Keith Strudler

Keith Strudler: Fighting The Good Fight

Mar 23, 2016

If you’re a New York State resident and a fan of mixed martial arts, then yesterday was a good day. Yesterday the state assembly removed a nine year ban on the sport, allowing leagues like UFC to bring their events and their fighters to Manhattan, Brooklyn, Albany, and beyond. Yes, if you’ve always fancied boxing too civilized, or football far too restrictive, then MMA – where athletes basically attack each other until one quits or get incapacitated, will satisfy your cravings. The sport has a robust global fan base, as evidenced by sold-out stadiums and arenas for marquis events, not unlike boxing. That includes a small number of highly publicized female athletes, most notably Rhonda Rousey, who last year lost her UFC title to overwhelming underdog to Holly Holm – who by the way also lost the belt to Miesha Tate, an event that cost Holm a possible huge payday for a rematch with Rousey. But, like most sports, the revenue stream is much deeper on the men’s side, even if the salaries are far, far below the mega-dollars given to the world’s top boxers. So there’s no $400 million fight like Mayweather/Pacquiao – at least not yet.

Keith Strudler: More Davids Please

Mar 16, 2016

There is no story more universal in sports than David vs. Goliath. It is the foundation of entire bookshelves of sports movies, starting with, say, Hoosiers, and compels us to cheer for people we know nothing about, other than the fact that they’re not as good as the other people. At some events, like the US Open Tennis Tournament, the crowd nearly compels high seeded athletes to stay on the court with their top seeded opponents. It is simply an organic part of sports spectatorship. If your team isn’t in the game, root for the little guy.

Keith Strudler: Failing An Exam

Mar 9, 2016

We’ve all failed tests. It's never pleasant, but for the most part, it's a learning process. That's certainly what I told myself when my college astronomy midterm had answers akin to "the sun is hot." But that was a relatively low stakes affair, minus the impact it had on my GPA and ability to appear on the television show Cosmos. There are some failed exams that sting a little more, like say failing your driver’s exam. But you can always take that again. Then there are the tests that really matter, making failure a bit more damaging. Like say failing your qualifying exams in graduate school or failing the bar. So while failure is a learning experience, there are times when we’d all rather learn a little less.

Keith Strudler: The Promise Of A Better Tomorrow

Mar 2, 2016

I believe in evolution. And I mean that not in the political context it’s often discussed, but rather simply I believe we progress over time. You get to see this at the Museum of Natural History, when you realize the shark of a million years ago is different than the one swimming in the Pacific – although for the record I’m afraid of both. Crocodiles, house cats, monkeys – they’ll all changed with the times. And if they didn’t, they’d become extinct. Just ask the Dodo bird or the Sabre-tooth cat.

Keith Strudler: The Olympic Virus

Feb 24, 2016

If you grew up in certain humid southern parts of this country like I did, mosquitos are simply a part of daily life and culture, especially in the summer. In camp, we would measure our overnight trips by the number of bites we got. And most everyone sports a steady odor of mosquito repellant, kind of the cologne of the American south. It was annoying, and sometimes made your arms and legs look like a topographical map, but more discomfort than outright injury.

Keith Strudler: Political Football In Louisiana

Feb 17, 2016

For the citizens of Louisiana, this is not just a budget crisis. It’s truly an existential one. It’s the end of days, the apocalypse, cats and dogs living together. Because according to Louisiana governor John Bel Edwards, if the state can’t find a way to close a $940 million budget deficit, then higher education – and its solvency – is on the table. And that could mean for next season, no LSU football. That’s right, forget the prospect of cutting classes, no diplomas, and no grades assigned. Next fall, according to the highest ranking state employee, Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, the Mecca, Taj Mahal, and Wailing Wall combined, could remain empty. So instead of a mini-Mardi Gras event other Saturday, as the Tigers take on Alabama, or Ole Miss, or really anyone, Louisianans will have to find other pastimes for the Saturday morning into late night.

Keith Strudler: Let Me Help

Feb 10, 2016

Here’s the good news for NFL quarterback Johnny Manziel. No one cares anymore about how many NCAA rules he may have broken or even how bad his Cleveland Browns were this year. But to be honest, that is literally all the good news he can expect to hear.  Because pretty much the rest of the 23 year old’s life is a car crash in slow motion. For sports fans – at least those with any compassion – it’s painful to watch, but nearly impossible to look away.

Not to play too much pop psychology, but we all like to feel wanted. It’s why we date, why we fight, it’s what gets us up in the morning and sometimes keeps us up at night. Down deep inside, most all of us crave the self-worth that comes, for better or worse, from someone else.

