Kaepernick Only Has Himself to Blame… Plus, Defending Your Brand

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Free agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick remains unsigned. There are some who feel he is being blackballed for taking a knee during the playing of the American national anthem before every game during the 2016 NFL season. Kaepernick is not being blackballed, rather he dug himself a hole that he can’t get out of. Despite the actions of Michael Bennett and Marshawn Lynch over the weekend, most if not all of Kaepernick’s momentum gained from his publicity stunt has disappeared. Even Kaepernick’s old team, the San Francisco 49ers, a team based in one of the most politically progressive cities in the United States, feels he has become more of a liability and did not make any effort to re-sign him. Nobody wants to be associated with a player who is not only against cops, but supports the violent demise of law enforcement officials who are charged with protecting the communities we live in, that includes front line police officers. The colour of one’s skin be damned. Kaepernick knows that and he has only himself to blame for his demise.

When the Miami Dolphins were looking for a quarterback to replace the injured Ryan Tannehill, they managed to lure Jay Cutler out of retirement and have him as their starter rather than Kaepernick. That caused many who cover the team and the NFL to scratch their heads and even sparked outrage. Liberal filmmaker Spike Lee is planning to hold a rally in New York City for Kaepernick prior to the start of the 2017 season. But what some fail to mention is during a news conference last season, Kaepernick proudly wore a t-shirt with the image of the late Cuban President Fidel Castro. To some people they say “so what”, but for many Cubans living in Miami who fled Castro’s tyranny, that display of affection towards a dictator is no different to praising Adolf Hitler. Former Miami Marlins Manager Ozzie Guillen learned that the hard way when he spoke highly of Castro during an interview in 2012. The backlash ensued and it became a distraction resulting in the Marlins finishing dead last in the division that year and it cost Guillen his job despite having 3 years and $7.5 Million left on his contract. The Dolphins obviously didn’t want to duplicate that fiasco.

Kaepernick’s political stance is not the only reason he has not landed a job on an NFL team. He still considers himself an elite quarterback but that is simply no longer the case. In fact, he is just a shell of himself. Kaepernick lost his starting job prior to the start of last season, and prior to his protest. He finished the season with a quarterback rating of 90.7 (ESPN rating is 55.2). That is better than the 78.5 he had in 2015 but a far cry from a 98.3 in 2012 where Kapernick led the Niners to the Super Bowl. No team is willing to pay millions of dollars for that kind of quarterback and I would hazard to guess Kaepernick won’t settle for anywhere near the league minumum.

Another knock against Kaepernick I believe is he is developing a reputation of being a bad teammate and a coach killer like another former Niner, Terrell Owens. I think Jim Harbaugh’s and Chip Kelly’s tenures as head coach of the Niners both ended badly as a result of Kaepernick. Kaepernick is so self-absorbed that he doesn’t think he needs any motivation to play better. He has put himself ahead of the team which makes for an uneasy situation in the locker room regardless of which side of the political spectrum you’re on. If that’s the attitude Kaepernick is going to take, he will be doing his sitting of the national anthem this season at home.

Kaepernick announced earlier this year that he is done with protesting claiming his message has been delivered. But that hasn’t made teams feel confident in signing the once promising quarterback. Kaepernick remains in football limbo, and it is due to his undoing and his alone.

PROTECTING THE SHIELD:

Kudos to the Detroit Red Wings organization for publicly condemning last weekend’s white nationalists gathering in Charlottesville, Virgina. Several demonstrators were seen carrying what looked like armoured shields with the Red Wings logo on it. It turns out a white supremacist group based out of Detroit modified the logo design to suit their group.

By all intents and purposes, this amounts to identity theft. Not to mention the Nazis were a socialist political party, so for opponents of these groups who say they are on “the right” are being dishonest at best. The Klu Klux Klan are no more to the right than the Black Panthers.

The Red Wings organization were quick to defend their brand and are considering taking legal action against the hate group. It is nice to see a sports organization take a stand instead of caving into the demands of fringe groups, namely those against the name Redskins.

Also see:

Athletes Should Stick to Sports
Sports is Not a Platform for Activism
Where are the Free Speech Advocates Now?

 

What If Making Trades Was That Easy

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This Blue Jays season has been so disappointing that even the recent (and some would say expected) trades of Francisco Liriano and Joe Smith to contending teams were met with frowns by media and the like. Not so much that these players were dealt away, more like what we got in return. Pouting at Ross Atkins for making the trades is one thing, actually pulling the trigger on one is more difficult than people like to believe. Some folks blindly believe the Blue Jays can pick players up at a drop of the hat. And many of them work in sports media. If only it were that easy.

