Breaking the Bank

In the sports world, every person has a value. NBA general managers are paid millions of dollars to ensure that they sign players to contracts of appropriate value. Sometimes they mess up — like really mess up. Like a got in bed with a 2 when you were drunk and thought she was a 10 type of mess up. But rather than being embarrassed, never seeing that person again, and getting called an idiot by your friends, NBA teams and owners have to fork out millions of dollars, see that player every day, all while being called an idiot by everyone following a bad signing. Let’s take a look at some of the contracts that teams would prefer they hadn’t signed.

Paydays that Make Owners Cringe for 2012-2013:

Amar’e Stoudemire: $19,948,799
I’m not saying that Amar’e isn’t a good player. I am saying that he does not demand the fourth-highest salary in the NBA.  He is also the only player making nearly $20 million while coming off the bench. The Knicks are paying such a hefty sum for an injury-prone player averaging 13.3 PPG and 4.9 RPG.  People have told me that everything is overpriced in New York, but this is ridiculous.

Andrew Bynum $16,899,000
Bynum’s contract has him making more than $16 million dollars this year. You might argue that Bynum is one of the best centers in the league, but when you pay $16 million dollars for a player who may not even play this year, and is a free agent this summer, you haven’t overpaid, you’ve been robbed. Even while making all that money Bynum still can’t afford a proper barber or haircut.   
Perhaps he’s made his money this year by just providing fans entertainment. Keep hoping that he’ll play this year Philly, and pray that he doesn’t go bowling again and injure his glass knees.

Kris Humphries $12,000,000
Kris Humphries will make $12 million this year. No, that is not from royalties for his short stint as a Kardashian, but the salary the Brooklyn Nets will pay him. Right now Humphries is averaging roughly 6 PPG and 6 RPG. I realize it’s probably not even worth Mikhail Prokhorov’s time to bend over and pick up a few million dollars, but if you want to throw ridiculous amounts of money around, throw it in a different direction. I think it’s safe to say Kris Humphries has lived the dream. He’ll make $12 million this year, got Kim Kardashian (even if just for a bit), plays only 19 minutes a game, and is great in this commercial.

I hate to say it, but I’m jealous of Kris Humphries.

Hedo Turkoglu $11,815,850
In 2009, Turkoglu signed a $53 million dollar contract with Toronto that everyone thought was an overpayment. Now back on the Orlando Magic, everyone still thinks that he is being overpaid. Hedo is the post-college child that moved back home and the parents just want him to move out. It’s costing the Magic $11 million to watch him only play 11 games so far and shoot 26 percent while averaging 2.9 PPG. Did I mention that he has a player option for $12 million dollars next year? Charlie Sheen has a better chance going sober than Turkoglu does of declining that. For the team who had huge contracts with Gilbert Arenas, Jason Richardson and Dwight Howard, it wouldn’t be the Magic if they didn’t have one terrible contract.

Andre Iguodala $14,968,250
Andre Iguodala is a good NBA player. Does he demand a nearly $15 million salary? No. Whether it’s the legalized marijuana or the high altitude in Denver, Iguodala is playing like he’s high. A player you pay $15 million shouldn’t go 0 for 7 with air balls from the free-throw line and the field (February 19 versus Boston). He’s a good option, but for that kind of money you should be getting a solid number one option.

Honorable Mentions:
Joe Johnson $19,752,645
Joe Johnson is the fifth-highest paid player in the NBA. He’s not the fifth-best player in the NBA, but Prokhorov’s bottomless pockets make the payday a little bit easier to swallow. Also, the overtime clutchness that Johnson has demonstrated this season has semi-legitimized his contract. Coming from a guy whose favorite NFL team has Tony Romo at quarterback, the clutch factor should be a major factor in determining a salary.

There are times that NBA teams are able to secure a player for a low price. Generally, this only happens for a young player still playing on his rookie contract, or a veteran who suddenly thrives in a new system. There’s going to be people who argue that superstars like Kevin Durant, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant are underpaid because of max salary rules, but I don’t buy it. Their endorsements and marketability pretty much make it so they have infinite income resources.  Also, it’s hard to argue that someone making more than $15 million dollars a year is underpaid. It could be wrong to say that the players below that threshold are even underpaid, as they still make millions a year. However, in relation to the income of the players around them and the impact they have on their respective teams, their team is getting a bargain. These players may not be making the big-time NBA money right now, but you can bet their contracts will come.

Underpaid for 2012-2013:

Jrue Holiday $2,674,852
Jrue Holiday is averaging 19 PPG 8 APG and 1.5 steals per game. The 76ers are making up some of their Andrew Bynum losses with the fantastic play of Holiday. Holiday has erupted this year,  making his first ever all-star game. The 2009 draftee signed an extension earlier this season, which kicks in next year and will give him a nice payday of almost $10 million.

Paul George $2,574,120
Once you saw Holiday’s salary for this year, you had to assume that he was the most underpaid NBA all-star. You would be wrong. Paul George is having a breakout season for the Indiana Pacers and was rewarded with a roster spot in this year’s all-star game. His rookie contract will extend to next year allowing the Pacers to keep their bargain star. George is the best player on his team right now even though Danny Granger (who’s currently hurt) and Roy Hibbert each make $11 million more than him. You can bet when he hits the market after next year, he’ll be demanding a huge contract.

Brandon Jennings $3, 179, 493
Brandon Jennings may only make $3 million this year, but the highly-skilled guard will get PAID this summer. Milwaukee failed to reach an extension with Jennings this summer and he’s not going to stay there. Either the Bucks match the offers that Jennings will receive as a restricted free agent, or they watch him go. I’ve never been to Milwaukee, but I’ve had Milwaukee’s Best beer. And if that’s the best Milwaukee has to offer, I don’t blame him for wanting to leave.

Kyrie Irving $5,375,760
The former first-overall pick is helping to heal the wound left by LeBron James in Cleveland. If you didn’t see, Irving dominated all-star weekend winning the 3-point contest, playing well in the rising stars challenge, and the all-star game. The young stud’s play is well worth more than his contract. Rest assured that when his rookie contract lapses, he’ll be demanding a near-max deal. Irving is the future of the NBA and gives the black hole that is Cleveland sports the ability to hope for a championship.  If I were the Cavaliers, I’d pull a Chicago Bulls and sign my star point guard to a $90-plus million extension before his rookie contract closes.

