In case you missed it: A brief recap of the XFL after its first month

By Pershelle Rohrer

March 6, 2020

Pershelle Rohrer is a first-year BGSU student from Logan, Utah. She is a Sport Management major with a minor in Journalism. Her primary sports interests are football, basketball, and baseball, both at the professional and collegiate levels.

The NFL season may be over, but football still continues as the XFL enters its fifth week of play. In its second stint after the original league’s failure in 2001, the XFL features modified rules and some familiar faces looking for a second chance at a football career. Through four weeks, the league has received substantial TV coverage with all games broadcasted on ABC, FOX, FS1, and ESPN (Guzman, 2020), and attendance saw a consistent rise for three straight weeks before dropping in Week 4 (Lombardo, 2020). However, the XFL’s attendance figures appear to be on track to reach commissioner Oliver Luck’s standards for its first year if fans continue to show up.

Prior to Week 4, Luck expressed approval of the league’s returns in attendance and television ratings, acknowledging that, “we’ve got a long way to go, still. … (But) I think we’ve got something that we can build on” (Schad, 2020, para. 3). According to XFL News Hub, a total of 298,259 fans have attended games through the first four weeks with each matchup averaging 18,641 spectators (Lombardo, 2020). Some cities are gathering significantly more interest than others — for example, St. Louis and Seattle averaged 29,554 and 22,060 fans, respectively, in their Week 3 home games compared to Tampa Bay’s 18,117 and Los Angeles’ 12,211 in the same weekend (XFLNewsHub, 2020) — but overall, the league is hovering above their end-of-season attendance goal, which they hope to see in the mid-teens at the end of the season (Schad, 2020).

St. Louis and Seattle have notably done well with attendance numbers, hosting the three most-attended games through Week 4 (Kercheval, 2020). While all eight teams are in established football markets, both of these cities are unique as they both lack a variety of professional teams playing during the winter and early spring months. Seattle’s “12th Man” eagerly supports the Seahawks during the NFL season, but the city currently lacks an NBA or NHL team to draw fans between the Super Bowl and the opening of the MLB and MLS seasons. As the only professional team playing during those months besides Major League Rugby’s Seattle Seawolves (Saul, 2020), the Dragons have received a strong fan turnout. St. Louis was the home of the NFL’s Rams before they left for Los Angeles four years ago (Kercheval, 2020), and they also lack an NBA team. The fans are hungry for football and flock in mass numbers to “The Dome” to watch the BattleHawks play. 

The BattleHawks are the East Division’s best team so far, currently holding a 3-1 record due to the stellar play of quarterback Jordan Ta’amu and running back Matt Jones. Ta’amu ranks second in the XFL in passing yards (876 yards) and fifth in rushing yards (186 yards) through four weeks, and Jones is second overall in rushing yards with 244 yards for St. Louis (“Stat Leaders,” 2020). The team has been receiving attention from the media in recent days due to their strong start and positive reception in the city of St. Louis. ESPN’s Brendan Meyer (2020) recently wrote a feature on the return of football to St. Louis after a 1,529-day drought. “For now, no matter what happens, the love that St. Louis has shown the BattleHawks is entertaining and real, a perfect match between a fringe NFL city and a team of fringe NFL players,” Meyer writes (para. 55). In fact, St. Louis loves their team so much that “The Dome” will open more seating in their upper deck for Week 7’s game against the LA Wildcats, according to Ben Kercheval (2020). Cody Benjamin (2020, para. 6) writes that the BattleHawks would “give Houston a run for their money,” referring to the league-leading Roughnecks.

The Houston Roughnecks are the last undefeated team in the XFL, led by quarterback P.J. Walker, an early MVP favorite, and veteran coach June Jones. Walker is likely the league’s most heavily-covered player due to his journey from the Indianapolis Colts’ practice squad to the Houston Roughnecks. Undrafted out of Temple, he was with the Colts on and off for two years before being cut before the 2019 NFL season (Barshop, 2020). Walker found a spot in Houston thanks to Oliver Luck’s son, retired Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, who recommended that his father offer him a position in the XFL. Just three weeks into the season, Sarah Barshop wrote, “If Walker continues to play the way he has in the first three weeks of the XFL season, he’ll likely get another chance to compete for an NFL roster spot” (para. 19). 

Walker fits in nicely into head coach June Jones’ system. The veteran college, USFL, NFL, and CFL coach is notably a “pioneer of the run and shoot offence” (Andrews, 2017, para. 2), something that has rarely been brought up by the media. According to Ben Andrews (2017), the offense was founded by Glenn “Tiger” Ellison in the 1950s as a no-huddle offense where the receivers’ only responsibility was to get open. Darrell “Mouse” Davis introduced the run-and-shoot offense at Portland State, where June Jones was one of his starting quarterbacks, and Jones became widely known for using it with his own teams. He modified the offense to use the shotgun formation and an offset running back at the University of Hawaii, helping Rainbow Warriors quarterback Colt Brennan set the Division-I record for touchdown passes in a season in 2006. After taking over as the Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ head coach after the Canadian team started out 0-8 in 2017, Jones once again used the run-and-shoot offense to lead the Ticats to a 6-4 record in the final ten games of the season (“2017 Regular Season,” n.d.). 

According to Jones, the run-and-shoot offense is most effective with a quarterback with passing accuracy and speed (Andrews, 2017). Walker leads the XFL in passing yards through Week 4 with 987 yards (“Stat Leaders,” 2020). Roughnecks wide receiver Cam Phillips has also played a major role in the offense, catching 21 passes for a league-high 333 yards and 7 touchdowns through the first four games, averaging 15.9 yards per reception (“Cam Phillips,” 2020). The Roughnecks should always be favored with Walker under center in the eyes of Cody Benjamin (2020).

Excluding Walker and Ta’amu, the XFL’s quarterback situation has been a cause for concern for members of the media. Brad Gagnon claims that “the XFL’s shoddy quarterback play has held it back” (2020, para. 5). Bill Bender (2020) suggests that the league could have a “quarterback crisis” early in its existence. Through Week 3, each team averaged 216.1 passing yards per game, falling between Mitchell Trubisky and Joe Flacco’s numbers from the 2019 season. That would be good for 22nd in the league last year. In Week 4, Cardale Jones’ DC Defenders were shut out by the previously winless Tampa Bay Vipers, Brandon Silvers was benched for B.J. Daniels in Seattle, former Pittsburgh Steeler and current Dallas Renegades quarterback Landry Jones turned over the ball four times and was injured late in the game against Houston. Luis Perez made his first start for the New York Guardians in place of the injured Matt McGloin, and Josh Johnson has played well in his starts for the LA Wildcats, but both teams are sitting in the bottom half of Cody Benjamin’s power ranking heading into Week 5 (2020). Tampa Bay Vipers backup quarterback Quinton Flowers even requested a trade, hoping for a larger role in the offense (Bumbaca, 2020). 

In Bill Bender’s words, “Walker needs to be the rule, not the exception” (2020, para. 5). 

Despite the quarterback struggles that the league is facing, the XFL has received widespread praise throughout its first month. The league first game on ABC had 3.3 million viewers, topping the Duke vs North Carolina game from the night before, and the XFL Instagram account has surpassed 500,000 followers (Guzman, 2020). Television broadcasts feature mic’d up coaches, players, and officials as well as in-game interviews on the sidelines (Gagnon, 2020). During Week 1, Doug Gottlieb tweeted about the open mics and JJ Watt enjoyed the sideline interviews that occurred almost immediately after critical plays throughout the game.

Melvin Gordon and Todd Gurley even showed up to the LA Wildcats’ first home game in Week 2. 

The league features unique rules, including a modified kickoff and three different extra point options, to increase scoring opportunities and improve safety. Citadel head coach Brent Thompson likes the new rules so much that he will implement some of them in the college’s upcoming spring game (Gaydos, 2020). “During a spring game, you usually don’t do a kickoff, because it can be a dangerous play. But the way the XFL does it is pretty safe, and it was a chance to get a special teams play executed,” Thompson said (para. 3).

The XFL also uses a unique strategy to interact with its fans through social media. Their various social media pages feature highlights, memes, fan interactions, and celebrations. Social media is used to highlight player success, creating personalities for fans to support leaguewide.

Nick Holley shouted out his parents after catching a touchdown pass for the Roughnecks.

‘Mr. Excitement” Martez Carter flipped into the end zone and discussed the play with Jenny Taft during a sideline interview.

Casey Sayles made a fan’s day by trading a BattleHawks football for a box of Thin Mints.

