Friday, June 13, 2014

The Rise of Social Media in the World of Sports

From 12 year old children on their Kindles to 50 year old corporate CEOs on their Iphones, just about everyone has some type of social media account whether it be Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. Even most celebrities are now on social media attracting as many as millions of followers. People all over the world can be connected with virtually anyone at any given time. It is a pretty cool thing, really. (and also somewhat scary) The explosion of social media over the past few years has been quite interesting to watch. The rise of Twitter has been arguably the most popular and allows users to quickly send out short messages that can be seen instantly around the world. And while twitter and other social media sites can be used in good ways (World/Local news, connect with family friends, networking, etc) it can also be used in negative ways as well. From advertisements to connecting with people during popular TV shows and sporting events via "live-tweeting", Twitter has become the go-to app for people all over the world. Today's post will look at social media and how, in my opinion, it has effected sports over the past few years.


The Good, The Bad & The Ugly


Twitter is one of the fastest growing social networks out there right now and is gaining popularity due to its effectiveness in being able to quickly send a brief message or thought out to your friends, family, fans etc with a few clicks from your smart phone. Even further, virtually everyone seems to be on it these days. And while Twitter can be great in a lot of ways...in others...not so much. This post has been an idea in the making dating back to the 2011 football season when former Clemson QB Tajh Boyd allegedly sent out a tweet saying South Carolina's defense was "average". Whether his account was compromised or he actually sent the tweet himself is somewhat irrelevant in my opinion because either way, it goes to show just how quick a tweet can go viral can be seen by a lot of people in a very, very, short amount of time. That saga went on to a battle of words that has gone on between both players and coaches including Spurrier and Swinney every since. No matter if its a golf tournament in June or the week of the big game in November, both coaches have been seen taking shots at the other with Spurrier clearly winning the battle the past five years....on the football field....where it matters most. But this twitter and football connection (and sports in general for that matter) goes far beyond this Palmetto State Rivalry. 


One thing that I've noticed in the past few years is that social media doesn't care...and as some people say, "has no chill". Nothing is off limits anymore and when you play poorly, run your mouth (and can't back it up), do something crazy off the field, get arrested, "come out" etc...social media can and WILL hear about it and you can almost guarantee that they will weigh in. From Tim Tebow's religious views, the Jonathan Martin/Richie Incognito saga, Lance Stephenson's on-court shenanigans, and Jameis Winston stealing crab legs from a Publix grocery store, to the first openly gay NBA and NFL players in Jason Collins and Michael Sam to Richard Sherman's post game rant after winning the NFC Championship, social media can bring out the best...and worst of people. One of the great things about Twitter has been the ability to interact not only with friends, family and other sports fans across the world but to interact with and follow our famous athletes as well. Now while I'm not interested in knowing what Jameis Winston had for breakfast...seeing other celebrities weigh in on sports news and ongoing games while they happen and just simply interacting with their fans is kinda cool. Of course some people are more active on twitter than others and some should probably not have an account all together....but one thing is for certain....it makes it all more fun and entertaining.  


When I think of some of the most interesting people to follow in the sports world one individual jumps into my mind every time and if you know of him or follow him yourself...you will understand why. First up on my list is none other than Metta World Peace. The thing about the former Ron Artest is that everyone knows he's a little...um, "off his rocker" so nobody every really takes ANYTHING he says serious, but he is quite an interesting tweeter. I remember I used to follow him when I first really got into Twitter and learning who to follow. But after a while enough was enough for me. He's definitely the class clown on twitter and sometimes you aren't quite sure if he is serious or not...and that is the part that kind of worries me. For example, the screenshot of a tweet I have here. As you can see he's wishing everyone a happy labor day. Great...nice gesture...except if you look closely at the date...its May 28th. Labor day is in September. Oops? And then there is Mike Tyson. (Another shocker, I know) They say its good when you can laugh/poke fun at your self sometimes and although I'm not sure if this exactly falls into that category, it surely is worth sharing. This one comes to us from 2012 and...well just check it out yourself.  I've always wondered what exactly when through his head before he decided to take a chunk out of another man's ear.....HIS EAR!!!! Another celebrity that should probably never, and I mean NEVER, EVER, tweet again goes back to your boy Jonathan Martin. We all by now know about the story between him and Incognito. Well of all people to attack Lebron about his cramping in Game 1 of the NBA finals, Martin jumped on twitter to give his two cents and basically called Lebron out for being soft and that he needed to "get back on the court." TIME OUT. Flag on the play. Personal Foul. HOLD. UP!!! I know good and well the same 300lb grown man and NFL linemen who quit on his team and cried to the media about being bullied by a teammate is not telling ANYONE, let alone the greatest basketball player in the league right now, to "toughen up". Please don't ever tweet anything ever again. Trust me, it is for your benefit, Martin. As a matter of fact...just delete twitter all together. You're welcome.


The rise of the hashtag has been unreal. Hashtags allow you to wrap up your tweet or show people what you are talking about be it the NBA Finals, American Idol, Orange Is The New Black..whatever. Hashtags have taken social media and the world by storm here lately. Even my alma mater, Presbyterian College, went as far as to have #GoHose (We're the Blue Hose) painted on our  field this past football season. It appears my generation will be the last to recognize it as the pound sign on the telephone. Kids growing up these days will be like..."ohh you mean, a hashtag?" We can blame Twitter for that one, I guess. As I said, the social media world and sports fans can be very, very cruel. The first time I realized this was during the Tim Tebow era at Florida and his brief time in the NFL. Tebow was very open about his devout religious beliefs and didn't hold back from praying publicly and letting everyone know he was a follower of Christ. His signature move of kneeling and praying on the sidelines, after TDs, etc turned into a world-wide mockery called Tebowing. Tebowing spread like wild fire and people began imitating the 2-time BCS National Champion and 2007 Heisman winner. People near and far took part...(and I'll admit I may have participated as well...see picture below) And while Tebow was under fire and criticized for his actions and beliefs I do feel that Tebwowing was light-hearted fun and definitely not as aggressive or cruel as other popular poses that have went viral.




