Remembering Athletes Who Served in the Military

On this solemn day, it is a time to remember the servicemen and women that made the greatest sacrifice possible. Throughout history, there are a handful of patriots who were both heroes on the frontlines, and in between the lines. In honor of Memorial Day, we will look at some notable athletes who risked their lives for our country.

Pat Tillman, defensive back for the Arizona Cardinals

In the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, Pat enlisted in the Army to serve his country. He passed up an opportunity to sign a 3-year deal worth $3.6 million with the Cardinals to enlist. Pat served in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, and he was subsequently deployed to Afghanistan. Pat tragically lost his life in 2004 due to friendly fire in the Khost region, near the Pakistan border. In the wake of his death, his family started the Pat Tillman Foundation, which provides aid, resources, and scholarships to support veterans.

Ted Williams, outfielder for the Boston Red Sox

Ted fought in two wars. After winning the Triple Crown in 1941, Ted was required to miss the prime years of his career due to selective service during WWII. Ted joined the Navy Reserve on May 22, 1942, and went on active duty in 1943 as an aviator. After returning to baseball, he was again recalled for service during the Korean War when he was in his 30’s.

He almost lost his life on one of his missions in Korea; he flew over a village and his plane was met by small arms fire. As his plane bled fuel, he refused the protocol to eject. He believed that if he ejected, he would damage his legs due to his large frame. His decision to land the plane was a precarious one… As he descended, his landing gear malfunctioned and his plane slammed into the runway. The husk of what was the fuselage skidded for more than a mile on the runway, but it came to a stop at the edge with feet to spare.

Rocky Marciano, Boxer

The heavyweight boxing champion was one of the few athletes to get his start in his respective sport from his time in service. He was drafted in 1943 and served with the 150th Combat Engineers on the European Front. He boxed regularly in amateur matches towards the end of his tenure in the Army. After he failed to break out of the Chicago Cubs’ minor league system, he began his career as a professional boxer.

Yogi Berra, catcher for the New York Yankees

Yogi enlisted after the Pearl Harbor attacks in 1941 as a Gunner’s Mate in the Navy. At this time, his minor league career was picking up traction, but he still made the decision to enlist. He was among the many who stormed the beaches in Normandy on D-Day. He earned a Purple Heart for his actions and finally made his major league debut in 1946.

David Robinson, center for the San Antonio Spurs

As a first-round pick out of the U.S. Naval Academy, David was widely considered the best athlete in the 1987 NBA Draft. There was one caveat the Spurs drafted him with— it was that his mandatory military obligations could span up to five years. David spent most of his time at a submarine base in Georgia, but he trained often while on duty. He participated in some international basketball tournaments, and managed to stay in shape for his eventual NBA career. In the end, he only served two years of active duty, and in 1989 he was allowed to join the San Antonio Spurs.

Arnold Palmer, Golfer

Arnold served in the Coast Guard from 1951 to 1953. He joined as a means of escaping the pain associated with the loss of his college roommate, who died in a car accident while the two were enrolled at Wake Forest. In the Coast Guard, he served as a photographer but spent his weekends golfing.

Expansion Series 3: Indianapolis

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, every die-hard sports fan has missed out on some key events that otherwise would have occurred.

The possibility of not having a football season (college or professional) has me pinching myself to make sure that I’m not living in a dream. In an uncertain time in the sports world, it’s perfectly normal to let the mind wander when thinking about hypotheticals that otherwise would never happen.

Sports is what brings us all together, and one thing that every sports fan has in common is that the player, team, or coach that they cheer for represents something unique to them. The majority of fans resonate with a team regionally, and mainly reside locally. That being said, I will dive into each region that is craving a major sports team.

Next up, Indy.

The Colts have had a rocky history in the past 20 years with the empire of Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison being preceded by the ever so talented Andrew Luck, up until his surprising and early retirement. They had an ‘in the hunt’ season under the leadership of Jacoby Brissett, and the upcoming season will surely have some level of interest now that the veteran Philip Rivers will be joining the team.

