Is a Trilogy Fight Next For Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz?

If you haven’t heard, Conor McGregor redeemed himself defeating Nate Diaz by majority decision Saturday night at UFC 202. In his post fight interview with Joe Rogan, McGregor hinted at a trilogy fight with Diaz at 155 pounds. The fan in me is going to hate what I am about to write next but I don’t want a trilogy fight, at least not right away.

If McGregor and Diaz both go down to 155 lbs following this epic five round war, there are a ton of great matchups for both of them. Donald Cerrone called out champ Eddie Alvarez following his TKO win over Rick Story. He may have unfinished business with Alvarez, but if you ask Cerrone tomorrow which fight he would rather have at 155, my guess is he wants to ring his lady and tell her it is red panty night. Khabib Nurmagomedov is already the number one challenger and despite long layoffs due to injury, he should likely get a crack at the belt before Cerrone. The winner of this fight would make perfect sense for McGregor. Nate probably doesn’t deserve a title shot coming off a loss nor does he likely care if he gets one. I think another Cerrone fight or match up with Anthony Pettis would make a lot of sense.

As the saying goes, a high tide raises all boats. The UFC is in a position to maximize the value of McGregor and Diaz to drive up the value of other top fighters in this division. Matching these two up with other fighters vying for a shot at the title will help everyone. As these guys face one another their following will grow and bring more eyeballs to future PPV especially when facing one another.
If McGregor and Diaz only face each other the rest of their career, I would buy the fight every time. What I really want is others fighters to emerge that I care enough about to say the same thing. It requires characters like McGregor and Diaz that fans either love or love to hate to get them to rally behind fighters that don’t have a large following outside of the core MMA fans. 

I hope the new UFC brass can identify the opportunity these two fighters have created and promote a series of fights that can help grow the sport even more. 

Tragically Hip

This week, while I was traveling in Toronto and North Bay, Ontario there has been talk of a national event. It has been mentioned on every radio station that I have listened to, talked about by our tour guide, and pop up t-shirt carts have started selling commemorative apparel. It is not for hockey and it is not one the biggest MMA fights in the world and it is not for the Olympics. It is for a band. 

The Tragically Hip are playing their last concert ever in their hometown Kingston and it will be on multiple broadcast television channels. Lead singer Gord Downie has been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and will be saying farewell to the stage tonight. 

I have been trying to wrap my head around a band’s farewell concert being broadcast equivalent to the way we broadcast the President’s State of the Union address on CBS, ABC, Fox and NBC in the States. 

The Tragically Hip are a national treasure in Canada. They have been around since the 80’s and without reaching fame in the US they have reached ultimate celebrity in the Great North. 

From my American perspective their level of stardom is mind blowing. I have yet to pass a bar that is not advertising a viewing party  for the Hip on the same night as UFC 202 and Canadians love MMA. I have even heard it called Tragically Hip Day, but I have not confirmed that. 

In the States we have been blessed with thousands and thousands of world class musicians and it would be impossible to call one our national band. 

I was trying to think of any band, if hit with the type of tragedy as the Hip is faced with, would garner this much national attention. Enough to cause a major network to change their programming and air their performance live.

Here is the list that I was able to come up with after some conversations with friends. 

Maroon 5: After hitting the national stage with their first album “Songs About Jane” and Adam Lavine staring in The Voice he could probably draw the attention of NBC with his relationship with the network. I am not sure that they have been around long enough to demand multiple networks covering the show.

Aerosmith: Even without playing a show together for years. If something were to happen to Steven Tyler it would draw the nation’s attention. Like Adam Lavine, Tyler may be able to draw the network he already has a relationship with, but I don’t think it would be covered on multiple channels. 

Bon Jovi: The east coast might come to a complete stop if something happened to Bon Jovi and he was forced to play only one last show. I am not sure it would be as detrimental to California as New York and Jersey. 

Beyoncé: I know she is not technically a band, but it would change the feel of the music industry, the way that Michael or Prince’s passing did. She might be one that is loved enough to get a farewell tour broadcast nationally.

Justin Timberlake: This is the one. Being from Memphis and living in LA, JT has coast to coast appeal. His appearances on SNL and roles in movies transcends him beyond his music career. But a farewell concert would draw as well or better than a Super Bowl. 