     


For example, just within the past week, we've seen both #Lebroning and #Parkering go viral on social media...both poking fun at the star players for the Heat and Spurs and their injuries. Yupp, that's right. It is 2014 and when a player goes down...sports fan find a way to make humor of of it. Way to go, guys.  Like I said, sports fans have no chill and nothing is off limits. Even injuries. And while both Lebron's cramping in Game 1 and Chalmers cheap shot on Tony Parker in Game 2 didn't lead to or cause serious injuries, nevertheless, the players went down in pain and social media jumped on the opportunity....quickly. Fans of opposing teams and others just watching from the outside jumped on social media and took photos of themselves "cramping" (Lebroning) or laying on the floor (Pakering) and criticized both for faking it, being soft, etc. To take it a step further, even Gatorade jumped in on the fun following the aftermath of Lebron's cramping in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.







Some random guy tweeted at the sports drink company after Game 1 about how one of its major clients was cramping up in crunch time in the NBA finals. Gatorade fired back and not only corrected the ill-informed fan but trolled on Lebron in the process. (Can you say SHOTS FIRED?!!) And that was two birds with one stone. Taking a shot not only at Lebron, but Powerade as well. Of course the guys at Powerade had a reponse following Miami's Game 2 victory...Coming from someone who has no dog in the fight I have absolutely loved the social media war going on between Spurs and Heat fans. Unfortunately, there is always a few bad apples that go too far and don't know when to stop. All in all though, it usually is all in good fun. I can say that I've gotten into sports debates with both friends and strangers both in person and on twitter but at the end of the day we can shake hands, hug it out and agree to disagree and that we both understand its all in fun and "friendly" trash talk and not to take anything personal. After all..its just a game. (Seriously!)


Along with the rise of the hashtag, social media has been ambushed by memes. These can be the most hilarious/clever/ruthless jokes in pictures that you'll find anywhere online. And just like #pakering or #lebroning, takes only a matter of minutes before it takes over social media, becomes a "trending topic" and flat out goes viral online. Memes are one of the better parts of sports on twitter these days because they they usually bring something from outside the sports world but that is everyone is familiar with and incorporate a real time event. Sometimes, when the right and creative minded person creates it, you end up with pure gold. From Lance Stephenson blowing into Lebron's ear to Winston's trip to Publix for some crab legs, social media works fast and literally sometimes before a game is even over, pictures and memes surface that make you think some people have entirely way too much time on their hands. Nevertheless, its hilarious...so please don't stop. Below are some of my  favorites from the past few years.





                                                                                        



Then there's times when the sports world does good and serious work and rallies around a community or person in their hour of need on Twitter. From the tornado disasters in Oklahoma to the untimely and tragic passing of Vikings RB Adrian Peterson's son to watching South Carolina RB Marcus Lattimore go down for a second time at home against against Tennessee that ultimately ended his college career, twitter can rally together in unison for support. And when it happens....its a beautiful thing. Simple things like seeing these athletes show support to each other and to those around the world, not only reminds us that they are people too and feel pain but that in the end, we're all in this together. We may play for different teams, wear certain colors or Saturday or Sunday but when the time comes we can set all that aside for the greater good and focus on things that matter. And that is another great thing about sports in general. We may not all like each other all the time but we can all agree we love the sport(s) and what they provide us as fans but there are more bigger and important things in life.

So whats my take on all of this? You can probably already guess that I'm in support of it. Social media is so big right now and doesn't appear to be going away anytime soon. It is hard to watch just about anything on TV without hearing..."join us this conversation on twitter with the hashtag _____, like us on Facebook," etc. Its growing larger by the day. I don't think it takes away from sports and in fact think it makes more fun. We are now entering the dead zone of sports where there isn't going to be much to talk about/watch until fall camp opens up. With all do respect to the World Cup and MLB, a good deal of people are uninterested in sports this time of year. Now the World Cup is different and effects..well, the entire world with teams from everywhere participating. So this year we are lucky and get a little some extra to look forward to. (U-S-A....U-S-A!!!)  My gripe with baseball is that, similar to the NBA, there are so many games that its almost like.... who really cares all that much what's happening right now? Baseball games are long and typically have little "exciting action". Its a long season and although I love me a good baseball game as much as the next guy...its June....talk to me around Labor Day. (For Metta World Peace or anyone who might have it confused with Memorial Day...that's the Monday holiday in September) Lastly, Twitter often helps set the stage for big games for fans and build up the hype. I remember last season how heated and entertaining it got the weeks and days leading up to the Clemson-Georgia game in Death Valley. From Aaron Murray and Tajh Boyd having some friendly trash talking to the fans going back and forth, twitter gives us something else to occupy our minds in the off season and during game week before we reach the weekend. There has been many times when I've been tailgating and away from a TV or actually in the game and hopped on twitter to CollegeGameDay's feed to find a score or kick-off time. Its quick and convenient...well, that is..if you have a service signal at the time. Overall I think social media and twitter specifically has added to the sports watching experience. What do you think? 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Biggest Game of the Year

