Tag Archives: sports

V for Validation – Villanova Wins!

villanova-championship-getty-ftr-040516jpg_moaqj8ev20p13cmwqztwo6nb

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.



Advertisements

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

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?

NHL Pulse: Goaltending so far…

1383358551000-USATSI-7524734

The NHL season is a quarter of the way over, and after a weird, couple of months, we probably know less about our favorite teams than we thought we did back in September. Aside from the Boston Bruins and the Chicago Blackhawks being their usual selves, everything else just doesn’t seem right. Who’d have thought the Colorado Avalanche would have more points than crazy Patrick Roy outbursts at this point in the season? Who could’ve seen Jaromir Jagr, at age 41, leading his team in scoring with 18 points while on the verge of breaking some records? What about the rise and fall of the New York Islanders, a promising young team in October to a mediocre one in November? On the flip side, you now have a Flyers team who is all of a sudden looking like a contender again. Ah, sports, am I right? You love it, you hate it, you want to throw a rabid chainsaw-wielding monkey at it, but at the end of the day, you love it. Another thing you gotta love about sports is how in any given season, there’s always a chance for new stars to shine, and so far in this young NHL season, a few unfamiliar names in goal have been shining the brightest.

Ben Bishop, Tampa Bay Lightning

Former Ottawa Senator Ben Bishop has been a Godsend for the Tampa Bay Lightning this year. Once the understudy to Craig Anderson in Ottawa, Bishop was picked up by the Bolts late last year and has been giving them the solid goaltending the team needed ever since. With Stamkos recently placed on the IR, Bishop might be seeing more pucks, but that shouldn’t be a problem thanks to his 13 – 3 – 1 record, 2.20 goals-against average, and .926 save percentage.

Ben Scrivens, LA Kings

Ben Scrivens

Jonathan Quick, the Stanley Cup-winning goaltender for the LA Kings, was placed on the IR after suffering a groin muscle injury on November 12. Although his numbers up to that point were average at best, Quick was/is still a talented goaltender who is arguably the backbone of that team, especially during their Cup run in 2012. This past summer, the Kings ceded former backup Jonathan Bernier to the Toronto Maple Leafs, and they received back up Ben Scrivens in return, which was a good (albeit strange given their previous goaltender’s performance last season) move for the Leafs but not so much for the Kings. Up to that point, Scrivens had only started 32 games total over two seasons, with a record of 11 – 14 – 2. Since filling in for Quick Scrivens has been sharp, shutting out the Devils and the Rangers back-to-back at the end of an east coast road trip, and owning a .927 save percentage and 1.37 goals-against average for the season. The LA Kings in turn haven’t missed a beat and are now 4 – 0 – 2 with Scrivens between the pipes.

Marek Mazanec, Nashville Predators

The Nashville Predators were certainly dealt a rough hand after learning on October 22nd that their star goaltender Pekka Rinne was diagnosed with an infection in his hip. As of today, the Predators still don’t know when he will be back, as Rinne is reportedly still on crutches. The team first tried to fill the Rinne-shaped hole with Carter Hutton, but he wasn’t able to step up, sporting a 3.39 GAA. So, the team gave the rookie Marek Mazanec from Czechoslovakia a go, and so far, he seems to be the calming medicine the Preds needed. He’s been pretty solid so far: 3 – 1 in his last four starts, and he hasn’t allowed more than two goals in either of them. Manzanec now has a 2.32 GAA with a .929 save percentage. Perhaps the kid is onto something.

Cam Talbot, New York Rangers

Let’s face it: the New York Rangers were an awful hockey team at the beginning of the year. Their offensive woes continued over from last season, a normal solid defense was porous and error-prone, and even King Henrik himself was ordinary at best. While the Rangers certainly had legitimate excuses (i.e. new coach, new system, and a long-ass road trip against the NHL’s top teams in the west to begin the season), something just wasn’t right. Lundqvist had to sit out a few games with an undisclosed injury, and during that time, rookie Cam Talbot had to keep the king’s throne warm. During his first 6 starts in the NHL, the “Goal-buster” Talbot has been everything the Rangers could ask for (and more): 5 – 1 with a 1.32 goals-against average and .949 SV%. Not only that, but he was the first Rangers goaltender to shutout the Canadiens in Montreal since Ed Giacomin in February of 1967. Oh, and he recorded another shutout in his next start in Nashville on Saturday. Keep Cam and Talbot On, New York.