That is my list. I would love to hear yours. Once you get past the morbid thought of giving your favorite performers brain cancer, it is an interesting conversation to have with your friends. 

#LongBall

The Legend Of: Jerry Colangelo 

With Olympics in full swing and the US Men’s National Basketball Team a center piece of the United States’ dominant presence in Rio, I thought it would be a good time to talk about my guy, Jerry Colangelo.

I don’t know many people outside of Arizona or absolute basketball fanatics that even know the name, but he has had a major impact in our sports landscape.

I was introduced to Colangelo as the understated, but supremely respected owner of the Phoenix Suns. He was the man behind the Charles Barkley era and one of only two finals appearances in the team’s history.

This was an amazing time to be a Suns fan with a new arena in downtown Phoenix and Colangelo’s paint the valley purple marketing taking over the city.

I remember my mom selling Suns themed gift baskets and teddy bears to her friends. Business was booming during the championship run, but ended quickly when John Paxson hit that game winner at the end of game 6. My dad even took me to the arena for an away game where Colangelo opened up the stadium for us to watch the game on the jumbo trons. I don’t know how many teams were doing this in 1993, but it seemed genius to me at the time.

Now if this is where the story ended this would not be a tale of legend, but in fact the opposite because the next move that he made was to sell the team to an ownership group that included Robert Sarver. Sarver would be the worst owner in the league, if it didn’t already have some racist and genuinely crazy old guys.

But the Colangelo legend doesn’t end there. He brought baseball to the valley in 1998. I was in junior high and remember the newspaper front page showing the purple and teal uniforms with the moniker of the Diamondbacks. I was stoked. I didn’t really follow baseball, but had an affinity for the Yankees (I know but I was a kid and they were always winning). But now that we had our own team, I was 100% on board.

It was only a few years later that I remember watching Game 7 of the World Series with my future wife. Jesse Maguire played the national anthem on the trumpet, a B2 stealth bomber did the fly over and we were playing the Yankees.

It was the bottom of the 9th and Luis Gonzalez hit a blooper over Derek Jeter’s head as Jay Bell and his wire-framed glasses scored the game winning run.

Colangelo had brought a championship to Phoenix. Our first and only championship in any of the four major sports. Sure we have been dominate in arena football (Colangelo also owned this team from 1992-2005) and have since had some pretty good women’s basketball played here, but it still stands as our lone beacon of hope.

Again Colangelo sold the team to an ownership group that has not been able to duplicate the success that he had.

In 2005, Colangelo was asked to help take over the US Men’s Basketball Team. The team had not won a major international tournament since the year 2000. With now real leadership and guidelines, the team had believed that they could just show up and win in the Olympics. Colangelo’s first move was to bring in Coach K. This helped him secure the top talent in the NBA to participate and he also made it mandatory that players join the program for the smaller FIBA tournaments to be included on the Olympic roster.

It has obviously worked. We are undefeated since then and by the end of this Olympics will have won three gold medals.

Locally in Phoenix he took over and restored the bankrupt Wigwam resort, a local treasure that has been in the west valley of Phoenix since just after World War I.

He has also taken a major role in Grand Canyon University with sponsoring their sports marketing program and helping them to obtain Division One status for their basketball program that is coached by Thunder Dan Majerle.

Phoenix and our entire sports culture would look extremely different without Colangelo’s experience and leadership. Recently, the Philadelphia 76ers recognized his leadership and have brought him in as a consultant to help rebuild that team.

After all of this, I think I am still mad at him for selling the Suns. But, when asked why he has not helped the struggling Suns as he is with Philadelphia he had a pretty clear answer, “I was not asked.”

#TheLegendOf

#LongBall

The Legend Of: Pat Tillman

It was hard for me to decide how best to approach this article. Pat Tillman is a legend and a hero across the country. But what he has meant to the state of Arizona is immeasurable. How do you capture that kind of life with words on a screen? I can’t, but if there is a story worth telling over and over, it is this one.

I am a huge football fan and no secret that I have a love for the Cardinals that some would describe as unhealthy. I am not a big fan of ASU athletics, but as a Phoenix native and my wife being an alumni, they have been something I am more than familiar with.