I have listened to sports talk radio for years and too many times I hear callers ask the host the same question: “why can’t (insert team here) get (insert player here)?” or “they should trade (insert player here) for (insert player here), that would be a great trade.” I remember hearing one caller insisting the Blue Jays should trade Kevin Pillar to the Dodgers for Clayton Kershaw, straight up. First off, you have to convince me the Dodgers would be willing to part with their ace for then Toronto’s young unproven outfielder. Secondly, the idea immediately comes off as a pipe dream. There is no logical basis to make the trade other than to promote phony outrage and anger that someone would not take such a trade proposal seriously. It makes you wonder the kind of people who listen to sports talk radio shows and whether that is the kind of people advertisers want to be associated with.

But let’s just say (for the sake of argument) acquiring the players we wanted was that easy. For starters (and I’m speaking from the Toronto sports fan’s perspective), the Blue Jays would surpass the Yankees as the franchise leader in World Series championships. Maple Leafs fans would be bragging about a Stanley Cup dynasty, not lamenting about not winning the Cup since 1967. If making a trade was that easy, no one would be talking about consequences such as the lack of parity it would cause or how the trade will impact the other team.

Another thing to think about is if trades were that easy, why would teams need general managers? If you believe the armchair GMs, all you need to do is pick up the phone, announce your demands and bingo, you get the player you want. Anybody can do that. In fact, why not just walk into a store and take whatever you want on the shelf? That kind of act would land you in jail but it seems some people feel it’s the way to do business in professional sports.

It probably took Alex Anthopoulos weeks if not days to negotiate the trade that brought Josh Donaldson to Toronto. There were those who didn’t want the team to part with Brett Lawrie, the Blue Jays’ third baseman at the time, who ended being one of the players the Blue Jays sent to Oakland for Donaldson. That was one of the challenges Anthopoulos had to face. Perhaps it is all Pat Glillick’s fault. Glillick made things pretty easy during his tenure as Blue Jays GM. His blockbuster trade in 1991 that brought Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter from San Diego led to two World Series Championships and now everyone thinks they can be a general manager in sports. But all kidding aside, if only making trades were that easy. What should the Blue Jays do about Jose Bautista? Why not ask Justin Bieber?

Also see:

Even if Bautista and Encarnacion Return, the Blue Jays Still Have Areas to Address
Firing Exposes Incompetence… Among Fans and Media
Get the Right Player First, then Spend the Money

OJ Simpson: Ground Zero

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The Juice will soon be a free man. Orenthal James Simpson was granted parole last Thursday. He was serving a 33-year prison sentence for his role in a robbery in Las Vegas. OJ will have completed just over 8 years (or one-quarter of his term) once he is let out in October.

Most of you know Simpson either as a star football player, actor, or media personality. But of course whenever his name comes out in conversation these days it always about the so-called “Trial of the Century” and his eventual acquittal of double murder charges in 1995. People also remember the police pursuit with Simpson in the backseat of his white Ford Bronco as it was travelling on a Los Angeles highway just hours after police considered Simpson as a suspect. A lot was happening around that time. Race relations between police and the black community were tense in Los Angeles in the wake of the Rodney King assault.

9/11 may have changed the world but I don’t think it had the impact the way the murder trial did. To me, that is ground zero. I maintain that some of the junk you see and hear in media today (especially sports media) can be traced back to that trial. For instance, stories of athletes doing drugs, committing crime, and making political statements are now being passed as sports programming. We are also seeing more people use race as an excuse for bad behaviour especially when it comes to domestic violence and gun violence. You can even attribute the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States to that trial.

Would we have known the Kardashians had there had been no trial? Would there be an influx of reality programming on television? Would media outlets like TMZ exist today? I think Harvey Levin owes his career to the Simpson trial even though he wasn’t directly connected to the trial. There are quite a number of those you see on TV or hear on radio that have used the trial to boost their careers.

People are only kidding themselves if they don’t think the Simpson trial had any impact on society today. One would think if this was done all over again, how would things be different? Maybe when OJ officially gets released and hits the golf course looking for the real killer, he’ll be wishing for a mulligan.