Each year as the new schedule is released sports fans, reporters, "experts" etc talk about the strengths and weaknesses, trap games and of course...the biggest game of the year. When I was younger, I used to always believe that the South Carolina game was the biggest of the year, every year. No matter what. I grew up becoming accustomed to always beating the Gamecocks and I'll be the first to let you know that these past five (!) years have not sat well with me...AT ALL. I'm not used to it, I don't want to be! I remember hearing at a young age that the biggest game of the year is always your next game. When I was young I didn't really get it but after maturing and witnessing some of the greatest (and worst) moments in the past decade of Clemson football, I now not only understand, but agree. There is never a bigger game than your next and the next game should always be the most important. Whether it is App State (ask Michigan 2007) Boise State (ask Oklahoma 2007) or Florida State 2013 (ask anybody)...every time you step on the field, your opponent should be the only thing on your mind. And yes, I get it..sometimes it is very easy to look pass a Wofford,  or App State or even a Vanderbilt or North Carolina State and look ahead to an Alabama or Florida State that is looming on the schedule. However, if you aren't careful, the little guys or underdogs can sneak up on you and be your worst nightmare at the absolute worst time.



Tiger fans, remember 2004? It was a rocky start to the season if I've ever seen one that saw the Tigers produce a 1-4 start (including losses to Ga. Tech, Florida State, Texas A&M and Virginia) before winning the next four in a row. That is great and all but it should have been (eventually) 6 in a row to close out the roller coaster season. Catching momentum, the Tigers were riding a 3 game winning streak and stood at 4-4 overall with a HUGE opportunity with a road trip to #11 Miami on deck. The post season was basically out of the question already but the Tigers could salvage some respect with a win over a top 15 team on the road...and they did just that. That afternoon, the Tigers put together a stunning 24-17 comeback victory, rallying from a 17-3 halftime deficit, capped off by a Reggie Merriweather touchdown in overtime. The defense then held on four straight passes and sealed the deal. It was a big, big win for the Tigers and things looked a lot brighter than they did just a few weeks prior. However, Clemson got big headed and the next week a combination of riding the wave from the Miami win and looking ahead to the showdown at home the following week against South Carolina led to one of the worst losses in Clemson history....a 16 -13 defeat on the road to Duke. (DUKE!!!) I remember it like it was yesterday listening from the radio and sitting in disbelief as Duke drilled a 53-yard field goal (would have gone for 60 if needed) as time expired. This game was proof of the dangers of not being focused and why your next game is always your biggest...and why you have to play like it.



My theory on the "biggest game of the year" always being the next game is pretty simple.  You (should) play and think one game at a time. If you blow it against Ball State or Temple (no offense...but you get my point) the weekend before the undefeated showdown with the #1 team in the country...all of the sudden that showdown with the top team in the nation loses some of its luster, hype and importance. Looking at this year's schedule, if I "HAD" to pick a game as "the biggest game" it would without a doubt be the South Carolina game. I don't think I have to go into detail or explain to anyone on this planet why that is the case and if you live in South Carolina you FULLY understand the importance of that game. However, overall I believe it starts with Georgia. That is our next game and right now, our most important game. Sure the game doesn't have nearly as much hype as last year's season opener....nor is it a conference game and the loser obviously has plenty of time to make up ground...but this is an old school (and underrated) rivalry that dates back to 1897 and would be a great road win against a respected SEC opponent for both Clemson and the ACC overall. To sum it up, the season opener in Athens will be a big one and a tall test for the Dabo Swinney and the Tigers. More importantly, it is the biggest game of the year (for now). The next week SC State returns to Death Valley.... a game in which these breed of Bulldogs will be highly over matched. However, like I said, looking ahead to that rematch against Florida State in Tallahassee in week 4 (Tigers have open date in Week 3) before they take of business against SC State could lead to disaster.


In my opinion, "the biggest game is your next game" theory is the best because it helps keep players and coaches focused at the task at hand. Last season, I'm willing to say most fans (both Clemson and non-Clemson) probably had the Georgia game as the biggest of Clemson's season. And while it would be hard to disagree with that, by the time late December rolled around and Clemson was headed back down to Miami, you'd be hard pressed to find someone to say that the game against Ohio State was the biggest and most important of the last ten years. Of course, nobody could have foreseen the events that led to the Tigers and Buckeyes match up at the beginning of the season. Heck, some even had the Buckeyes slipping into the National Championship following conference championship weekend. Once again, this shows that the next game is always the biggest. I'm pumped about this season and how the program moves forward with the loss of two of the greatest players in our history in Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins. It should be another exciting season filled with 12 regular season games..each of which will be very important...and the biggest of the year. (at least for a short period of time)

Saturday, May 31, 2014

My Top 10 College Football Headlines

With the NBA season on the last leg as we head toward the Finals (likely between Miami and San Antonio) and the College World Series right around the corner....we are now in the final stretch until the return of college football. While I'm not one to buy into pre-season polls, Award Watch list, etc I'll take any opportunity to talk about what we have to look forward to this fall. Last season was arguably one of the best of my lifetime. From Week 1's Clemson-UGA thriller to watching Auburn pull out two unbelievable wins in the final seconds in consecutive weeks to secure a spot in the BCS title game, to watching Duke almost take down Johnny Manziel and the Aggies in Atlanta on New Years Eve in the Chic-Fil-A Bowl and Oklahoma giving Alabama the business in the Sugar Bowl...last season provided us some great games and memories. Now its time for another season and one that promises to be a special one for college football fans. Today I'll take a look at the Top 10 things that I'm most looking forward to watching this season. Here they are (in no particular order):