This is how I learned about Pat Tillman. For a few hours a week, I would watch him work. How he handled himself on the sidelines and sprinted on and off the field regardless of circumstance. The announcers constantly touting his academic prowess as well as his hard hitting attitude.

From my perspective, the best way to describe the Pat Tillman I watched, is an underrated star. Even as he was coming out of high school where he was great and helped lead his team to a division I title. He was told he was too small to play at the next level. Not only did he play, but he excelled and not at a small Division 2 school, but a major PAC-10 (at the time) school. Of course as he ended his college career he was not high on many teams draft boards and once again was told he was too small to play at the pro level.

But again, Pat defied his critics and was drafted by the Cardinals keeping the local star in the valley, but as the seventh round pick he was not ensured of even making the roster. He continued to fly around and make plays like he always had in high school and college, and so he made the roster.

However, making the roster also meant he would be buried on the depth chart and never see the field, but that changed quickly getting 10 starts in his rookie season.  In 2001 he set a team record with 224 tackles in a single season.

This is where the story becomes legend. Many players have silenced doubters and overcome long odds to make it to the NFL. But Pat Tillman truly was unique. He was more introspective and intellectual than he was jock or brute. He didn’t let football define who he was or who he was going to be. After the Cardinals were set to extend his existing rookie contract to give him millions of dollars, Pat walked away. He walked away from a career that millions of people envy, to join the military.

In the wake of September 11th Pat Tillman was inspired. He wanted something bigger and more meaningful than playing a game on Sundays.

Pat told a reporter, “At times like this you stop and think about just how good we have it, what kind of system we live in, and the freedoms we are allowed. A lot of my family has gone and fought in wars and I really haven’t done a damn thing.”

Joining the military or Army doesn’t really describe what he did though. Pat was an Army Ranger. He wanted to be on the front lines with his brother Kevin that joined with him to fight for our country. He served in Iraq and Afghanistan fighting for the freedoms that he cherished.

Pat was shot and killed by friendly fire on April 22nd of 2004. I was sworn into the Air Force 6 days after that on April 28th, 2004. The news didn’t reach me until a few months later after I had completed basic training and technical school in Texas. I was home assisting my local recruiter before heading to my permanent duty station in Las Vegas when I remember thinking about the tragedy and how it could have been different. The coward in me was thankful that I picked the Air Force. For the most part, I would be safe from that type of firefight in a canyon in the Middle East that took Pat’s life. At the time I found out, it was not disclosed that it was friendly fire and speculation  of an attempt to cover up the incident by high ranking Army officials was rumored, but it didn’t matter to me.

What I knew was the guy I grew up watching and admiring was gone. In the service of his country and all that he held dear, he gave the ultimate sacrifice. Pat was a hero the day that he swore this oath;

 “I, Pat Tillman, having been appointed an officer in the Army of the United States, as indicated above in the grade of Second Lieutenant do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter; So help me God.”

But out of this tragedy his legend grew. He lives on through the Pat Tillman Foundation, the annual Pat’s Run, the PT42 mantra adopted by ASU football, but most importantly his family.

I am really looking forward to watching “A Football Life: Pat Tillman” airing October 28th of this year. I think this story is worth remembering and worth retelling to our kids and their kids and their kids.

Thank you Pat.

#TheLegendOf

#LongBall

Joey Bosa A Veteran Among Rookies

With the third pick of the 2016 NFL Draft, the Chargers Select, Joey Bosa. When these words were uttered by Roger Goodell, Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco probably never imagined he would struggle to get his first round pick signed and in camp on time. A lot has been written already about this story. We know the two sides are at odds over deferred payment of the signing bonus and what is referred to as offset language. According to Telesco, deferred payment of signing bonuses and offset language have been included in all their contracts since 2011.

Joey Bosa is a veteran among a bunch of rookies when it come to signing a NFL contract.

Telsco told The Mighty 1090 “But it really just comes down to generally this, there’s some things that are negotiable, and money always is negotiable, obviously,but there’s certain things in contracts language-wise, whether you’re picked third, 33rd or 203rd, there’s certain things of consistency and doing things the same way for everyone on the team.”

