In the end, the game comes down to one thing: man against man. May the best man win.
~ Sam Huff
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Ernie Banks was baseball royalty, and his passing on Jan. 23, saddened not just the sports world but anyone who ever got a chance to listen to the man who spread sunshine wherever he went.
He was one of the greatest players of his era, with 512 career home runs with the Chicago Cubs, and hit 40 or more home runs five times as a shortstop.
What people don't realize is that Banks -- and not Frank Robinson -- was technically the first African-American to manage in the major leagues.
In 1973 -- two years before Robinson was hired to manage the Cleveland Indians -- Banks, a coach on the Cubs staff, took over the team in a 2-2 tie in the 11th inning against the San Diego Padress when Cubs manager Whitey Lockman was ejected.
Lockman handed the lineup to Banks, and an African-American manager was officially calling the shots in a regular season major league baseball game for the first time.
Banks' record as a manager? 1-0.
"I picked Joe Pepitone to face a left-handed pitcher. ... He's a left handed hitter, and he got the hit to win the game," Banks told Comcast Sportsnet Chicago, recalling the historic game. "Then I brought in Bill Bonham, a right-handed pitcher who didn't do very well during the season and most of the pitching coaches didn't like him. I did, and he came in and saved the game."
There was no particular notice of the significance of the moment.
"I shook everybody's hands in the clubhouse," Banks said. "After it was over, they didn't congratulate me, nobody congratulated me, and so I congratulated myself. 'Thank you Ernie, you did a wonderful job.' "
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Elvis was a big football fan. In an interview conducted at a World Football League game between the Memphis Southmen and the Charlotte Hornets in 1975 — what does that tell you about how big a football fan Elvis was? — the King spoke of his love for the game. “I enjoy rugged sports,” Elvis said. “I’m not knocking people who like golf and tennis and other things. But I like rugged sports such as boxing, football, karate and things like that.
“I have a great ambition to play football,” Elvis continued. “I’ve always had and still have, believe it or not. The thing I keep up with most is professional football. I know all the players. I know their numbers and who they play for. I watch all the games I can. I get the films from the teams themselves if I can. Next to the entertainment thing and music, football is the thing that I enjoy best.”
Elvis was good friends with Cleveland Browns guard Gene Hickerson, who would send Elvis Browns’ game films which he would break down. He drew up his own plays, some of which have been sold at auctions.
Elvis loved playing sandlot football. He sponsored a team in Memphis called the “Elvis Presley Enterprises Football Team” and had jerseys made up with everybody’s name on the back.
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Who knows what the Washington Redskins will do to defend their off season championship.
Trade for Jim Harbaugh? Draft Jameis Winston?
In reality, there may not be many options for off season splashes. Jay Gruden is in the first year of a five year contract, and reports are he will be back for next season. This team has so many personnel needs that drafting a quarterback with their high first round pick may not be an option -- especially if there are people in this organization who believe one of the three quarterbacks on the roster can still actually play the position in the NFL.
So what should this franchise do to show its fans that they would stand for the sort of debacle that has been the 2014 season?
Team president Bruce Allen should take a page from his late father, former Redskins coach George Allen, to send a message to fans.
Following the 1973 season, after Washington went 10-4, finishing second in the NFC East, and then losing to the Minnesota Vikings 27-20 in the first round of the playoffs, George Allen declared there would be no team picture of the 1973 squad. "If this team doesn't make it to the NFC championship game, it doesn't deserve its picture taken," Allen wrote in a team memo.
Well, he didn't stick to that policy in future seasons, but the notion may be the right one. But let's not stop at a team picture.
Next year, at the Redskins annual Welcome Home Luncheon, declare that there will be no offensive or defensive player of the year. Stand up there and say nobody on this 2014 team is deserving of any award.
While you’re at it, put a padlock on the practice bubble and make them practice outside. Fire the highly-touted chef and tell them to shop for their own food. And maybe get rid of the charter flights and fly coach.
You get the idea. It’s been painful for Redskins fans. It might be easier for them if they knew it was painful for everyone.