Defenders fans put their used beer cups to good use.

And the XFL posted this video to promote Week 5’s games.

Television exposure, social media highlights, and written coverage are providing fans a variety of viewership opportunities, drawing new supporters. Despite some critiques of the quality of play, the reception through four weeks has been relatively positive. As long as players like P.J. Walker and Jordan Ta’amu continue to draw attention, attendance stays steady, and TV ratings remain positive, the XFL could look to outlast both last year’s Alliance of American Football (AAF) and 2001’s original XFL. With six weeks of the regular season remaining, any team still has a shot at the four-team playoffs. The race will continue to heat up as April approaches, culminating with the inaugural championship game in Houston on April 26, 2020 (“Houston to Host,” 2020).

References

247KevinBoilard. (2020, February 16). Todd Gurley & Melvin Gordon hanging out at an XFL game in Los Angeles. [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/247KevinBoilard/status/1229166982043439105?s=20

Andrews, B. (2017, December 4). Revisiting coach June Jones’ run and shoot offence. Ticats.ca. Retrieved from https://ticats.ca/revisiting-the-run-and-shoot/

Barshop, S. (2020, February 21). P.J. Walker credits Andrew Luck, Jacoby Brissett for his XFL success. ESPN.Retrieved from https://www.espn.com/xfl/story/_/id/28751823/pj-walker-credits-andrew-luck-jacoby-brissett-xfl-success

Bender, B. (2020, February 28). Does the XFL have a quarterback crisis just three weeks into existence? Sporting News. Retrieved from https://www.sportingnews.com/us/nfl/news/xfl-quarterback-crisis-three-weeks-into-existence/5356ynz0fc1212qwew1suols1

Benjamin, C. (2020, March 3). XFL power rankings, week 5: Vipers skyrocket after big upset; Roughnecks remain up top. CBSSports.com. Retrieved from https://www.cbssports.com/xfl/news/xfl-power-rankings-week-5-vipers-skyrocket-after-big-upset-roughnecks-remain-up-top/

Bumbaca, C. (2020, March 4). Tampa Bay Vipers QB/RB Quinton Flowers says he requested trade from team. USA Today. Retrieved from https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/xfl/2020/03/04/xfl-tampa-bay-vipers-qb-quinton-flowers-requested-trade/4954462002/

Cam Phillips. (n.d.). XFL.com. Retrieved from https://stats.xfl.com/Player/10446

CFL 2017 regular season standings. (n.d.). CFL.ca. Retrieved from https://www.cfl.ca/standings?season=2017

Gagnon, B. (2020, February 17). The XFL is great but has a huge quarterback problem. Bleacher Report.Retrieved from https://bleacherreport.com/articles/2876654-the-xfl-is-great-but-has-a-huge-quarterback-problem

Gaydos, R. (2020, March 3). XFL rules to impact college football team’s spring game. Fox News. Retrieved from https://www.foxnews.com/sports/xfl-rules-impact-college-football-teams

GottliebShow. (2020, February 9). Cant stop watching the open mics of the #XFL. [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/GottliebShow/status/1226617027223121920?s=20

Guzman, Z. (2020, February 22). The XFL may pull off something no league has before, but week 3 is critical. Yahoo! Finance. Retrieved from https://finance.yahoo.com/news/xfl-may-pull-off-something-no-league-has-before-but-week-3-is-critical-175105240.html

Houston to host 2020 XFL championship game. (2020, February 13). XFL.com. Retrieved from https://www.xfl.com/press-release/houston-to-host-2020-xfl-championship-game

JJWatt. (2020, February 8). Just turned on the XFL. Kicker missed a field goal and they immediately interviewed him on the sideline asking what happened haha. That’s tough. [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/JJWatt/status/1226231665023967244?s=20

Kercheval, B. (2020, March 4). XFL 2020: St. Louis BattleHawks getting so much fan support they’re opening their upper deck to hold more. CBSSports.com. Retrieved from https://www.cbssports.com/xfl/news/xfl-2020-st-louis-battlehawks-getting-so-much-fan-support-theyre-opening-their-upper-deck-to-hold-more/

Lombardo, B. (2020, March 2). XFL week 4 attendance: An analysis of the numbers so far. XFL News Hub.Retrieved from https://xflnewshub.com/xfl-news/xfl-week-4-attendance-an-analysis-of-the-numbers-so-far/

NFL_ChrisReiss. (2020, February 8). First #XFL kickoff… It’s sick… [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/NFL_ChrisReiss/status/1226222316612390914?s=20

Meyer, B. (2020, March 5). With XFL’s BattleHawks, St. Louis gets a chance to avenge loss of the Rams. ESPN. Retrieved from https://www.espn.com/espn/story/_/id/28835239/with-xfl-battlehawks-st-louis-gets-chance-avenge-loss-rams

Saul, J. (2020, February 9). Seawolves open Major League Rugby season looking for three-peat: ‘There are no easy games for us.’ The Seattle Times. Retrieved from https://www.seattletimes.com/sports/other-sports/seawolves-open-major-league-rugby-season-looking-for-three-peat-there-are-no-easy-games-for-us/

Schad, T. (2020, February 28). XFL commissioner Oliver Luck on early attendance, TV ratings: ‘Something that we can build on.’ USA Today. Retrieved from https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/xfl/2020/02/28/xfl-commissioner-oliver-luck-pleased-attendance-downplays-ratings/4892961002/

Stat leaders. (n.d.). XFL.com. Retrieved from https://stats.xfl.com/season/2/phase/600/leaders/player

xfl2020. (2020, February 15). BEER SNAKE OF THE CENTURY. [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/xfl2020/status/1228796974226386944?s=20

xfl2020. (2020, February 23). Martez Carter said if he had “one more in the box” he’d bust out his signature backflip. He then front flipped INTO the box. Mr. Excitement @ThatManCarterIV. [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/xfl2020/status/1231748191986561026?s=20

xfl2020. (2020, March 1). “HI MOM HI DAD” Gotta love a wholesome TD celebration. @FS1http://bit.ly/TXThrowdown. [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/xfl2020/status/1234233137577840641?s=20

xfl2020. (2020, March 4). XFL Week 5 pulling up like. [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/xfl2020/status/1235256918337257474?s=20

XFLBattleHawks. (2020, February 23). 1 Sack 1 box of Thin Mints @case_man_ will agree that Girl Scout cookies taste even better when you’re winning!#ForTheLoveOfFootball x #ClearedToEngage [Tweet].  Retrieved from https://twitter.com/XFLBattleHawks/status/1231709732408348672?s=20

XFLBattleHawks. (2020, March 4). ST. LOUIS … you made yourselves heard! We are OFFICIALLY opening up seats in the upper deck of The Dome for our week 7 game vs LA on March 21. Tickets will go on sale this Friday at 10 AM! #RockTheDome x #ForTheLoveOfFootball [Tweet].  Retrieved from https://twitter.com/XFLBattleHawks/status/1235315275576348672?s=20

XFLRoughnecks. (2020, February 16). Name a better duo… I’ll wait @pjwalker_5

hits @camphil5 for the trick. [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/XFLRoughnecks/status/1229217814277492737?s=20

XFLNewsHub. (2020, February 23). Week 3 Attendance Numbers: Tampa Bay: 18,117 Seattle: 22,060 St. Louis: 29,554 Los Angeles: 12,211 Total: 81,942 Week 1: 69,818 Week 2: 76,285#XFLFootball #XFL2020 #ForTheLoveOf Football. [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/XFLNewsHub/status/1231756009514905602?s=20

Keep Your Friends Close, But Keep Your Rival Quarterback Closer

By Ben Kelley

February 28, 2020

Ben is a first-year undergraduate BGSU student from Uniontown, Ohio. He is a sport management major and a journalism minor. His primary interests include professional and collegiate football.

Over the last few weeks, sports media have been hurling football fans into a tornado of Tom Brady rumors. On Thursday, ESPN’s Jeff Darlington reported that Brady is anticipating entering free agency. However, the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that the Patriots plan on retaining Brady’s services and are awaiting changes to the collective bargaining agreement with the players’ union before discussing a contract. In addition, Rapoport claimed that the Indianapolis Colts, Las Vegas Raiders, Miami Dolphins, and Los Angeles Chargers have been in contact with a party representing Brady (Shapiro, 2020). Finally, Tony Pauline of Pro Football Network reported that the Patriots have been looking into bringing in the Tennessee Titans’ Marcus Mariota (“2020 NFL Scouting Combine,” 2020). Each of those reports came out on February 27th, which has left another layer on the confusing pile of Tom Brady news.