This is ludicrous. If you are a professional athlete and you hear a quote like this red flags should go up immediately. Franchise owners and their GM are negotiating for their best interest and these terms clearly benefit their side of table. Rookie contracts in the NFL are already subject to the NFL salary table so this is one of the few areas that Bosa can actually negotiate a deal that is in his best interest. All other draft picks have agreed to terms with their respective teams. 

This is a sad state of affairs for athletes competing in arguably the most physically demanding sport. These teams make great money because of the show these athletes put on for us. Any athlete negotiating more favorable terms, especially when their is such a high risk of their career ending by means of injury is just smart business.

Joey Bosa, way to lead by example!

#SportShorts

The Legend Of: Micheal Phelps

This is the first installment of a series that I am calling the #TheLegendOf. I will cover world class sports figures that I have been able to watch and enjoy in my lifetime.

With the news tonight of Michael Phelps getting his 22nd gold medal, I thought starting with him would be fitting.

Darren Rovell put it fantastically in a recent tweet.

16 years ago, the 2000 Olympiad Michael Phelps splashed onto the scene (Sorry about that, I couldn’t help myself). He was a 15 year old kid that still had braces on his bottom teeth. He finish fifth place in the 200m butterfly.

His teammate and gold medal winner of that event patted Phelps on the back and told him, “The best is ahead of you,” according to “No Limits,” one of Phelp’s autobiographies.

I don’t think the man that beat him that day had any idea how much was still ahead of Phelps.

He is now the most decorated Olympian of all time.

He has the most overall medals, the most gold medals and the most individual wins of any competitor ever,  beating out Leonidis of Rhodes from 152 BCE. The previous 2168 year old record fell to our 6’4″ tall (but only 32 inch inseam) canoe of a man in 2016. Phelps has as more medals than 84 different countries. Morocco is tied with him at 22 gold medals and they have competed in 13 different Olympiads.

Phelps has a beautiful wife and adorable baby with him in Rio. He can walk away now and will be remembered as the greatest of all time and he should. There is nothing left to prove. No mountain to climb and nothing but the future in front of him.

Now, not to be a downer, but…

I would throw any of these accomplishments into the most unbreakable records of all time with Brett Farve’s career wins and Cal Ripkin’s Iron Man records. But the standout of them all is a young girl named Katie Ledeke.

That is how good she is. In an article that is meant to show the greatness of the best swimmer to ever walk on this earth; Ledeke has a shot to top her teammate Phelps and I will be writing an article about her legend in 16 years.

#TheLegendOf

#LongBall

Women Are Our Best Athletes

No burying the lead here. Our best Athletes are Women. Not Lebron, not Steph Curry, not Big Papi, Tom Brady or Gronk for all you New Englanders, or any other male athlete as far as I am concerned.

All the aforementioned athletes get to compete regularly in their sport against other top players, earn an unbelievable salary, get the best possible training, care and compete for championships year after year.  Women’s sports on the other hand, is grossly underrepresented compared to male dominated sports. Most or all female athletes make pennies compared to their male counterparts, likely don’t compete in well established leagues, and compete nowhere near as frequently.

Our female Olympians not only have to beat out their entire peer group just for the opportunity to compete at the absolute highest level, the Olympic Gold is only up for grabs every four years. Throughout these first few days of the Olympics all I have been able to think about is the intensity of the pressure all of our athletes face to bring home the gold, knowing you have to wait four years for that next opportunity if you fail. Then I think about the women working tirelessly to become the absolute best with no real stage between the Olympics to cement them as the best of the best in their chosen sport. That is a kind of pressure that is difficult to even comprehend.

Despite all of this, our US women are straight up clutch. Katie Ledecky, Lillian King, Kerri Walsh Jennings, the women’s Gymnastics and Soccer team and many more are down right dominant. This isn’t like our four major sports where you can lose a championship one year and compete again the following year. These women have to wait four years! For some, four years could push them beyond their prime and there is never another shot for them. To go out on the largest stage imaginable and dominate the way many of our women do, puts them head and shoulders above everyone else, especially Lebron (sorry I’m a Lebron hater).