Ray Allen $3,000,000
I understand Ray Allen wanting another championship and the Miami nightlife, but arguably the greatest shooter of all time should be making more than $3 million. Allen would have made twice the money if he had chosen to re-sign with the Celtics. Not only did the defending champion Miami Heat get the greatest 3-point shooter of all time, they got him for a bargain.

Greivis Vasquez $1,191,240
With all the hype of Anthony Davis and the name change from the Hornets to the Pelicans, you may have missed out on the great season that Greivis Vasquez is having. He’s averaging 13.8 PPG with 9.4 APG. For a player barely making more than $1 million, those are great numbers. The Hornets were able to snag a great guard for a bargain and have him under contract for a couple years.

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Tye Masters
Sports Activist for The Cover 4

Lake Show vs. Lob City


When you think of basketball in Los Angeles, you think of the purple and gold. The championships. Kareem and Magic. Kobe and Shaq. The glitz and the glamour. Jack Nicholson sitting courtside. Conventional wisdom indicates that there is just one basketball team that dominates the headlines in L.A. If you asked most natives, UCLA would probably be the second-most popular answer if you were playing Family Feud. However, for the first time since, well, ever, L.A. has two sheriffs in town now, with the rise of the L.A. Clippers.

The Los Angeles Clippers have been the laughing stock of the NBA for years, epitomizing how not to run a franchise. Conversely, the Lakers have been a model of excellence. No matter the year the motto is “championship or bust.” However, this year, it has become more and more evident that the tides are turning in Tinseltown.

Let’s first focus on each team’s players. The Lakers have superstars, but all are arguably past their prime. Kobe is still Kobe, but he has racked up more minutes than Andy Rooney with his fantastic career nearing its end. Dwight Howard has brought nothing but drama in his first year with the Lakers and his back injury raises major question marks for the future. Pau Gasol recently suffered a foot injury, which does not bode well for any 7-footer’s career, even if he is well connected to Dr. Scholls. Steve Nash missed the first part of the year with a leg injury, and seems to be a shell of himself in a Laker uniform. The only thing Nash can do to play defense these days is hope that his awful haircut will distract the league’s top point guards. Even with the former Ron Artest on the team, the Lakers season and future can be called anything but peaceful.

As for the Clippers, they have arguably the best point guard in the league in Chris Paul. He not only walks the walk on the court, but off the court he talks the talk. He is a leader, and he makes the players around him better.  Blake Griffin is the co-star for the Clips and he is the most exciting player in basketball. His dunks even make cops jealous. Jamal Crawford is easily the sixth man of the year, a bona-fide stud who brings an element of street ball to the court when he is in the game. Veterans such as Grant Hill, Lamar Odom and Chauncey Billups have chosen to play for this team because they thought it as their best opportunity to win a title. In years past, it would be like someone wanting to move to Seattle to get a better tan. Now the Clippers represent a team on the rise, full of promise for the future and a threat to take over as the new basketball team of Los Angeles.

In years past, the Clippers organization had to call businesses and fans for sponsorship and attendance. They practically had to rely on the league’s best opponents to help put butts in the seats for Clipper home games. These days, fans and sponsors are flocking to the Staples Center to be a part of the Clipper Magic. The Clipper stock is rising and everybody wants to buy a share. The Clippers have a better record, better team chemistry, and a better shot to win the title than the Lakers. However, it remains to be seen if they can win over the fans who look at L.A. as Laker Land.

The Lakers and Clippers play their home games in the same arena similar to two brothers who grow up living together in the same house. The Clippers have always been that younger brother who never gets any attention, while the Lakers have been the pride and joy of the Los Angeles family. The Lakers have all the awards, historic teams and players, and accolades to boot. The Clippers on the other hand don’t really have much to show in their trophy case.  However, it looks like the little brother is finally growing up.

The Lakers beat the Mavericks on Sunday and acted as if they had advanced to the NBA Finals. The Mavericks are under .500 and are in danger of not making the playoffs, much like the Lakers. Sad, but times are changing as well as the standards. The Lakers never used to celebrate moral victories. The Lakers never used to make news when they went on a three-game winning streak. Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are making the Clippers a force to be reckoned with and they are not going away anytime soon. Lob City has arrived and they are the closest thing to Showtime since Magic Johnson ran the point. They are a better team and a more viable contender for a championship. Is this a sign for things to come? We will have to see. Whether this becomes true, it still will take a huge effort surpass the Lakers as the pulse of Los Angeles. The fact that this is even a discussion now represents a new era in and of itself.


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Paul Culley
Guest Sports Activist for The Cover 4

10 Amazing Events That Sports Fans Need

Undoubtedly there are many concepts that we all wish could be implemented in or a sport or to a team. Whether it’s a pitching staff or a foresome that could be assembled to witness just once. With the  ongoing comparison between Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus, we wish we could have seem them play against  each other during their respective primes.

Those kinds of drastic time-altering dreams will not be presented in this list, but ideas are formed from present athletes and current rules. For example, we all have our aspirations, but this list will present ideas such as the elimination of the NFL’s salary cap. Now that is one thing this guy totally disagrees with, but it is just one variation that could be presented.

Keeping true to form, we will not be falling into the ESPN trap of a MJ comeback at 50.  Don’t get me started on that one.

Now the odds of one of these occurring are as real as Manti Te’o’s girlfriend, but here we go….

10. Alex Ovechkin & Sidney Crosby Fight

Just once please.

We know you both hate each other and Ovechkin would probably win the fight, but just drop the gloves once.  Hockey needs the publicity anyway.

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9. Someone Breaking Cal Ripken Jr.’s Consecutive Game Streak

In the modern era of sitting out for a minor hamstring strain, it would be refreshing for someone to even come close to the length of Cal or Brett Favre’s consecutive games started streak.

Do you love the game?

Play the game with pride and don’t be a pansy.


