Category Archives: Sports

V for Validation – Villanova Wins!

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Villanova Wildcats, 2016 NCAA National Champions

by Jeff Yerger

NOTE: I wrote this yesterday, April 5, 2016, hence the time frame here. 

It’s been nearly 24 hours since Villanova’s historic NCAA Championship win over the University of North Carolina, and I’m still giddy with the emotions from last night. My calves hurt from jumping uncontrollably after Kris Jenkins nailed the game-winning three. I think I have a bump in my head from jumping into a TV. My legs ache from walking/jumping/skipping a Lancaster Avenue jam-packed with ecstatic fans like me from Gullifty’s Bar in Bryn Mawr to Villanova’s main campus. My face hurts from smiling like an idiot during the whole celebration up until I went to bed. And I’ve never felt better.

77-74, Villanova wins… is this real life? Did any of this actually happen? Did Jenkins really make that three, or is it still in the air? Was that actually Charles Barkley bouncing up and down like a school girl? To Villanova alumni and/or fans like me across the globe, this has been fairy tale material. Villanova’s not supposed to win these kinds of games. Only Kentucky, Duke, Kansas, and UNC are allowed to win championships, right? Not some Catholic school outside of Philadelphia. Four years ago, Villanova was written off. Today, a group of scrappy kids who grew up in the greater Philadelphia area have transcended into college basketball legends. Kris Jenkins has become a folk hero. Seniors Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu blossomed into superstars before our eyes in four years. These are our guys, man. They did it!

NCAA Basketball: Final Four Championship Game-Villanova vs North Carolina

Yeah, I’m still at a loss for words as to how to describe this feeling (although the word “relief” and the phrase “I can now die happy” come to mind). Last night was everything I dreamed of and more, and yet, I’m not sure I could’ve pictured a more perfect moment. It was so damn perfect. This is why we love sports. We live and die by one game, one shot, one play, one moment. Games like last night’s are why we subject ourselves to years of agony and frustration, because the reward can be so damn sweet.

On a personal level, Villanova winning the national championship means the world to me, and it is something I will cherish for the rest of my life. Villanova has always been a huge part of my life. Most of my family attended Villanova. My grandmother worked at the law school, while my grandfather was a professor in the library science department. My sister and I literally would not be here if it weren’t for Villanova, as our parents met there during their senior year. I’m so so lucky that they were able to afford to send me there when it was my time for college, and I don’t thank them enough for it.  To me, this win is for them; for us.

As for the rest of us, Villanova becoming national champions is validation with a capital “V” – validation for every “Piccolo Girl” tear, every early March Madness exit, and every player who has set foot in the Pavillion. It is validation for Big 5 basketball, and the great basketball culture the city of Philadelphia has to offer. It is validation for the “Nova Nation” – for every student, parent, professor, staff, alumni, and fan. It is validation for every sleepless night studying. It is validation for every dollar spent on student loans. It is validation for taking a chance and submitting an application to attend Villanova University. Villanova’s win validates the pride we all have for this great school and its community. It’s way more than basketball.

This year’s Villanova Basketball team played with an unmatched amount of heart, courage, and sportsmanship. They always hustled, and they never faltered under pressure, winning many games and countless hearts in the process. Every player on this team played an important role in this championship, from the walk-ons to the video coordinator, because that’s what great teams do. We always knew we had a great coach in Jay Wright, who now has a new ring to add to his spectacular wardrobe. We always knew we had a great team that was capable of great things, and it’s about time we got some validation. We earned it.



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An Apology Letter to the New York Mets

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 21:  David Wright #5 of the New York Mets celebrates with his teammates after defeating the Chicago Cubs in game four of the 2015 MLB National League Championship Series at Wrigley Field on October 21, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois.  The Mets defeated the Cubs with a score of 8 to 3 to sweep the Championship Series.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

CHICAGO, IL – OCTOBER 21: David Wright #5 of the New York Mets celebrates with his teammates after defeating the Chicago Cubs in game four of the 2015 MLB National League Championship Series at Wrigley Field on October 21, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. The Mets defeated the Cubs with a score of 8 to 3 to sweep the Championship Series. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Dear Mets,

Congratulations. Congratulations on your well-earned National League Pennant. For a while there, I never thought this day would come, and now I can only say one thing: I’m sorry. I’m truly sorry my fandom for you ever waned. This is not me hopping aboard the bandwagon, for I’ve always been a supporter. This is me coming to my senses, not taking leave of them.