10.  Quarterbacks in the SEC 

With the departure of Georgia's Aaron Murray, South Carolina's Conner Shaw, LSU's Zach Mettenburger, Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel, Alabama's AJ McCarron and Missouri's James Franklin, there really is no longer a true "household" name quarterback in the SEC this season. (With all due respect to Auburn's Nick Marshall...I'll get to him in just a bit.) It will be interesting to see who takes over that role this fall. South Carolina's Dylan Thompson has been reliable when called upon and will be Spurrier's #1 guy this season in Columbia. If you're a gator fan (or Will Muschamp who finds himself on the hot seat) you can only hope and pray that Jeff Driskel will come back stronger than ever and lead the team to a rebound year. Last season the Gators started off the season 4-1 before losing the next 7 straight including a 26-20 loss to Georgia Southern at HOME...a game in which the Eagles did not complete a single pass. Yeah it got that bad in Gainesville last year. Finally, can't count out Nick Marshall who nearly led the Auburn Tigers to a BCS title last season, as a front runner. Joined by RB Tre Mason, Auburn had of the nations best QB-RB combination last season and an aggressive and powerful rushing attack. It will be fun to see who emerges as a start this season from a QB perspective in the SEC.


9. Iron Bowl Rematch 

I remember the moment I heard about Auburn's Kick-Six that gave them the thrilling victory over arch-rival Alabama. It was something I had never even imagined happening in a real football game. I had spent the day in Columbia tailgating with friends and preparing for my Tiger's showdown showdown against the Gamecocks. It wasn't until about midway through the 3rd quarter that I had heard they (Auburn) had won and in such an exciting fashion. I had just assumed that Alabama would win and never even gave it much thought throughout the day to even check the score. I will never forget getting back to my friends place that night and seeing the highlights on TV and the celebration that followed as the football field became a sea of Orange and Navy. Plays and moments like that are what make me love college football so much. What a moment. I can only imagine how much fuel to the fire that game has added to this old school heated rivalry. Although both teams will look a little different this year, this game should be another classic when the two meet on the field this season. One thing is for sure...I'll be watching this year's game a little closer. Something tells me Saban definitely has this one circled in red ink on his calendar. It won't be an easy or fun trip to Bryant-Denny Stadium for Gus Malzhan and company.


8. James Franklin and Penn State 



If you know me, you know I'm Clemson through and through and don't really pull for any other team unless it benefits my Tigers. (That includes fellow ACC members) That being said, there are two new head coaches that I will be cheering on this season as they begin a new era at their respective schools. The first of those is James Franklin as he trades in the Black and Gold for the classic Blue and White up in Happy Valley. Franklin is a great coach and one that should be successful and fully supported at State College. I got to see Franklin up close and personal when I traveled up to Nashville with my PC Blue Hose for a game back in 2012 as a radio sideline reporter. He's a good guy that has the respect of his players and assistant coaches. Someone that I would love to play for. At Vanderbilt, he simply did not have the support and resources he needed to be successful and playing in the SEC didn't help his cause, either. Looking forward to him bringing back the proud tradition of Penn State football.



7. Clemson Defense 

Clemson lost some important players on the defensive side of the ball heading into this season including linebackers Spencer Shuey and Quandon Christian and CB Bashaud Breeland but have some pretty reliable returners coming back and the Clemson defense is in shape to be the best it has been in the past few years. Brent Venables is a animal and has brought the swag back to this Clemson defense. Sure they got embarrassed against South Carolina and Florida State for the second straight year, the Tigers also made great strides and played a large role in the Tiger's Orange Bowl win over Ohio State to conclude the 2013 season. They return star DE Vic Beasley and have exceptional depth on the defensive line with the likes of Corey Crawford,  Grady Jarrett, DeShawn Williams and Shaq Lawson to name a few, which should help support a talented but rather young and inexperienced secondary. The LB unit should also be rather solid as Tony Steward, Ben Boulware and Stephone Anthony should anchor that group. If they stay healthy, Clemson should not only be among the best defense units in the ACC but in the nation.


6. PLAYOFFS!

After years of relying on faulty system that failed miserably time after time, (See Auburn 2004, Oklahoma St 2011, USC 2003 etc) we are now catching college football up to modern times and implementing a playoff system. It makes perfect sense, every other major college team sport has it! Not really sure what took it so long to come to college football but I absolutely cannot wait to see it play out and have a few more games to enjoy towards the end of the season. Surely there will be come kinks that will need to be worked out moving forward but this is a giant step in the right direction for college football. This years format includes a simple top four-team playoff. With the winners advancing to the National Championship game. In my opinion, that is the perfect number. Typically, there are anywhere between 2-4 teams that even deserve to be in the title game conversation and after that there is a fall-off of another 2-4 really good teams that just aren't quite there yet....four is the magic number. (at least for now)  I would think Bama and FSU will be early favorites to make the four-team field but that is why we play the game! Buckle up football fans....is going to be a fun ride!



5. Cole Stoudt 

When the Tigers take the field August 30th in Athens, they will be led onto the field by a new face, Cole Stoudt. Stoudt has patiently waited his time and his time is now...and he's ready. Last year, he was 47-59 for 415 yards, 5TDs and no interceptions. He also had 58 rushing yards and 2 more TDs on the year. The 6'4 210 signal caller looked solid in spring ball and is a lock as the starting QB for the season opener. He has a pretty talented guy named DeShaun Watson that is right on his heels though and should keep him focused and working hard. I'm confident in Stoudt and think he will be just fine although he has quite an act to follow after Tajh Boyd. Should be fun to watch these two talented guys battle for/keep the starting job this season.