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8. Just One Professional Team in Las Vegas

If Oklahoma City can have Kevin Durant, can Las Vegas at least have a MLS team?

The constant gambling is in question, but if an athlete wanted to gamble there are so many bookies and online resources for him or her to do so. I doubt they would walk into a casino sports book.

UNLV athletics do not suffice anymore in the Sin City! Anthony Bennett can’t even carry that overrated team.

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7. NCAA Penalty Standards

As of right now, there is no standard or structure of repercussions for infractions violating the NCAA rules.  Punishments have varied drastically from USC to Ohio State, even letting the person in violation (Terrelle Pryor) play in a bowl game.  Money talks, huh?

The recent tipping point of this is the University of Miami case, but what really set this off was the Penn State debacle.  Key members within the administration and athletic department are a part of a criminal case, but the NCAA penalized the current and future players of the Penn State football program who had no control over their administration.  This would not only be amazing, but is essential.

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6. Every Athlete Takes Performance Enhancing Drugs

If all athletes “misremembered” and took steroids it would be outstanding.  Who didn’t enjoy Mark McGwire’s home run derby show at Fenway Park?  Are you more upset at Lance Armstrong for taking PEDs or making us interested in cycling for a decade?

Let Kevin Durant bulk up and dominate even more.

To quote Daniel Tosh, “I want my sports like my video games; athletes hate life after sports anyway”.


5. NBA One-on-One Tournament

We just witnessed the recent decline of the slam dunk contest in the NBA and it is almost getting to a point where we are running out of ideas.

With that, let us step it up a notch and initiate an inaugural one-on-one single elimination tournament.   Kobe may have blocked Lebron at the end of the All-Star game, but can he do that up to 11 and win by two?  There can be arguments for each way, but let us get this settled.

Have Kyrie Irving back up his USA summer camp talk to Kobe and reveal Carmelo’s true defensive weaknesses to the world.

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4. The Top College Football Team Play the Worst NFL Team

Every year there are those clowns and trolls who profess statements such as, “Alabama could beat the Jacksonville Jaguars.”  It is time to put these questions to rest.   Alabama has at most 15 players on its roster that may eventually play in the NFL, and possibly a third of that 15 will be top quality.

Let us assume a corner (Dee Milliner), two offensive linemen (Chance Warmack and Barrett Jones), a running back (Eddie Lacy), and a linebacker (Nico Johnson) will be impactful in the NFL in the future.   Alabama has five true NFL players, while the Jaguars have 22 to field a starting offense and defense.  The only thing Alabama has on the Jaguars is A.J. McCarron’s girlfriend.

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3. Baseball in the Olympics

Saying the World Baseball Classic is a bust has become an understatement.

It is too close to the regular season and all organizations are too worried to send their stars.  If and when baseball is re-entered into the summer Olympics, I implore the United States to bring as much enthusiasm as the World Cup into that.

When R.A. Dickey and Ryan Vogelsong are our aces, instead of a rotation featuring Justin Verlander, Jered Weaver, C.C. Sabathia, Clayton Kershaw and Matt Cain, there is a major problem.
Take a look at our daunting roster this year:

The American outfield could be entirely represented from the city of Los Angeles with Mike Trout, Josh Hamilton and Matt Kemp.

The list goes on.

Let’s show the world that the United States is still the most dominating country when it comes to baseball.


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2. Lebron James, Usain Bolt, and Calvin Johnson in a Receiving Core

 We have Bolt at 6 foot 6, Lebron at 6 foot 8 and Megatron at 6′ foot 5 . Put Lebron at tight end and think not of Antonio Gates, but Lebron James!

Calvin Johnson runs a 4.32 40-yard dash, and James could most likely run in the 4.5 range.

Now Bolt, seriously, who is covering him? Yes, get a bump off the line but if not, he is gone.

We see the ease of the goal-line fade with Brandon Marshall and Andre Johnson, which now goes to Lebron James, who makes that easier than an alley-oop in lob city.

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1. All of America’s Athletes Play Soccer

The world is captivated by Ronaldo’s ball skills and Messi’s quickness, but imagine if our finely-tuned athletes such as Reggie Bush, Adrian Peterson and Kyrie Irving were trained from infancy to play soccer.

Our nation would be at the top of the world. All other nations emphasize soccer as their game.

England plays soccer and rugby. Argentina and Brazil are top-notch soccer nations.

Unfortunately, there is such a selection of athletics to play in this country that soccer is not nearly a priority due to the lack of popularity, exposure and money.  A kid cannot not “be like Mike” if he is playing soccer.

Calvin Johnson in the box for a corner? Sounds good to me.

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Long Island Sound
Sports Activist for The Cover 4

Fantasy Basketball: NBA First Half Review

As we pass the trade deadline, we find ourselves at a very interesting point in the 2012-2013 NBA fantasy season. Now that we’re a bit past the halfway mark of this season, let’s take this moment to review the biggest surprises and major disappointments that we’ve come across this year.


1) James Harden

Fear The Beard! What else is there to say, this guy is an absolute beast. Harden is posting career highs across the board, averaging 26.1 points, 5.7 assists, 4.8 boards, 1.9 steals and .5 blocks per game. When The Beard got traded to the Rockets everyone thought his numbers would increase, but no one thought he would be a top-five fantasy player midway through the season. As long as he can stay healthy, big things will continue to come. Expect this kind of production nightly as Harden establishes himself as the third-best shooting guard in the league after Kobe and Wade.

2) Nikola Vucevic

A pleasant surprise this year, Nikola Vucevic could be the steal of the 2012-2013 season. With an average draft position (ADP) of 171 in standard 12-team leagues, Vucevic was seen as a capable contributor in points, rebounds and blocks but not a top-10 PF/C. Vucevic has had four-plus games of 17 or more rebounds and has earned 32-plus minutes a game for the struggling Orlando Magic. Many people overlooked this piece in the blockbuster Dwight Howard deal, but it looks like Orlando got this one right.