All my life, I have been surrounded by loud and proud Yankee fans (emphasis on the LOUD). Every baseball season, it’s the same old story: the Yankees and their fans brag about shit-ton of championships they bought… I mean won, while the Mets biggest accomplishment in the past 20 years was Keith Hernandez’s Seinfeld appearance. Yet, despite being blinded by pinstripes, I stayed true to my team of permanent underdogs. The universe wasn’t yet graced with my presence for the 1986 World Series, so the Mets of the 90s/2000s are all I have. I’ll always remember Mike Piazza’s calm demeanor in the batter’s box, before he would unleash a lightning bolt of a swing that’d send the baseball to the nearest runway at LaGuardia. I’ll also never forget the likes of John Olerud, Al Leiter, John Franco, Eduardo Alfonso… all these guys were my baseball heroes back when I could barely swing an aluminum bat. The Mets didn’t always sport the best players in the MLB, and but these guys were MY players, dammit, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

But then I went to college in Philadelphia during the first year of what I like to call the “Great Mets Collapse,” and suddenly being a Mets fan wasn’t so easy. Of course, the Phillies just happened to be on the rise those years while the Mets choked more than Pierce Brosnan eating a piece of shrimp. In Philadelphia, Phillie fans came out of the woodwork, if only to join the #LOLMets bandwagon. I was humiliated. I was suddenly being persecuted for my beliefs in a team that always wanted us to believe in them. Instead of my folk heroes of youth, all I had to cling onto (other than Mr. Met in human form:  David Wright) was Jason Bay, Ike Davis, and… for some reason… Gary Sheffield.

I was angry. I mean, you guys were involved in a fucking Ponzi scheme for Christ sake! How was I supposed to defend you? I never wanted it to be like this. Because of all this, the Mets were no longer on my radar. Baseball, in general, had become a dying interest of mine. In the past, I always had room for the Mets despite my rabid New York Ranger obsession. Yet during these years, I felt betrayed, and it was hard to find a silver lining in my Mets.

Within the last few years, I began to appreciate the beauty of baseball again, coming to terms with my team’s mediocrity. I mean, the Mets couldn’t be bad forever right? Baseball, at least to me, is about hanging out with family or friends in the summer, having a few beers, and watching a game develop and grow. That’s what the American dream is all about, and that’s what summer should be about. I came to this realization last year at Citi Field, for a meaningless game between the Mets and the Miami Marlins. It was just my dad and I, and despite the Mets losing 5 – 1, we still had the best time; just two guys drinking, bonding, and enjoying a warm summer night. The Mets were back on my radar again, and after this year, they have become more than just a fleeting blip.

So, my dearest New York Mets, I hope you will forgive me. This has been one hell of a season, and man, it has been damn fun to watch. Your pitching, your guts, your crying short stops, and your otherworldly 2nd baseman have given me hope in this gutsy little team of superheroes from Queens. The darker the days, the sweeter the light is at the end, and right now, this light is shining brightly. As I mentioned earlier, Yankee fans may be loud, but that sound is fading. We Met fans have kept our mouths shut all these years, and for the first time in a long time, our vocal chords are warmed up and ready to be heard.

You’ve already made us proud this season, and perhaps you have conquered the biggest accomplishment of all: you have made us Met fans believe in the amazin’ again. As for me, I’m sorry it took so long for me to catch up. I just got stuck.

Jeff

The Bandwagon Guide to the 2013-14 New York Rangers

2013-14 Eastern Conference Champions New York Rangers

by Jeff Yerger

Can you feel it – that buzz in the air? For the first time in 20 years, the air smells fresher, the sky seems bluer, and the sun feels warmer, because the New York Rangers are finally back in the Stanley Cup Final. Is this real life? How did we get here? It’s been such an incredible journey, and as Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault put it, if you told me back in October… hell, even four weeks ago… that the Rangers would be the hottest team in hockey playing for the franchise’s 5th Stanley Cup in June, I’d ask what you were smoking.