The Pacers have seen their days in the limelight as well, as they have by and large found themselves in the playoffs over the last few years. Victor Oladipo gave the team some energy with his all-around skillset until his gruesome injury left the team in an emotional drought.

In recognition of the two sports that Indianapolis is lacking, the Indianapolis Indians are the current Triple-A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates and were once home to the Indianapolis Racers, a professional hockey team. With little to go off of, I don’t see why Indy shouldn’t have a hockey team or a baseball team.

For more in this series, read why Las Vegas and Buffalo are also in need of expansion teams.

Expansion Series 2: Buffalo

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, every die-hard sports fan has missed out on some key events that otherwise would have occurred.

The possibility of not having a football season (college or professional) has me pinching myself to make sure that I’m not living in a dream. In an uncertain time in the sports world, it’s perfectly normal to let the mind wander when thinking about hypotheticals that otherwise would never happen.

Sports is what brings us all together, and one thing that every sports fan has in common is that the player, team, or coach that they cheer for represents something unique to them. The majority of fans resonate with a team regionally, and mainly reside locally. That being said, I will dive into each region that is craving a major sports team.

The next stop on our virtual tour is Buffalo, New York.

Buffalo has a solid sports following with the emergence of the Bills Mafia in the past few years, but the fandom has always been there. Josh Allen was just given an angel of an offensive weapon in Stefon Diggs this year and has proven to get a lot of things accomplished with a solid offensive line. Even further, now that Tom Brady has made his long-awaited exit from the AFC east, it has been speculated that the Bills will take the reins.

On the other hand, while the Sabres have one of the most impressive jersey designs in hockey right now, they do not have the most impressive amount of wins.

In regards to baseball, it may be too cold up in upstate New York to have a desirable baseball team in which players would actually be enthusiastic about, although they have Bison! The Buffalo Bisons are the current Triple-A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays.

The same may go for basketball, but not necessarily because of the weather. Buffalo was actually once home to the Buffalo Braves until the team ownership moved to Los Angeles and is now known as the Los Angeles Clippers.

On a non-professional level, the University of Buffalo has been impressive to watch in the last few years and has a history of producing some excellent talent. The Buffalo Bulls’ basketball squad has a decent turnout during their regular-season games, but the citizens of upstate New York may be reluctant to watch a basketball game for an alma mater they did not attend.

For more in this series, read why Las Vegas is also in need of expansion teams.

Expansion Series 4: Houston

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, every die-hard sports fan has missed out on some key events that otherwise would have occurred.

The possibility of not having a football season (college or professional) has me pinching myself to make sure that I’m not living in a dream. In an uncertain time in the sports world, it’s perfectly normal to let the mind wander when thinking about hypotheticals that otherwise would never happen.

Sports is what brings us all together, and one thing that every sports fan has in common is that the player, team, or coach that they cheer for represents something unique to them. The majority of fans resonate with a team regionally, and mainly reside locally. That being said, I will dive into each region that is craving a major sports team.

Houston is an interesting case because the sports franchises that reside there are so strong and have been very good in the last few years, legally or otherwise.

Even with the cheating scandal, the Astros were a very talented team and are absolutely still a very strong contender going forward.

The Texans, under the field leadership of Deshaun Watson, have a lot to strive for despite losing arguably one of the best wide receivers in the game in Deandre Hopkins. J.J. Watt is a personal hero of mine, but fans may be at their wits end with Bill O’Brien after Hopkins was sent to the Cardinals for not nearly enough in return (running back David Johnson).

Lastly, the Rockets have one of the best duos in the game in Russell Westbrook and James Harden; two MVP’s that still show MVP talent. They absolutely would have caused a problem for any other team standing in their way of an NBA championship, which would have been the first time in the finals for each of them.

Additionally, they even had an XFL team in the Houston Roughnecks during its brief existence before COVID-19 decided to cut the season short. The Roughnecks played at the University of Houston’s stadium and went undefeated through the only five games of the season.

What the city lacks is hockey, and much like Buffalo does not have desirable weather to house a baseball franchise, the same paradox applies to the warm weather of Texas for hockey fans. The closest thing they had to a hockey team was the Houston Aeros, which was an AHL affiliate of the Minnesota Wild until 2014.