However, sports media seems to have left one rock unturned in their search to provide an accurate report about Brady’s future. Why has that rock gone unturned? Possibly because it isn’t about the future, but about the past. Specifically, it is about Peyton Manning in the 2012 offseason. After spending fourteen seasons in Indianapolis, Peyton was cut by the Colts and found himself in a situation similar to what Brady is about to experience (“Colts release Peyton,” 2012). Since Peyton has set the blueprint for what can be expected out of free agency for future Hall-of-Fame quarterbacks, that blueprint can be used to give an idea as to what Brady’s football life may look like over the next month.

First, after Peyton was released, roughly half of the league conveyed interest in the Colts’ former signal caller (Mortensen & Schefter, 2012). What does this information mean for Brady? He can expect way more attention than what he is currently receiving. Again, only about four teams have contacted Brady’s agent, so Brady should consider preparing to answer for about ten more interested employers.

 Sports media and sports fan alike should also prepare for surprises. When Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks are looking for a new team, no player is safe. The Denver Broncos, who won a playoff game in 2011, would end up replacing starter Tim Tebow with Manning. So, it might be wise for every quarterback to check their job security, no matter their success.

The outlier between each of these cases is the status of the players’ former teams. Since the Colts cut Manning, it is safe to say that they had zero interest in signing him. As a result, the Colts did not have to worry about stocking up their roster to attract a Super-Bowl winning quarterback. The Patriots, however, did not cut Brady, and if they want him, they might have to earn him back. Earning back Tom Brady could be tricky, as Brady’s wish list could get expensive. After a season where the Patriots’ receivers and tight ends found little success, the team could be looking into bringing in a high-level wide receiver or tight end. A signing of this nature could be enough to bring back Brady. However, the Patriots will also need to look at reloading the defense, with at least three defensive starters set to hit free agency. As if that laundry list isn’t long enough, the Patriots’ Joe Thuney, a 2nd Team All-Pro guard in 2019, is about to enter free agency and could reset the market for interior offensive linemen. Retaining each of these players would be impossible with the salary cap, so cuts, cheap veterans, or rookie starters should be expected.

There’s also the possibility that within the next seven years, a quarterback like Brady could be hitting free agency and may need a blueprint to guide them through free agency. There could also be a team like the Patriots, who may need a blueprint for life after losing their Hall-of-Fame quarterback without an immediate starter set to take over. Now would be the best time for sports media to start taking their notes in preparation.

References

2020 NFL Scouting Combine: Latest news and rumors around the NFL. (2020, February 27). Pro Football Talk. Retrieved from https://www.profootballnetwork.com/2020-nfl-scouting-combine-latest-news-rumors/

Colts release Peyton Manning. (2012, March 7). ESPN. Retrieved from https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/7656028/indianapolis-colts-peyton-manning-part-ways-14-seasons

Mortensen, C., & Schefter, A. (2012, March 11). ESPN. Retrieved from https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/7672173/2012-free-agency-peyton-manning-favors-denver-broncos-arizona-cardinals-sources-say

Shapiro, M.. (2020, February 27). Rumors swirl over Tom Brady’s future with Patriots. Sports Illustrated. Retrieved from https://www.si.com/nfl/2020/02/27/nfl-rumors-tom-brady-patriots-unlikely-return

My Super Bowl LIV Experience

By Pershelle Rohrer

February 23, 2020

Pershelle Rohrer is a first-year BGSU student from Logan, Utah. She is a Sport Management major with a minor in Journalism. Her primary sports interests are football, basketball, and baseball, both at the professional and collegiate levels.

At this time three weeks ago, I was in a car coming home from a once-in-a-lifetime experience. For eight days I had been in Miami, Florida with seven other Bowling Green State University students volunteering at the Super Bowl. This is an opportunity that I applied for through the university’s Sport Management Alliance. I spent much of the semester following the NFL and waiting to see which teams would make the trip to Miami to play in the big game in February. After an exciting playoff race, the battle for the Lombardi Trophy came down to the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers. While in Miami, I interacted with both fan bases in the week leading up to the game as well as NFL fans from all over the world. 

 Just hours after our arrival in Florida the Monday before the Super Bowl, we attended Super Bowl Opening Night at Marlins Park, home of the Miami Marlins. The event was covered heavily by the media, as it was televised on NFL Network. Both teams were introduced on the floor, and interviews with stars like Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, Jimmy Garoppolo, and Richard Sherman followed. We were each given a radio earpiece upon our arrival that allowed us to listen to different players while we walked around the concourse participating in different activities. We took individual and group pictures and met Miami Dolphins players Christian Wilkins and Charles Harris. Harris liked the Dirk Nowitzki shirt I was wearing, saying, “He’s my guy.” 

Throughout the week I didn’t go a day without seeing a Kobe Bryant jersey somewhere. Bryant was involved in a helicopter accident the day before our arrival, and moments of silence were held on the plane as we landed in Miami and at Super Bowl Opening Night at Marlins Park. Many players in the interviews were asked what Bryant meant to them or about his legacy. The media was able to unite the sports world by crossing football with basketball and covering two major events at the same time, and it was fascinating to watch up close. American Airlines Arena and a couple other buildings in Miami were lit up in purple and orange that night as sports fans mourned the loss of an NBA legend.

On Tuesday, we went to Bayfront Park to work at Super Bowl LIVE, an outdoor fan experience in the heart of Miami. This event was covered on the Super Bowl Host Committee’s Instagram account in the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, and it featured various places for photo opportunities, food tents, live music, a large football field, and carnival games for kids. While this event was the main thing covered by the host committee on social media, I did not see as many individuals from the media making their way around the park. The majority of coverage I saw was at the Super Bowl Experience in the Miami Beach Convention Center.

We were at the convention center Wednesday through Saturday, working multiple volunteer shifts on three of those days. The Super Bowl Experience was an indoor fan fest that featured football activities like field goal kicking, Hail Mary, and NFL combine events. It also included photo opportunities with the Lombardi Trophy, a Super Bowl ring display, autograph signings from NFL players, and other displays showcasing the NFL’s history that spans one hundred years. 

The Super Bowl Experience is where I truly saw the media at work. One of my classmates ran the obstacle course with a Los Angeles television reporter, who recommended a Cuban restaurant that ended up being a highlight of our week. Media covering the Chiefs took footage of their cheerleaders and mascot trying out the course. I spent most of my time working at the Hail Mary station where fans threw footballs into nets at various distances, and we had several reporters participate for television coverage. The media ensured that the event received exposure nationwide, creating the potential for more fans to attend in future years. Fans were enthusiastic and enjoyed participating in the games and meeting current and former players like Lamar Jackson, Dan Marino, and Rob Gronkowski. While not everyone was able to attend the Super Bowl, the Super Bowl Experience permitted anyone in the Miami area to get involved in the celebrations leading up to the big game.

Super Bowl Sunday was a hectic, exciting experience. We worked On the Fifty VIP party for some of the highest paying guests in the stadium. Six BGSU students worked inside the party and two of us participated in wayfinding and ushering in fans. From my post outside of the party, I saw Bruce Matthews and several other members of the NFL 100 All-Time team, Venus Williams, and Urban Meyer. Joe Theismann and Dan Marino were a couple of familiar names inside the party. As game time approached, we switched into our new role of finding fans in the suites who purchased post-game field access. We directed them where to go and what credential they would need. After having a break for halftime and part of the third quarter, we made our way back to the concourse outside the suites to try to catch any straggling fans with post-game field credentials. While I was there, I saw Larry Fitzgerald, without any security personnel in sight, meeting with fans, and a World War II veteran celebrating his one hundredth birthday. Photographers were taking his picture and thanking him for his service, celebrating his milestone. Other media personnel followed celebrities that I couldn’t pick out as they made their way in and out of the suites. 

Participating in the Super Bowl LIV experience is something I will never forget, and the interactions with enthusiastic toddlers to 100-year-old war veterans, fans, and celebrities helped me truly understand the influence that sports have on people from all walks of life. I would like to thank Bowling Green State University and SMA for granting me the opportunity to participate in the Super Bowl festivities. I am thankful for the chance I was given to represent BGSU, and I look forward to doing so as I continue to further my career in sports.

With five minutes left in the game, I made my way into the stairwell to take my post for directing fans to the field. While there, I listened to the Chiefs’ comeback on the radio. Knowing what was coming, I prepared myself for the hundreds of excited members of “Chiefs Kingdom” as they sprinted down the stairs toward the field, screaming and cheering as they went. After our job was over, we took in the postgame scene from the stands. The sight of confetti on the ground, some of which I took home with me, and the Kansas City Chiefs colors lighting up the stadium was incredible to see, especially since I have watched the Super Bowl from my living room every year since I can remember. 

