Category Archives: Columns

Previewing the 2019 MLB season

By J.D. McKay

The longest pro sports season has finally rolled around. It will not be done until November. A season that long is hard to predict, but I will try my best and hopefully get a couple of predictions correct.

National League: This league is a bit of a toss up because of the new talent. All three division winners from last season kept their star players, but some of the weaker teams added stars. For example, the Reds signed Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp. The Padres signed Manny Machado. The Phillies signed Bryce Harper and Andrew McCutchen. However, I see Harper as inconsistent and a little overrated. He has only had two seasons batting above 300 and usually bats closer to 250, very average for a MLB player.

I expect the Braves, Brewers, and Dodgers to all win their divisions for the second straight year. But I think the Reds will end their years of playing like garbage and make the playoffs as a wild card team. The Rockies will be the other wild card team. The Rockies will beat Puig and the Reds before losing to the Dodgers. The Braves will beat the Brewers in a rematch from last season’s playoffs before losing to the Dodgers who will be going to their third straight World Series.

American League: In the AL, I think that it will go about the same as it did last year. The Yankees, Red Sox, and Astros will be the best teams. The Red Sox will again win the AL east, and the Yankees will play the Angels in the wild card. Then, the Yankees will play the Red Sox and the Astros will play the AL Central champion Indians. This year the Yankees will finally get over the Red Sox but will lose to the Astros in the ALCS. For the second time in three years, the Dodgers will play the Astros in the World Series. However, this time the Dodgers will finally win in a six-game series.

Awards: This year’s AL Cy Young winner will be Trevor Bauer. Bauer is a pitcher who is very underrated. After being a pretty run-of-the-mill pitcher for the first several years of his career, he figured out his mechanics and dropped his ERA two points. He had the third lowest ERA in the majors last year and probably would have been the Cy Young winner had he pitched more innings. The NL Cy Young winner will be Jacob deGrom. Last year, his ERA was 1.70. However, with that low of an ERA, the wins did not come. He only won 10 games, had 9 losses, and 13 no decisions. The AL MVP will be Mike Trout, showing that he deserved the insane 12 year 440 million dollar contract. It honestly would not surprise me if deGrom also won NL MVP, but I will pick another actual position player. I expect Machado to win the award, even though he is on a average team.

Previewing March Madness

By J.D. McKay

We are finally into possibly the most exciting and wildest time of the year: March Madness. I will be previewing the tournament and giving you the answers to fill out the first perfect bracket ever

East: The East has the most hyped one-seed in the tournament in Duke. Led by Zion Williamson, who can only be described as a freak athlete, they have been one of the most interesting teams to watch this year. However, when their outside shots are not falling, they are very beatable. With that being said, I do not think we are going to see the first overall seed fall in the first round for the second year in a row. But I would not be surprised if they lost to the four-seed Virginia Tech in the Sweet 16 or the two- seed Michigan State in the Elite 8. In the South bracket I expect Michigan State, who is hot, to go to the Final Four.

West: The West seems to me to be the easiest bracket. The one-seed and two-seed are both good, but Gonzaga and Michigan finished the season with a loss in their conference championships. With that being said, there is not really any other team that separates themselves from the other 14 teams. Murray State has the most hyped non-Power Six player in Ja Morant. FSU is decent but not very consistent. But, I’m picking the Zags to get rolling and play Michigan State in the Final Four.

South: I get a sense of deja vu from this bracket, seeing Virginia, who lost to the 16-seed for the first time last year. I expect they do, too, and will come out prepared to beat the 16-seed Gardner-Webb University and play deep into the tournament. They also have Tennessee in their bracket, who has been solid this whole year. They lost to Kentucky once but have since beat them in their conference tournament. They have a lot of momentum and I expect them to ride that into the Final Four after beating Virginia in the Elite 8.

Midwest: This bracket has three of the most historic college basketball teams, Kansas, Kentucky, and North Carolina. I expect all three of these teams to make it to the Round of 32, but then I expect Kansas to fall to Auburn, who just beat Tennessee in the SEC Conference Championship and LSU earlier in the SEC Tournament. However, I expect North Carolina to beat UK in the Elite 8, in a rematch from the 2017 Elite 8. I distinctly remember that game because I watched in on ESPN in Guatemala with Spanish-speaking commentators. Plus, there was a huge shot made by then sophomore Luke Maye, who now leads the Tar Heels. I again expect UNC to beat UK and play Tennessee in the Final Four.

Potential Cinderella team: I do not expect any repeats of the Loyola Chicago run to the Final Four saw last year, but there are some teams that could bust some brackets this March. First off is Syracuse. The Orange are always good. They have one of the best head coaches in the country: Jim Boeheim. They are an eight-seed and could cause some problems. Another Cinderella team is Murray State. As I said above, they have Ja Morant, who is insanely athletic. He could prove to be problematic for some teams. The one other team I could see being a Cinderella team is St. Mary’s. They are coming off a conference championship against Gonzaga, where they upset the Zags.