3) Paul George

Paul George continues to amaze me. He has all the talent in the world, but seemed inconsistent at times last year for whatever reason. However, this year due to a blessing in disguise injury to Danny Granger, George has taken the next step in his long and talented career. Getting selected to his first of many all-star games this year, George is averaging 17.6 points, 7.8 rebounds, 4 assists, 1.8 steals and .7 blocks per game, all career highs. George is playing at such an elite level lately, rumors have swirled that Granger could be traded before the deadline. You know what they say, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

4) David Lee

What a year David Lee is having. Deserving of his all-star selection, Lee is averaging 19 points, 10.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists and just under 1 steal per game. More importantly he, along with Steph Curry, is a big reason why the Warriors are in playoff contention this year. This production wasn’t expected seeing as the Warriors brought Andrew Bogut and Carl Landry onto the scene this past offseason. Shooting over 50 percent from the field, while leading the league in double- doubles this year with 33 to go along with one triple-double, Lee will continue to dominate. With an ADP of 38 in standard 12-team fantasy drafts this year, Lee is a top-five fantasy player only behind superstars like Lebron, Durant, Kobe and Harden.

5) Tony Parker

Tony Parker is on his way to having a career year. Leading the Spurs to the best record in the NBA this year, there is no question the team has become his. Averaging 21 points, 7.7 assists, 3 rebounds and 1 steal per game, while shooting a career high 54 percent from the field, Parker is easily in the prime of his impressive career. In his past five games, Parker is averaging close to 30 points a game while maintaining that high field-goal percentage. He is the second-best point guard this year in fantasy scoring — only behind Russell Westbrook — and will continue to dominate as the Spurs cruise during the second half of the season. With an average draft position of 46, don’t be surprised to see Tony on a ton of championship winning teams this year.

Other Notable Mentions

Greivis Vasquez-Leads the league in double doubles amongst all guards. (ADP-111)
J.J. Hickson- 28 double doubles, good for fourth in league amongst all players. ( ADP-113)
Joakim Noah- First all-star appearance while having a career year in all categories. (ADP-56)


Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Gerald Wallace

This is not the team the Brooklyn Nets envisioned after spending a ton of money in the offseason. Deron Williams looks out of sorts and uncomfortable, Joe Johnson seems to be playing better as of late, but has struggled the majority of the year figuring out how to adjust his game when he’s not the number one option and Gerald Wallace has fallen off completely. For being a top-10 pick in most league and being considered a top-three point guard last year, Williams has been nothing short of a major disappointment. Johnson’s efficiency has taken a major hit this year. Even though he is averaging about 17 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists a game, Johnson is shooting 42 percent from the field, his worse average since his days in Phoenix. Wallace’s average draft position this year was 57th. He’s owned in only 50 percent of ESPN leagues and is averaging 8.8 points per game, his worst points average since his days in Sacramento. Good thing Mikhail Prokhorov has deep, deep pockets.

Roy Hibbert

Coming off his first all-star appearance last year,  many thought that Hibbert would continue to excel in Indiana. Unfortunately, this year has been the exact opposite. Shooting a career-low 40 percent from the field, Hibbert has been really poor this year. The only reason why the Pacers are still a playoff dark horse is because of David West and Paul George. Hibbert’s ADP was 49th, putting him ahead of guys like Brook Lopez, Jrue Holiday and Joakim Noah. Can anyone say redraft?

Steve Nash and Pau Gasol

If anyone told me at the beginning of the season that Pau and Steve would be this disappointing I would laugh in their face for days on end. Pick and pop all day is what i envisioned pre-season, but man was I wrong. These guys will be hall of famers one day, but for some reason Mike D’Antoni’s system has been a damper on their production. At first I thought it was Kobe’s ball dominance, but after he transformed into Kobe Johnson, Nash’s production continued to struggle. Of course, Pau looked like he was coming into form, but then he got hurt. With average draft positions of 16 for Gasol and 40 for Nash, a ton of people thought this team would be championship bound, but now we will be lucky to make the eighth seed… someone call Phil.

Tyreke Evans

The Kings continue to be one of the most disappointing franchises in the NBA. After his rookie year, everyone believed Tyreke would turn the franchise around, but he continues to struggle with living up to those expectations. With an ADP of 52, Evans had some people believing this would  be the year, but instead he is averaging a career-low in points and assists. At this point the Kings might be wise to trade him while he has some value and build the team around Demarcus Cousins.

Other Notable Mentions

Marcin Gortat- No Steve Nash… need I say more? (ADP-34)
Andre Igoudala- Iggy is still trying to find his groove in Denver, no one thought it would take this long. (ADP-33)
Kris Humphries- 29 double-doubles last year, on track for 12 this year. (ADP-76)

All stats from:
ADP rankings:

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Rico’s 24/7 Fantasy
Guest Sports Activist for The Cover 4

2 Weeks Later: Joe Flacco Still Isn’t Elite


Elite: A group of people considered to be the best in a particular society or category, esp. because of their power, talent, or wealth.

It finally happened.  Joe Flacco brought his team to the ultimate goal of any man who has ever dreamed of playing in the National Football League.  After five “long” seasons, Mr. Flacco and company are world champions after knocking off the favored San Francisco 49ers and their hotshot gunslinger of the future, Colin Kaepernick.

So I guess that means that Flacco joins the ranks of the “elite” NFL quarterbacks, right?  I mean, he already owns the most road playoff wins for a quarterback ALL TIME in only his fifth season.  After all, he has won a playoff game in each of his first five seasons.  And he threw for an immaculate 11 touchdowns with ZERO turnovers in the playoffs.  So, he’s elite now, right?


First and foremost, do not mistake me saying that Flacco is not elite as saying that he is not one of the best young quarterbacks playing the game.  Wins speak for themselves and there is no denying that he is about to get paid the big bucks, possibly the biggest contract of all quarterbacks (keep an eye out Aaron Rodgers).  However, a look into the numbers is all one needs to see to know that the word elite might be a bit out of the reach of Flacco’s skill-set.

To begin with, this year and this postseason run were both incredible for Flacco.  But the numbers can be a bit deceiving.  Despite the beauty of his numbers, he still had a total QBR of less than 50, at 46.8 in the postseason.  That lends belief that while his mistakes were few, he was helped by big plays and the commitment of offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell, not to mention the running game, where Ray Rice continued to be a workhorse and Bernard Pierce appeared to break out.