#SportShorts

Worst Sports Movie Ever

In America, we have have all been taught the power and importance of the freedom of choice. Because of this we are always looking to capture the best option and are quick to label something as better or best than it’s competition.

My wife, her cousin, and I were at a winery in Napa a couple of years ago. We were on a tour and at this particular winery they would take you on a tour of their caves that they aged barrels of wine in. We had a fantastic guide from New Zealand that had a great accent and an even better job. We meandered through the cool corridors of the caves lined with casks of wine and every few barrels he would insert some sort glass flange to extract wine directly from the barrel for us to try. About 10 minutes into the tour we got to a pair of barrels and he was describing the type of grape that was used and that this particular batch was split into two different casks. One was made of a French Oak and the other American Oak. I am not so naive to think that American Oak is better than French, but I was not willing to concede that fact without asking the expert. So Mr. New Zealand wine guy “Which is better, the American of French?”

In his charming accent he laughed at me and then quickly apologized for laughing, but said that it was a very “American” question. He explained to us that the difference was simply that, just different. He went on with an analogy of his dress socks and how he would pair them depending on the suit he was wearing, but he didn’t have a favorite pair of socks, they were just different.

I was a little offended that he laughed at me, but his message hit home. Since that day, I have tried to be careful to not compare things and try to rank them if not absolutely necessary. Now, I am not doing this to be more politically correct or some anti-American bias, but to simply get rid of the idea that something has to be best and open myself up to trying new things.

I say all of that to explain that when I do call something the best or the worst, it has been thoughtfully considered.

So when a couple of friends and I got into a conversation about sports movies and this movie came up, I was clear. Hoosiers is the worst sports movie of all time and here is why.

It sells itself as a classic come-from-behind redemption story, but really it’s not. Hackman, who plays a failed college coach is forced to take a job at a high school in a tiny town after being fired. Why was Hackman fired? He hit a kid.

He then hires the town drunk to be his assistant to help turn the team around. Except he can’t. At least not without the star player, Jimmy Chitwood, that is not playing because he is neglecting his school work. So to get the team moving in the right direction, he decides to forgo developing his team into the best they can be and focuses his attention on badgering the teacher who is keeping Chitwood on the sidelines.

Then we get to the climax of the movie as they make it to the state championship and they are paired against an all black team in the 1950s. The racism is dripping off of the screen and classic sports stereotypes are brought to life before your eyes. The overdone back and forth Rocky style of a sports game is played with Chitwood hitting the game winning shot.

The only real winner in the movie is Denis Hopper that played the drunk assistant, who is able to put the bottle down long enough to help the team win. His accomplishment however is almost completely thrown away as they focus on Hackman and Chitwood and their respective victories. We celebrate the redemption of a coach that went from college failure to lower division high school champ, because he didn’t assault anyone this time around.

This movie was fantastically directed and had a feel good ending that everyone was rooting for, but those two things did not make up for the biggest problem with the movie. The plot.

#LongBall

 

 

Three Big Signings!!!

Steve Keim is the best GM in football and it is not even close.

With hundreds of roster moves at the back end of the roster, finding veteran diamonds in the rough, and keeping the core players happy and paid, he is killing it.

His first extension to get done this training camp, may be the most exciting. Honey badger is a once in lifetime talent and is a redemption story for the ages.

It was not a straight forward negotiation with both sides working to get what was best. You can tell that Tyrann was frustrated with the process, but in the end both sides knew it would happen.

The relationship between Tyrann Mathieu  and the Cardinals is probably the symbiotic player/organization pairing in the league. Mathieu’s troubles prior to the NFL are well chronicled, but it is not as well known of a story about how he has become who he is today. When the Peterson’s (Patrick and his father) moved Mathieu into their home, it gave him the structure that he needed. Players like Rashad Johnson, Jarrod Powers, Darnell Dockett and most importantly Peterson all helped to provide guidance and support to a kid that was willing to listen and learn.

Tyrann treated his issue with Marijuana seriously and put his heart into the process. He had a pragmatic look at the mistakes he made. It slandered his name and cost him millions of dollars.