4. Charlie Strong 

I've been following Strong since his days at South Carolina and he's one of those guys that you just knew it was only a matter of time before he landed a big time job, especially after his success at Louisville. Like Franklin, Strong too has his work cut out for him and has to restore the faith and excitement for a program that was 3rd at best just in its own state behind Texas A&M and Baylor last season. However, I'm confident he will right the ship in Austin and bring back Texas football back to its history of a well respected powerhouse and the top dog in football in the state of Texas. He means business and although it may a take a few years, I hope the Longhorn family will give him a chance and I'm confident they will be rewarded in the future.



3. Alabama and Lane Kiffin 


One of the most hated coaches in college football running the offense for one of the most hated teams in college football....this should be interesting. Kiffin is far from a fan favorite and is one of those guys you either love or hate. Not much middle ground exist. Alabama has always been a powerhouse and I don't expect that to change nor do I believe Saban would allow Kiffin to have negative effect on the program, but I would love nothing more to see Alabama stumble this season....you know, similar to how they did in the Sugar Bowl against Oklahoma. However, it is VERY unlikely. Bama opens up in Atlanta against West Virginia, have to travel to Ole Miss, Arkansas, Tennessee and LSU but get Florida, Texas A&M and Auburn all at home. On paper, it seems like a very manageable journey and one that should have them in the top 4 at the season's end. This is nothing knew for Bama though as far as strength of schedule is concerned, last year they ranked 40th in that department.



2. Jameis Winston 

From rape accusations to "accidentally" stealing crab legs from Publix and soda from a Burger King can Winston mature and stay out of trouble so he can remain on the football field? There is no doubting his talent both on the field and on the baseball diamond, both of which have professional potential, but someone needs to pull this kid aside and have a "come to Jesus" meeting. Winston already has a Heisman and National Championship under his belt but if he can't get his head together he might soon be trading in the garnet and gold for orange...and I'm not talking about Clemson or Florida. I'm talking Seminole County Detention Center. Get it together, Jameis. If Winston does settle down and stay healthy, FSU will likely make a return to the National Championship and repeat as champs.



1. Opening Weekend 


Most importantly, I'm just ready for football to be back. This year's opening weekend provides a few intriguing match-ups. South Carolina and Texas A&M square off at 6pm Thursday, August 28th in Columbia. On Saturday, Florida State faces Oklahoma State at 8pm in Arlington, Texas, Clemson heads to Athens to face long-time rival Georgia at 5:30pm and on Labor Day, Miami takes on new ACC member, Louisville on the road. We're now in double-digits in the countdown till college football...it can't get here fast enough! SPOT THE BALL!!!




Saturday, May 24, 2014

Clemson: The New Wide Receiver Univerisity

For as long as I can remember in my short life as a Clemson fan, there has never been a lack of talent at the wide receiver position. Even before I came onto the scene in 1992, Tiger fans were honored with players such as Dwight Clark (2-time Pro Bowler, 2-time Super Bowl Champ) Perry Tuttle, (caught game-winning TD in '81 National Championship against Nebraska.)  and Jerry Butler (1-time Pro Bowler), For Tiger fans, Butler is most known for "The Catch" in which he hauled in the game-winning TD from QB Steve Fuller with less than a minute remaining on the clock. Clemson silenced Williams-Brice Stadium that night and escaped with a thrilling 31-27 victory over the Gamecocks back in 1977. That play has gone down in Clemson football history and fans refer to it simply as "The Catch".




In my lifetime, I've seen quite a few solid receivers play in Death Valley as well. I grew up on players such as Derrick "The Noodle" Hamilton and Kevin Youngblood who played in the early 2000's. As well as guys such as Aaron Kelly, Chansi Stuckey, Airese Currie, and Jacoby Ford. And how could I forget Rod Gardner. Gardner is also another memorable Clemson receiver who reeled in what Tigers fans refer to as "The Catch 2". It also came against our arch-rival South Carolina in Death Valley in 2000. Down 14-13 with 19 seconds left in the game, QB Woody Dantzler rolled to his left then threw across the field to his right towards the Clemson sideline and connected with Rod Gardner just inside the 10. Gamecocks fans still argue that it was clearly a push-off and offensive pass interference. Tiger fans will disagree. As you can see the referee was right on top of the play but I'll let you decide that one, (start the video around the 2:23:30 mark) True Freshmen Aaron Hunt would the take the field with about 9 seconds left and kick a field goal as Clemson would survive a nail-bitter, 16-14. Fans rushed the field and took down the goal-post and it was an all night long party in Tigertown.

The string of success with Clemson wide-outs has only gotten better with time as evidenced through back to back years of having 1st round draft picks. In last year's draft, Deandre Hopkins skipped his senior season and was drafted 27th overall by Houston. Clemson fans hold this guy near and dear to our hearts. This hometown guy answered the call and had a coming out party his entire junior season that was capped off in a special way in the Chic-Fil-A bowl against LSU. Down 24-22, Boyd and Hopkins help lead a game-winning drive. Tiger fans know it as "4th and 16"...I saw it first hand and still get chills watching highlights. It was one of those memories I'll cherish and remember for the rest of my life. In this year's draft, Buffalo picked up Sammy Watkins with the 4th overall pick. Watkins also skipped his senior season after a great year that ended with a stellar performance against Ohio State in the Orange Bowl. Along with Watkins, another big play maker for the Tigers has been Martavis Bryant. Bryant was selected by the Steelers 118th overall in the 4th round and is expected to be a factor from day one. Bryant had a spotty career at Clemson. At times he was great (NC State and Ohio State 2014, for example) then at other times he made you want to punch a wall with dropped passes and bad route running. However, the guy is a great player and when he's healthy and focused, is one of the best. He has great speed and can "climb the ladder" for passes. Bryant is the full package and his size makes him a favorable target for quarterbacks and a nightmare match up for cornerbacks and defensive coordinators.

