Keith Strudler

Keith Strudler: The Pain Of Preseason Football

Aug 26, 2015

If you are so inclined to pay attention to the NFL right now, beyond Tom Brady and deflated balls, you know that this is the league’s preseason. Which basically means that these games don’t count. At least not in any standings that determine who goes to the playoffs and who goes home at season’s end. These first four games, while a full 25% the length of the 16 game regular season, really serve two purposes, neither of which have anything to do with winning and losing. First, this allows teams to cut their rosters from 90 to 53 players, essentially Survivor played out over four grueling episodes. That means young and marginal players compete against their teammates as much as any opponent. In fact, we only see star players sparingly during this stretch, since they’ve already cemented their spots. Second, the league and its teams use the preseason as a way of making more money. It’s four filled stadiums using largely marginal talent for games that have no particular significance. It’s like paying full price for preview shows on Broadway, oh, and they only used understudies. That’s the NFL preseason, half the sound and fury that means pretty much nothing.

Keith Strudler: To The Participant Goes The Spoils

Aug 19, 2015

What do Pittsburgh Steeler linebacker James Harrison and the Softball Little League World Series team from Washington State have in common? Well, very little, really. But in this one particular odd moment, they’ve both made strong statements about the state and place of youth sports.

Keith Strudler: Fighter J-E-T-S

Aug 12, 2015

Jets fans, all five of you, here’s the good news. Gino Smith will not throw an interception for the next six to 10 weeks. That’s the good news. The bad news, and there’s plenty, is that the Jets starting quarterback won’t throw anything for six to 10 weeks, at least not wearing pads and a helmet. That’s because Smith broke his jaw this week in a locker room altercation with now former teammate IK Enemkpali. According to reports, Smith owed Enemkpali $600 for a plane ticket he never used, and Enemkpali let him know by way of a fist to the jaw. The result is one QB on injured reserve, one backup linebacker on waivers, and enough material to keep late night talk shows in business for a generation.

There are a lot of things you can do with a doctorate in psychology. Like be a psychologist. Or teach. Or be an NFL assistant coach. That's right, an NFL assistant coach, which probably puts that degree to ample use. Of course, oddly enough, a Ph.D. is only the second most surprising part of the Arizona Cardinals new coaching hire. The real story is that the new hire is named Jen Welter, who is obviously a woman, the first female coaching hire in the NFL.

Keith Strudler: Life’s Great Awards

Jul 22, 2015

Not all sports awards are created the same. For example, if you win, say, the most improved on your high school JV tennis team, that’s fine. But if you win the Super Bowl MVP award, that’s better. With the ubiquity of awards and requisite ceremonies, most people are rightfully judicious on which commendations to cherish, and which to simply accept. In other words, some go on your wall, while others straight to the basement, if the trash.

Keith Strudler: The Price Of Foul Balls

Jul 15, 2015

I have something of a confessional. I'm scared of fly balls at baseball games. Not completely debilitating scared, like I wet my pants at the crack of a bat. But for the most part, I'm uneasy pretty much the whole nine innings if I'm down either the first or third base line. When the rest of the section puts their hand up for a souvenir, I hit the deck. All which makes certain seats at a ballpark like watching an action adventure movie. Fun, but not entirely comfortable.

Keith Strudler: Russell Wilson And God

Jul 8, 2015

Perhaps Huey Lewis was right. Maybe it is hip to be square.

It’s probably unfair to deem Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson as square, not with one Super Bowl ring and another nearly so at the age of 26, not with a huge new contract coming his way in the next year or so, not as the young marketable face of the NFL as older generations of quarterbacks, like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, enter their twilight. That’s not square, for sure.

Keith Strudler: U-S-A, U-S-A?

Jul 1, 2015

By reasonable accounts, this current World Cup has been an unmitigated success for American women's soccer. Beyond the obvious success on the field, where now the only thing between the Americans and a World Cup is the winner of tonight's match between Japan and England, the team's run has sparked considerable interest amongst Americans, with well over 5 million of us watching the quarterfinal match against the rival Chinese team. Sunday's final will capture the fancy of far more than that, likely eclipsing the 18 million viewers that watched the 1999 Women's Cup final against China. Thus far, viewership has been considerably up from the past several cups, likely influenced because the event's location in Canada, allowing for prime time American viewing.

