The NBA All-Star Game Reigns Supreme

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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
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Mark Sanchez: The NFL’s Most Unfortunate Quarterback.

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Playing quarterback in the NFL is a lot like being the President of the United States. I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right, playing quarterback is probably more difficult. All jokes that are only funny because a lot of people think they’re true aside, both jobs come with a distinct view on their output by the American people. When things go accordingly to plan we grant both quarterbacks too large a piece of the pie: Obama doesn’t really hunt terrorist, the well-trained super soldiers of our military do. And, in the most obvious vice-versa known to man, Obama has no real control over the economy, fiscal cliff, or how terrible your job is. Our government was written with a unique set of checks and balances to prevent such things, as is our favorite gladitorial past time. When our favorite NFL teams win, we rush to dole out a vast array of superlatives upon the crown of said team’s quarterback, and with each loss we heap just as much, if not more, vitriol upon their broad shoulders. How many times has Eli Manning gone from a Bum to Elite in the past 4 years? Are we even sure what to call Joe Flacco anymore? As a rookie, Andrew Luck has transformed an egregiously poor Colts team seemingly over night, escorting them single-handedly(if Sportscenter tells it right) from last place to the playoffs. But what about the Brady Quinn’s and Tim Couch’s off the world? Were they any less impressive in college? Did their skills somehow fade? Why is it we call the NFL “the ultimate team sport” and then collectively agree to forget the “team” part when it comes to this one position? More importantly, what does any of this have to do with Mark Sanchez?

Simple, Mark Sanchez is the most under-rated, unfortunate quarterback in the NFL and no one is talking about it.

Team A: 1st in the league in rushing, 1st in the league in points given up, 1st in the league in total defense

Team B: 4th in the league in rushing, 6th in the league in points given up, 4th in the league in total defense

Team C: 22nd in the league in rushing, 20th in the league in points given up, 11th in the league in total defense
Who are these 3 teams you ask? These are the New York Jets from 2009, Mark Sanchez’s rookie year, until 2011. If you noticed one thing it’s that the team that built itself on rushing and defense has, over the course of 3 years, gotten significantly worse in both categories. It is a substantial decline to say the least. You would expect that for a team to slide this progressively over 3 years that they would have to either spend money to improve their deficiency or be inefficient enough to draft high and upgrade at lacking positions. Well, in the Jets case, you’d be wrong…twice. In fact, since 2009, the New York Jets are in the bottom half of league in both “Points Scored” and “Drafted Players Still With Team”. The players drafted by the Jets are either high end busts(Kyle Wilson, Shonn Greene, Muhammad Wilkerson) or low end back ups. In fact, in a great state of irony befitting this team, Greg McElroy, Jeremy Kerley, and Bilal Powell, all drafted in the 4th round or later of the 2011 draft, have been the highlights of this Jets season. So what about upgrading this pedestrian offense through free agency? The Jets idea of improving their offense has been to import every 30 year old skill player past their prime (Ladanian Tomlinson, Plaxico Burress), an oft hurt hothead other championship teams can’t stand (Santonio Holmes), and exporting the figurehead behind their rushing success (Thomas Jones).
You still might be asking yourself “How does all of this make Mark Sanchez both under-rated and unfortunate, he landed on a pretty good team.” Exactly. In the modern NFL, there might not be a greater curse than landing on a “pretty good” team”. Not only is more expected of you, but your team is good enough to make your failures unrewarded. Charles Barkley said it best when talking about the Phoenix Suns, “In this world you either need to be really good or really bad. Being in the middle is for suckers”. The Jets with Mark Sanchez haven’t been good enough to beat the best teams and not bad enough to get high draft picks. If this wasn’t unfortunate enough for Mark Sanchez, he was drafted by a defensive minded head coach who doesn’t believe in throwing the ball downfield, or spending money and draft picks on skill position players. He’s cursed with a General Manager whose overseen an offense that has devolved at every level. Where the Jets offensive line was once the league’s best, it’s now a poultry sum of journeymen surrounding All Pro Nick Mangold. Thomas Jones was replaced. Santonio Holmes has missed more games in 2012 than he’s played and there are only 6 people on Earth who can name the rest of the Jets receivers. As if this wasn’t enough, Darrelle Revis, the core of the entire Jets defense, is out for the year with an ACL tear, exchanging a once feared blitz-heavy defense with a mediocre “bend don’t break” replacement.

Returning to Andrew Luck and our opening salvo as to the credit placed with a winning quarterback, think of what the Indianapolis Colts did to place him in a winning position. They retained a Pro Bowl receiver in Reggie Wayne, spent 5 draft picks on skill players, and catered the offense to his style of play. The Seahawks signed Sidney Rice, drafted Golden Tate, grabbed Marshawn Lynch in free agency, and then drafted their rookie QB Russel Wilson. The Redskins incorporated RGIII’s college offense, drafted a running back, and signed a plethora of receivers .Having great skill position players doesn’t guarantee a great quarterback, as Matt Leinart can attest to, but it certainly increases your chances. Of the past 5 quarterbacks to win NFL MVP, all 5 of them have been accompanied by Pro Bowl receivers. But the Jets have turned a blind eye to the modern game and insisted on an style more befitting the upcoming Alabama/Notre Dame game—-if only said game was being played in 1966. This is the unfortunate circumstance of the modern NFL quarterback. In the ultimate group game, they are asked to put the I in Team. While no sport requires more of a specific player, no player needs so much from not just his fellow players, but his coach, general manager, and owner.

When Braylon Edwards tweeted, “Don’t blame Sanchez. I played there. Blame the idiots calling shots. Mark is a beast and will prove it when given a proper chance.” he could’ve been speaking for a dozen other quarterbacks in NFL history whose teams never gave them a chance to succeed. But right now, in 2012, on the team smack dab in the middle of the ravenous New York Media, and even more carnivorous fans, on a team whose best player is out for the season and whose team has gotten worse with each year, who brought in Tim Tebow for…religious purposes (LOL), Mark Sanchez might just be the most unfortunate quarterback in the history of the NFL.
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General Peppers
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