The elation we die-hard Ranger fans are feeling right now is hard to explain to someone who isn’t a huge sports fan. You might get some weird looks, a scoff, a “pssh, whatever”, or a “you can’t get a tattoo of Henrik Lundqvist THERE!” from people, but we know this is a special time and it’s truly a special feeling. The Rangers are in the Stanley Cup Final… I mean, just typing those words made me giddy. There is a buzz about the city and the tri-state area that’s usually reserved for the New York Giants every four years. You can’t walk five feet without talking about the Rangers or seeing someone wearing Rangers apparel. Just the other day, on the way into the city, my friend and I struck up a conversation with this random dude only because he was wearing a Brian Leetch shirt. We spent nearly 40 minutes talking about the Rangers and their magical playoff run. For those 40 minutes, the three of us were the bestest of friends!

Being a Rangers fan is like that. Once you discover that a person is a Rangers fan, they immediately become family. It’s cool, no worries, just as long as you know who Mark Messier is. Wait, you don’t? I’ll give you a minute to do a quick Google search. It’s okay, I’ll wait. [whistles and looks around aimlessly] … [checks watch] … [Googles Mark Messier anyway, gets lost for an hour watching Messier highlights on YouTube] … woah, sorry about that, where was I?

Yes, it’s a great time to be a Ranger fan, and if you don’t want to miss out on the Blueshirt Mania, there’s plenty of room aboard the bandwagon! But before you hop along, you’re going to have to know a few things first. So, I’ve decided to make the definitive Bandwagon Guide to the 2013-14 New York Rangers. Let’s get you up to speed…

At the end of the lockout-shortened 2013 season, the New York Rangers were in a bit of turmoil. They didn’t quite capitalize on the 2011-12 team’s success, and after losing to the Boston Bruins in 5 games in the second round, the Rangers management fired then-coach John Tortorella, and replaced him with former Vancouver Canucks coach Alain Vigneault. With this transaction, the Rangers went from a shot-blocking, defensive machine to an offensive and speed-minded philosophy. I’d like to tell you that it all clicked right away, I’d also like to tell you we were one of the top teams in the East this year, but alas, it didn’t quite go that way. The Rangers struggled adapting to the new system, which in hindsight, is understandable. Patience was needed, but Ranger fans are anything but patient. It was a struggle for this team, but around December and early January, things started to click. The Power Play finally looked like a Power Play, goaltender Henrik Lundqvist (more on him later) started playing like himself again, and suddenly, the Rangers looked like a contender. Well, at least a playoff contender. In March, the Rangers made a trade deadline deal to secure their status as a playoff contender, trading beloved captain Ryan Callahan to the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for superstar veteran forward Martin St. Louis, who, along with center Brad Richards, won a cup in 2004 with the Bolts. The hope was, with him and Richards reunited, their chemistry from 2004 would reignite.

The Rangers opened the playoffs playing against hated rivals the Philadelphia Flyers. It was a rough series, but the Rangers prevailed in seven (and it also produced one of the greatest hockey gifs of all time). In the Second Round, the Rangers were pitted against Stanley Cup (and Pierre McGuire’s) favorites the Pittsburgh Penguins. After winning the first game by scoring twice in overtime, the Rangers suddenly found themselves down in the series 3 – 1, after a pitiful game 4 in which the Rangers were booed by their own fans (we’re not always that mean, trust me… it’s tough love). Following that dreadful performance, the next day news came out that the mother of Martin St. Louis passed away unexpectedly of a heart attack. Despite a heavy grieving heart, St. Louis decided to join his Rangers team in Pittsburgh, and from there, the team bonded out of tragedy. St. Louis provided an emotional lift the Rangers desperately needed, and scored a huge goal in Game 6 at the Garden with his family present. The Rangers came back to defeat the Pittsburgh Penguins and move on to play the Montreal Canadiens in the third round of the playoffs.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-New York Rangers at Pittsburgh Penguins