I’ll admit this much at the beginning. There’s probably more that we don’t know about this story that what we do, which is a bad place to start offering analysis. So I won’t pretend to offer deep conjecture on the conflict between music magnate Sean Diddy Combs and UCLA assistant football coach Sal Alosi, who coaches Diddy’s son and UCLA defensive back Justin Combs, who, for the record, is a marginal contributor to the team. But, to get everyone up to speed, here’s what’s generally been reported. Apparently, dad wasn’t happy at how his son was treated at Monday’s practice, where apparently Alosi was pretty hard on Justin, noting he didn’t care who his father is. Sean, who of course was watching practice, as far too many fathers of adult children are want to do, followed Alosi back to his office. From there, it’s a bit more he said, he said. But it’s alleged that Combs both instigated a physical conflict, then proceeded to swing a Kettlebell at one of the team interns. And for the uninitiated, a Kettlebell is basically a giant iron ball with a handle, the newest fitness craze that I’m certain soon go the way of the Thigh Master and the Shake Weight. Because of that, and whatever else happened in the office, Sean Diddy Combs was arrested on three counts of assault with a deadly weapon, one count of making terrorist threats and one count of battery. Combs has insisted the charges are bogus and anything that happened was simply in self-defense of himself and his son, who, again, is a 21-year-old college football player.

Keith Strudler: There’s No Such Thing As Luck

Jun 17, 2015

Luck is the ultimate intangible in sports. It’s so intangible, most people don’t even believe in it. Well, Cleveland believes. They believe in bad luck, at least. The city hasn’t won a title in a so-called “major” sport since the Browns in 1964, when football wasn’t actually all that major. Before that, it was the Indians in the 1948 World Series. The Cavs, never – and more on that in a second.

Keith Strudler: Losing Hope

Jun 10, 2015

One of the most important lessons in sports, really in life, is that’s there’s no such thing as fair. So let’s just accept that it’s not fair that Hope Solo is still playing for the US National team in this year’s World Cup. Solo, the team’s star goalie and a big reason they’ve been title contenders for the past several international championships, will be a cornerstone of the team’s aspirations in this current cup, which led off with an American win over Australia. With her in the net, it’s reasonable that the US might find themselves in the semis or better. Without her, who knows?

Keith Strudler: UAB Bowlers, Rejoice

Jun 3, 2015

Bowlers of University of Alabama Birmingham rejoice. After an agonizing several months, this week your college president Ray Watts reinstated your disbanded program that was cancelled last December, assumedly forever. And now, a semester later, the lanes are open for business. And you’re not the only ecstatic Blazer athletes right now. Also back from the dead is the UAB rifle team, which in the state of Texas thanks to new state legislation, could simply be called the student body. They’ll shoot again after also being resuscitated from extinction.

Keith Strudler: The Not So Beautiful Game

May 27, 2015

We’ve heard for a long time that soccer is finally getting big in the US. If nothing else, it seems the United States Department of Justice got the message. They’re into soccer all right, so much that the Feds this morning indicted nine international soccer officials and five American business executives on 47 counts of wire fraud, racketeering, and money laundering, amongst other things. The indictments, announced in a Brooklyn federal court, largely involved officials working for CONCAF, the international governing body for the game in North American and the Caribbean region. CONCAF is of course part of the larger FIFA organization, the entity that oversees the world’s largest and most pervasive sport, and also a group that seen as only slightly less corrupt than the Russian mob. And that may be unfair to the Russian mob.

Keith Strudler: Basketballs And Ping Pong Balls

May 20, 2015

Yesterday was a good day for the Minnesota Timberwolves. Those days have been few and far between as of late, since they’ve just wrapped up a league worst 16-66 record for the year. But while the final four remaining NBA squads play in the conference championships, the T-Wolves may have had last night’s best result, even better than the league leading Golden State Warriors, who took a 1-0 series lead against the Houston Rockets.