Conspiracy Theories, Scandals and Public Trials: The Houston Astros Investigation on Twitter

By Griffin Olah

Griffin is a second-year undergraduate BGSU student from North Ridgeville, Ohio. He is a Sport Management major and a Journalism minor. His primary sports interests are baseball and football, both collegiate and professional, but he is also interested in basketball, MMA, boxing and hockey

The Houston Astros are a topic that has been discussed ad nauseam within the sports world. Everyone is focusing on the punishment, the crimes, and the reactions. The investigation, however, is no longer the focus. If you remember back to the middle of January, however, you may remember the craziest day in recent baseball history. This is the day that social media handed down the confirmation of the Astros cheating scandal that the MLB was looking for. Instead of a private investigation, the Houston Astros were tried by the public eye for the world to see, spawning some of the greatest stories in recent memory.

Once allegations came down, a relatively unknown podcast host and Yankees fan by the name of Jimmy “Jomboy” O’Brien saw his following grow faster than he could ever imagine. O’Brien, the proprietor of Jomboy Media, was best known for posting the video of Aaron Boone’s now-infamous “Savages in that Box” rant on Twitter (Young, 2019). When he saw the Astros allegations, however, he transformed into internet sleuth. When the world was in disbelief of the claims of the Astros cheating, O’Brien delivered a bombshell packed into a simple 2:20 video on Twitter. O’Brien cracked the code and found video proof the Astros cheated.

O’Brien’s initial tweet was retweeted over 37,000 times and liked more than 100,000 times. A lesser-known media man was now an internet sensation and the leading authority on everything Astros related. Then, the talk about buzzers leaked and Jomboy Media again went to work to expose the latest scandal. O’Brien found a new image containing what may have been an electronic buzzer on Astros catcher Robinson Chirinos’s batting glove. 

At the same time as O’Brien’s image came to light, a new account vied for interest. After the Astros fired manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow, the Red Sox firing manager Alex Cora and the Mets firing their manager Carlos Beltran, it seemed like the scandal was done. Then, the buzzers came to light. 

A private account on Twitter, @S0_blessed1, began a tweetstorm that changed the landscape of MLB. The anonymous account accused Astros superstars Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman of wearing buzzers under their jerseys to relay signs to them. Curiously, the account apologized to their “tio,” which means uncle in Spanish. Speculation immediately ran as to who the uncle was and why this person was exposing more possible methods used by the Astros on their way to a now tainted World Series victory. 

As the identity of @S0_blessed1 was being searched for, many reputable sources agreed with the account’s claims. Cincinnati Reds pitcher and noted critic of the Astros Trevor Bauer confirmed that he had heard talk within MLB about the Astros wearing buzzers. O’Brien also confirmed he was hearing similar things from sources in MLB. 

Amid this media storm, many people were looking for the identity of the anonymous account. Based on the “tio” comment, many pointed to Carlos Beltran, the disgraced former Mets manager. Since the account broke the news of Beltran’s firing days before the Mets formally announced it or any other major media outlets carried it, many believed the owner of the account was close to the former player and manager. 

Twitter then took the bait from Beltran’s “niece” and ran with it. Kenny Ducey found the home run in the ALCS that was mentioned in the “niece’s” tweets and slowed down the end of Altuve’s trot. The slow-mo video seems to show Altuve holding his jersey tight against his body and telling the mob of teammates at home plate to not rip off his jersey. Then, there is the disputed audio of Altuve possibly saying “I’m wearing a wire.” 

That last part, as already stated, had been disputed. Some have said that it is Altuve speaking Spanish, which many people would not be able to lip read and equate to a wire. Altuve himself did not dispute the fact that he didn’t want his jersey torn off, telling dugout reporter Ken Rosenthal that he, “got in trouble with [his] wife” for taking his shirt off on television in the past (Garro, 2019, para. 9). In the past few days, Carlos Correa came out and confirmed that Altuve’s wife was not happy with him for taking his shirt off and also mentioned an “unfinished tattoo that looked kinda bad” on his collarbone that he didn’t want to show on television (Anderson, 2020, para. 7). 

Obviously, possible proof that Altuve was wearing a wire in the 2019 postseason, which was not part of the Commissioner’s Report, would make the scandal grow even more with possibly worse repercussions. While immunity was granted to the players in relation to the investigation into the 2017 iteration of the sign-stealing scheme, a new investigation may not be so kind. The potential ramifications are mind-numbing to think of, and the accusations themselves destroy any possible respect or goodwill for the team. 

Without Twitter and the dedication of the public to get to the truth, none of this would come to light. While the Commissioner conducted his own report, the findings are limited when compared to the scope of the Twitter investigation. Clearly, all Twitter sources are not to be trusted, and some here are untrustworthy. As the days wore on and the tweets from @S0_blessed1 became more and more ludicrous and eventually disappearing, the account’s credibility was called into question. Eventually, it was determined that the account was run by a noted Twitter troll, or someone who dispenses false information for comedic or personal value, and almost none of the information was considered true. But if the account made up all its claims, why is there so much evidence supporting it? 

Twitter is often seen as a cesspool of false and fake information, which is true in part. Some believe that it has no value in modern society, which can also be true. Nobody, though, can diminish the role that social media, and Twitter, in particular, played in the investigation into the Astros’ nefarious ways. One of the main principles of journalism is to be the watchdog for larger government entities, corporations, and organizations. On January 16. 2020, Twitter took on that role and conducted its own investigation. Without internet sleuths like Jomboy, Kenny Dacey and so many others, the full extent of this scheme may never have been realized. Maybe in the future, Twitter and the public as a whole can solve more of these mysteries and bring to light the wrongdoings of teams, organizations, corporations and other massive entities like the Houston Astros.

References

Anderson, R.J. (2020, February 16). Astros’ Carlos Correa fires back at Cody Bellinger, reveals new reason why Altuve didn’t want jersey removed. CBS Sports. Retrieved from: https://www.cbssports.com/mlb/news/astros-carlos-correa-fires-back-at-cody-bellinger-reveals-new-reason-why-altuve-didnt-want-jersey-removed/

Bauer, Trevor [@BauerOutage]. (2020, January 16). I’ve heard this from multiple parties too, for what it’s worth…[Tweet]. Twitter. https://twitter.com/BauerOutage/status/1217888647468310528?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1217888647468310528&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fsports.yahoo.com%2Fa-new-astros-cheating-conspiracy-theory-has-set-twitter-ablaze-205503577.html

Ducey, Kenny [@KennyDucey]. (2020, January 16). Altuve making sure he keeps that jersey on (via r/nyyankees)[Tweet]. Twitter. https://twitter.com/KennyDucey/status/1217888139072745474

Garro, A. (2019, October 19). Congrats to the Astros for clinching a trip to the World Series in the most adorable way possible. Cut4. Retrieved from: https://www.mlb.com/cut4/jose-altuve-keeps-jersey-on-after-winning-alcs-with-homer

Jomboy [@Jomboy_]. (2019, November 19). Astros using cameras to steal signs, a breakdown[Tweet]. Twitter. https://twitter.com/jomboy_/status/1194348775965437952?lang=en.

Jomboy [@Jomboy_]. (2019, November 18). I have no idea what an electronic buzzer looks like but someone just sent me this as a ‘maybe that’s[Tweet]. Twitter. https://twitter.com/jomboy_/status/1196525061659906050?lang=en

Oz, M. (2020, January 16). A new Astros cheating conspiracy theory has sent Twitter into a frenzy. Yahoo! Sports. Retrieved from: https://sports.yahoo.com/a-new-astros-cheating-conspiracy-theory-has-set-twitter-ablaze-205503577.html

Young, D. (2019, August 17). Jomboy is obviously good for baseball, and the Yankees should lighten up. New York Daily News. Retrieved from: https://www.nydailynews.com/sports/baseball/yankees/ny-jomboy-savages-mlb-bill-simmons-20190817-hho4pn2mlvcghjdmlozroxh4se-story.html

A Moment the Media Missed

February 2, 2020

By Kelsey Kohlman

Kelsey Kohlman graduated from BGSU’s Sport Management program in December 2013 and has been working at ESPN in the Stats and Information Group (SIG).