But guess what? The wealth doesn't stop there. The Tigers also have a guy by the name of Charone Peak. The 6'2 205 guy from Dorman High School (Spartanburg, SC) was compared to Watkins by some although they noted that he lacked the worth ethic and attitude. Peak missed last season due to an injury but will be ready to rock and roll when the Tigers take the field in August down in Athens against Georgia. With Hopkins, Watkins and Bryant now in the NFL, Peak will be called upon this season to step up and contribute. Peak along with Gerome Hopper, Mike Williams and Adam Humphries will be the leaders for this unit this season. Hopper also has big-play capability and has some serious speed. Humphries is a great leader and gives you 100%. Although you won't see him in the endzone much, he is a great team player and helps in other ways such as down field blocking and getting those tough yards on quick passes and can stretch our a defense from sideline to sideline. He reminds me of former Clemson and Pittsburgh Steeler Tyler Grisham. Not the biggest in size, but is scrappy, plays with heart and works hard every play.

Of course, a receiver is only as good as his quarterback. Clemson has been lucky to have a guy like Tajh Boyd under center the past three years and he will be missed greatly. However, I'm confident in both Cole Stoudt and freshmen sensation Deshaun Watson to hold their own and be able to get the ball to these talented players. Only time will tell, but make no mistake about it, Clemson is still loaded at the wide receiver position. And while I don't expect Clemson to have another first rounder WR in next year's draft, we'll be just fine from a talent standpoint.



***COMING UP NEXT***
Next week I will stay in college football mode and take a look at the Top 10 things I'm looking forward to this fall. As always, thanks for reading and I'll see ya next week! Have a safe and enjoyable Memorial Day Weekend! Cheers to all those that have served, are severing and will serve in the future. And most importantly, hats off to those who have given the ultimate sacrifice so that we can enjoy the things we do. You are all appreciated. God Bless. 


Thursday, May 22, 2014

Racism and Biogtry in the NBA....and Beyond


With today's post, I'm going to do two things I don't normally do. First, I'm going to talk a little NBA tonight. However, if you are looking for a game preview/recap like I do for football, you'll have to look elsewhere. Secondly, I'm going to talk about race issues and stereotypes not only in sports, but life in general. I typically tend to stay away from these type of topics as it can become very heated and stir things up but after the news of Mark Cuban's remarks today along the need to get a new post out for this week, I decided to make the exception.

If you have not heard of the controversy surrounding Donald Sterling you either have been living under a rock, or been living under a rock. Sterling's comments that surfaced through a private conversation hit the airways and light a fire underneath an ongoing issue in America. Its been seen everywhere...CNN, FOX, ESPN, the local news, social media...EVERYWHERE!!! I won't go into too much detail on Sterling as I suspect that if you are reading this, you already know the story. However, you might not have heard the comments made by Dallas Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban today during a one-on-one interview. I'd like to start by saying this isn't an Anti-Mark Cuban post. Cuban is one of the most well known owners in the NBA and outside of the Lakers in the West (No comments, please...I'm still mourning the horrific season we just had) Dallas is a franchise I typically don't mind pulling for. However, my respect for him dropped significantly today. Racism and Bigotry exist all over the place. This isn't just a Donald Sterling or Mark Cuban problem its widespread and from Don Imus (did you forget about him?!?) and Al Sharpton... to the Sever at Outback Steakhouse and salesmen at the Car Dealership...we all need to do better. If you haven't gotten the chance to listen to his interview, you can find it here and click on the "Cuban Comments" tab at the top of the page.

I know everyone is entitled to their own opinion and free speech but the timing and content of his interview makes my skin crawl. Here we are in 2014 and still facing some of the same issues and prejudices that troubled our nation in the 1960's. In that interview, Cuban makes the statement that "we are all prejudice in some way or another." I'd have to say that depending on the issue or "thing" he might be correct on that. Maybe. However, his next statement is where I began to have a issue. "If I see a black kid in a hoodie and it is late at night, I'm walking to the other side of the street. And if on that side of the street there is a guy that has tattoos all over his face. White guy...bald head, tattoos everywhere...I'm walking back to the other side of the street. And the list goes on of stereotypes we live up to and are fearful of," Cuban said.

I'm not sure what you took from those statements but what I took from it is that not only does it seems he is in the corner of Donald Sterling and the controversy surround his comments but that he supports these prejudices and find them "okay" because we all do it. Well guess what, its NOT okay. It does not make it acceptable or alright because "we all do it". My mom and grandmother always tell me "two wrongs don't make a right". It is 2014 and it is a shame that we are still wrapped up in these stereotypes which are often false. What makes Cuban's comments "worse" in my opinion is that not only did he make this statement publicly in a controversial time in the NBA, but that his comments go beyond race, although race is obviously extremely significant. Putting African American kids and those who have tattoos into a category of being dangerous or as a threat simply because of the way they look is stupid, ignorant, shallow and plain out unacceptable.  Especially coming from someone in his position. Like I said, we are all entitled to our own thoughts and beliefs but to openly display these prejudices especially in the manner he did in the shadows of the Trayvon Martin case was simply not a smart move on Cuban's part. It is disrespectful and borderline heartless.Think before you speak...words can't be unsaid!  My grandma and mother also always tell me, "sometimes its best to just keep your mouth shut" Cuban needs to have a talk with my folks! I think comedian Steve Harvey said it best.....when you are a celebrity or well-known, you can't always just rattle off how you feel about certain things. You can't always say what you want to say, when you want to say it!