Final Four: I picked Michigan State to play the Zags and Tennessee to play North Carolina, both of which are one vs two matchups. Michigan State will probably beat Gonzaga because they are very hot right now and are willing to be scrappy when needed as seen against Michigan in the Big Ten Championship game. North Carolina will beat Tennessee because they are experienced. In the championship game they will beat Michigan State. Two years ago, they were National Champions. Some of those players have gone pro or graduated, but other, like Maye have stuck around. Again, experience will be the factor that helps them bring the title to North Carolina.

While I was listening to this I listened to various versions of “One Shining Moment” on Youtube. It is fun to watch the best moments from the tournament on these videos, but more fun to watch the history and upsets live. Do not miss your chance to watch something you will one day tell your grandkids you saw live.

Four things to do or watch over Spring Break

By J.D. McKay

Typically I write my last or second-to-last column before break about five things to do or watch over the upcoming break. However, besides for March Madness, there just are not very many interesting upcoming events. Hopefully we sports fans will be able to survive the pre-March Madness lull and get into the tournament and then baseball season immediately after.

1- MLB Opening Day

There are a variety of options that sports fan can use to enjoy the March 28, the first day of the MLB season. The Cincinnati Reds are in town and play the Pirates. That will be the Reds’ first chance to show off their new toy, Yasiel Puig, in a meaningful game. It should also be a win because the Reds always win the first game of the season. A cheaper option is just to stay at home and watch the games on TV. Yankees fans such as myself will get to watch the pinstripes play the Orioles on ESPN. The Dodger play following the Yankees game and the Red Sox play following the Dodger game.

2- Sweet 16 and Elite 8 at KFC Yum Center

Usually, when I suggest sports events to go to, I try to suggest cheaper options to make games more affordable for my fellow broke students. For this, however, I do not really have an idea on price of tickets. Currently, the three game package is $250 dollars on Ticketmaster. After watching these games for several years and seeing low attendance because the teams are not playing close to home, I have wanted to go and expected them to be cheap. This year I am planning on going and unless U of L, UK, Duke, Purdue, or IU plays at the KFC Yum Center, I expect tickets will be affordable. Hopefully, a Cinderella team will make their way through the South Regional to add some excitement to the games.

3- Watch March Madness

If I really have to tell you this, you should start paying more attention to sports. It is the time of year when average basketball fans like myself pay lots of attention to games that I would not normally care about at all. It creates fans for the lower-seeded teams. Often, this fandom only lasts until the end of the game, but some Cinderella stories keep those fans deep into the tournament. Ultimately, the three-week period probably has the highest concentration of buzzer beaters and upsets of any time during the basketball season.

4- Fill out a bracket

The next part of this is potentially more fun, filling out a bracket. This might not sound fun to non-sports fans but will actually be worth your time. If you are an expert college basketball watcher, feel free to make educated guesses each game and have a terrible bracket. But if you are an ill-educated basketball fan, you can make some predictions based on other things. These uneducated brackets are often some of the best brackets. For example, one classic bracket idea is, if these teams mascots were to fight, who would win? Or, you could just pick the winning teams based on best mascot or best color scheme. Any bracket strategy is only crazy if it does not work.

Columnist explains love for hockey

By J.D. McKay

There is nothing interesting going on in FC sports right now. Boys’ basketball suffered a disappointing loss to New Albany in sectionals. That was the last winter sport still in season. Track is about three weeks into practices but have only had indoor meets, and softball and baseball are still in preseason. Things are not more interesting at the national scale.

The MLB is in spring training, and Bryce Harper finally signed with the Phillies last week, so I guess there was some interesting national sports news. The main winter sport, basketball, is also boring. The Warriors are going to be the one seed and probably win the finals again. However, the Lebron-led Lakers probably will not make the playoffs. That will be the first time Lebron has not made the playoffs in over 10 years. That will make the NBA playoffs lose viewership because the NBA is a league run by one player, Lebron James. Plus, there is nothing so wrong with sports right now that I need to suggest how to fix it.

However, the NHL season is in full swing and is almost ignored by sports fans. So, with nothing going on in sports, I figured I would give the NHL and minor league hockey leagues some attention.

First off, if you have never been to a hockey game, you need to get to one. Hockey is an amazing sport to watch in a stadium. There are four NHL teams about the same distance away from Galena, Indiana (Chicago Blackhawks, Columbus Blue Jackets, Nashville Predators, and St. Louis Blues), but those are all about four hours away. However, we have minor league teams within two hours of here (Evansville Thunderbolts, Indy Fuel, and Cincinnati Cyclones).

Another great hockey feature is change in champions. The NBA, NFL, and MLB all have several top teams that have been competing in the championship of their respective leagues, Patriots, Dodgers, and Warriors specifically. The NHL is not like that. Last year, an expansion team lost in the Stanley Cup Finals. To show even more that teams do not repeat very often, over the past three conference and Stanley Cup finals, only two teams have been in the conference championship twice. That is two out of ten teams. Another stat that shows the fluctuating levels of teams is that there were no repeat 1 seeds over those three years. The NFL had the Patriots repeat as the one seed twice and the NBA had the Warriors repeat as the one seed.