It was December of 2013 in my final week of being an intern for the Charlotte Bobcats (Hornets). The Lakers had just beaten Charlotte in a close game, and I was doing my normal postgame intern duties of going back and forth from the court, to the locker room tunnels, to the printer, to the media room, etc. However, soon that night was going to be unforgettable.

There was a young boy decked out in Kobe gear from head to toe in the tunnel leading to the locker rooms. Literally, I didn’t know that many Laker accessories existed lol. He was a quadriplegic in a motorized wheelchair with a trachea coming out of his throat. I couldn’t help but notice he was beaming with excitement everytime I walked past him.

A few minutes later, I just so happened to walk by the boy again (with a cart full of monitors) just as Kobe was coming out of the locker room. This was the boy’s “Make a Wish.” Since the hallway was too narrow to squeeze past, I got the pleasure of witnessing such a heart-warming interaction that I will never forget.

This wasn’t a 1 minute hello and good bye. Kobe squatted and put his arm around the boy’s shoulder and they started talking like they had known each other for ages. No awkward silence, no forced interaction, no sad puppy eyes, and no negative annoyance body language that some celebs may show when doing a “checkbox” quota meet and greet. It felt more genuine than I would have ever imagined.

The parents were standing near me, behind their son, probably because they didn’t want their son to see them bawling uncontrollably. Their happiness and being overcome by emotion was so evident, it made me tear up.

Kobe, the boy, and both parents then began walking toward my office, to an empty room where they could all chat in a more private setting. As I followed not far behind to continue on with my work, I just couldn’t get over how genuine Kobe looked/felt/sounded, how overly-happy this child was, and how something so simple can mean so much to a struggling situation..if done right. And Kobe did it all right that night.

Kobe was never a favorite for me, but seeing that interaction has always “hit” and stuck with me. I’ve told this story many times before because those few minutes were so shockingly heartfelt.

Millions of these “moments” happen each year. Am I saying Kobe was the best person to walk the planet? No. But I am saying people have so many sides to them. A superstar athlete can have a tender touch and a warm heart. A person that has had rough acts in the past can rebound and evolve into something greater.

Thank you Kobe for that memory. It will never fade, and in my eyes, it was better than anything you had ever done with a basketball.

Seahawks look to replicate past success, bring back Lynch and Turbin

By Pershelle Rohrer

January 3, 2020

Pershelle Rohrer is a first-year BGSU student from Logan, Utah. She is a Sport Management major with a minor in Journalism. Her primary sports interests are football, basketball, and baseball, both at the professional and collegiate levels.

The Seattle Seahawks brought back two familiar faces on December 23, 2019, signing running backs Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin for the remainder of the 2019-20 season. The move comes after Seattle lost their top three running backs for the year due to various injuries, leaving rookie Travis Homer as the only active running back on the roster (Rost, 2019).

Lynch began his first stint with Seattle when he was acquired from the Buffalo Bills in 2010. He quickly became a “Seattle sports icon,” according to John Boyle (2019b, para. 6). Lynch played with the Seahawks from 2010 to 2015, helping the team to two Super Bowl appearances. He had four consecutive seasons in which he rushed for 1,200 or more yards (2011-14) and led the league in rushing touchdowns in 2013 and 2014. (Henderson, 2019). The five-time Pro Bowler retired briefly before returning to play for his hometown Oakland Raiders in 2017 and 2018 (Marek, 2019). 

Just three weeks ago, Lynch was handing out tequila shots to tailgating Raiders fans prior to the team’s final game before next season’s relocation to Las Vegas (Marek, 2019). Last Sunday, he was playing for an NFC West division title as the 11-4 Seahawks took on the 12-3 San Francisco 49ers (Alexander, 2019). He impressed in his return, rushing for 34 yards on 12 carries, including a 15-yard run, and leaping for a 1-yard touchdown in a 26-21 loss to the 49ers (Stecker, 2020).

Seahawks general manager John Schneider had discussions with Lynch about a return before the 2019 campaign, according to head coach Pete Carroll (Gustafson, 2019). In regard to his return to football after his year-long retirement, Lynch said, “At my age, this is a great opportunity to be able to come in and be able to help when needed, get in and do my little thing and get out, hopefully be able to help them go ahead and get to the Super Bowl that they should be playing for” (Boyle, 2019b, para. 7).

Lynch’s return to the NFL generated excitement throughout the NFL, as he was “entirely out of the NFL rumor mill in 2019” (Marek, 2019, para. 5). Andy Nesbitt (2019) wrote, “You have to believe that just his presence alone will pump up the team heading into a game that will decide the NFC West title” (para. 5). Brandon Gustafson (2019) said, “It’s clear fans of the team are excited about Lynch’s return” (para. 19). Julian Paredes (2019) described, “The jury’s still out on whether Lynch remains the dominant player he’d been for nearly a decade, but his return brings life to a team whose season was all but lost to injury” (para. 8).

NBA player Jamal Crawford, a Seattle native, and former Seahawks punter Jon Ryan expressed their excitement on Twitter:

Pete Carroll, referring to Lynch, said, “The circumstances rolled just at this time, and he could have four or five games left in him, maybe that’s what we need” (Boyle, 2019b, para. 5).

Just hours before the Lynch signing, Robert Turbin announced his return to Seattle on Instagram, posting a picture in front of his locker with the caption, “…Happy to be back HOME” (2019). 

Turbin was drafted in the fourth round by the Seahawks in 2012 and was part of the draft class that included seven-time Pro Bowl quarterback Russell Wilson and six-time Pro Bowl linebacker and Turbin’s Utah State teammate Bobby Wagner (Boyle, 2019a). Turbin played alongside Wilson, Wagner, and Lynch from 2012 to 2014, rushing for 928 yards in 1,231 attempts (good for 4 yards per attempt) in 48 games for Seattle (Henderson, 2019). He also caught 43 passes for 427 yards and 2 touchdowns for the Seahawks during those three seasons (Dajani, 2019). Following his years in Seattle, Turbin played for the Cleveland Browns, Dallas Cowboys, and Indianapolis Colts (Boyle, 2019b).

While the signing of Lynch is drawing more attention, an Associated Press article emphasized the importance of Turbin as both running backs prepared to play their first games in over a year. Lynch was not expected to handle an entire workload, and Turbin had the potential to take a significant number of snaps as a result. It was unknown at the time how the carries would be split between Turbin, Lynch, and Homer (“Robert Turbin the,” 2019). Turbin did not have any offensive snaps in Week 17 as Homer and Lynch split the workload (Stecker, 2020). However, that does not mean that he will not be a part of Seattle’s game plan as they head into the playoffs.

The Seahawks, who were third in the NFL in rushing yards per game this year heading into Week 17, found themselves “desperate for help at tailback” (Rost, 2019, para. 6) after they lost their top three running backs for the season. The injuries occurred over a fifteen-day span. Rashaad Penny tore his ACL in a Week 14 loss to the Los Angeles Rams, and Chris Carson and C.J. Prosise suffered a fractured hip and a broken arm, respectively, in a Week 16 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. Carson rushed for over 1,000 yards for the second straight season and entered Week 16 as the NFL’s fourth leading rusher (“Seahawks officially bring,” 2019). 

The additions of Lynch and Turbin help the Seahawks rebuild their running game as they look to return to the Super Bowl for the first time in five years. The two running backs are “a backfield tandem blast from the franchise’s past” (“Seahawks officially bring,” 2019, para. 1), reminding fans of the back-to-back Super Bowl appearances that the team enjoyed in 2014 and 2015 (Gustafson, 2019). It remains to be seen how Lynch and Turbin impact the remainder of Seattle’s season, but an initial assessment after their first game gives a positive outlook for the Seahawks. Brent Stecker (2020) emphasizes the importance of a strong group of running backs, writing, “Suddenly that run game that has long been a trademark of Carroll’s Seahawks teams – the same one that was eroded away by injuries late in the regular season – looks to be back just in time for the playoffs” (para. 9).

The Seahawks (11-5) will play the NFC East champion Philadelphia Eagles (9-7) on Sunday in a win-or-go-home matchup. Fourth-seeded Philadelphia comes into the playoffs on a four-game winning streak while Seattle has lost two straight games. The Seahawks were 7-1 on the road during the regular season and defeated the Eagles in Philadelphia, 17-9, on November 24th. Carson Wentz will be making his first career playoff start after missing Philadelphia’s successful Super Bowl run two years ago and last year’s playoffs due to injuries (Booth, 2020). Fifth-seed Seattle aims to return to the Super Bowl for the first time since 2015, and Lynch and Turbin could play important roles for the Seahawks as they start their playoff campaign on Sunday.