Following an emotional second round victory, the New York Rangers came out swinging in Montreal for Game 1, scoring 7 goals in an arena that has plagued the team for years. They won the first two games handily in Montreal, and in Game 4, St. Louis scored a magnificent game winner in overtime to put them up 3 – 1 in the series. Finally, in game 6 at a manic Madison Square Garden, Henrik Lundqvist stonewalled the Canadiens in a 1 – 0 shutout, securing the Rangers place in the Final. It’s truly been a hell of a run, and the previous paragraphs don’t even come close to conveying the waves of emotion we Ranger fans have been enduring these past couple weeks. It’s been fun, but there’s still a story yet to be written.

Here’s some Rangers-related music you need on your iPod:

The New York Rangers Goal Song

The New York Rangers Victory Song

The 2013-14 Rangers Locker Room Victory Song (for some reason…)

Here are some players you need to know:

Ryan McDonagh – #27 – Defenseman

Nickname: Mack Truck

The lowdown: Since joining the Rangers in 2011 after we practically stole him from the Montreal Canadiens, Ryan McDonagh has become an absolute monster of a defenseman. Not only is the kid smart as hell defensively, but he can really contribute offensively (he has 2 goals and 10 assist thus far in the playoffs). Mack Truck is going to be a true star in this league. Look for him to continue to improve in the final round.

Mats Zuccarello – #36 – Left Wing

Nickname: Zuuuuuuuuuuuuc!!

The lowdown: When he isn’t journeying across Middle-earth, Mats Zuccarello – a.k.a. the little Italian kid from Norway – is racking up points and creating plays like no other player on the ice. It’s incredible how well he can see a play develop. Perhaps the view at 5’7” is pretty good. The bite-sized forward will beat you with his speed and certainly isn’t afraid to fight the big boys.

Rick Nash – #61 – Left Wing

Nickname: Nashty

The lowdown: Despite being arguably the Rangers’ most skilled forward, Rick Nash hasn’t exactly lived up to the lofty expectations set by Ranger fans. Nevertheless, when Nash plays in the dirty areas of the ice and gets to the net as much as possible, he is an absolute force.

Derek Stepan – #21 – Center

Nickname: Steps or D-Step

The lowdown: If you watched the last few Rangers/Habs games, you might be wondering who that bionic man wearing that goofy obnoxious helmet was. Well, it was Derek Stepan, and here’s what happened: in the previous series against the Canadiens, his jaw was broken in Game 3 by former teammate and friend Brandon Prust after he blindsided Stepan with a vicious high hit. Stepan stayed in that game, despite his jaw being broken (though he didn’t know it at the time). He then had jaw surgery, missed only one game (!), and despite barely being able to talk and drink food from a straw, Stepan came back for Game 5 to score two goals. Hockey players, amirite?

Chris Kreider – #20 – Left Wing

Nickname: THE Kreider

The lowdown: Here’s another young budding star from the New York Rangers. Chris Kreider has 10 points in these playoffs (4G, 6A), but the kid has done a lot more than that. For a man his size (6’3”, 226lbs), he should NOT be allowed to be as fast as he is. And boy, is he fast, which is part of the reason the Rangers have been so successful in the post-season. Teams can’t seem to adjust to the Rangers speed, thanks to players like Kreider, Carl Hagelin, and Derek Brassard.

Brad Richards – #19 – Center

Nickname: Broadway Brad

The lowdown: Brad Richards has become the vocal veteran leader every good team needs. He leads both on the ice and off, and despite an inevitable buyout looming this summer that should send him packing and free up cap space for the Rangers, Richards is having quite a productive post-season run (5G, 6A). And to think it was only a year ago he was benched by Torts in the playoffs due to lack of production.

Martin St. Louis – #26 – Right Wing

Nickname: Marty

The lowdown: Along with Richards, St. Louis has become another veteran presence in the locker room. As mentioned above, he has persevered through some pretty tough times this post season due to his mother’s passing. Yet, despite his slow adjustment to New York and his recent personal troubles, St. Louis has been arguably one of the best players this team has to offer, and he has given this Rangers team a huge emotional lift.