The last dope part about hockey is the violence. People’s number one complaint about hockey is that it does not have many goals and is similar to soccer. That is a ludicrous accusation. Hockey has violence that is sometimes similar to football but often very different. The player often skate across the ice and smash an opponent into the boards. The fact that ice is under the players instead of grass or concrete makes for some interesting looking and acrobatic collisions. Plus, fighting does not result in a suspension, fine or ejection. While it does result in a five-minute trip to the penalty box, both players have to go so the game stays even. Plus, these guys are often actually angry at each other so they have a reason to want to fight and to want to win the fight.

Now you know why I love hockey. It is the best winter pro sport. Unfortunately, Louisville does not have a hockey team. However, that should not stop you from going to a game somewhere. So before you judge hockey again, go to a game to see what exactly you are judging.

 

Louisville should be AAF expansion city

By J.D. McKay

On Feb. 9, the Alliance of American Football (AAF) played its first game. I, being a typical sports-loving American, tuned in; I was not disappointed. I watched the San Diego Fleet, whose logo is dope, play the San Antonio Commanders in a game that had just one touchdown but some good football violence. The Commanders eventually won the game, but the real winners were football fans everywhere.

The AAF is a minor league football league with no current connection to the NFL. The league has some failed NFL players like Trent Richardson who are still trying to get back the league. Some players are not NFL talent out of college but are looking for a chance to show their talent and get a shot in the NFL. The last type of player is guys who were practice squad players for the NFL, trying to show that they are legit NFL talents who should be on main rosters.

The league has some different rules from the NFL. For example, you can make clean, violent, hits on a quarterback. There are no kickoffs, and instead of an onside kick, you must run one offensive play and get 12 yards. They took away the extra point and made teams always go for two. This adds some pressure to the game to show how players play under pressure. My favorite thing, though, is the lack of commercial breaks. The league’s creator, Charlie Eberson said that to shorten the game, commercial will only be in natural points in the game. That is expected to cut down the actual game time by 30 minutes.

The league foresaw having money issues as many minor leagues do, and also planned some creative solutions to this problem. For example, the league does a regional draft. That means that teams get the chance to take players that play their college ball near the team. That means the Birmingham Iron will get the opportunity to draft players from Auburn or Alabama. With the players that Bama or Tiger fans got to watch and love in college, the fans will be more likely to go out and watch these guys. One example of this is Richardson. He won the Heisman Trophy at Bama before becoming a major NFL bust. Now he is playing for the Iron.

They also thought that cheap tickets would be a good way to bring in revenue. All tickets are 20 bucks. So if a fan bought a $20 ticket and goes to the game early enough than they could sit at the 50-yard line in the first row. That is cheaper than a bowl ticket for a terrible Louisville Cardinal team. This season I went to a Colts game and got tickets for just over $60. The tickets were just 20 rows from the top of Lucas Oil Stadium, so 20 bucks makes going to a game affordable.

Now, onto the future and local aspects of the AAF. Expansion football leagues typically do not last long. Just ask the P.O.T.U.S. and his USFL. But if the AAF could last long enough, it could become a true NFL minor league and stay in business for years to come like minor league baseball. For that to happen, the AAF will need to expand teams ever year until they have at least 16 teams. If the league adds two team for the next four years they would have the number they need. Then, NFL franchises would share an AAF team. The rules for this addition of a shared minor league team would probably be that both teams had to agree on all coaches. They would also have to be teams that are close to each other but not in the same divisions. For example, the Colts could share with the Bengals and the Steelers could share with the Eagles. This, however, would not last forever. Eventually the young league will add 16 more teams so it has 32 just like the NFL, with each team having one AAF team.

As the AAF expands, they should look to moving in Louisville at either Cardinal Stadium, the better of the two options, or Louisville Slugger Field, like Louisville FC has been doing. Louisville is a perfect expansion city because it has already shown that it can support minor league teams. Louisville City FC had the third highest attendance average in 2017. If Louisville fans will support a soccer team so enthusiastically, a football team should fit right in.

I also already have team name ideas, including the Louisville Thoroughbreds (Churchill Downs), Louisville Scandalmakers (U of L currently), and the Louisville Greatest (Muhammad Ali).

Plus, there are already five Power-Five conference teams (Notre Dame, Purdue, Louisville, Kentucky, and Indiana) in Indiana and Kentucky. Those schools are going to produce some AAF players over the next 10 years so fans will go to watch the players they liked watching in college because of the Regional Draft.

Non-NFL football leagues have not been very successful. The AAF is the most recent attempt and hopefully it will be the first true football league to stick it out and merge with the NFL into a minor league for the NFL. If it does merge like the American Football League did 1969, it will be around for the long hall and a major part of America’s athletic future.