For more in this series, read why Las Vegas, Buffalo and Indianapolis are also in need of expansion teams.

Jameis Winston Does Not Belong in the NFL

The former Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback shouldn’t have much to complain about nowadays. He was ousted by the only team he had ever known but was supplanted by the GOAT in what turned out to be the biggest headline of this NFL offseason.

He recently signed a 1-year deal with the New Orleans Saints in a quarterback market with little options. In an offseason where Brady, Rivers, Prescott, Newton, Tannehill, Mariota, and Bridgewater sought suitors, it is a surprise that Winston settled with a team with a comfortable QB room over a higher paycheck.

As we all know from Blue Mountain State, being the backup quarterback is the best position in all of sports, but Jameis should seriously consider all of his options before hitting the market again.

ESPN’s Field Yates reported that he can earn up to $3.4 million in incentives, but he is owed a base salary of $1.1 million. While it is applaudable that he showed humility in passing on higher offers to sign a grossly undervalued contract with the Saints, it seems that he is punting on the 2020 season in search of another opportunity when the market is less competitive in 2021.

The Saints have notably re-signed future Hall of Famer, Drew Brees, to a 2-year deal prior to signing Winston. In addition to Brees, the Saints also re-signed Taysom Hill to a 2-year deal, worth a whopping $21 million with $16 million guaranteed. Hill is a Swiss Army knife and shouldn’t be listed as simply a quarterback, but regardless, the position is crowded heading into the season. While Winston can see some time if Brees can’t stay healthy, Brees is expected to be the outright starter with Hill staying in the gameplan.

Where does this leave Jameis?

In 2019, he broke the kinds of records no one wants to have. He finished the season with the most passing yards in the entire league with 5,109 yards, and he threw for 33 touchdowns. But with Dr. Jekyll, comes Mr. Hyde.

Winston’s 2019 campaign saw him throwing 30 interceptions, landing him at 7th on the all-time list for most interceptions in a single-season. He became the charter member of the 30 TD/30 INT Club.

Jameis clearly has the talent to be an elite quarterback and he might find some success under the tutelage of Drew Brees, but his issues lie in his tendency to force throws into closing windows. He tries to overcompensate, and he can’t find consistency in his game. Perhaps his recent Lasik surgery can help him see farther downfield, but he should look for a new frontier to dominate in instead.

Many forget that Jameis was a two-sport athlete at Florida State. He played his freshman and sophomore years on the varsity baseball team as a two-way player. He played every position in the outfield and was the Seminole’s primary setup man from the bullpen.

Throwing a much heavier football for half of a decade has undoubtedly kept his baseball arm in good shape. Pitchers in the Cape Cod Baseball League have been known to throw a football around mid-game to stay loose, and his rigorous football training should help him in a less physically demanding sport. His talents can still translate to the diamond; he isn’t too far removed from that environment.

In his freshman year, he appeared in 50 games and saw 119 ABs. His offensive splits are nothing to write home about, as he hit .235 with a .345 SLG percentage. As a switch hitter, his objectively bad offensive stats could be attributed to a lack of training from one side of the plate.

As a pitcher though, he found a modicum of success in his freshman year. He appeared in 17 games and posted a record of 1-2, but had an ERA of 3.00. He struck out 21 batters and only let up 12 walks.

His sophomore year perpetuated both his strengths and weaknesses— his offensive stats don’t need to be mentioned beside his dismal .128 batting average through 39 ABs…

Where he did shine though, was on the mound. He appeared as a closer 24 times, and logged 33.1 innings. He had a stellar pitching season; he posted an ERA of 1.08 while striking out batters 31 times. He was a lights-out closer in a very strong ACC conference.

Stars at the collegiate level don’t always translate into stars at the professional level. In fact, the turnaround for players who are drafted out of NCAA that even see a professional baseball field is laughably low: 10.5 percent of NCAA senior male baseball players will get drafted, with even less breaking past the minors.