Also see:

Sports is Not a Platform for Activism
Nobody is Watching Sports Channels
This is the End of the ESPYS

There is Something to be Said About Loyalty

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there-is-something-to-be-said-about-loyaltyThe late Tony Gwynn played 20 seasons with one team, the San Diego Padres. Despite a Hall of Fame career that included 8 batting titles, 5 gold glove awards, and 15 all-star appearances, Gwynn appeared in only 2 World Series, both times he was on the losing team. The Padres franchise had just a handful of winning seasons with Gwynn on the team. But the thought of leaving for another team never entered his mind. Gwynn is perhaps an example of loyalty.

There are other two names that come to mind, Shane Doan of the Arizona Coyotes and Joe Thomas of the Cleveland Browns. Both players have established themselves of being elite players on teams that would be best described as mediocre. Both deserve to be in their respective Hall of Fames once their careers are over. But neither have asked to be traded to a contending team nor have they gone on the market and signed with another team. They decided to stay where they are.

You could be excused if you were someone like Kevin Durant or LeBron James who left their respective teams to join ones who are already championship calibre or a so-called “Super Team” where the line up is made up of superstar quality athletes. But to those who stuck it out with one team or one organization throughout their entire career, you should be saluted. To them, it is more about being associated with one team than it is about winning championships. I find that people appreciate a player’s loyalty even if they had every reason to leave.

Loyalty is perhaps the most unappreciated quality in the world. No one seems to care if you dedicate yourself to one team or organization. In fact, loyalty is often seen by some as being associated with losers. But if you are one who works hard and shows up everyday, you maybe on a losing team but you are hardly a loser. Sometimes being a big fish in a small pond is better than being one of million in an ocean.

So let’s give kudos to those who are staying with the only place they knew for their entire lives. One maybe a lonely number, but for some, it is the only number they know.

Also see:

Stability Key to a Successful Team?
Backers Abandon Cam, Broncos Win One for Peyton
Is it Always Good to Go Out on Top?

Some Traditions are Worth Keeping

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I was asked why the first baseball game of the season is played in the afternoon. My reply was it is tradition. Yes, it was on a work day yet baseball fans find the time to get out to the ballpark and watch the game. Many marketing geniuses would suggest holding the first game of the season in the evening would make more sense because more people are off work and children are off school at that time. But we see many stadiums filled to capacity with thousands of people supposedly calling in sick. As the saying goes: if it ain’t broke, why fix it?

The latest attempt by Major League Baseball to appease those who don’t follow baseball is to replace the intentional base-on-balls rule. In effort to pick up the pace of the game, instead of lobbing four pitches away from the plate, managers will signal to the home plate umpire of their intentions to give first base to the batter without throwing a pitch. Another idea being bandied about is to start the half of each inning with a runner on first base if the game goes past the regulation 9 innings as a way to generate more runs to decide a winner thus ending the game a lot sooner. Those ideas may sound good on paper but whether it will work in reality remains to be seen. Already, a number of managers and players are against them even before it is put into practice. Are they being fickle? No. They know full well that it is not going to work. They, like a lot of baseball fans, understand that going through the motions of something even remotely uninteresting is part of the game. The only people who have a problem with the pace of the game are those who don’t watch it. You can extend that argument to those who don’t like the violent nature of hockey and football, and the lack of scoring in soccer.

Too many times, those in charge of sports leagues ruin what is already a great game to watch. They feel kicking a good number of diehard fans to the curb in favour of attracting a few casual ones is worth it. Hockey fans experienced this in 1992 with the Fox puck, a puck that glows on your TV screen. Fox carried NHL games in the US and felt putting a spotlight on the puck will make it easier for people to see it while watching the game on TV. But the gimmick became more of a distraction than an enhancement, and a couple of years later, Fox put the glowing puck, figuratively, on ice.

That is not to say there is room for improvement when it comes to the game. But sometimes it is best to leave things alone. Why do some changes make sense while others are not accepted? I can sum it up with one word, politics. Those who believe in legislating change, or forcing the issue on others, are doomed to fail while those who let nature take its course, meaning no political interference, are more likely to succeed. This is why leagues with rules that see hockey players get kicked out of the game and/or face supplementary discipline for getting involved in a fight are seeing their product diminish. It is kind of ironic that the people who were perhaps the most vocal against the Fox puck cling to the belief that there will be no more fighting in hockey. All I can say is: pity.

Times are a changing and technology is offering new ways to do things that are more convenient. But some (like me) are what people like to call “old-school”. We continue to perform tasks today that were first created dozens of years ago. We like to hold up and flip through pages of a newspaper, or prefer to speak to a person in-person when buying a big-ticket item. Recently, vinyl records have seen a resurgence by people in their late teens and early 20s (a.k.a.: millennials). They are discovering what a lot of us already know and enjoy.

