been two “Hail Mary” type plays in college football. The first one was a 49-yard chuck from Central Michigan (on a play that should have never happened) to beat Oklahoma State in Stillwater on the final play of the game.
The other happened just this week, as Tennessee knocked off Georgia on the final play of the game on a 43-yard pass. Once again, penalties aided in the scenario leading up to the final play.
So here’s where I have an issue. A 49-yard pass and a 43-yard pass happen fairly often in college football today. Quarterbacks today can throw that pass pretty easily. So while yes in the excitement of the moment and on the final play it looks cool, but it’s not a Hail Mary.
I define a Hail Mary as a BOMB of a pass. Like 55-yards plus. And it’s a battle in the end zone. A true jump ball. And when the receiver comes down with the ball, it’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before. A pass inside 50 yards is a regular pass to me. And while it’s neat to win a game on the final play, let’s not call it every time as a Hail Mary.
Go ahead, hate me.
6. Camel of the Week: Anyone rooting for the Orioles (outside of the greater Baltimore area)
Please note that I mean no disrespect to the fine people of Baltimore or their progeny who may root for the Orioles in other cities. obviously, they were more than welcome to root, root, root for the home team last night. I have nothing against the Orioles as a team, and in fact picked them to win the division a few months ago. So let me live, Baltimore.
But if you’re a baseball fan outside of the DMV pulling for the Orioles, what in the world were you thinking last night? Luckily common sense prevailed when Edward Encarnacion ended it in the 11th, but things were a bit touch and go for a moment.
The American League playoffs are shaping up to be the kinds of things that bloggers and fans dream about. Two interesting stories with legitimate story lines featuring exciting teams. The Red Sox battling their former manager in Terry Francona. A possibility for a repeat between Rougned Odor and Jose Bautista.
I hate that the Yankees aren’t in it this year, but man, do I love playoff baseball. And both ALDS rounds will feature some of the best of what the postseason has to offer this week.
If you wern’t rooting for that, I just don’t know what you were thinking.
That’ll do it for us. We’ll be back next week with some more hot takes for your Wednesday reading enjoyment. Follow Tim on Twitter@culvey13 and Brendan at @MurraySportTalk for more, or to tell me us we’re morons. Either way, have at it.