In fact, let’s talk quarterback numbers.  In the 2012 season, Flacco’s QB rating was a pedestrian 87.7, a number surpassed by 11 other quarterbacks, including Philip Rivers and Tony Romo, not to mention ROOKIES Russell Wilson and Robert Griffin III.  This year was his highest yardage total of his career, but he still did not break the 4,000-yard mark, as he has yet to do in his career.  Thirteen other quarterbacks had more yards this year than Flacco.  Also, his 59.7 percent completion percentage was the second-worst in his NFL career. Eighteen quarterbacks had a better completion percentage..

Furthermore, Flacco was inspired just as the rest of the Ravens and the city of Baltimore were by Ray Lewis’ postseason push, deer antler spray or not.  Things happened to go the Ravens way.  Jacoby Jones was able to take advantage of a second-year mistake by Rahim Moore to grasp victory out of the jaws of defeat.  Bernard Pollard once again became a Patriot killer, this time, with Stevan Ridley his victim.  And while I agree with the call that was made, there is a very strong case to be made by 49er fans that there was some holding on their final offensive play of the Super Bowl.

Everyone catches breaks.  It’s not possible to go the distance in this competitive era without catching a few.  The Patriots were 18-0 until they faced the New York Giants and were victims of one of the greatest, albeit luckiest, catches in the history of the NFL.  Half of the football fans in the world would not have been able to tell me who David Tyree was before that game began and now his lucky break has given him football-god status.

Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens are no different.  They are champions, they played like champions and they deserve to be champions.  But this postseason run was about the Ravens, this was not about the rise of Flacco to elite status.  He is a very good quarterback on a very good team.  But to use the word elite is to compare him to modern-day greats Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees, as well as historic greats like Dan Marino, Jim Kelly, Steve Young and John Elway.

Just compare Flacco’s numbers to the stats of Brady, Brees and Manning. Those three have
career passer ratings of 96.6, 94.3 and 95.7 respectively. Flacco’s career passer rating is a
more average 86.3. Over the past seven seasons Brees has averaged 4,796 passing yards per
season, and Brady and Manning aren’t too shabby either with career season yardage numbers
of 4,066 and 4,250 (based on full seasons played). Flacco’s season average for yards is 3,500
on a team that has made the playoffs in each of his five seasons.

Numbers aside, Flacco also has never made the “esteemed” NFL Pro Bowl. Brees, Manning
and Brady have combined for 27 Pro Bowls in their illustrious careers. Those three have also
combined for 11 All-Pro selections, another accolade that has so far eluded the new champion

Flacco is about to be a very, very, very rich man.  There is no denying that.  And he deserves to be paid; likewise, the Ravens can ill-afford to be rid of their star quarterback who just led them on one of the most impressive postseason runs in NFL history, knocking off two number 2 seeds and a number 1 seed in the process.  But that is all he will be.  A good, maybe even great, rich quarterback.  Not an elite one.  He needs more championships and a steady stat line before he can be elite.  After all, if Eli Manning, who has two Super Bowl rings and two Super Bowl MVPs cannot be considered elite, why should Delaware’s treasure be any different?

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Screen Shot 2013-02-19 at 4.34.53 PMSammy Scherr
Sports Activist for The Cover 4

The NBA All-Star Game Reigns Supreme

All-star Weekend. For most sports, it represents a display of that sport’s best of the best. A chance where we can see two dream teams compete in a glamorous exhibition. It also serves as a “halftime” for the regular season (except in football) where most players get a chance to take some time off and recuperate. Basketball’s all-star weekend, however, is the best of all sports because it caters to us, the fans.

As fans, we are excited by the big play. In football, it’s the big touchdown. In baseball, it’s the home run. In basketball, it’s the dunk. Unfortunately, hockey doesn’t have enough exciting plays. Basketball’s all-star game more so than any other showcases the big play throughout the game. It’s a game where we watch the best players in the world throw each other alley oops, set up tomahawk jams,and go out of their way to dunk the ball. Even the defenders get out of the way enabling the big play to occur.

Football has pretty much outted itself when it comes to supporting its all-star game, the Pro Bowl. First of all, the Pro Bowl is the only all-star game that takes place after the season is over. It’s a little anticlimactic. It’s similar to eating a delicious steak for dinner, then having the appetizer brought out after. It just doesn’t work well with my appetite. Secondly, many of the top players opt out of playing in the Pro Bowl citing serious injuries such as a jammed pinky toe or a sore belly button. If the top players of the game consistently don’t want to play in the Pro Bowl, how can it be considered the best all-star game in all sports? No thank you.

With hockey and football eliminated of the four major sports, it comes down to basketball and baseball for the best all-star setup.

Each sport showcases a competition of its big play, the home run derby versus the slam dunk contest. To see the top players slugging out home runs is a spectacle. And although the dunk contest is not what it used to be, it still is exciting to watch high-flying athletes think of new and creative ways to dunk a basketball. Also, basketball has the three-point contest and skills challenge to complement its all-star game. More events for fans to enjoy, more reason why basketball has the best all-star setup.

What separates basketball’s all-star game from the others, however, is simple: the game itself. Basketball, more than any other sport, allows for creativity and improvisation during a game. Basketball players during the all-star game do things they cannot attempt during a normal game. If they try to do a 360 windmill dunk during a game and miss, most coaches will bench that player. In the all-star game, it is encouraged. Dribbling between defenders’ legs, no-look passes and off-the-backboard dunks are common in the all-star game where normally if you see it once, it’s considered lucky.

Baseball, however, does not allow this customized deviation from the game. Pitchers cannot throw half as hard because fans want to see them throw as hard as their grandmothers. It doesn’t work that way. Hitters can’t close their eyes during an at bat. Outfielders can’t bare hand a fly ball while running toward the fence. It just cannot and does not happen. The game is played similarly to how it is played during the regular season. The teams are more talented, yes, but the game is still played like a battle between division bottom dwellers.