References

AdamSchefter. (2019, December 23). Beastmode officially is back in Seattle. Marshawn Lynch and the Seahawks have an agreement, and Seattle has a new RB to line up against SF during Sunday night’s NFC-West-deciding showdown. [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/AdamSchefter/status/1209330496490094593?s=20

AdamSchefter. (2019, December 23). And so one day after the Seahawks lost Chris Carson to a fractured hip and C.J. Prosise to a broken arm, the Seahawks went retro RB and signed Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin. [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/AdamSchefter/status/1209334252057366528?s=20

Alexander, M. (2019, December 24). Seahawks first-round bye chances take a hit, but they’re not dead yet. Field Gulls. Retrieved from https://www.fieldgulls.com/2019/12/24/21036818/seattle-seahawks-first-round-bye-chances-take-a-hit-nfl-playoff-scenarios-2019

Booth, T. (2020, January 2). Seahawks-Eagles preview. Yahoo! Sports. Retrieved from https://sports.yahoo.com/pressure-nothing-eagles-prepare-seattle-200801255–nfl.html

Boyle, J. (2019a, December 17). Seahawks Russell Wilson & Bobby Wagner selected as starters for 2020 Pro Bowl. Seahawks.com. Retrieved from https://www.seahawks.com/news/seahawks-russell-wilson-bobby-wagner-selected-as-starters-for-2020-pro-bowl

Boyle, J. (2019b, December 24). Seahawks sign running backs Marshawn Lynch & Robert Turbin. Seahawks.com. Retrieved from https://www.seahawks.com/news/seahawks-sign-running-backs-marshawn-lynch-robert-turbin

Dajani, J. (2019, December 24). Seahawks bring back Robert Turbin, Marshawn Lynch after losing numerous running backs to injury. CBSSports.com. Retrieved from https://www.cbssports.com/nfl/news/seahawks-reportedly-to-sign-robert-turbin-still-working-with-marshawn-lynch-on-deal/

Gustafson, B. (2019, December 27). Seahawks’ Pete Carroll explains how Marshawn Lynch returned to Seattle. 710 ESPN Seattle. Retrieved from https://sports.mynorthwest.com/740450/seahawks-pete-carroll-marshawn-lynch-seattle/

Henderson, B. (2019, December 23). Seahawks add RBs Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin. ESPN.com.Retrieved from https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/28362887/seahawks-add-rbs-marshawn-lynch-robert-turbin

JCrossover. (2019, December 23). Man, man, man.. My favorite player is BACK!!! @MoneyLynch back with the @Seahawks. Christmas came early!!!!! [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/JCrossover/status/1209337833640431616?s=20

JonRyan9. (2019, December 23). I hope my old #24 jersey still fits. #BeastMode [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/JonRyan9/status/1209291330435731456?s=20

Marek, G. (2019, December 24). Marshawn Lynch will face the 49ers on Sunday, 2 weeks after handing out shots at a Raiders tailgate. SFGate. Retrieved from https://www.sfgate.com/49ers/article/Marshawn-Lynch-Seahawks-49ers-Raiders-tailgate-14930215.php

mattschniedman. (2019, December 23). Marshawn Lynch was serving tequila shots at a parking lot tailgate in Oakland eight days ago for the Raiders’ last game there. Now he’s gonna start for the Seahawks in the playoffs. Legend. [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/mattschneidman/status/1209170987905945600?s=20

Nesbitt, A. (2019, December 24). The NFL world reacts to Marshawn Lynch rejoining the Seahawks. USA Today. Retrieved from https://ftw.usatoday.com/2019/12/seahawks-marshawn-lynch-agree-on-deal-beast-mode-is-back

Paredes, J. (2019, December 23). Beast mode: Marshawn Lynch officially returns to Seahawks. Q13 Fox.Retrieved from https://q13fox.com/2019/12/23/beast-mode-marshawn-lynch-officially-returns-to-seahawks/

robertjturbin. (2019, December 23). Never give up on God… He’ll never give up on you. Happy to be back HOME [Instagram post]. Retrieved from https://www.instagram.com/p/B6b8bulnEud/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

Robert Turbin the other part of the running back reunion in Seattle. (2019, December 27). Q13 Fox. Retrieved from https://q13fox.com/2019/12/27/robert-turbin-the-other-part-of-the-running-back-reunion-in-seattle/

Rost, S. (2019, December 24). The 3 questions: How much will Lynch’s return impact Seahawks?. 710 ESPN Seattle. Retrieved from https://sports.mynorthwest.com/739909/the-3-questions-how-much-will-lynchs-return-impact-seahawks/?

Seahawks officially bring back RBs Lynch, Turbin. (2019, December 24). Yahoo! Sports. Retrieved by https://sports.yahoo.com/seahawks-officially-bring-back-rbs-070730564.html?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS8&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAAKL5VqT9VdSjNDgQOrUczx_Mt1NNG-U7_JKla5Fm5OaEKjUEQxkMG8yrZOxWTFRo-wpvyOPbE_XPJ8eN6mSoTDaSW4ECwu812VN0-OjD291w-U1aaEVbcyNi5qKPp9aec9Fw0RKaXims0QiMFyoCyR5Oo_KOlwXPQo37oIfUgpXe

Stecker, B. (2020, January 3). Seahawks’ run game ‘has some stature to it’ again thanks to Lynch, Homer. 710 ESPN Seattle. Retrieved from https://sports.mynorthwest.com/743669/seahawks-run-game-has-some-stature/

How “Wonder Boy” Luka Doncic is making an early MVP case

By Pershelle Rohrer

December 15, 2019

Pershelle Rohrer is a first-year BGSU student from Logan, Utah. She is a Sport Management major with a minor in Journalism. Her primary sports interests are football, basketball, and baseball, both at the professional and collegiate levels.

Luka Doncic may be only twenty years old, but his youth isn’t stopping him from impressing early in his second NBA season. The guard from Slovenia is off to a hot start for the Dallas Mavericks this year, collecting awards and accolades for his play and drawing attention from the media as an early MVP favorite.

Doncic was crowned Rookie of the Year for his performance during the 2018-19 season. He became just the second rookie in NBA history to average at least 20 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists per game, joining Oscar Robertson as the only other player to accomplish the feat (“10 things to know,” 2019). Doncic currently leads the league in triple-doubles (7) and holds the record for the most triple-doubles before his 21st birthday (15). His efforts earned him the October and November player of the month award as well as the Sports Illustrated 2019 Breakout of the Year Award (“Mavericks’ Luka Doncic,” 2019). 

Doncic is playing like a superstar, continuing to “assault the NBA record book” (Owens, 2019). He recently recorded his 19th straight game of at least 25 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists, breaking Michael Jordan’s record since the NBA/ABA merger in 1976. He only trails Oscar Robertson (29 games from 1964 to 1965) in such games all-time (Owens, 2019). He is the second player under 21 to record a 40-point triple-double, joining his idol LeBron James in accomplishing the feat (Rader, 2019). He is third in the NBA in scoring, second in assists, and twelfth in rebounds among all players, practically averaging a triple-double with 30.0 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 9.2 assists per game (“Luka Doncic,” 2019).

The third overall pick in the 2018 NBA draft, Doncic has helped revive a Dallas Mavericks team that finished 33-49 last season. The Mavericks are red hot, having won 10 of their last 12 games en route to a 16-7 record, which is good for third in the Western Conference (“Dallas Mavericks”, 2019). Doyle Rader (2019), a contributor to Forbes, illustrates Doncic’s impact on the organization, writing that “The team looks rejuvenated and the atmosphere inside the American Airlines Center is buzzing and vibrant.” 

Doncic was supposed to be good, but he became a breakout star much sooner than anticipated. He is projected to not only be selected to his first NBA All-Star Game, but he is in MVP conversations already, being mentioned among players such as James Harden, who leads the league in scoring, reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, and LeBron James, one of the greatest players of all time (Manrique, 2019). 

Doncic could have been one of the rare rookies selected as an NBA All-Star last season, but he was overlooked by the media in favor of veteran players. All-stars are selected through a voting process that includes fans, players, and the media. Doncic received 4.2 million fan votes, which was third only to LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo but he did not receive the media and player votes to qualify as a starter (Golliver, 2019). He was then bypassed by the coaches, who selected the reserves. The media missed out on the opportunity to help send one of the league’s most intriguing young stars to the All-Star game, something that many fans would have loved to see. Like Rader (2019) said, “Everyone wants to experience their own piece of Luka magic” (para. 17).