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Last week it was the draft bowl -- Andrew Luck vs. Robert Griffin III, and Redskins fans wondering what might have been if the Indianapolis Colts had fallen in love with Griffin over Luck for the first pick of the 2012 draft.
This week it's the trade bowl -- watching the depth that that St. Louis Rams acquired out of the deal that sent the number two pick of that draft to Washington to give the Redskins a shot at Griffin.
Draft bowl, Trade bowl -- the Redskins come out on the losing end no matter what.
The Rams got the Redskins first round picks in 2012, 2013 and 2014 -- and a second pick in the 2012 draft. Their front office took those four picks and, through trades, turned them into eight players -- five of them starters. One backup running back ran for 1,000 yards last season. Only two of the eight proved to be busts.
No matter what happens Sunday at FedEx Field, the Rams won the Trade Bowl with that deal, as Griffin has gone from the NFL Rookie of the Year in 2012 to an unhappy backup quarterback now.
Before Washington can start winning games on the field, they have to start winning these boardroom battles -- the Draft Bowl, the Trade Bowl -- the personnel moves that produce a winner on the field. They have to draft better. They have to make more successful trades.
They have to start winning before one single player ever steps on the field.
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It is Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden's ego that put Colt McCoy in position today to be the starting quarterback for this team against the Indianapolis Colts.
I'm not criticizing Gruden. It's just what coaches do, especially quarterback coaches. They see a guy from afar that they like and are convinced that if they laid hands on him, he would be healed and become a winning NFL quarterback.
We saw it here before with Mike Shanahan, who coveted John Beck from afar, after he had already washed out with two teams, but still Shanahan felt compelled to trade for him to bring him to Washington.
Mike Shanahan found out soon he wasn't a miracle worker, but he gave you a glimpse into the mentality of these coaches when he declared about Beck and Rex Grossman that he would "stake his reputation" on their ability in play in the NFL.
Jay Gruden watched Colt McCoy from afar when McCoy was struggling in Cleveland and Gruden was the offensive coordinator in the same division in Cincinnati. He thought to himself, I can get this guy to play and play well.
So Gruden called McCoy last April and asked him to sign as a third string quarterback with the Redskins, telling him that "you never know what could happen."
Washington didn't need a third string clipboard holder. They already had one in Grossman, who had the respect of his teammates and seemed perfectly comfortable in that role.
Yet Gruden went out of his way to get Colt McCoy to come to Washington? Why? Because he thought he could make this guy a successful NFL starting quarterback.
He'll have to prove it Sunday.
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(Promotional / Lange/ Jeter - GMU Patriot Center)
Jimmy Lange returns to the ring at the Patriot Center Saturday night after a two-year layoff, and that is good news for local boxing fans.
Lange, 39, has been a fixture in local boxing for 20 years, and has always been an entertaining fighter who puts on good show whenever he fights, and has promoted some great boxing cards at the Patriot Center on the campus of George Mason University in Fairfax.
I remember being skeptical when they announced the first Lange show at the Patriot Center, doubting they could draw a respectable crowd. Was I wrong – they drew about 5,000 people, a remarkable crowd for a local boxing event, and have consistently brought good crowds to Patriot Center fight cards since.
Saturday night promises to be a memorable one – a rematch of the battle two years ago between Lange (38-5-2) and another local fan favorite, 38-year-old middleweight Tony Jeter, who has also made his mark in the area as a fighter and promoter.
They waged a brutal slugfest the last time out, with Jeter (17-4-1) winning a close, controversial decision. Both have local, devoted fan followings, and it promises to be a great night of local boxing.
At stake will be the vacant North American Boxing Association USA middleweight title.
Also on the show is female boxing star and world champion Tori Hunter, and a former Washington Redskins practice squad player, linebacker Mike Balogun, a heavyweight from Upper Marlboro, Md., who is coming off a second-round knockout win in his pro debut last month. The former University of Oklahoma standout linebacker will face Percy Womack on the card.
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