Basketball’s all-star game is a once-a-year exhibition where the game resembles a video game we played when we were kids. A game where dunks and threes reign supreme. The game is meant to entertain the fans to the highest degree and the nature of the game allows it. Sorry hockey fans, but the all-star setup for basketball provides the perfect break during a season, filled with excitement, entertainment, and plays we only dream of.

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Paul Culley
Guest Sports Activist for The Cover 4

The Dunk Contest America Wants


So the names for this year’s dunk contest came out last week and it’s safe to say that no one’s jaw dropped. In fact, more people probably were wondering whether these guys were even in the NBA.  We’ll do a quick run-through of this year’s featured players. Representing the Western Conference we have Jeremy Evans, Eric Bledsoe and Kenneth Faried.
In case you missed last year’s dunk contest, Jeremy Evans won by jumping over a chair and dunking two balls at once, followed by dunking over Kevin Hart. Yes, the year after Blake Griffin won the dunk contest by jumping over a car, Evans won by jumping over a 5-foot-2 comedian. Speaking of Kevin Hart, we have a player who could stand in for him if need be. (I’m just kidding, Eric Bledsoe is 6 foot 1 and one of the best trade assets in the NBA). Bledsoe, or the slightly smaller Nate Robinson, has some major hops but being only 6 foot 1 it’s hard to do a lot with the ball while in the air. If anything though his dunk should get a good score just for the time he dunked and made Mark Cuban’s face look like this.

Last but not least for the West, we have the Manimal. Kenneth Faried is an absolute beast and he’s very capable awing a crowd. He’s by far the most explosive in this competition and bright spot in this contest. It’s good to see they made sure at least one NBA starter was on here with a name already known throughout the league.
For the Eastern Conference the dunkers are Gerald Green, Terrence Ross and James White. You might have heard the name Green and wondered why it was familiar. It’s because six years ago Green won the dunk contest when he was on the Boston Celtics.  Since leaving the Celtics that year, Green has been on five different NBA teams and it’s questionable what the journeyman has left in the tank.  Green does have an advantage over his fellow journeyman White. Green may not have the best resume, but at least he never fell out of the league. White started for San Antonio in 2006, then moved to Houston and then was out of the league following the 08-09 season until this year when he joined the Knicks. His career minute average is 8.6 minutes per game. He’s probably spent more time in dunk contests than actually on the NBA court. It can’t be denied that the guy can dunk though and he could be one of the best dunkers in the contest since Blake Griffin. White’s the heavy favorite and for good reason.  Terrence Ross is the lone rookie in the dunk contest and the second favorite behind White.  The young Raptors guard has a future in the league and perhaps he can get his name known early by pulling off the win.
So just to be clear, we have last year’s contest winner, a taller Nate Robinson, one NBA starter, two players who have not stayed on the same NBA team for more than a year and a rookie making up the dunk contest. I’m not saying it will be terrible, but the lineup is not exactly marquee. This got us here at theCover4 thinking about whom the best possible dunk contest would feature.
Representing the Western Conference: Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin. Russell Westbrook is an absolute athletic freak, just look at him simply dominate 7-footer Omer Asik.

If Westbrook could do this in a game, imagine what he could do during the competition. I don’t care if Westbrook and Durant are on the same team; I want to see Durant in the dunk contest. The flying stick has some mad hops and has seemed to start enjoying posterizing people more recently. Just watch his new KD 5 commercial and how he’s shed his Mr. NBA Nice Guy image. Anytime you can get a near 7- footer get his head above the rim regularly, I want him in the contest.

Blake Griffin should automatically have a spot reserved in the contest annually. I can’t imagine someone I’d rather not be than Mozgov at this moment. Nothing says posterized quite like getting your face shoved into a NBA player’s crotch while getting dunked on simultaneously. Until someone humiliates a player more than this, Blake has an automatic dunk contest berth.

Representing the Eastern Conference, we would have LeBron James, Paul George and Derrick Rose. The Twitter world collectively held its breath when James tweeted “Dunk Contest?” on February 7. Everyone has wanted to see what LeBron could do during the competition but he has repeatedly refused to participate. If the Akron Hammer decides to throw down this year, it will definitely be a dunk contest that’s remembered for years.

I know that everyone is going to say Paul George was in the dunk contest last year and failed to win. The guy has talent and his explosiveness can’t be denied. Last year’s glow-in-the-dark jersey was so-so but he’s got the talent to compete with anyone in the league.

The Derrick Rose inclusion is hoping that Rose comes back as his old self from his knee injury. The former MVP has nearly unrivaled explosiveness, with Westbrook probably being the only guard capable of matching his athleticism and speed. If he’s back to his old self, he’s one of the most entertaining point guards in the league.

(Why are so many of these against the Knicks?)

While we’ll probably never have a dunk contest featuring this caliber of players, we can always dream. Here’s to hoping that this year’s young dunk contest participants can put on a show and make their names well known by NBA fans. The dunk contest has long been one of the highlights of All-Star weekend and while it’s not what it could be, it offers an opportunity for these young players. White could be one of the best dunkers in the NBA and I fully expect him to put on a show. I fully expect him to win the competition and have his name known throughout the league Saturday night.

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Tye Masters
Sports Activist for The Cover 4

Role Models & Performance Enhancing Drugs

peds steroids_mcgwire

Performance enhancing drugs have grabbed the headlines again in sports over the last month, questioning the integrity of several sports ranging from football to cycling. With discussions revolving around human growth hormone (HGH), deer antler spray and other anabolic steroids, the focus has been on cleaning up professional sports with the hopes of an even playing field. At the end of the day, that’s not the real priority at all.

Think back to 2005 when Congress put Major League Baseball on trial and invited some of the greatest sluggers in the history of the game along with commissioner Bug Selig and MLBPA head Donald Fehr to testify regarding their knowledge of steroids in the game. Many will remember Rafael Palmeiro’s denial, Sammy Sosa’s translator and Mark McGwire’s reluctance to talk about the past. Many may have forgotten who the final participants were in that hearing — the parents of former USC baseball player Rob Garibaldi and the father of Taylor Hooten.

Garibaldi’s parents sat before Congress, in tears, testifying that there was no doubt that steroids led to their son’s death. Garibaldi ‘s 2002 suicide was attributed to depression which was brought on by the substances he used. Hooten, a 17-year-old baseball player, also committed suicide after using steroids.

