Keith Strudler

Keith Strudler: The One That Got Away

Jan 21, 2015

One the most powerful words in sports, in life really, is regret. The sporting past is a road map of wins and, more importantly, the ones you should have won. Just ask a fisherman. It’s always the one that got away. For the Green Bay Packers, one got away on Sunday. With less than four minutes in the fourth quarter of last weekend’s NFC Championship Game and holding a commanding 19-7 lead that felt much greater, and with the ball, it seemed the only thing that could keep the Packers from a trip to the Super Bowl was divine intervention or willful intent. In fact, in that very penultimate moment, the Packers had a 97% chance of winning, according to the wonky sports statisticians that calculate this stuff.

Keith Strudler: NCAA Football Playoff Aftermath

Jan 14, 2015

The easiest way to ensure victory upon exit is simply to declare it so. Especially when success is a question of perception, it never hurts to proactively write history. It’s kind of the opposite of cut and run. It’s cut and win.

Keith Strudler: PEDs And The Baseball Hall Of Fame

Jan 7, 2015

I’m not a Hall of Fame guy. This isn’t just for baseball, but really for any sport. I’ve been to Canton, Ohio, and drove right past the Football Hall of Fame. I’ve been through Springfield and never thought about basketball. I don’t even know where hockey’s building is, much less the long list of secondary and college sports that maintain their own cathedrals.

Keith Strudler: End Of Year Sports Roundup

Dec 31, 2014

As is the case every year, New Year’s Eve is a moment to look back and reflect on the year that was. That’s always true in sports, which operate on yearly cycles, even if those periodic markers don’t align with January 1. But sports fans are remarkably adept at taking each year as a singular unit to be consumed and analyzed unto itself.

Keith Strudler: Big Struggle For Big Blue

Dec 24, 2014

More than a few middle aged adults would like nothing more than to go back to college. Jim Harbaugh, current head football coach of the San Francisco 49ers, knows all about that. He is currently being courted by his alma matter the University of Michigan to come on home. While no official offer is extended, at least none that's hit the press, the Wolverines reportedly would offer $48 million over six years to resurrect a program with more problems than answers. While their rival Ohio State enters the inaugural college football playoff this winter, Michigan is staring up at most of the rest of the Big 10. In Harbaugh, they seek a savior at a place that demands salvation.

Keith Strudler: Should The NFL Return To L.A.?

Dec 17, 2014

Los Angeles has a lot. It's got movie stars and great weather and Disney and beaches and enough night clubs to entertain the Kardashians. But what they don't have is an NFL franchise. They used to. In fact, they had two, assuming we count the LA metro area, which includes Anneheim, the former home of the then Los Angeles and now St. Louis Rams. At some concurrent moments, the Raiders called the Los Angeles Coloseum home, before they returned to Oakland. But since 1995, the city of angels has been home to exactly one less NFL team than Jacksonville, Charlotte, New Orleans, and Buffalo, respectively, cities that collectively don't approach LA's populace.

Los Angeles has a lot. It's got movie stars and great weather and Disney and beaches and enough night clubs to entertain the Kardashians. But what they don't have is an NFL franchise. They used to. In fact, they had two, assuming we count the LA metro area, which includes Anneheim, the former home of the then Los Angeles and now St. Louis Rams. At some concurrent moments, the Raiders called the Los Angeles Coloseum home, before they returned to Oakland. But since 1995, the city of angels has been home to exactly one less NFL team than Jacksonville, Charlotte, New Orleans, and Buffalo, respectively, cities that collectively don't approach LA's populace.

Keith Strudler: NCAA Football Playoffs

Dec 10, 2014

If you previously believed that God in fact cared about college football, last Sunday perhaps gave you pause. That’s because of the six schools in serious contention for the four college football playoff spots, the two left off the list were Baylor and Texas Christian – two religious institutions amidst a sea of state universities. Even though TCU seemed poised to make the final four, ranked third going into the final regular season weekend, it and Baylor were overlooked as Ohio State joined the presumptive list of Florida State, Oregon, and the consensus number one Alabama.