Steve Keim said this week there was a time that he looked at Mathieu’s name in his draft board and thought “there is no way”. But, Steve Keim is also the same guy that said if Hannibal Lecture could run a 4.3 forty, he would classify it a eating disorder. So it makes sense that as he watched more and more film of Mathieu that he was willing to learn more about him.

Keim also recently told a story about taking Mathieu to dinner and Keim’s six year old son was there and told his dad that Honey Badger was the real deal.

Hindsight is able to show us that Mathieu is the type of player and in this case more importantly the type of man the Cardinals needed. Taking risks and coming out ahead on this gives the team confidence to take chances on other players like Robert Nkemdiche, which could pay off big again for Keim.

These risks don’t always work out. The Cardinals know all too well what can happen if a player can’t get past issues with marijuana. Darryl Washington was one of the most promising up and coming players in the league before getting suspended indefinitely in 2013. He has still yet to be reinstated and is still on the Cardinals roster.

There is also defensive lineman Randy Gregory from the Cowboys, a team famous for taking risks on players as well. Gregory also had issues documented before the draft, but unlike Mathieu he has just been suspended for the first four games of this season.

So, as fan of him as person and a player, congrats to Tryann and his family. Hopefully, Arizona will be your home for life.

Then the other big news from the week, was extending both Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald by a year.

This is a sign that BA and Keim believe the window for a super bowl is two years and not a one time, go big or go home year that this year has been shaping up to be.

This somewhat silences the questions about Fitz’ potential retirement. I have not looked at what this does to their cap number for the next two years, but you have to believe that this was also done in part to address resigning Chandler Jones next year.

It is widely anticipated that the Cardinals will use the franchise tag on Jones, to lock him up, but will need to come to an agreement before the season. Jones most likely won’t play on his tagged contract number if he has a big year.

This is a really great job of Keim identifying and solidifying a core of players that will keep the Cardinals competing for at least a couple more years.

In Keim we trust.

#LongBall

Rio is a disaster sure, but watch it anyway…

Every news outlet in the world has taken their shot at the upcoming Rio Olympics. The Olympic village is a disaster in a terrible part of town, the open water is a cesspool of disgustingness and the security of the events has been questioned from the start. Oh yeah, and Zika.

The other big issue interestingly enough that the media has not over covered is the Russian doping scandal. The fact that government officials are suspected to have helped the athletes avoid detection and some of the best competitors in the world will not be there is a big deal. If true, government involvement is the exact opposite of the spirit of the games.

Dispite this tweet:

Hope Solo actually feels the same way that I do. She is quoted in the Seattle Times as saying this:

“You look back in 2004 in Greece, and the same thing there, bad publicity surrounding the Games — and China (in 2008) as well,” Solo, 35, said. “I don’t know why, but we like to sensationalize everything and scare people and then … when the Games go on, everything goes on as planned, ends up being a beautiful tournament. And I expect no less here.”

The Olympic games are a celebration of human athletic achievement. The perfect mix of God given talent, combined with an unbreakable will and extraordinary work ethic. It is also the peaceful combination of cultures, all with a spirit of friendly competition.

Still, despite all of the negative press that has been given to this Olympic games, we should watch, and we probably will.

When the lights go on and the cameras roll, mankind’s best will be on display for the world. People that have dedicated their lives to something and given them purpose, in many cases their entire lives, have a one month long competition to live out their wildest dreams.

NBC will put on a show. Bob Costas will share insights of unbelievable feats accomplished and Herculean obstacles overcome by some of the athletes to have just made it to arrive in that one moment in time. Will Olympic regulars like Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt rise up on the biggest stage and continue to impress or has father time slowed them down?

Who will emerge as the next big star like Gabby Douglas four years ago or Mia Hamm back in 1996.

I hope to catch a few of the highlights as the USMNBT beats every team by 20 points or more, without Steph Curry or Lebron James on the roster. I hope to see Jordan Burroughs (@alliseeisgold) dominate US wrestler standing on a podium and then step off on his way to a lucrative UFC fighting contract. I hope to see the US at the top of the Gold Medal count and hear the Star Spangled Banner played nonstop.

When the torch is lit and the games are played, you will forget about the stories of the dorms and the quality of the water for a handful of events and you will marvel.

So watch the Olympics and support these athletes, it is the American thing to do.

#LongBall