Congress’ focus during those hearings was not directed specifically at Major League Baseball, it was a clear message to the entire world of sports: Your actions as professional athletes, good or bad, influence and inspire young people to walk in your shoes. They don’t want there to be any more stories like Rob Garibaldi’s or Taylor Hooten’s.

Under the care of the best doctors in the world, it would make sense for professional athletes to take HGH to help them heal faster and get back on the field. The reality is that if kids see the best in the world doing it, they will want to do it too. Here’s the problem: No pediatrician or family doctor would prescribe those drugs for a kid or teenager, so they wouldn’t be taking them under a physician’s care, opening the door for abuse and overdose.

One thing to keep in mind: when Jose Canseco and company were using steroids, it wasn’t even illegal for MLB players.  Baseball turned a blind eye while McGwire and Sosa tore up the record books because its television ratings were booming and the popularity of the sport was off the charts. Players have come out since and said that everyone within the game knew players were taking steroids, the MLB simply ignored it. Had many of those players known the side-effects of what they were taking, they may have made another decision. Ken Caminiti admitted to using steroids during his 1996 NL MVP season. Caminiti died in 2004 after battling substance abuse the rest of his life.
The tragedy today is not that these players are taking substances to get ahead in their careers. Anyone could understand Ray Lewis using something to help him recover from his torn triceps during his final season with hopes of contributing to the Ravens’ Super Bowl run. The NFL doesn’t even test for deer antler spray, so whether he used it is just a matter of personal integrity. That’s not the issue here. This is all about the young athletes sitting at home that hear deer antler spray or some other substance may help them get ahead, without knowing the consequences.

The goal for professional sports by outlawing all of these substances is to clean up their sports and set an example for the younger generation. If it disappears from the pros, it will disappear from all other levels. The reason young people take those substances is because they believe it will help them reach their goals, since they see their favorite players doing the same thing. If there’s no benefit (or perceived benefit) of doing something, people won’t do it. Sports need to continue to alert young people of the negatives and consequences for taking these substances, with the loudest voices being the stars of each sport.

At the end of the day, all the discussion about PEDs and HGH comes back to the health and safety of the next generation. No amount of professional success is worth the life of someone’s child. So professional athletes, before you take that injection or use that substance, stop for a minute and think not about yourself, but about who is watching you and looking up to you.

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For the Fans. By the Fans. Period.

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David Oleson
Sports Activist for The Cover 4


Perhaps the most revered role in all of team sports, being named team captain is one of the most prestigious honors a player could be awarded. While “captain of the football team” tends to carry with it the negative stereotype of a womanizing man’s man, it is the apex of the high school social pyramid. We all remember the captain of the football team from our childhood years —whether it’s because we resented or revered that person — and we can remember the mystique that surrounded them. The captain of the football team may be the point of reference for our mental picture of a team captain as a society, but for all the athletes and former athletes out there, we can remember nearly every team captain of every team we have ever played on and how they influenced our teams.

Perhaps the most unique of all the major sports captains is the captain of the hockey team, and more specifically, captain of an NHL team. Being named team captain of an NHL team is one of the highest honors that can be bestowed upon an individual in sports, if not the highest. The sport of hockey in general is a dynamic, physical game. There is hitting, fighting, finesse and plenty of gamesmanship constantly taking place throughout a game, and the captain is looked upon to set the tone with their play game in and game out.

If you, a casual hockey fan, were to sit down and look at a list of the captains of every NHL team, you may wonder why so-and-so is captain of a team or furthermore not even know who the player is (i.e. Andrew Ladd of Winnipeg or Edmonton’s Shawn Horcoff). To answer the question “why are they the captain?” you have to understand what goes in to being the captain of an NHL team.

The role of captain carries tremendous responsibility and accountability. The captain is truly the engine that drives the team. They are chosen because they are the players who “get it.” The role of being a professional hockey player, the ones who learn their craft, the ones who are always looking to improve themselves and their teammates, the ones who hold themselves and everyone accountable, they are the leaders, whether vocally or by example. A true captain is the heart-and-soul of their team, not necessarily the public face of their team.

To be successful in the NHL as a team, you can’t just have a captain, you have to have the RIGHT captain. The beauty about being the leader of an NHL team is that you don’t have to be the most skilled player, there are different types of players that are awarded the honor, so  to better illustrate the importance of the “C”, let’s take a look at the last five Stanley Cup Champions.

2012 Stanley Cup Winning Captain -Dustin Brown- LA Kings

Dustin Brown

What makes him captain: 

Dustin Brown is a classic version of an NHL captain and the cliché “a blood and guts leader” may be the best way to describe him. He brings his lunch pail to work not just every game, but every day, whether it is practice, film study, training camp, etc. He leads by example and is a coach’s dream because he does all the little things well. He blocks shots, finishes his checks, plays well in all three zones and scores timely goals. To succeed in the playoffs and ultimately hoist the Cup, attention to detail is huge, and Brown pays it. He doesn’t have the skills of an Alex Ovechkin or the Sedin twins, but he combines his offensive skill with a fourth line mentality, is never afraid to drop the gloves and will stand up for any of his team mates.

2011 Stanley Cup winning captain – Zdeno Chara – Boston Bruins


What makes him captain:

Chara is a mammoth presence on the Bruins blueline, checking in at 6 feet 9, 255 pounds. He is one of the rare athletes in professional sports that combine immense size with immense talent and athletic ability. He knows how to use his size to his advantage, often utilizing his ridiculous reach to make up for his foot speed and terrorizing opponents skaters, goalies, and I’m sure even his own teammates with the hardest shot in the world. Chara has been in the league for 14 seasons and has played on three teams; he’s seen it all. The calmness of experience and confidence mixed with his extremely unique skill set and his constant work ethic make him a consummate professional and one of the better captains in the league. He can lead by example, but is not afraid to speak up on the bench or in the locker room to help keep goals out of his net and sending them to the back of the opponents.