Jameis is different though… He has the physique to make an impact on a Major League team if he were to work upon his game. During his time in college, he was an imposing figure on the mound. His 6’4” frame yielded an arsenal of pitches— a fastball in the low-to-mid 90s with downward projection, a hard slider, and 12-6 curveball with bite.

While the likelihood of Jameis being the next Michael Lorenzen or Shohei Ohtani type player is slim to none, he has the physical ability to be an effective relief pitcher for an MLB team. Aside from success, it should be an attractive proposition from his perspective because he could command more money as a reliever than a backup quarterback. The market for relief pitchers is very depleted, and he would be in demand once again.

Jameis does not belong in the NFL due to a lack of talent… He certainly possesses the requisite ability to be an elite quarterback, but he isn’t quite at that echelon yet. Whether he will reach that level is yet to be seen.

He does not belong in the NFL because he would be a great pitcher in the MLB, and would command more money as a reliever.

Baseball money is nuts.

Regions That are Craving an Expansion Team, Part 1: Las Vegas

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, every die-hard sports fan has missed out on some key events that otherwise would have occurred. We’ve seen the NHL, NBA, MLB, and March Madness affected by this crisis. Even the NFL draft was conducted via Zoom for the first time in history.

It’s a different world we’re living in, which has lead several personalities of the sports zeitgeist to talk nonstop about what could’ve been, what will be, and what may not be.

The possibility of not having a football season (college or professional) has me pinching myself to make sure that I’m not living in a dream. In an uncertain time in the sports world, it’s perfectly normal to let the mind wander when thinking about hypotheticals that otherwise would never happen.

Despite the traditions and long histories of teams that we have grown to worship, the talk of adding more teams or relocating a team to a different area of the country is always on the table.

Currently, there are only ten regions/cities in the country that have four teams inhabiting them and are continuously supported: Boston, Miami, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Phoenix, Central Florida (Tampa/Orlando), Denver, Dallas, and Minneapolis. Furthermore, there are three cities/regions that have more than four teams: New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago.

There really is no reason for one city to have more than one team per sport, no matter the population. New York and L.A. have more than one team in almost every sport, with the latter gaining even more teams recently. The Rams were once an L.A. football team before moving to St. Louis, but eventually returned. Why do the Chargers need to share the territory?

I still retain the opinion that every region and every sports fan should be fairly represented in this country. Sports is what brings us all together, and one thing that every sports fan has in common is that the player, team, or coach that they cheer for represents something unique to them. The majority of fans resonate with a team regionally, and mainly reside locally. That being said, I will dive into each region that is craving a major sports team.

The first stop on our virtual tour is the City of Sin, Las Vegas.

Las Vegas has become an interesting magnet for sports teams in the past few years and with overwhelming wealth and a tremendous amount of passionate fans, there is certainly room for growth. Not only is there a desire for sports teams, but the people of Las Vegas have welcomed new teams with open arms.

When the Golden Knights entered the NHL scene, they swept the entire nation by becoming Conference Champions in their inaugural year.

It will be interesting to see how the new Las Vegas Raiders perform in their new multi-billion-dollar stadium, Allegiant Stadium which almost perfectly resembles the Death Star. Due to the city’s proximity to Los Angeles, the Raiders will have an established fan base when they play their first game.

While the Vegas crowd is largely comprised of tourists, a niche is already founded in the city. There will be fans that travel with the team by default, and the new stadium could be an asset for the city as a whole.

Much like other highly populated areas in the country, Las Vegas does have an MLB affiliate team. The Oakland Athletics’ AAA team, the Las Vegas Aviators, play at Las Vegas Ballpark which is about 15 miles away from where Allegiant Stadium will be.

Money certainly isn’t an issue in minor league baseball, but the weather might be. A heatwave on the Las Vegas strip in the middle of the summer is known to reach upwards of 110 degrees in the valley.

Las Vegas is also home to the Aces of the WNBA, who finished fourth in the Western Conference in 2019 but fell in the West Championship to the eventual champions, the Washington Mystics. The Aces have the ninth-highest average attendance in the WNBA with a 2019 game-high of 8,470.