Keith Strudler: Big Wait For Big Game

Jan 27, 2016

This is the first of two weeks preceding the Super Bowl. Which means we now have two weeks to discuss things that could be dealt with in a matter of hours. For example yesterday it was reported that the Broncos selected to wear white uniforms instead of orange. Apparently that's a big deal, both because they could have chosen orange, but also because it seems they win more in road white uniforms then their home orange ones. This is what you write about when you have two weeks to discuss one game.

Keith Strudler: Sarah From Seattle

Jan 20, 2016

When you’re upset, sometimes you say things you don’t really mean. That’s what I’ve been told. So we’ll just have to hope that Sarah from Seattle was really upset when she wrote her message to Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton after they beat the Seattle Seahawks in the NFL playoffs, a message that was posted on a Seattle TV Network’s Facebook wall. Sarah’s note took Newton to task, but not because he beat her beloved Seahawks. It seems the problem was that Cam grabbed a 12th man flag dangling from the stands over the tunnel and threw it on the ground as he celebrated. For those not in Seattle or College Station, Texas, the 12th man is the expression used for Seattle fans, and Texas A&M fans, inferring their vocal support is like having a 12th man on the field, instead of the 11 mandated by the rules. According to Sarah, when Cam threw that flag to the turf, a flag that was being waved in Cam’s face as he walked towards the lockers, he insulted more than just some guy in the stands. In fact, according to Sarah, he insulted more than even the entire Seattle fan base, which is probably unusually large because they’ve been to the past two Super Bowls. According to this fan Sarah, who felt the need to express her thoughts to a news network and their corresponding public, Cam Newton’s actions insulted, and these are now her words, “a community that feeds and clothes the homeless, that raises funds for families in hard times, that helps a 3-year-old battle cancer, and that has more grace and respect than you (Cam Newton, that is) can imagine.”

Keith Strudler: The Inglewood Rams

Jan 13, 2016

The wait for the good people of Los Angeles appears to now be over. That is, to the extent that many people were truly waiting. But if you’ve spent the past 21 years in the city of angels longing for the NFL to return, it looks like that day will soon be upon us. That’s because yesterday the league approved the currently St. Louis Rams to relocate to the LA suburb of Inglewood, where they’ll build a multi-billion dollar stadium and surrounding entertainment complex. This returns the Rams to their prior home, where they spent nearly 50 years before moving to St. Louis. They left then because, neither surprisingly nor at this point ironically, they couldn’t get a new stadium in LA, or Anaheim, which is where they played at the time. St. Louis rolled out the red carpet, and off they went, from the nation’s second largest TV market to a city that’s currently the 21st. Of course, in the revenue sharing, made-for-television world of professional football, where anyone, anywhere can root for any team, where you play only matters so much as the amount of money you can make of your own stadium. Pretty much everything else is shared by all teams in the league. So, if you got a better stadium deal that gets you more money in Montana than midtown Manhattan, you might just take it. Assuming it’s got a dome, of course.

Keith Strudler: Coaching Without Tenure

Jan 6, 2016

Being a head football coach in the National Football League is the complete opposite of having tenure as a professor. First, you get paid a lot, as a coach that is. And second, unlike tenured faculty, you have absolutely no job security. So with tenure, you pretty much have to work to get fired. As a head coach, it can happen because the owner didn’t like color of your pants that day. Such is the high stakes world of professional football management, where five years is an eternity and each day is an obstacle.

Keith Strudler: Straw Men, Sports And The Media

Dec 30, 2015

If Peyton Manning had known six months ago that he’d be on the bench backing up an unproven fourth year quarterback who had thrown all of thirty passes in his first three years in the league, while he fends off accusations of performance enhancing drug use, he might just have thought twice about coming back for an 18th NFL season. Granted, Manning assumed he had ample life left on his cannon of an arm, if last year was any guide. And his team the Denver Broncos stood to be a favorite to make the Super Bowl, giving him another chance to put a second ring on his finger, at least equaling his brother Eli and making a stronger case for his place in the pantheon of greatest QB’s of all time. And the $15 million he’s paid this year didn’t hurt either.

Keith Strudler: The Hits Keep On Coming

Dec 23, 2015

For now at least NY Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham will play the role of villain. His casting was complete after what can only be termed a nasty performance last Sunday against the Carolina Panthers, where Beckham earned three – count ‘em, three personal fouls, including a nasty helmet to helmet shot on Panthers cornerback Josh Norman. That performance earned him a one game suspension and the ridicule of most everyone marginally related to America’s national sport. Particularly as the NFL struggles to emphasize its new safety-first orientation, Odell Beckham’s boorish behavior stood out like a Rhodes Scholar at a Trump rally.