Some often mistake tradition for laziness. But we don’t change just for the sake of it. Sometimes the best way of doing things is what we have already been doing for years. And that is why some traditions are worth keeping.

Also see:

Political Correctness has No Place in Sport
What Happens When the Passion is Gone?
Outsiders Strike Again

2016 Saw the Return of Toronto as a Sports Town

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Getty Images

Getty Images

In 2016, Toronto showed the world why it is a sports town. For the record, I never thought for a moment that Toronto lost its place in the sports world. But over the last number of years it became dull, predictable, and snobbish. Nothing could have lit a fire under a Toronto sports fan. Then came the recent playoff runs of the Blue Jays, Raptors, and Toronto FC. The Blue Jays went 22 years without a post-season berth before making back-to-back playoff appearances the last two years. People would point out that Blue Jays games rarely sold out or that there are those still burned by the player’s strike in 1994. These folks must have bad knees because they like to use crutches. The fact there are at least 20,000 coming to every game means those who are there are not only Blue Jays fans but also true baseball fans.

A year before Josh Donaldson’s dash home, Jose Bautista brought fans to their feet:

If you watched the NBA playoffs, you would have witnessed Jurassic Park, an area outside the Air Canada Centre where Raptors fans gather and watch their team play whether the team was at home or on the road. Thousands of people braved the elements to watch their team play. LeBron James noticed it moments after he and the Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Raptors in the NBA Eastern Conference Final. So did actor and comedian Jamie Foxx when he made an appearance on ESPN after the game. People do pay attention.

Then you have fans of Toronto FC who are in a league of their own. 20 years ago, no one would even think about watching an outdoor sporting event by the lake in the middle of December. But there it was, BMO Field, filled to capacity for the MLS Cup Final. A number of spectators probably wore the same attire at that game as they did to one on a hot, sticky summer day. The loud noise may have caused residents living in Liberty Village across the railway tracks to lose some sleep that night. Passionate? Dedicated? Vocal? Did Donald Trump become President of the United States?

USA TODAY Sports

USA TODAY Sports

Part of the resurgence is due to rapper Drake. Yes, we’ve had other Toronto-born celebrities showing off their hometown pride (i.e. Mike Myers, Will Arnett) but no one has made an impact quite like Mr. Graham. He is also the reason Hogtown is now known as The Six.

The CFL’s Argonauts missed the boat (no pun intended) when they failed to make the playoffs in the year where BMO Field hosted the 104th Grey Cup. The Maple Leafs have missed the playoffs in 11 of their last 12 seasons. But the foundation is now in place after the Brendan Shanahan regime took over in 2014. It will only be a matter of time before they join the likes of the Blue Jays, Raptors, and TFC.

Toronto is often ridiculed (and sometimes rightfully so) for being a fairweather sports town. They sit on their hands, offer a polite applause, wondering why can’t they let us win? Not anymore. Things have changed. There are new people living in the city have they have brought their own approach to watching sports. Some we are not used to seeing: large gatherings outside stadiums to watch games on big screen TVs, wearing the team colours with pride, and screaming so loud it would blow out ear drums. This is not your father’s Toronto sports fans. I can only imagine what 2017 will be for Toronto sports fans.

Also see:

People Don’t Watch Sports, Fans Do
Habs Fans Becoming Snobs
Leafs Nation Needs a Housecleaning

 

Women Should Stay Away from Trash Talking

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Kate Upton went on Twitter to express her displeasure after news that Boston Red Sox pitcher Rick Porcello won the 2016 Cy Young Award over her fiancée, Detroit Tigers hurler Justin Verlander. This despite the fact that Verlander had more first place votes than Porcello. It was later revealed that Verlander’s name was not on two of the 30 ballots that were cast. Upton took to Twitter to call out the two writers that didn’t put down his name. That prompted a reporter for the New York Times who covers the Yankees to throw shade towards her. Verlander had to come his fiancée’s defense. Personally, I believe Baltimore Orioles reliever Zach Britton should have won the Cy Young. But that’s an argument for another day.

The week before, Kaela Carpenter, the wife of Buffalo Bills kicker Dan Carpenter, took some shots at Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman. During the game, the Bills were lining up to attempt a field goal when Sherman jumped ahead of the snap and made a dash towards the ball. Sherman made a diving attempt at the ball before Carpenter kicked it. But at the same time, he made contact with the kicker which by rule is considered a penalty. A penalty was called for the offside but none was called for the hit. Carpenter appeared to be injured but was able to continue playing. Afterwards, Kaela Carpenter went on Twitter to suggest Sherman be castrated for his hit on her husband. Not one to that looks the other way, Sherman went to call her statement racist (even though it wasn’t). One can understand when your husband gets decked by an apparent cheap shot (which it was) but Carpenter’s wife had no idea what she was getting herself into or who she was up against.