Like I said before, these prejudices exist everywhere. As an African American male growing up in South Carolina, I get it more often than I'd like and have reached a point where I actually don't even pick up on it all the time. I've become numb to it in some ways...but I look at that as a good thing. Why? Because it is time for us to MOVE FORWARD. If we keep placing blame for the past and not working collaboratively to be better as a nation and world, we are not going to see progress. I remember it like it was yesterday...when I first arrived at Presbyterian College, a small liberal-arts college in Clinton, SC (where we have around 1300 students and African Americans account for just about 10% of that [and that seems a bit high in my personal opinion....but you get the point]) I remember moving in, meeting people and getting settled into the college life and just within the first two or three weeks of being there I was probably asked "Oh..are you a football player?" at least 10 times when I introduced myself to people. It didn't really dawn on me until the fourth or fifth time it happened but just goes to show how it exist in both younger and older generations. I'll be the first to say I don't fit the stereotype of a African American male and I don't try to because its stupid and restricts progress. I graduated from PC May 10th and beat the stereotypes of young black males that exist in our country. I've never been to jail...don't have any baby mama drama or anything of that nature. NO, I'm not perfect and not taking a shot at those who may fall into that category, either. I know image is everything....especially in the professional world.  Right or wrong....you will be judged by how you appear, but to look at someone walking down the street and prejudge them is just ignorant.


I will say that after the interview, Cuban expressed his apologies to the Martin family for the "hoodie" comments but still stood behind his words. To me, that makes his apology null and void. I'm not calling Cuban a racist but I will say he clearly is prejudice and, to put it nicely, very ignorant. Just as I said about Sterling, as a player, coach, fan, etc I would not want to be associated with someone who (openly and with no regrets) holds these beliefs. Its another sad, sad, day in the world of sports. I can only hope that when I'm my mom's age these types of stereotypes will no longer exist. Hopefully we can soon begin to move forward and put these racist, prejudices behind us and move forward as a nation.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Primetime Football Returning to PC

During my four years at Presbyterian College I had always hoped that at some point, while I was there, we would find a way to have lights installed at Bailey Memorial Stadium and have a night game. As a huge college football fan, I'd argue that most fans and players prefer night games and the atmosphere it provides, all day tailgating, the excitement of playing under the lights, etc. Prime time games enhances the game day experience for nearly everyone involved. As a die-hard Clemson fan, I have enjoyed our recent success and the reward of having more night games in Death Valley this past season. After yesterday's unexpected news that PC, now my Alma Mater, will install stadium lights provided by Musco Lighting, the game day atmosphere in Clinton on Saturday will should improve greatly. The lights are more energy and cost friendly using 40% less energy. Just as some of the older fans and alumni stressed their opposition to night games and the issues of traveling for Clemson games, I could see some of the PC alum doing the same as a significant amount of fans that attend the game are older alumni. However, I feel this was something that needed to happen and should not only improve attendance and the game day experience, but as well as improve sales and revenue which will be used to help pay for this new project. This addition will also allow more flexibility for kickoff times, which have typically been either 1pm or 2pm throughout my time at PC. Finally, this opens the door of opportunity for playoffs games as well as Thursday night games. YES, THURSDAY NIGHT GAMES IN CLINTON, SC....someone get ESPNU on the phone, NOW! (PC fans and alum will know why this is such a big deal. Don't forget, this is coming from the smallest D1 school in the country with an enrollment right around 1300.)

I remember just earlier this year talking with one of my friends at PC and telling them if I ever won the lottery or became very successful that my first major donation back to PC would be stadium lights...looks like I'll have to change that now. Football is not the only venue that could use some work, though. Additions have been made to Martin Stadium where the Blue Hose soccer teams play, that included a new press box. Old Bailey Stadium, home of the Women's Lacrosse team could also use some work as well as a new scoreboard. Finally, both the PC baseball complex and softball complex could both use the addition of a press box and stadium lights. One of these projects will probably replace my "If I get rich I will donate _____" plan. I can speak from experience that the scoreboard at the PC lacrosse stadium needs to be burned. To the ground. With a ceremony and champagne toast. (I'm not exaggerating...as you are about to find out).


I will never forget one day while working with the Sports Info Department (as I did all four years at PC) we had a home Lax game. About fifteen minutes before the game was supposed to start, our scoreboard malfunctioned and we were forced to keep score and the official game clock on a cell phone, yes a cell phone. Guess who's job it was to do this task....yeah...mine. On top of that, we were short staffed this game so I also had to carry out my original responsibility of tracking participation, penalties and substitutions. As you can probably imagine this was one of the most stressful days in my entire life. If you've ever been to a lax game, you know there is constant yelling from both players and coaches the entire game and maintaining composure and focus while on the sidelines was difficult. I'll never forget my boss telling me after the game that he was worried I was going to leave at halftime and not come back. Of course I stuck it out and finished the game with only one major hiccup where I was forced to blow the horn mid-action due to a mishap with the clock on the phone, which I was unfamiliar with as it belonged to my boss. Needless to say players and coaches were also unhappy and frustrated with the situation, but both showed their appreciation for my work after the game.

To be clear, this is not, by any means, to take a shot at  PC but to show that this addition was much needed. Although stadium lights are not quite 100% necessary as a functioning scoreboard, adding lights was simply something that needed to happen for the PC football program. As we move forward and attempt to become a competitive Division 1 school, we must make sure we have quality facilities. Some of that responsibility and funding will fall on alumni such as myself. I'm thrilled to know that the next time I step foot in Bailey Memorial Stadium it will likely be for a night game...something that hasn't happened at PC since October 27, 1990.