Keith Strudler: Strike Three

Dec 16, 2015

Let’s be honest. After any breakup, there’s no real chance of “just being friends.” So the idea that excommunicated baseball legend Pete Rose just wants to be friends with his lifelong love is simply fool’s play.  But that’s his hope, since it’s now clear there will be no renewed romance, no reconciliation. That’s the mandate of MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, who this week denied Rose’s third attempt at reinstatement since his lifelong ban in 1989. Rose was banned, of course, for gambling on baseball as a manager for the Cincinnati Reds.

Keith Strudler: Don’t Drink (Or Swim In) The Water

Dec 9, 2015

It is certainly not the end of the beginning. Perhaps it is the beginning of the end. Or maybe it’s neither, but simply a series of unfortunate events. Regardless, this has been yet another bad run for the tarnished Olympic movement and the governing IOC, whose final letter may as well stand for crisis.

Keith Strudler: The Spoils Of A Star's Life

Dec 2, 2015

There’s good news for Philadelphia 76ers rookie center Jahlil Okafor. First, his team finally got their first win of the season last night, beating the also hapless Los Angeles Lakers to bring their record to 1-18. That puts them one win ahead of the Lakers for the all-important top spot in the NBA draft lottery, which seems to be the 6ers title every year now.

Keith Strudler: Golden State Of Grace

Nov 25, 2015

It’s hard to say what perfection looks like, since, by all practical regards it doesn’t exist. In fact, it’s typically a poor aspirational, which is why perfect is the enemy of good. But in sports, perfection stands as the ultimate barometer. The perfect game, the perfect pass, the perfect race. As long as there are games and people to play them, people will chase the holy grail of an athletic performance without flaw.

Keith Strudler: The New Stadium Reality

Nov 18, 2015

For anyone working for a sports team or league or college athletic department, last Friday in Paris wasn’t simply horrifying. It was an uncomfortable reality, one that would forever impact your daily work life long after the Parisian chaos subsided. See, if you ask someone in the sports world about their worst fear, it’s not a losing season, or a bad trade, or even a critical injury to a star athlete. These things happen all the time, and while burdensome, are simply the cost of doing business.

Keith Strudler: Missouri Football's Big Win

Nov 11, 2015

By all regards, players on the University of Missouri football team can consider this a win. Now former University of Missouri system president Tim Wolfe, and former flagship campus chancellor R. Bowen Loftin, cannot. In the most confrontational of moments, African-American members of the Missouri football team threatened to sit out until Wolfe resigned. That was last week. And since the Tigers had an off-week last Saturday, this weekend would be the true test of conviction, when Missouri faced out-of-conference foe BYU, who was put in the uncomfortable front row seat of this showdown. Had the standoff continued, Missouri football would have been without 30+ athletes against the Cougars, which, assuming you know BYU athletics, would have resulted in one of the whitest college football games in the past 30 years. At this point, it’s all a matter of hypotheticals, having avoided what could have been the most racially charged sports moment since the 1968 Olympic Games.

Keith Strudler: The NFL In Europe?

Nov 4, 2015

Full disclosure here: I’m in Italy right now and fully aware of just how little Italians care about American football, among other American passions like SUV’s and Dunkin Donuts. But I expect that to change for me next week, when I head to London. That’s at least according to reports that the NFL will now play four games a year on British fields, adding games at Twickenham Stadium, a London Rugby facility, to its current lot at the more sophisticated Wimbley. And more could come starting 2018 when the soccer club Tottenham Hotspur finishes their new building in north London. All said, unlike the Italians, the Brits will get a full complement of American style football from an assortment of teams. So unlike, say, people in Cleveland, British football fans aren’t stuck with a perennial loser. Perhaps see London as the buffet of the NFL.

Keith Strudler: Loving And Losing

Oct 28, 2015

It is never smart to use metaphor to predict the outcome of any sporting event. So the fact that the television feed for the World Series went down for what seemed like an hour – but apparently was only four minutes – has absolutely no bearing on what may or may not happen to the NY Mets, who dropped the first game of the World Series last night to the Kansas City Royals in 14 innings – which is about 5 more than I can watch on a weeknight.

Keith Strudler: How To Win A College Basketball Title

Oct 21, 2015

Every job has its perks. Take mine for example. I can use the gym at lunch, and I get a 10% discount on most items at the campus bookstore. If you’re a basketball recruit at the University of Louisville, you may get some perks as well. Now, being a college basketball recruit, or even a college basketball player, isn’t a job. But, for the sake of this argument, let’s consider it an avocation, or at least the pursuit of one. It seems that career path, at least at Louisville, may come with perks as well, rewards that extend beyond treadmills and low-cost sweatpants. According to a newly released tell-all book by former escort Katina Powell, basketball recruits from 2010 to 2014 were welcomed in the dorms with strippers and prostitutes, all paid for by a former graduate assistant basketball coach to the tune of $10,000. This story was corroborated this week by five former Louisville players and recruits, who said the dorm looked like a strip club. This, according to Powell and, what appear to be her clients, is how Louisville recruited star basketball players to campus.