Keith Strudler: David Blatt's Bad Call

May 13, 2015

These should be good times for Cleveland Cavaliers head coach David Blatt. In his first year coaching in the NBA, after over 20 years mentoring European squads, including a four stint as head coach of a solid Maccabi Tel Aviv team that won the Euroleague title in 2014, Blatt now coaches a Cleveland team that leads the Chicago Bulls 3 games to 2 in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. He’s got the most dominant player in the game in LeBron James and a roster that looks like the NBA all-star game. Generally speaking most first year NBA coaches get players that seem better fit for the YMCA men’s rec league. But, thanks to good timing and better luck, Blatt won the coaching lottery, perhaps in contrast to, say, Derek Fisher, who was handed a Knicks squad only more deficient in effort than it was in talent.

Keith Strudler: Welcome Back Isiah

May 6, 2015

Say this about the Madison Square Garden Company, the ownership group for the NY Knicks and their WNBA counterparts the NY Liberty. They do keep it exciting. The thrill ride just kept on going yesterday as owner and executive James Dolan hired former Knicks GM Isiah Thomas as the president of the Liberty. This comes with the revelation that Thomas has been advising the Liberty organization for the past several months.

Keith Strudler: Good Money After Bad (Boxer)

Apr 29, 2015

When I began gainful employment, one of the first things I had to do was set up my 401-K, which felt odd for someone hoping to afford rent next month. I vividly remember being given several investment options, from highly aggressive to conservative, which I assumed meant it wouldn’t go into a pyramid scheme. But one of the options was based more on emotional health than long-term wealth. It was, for lack of better terminology, a socially conscious investment plan. Essentially, your retirement dollars would only be invested in corporations that take a moral high ground. I’m not exactly sure what that criterion was, but I’d say, for example, Philip Morris wasn’t on the list.

Keith Strudler: The Apostle Comes to Philly

Apr 22, 2015

Say this for Philadelphia Eagles head football coach Chip Kelly. He must be a man of great faith. Fortunately, his new talent acquisition quarterback Tim Tebow also has a robust sense of faith, if perhaps in different artifacts. While Tebow wears his religious devotion on his muscular sleeve, Chip Kelly clearly has faith in a series of largely unproven young quarterbacks that most other NFL teams have quickly forgotten. That includes Mark Sanchez, presumptive starter Sam Bradford, and Matt Barkley. These were all great college quarterbacks whose glory days may have reached their zenith back on campus.

Keith Strudler: Pay The Men, Shirley

Apr 15, 2015

There’s no better feeling than putting your hands in your jeans or jacket pocket only to find a $20 bill you didn’t know what was there. I suppose finding a $100 bill, or maybe a winning lottery ticket would be better. But we’re talking in scope of reality. That $20, or even $5 is found money, an unexpected boost to your personal economy. It’s why I used to stash Monopoly money in my sock when I played as kid. I hoped I’d forget, which I never did, and find it serendipitously when I hoped to make a small hotel investment on Broadway.

Keith Strudler: Blame The Refs

Apr 8, 2015

You can make several superlative claims about Monday night’s men’s NCAA Division I basketball title game, where Duke defeated Wisconsin, and the entirety of this year’s men’s Final Four, which saw the end of Kentucky’s undefeated season. For example, it was one of the most intensely played series in recent memory, at times resembling a football game more than the game Naismith envisioned. It was also one of the youngest, at least for Duke and Kentucky, which were constructed primarily of first-year players headed straight for the NBA, or one-and-done as the common pejorative vernacular goes. And it was one of the most competitive events in recent times, with two of the three games essentially a toss-up.

Keith Strudler: March Madness In Indy

Apr 1, 2015

  For the NCAA and its vaunted Final Four of the men’s basketball tournament, the timing could have been better. Essentially on their way to Indianapolis, the site of the decisive three games of the 68 team tournament, it would be hard for any of the four remaining universities – Kentucky, Duke, Wisconsin, or Michigan State – to change their travel plans. And it would be even more difficult for the NCAA to change the site of these college basketball games, held in a football stadium, at the 11th hour, especially since Indianapolis is also the home of the NCAA headquarters itself and the site of many of its national championship tournaments. Not to mention the thousands of fans who are Indy bound for this Easter pilgrimage of sorts.