2010 Stanley Cup winning captain – Jonathan Toews – Chicago Blackhawks


What makes him captain:

The only player on our list to win the Conn Smythe trophy for MVP of the playoffs, Jonathan Toews is the heart and soul of the Chicago Blackhawks. On a star-studded team with the likes of Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, Brian Campbell, Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien, Toews’ star shown the brightest throughout their Cup run and that wasn’t by accident. Known as a quiet leader, Toews is the one who holds everyone accountable by his actions. He pushes the pace in practice, forcing his teammates to perform at their best to get better and he brings it EVERY SHIFT; he scores beautiful and dirty goals alike, and when his team needs a boost, they look to him and he delivers. Lifelong hockey nerds such as myself can see striking similarities between Toews and Hall of Fame Detroit Red Wing, Steve Yzerman. Their quiet demeanor but conversely loud work ethic are nearly identical and their knack for scoring HUGE goals is uncanny. Toews is the youngest captain in the history of the NHL but you wouldn’t know it by the way he plays and carries himself.

2009 Stanley Cup winning captain – Sidney Crosby – Pittsburgh Penguins


What makes him captain:

This one isn’t nearly as difficult to see as some other choices for team captain. Sidney Crosby is not only the face of the Pittsburgh Penguins, but also the face of the NHL and the face of the sport of hockey today. He is the most recognizable name in the game, mainly because of his otherworldly talent and skill and his seemingly infinite list of highlight reel goals. TheKid has scored from his stomach, his rear end, behind the net, but that isn’t what makes him a leader and a captain. Sid is the captain because, despite his overwhelming talent and God-given ability, he understands what is expected of him as a player, and is one of the hardest working, if not THE hardest working player in the game. Growing up in Canada, the attention and scrutiny placed on him from an age as early as nine years old is nearly unimaginable, yet he has always carried himself with class. Not known for fighting in the least, when the time has been right he hasn’t been afraid to drop the gloves. Each year he has focused on improving another aspect of his game, and each time he’s done so, the results have been evident. Mature beyond his years and gifted, he has earned the reputation from his teammates him as an intense competitor and true leader. At the time the Penguins won the Cup, he was the youngest Cup-winning captain, however he was unseated from that spot the following season by Jonathan Toews.

2008 Stanley Cup winning captain – Nicklas Lidstrom – Detroit Red Wings


What makes him captain:

One of my personal favorite hockey players of all time, Nicklas Lidstrom is one of the best captains in the history of the NHL. Recently retired, Lidstrom is a first-ballot hall of famer, playing 20 seasons in Detroit, winning seven Norris Trophies for top defenseman in the league and also a Conn Smythe Trophy. Lidstrom appeared in more than 1,500 NHL games, and posted over 1,100 points as a defenseman. Known as one of the quieter captains when he played, Lidstrom was a master of the little plays as a defenseman: getting the puck deep when he had no play, making tape-to-tape outlet passes from his own end to jumpstart a sometimes insane Red Wings offense and generating offense many times, including scoring his fair share of goals. The best way to describe Lidstrom is that he did all the right things on and off the ice very well.. Always winning and losing with class, always putting in his best effort, always showing younger teammates how to be a good NHL player, Lidstrom will be in the Hall the first time he is eligible, and don’t be surprised when it comes time to retire his jersey in Detroit, an honor he will share with the likes of Gordie Howe, Steve Yzerman and Ted Lindsay.

I hope you have enjoyed this trip into understanding the intangibles that it takes to be a captain of an NHL team and why being captain is such an honor in the NHL. In a sport and a league that is high paced, often times physically brutal and always in the spotlight, the captains are the ones who persevere through everything that the game and life can throw at them. They come to work every day and lead by example, doing what is asked of them.. They work hard because they love what they do and put all of their efforts into doing it better each day than the day before. In a game that constantly showcases skill, toughness and physical sacrifice, these guys are the starting point for any franchise to be successful. Whether they have spent their career learning the ropes from players before them and becoming a captain later in their career, or whether they are child prodigies thrust into the spotlight and responsibility at a young age, these players are what makes hockey the best game on earth and to see them put everything out there every time you watch them play is truly inspiring.

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Pat Davis
Sports Activist for The Cover 4

Rice, Rice Baby

Dave Rice

After years of mediocrity or worse, the recent re-emergence of the UNLV basketball program is a surprise to younger college basketball fans who are unaware of the program’s dominance in the early ‘90s.

It all started with a move that appeared to be a deflating blow. Then-head coach Lon Kruger left the Runnin’ Rebels to take Oklahoma’s head job. Many feared Kruger’s departure was a loss from which UNLV would be unable to recover. However, UNLV athletic director saw it as an opportunity.

The loss of Kruger developed into the greatest thing to happen to UNLV basketball since the ‘90s. In the hiring Dave Rice, a member of the 1990 UNLV national championship team and then an assistant at BYU , came the restoration of the history and pride that UNLV had been lacking.

Rice arrived at UNLV with the goal of this being his ultimate head coaching position. With that mentality he was able to instantly gain the trust and love of Runnin’ Rebel fans. Rice continually preached his philosophy of the runnin’ and gunnin’ style that was successful in the ‘90s under his coach Jerry Tarkanian.

In Rice’s one-and-a-half seasons, UNLV has not become the scoring machine that the early ‘90s teams were, but he has started a desperately needed transformation. Rice has done the unfathomable in recruiting not one, but two McDonald’s All-Americans.

Rice is 44-14 since taking over for Kruger, a very impressive record for a relatively young and inexperienced team. Notably impressive is that the Rebels only have one home loss. Not only has Rice been successful in overall performance but he has also brought national attention to UNLV. Rice’s resume boasts impressive wins, such as the dismantling of North Carolina, which was the number one team at the time.

Rice is still young and inexperienced in terms of strategy. But with the type of recruiting and the people with whom he surrounds himself, it is easy to see that there is no ceiling for how well he could do.

While not everyone will be satisfied with the Rebel’s performance, it is safe to say that the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels are back. The idea that this Runnin’ Rebels squad is beginning to become a mirror image of ‘90s teams strikes fear in the hearts of all schools around the country. The Rebels are back and with Dave Rice at the helm they are here to stay.

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Cole Turner
Sports Activist for The Cover 4

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