Despite not being selected as an all-star last year, Doncic is considered a lock for this year’s game by most media members unless something goes drastically wrong. However, they also have the opportunity to potentially make him the youngest MVP in NBA history. Derrick Rose was 22 years old when he won the award in 2010-11. Doncic will be 21 years old at the conclusion of the season, and his current numbers are similar to those of Russell Westbrook in his 2016-17 MVP campaign.

Doncic’s stellar play causes him to receive heaping praise from many media members. Mo Dakhil (2019) writes, “Luka Doncic is running the Dallas Mavericks offense the way a maestro conducts an orchestra” (para. 1). Mike Prada (2019) argues that he is a top-five player this year. Mary Louise Kelly (2019) claims that sportswriters are already suggesting that he could potentially be an all-time great. From the beginning of the calendar year to now, media members have gone from leaving Doncic off the All-Star ballot to considering “Wonder Boy” a legitimate MVP candidate. As the season continues, Doncic’s development is something to watch for as he tries to become the youngest MVP in the history of the league. 

References

Dakhil, M. (2019, December 9). The play that’s turned Luka Doncic into an MVP candidate. Bleacher Report. Retrieved from https://bleacherreport.com/articles/2866004-the-play-that-has-turned-luka-doncic-into-an-mvp-candidate

Dallas Mavericks. (2019). ESPN.com. Retrieved from https://www.espn.com/nba/team/schedule/_/name/dal

Golliver, B. (2019, December 11). Who’s got next? Luka Doncic leads 10 deserving first-time NBA all-star candidates. Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/2019/12/11/nba-all-star-game-chicago-debut-candidates-luka-doncic-pascal-siakam/

Luka Doncic. (2019). Basketball Reference. Retrieved from https://www.basketball-reference.com/players/d/doncilu01.html

Luka Doncic is only 20, but he could be the next MVP of the NBA. (2019, December 5). NPR. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/2019/12/05/785253971/luka-doncic-is-only-20-but-he-could-be-the-next-mvp-of-the-nba

Manrique, B. (2019, November 25). Can Luka Doncic really become the youngest MVP in NBA history? Clutch Points. Retrieved from https://clutchpoints.com/can-luka-doncic-really-become-the-youngest-mvp-in-nba-history/

Mavericks’ Luka Doncic wins Sports Illustrated’s Breakout of the Year award. (2019, December 4). Sports Illustrated. Retrieved from https://www.si.com/sportsperson/2019/12/04/luka-doncic-dallas-mavericks-sports-illustrated-breakout-award

Owens, J. (2019, December 8). Luka Doncic passes Michael Jordan for modern-day NBA record. Yahoo! Sports. Retrieved from https://sports.yahoo.com/luka-doncic-passes-michael-jordan-for-modernday-nba-record-022245607.html

Prada, M. (2019, December 4). The secret to Luka Doncic’s rapid rise into a leading MVP candidate. SBNation. Retrieved from https://www.sbnation.com/nba/2019/12/4/20993740/luka-doncic-dallas-mavericks-mvp-race-stats-highlights

Rader, D. (2019, November 22). Luka Doncic is breaking records and making his case for MVP. Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/doylerader/2019/11/22/luka-doncic-mvp-breaking-records-triple-double-dallas-mavericks/#5b74310977e8

10 things to know about Mavs’ Luka Doncic, including his signature moment vs. the Rockets, some amazing shots, and more. (2019, May 31). The Dallas Morning News. Retrieved from https://www.dallasnews.com/sports/mavericks/2019/06/01/10-things-to-know-about-mavs-luka-doncic-including-his-signature-moment-vs-the-rockets-some-amazing-shots-and-more/

Ma-Home Alone

Image result for patrick mahomes

By Ben Kelley

December 11, 2019

Ben is a first-year undergraduate BGSU student from Uniontown, Ohio. He is a sport management major and a journalism minor. His primary interests include professional and collegiate football.

Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs played up to the New England Patriots this week, with Mahomes leading his team to a 23-16 victory. However, the game almost resembled a Home Alone movie script rather than an NFL play-calling sheet.

Upon the Chiefs’ arrival in Boston last weekend, a container holding the equipment of thirty-five players went missing. The container was later found in Newark, New Jersey, and delivered to Gillette Stadium in Massachusetts before the game’s 4:30 start time. If the container had not been delivered, over half of the Chiefs’ roster would have been missing their helmets and shoulder pads (Schefter, 2019). Without the proper equipment, the players could not have played. If the players could not play, then the game would have ended in the first forfeit in NFL history (Farrar, 2019).

According to the 2019 NFL Rulebook, “If a team forfeits a game, the opponent will be declared the winner by a score of 2-0, but the points will not be added to the winning team’s record for purposes of offensive production or tie-breakers” (“2019 official playing,” 2019, p. 41). Doug Farrar makes note of this in his article “Chiefs avoid first forfeit in NFL history after equipment is diverted to New Jersey,” but other implications of the would-have-been forfeiture are not discussed by sports media (Farrar, 2019).

Both the win-loss records for the Patriots and Chiefs would have been affected by a forfeiture. The Chiefs victory would not have occurred, and the team’s record would have been 8-5. The Patriots would have gained a victory, and their record would move to 11-2. Playoff spots would not have changed, however, as each teams’ status as division leaders would remain the same. A record of 8-5 would still be good for first place in the AFC West, while the Patriots would have stayed as the AFC East winners with a record of 11-2. (“2019 NFL standings,” 2019).

A forfeiture would have also prevented one of the roughest outings for a refereeing crew this season. Multiple significant calls went against the Patriots, with two would-be touchdowns not being called. On one occasion, safety Devin McCourty punched the football out of Travis Kelce’s hands, and Stephon Gilmore picked up the football and began racing to the end zone. However, the whistles blew before Gilmore reached the end zone, signaling the end of the play.

The Patriots responded on the ensuing drive by scoring a touchdown to make up for Gilmore’s non-touchdown. Patriots’ receiver N’Keal Harry caught a pass, avoided stepping out of bounds, and dove into the end zone for six points. However, a referee blew the whistle when he thought Harry went out, and the play was not ruled a touchdown. Since Patriots’ coach Bill Belichick already had to challenge the referee’s decisions twice in the game, he was out of challenges to use. As such, the play was non-challengeable and since it was not ruled as a scoring play, the referees were not forced to review the play.

However, the referees showed little bias in the grand-scheme of penalty-calling.  Kansas City ended the game with ten penalties for a total of 136 yards against themselves. New England was only called for five penalties, with twenty-five yards against the team (“NFL Matchup,” 2019).

Ironically, the Chiefs shot a video of themselves as the actors from Home Alone two months ago. At least referees and Patriots’ fans alike can get some laughter out of the game.

References

Farrar, D. (2019, December 8). Chiefs avoid first forfeit in NFL history after equipment is diverted to New Jersey. Touchdown Wire. Retrieved from https://touchdownwire.usatoday.com/2019/12/08/chiefs-try-to-avoid-first-forfeit-in-nfl-history-after-equipment-is-diverted-to-new-jersey/

NFL Matchup. (2019, December 8). ESPN.com. Retrieved from https://www.espn.com/nfl/matchup?gameId=401127930

Schefter, A. (2019, December 8). Chiefs get gear after it’s mistakenly sent to New Jersey. ESPN. Retrieved from https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/28252143/chiefs-get-gear-mistakenly-sent-new-jersey

2019 NFL standings & team stats. (2019). Pro Football Reference. Retrieved from https://www.pro-football-reference.com/years/2019/index.htm

2019 Official playing rules of the National Football League. (2019). NFL.com. Retrieved from https://operations.nfl.com/media/3831/2019-playing-rules.pdf

The (lack of) Soccer Coverage by ESPN

By Breven Miller

December 10, 2019

Breven is a second-year undergraduate student at Bowling Green State University. Originally from Jackson Township, Ohio, Breven is a Sport Management major with a minor in Journalism. His interests lie in all sport, but he has a particular passion for football and soccer.

Soccer is undoubtedly the most popular sport in the world. I don’t think you would find someone to refute that point if you tried, it’s pretty much common knowledge. Why is it though, that the rest of the world cares more about soccer than we do in the United States? Certainly there are a few reasons: our men’s national team has never been high quality (though the women’s team is consistently one of the best), our domestic league pales in comparison to one like the Premier League in England, and we arrived at the soccer party pretty late. These would all be pretty reasonable arguments as to why soccer isn’t as important in America. However, I want to bring a new idea to that table: that American media outlets (ESPN, I’m looking at you) don’t give soccer the attention that it warrants. 

