Category Archives: Columns

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.

 

Classes give small schools a chance to win sectionals

By J.D. McKay

On Saturday, Carmel won the girls’ swimming state championship, which makes sense. They are the biggest school in the state by almost 800 students. However, this is their 33rd straight year winning the swimming state championship. Only three other schools in Indiana scored that have fewer than 1000 students: Madison, Corydon, and International. These schools did not really have a chance against Carmel, a school at least seven times their size.

This is not the only sport that this happened to, and Carmel is not the only school benefitting. Our tennis team has won 34 straight sectional championships. Being that successful for that long is impressive, but the competition can tarnish that streak. Our sectional currently has North Harrison, Salem, Eastern (Pekin), and Crawford County.

The way to fix this is to add classes. Classes mean that teams play other teams in sectionals that are similarly-sized schools. Football, basketball, softball, baseball, volleyball, and soccer all have classes and also are not consistently winning sectional championships like the non-classed sports. That would allow for some smaller schools like Corydon or Madison to be successful and win state championships in sports like swimming instead of just going in expecting to lose to Carmel by 400 points.

The main problem with this solution is what to do with individual state champions. For example, having an individual state champion in the 500-freestyle or in singles tennis. However, I do not think this would lead to a problem. There could just be a state champion by class. This could lead to more all-state athletes because top 8 in an individual sport is all-state, but this is not really a problem, either. Football, for example, has all-state athletes by class, so other sports should be able to do this as well.

For example, Jeffersonville had not won a sectional championship in wrestling from 2011 until 2018, because there was a high level of competition in the sectional. But after losing to New Albany or FC for six straight years, we were dropped from their sectional. Now their main competitors are two teams who are 3A in football while they are 6A. These schools that are a third of the size of Jeff often do not really have a chance against the big school.

It is time to give the small schools a chance to win sectionals in every sport.

 

Previewing a tainted Super Bowl LIII

By J.D. McKay

As Saints quarterback Drew Brees dropped back to pass with just under two minutes left in the NFC Championship game, his chances to advance to his second Super Bowl seemed pretty high. According to the ESPN win probability, they had an 82 percent chance to win. The result of the play will be remembered in New Orleans for years to come. He threw a pass to wide receiver Tommylee Lewis that would have ended in a touchdown had it been completed, but Rams corner Nickell Robey-Coleman blew up Lewis. The ball was still five yards away from Lewis when he was hit. The refs missed the call and the Saints kicked a field goal to go up by three. Two kicks by Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein later, and the Rams were leaving the Mercedes-Benz Superdome with a trip to the Super Bowl while Saints fans were leaving with a bad taste in their mouths.

So the stage is set for the second Patriots vs Rams Super Bowl. Unfortunately, I expect the Patriots to win their sixth Super Bowl. Patriots QB Tom Brady is too good and too experienced to lose. But, I will give what both teams need to do to win the game.

Patriots- The Patriots have the ultimate cheat code on their team in Brady and Bill Belichick, but what really makes them the best team in the NFL is their running game. Running back Sony Michel has had at least 75 rushing yards in all but one of their wins. In both Playoff wins, he had combined, 242 rushing yards. In games they lost, he averaged 46.2 rushing yards per game. So getting Michel going will get the Patriots their sixth Lombardi Trophy.

Rams- The Rams have a high powered offense, but the Patriots showed that a high powered offense does not faze them when they beat the Patriots. The Rams really need to have their star-studded defense play better than they have all season and get after Brady. Their defensive tackles are Ndamukong Suh and Aaron Donald, who are probably the best defensive tackles in football. Donald had 20.5 sacks which is a little over one sack per game. If he could get two sacks and hit Brady as he is throwing two more times, he could throw-off Brady’s rhythm and allow his offense to out-score the Patriots and win their second Super Bowl.

Bottom line: This Patriots team is the possibly the best football team of all time. Brady is also the best postseason quarterback ever. There is no way that he will lose two Super Bowls in a row. The Rams are on their way up, but this is not their year to be Super Bowl Champions. Final score: Patriots 24- Rams 16

 

Fixing the flawed NFL overtime system

By J.D. McKay

On Feb. 5, 2017, Tom Brady led one of the best comebacks in a game and forced the first overtime game in the Super Bowl. He won the coin toss and because the Atlanta Falcons defense could not begin to stop Brady, who had thrown for 416 yards before OT, he marched down the field and won, not allowing the Falcon’s gunslinger and league MVP Matt Ryan even a chance to win in OT. Once again, a coin toss has determined when the Patriots’ season ended.

The first overtime football game was played in 1958 and is still remember as the “Greatest Game Ever Played.” The Baltimore Colts’ Alan Ameche ran for a one-yard touchdown to beat the New York Giants in the NFL Championship game. Then, in 1974 the NFL added the overtime rule to all games, not just playoff games. The rules were sudden death overtime — any score, touchdown, field, or safety meant game over. After seeing a bit of a flaw in this system, the NFL changed the rules in 2012, saying that if the first team to get the ball scores a touchdown, the game is over, but if they kick a field goal, the other team has the chance to match or win with a touchdown. That seemed to solve the problem until the aforementioned Super Bowl LI.

Last Sunday, the coin toss at the beginning of OT that the Patriots won took the ball out of the hands of this season’s expected MVP Patrick Mahomes. Once again, they marched down the field and scored a touchdown, not letting the most talented young QB to even touch the ball. So, I will propose several NFL changes to make the overtimes more even in a game that has changed so the offense will always be successful.

Idea #1: Go to college football overtime rules

College football overtime rules are very entertaining and much, much better than NFL overtime rules. In college, one team starts at the 25-yard line, going into the endzone and tries to score. Then, touchdown, field goal, or without points, the other team’s offense gets the ball at the 25 and tries to score. These rules give both offenses the ball and makes both defenses play. These rules are also used in high school football, but the ball is started at the 10-yard line. As I said, college is at the 25, so I think that the NFL should start at the 50-yard line. It would make it less of a guarantee that a kicker could make his field goal like starting at the 25-yard line would but still is not as challenging as going 75 or 80 yards.

Idea #2: Play a shorter “fifth quarter”

A regular quarter in an NFL game is 15 minutes and obviously ends after 15 minutes of game time. In OT in the playoffs, the OT could last 15 minutes but because of the sudden death touchdown rule, often ends after whoever won the toss scores at TD. They could play a 10-minute OT period and and play it all the way through. If it is still tied after one period, then play a second period. This would give both teams a chance to have the ball and both defenses a chance to get beat.

Idea #3: Skills competitions*

NFL players are freak athletes and freakishly talented. We should let them show their talent to show the best players and who should win the game. Each team has different positions do drills, and have a best of seven series to decide the winner. Have the QBs try to hit various targets moving further and further away until one misses, then the winning QB earns his team one point. Then, have receivers do one-on-one with defensive backs, best of three series to see if the offense or defense gets a point. My last skills competition suggestion is for kickers. Have them try to kick the ball into one of the field goal post uprights. Moving further back as needed. However, the Bears may have an unfair advantage in this competition because their kicker is Mr. Upright, Cody Parkey.

These NFL rules seriously need to change. Imagine and MLB game going to extra innings and the visitors score a run in the top of the inning, ending the sudden death MLB game. Or, starting and NBA OT with the jump ball, but the team that wins the jump ball gets to keep the ball the whole overtime, not letting Lebron James or Giannis Antetokounmpo touch the ball. That seems ludicrous, but that is basically what the NFL is doing with their current rules.

 

*This suggestion is obviously a joke but is still better than the current NFL OT rules.