Keith Strudler: USC Dumps The Sark

Oct 14, 2015

Audio Pending...

I’d imagine there aren’t too many sports fans that will shed a tear for now former head University of Southern California head football coach Steve Sarkisian. That includes most loyal Trojan fans and alumni, most of whom are still reeling from an unexpected home loss last week to mid-tier University of Washington, a program that’s supposed to hardly be a speed bump in the steam roll of a revitalized Trojan football program. Of course, Sarkisian, or Sark came from UW, where he was a relatively successful if but slightly controversial coaching figure. He was a coach that hardly ever spoke softly, big stick or not, but led the Huskies to four bowl games in his five years, even if those bowl games were the kind that were named after auto repair shops and advocacy groups. So not exactly the Rose Bowl, which, of course, is an expectation at USC. Breaking .500 is acceptable in the Pacific Northwest. Downcoast in LA, the bar is set much higher.

Keith Strudler: Is Fantasy Football Gambling?

Oct 7, 2015

Football and gambling are like matches and fireworks. They work well together, but it can get explosive.

Keith Strudler: Brothers In Arms

Sep 30, 2015

Anyone who listens to this commentary regularly, and I say thank you, knows that I have two sons, currently aged 5 and 8. And more than anything, they like to fight with each other. They fight over pretty much anything. Yesterday they fought over a game of war. They often fight over Pokemon cards, which I still don't fully understand. Sometimes they fight out of mere habit or proximity. It starts as a hug and turns into a wrestling match. If you have kids, you likely know what I mean.

Since I work at Marist College, and have for many years, I tend to avoid commentating on the air about Marist stuff, if for no other reason than keeping my job. And because there’s an obvious potential conflict of issue, which doesn’t always make for great journalism. So I will acknowledge that up front, lest anyone suggest I’m simply a homer or at least didn’t recognize the incestuous appearance of this piece.

Keith Strudler: How About Them Cowboys?

Sep 16, 2015

If you were near a TV and a sports fan on Sunday night, you undoubtedly heard the exasperating ending to the day’s final NFL football game. That’s especially true if that fan liked the New York Giants, who managed to grasp defeat from the imminent and unlikely jaws of victory. The G-men blew a 10 point fourth quarter lead, largely through a series of unfortunate mental errors. That process reached its apex in the final two minutes, when quarterback Eli Manning threw the ball out of the end zone on third down at the Cowboys one yard line instead of falling down and letting the clock run. That gave Dallas QB Tony Romo and the comeback kids enough time to drive the field and give the Cowboys a one point last second victory. It was a game the Cowboys were supposed to win, but suddenly seemed like they wouldn’t, largely thanks to a bunch of mistakes and bad bounces. It's a game story Dallas fans will retell for years, and one that drove Giants fans into an early season depression. New Yorkers assumed their team would be bad and probably lose this game – maybe by a lot. But it’s always worse to have false hope than no hope at all.

Keith Strudler: Big Sister

Sep 9, 2015

Last night at the US Open was certainly not the first, or second, or even twentieth time the Williams sisters played opposite each other at a tennis tournament. In fact, it was the twenty-seventh, with Serena’s win giving her a 26-11 edge. In recent days, it’s been all Serena, having taken seven of the past eight matches. Last night was a reminder of which sibling would go down in history as the more dominant tennis player. Despite a valiant effort by the 35 year-old Venus, the slightly junior and more athletic Serena rallied for a serviceable three set victory. All which means Serena will now continue into the semifinals as the overwhelming favorite to win this US Open and her 22nd major singles event. That would tie her with Steffi Graf for the most ever, and it would also complete her calendar Grand Slam, winning the Australian, French, Wimbledon, and US Open in the same year. Not that it’s in question, but this title would further enshrine Serena as the greatest women’s tennis player to grace the court. One could certainly argue she’s actually the greatest female athlete in any sport, but that’s a discussion for another time. Regardless of the depth of perspective, Serena’s win over her sister last night was yet another demonstration of athletic grace under pressure.

Keith Strudler: Bad Boy, What You Going To Do?

Sep 2, 2015

When you’re a professional tennis player, and John McEnroe openly critiques your on court behavior, you know you have a problem. McEnroe was an original and infamous tennis bad-boy, enough to fuel a legacy of copycats and commercials. If bratty tennis was a copy machine, John McEnroe was Xerox.