Then there’s April Reimer, wife of former Maple Leaf goaltender James Reimer. She was caught in the middle of Twitter tirade over her husband’s performance in net after the Leafs were eliminated by the Boston Bruins in the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs. And she DIDN’T initiate anything. Some Leaf fans wanted to express their displeasure and, since James did not have a Twitter account but his wife did, she took the brunt of the criticism. It makes you wonder how blind people can use a smartphone. But as I have so eloquently explained, it can be done.

If there is one suggestion I would make to the wives, girlfriends, mothers of professional athletes, stay away from trash talking on social media especially if it is towards a male athlete. Women believe they can get a free pass when they get into a verbal war with reporters, fans, teammates, etc.. This puts men in a position where they don’t know how to respond. The thinking is: if he keeps quiet, then she has a point. The other side is: if he speaks up, he will be called a sexist or misogynistic (or racist if it involves two people of different ethnic backgrounds). Then you have those who see the posts and they react to them, often negatively. The result usually ends up having people being drawn into an arena that they can not get out alive. There is also the psychological effect of getting into a war of words especially if it is with someone you don’t know. It is one thing if you have Sherman going up against someone like Floyd Mayweather. But Sherman vs. Mrs. Carpenter becomes an awkward situation.

The Internet is already full of psychos who are more than willing to fire shots at people in the name of free speech. Don’t add to this by putting someone in the crosshairs because your future husband didn’t win an award. He made have deserved it, but don’t take away his accomplishments because you wanted to point out the omission by a couple of journalists. It isn’t worth risking your reputation, credibility, and most importantly your career.

Also see:

Where are the Free Speech Advocates Now?
Everyone’s a Critic
Getting Dirty About Talking Sports

 

Even a Genius Makes Mistakes

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FOX Sports

Buck Showalter is considered one of Major League Baseball’s best managers. His Baltimore Orioles were in control in the American League Wild Card Game against the Toronto Blue Jays last Tuesday night. And his bullpen has been one of the best this season. Which was why many were scratching their heads as to why Showalter did not put in his best reliever in the game when a berth into the American League Division Series was on the line? Showalter kept his closer Zach Britton in the bullpen despite the Blue Jays having the winning run in scoring position with only one out in the 11th inning. Edwin Encarnacion crushed Ubaldo Jimenez’s first pitch into the second deck over the left field wall for a walk-off home run and a trip to Arlington, Texas in the division series against the Rangers.

Showalter did what anyone else would have done when their team is on the road, he saved his closer for a lead. Critics like to point out that no one would have left Britton in the pen and let Jimenez pitch to Encarnacion. These are the same people who complain that managers/coaches don’t follow conventional wisdom.

This also goes to show that even someone with an extremely high IQ is prone to the occasional brain fart. You don’t have to look too far back to see another so-called genius make a serious blunder in a big game. The Seattle Seahawks were coming off a one-sided victory in Super Bowl 48 and were one play away from making it back-to-back championships. The Seahawks were down by 4 late in the 4th quarter but had the ball inside the New England Patriots 2-yard line in Super Bowl 49. Head coach Pete Carroll decided to call a pass play instead of letting running back Marshawn Lynch run it in for the potential winning score. Russell Wilson’s intended pass to Jermaine Kearse was intercepted by Malcolm Butler in the end zone to seal the win for the Patriots.

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick himself was caught making a questionable play call. With the Patriots leading the Indianapolis Colts by 6 points late in the 4th quarter on November 15, 2009, Belichick decided to go for it on 4th down and 2 yards to go… from inside his own 30 yard line. Gutsy call to be sure but Tom Brady and the offence were not able to get those yards needed for a 1st down and ended up turning the ball over. Peyton Manning then wasted little time to lead his offence for the winning score to keep the Colts, at the time, undefeated. Belichick was able to quickly put that behind him as the Patriots went on to beat the New York Jets the following week. Unfortunately for Carroll, he had the entire off-season to think about what he had done. Showalter will now have to do the same.

Usually an error in judgment in a game of big significance is a serious hit to one’s credibility. But I think Showalter, Belichick, and Carroll are too good to let their mistakes hang over them. It will hardly make a serious dent into their armour and they will move past this. This is what winning championships will allow you to have, some margin for error.