**For the official release of this exciting news check out the PC Athletic Website: GoBlueHose.com and as always feel free to comment and discuss sports with me on twitter @CHallSportsTalk. Thanks for reading, have a great weekend and GO BLUE HOSE! (and Tigers..big regular season series finale this weekend against Boston College at home) 


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

I'm Back!


It has been over four months since my last post and I regret that I had to go away for so long. If you keep up with me on twitter (@CHallSportsTalk) you will know that I was overwhelmed with my school work and finishing up the last semester of my undergrad at Presbyterian College. I'm happy to announce that while I was gone, I wrapped up my last term at PC with my best overall semester, made Dean's List, successfully completed my Capstone paper and presentation (senior exit project) and finally graduated last Saturday. It was a long, and often trying journey but never have I been more proud of myself. I'm a college graduate from a well respected Liberal Arts college! It is still a surreal feeling that I'm a college graduate. I'm still on the job hunt so not exactly sure what my next step is, but I'm beyond grateful to have reached this milestone and I'm happy to see what the future holds for me! But now its time to get back to what I love...writing about sports! And while there is no way (or need) to touch on all the major headlines that I have missed since I was gone, today I will just give my thoughts on the current hot topics around the sports world and try to get back into the swing of things so that I can start posting at least twice per week again...perhaps even more now that I will have more free time on my hands! 

Clemson Pipeline to Buffalo 

The Clemson connection to Buffalo grew tremendously during this years NFL's draft as the Bills picked Clemson WR Sammy Watkins with the 4th overall pick in the draft. Watkins, who many dubbed the top WR in the draft, now joins another Florida native and Clemson great in RB C.J. Spiller. Along with Spiller, Watkins will also join former Tigers Chris Hariston, Antonie McClain, & Johnathan Meeks. Soon we may be calling the Bills the Tigers. (just kidding) Watkins is expected to be a factor and contribute from the start and if you followed his career at Clemson, you know how special of a player he truly is. Clemson fans will surely miss him this fall but we are proud of his accomplishments and I can't wait to see him excel on the next level.


 Clowney to the Texans 
As many expected, the Houston Texans took advantage of their first overall pick and snagged South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney. Like Watkins, Clowney will most certainly be on the field for the first (defensive) snap of the 2014 season for Houston. The standout DE will sport the #90 for Houston and is ready to contribute to the team and prey on opposing quarterbacks and offenses. Even as a Clemson fan, I'm happy for the guy and definitely wouldn't mind seeing him play live at some point next season. If he stays focused and in shape, he could be in for not only a solid rookie season but a stellar career just as he did at South Carolina.


Kevin Durant
With my favorite player, Kobe Bryant's best days behind him, I've slowly accepted he is reaching the back end of his career. That being said, I've began my search for a "new" favorite player to follow after Bryant's days are over. I have looked towards KD as that guy and love what he brings not only to OKC Thunder, but to the NBA overall. I remember watching him at Texas and it has been fun watching him develop into one of the best in the game. So happy for him and his first MVP award. I can only expect there will be more to come for Mr. Durant. Hats off to him. Oh and not to mention, he is also a momma's boy just like me....gotta love Durant.


Michael Sam
I'll keep this one short and sweet. I'm tried of hearing about all this first openly gay player to be drafted, play in the NFL etc. We get it. He definitely isn't the first gay player in the NFL and won't be the last. But why does this even matter? Can he play football? Is he going to be a distraction to the team/in the locker room? Those are my concerns. The rest does not matter. I know what my beliefs are and what the Bible says but what Michael Sam does in his personal life has nothing to do with me or anyone else besides Michael Sam and his significant other. My only problem is when I turn on ESPN in the morning (or whenever) I want to see RELEVANT sports news and games/highlights, NOT two men kissing on TV. This isn't the Real Housewives or some Soap Opera. Leave that private and at your home and the media needs to LET IT GO. When did we become a society where "coming out" makes headline news for WEEKS but Teddy Bridgewater holding up his promise and buying his mother a brand new car doesn't?  Let's stop making this bigger than it is...ESPN, please do better. I'd much rather hear about what Jamies Winston had for breakfast last Monday than this story that has gone on far too long. Best of luck to the guy as he heads to the Rams now lets drop this and talk about stuff that matters.....you know....like football and what these guys will bring to the table.


Other NFL Draft Tidbits 
I was very surprised to see Johnny Manziel drop all the way down to 22 overall with the Browns. I still had not quite ruled out Houston going for him and thought surely that Cleveland was going to take him with the 8th pick but they decided to go with CB Justin Gilbert then took Johnny Football later in the first round. Jacksonville also raised some eyebrows with their 3rd overall pick of UCF QB Blake Bortles. Surely they could have saved that pick for later in the draft (especially with Manziel still on the board) but then again, what do I know? I'm just a fan. Clemson star QB Tajh Boyd had to wait a while but he finally heard his name called in the 6th round with the 213th overall pick by the New York Jets. Clemson WR Martavis Bryant is headed to the Steelers and is expected to be on the field early and often. He was a bit spotty during his career in Clemson but had a solid season last year and played a large role in the Tigers road win in Raleigh over NC State as well as a few spectacular catches in the Orange Bowl victory over Ohio State.



**It feels great to be back. Going to take a week or two to fully get back into the swing of things but hope to have the blog running full speed again by the end of the month. As always thanks to all my readers and supporters. I can't name the number of times someone has talked to me about my blog the past few months despite the fact that I had to put it on the back burner for a while. But I'm back (and hopefully) better than ever!