A great example of some questionable analysis from a specific ESPN employee about soccer came on Pardon the Interruption just before the Premier League started this past August. Of course, Pardon the Interruption features Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon (most of the time) and airs every possible weekday on ESPN. Just before the Premier League began the current season, the two did a “preview” of the season (for clarity, Kornheiser was not on this particular showing, instead it was Frank Isola). To start, this was not a major headline in the show, signifying that the beginning of quite possibly the most popular soccer league in the world was merely an afterthought. I’ll focus on Wilbon in particular since Isola did some research and found some decent analysis to be had. 

Wilbon began by picking Manchester United to win the Premier League this season. He cited the fact that they still have Paul Pogba and that manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had been there “a while.” Paul Pogba has only ever played to his full potential at Manchester United for small stretches, while I’m not too sure who would consider a half of a season to be “a while” if they understand how soccer clubs tend to handle managers. Beyond this, when Isola mentioned the Champions League and how Premier League favorites Manchester City might want to focus on winning said Champions League instead of focusing on the Premier League, Wilbon said, “Isn’t (the Premier League) the most prestigious league championship in the world in this sport?” Not only is that debatable initself, but not everyone can win the Premier League! The Premier League is just the English top division of soccer, therefore a team like FC Barcelona can’t win the Premier League (since they play in Spain). It’s pretty obvious here that one of the more influential analysts at ESPN has absolutely no idea how soccer functions internationally, which is one of the things holding soccer back in America. 

I’ll give credit where credit is due: ESPN shows a decent amount of soccer. MLS games make it to the mainstream ESPN networks, along with some games from the Italian Serie A, and occasionally even the NWSL (National Women’s Soccer League) makes an appearance. Soccer even makes a fair number of appearances in SportsCenter’s Top 10 Plays. Where ESPN lacks heavily is in analysis, and what’s odd is that they used to give the analysis more airtime! ESPN FC used to be a show that ran fairly often on the ESPN networks. This was their soccer analysis show, and it does still run. However, it only runs on ESPN+, which is a subscription-based streaming service on top of what one might already be paying for ESPN. Adding to this is the fact that apart from the people working in the soccer department at ESPN, not many seem to have a lot of knowledge about the game or the players. If you watch SportsCenter, the only time you’ll ever hear about soccer is in the Top 10 Plays, and I would be willing to bet the analysis is slightly misinformed. A mispronounced name or two never goes amiss.

According to a 2018 poll, interest in soccer in America has gone up 27% since 2012. Six years is a really short time for that number to be so high, meaning that growth in interest is pretty steep. With that stat in hand, wouldn’t it only make sense for ESPN to start covering soccer more comprehensively? Would it not behoove the most well-known sports news network in America to at least become educated on the most popular sport in the world when it’s only gaining traction in their country? The way I see it, they might fall behind if soccer isn’t adopted soon. Oh and by the way: see what ESPN FC or any other soccer experts say about Manchester United’s chances at winning the Premier League, even before the season started.

They never had a chance and they still don’t. Thanks, Michael Wilbon.

References

Isola, F & Wilbon, M. (2019, August 8). Pardon The Interruption. ESPN. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aRvn9OJcGuA

LoRé, M. (2019, April 30). Soccer’s growth In U.S. has international legends buzzing. Forbes.com. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/michaellore/2019/04/26/soccers-growth-in-u-s-has-international-legends-buzzing/#5705c94117f1

Baltimore is Built-For-More: Defending NFL Defenses

Image result for baltimore ravens defense

By Ben Kelley

December 2, 2019

Ben is a first-year undergraduate BGSU student from Uniontown, Ohio. He is a sport management major and a journalism minor. His primary interests include professional and collegiate football.

If you’ve ever played EA Sports’ Madden NFL 2005, then you might remember the video game’s selling point: the hit-stick. The “hit-stick” was a new feature that allowed you to force a heavy hit onto a ball-carrier by flicking the right stick of a video game controller. EA Sports had a simple reason for introducing the concept: in Madden NFL 2004, users were having trouble with stopping the electric dual-threat quarterback Michael Vick, and players needed a defensive counter. That counter would become the “hit-stick” (“Top 25 features in Madden,” 2013).

Ray Lewis, a former inside linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens, appeared on the cover of Madden NFL 2005. With Lewis and the hit-stick headlining the game, Madden NFL 2005 took on a defensive approach to virtual football gaming.

It’s now 2019, and quarterback turnover has become a common theme throughout the current NFL season. As the league approaches the fourteenth week of regular-season competition, eighty-six quarterbacks have attempted at least one pass during a game. Of those eighty-six quarterbacks, only sixteen have started twelve games this season. Out of those sixteen, only nine have winning records as starters (“NFL passing,” 2019). Five of those quarterbacks play for a team with a top-six defense in points allowed; four of those starters have a defense ranked in the top-four in points allowed (“NFL opposition & defensive statistics,” 2019).

One team with consistent quarterback play and a top defensive unit is the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens currently have the sixth-best defense and have compiled ten wins and only two losses. Their quarterback, Lamar Jackson, has statistically lit up the league this season. Jackson has thrown for 2,532 yards with a pass-completion percentage of 66.5%, with twenty-five passing touchdowns and only five interceptions in 2019 (“NFL passing,” 2019). In addition, Jackson has rushed for 977 yards and seven touchdowns this season (for comparison, Jackson is currently ranked eighth in rushing yards in the NFL) (“NFL rushing,” 2019).

Sports media has taken note of Lamar’s play in 2019. Sean Wagner-McGough (2019) of CBS Sports claims “Jackson is our MVP after 12 weeks” (para 2). Zach Frydenlaud (2019) of Complex not only thinks that Jackson has the MVP award wrapped up, but that Jackson “is the future of the league at QB” (para 6).

However, Baltimore’s defense deserves a share of the credit. Baltimore’s defense is currently ranked sixth in points allowed, and they’ve caused nineteen turnovers in 2019. Only New England, San Francisco, Buffalo, Minnesota, and Chicago sit ahead of the Ravens in points allowed, and each of these teams has a winning record. Pittsburgh, Tennessee, and Dallas each sit behind Baltimore in points allowed, and each of those teams are at .500 or above. As a whole, the top nine defenses in points allowed all have a record at .500 or higher.

New England and San Francisco each own a record of 10-2, yet their quarterbacks are not playing at the highest of levels. Tom Brady currently holds the 21st best quarterback rating, and Jimmy Garoppolo holds the 10th best quarterback rating (“NFL passing,” 2019). Tennessee is on their second quarterback of the season, and they’re 7-5. Chicago’s quarterback, Mitch Trubisky, has a rating of 84.4 for 24th place, yet the Bears have a record of 6-5 (“NFL passing,” 2019). Pittsburgh is now relying on their third quarterback this season, yet the Steelers sit at seven wins and five losses.

While scrambling dual-threat quarterbacks may appear to be the future of the NFL, strong defensive play is making its case to be labeled as “the future of the NFL.” Each of the top nine defenses in points allowed this season have kept their teams in playoff contention, despite below-average quarterback play or turnover at the position. It’s as if we’re living in the world of Madden NFL 2005, and the “hit-stick” has made its appearance.

References

2019 NFL opposition & defensive statistics. (2019). Pro Football Reference. Retrieved from https://www.pro-football-reference.com/years/2019/opp.htm

2019 NFL passing. (2019). Pro Football Reference. Retrieved from https://www.pro-football-reference.com/years/2019/passing.htm

2019 NFL rushing. (2019). Pro Football Reference. Retrieved from https://www.pro-football-reference.com/years/2019/rushing.htm#rushing_and_receiving::rush_yds

2019 NFL standings & team stats. (2019). Pro Football Reference. Retrieved from https://www.pro-football-reference.com/years/2019/

Frydenlaud, Z. (2019, November 25). Lamar Jackson is not only the NFL MVP but the future of the league. Complex. Retrieved from https://www.complex.com/sports/2019/11/lamar-jackson-mvp-and-future

Top 25 features in Madden NFL history. (2013, August 2). EA Sports. Retrieved from https://www.easports.com/madden-nfl/news/2013/madden-football-history

Wagner-McGough, S. (2019, December 1). NFL MVP race, week 13: Lamar Jackson begins to pull away from Russell Wilson, Stephon Gilmore makes his debut. CBS Sports. Retrieved from https://www.cbssports.com/nfl/news/nfl-mvp-race-week-13-lamar-jackson-begins-to-pull-away-from-russell-wilson-stephon-gilmore-makes-his-debut/