Dominic Moore – #28 – Center

Nickname: Moorsy

The lowdown: If you should root for anybody this June, root for Dominic Moore. In 2012, Dominic Moore, while playing for the San Jose Sharks, left the team during a playoff run to be with his wife Katie, who had just been diagnosed with a  rare form of liver cancer, a disease that ultimately ended her life in January of 2013 (you can view their story in an emotional video here). Moore did not play at all last season. Last summer, he re-signed with the Rangers (the team that originally drafted him in 2000). Today, Dominic Moore plays in the memory of his wife Katie, and along with Brian Boyle and Derek Dorsett , he is an essential part of the Rangers’ strong fourth line. On Thursday, in true poetic fashion, Moore scored the game-winning goal to send the New York Rangers to their first Stanley Cup Final in 20 years.

Henrik Lundqvist – #30 – Goaltender

Nickname: The King

The lowdown: Where do I even begin? Henrik Lundqvist, the biggest and best-dressed athlete in New York, has been the foundation of the New York Rangers for nearly 10 years. Did I mention he is also incredibly good-looking? Since first stepping on the ice for the Rangers back in 2005, Lundqvist has quickly become one of the world’s elite goaltenders. When Lundqvist is on his game (which is A LOT these days), he’s virtually impenetrable and he is on a whole other level than anyone else. Just take a look at his 2013-14 playoff stats: 12 wins (1st in the NHL), .928 Save Percentage (1st in the NHL), 2.03 Goals Against Average (2nd in the NHL), and a shutout (where he made this ridiculous save) to send his team to the Stanley Cup Final to boot.  The only thing missing from his resume is a Stanley Cup.

henrik-lundqvist5

Jack White’s Gimmicky Lazaretto Ultra LP

Jack White, the palest man on earth and occasional guitar player, announced yesterday that his new album, Lazaretto (6/10 on Third Man), will also be released in an “Ultra LP” format. The Ultra LP will contain all sorts of whozits and whatzits galore, per White’s site:

-180 gram vinyl
-2 vinyl-only hidden tracks hidden beneath the center labels
-1 hidden track plays at 78 RPM, one plays at 45 RPM, making this a 3-speed record
-Side A plays from the outside in
-Dual-groove technology: plays an electric or acoustic intro for “Just One Drink” depending on where needle is dropped. The grooves meet for the body of the song.
-Matte finish on Side B, giving the appearance of an un-played 78 RPM record
-Both sides end with locked grooves
-Vinyl pressed in seldom-used flat-edged format
-Dead wax area on Side A contains a hand-etched hologram by Tristan Duke of Infinity Light Science, the first of its kind on a vinyl record
-Absolutely zero compression used during recording, mixing and mastering
-Different running order from the CD/digital version
-LP utilizes some mixes different from those used on CD and digital version

Wowee!! A 3 speed record?! What a GAME CHANGER! Let’s see your shitty-ass 128 kbps mp3 do that! Sarcasm aside, I’ll admit it that it’s pretty cool White is putting so much thought into this product, which will be available at a reasonable price too. I’m just surprised he left out all the other features of the “Ultra LP” in this press release. Here are a few more features of the upcoming Lazaretto Ultra LP Jack White forgot to mention:

– record can be used as Frisbee

– this vinyl will be more vinyl-y than regular vinyl

– free fedora hat with every purchase!

– if placed on a table, record can be cool decorative place mat

– blew a tire on your bike? Replace it with the Lazaretto LP!

– add tomato sauce and cheese for a delicious vinyl pizza

– use this LP as a cool belt buckle. The ladies will love it!

– Absolutely zero originality used during recording, mixing and mastering

– Dead wax area on Side B contains a hand-etched hologram of Tupac, the first of its kind on a vinyl record

– the end of the album features a never-ending loop of Robin Williams talking

– if played loud enough, you can drown out the sound of your pathetic cries and hopes for a White Stripes reunion

– when played backwards, this album will reveal satanic messages as well as the whereabouts of Meg White

– hidden tracks are actually just Jack White farting whilst talking about vintage guitars

– finally, you can trade this record for the new Fucked Up album Glass Boys, available June 3, which will no doubt be a better investment in the long-term than this gimmicky bullshit

That Sunday Barrel’s 2014 NHL Playoffs Predictions

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! There’s snow on the ground, the air is chilly, and some exciting hockey is ready to be played. Why yes it’s… [checks calendar] mid-April, and the NHL Playoffs are finally here!