Keith Strudler: St. Louis Rams Protest

Dec 3, 2014

Perhaps the last thing the NFL needs right now is this. Just as league officials were looking for something, anything, to divert the national gaze from Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson, they go from the frying pan to the bonfire. That oncoming train came in the way of the St. Louis Rams. During the introduction of Sunday's home game against the Oakland Raiders, five Rams exited the tunnel with their hands raised in the now familiar "Don't Shoot" pose synonymous with the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in nearby Ferguson, Missouri. These five athletes, all African-American, received far, far more attention than the reported 75 or so protesters outside the stadium doing the exact same thing, only for a whole lot longer. The on-field statement lasted all of a few seconds, before the Rams  proceeded to beat the Raiders by 52 points, which probably says more about Oakland than anything else.

Keith Strudler: The Rise And Fall Of RG3

Nov 26, 2014

The Washington NFL organization can finally rejoice that the public is talking about something besides their controversial name The Redskins. That’s the good news. The bad news is, that dialogue has been replaced with controversy on benching their beleaguered quarterback Robert Griffin III, or RG3. Two years ago as a rookie out of Baylor, Griffin was hailed the NFL prototype, a mobile quarterback that could create havoc by air or by land, stretching defenses and making the narrow confines of the 100 yard field feel much more spacious.

Keith Strudler: A Shorter Porch At Citi Field

Nov 19, 2014

It will be slightly easier to swing for the fences next year in New York’s Citi Field. That’s because those barriers have been moved slightly closer to home plate. Around 10 ten feet in right center field. This is the second time those pearly gates have moved in since the parks opening in 2009, both moves done to create more regular home run opportunities for Mets power hitters. This time it’s so that Curtis Granderson and others might reap the benefits of what this year were simply near misses. That, according to Mets logic, would increase Mets scoring, let them win more games, and, by default, fill seats, of which there will be a few more thanks to the extra space in right field.

Keith Strudler: Future Tense For Chicago Fans

Nov 12, 2014

For Derrick Rose, the future is not right now. That’s likely disappointing for Chicago Bulls fans who have waited for some eternity for that moment to come. They’ve endured injury after heart breaking injury as perhaps the league’s third best player watched from the sidelines, keeping the Bulls from being little more than a playoff nuisance for the Eastern Conference’s elite. Now, after essentially two years of waiting, Rose is finally wearing something other than a suit and tie on the bench and can actually contribute to a team some consider, if Rose is playing and healthy, perhaps the best in the entire league.

Keith Strudler: King James Goes Home

Nov 5, 2014

Life doesn’t always go according to plan. If it did, I’d be writing this from my ski chalet in Switzerland while my 7 year old cures Cancer. Things haven’t gone exactly according to plan for the sports fans of Cleveland, either. That’s pretty much true for all of sporting history, but particularly true at this very moment, where their beloved Cavaliers are now 1-2 to start this NBA season. That wouldn’t be entirely unusual, if it weren’t for the fact that this season marked the return of the Chosen One LeBron James, who returned from Miami to finally bring a title to beleaguered city. And he brought all-star forward Kevin Love with him, who, along with point guard Kyrie Erving, would form the new holy trinity of power in the Eastern Conference, something the Heat managed for the past several seasons.

Keith Strudler: The South Rises

Oct 29, 2014

For all that say the south will rise again, perhaps you need wait no longer. Because right now, they’ve already risen to the top of the college football playoff rankings, with three of the four top teams hailing from Alabama and Mississippi, all three from the western division of the Southeastern Conference. The fourth team currently in that mix is Atlantic Coast Conference leader Florida State, located in the north Florida town of Tallahassee, a state where the more north you go, the more south you go. So if the season were to end today, which it won’t, the four team playoff would consist of schools that could meet for lunch and still make it home for tea.

Keith Strudler: Slow Pitch

Oct 22, 2014

I was always a huge fan of get-a-way games. Those are typically Thursday afternoon major league baseball games that stand in-between both squads getting on a plane for weekend series somewhere else. For the away squad, it’s often the only thing keeping them from a return flight home. For the home team, it’s often keeping them from a cross country flight and a reasonable dinner hour. So needless to say, the game plays at something of an up-tempo. I once saw the Mets break two hours on a hot July day. Fans barely had time to get through the Shake Shack line before the final out. Guys were swinging at pretty much anything in the atmosphere, and the pitcher looked like a tennis ball machine – just one right after the other.