Also see:

Nobody’s Perfect
Everyone’s a Critic
Only Losers Look for Someone to Blame

 

NFL: A League of Outlaws

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Colin Kaepernick’s decision not to stand for the US national anthem prior to the start of an NFL pre-season game is the latest stunt by athletes who buy into this belief that their small action can change the world. I’m sure Kaepernick’s “statement” will make police think twice about arresting a black man (or woman) when investigating a crime.

While there have been opinions on both sides, people seem to forget (or don’t want to know) the underlying message Kaepernick wanted to send out. That is black people (or other visible minorities) should not be subject to a police investigation when they are suspected of committing a crime. He feels the colour of one’s skin is enough to justify one’s action against a biased law that governs the country. This is what I like to call the literary equivalent to diving.

What Kaepernick did was outrageous and everyone was right to criticize him. But I also think he was able to pull off his stunt because there are also those who blindly believe in the blacks-are-being-marginalized rhetoric that will support him. And that is the result of the work environment they all play in.

The NFL has been a league of outlaws since the days of Jim Brown and Lawrence Taylor. There is no respect for authority and the inmates are running the asylum. This is not to be confused with outlaw league which is totally different. Compare that to the NHL, a league where acts of being disrespectful (i.e. Sean Avery) are few and far between. There is no way Kaepernick would get away with his stunt if the league wasn’t an organization full of criminal behaviour. Ray Rice, Ricky Williams, and Ray Lewis are other examples. There is no leadership from the league’s office who are more concerned about deflated footballs than actions like Kaepernick’s. Tom Brady must be laughing at the television set as he sits in his luxurious home with his beautiful wife serving his 4-game suspension.

The easiest solution is to boycott the NFL. But to quote Stephen A. Smith, that move would be  “blasphemous”. I for one will continue to watch NFL games for this reason, there are still people in football that play football. You know, the game? As in moving a 12-inch pigskin down a 100-yard field avoiding several figures that stand in your way. Despite the problems the NFL is facing, the game of football is still the only thing that matters. Even in a league full of outlaws.

Also see:

Sports is Not a Platform for Activism
Racism Knows No Bounds
Before the Confederate Flag, There was the Springbok

Draft, Schmaft

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Draft Schmaft

Editor’s Note: I started writing this piece last June around the time of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. That was the one where Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel were selected first and second overall respectively. For some reason I was halfway through it and decided to put it on the shelf. But with the recent NFL Draft and the NHL Draft Lottery, I have decided to dust this off and finish it up.

The NHL draft sees some of the top junior players around the world get the opportunity to play in the NHL. But outside the 211 taken in the draft, there are dozens more who have not been draft for whatever reason. Some of them have made it to the NHL despite not being a first-round pick, or getting drafted period.

Martin St. Louis of the New York Rangers is the best example. Another is Rangers’ defenseman Dan Boyle. Both those guys went through the draft without having their name announced. But instead of sulking because they were not picked by a team, they used that as motivation to work hard and eventually become a reliable player for their clubs. Another example is Tom Brady. He is arguably the best quarterback in the NFL today. Brady was taken in the 2000 NFL draft but was a 6th round pick by the New England Patriots, a team that selected Drew Bledsoe 1st overall seven years earlier.

The success of late round or undrafted players happens even in junior hockey. Barrie Colts forward Andrew Mangiapane twice had 100-point seasons and more recently put up 51 goals. Did I mention he was not drafted by an OHL club? Mangiapane’s teammate Justin Scott was not drafted by an NHL club. But his performance in the OHL playoffs have caught the eye of several NHL teams and was eventually signed by Columbus.

The draft is kind of like a school yard pick ’em. Everybody gathers around in a room and the two sides pick players to form a team. Their decisions are based on the physical attributes of the individual player. The thinking is anyone who is 6-foot-2, 200 pounds can throw a pass or knock one out of the park. But part of the decision also involves how well these players perform in game situations. Hitting home runs in batting practice is different than in an actual game.

Yes, getting the best player through the draft can no doubt help your team in the long run. But not getting the first overall pick (or a Top-5 pick for that matter) is not the end of the world. Finding great players that were initially passed over is where general managers and scouts make their money. As St. Louis and Boyle will tell you, the draft is not the be all to end all as a lot of people may think.

Also see:

Getting the First Overall Pick: Big Deal? Or Big Deal?
The Maple Leafs Need Their Own Bringer of Rain
Get the Right Player First, then Spend the Money