How We’d Fix It: Columbus Blue Jackets

CBJWe all like to think we can fix things, from leaky faucets to broken windows to… professional sports teams. In this feature, we take something that is clearly broken and attempt to make it right again. 

by Jeff Yerger

Last night, as I watched my New York Rangers take on the Columbus Blue Jackets (which is essentially the Rangers of New York versus the Rangers of Ohio), I couldn’t help but feel bad for the Blue Jackets. This is a team that’s been around since 1997, and have still never won a playoff game (they have made the playoffs only once). Columbus has always been the island of misfit toys, inhabited by players who were once shining stars in cities like New York and Philadelphia but are now doomed to lose for the rest of eternity to those very teams that once loved them so.

It’s a cruel cruel world, yes, but it doesn’t have to be. The Blue Jackets do have a solid lineup, they just need to hit the refresh button. 16 years is long enough for mediocrity. Something has to change, and we here at the Sunday Barrel believe we have a solution.

1. Change the name. 

“The Blue Jackets” is an terrible name for a hockey team, and in recent years, the team’s jerseys don’t even show their old Blue Jacket logo, instead opting for the Ohio State flag swooshing around a star. BORING! Get rid of it! It’s tacky, uninspiring, played-out, and I hate it.

Here’s what you do… ready for this?… change the franchise’s name to… the Columbus Buckeyes.

Yes, you read that right: the Buckeyes. At first, I was thinking maybe the “Redshirts” would be cool (a la the Rangers’ “Blueshirts” alter ego) but then I realized, if the former Blue Jackets continue to suck, it’d be too easy to insert a “red-shirted college freshman athlete” joke here. So, the Buckeyes it is!

2. Okaaay… why “the Buckeyes”?

I think with “Buckeyes” comes tradition and culture. Ohio is the “Buckeye State,” and even though the state’s best sports team is also named the Buckeyes, I don’t see why the Blue Jackets can’t use the name too. I mean, there are multiple sports teams named the Jets or, say, the Rangers.

3. Eh, I don’t know man. The “Buckeyes” seems kinda lame. How can you be intimidated by a Christmas cookie?

Okay, yes, buckeye balls are delicious, but that doesn’t mean the name “Buckeyes” is ill-fitting for a hockey team. I mean, does the name “Canadiens” intimidate you? If you didn’t know any better, you’d think the Montreal Canadiens were a team of polite Mounties.

4. Change the logo and jerseys.

Make the logo classy and traditional. The busy, 90’s style logo isn’t working. If you need inspiration, look to any of the original six teams. It’s a fact: traditional is better. Switching sports for a second here, I believe that if the Philadelphia Eagles went back to wearing the simple kelly-green jersey, they’d be a better team [crosses fingers and prays to Michael Strahan that they never do].I think the same could be said for the Blue Jackets; maybe make the jerseys primary color red, with blue stripes (a la the Red Wings or Carolina, only instead of white, use blue). Just, whatever you do Columbus, do NOT hire the same guy who came up with these things.

5. The less cheesy, the better.

Yes! I cannot reiterate this enough. No more mascots running up and down the aisles, and certainly no cheerleaders allowed. Seriously, how old are you Columbus? Leave the mascots to the high school football teams. It’s just embarrassing when a professional sports team has a mascot dancing around to “Cotton Eyed Joe” and high-fiving drunk 50-year-olds all night (sorry, Mr. Met). It’s unnecessary and it gives a bad vibe.

Next, get rid of the stupid AC/DC “rock and roll salute you” cannon after Columbus scores a goal. It’s too busy and frankly, too cliche. Either create an original goal song or stick with “The Whip“. Better yet, play “Get Lucky” after every goal, because apparently that’s what it takes to win these days in Columbus.

6. Ok, what else? A name change and new goal song doesn’t exactly guarantee a trip to the Stanley Cup Final.

This is true. Personnel changes need to be made, which is why I’d bring in recently unemployed coach Peter Laviolette. The guy is a great coach who can bring some grit and organization to a team in desperate need of it (I wonder why the Flyers haven’t hired him… oh wait…). He has a proven winning track record, bringing a Stanley Cup to Carolina back in 2006 and making it to the Final with Philadelphia in 2010.

I feel the Jackets really do have a good, talented team on their hands. Unfortunately, they’re the dog who finally caught the car and now has no idea what to do with it. Marian Gaborik, their centerpiece in a blockbuster trade last season, is a proven 40+ goal scorer. He’s a stud, and teams would kill to have him, Sergei Bobrovsky is Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender who can steal games from you. On top of that, you have role-playing guys like Jack Johnson, Brandon Dubinsky, and Artem Anisimov who can score, kill penalties, and can provide a good core to build a team around. Hell, it’s easy to forget Columbus acquired freakin’ Nathan Horton from the Bruins this past summer, who’s out on injured reserve for now but should play well upon return. If they add a few upgrades on defense and some more grit, it wouldn’t surprise me if they ended up making a serious run for the playoffs come March and April. They have the goods, they just need some direction and a big fat breath of fresh air.