Keith Strudler: Boston 2024?

Mar 25, 2015

Never say that the place that fought for American democracy doesn’t still care about voting. It does, and it will. About the 2024 Olympic Games, that is. Where once it seemed the Boston and greater Massachusetts public wouldn’t have its say about the cities proposed bid to host the 2024 Summer Games, now they’ll have their moment. In a turn of events, the advocacy group Boston 2024 and its chairman John Fish will seek statewide approval for the city’s bid through a public referendum, which Fish himself will help get on the ballot. And if the commonwealth, or even just the city votes against it, Fish promised he and his organization will step down. No Boston bid. No new stadiums. No hotels. No rings – five Olympic or three circus, as the case may be.

The average NFL career spans all of three years. So from that perspective, the now former San Francisco 49ers linebacker only cheated himself of two years, having successfully completed a strong rookie season. Of course, that’s simply an average, so we’ll never know how long Borland’s career might have spanned. But Borland, who voluntarily left the team and the league, is largely considering the law of averages in his departure, so it’s only fitting means and medians be considered.

Keith Strudler: Syracuse NCAA Violations

Mar 11, 2015

I should come clean up front and admit I’ve never been a big fan of Syracuse athletics. This animus is largely the irrational logic of sports fandom. Basically, I went to college in central New York at a school that wasn’t Syracuse. Which means you bear the ungodly weight of their fanatics despite your complete disinterest. Oh, and once our band played in a bar up there, and it didn’t go all that well. So for that, I can’t stand Syracuse athletics.

Keith Strudler: Another Setback For Rose

Mar 4, 2015

So long for now, Derrick Rose. We'll see you in four to six weeks, according to doctors reports. That's all it will take for the former MVP to return to the Chicago Bulls from a surgical repair of his medial meniscus, which is beyond my medical understanding but apparently isn't the worst meniscus tear you could have. And it's certainly not as bad as either of the other two knee injuries Rose has suffered over the past several years, both of which have sidelined him for far greater periods of time and ended respective seasons. At least according to the Chicago administrative staff, this will be nothing more than a routine checkup, not a complete rebuilt as was first feared.

Keith Strudler: Losing To Win

Feb 25, 2015

You think watching the Knicks is rough? It could be much worse. You could be stuck watching a girls high school basketball game between Tennessee’s Riverdale and Smyrna High Schools. That would be much, much worse.

Keith Strudler: Play It Again, Alex

Feb 18, 2015

Sometimes when my oldest son gets in trouble, which is more often that I’d prefer, part of his punishment is that he has to write, not just verbalize, but write an apology. This must come as a handwritten script, not something he types on his junior tablet. The idea is that writing a note forces him to really think about what he did wrong and takes the sarcastic edge off his justification. It also takes him a bit more time, which is punishment in itself. Now I’m often underwhelmed by the final product, but at very least, I figure my kid had to think about what he did wrong, even if he’s not truly sorry.

Keith Strudler: Paging Dale Carnegie

Feb 11, 2015

Who says the art of writing letters is dead? Not New York Knicks owner James Dolan. This past week, he showed his skill set by publishing a caustic, scathing note to longtime Knicks fan Irving Bierman. Dolan was responding to Bierman’s initial message to the team owner, where Bierman implored Dolan to sell the team because he had essentially destroyed the franchise after taking it from his father. Bierman was fairly specific in his critiques, including Dolan’s handling of former coach and GM Isiah Thomas and his inability to hire Steve Kerr.

Keith Strudler: Look, I Picked A Hat

Feb 4, 2015

Today is the biggest day of the year in college football. That may seem odd, since the national championship game was nearly a month ago, and we haven’t even approached spring practice, much less the regular season.

Keith Strudler: The $ound Of $ilence

Jan 28, 2015

Money is a strong – no a fantastic motivator. Don’t want to slow down on the highway? You do because of the threat of a $200 speeding ticket. Working weekends? You might for time and a half. Outside of maybe food and certain unmentionables, money gets the job done better than any other positive or negative reinforcement.