Even for the first round, there are some really exciting match ups going on: San Jose vs. LA, Boston vs. Wings, and Rangers vs. Flyers. There are also some interesting questions waiting to be answered, like: Will this finally be the year the Blues hoist the Cup? Will this finally be there year San Jose doesn’t choke (spoiler alert: it won’t)? Will Columbus win a playoff game for the first time in franchise history? Who will have the best playoff beard? Will Canada win a Gold Medal AND a Stanley Cup all in the same year (those friendly bastards will be relentless if Montreal wins)? And… can anybody beat Boston?

Like Vince Gilligan, the NHL Playoffs always provide the answers, but it’s more fun to predict the answers yourself isn’t it? Below are my picks for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, coming from a biased (but reasonable) Rangers fan:

Round 1

Ducks over Dallas in six

LA over San Jose in six

Avalanche over Wild in five

Chicago over Blues in seven

 

Boston over Wings in five

Montreal over Tampa in six

Penguins over Columbus in seven

Rangers over Flyers in seven

 

Round 2

LA over Ducks in seven

Chicago over Avs in six

 

Boston over Montreal in six

Rangers over Pittsburgh in six

 

Round 3

LA over Chicago in seven

Boston over Rangers in seven

 

Stanley Cup Final

Boston over LA in six

 

Notes from the Rangers fan in me:

I think the Rangers are actually in a good position for a long playoff run. Obviously, with Henrik Lundqvist in net, they’ll have an advantage over anyone they play. Despite a really poor start to the season, the King has been lights out since January, and he looks more than ready for the playoffs. This year’s breakout line of Zuccarello-Pouliot-Brassard, as well as the emergence of a strong/reliable fourth line, will be the difference makers this year. The Rangers will also need to cash in on the Power Play more often than not, as that’s always been their Achilles Heel in the Spring. And if the Rangers’ big name forwards Rick Nash and Marty St. Louis actually play like the stars they are, New York’s chances are pretty good. While I believe it’s Boston’s Cup to lose this year, this New York Rangers team can beat anyone in the East, as long as they use their speed and play smart defense.

 

About Last Night: Carter Hutton’s Save of the Year

by Jeff Yerger

Last night, the New York Rangers defeated the Detroit Red Wings 1-0 in what was a fierce goaltending dual. Henrik Lundqvist and Jimmy Howard played out of their minds, as they saw 86 shots(!) total. 86 shots?! Do you realize how ridiculous a total that is? Lil Jon could not even fathom that many shots. And these weren’t just logo tappers either. Both teams came at their opponents with good, creative opportunities while Howard and Lundqvist made it look easy. Rangers top scoring hobbit forward Mats Zuccarello scored the only goal of the game on a fluke failed pass.  Howard played it right, unfortunately for him, the puck took a bounce right over his right pad.

As good as Howard and Lundqvist were at Madison Square Garden last night, the biggest save of the night didn’t happen in New York. Instead, we turn to Philadephia (because, you know, that’s where you go for good goaltending…) where the Flyers battled the Nashville Predators. The Predators have had their fair share of goaltending woes this season, mostly due to the extended absence of Pekka Rinne, but last night the hockey gods smiled upon them as backup Carter Hutton made the greatest save of the year. Check it out below; it’s absolutely unbelievable. No, seriously, like, I don’t believe it actually happened. I mean, come on, look where Hutton is in relation to where the puck is when Flyers forward Michael Raffl shoots. Fucking Stretch Armstrong wouldn’t even be able to make that save! Hutton should probably just retire now, as it’s all downhill from here. Nashville ended up winning the game in a shootout, so I guess you can say Hutton single-(left)handedly stole a point from the Flyers.

Hey, Michael Raffl: how pissed?