Keith Strudler: College Sports And The Law

Oct 15, 2014

I have long understood that college is a kind of suspended reality from the real world. It’s four years of limbo that separate the parental control of adolescence to the crime and punishment model of the adult world. In college, you are privileged – encouraged, even – to make mistakes. In some cases, that’s good. Like taking an acting class, or finding out you’re not good at fly fishing. But that latitude often extends beyond the benign to more questionable. Things that in the real world would earn you an arrest or even a conviction – and all the downside that comes with that. That’s what happens in the grown-up world. You commit a crime, and you suffer the consequences.

Keith Strudler: Money And Sports

Oct 1, 2014

It was hard to tell former LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling what to do, when the NBA and collective America wanted him to sell his team because of racist commentary. That’s because Donald Sterling was, and is very wealthy. In fact, at a net worth of $2.8 billion, he’s the 223rd richest person in America. So making Donald Sterling do something is like getting the chief of police to move his car. He just doesn’t have to. That is, until he’s replaced by, say, the secretary of defense. That’s essentially the case for the NBA, which strong armed the sale of the Clippers to Steve Balmer, who at $22.5 billion is the nation’s 18th wealthiest. It’s cliché, but Balmer could essentially buy and sell Donald Sterling – eight times, in fact. Which made it much easier for the league to strongly encourage this transaction, equipped with the knowledge they’ve got the biggest kid on the block in their corner. That, more than anything, made it much easier to get rid of one aging racist bully.

I’m going to state an uncomfortable truth. I’m not a huge Derek Jeter fan. Right now, that feels a little like admitting you’re not a fan of puppies and kittens. But it is what it is. I’ve just never been a huge fan of the baseball player commonly known in these parts as The Captain.

Keith Strudler: Adrian Peterson

Sep 17, 2014

The NFL is like a giant vacuum. It pretty much sucks the air out of everything around it. That’s why in May, in the middle of the baseball regular season and the NBA playoffs, all people can talk about is the NFL draft. It’s an American obsession, caring more about professional football than baseball, basketball, hockey, global affairs, and your kid’s birthday combined. That’s the way the NFL likes it.

Keith Strudler: Ray Rice, Domestic Violence And The NFL

Sep 10, 2014

It’s a safe default to assume you’re always being watched. The notion of privacy is as antiquated as afternoon tea time and top hats. Particularly if you’re somebody, you live your life as if it’s on TV.

Keith Strudler: Roger Federer

Sep 3, 2014

 You know what they say in sports. There’s nothing like that 18th title. That’s the mantra right now for tennis star Roger Federer, who’s hoping to do just that in this final week of the US Open. Federer will play Gael Monfils in the quarterfinals, the next match in what has been a relatively simple run towards the event’s final weekend. Federer would be a favorite in both this match and the semifinal, although could face the top seeded Novak Djokovic in the final, if all stays to form. Djokovic defeated Federer in the Wimbledon final earlier this year, which some assumed might be Roger’s last chance, as they say.

Keith Strudler: Time To Lift Pete Rose's Lifetime Ban?

Aug 27, 2014

25 years is a long time. Perhaps not in true historical terms, like compared to the history of dinosaurs. But in the context of an average human lifetime, 25 years is a considerable chunk. That duration, 25 years, is now how long baseball record holder Pete Rose has been exiled from the sport for gambling on it as a player and a manager. Rose, of course, holds the major league baseball record for hits at 4,256. He made 17 all-star games and managed for five seasons. But, he also bet on baseball, including his own team, while he was in the sport. That, of course, defies the sacred code of any sport, the idea that someone on the field of play compromises the integrity of an unscripted outcome. So for that reason, compounded by the egregious tenor of his gambling habit and adversarial denial of its occurrence, former baseball commissioner Bart Giamatti essentially banned Rose in perpetuity in exchange for not pursuing any additional penalties, which would likely get really legal really fast. Giamiatti died soon thereafter, and the ban continued on, now almost in tribute to the former commissioner. So ending this 25 year ban feels about as easy as unmasking the tomb of the unknown soldier – even if we can do it, it’s not going to get a lot of support.

Keith Strudler: Little League

Aug 20, 2014

Life is confusing. I’m not talking about things like taxes or un-assembled furniture, which are offensively so. I’m talking about the daily quandaries, like whether gambling should be legal, or whether you should let your kids play with water guns. By all estimations, life is lived largely outside the lines, in the greys that color your daily existence.

Keith Strudler: Tony Stewart And NASCAR

Aug 13, 2014

To be honest, most of us have a hard time simply understanding the context of last week’s car racing death of Kevin Ward Jr., who was killed during a bizarre confrontation on a dirt track in Canandaigua, NY. After crashing out of the race, Ward left his car and walked onto the track in a confrontational manner. After narrowly missing being hit by one vehicle, he was struck to his eventual death by one driven by NASCAR star driver Tony Stewart, who himself has a reputation for hostility at the race track.

Keith Strudler: Bon Jovi And The Bills

Aug 6, 2014

For now, Buffalo Bills fans are Living on a Prayer. It’s not the faint hope placed on quarterback EJ Manuel’s arm, which will likely require a whole lot of divine intervention. It’s the far more existential question of whether the Buffalo Bills will in fact remain that, the Buffalo Bills. What’s certain is that the team will have a new owner following the death of Ralph Wilson, who bought the team in 1959 and kept them in the post-industrial town despite its shrinking market size and clear opportunities to move to greener pastures, places with better facilities and greater revenue potential. But Wilson promised to stay, something that made him perhaps the most beloved sports figure in Buffalo not named Jim Kelly.

Keith Strudler: Ray Rice's Suspension

Jul 30, 2014

There is literally nothing one can say in defense of Ray Rice, the Baltimore running back just suspended two games for assaulting his then girlfriend/now wife Janay Palmer, the aftermath of which was caught on tape as Rice dragged a lifeless Palmer out of a hotel elevator. Even though charges were dropped, thanks largely to Palmer’s unwillingness to press them, the verdict on Rice’s character is long decided. The fact is and will remain that a brutish NFL star pulled an inert female out of an elevator as if she were a piece of luggage, an obvious victim of his brutality.

Keith Strudler: God, Football And Righteousness

Jul 23, 2014

If football is truly a religion, making an NFL roster is some kind of sainthood.  It is to fly amongst the angels, gods in pads and helmets.

Keith Strudler: Jeter's Last All Star Game

Jul 16, 2014

Talking about Derek Jeter is like talking about Ronald Reagan. No matter what you may think of him, it’s almost irreverent to say anything bad out loud. That was certainly the case at last night’s MLB all-star game, where Jeter was given a standing ovation that would approach Cats on its final Broadway appearance. For over a minute, the Minneapolis crowd and every other player on the field stood and applauded the 40 year old when he came to bat in the first inning of his final all-star appearance. That even included St. Louis pitcher Adam Wainwright, who took off his glove and stepped off the mound to congratulate the Yankees star.

Keith Strudler: A World Cup Blowout

Jul 9, 2014

Having played my share of youth soccer, the vast majority for the JCC, I’m well familiar with blowout losses. We once lost a game 14-0. I’ve seen countless scores that looked like they were from football – the American kind. And now that I’m paying attention to underage soccer once again, this time for my kids, I’ve grown to accept that soccer can be a lot like an episode of Dallas. A lot of scoring, and hard to watch.

Keith Strudler: Jason Kidd's New Job

Jul 2, 2014

Life is always relative. A good job for someone might be a failure to another. Gourmet food in one kitchen is another’s table scraps. But nowhere is that more true than when you talk about salary. One man’s fortune is another man’s welfare. That seems to be the current case of NBA basketball coach Jason Kidd. After one year of his first ever coaching job as head coach of the Brooklyn Nets, the former all-star point guard has left New York for the same job in Milwaukee. Milwaukee. A city Brooklyn could swallow whole for breakfast. Who’s most famous resident was likely William Rehnquist. But it falls off quickly from there. Where they can’t get an arena built, a place NBA free agents see as some sort of purgatory between Boston and LA. That’s where Jason Kidd will spend his second year coaching in the NBA, just named head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks.