Category: Sports

Nashville Sports Loses Nightwatch gains Power

nightwatch.pngPowerMost people won’t hear about it on the local news but the more obscure sports in the Music City has lost one franchise but gained another recently.

The Nashville Nightwatch professional ultimate frisbee team announced this week that they will no longer field a team in the American Ultimate Disc League (AUDL).  The Nightwatch played four seasons in the AUDL’s Southern Division but never had a winning season.  They showed a lot of promise at times but could only post an 8-44 record and finished last place each season.  In their Facebook announcement this week the team posted:

“We would like to thank our players and supporters from the last 4 years. Going forward we will not be playing in the AUDL. We are going to turn our efforts into building our community through club efforts and focusing on our Professional Women’s team, Nashville NightShade. We will be forming a club team with the goal of competing at the highest level. Our experiences learned in the AUDL will allow us to give our club team a pro experience and grow with our community. More information to come, and thank you for your support.”

The Nightwatch organization has been one of the more influential franchises in promoting women’s ultimate so it appears that the Nightwatch could live on through their female counterparts.  I’m not sure how the club team will work out and competing at the “highest level” will look like but with the AUDL being the only professional ultimate league, this announcement will leave a void.

The Nightwatch could never get the following necessary to sustain a start-up professional franchise, especially in a non-major sport.  The press never really helped the Nightwatch plus the fact that they could not field a competitive team on the field.  The team also could never find a good home as they began at Tennessee State University in their inaugural season then moved to Overton High School in their second season and then a terrible move to Hunter’s Lane High School in North Nashville the following season and finally to an awkward field at Vanderbilt University.  The move to the Vanderbilt area was one I thought would help but the home field was not really a spectator-friendly venue.

With the demise of the Nightwatch, another team has moved into the void as the Nashville Power brings the city their first indoor football team since the Nashville Venom played in 2014-2015 at the Municipal City Auditorium.  The Power will also call the Auditorium home when they kick off their season in the spring of 2019.  The Power will play in the Elite Indoor Football League which is basically a semi-pro type league in comparison to the bigger leagues.  The Power will join 12 other teams located throughout the East and Southeast.

Although they are playing in an obscure league, they will have a local favorite involved.  One of the greatest arena league players of all-time, Cory Fleming, is the Power’s defensive coordinator. Fleming played for the Kats (1997-2001, 2006), Carolina (2002) and Orlando (2003-05). The former Stratford and Tennessee star was inducted into the Arena Football Hall of Fame in 2013.

Will this new indoor team make it?  I doubt it.  The league looks pretty weak.  There had been rumors of the return of the Nashville Kats franchise in the National Arena League (NAL) or even a new team in the Arena Football League (AFL) but nothing has been made public.

Don’t be surprised if the Power doesn’t last any longer than the Nightwatch.

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Friday Flashback: Coldest Ever High School Football Game

Tonight in the Georgia High School Association (GHSA) state quarterfinals, The Warner Robins Demons will host the Clarke Central Gladiators.  This matchup takes me back to the 1985 State Championship game which was played between these two teams in Athens, Georgia.  In fact, I start shivering immediately when I think about it.  It was the coldest high school football game I have ever attended.  I had to pull up the weather history to find the exact temperature which was 29 degrees at kickoff.  That was cold.

The 1985 season was my first full season of attending Warner Robins football games.  The team finished the regular season undefeated at 10-0 which was capped with a thrilling 21-14 overtime win over crosstown rivals Northside.  Warner Robins defeated Southwest Macon 40-14 and then Northside again 27-0 in the region playoffs.  Warner Robins edged Lowndes 8-7 in penetration in the first round and then beat Bradwell Institute 28-14 in the semifinals.

I decided to make the two-hour trip to Athens for the game.  At the time I was a single 21-year-old man in the Air Force and I was able to convince a date to go with me to the game.  More on that later.  When I arrived at the game I had general admission tickets and the only seats I could find were the front row of bleacher seats in one of the end zones.  I had a blanket and attempted to keep warm but the cold weather made the blanket as stiff as a sheet of plywood.  The bleachers were also full of some Clarke Central fans – one of which would purposely yell in my frozen ear every time his team made a big play.  I might have moved had I not been frozen to the bleacher.  I think every part of my body was cold that night.  I certainly wasn’t a whimp to the cold weather since I had just been transferred to Robins Air Force Base from Thule, Greenland and it was a painfully freezing reminder of Greenland.

Although the game was statistically close, Clarke Central recovered three Warner Robins fumbles, turning the first two into a pair of field goals (31 and 41 yards) by John Kasay, who also put four of five kickoffs deep into the end zone to help keep the Warner Robins offense backed up. Additionally both Gladiator touchdowns were big plays, the first a 53-yard pass from Robbie Kamerschen to Tommy Stewart on the Gladiators’ first possession of the second quarter and the second a 54-yard run by tailback Richard Jewel on Clarke’s first possession of the third period.

In comparison, the Gladiators committed only one turnover, a fumble at their own 42 late in the second quarter. After recovering, the Demons moved to a first down on the 4-yard line, but the Clarke Central defense held on three straight running plays inside the 2 and took over on downs, preserving a 13-7 halftime lead.

Kamerschen and Jewel accounted for the majority of Clarke’s 291 yards total offense, as the senior quarterback completed four of eight passes for 122 yards while the senior tailback rushed 14 times for 108 yards.

Warner Robins, which totaled 245 yards offense and led 14-13 in first downs, got 101 rushing yards on 16 carries from junior Jeff Thompson. But 98 of those came in the first half. Warner Robins totaled just 53 yards and two first downs after intermission.

The game was a disappointment. I had to drive the long trip back home.  The only consolation was that my car had heat and I would be able to thaw out on the drive.  I also had my date with me.

About that.

On the drive back I got that “You’re a nice guy but I just want to be friends” line.  Ouch.  My football team and my dating suffered a bitter defeat that night. That night was cold on so many levels.

But, as they say, it all worked out for the best.  As for Warner Robins, it took three seasons before they captured the state title and demolished Brookwood in 1988.

No high school game was colder than that night in Athens.

Friday Flashback: Fan Interferences in Sports

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When Umpire Joe West ruled Houston Astros’ potential home run from Jose Atuve to be out due to fan interference in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series the Astro fans were sure to join the list of infamous fans who have interfered with sporting events.

The Astros lost the game 8-6 and eventually eliminated by the Boston Red Sox last night 4-1 in Game 5.

Now you can add Troy Caldwell and Jared Tomanek to the infamous list of fans who have interfered in sports events.  Click here for the replay.

Perhaps the most incredible fan interference incident occurred on October 14, 2003 in the eighth inning of Game 6 of the National League Championship Series.  With the Chicago Cubs leading the Florida Marlins 3-0 and with a three games to two lead in the series, Moises Alou attempted to catch a foul ball off the bat of Marlins’ second baseman Luis Castillo.  Cubs’ fan Steve Bartman reached for the ball, deflected it, and disrupted what would have been a routine catch.  Had Alou made the catch, it would have been the second out of the inning and the Cubs would have been four outs away from winning their first National League title since 1945.  Instead, the Cubs gave up eight runs in the inning, lost the game 8-3 and were eliminated in the seventh game.  Bartman was the ire of Cubs fans after the incident.  In an effort to make things right, the Chicago Cubs gave Bartman a World Series ring when they finally won the title in 2016.  Click here to see it again.

On November 3, 1961 the Boston Patriots were leading the Dallas Texans in an American Football League game.  Dallas had time to run one more play.  Dallas quarterback Cotton Davidson threw into the end from the 1-yard line for wide receiver Chris Buford.  Fans were standing in the end zone when one fan wearing trench coat suddenly bolted out of the crowd and knocked the ball down then the fans swarmed the field after the play.  There was no replay in those days so the play stood. Click here to see the play.

Of course the most famous fan interference in college football had to be the Stanford Band in 1982 in a game between California University and Stanford.  With Stanford leading 20-19 and kicking off to California as the final play of the game, the return team was able to lateral the ball around and on their way down the field, the Stanford marching band had already started on the field thinking the game was over which forced the players to weave through them for the final 15 yards as California scored to win the game in one of the most bizarre endings in college football history involving fans.  Watch it again here.

The National Basketball Association (NBA) had a pretty ugly one in what has been called “The Malice at the Palace” during a game between the Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers on November 19, 2004.  A fan threw a cup of Diet Coke on Ron Artest.  Artest was obviously not happy with this and all hell broke loose.  Fans were brawling with players, players were fighting players which later resulted in 10 assault and battery charges.  Nine players received suspensions from one game to 86 games.  See it here again.

Even professional tennis has had an incident with fan interference with the most serious incident on April 30, 1993 when Gunter Parche rushed onto the court and stabbed Monica Seles in her shoulder blade.  Seles recovered from the wounds but did not return to the court for nearly two years and was never able to return to the same level before the incident.  She captured one more Grand Slam title before retiring in 2003.

Although it wasn’t interference, it was an tense moment on April 8, 1974 when Hank Aaron hit his recording 715th home run at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.  Fans Britt Gaston and Cliff Courtenay were 17 at the time when they jumped onto the field along the first-base line and caught up with a startled Aaron as he rounded second base.  The fans gave him a quick pat before they left the field.  Courtenay was caught by officers before he got to the stands and Gaston made it 10 rows up before he was detained.  Neither was suspected of anything malicious and were quickly released.  Watch it again here.

Here are some other incidents of fan interference

 

 

 

Obscure Sports News (10/17/18)

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Sugar Skulls, Ignite, Warriors and Rougarous to begin play soon

Here are the latest new sports franchises which will begin play soon:

  • Amarillo (To-Be-Named) will be a new farm team for the San Diego Padres in the Texas League (TL) to begin play in 2019.   The San Antonio Missions franchise relocated to Amarillo as the Colorado Springs Sky Sox have relocated to San Antonio in the Pacific Coast League (PCL).  The five finalists in a name-the-team contest are:  Boot Scooters, Bronc Busters, Jerky, Long Haulers and Sod Poodles.  The “winning” name will be chosen in the next few weeks.  Amarillo previously had an independent league team called the Dillas from 1994-2010.
  • Colorado Springs will have a team in the Pioneer League (PL) next spring after the Sky Sox moved to San Antonio in the Pacific Coast League (PCL).  The five finalists in the name-the-team contest are Happy Campers, Lamb Chops, Punchy Pikas, Throttle Jockeys and Rocky Mountain Oysters.
  • Traverse City (Michigan), which is located in Northern Michigan, will have a team in the Northwoods League.  The league just completed its 25th season as a summer collegiate baseball league.
  • Lansing (Michigan) Ignite will begin play in the United Soccer League One (USL 1) next season.  The USL 1 is a new league under the United Soccer League (USL) and Major League Soccer (MLS) umbrella.
  • Baton Rouge (Louisiana) Rougarou will begin play in the Texas Collegiate League next season.  A “rougarou” is often described as a creature with a human body and the head of a wolf or dog, similar to a werewolf.
  • Vancouver Warriors will play in the National Lacrosse League (NLL) this season.  The Warriors moved from Everett, Washington when they were known as the Washington Stealth.
  • Boston (Massachusetts), Atlanta (Georgia), Los Angeles (California) and Washington (DC) will be expansion teams in Major League Rugby (MLR) for the 2020 season.  The MLR played its first season this past summer with eight teams.
  • Halifax will join the National Lacrosse League (NLL) in the 2019 season when the Rochester Knighthawks move to Halifax.
  • Tucson (Arizona) Sugar Skulls will be an expansion team in the Indoor Football League (IFL) in 2019.  The franchise was awarded in August.  The team name originated from the local tradition of creating sugar skulls for Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead).

After writing this blog the question that screams at me is:  WHO IS COMING UP WITH THESE TEAM NAMES?  Maybe we shouldn’t have fans name the teams and have professional people who can come up with some team names instead of trying to come up with the most ridiculous names possible.

I should know.  I once attended Macon Whoopee hockey games.

Schwabisch Hall Unicorns Repeat As German Bowl Champions

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It wasn’t easy for the Schwabisch Hall Unicorns to repeat, but they rallied from an early 13-0 deficit in the fourth quarter to defeat the Frankfurt Universe 21-19 in front of 15,213 fans in Berlin to win German Bowl XL.

The Unicorns had a 14-play, 80-yard drive in the fourth quarter capped by a two-yard touchdown pass from Marco Ehrenfried to Nathaniel Robitaille to take their first lead of the game, 14-13.

Frankfurt quarterback Andrew Elffers led the Universe offense down the field to the Unicorns’ 39 but fumbled the ball when he was sacked.  The loose ball was picked up by Nikolas Knoblauch who took it 42 yards for the touchdown to increase the lead to 21-13 with six minutes left.

With less than two minutes left, the Universe scored on a 12-yard touchdown pass from Elffers but failed on the two-point conversion attempt.

On the ensuing onside kick attempt, Unicorns’ receiver Joshua Haas fumbled the ball and the Universe pounced on it giving Frankfurt another chance with a minute and a half to go.

Elffers took his team down to the 15 yard line with four seconds left. Marius Duis missed wide left sealing the win for the Unicorns.

Ehrenfried threw for 146 yards and two touchdowns for the Unicorns.   Elffers completed 33-of-53 passes for 309 yards and touchdowns for Frankfurt.

This was the second straight German title for the Unicorns who finished the season undefeated at 17-0 and their fourth overall title.  The Unicorns defeated the Cologne Crocodiles 37-14 and Dresden Monarchs 23-7 in the GFL playoffs.

Schwabisch Hall is located northwest of Stuttgart in Southern Germany.

The Universe finished the season at (14-3) and defeated the Berlin Rebels 6-5, Braunschweig New Yorker Lions 20-17 in double overtime before falling short to the Unicorns for the title.

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Friday Flashback: Football/Baseball Team Names

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Dodgers, Yankees, Pirates, Reds, Cardinals and Giants

Back in the day – like LONG before I was born when the National Football League (NFL) was just a baby sports league, many of the teams shared the names of their Major League Baseball (MLB) counterparts.  Since the NFL was trying to survive in those early years, some teams felt that sharing the name would encourage fans to attend.  Baseball was king in those days.  Today, none of the team names are shared since the St. Louis Cardinals left St. Louis for Arizona.  Here are some of the NFL (or other professional teams) which shared names with their baseball brothers:

  • Brooklyn Dodgers
    • Origin:  Two Brooklyn businessmen bought the Dayton Triangles in 1930 and renamed the team to the Dodgers.
    • Played from 1930-1943
    • Record:  60-90-9
    • Championships:  None
    • Best Finish:  2nd place (1933, 1935, 1940, 1941)
    • Best Players:  Morris “Red” Badgro, Benny Friedman, Frank “Bruiser” Kinard and Clarence “Ace” Parker
    • What happened to the Dodgers?  Team was renamed to the Tigers in 1944 but went 0-10.  They merged with the Boston Yanks for the 1945 season.  The franchise indirectly became the Indianapolis Colts.
  • New York Giants
    • Origin:  One of five teams that joined the NFL in 1925
    • Played from 1925 – Present
    • Record: 711-610-33
    • Championships:  8
    • Best Finish: 13-1-1 in 1929
    • Best Players:  This is a long list but would include Lawrence Taylor, Frank Gifford, Y.A. Tittle, Sam Huff and Charlie Conerly
    • What happened to the Giants? The team has been called the “New York Football Giants” by ESPN’s Chris Berman but the baseball team moved to San Francisco in 1957 leaving the football team as the only Giants in New York.
  • Pittsburgh Pirates
    • Origin: Joined the NFL in 1933 and was originally named the Pirates by owner Art Rooney but locals referred to the team as the “Rooneymen” to distinguish them from the baseball team.
    • Played: 1933 – 1939
    • Record: 22-55-3
    • Championships: None
    • Best Finish: 6-6-0 in 1936
    • Best Players: Byron White (would later become Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court).  At the time White signed the biggest contract in NFL history.
    • What happened to the Pirates? The team was renamed to the Steelers in 1940.
  • Cincinnati Reds
    • Origin:  Joined the NFL in 1933
    • Played: 1933-1934
    • Record: 3-14-1
    • Championships: None
    • Best Finish: 3-6-1 in 1933
    • Best Players:  None
    • What happened to the Reds?  The team was suspended by the league for failure to pay their dues during the 1934 season and were replaced by the St. Louis Gunners after eight games.  The Reds have the two lowest officially recognized season scoring totals in NFL history.  They scored only 38 points in 10 games in 1933 and 37 points in 1934.
  • New York Yankees
    • Origin:  Played in the All-America Football Conference (AAFC) in 1946
    • Played:  1946-1949
    • Record:  35-17-2
    • Championships:  None
    • Best Finish:  11-2-1 in 1947
    • Best Players:  Spec Sanders, Tom Landry, Frank Sinkwich
    • What happened to the Yankees?  Before the 1949 season, the Brooklyn Dodgers football team folded and merged with the Yankees to become the Brooklyn-New York Yankees in the final season of the AAFC.  The AAFC was absorbed by the NFL after the season but did not bring the team into the league and divided the players between the New York Giants and New York Bulldogs (which played at the New York Yanks in 1950).
  • St. Louis Cardinals
    • Origin: NFL team relocated from Chicago to St. Louis in 1960.
    • Played:  1960-1987
    • Record:  186-202-14
    • Championships:  None
    • Best Finish:  11-3-0 in 1975
    • Best Players:  Larry Wilson, Don Maynard, Roger Wherli, Dan Dierdorf, Jackie Smith and George Privateer
    • What happened to the Cardinals?  Owner Bill Bidwill moved the team to Phoenix, Arizona after the 1987 season.

After the St. Louis Cardinals moved to Arizona, no other NFL team has shared a name with their baseball teams.  The only teams who currently have closely-related team names are the Chicago Bears/Cubs and the Detroit Lions/Tigers.  According the team origin information both NFL teams were named to relate to their baseball teams.

 

 

Predators Seek Elusive Cup in 2018-2019

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Predators Are Stanley Cup Favorites Again

It has been 147 days since Nashville experienced an unexpected end to the 2017-2018 season.  I’m still not over.  I’m still mad about it.

Yes, the Predators were President’s Trophy winners which is awarded to the team with the best record in the regular season.  Which would be okay if the season ended in April.

Central Division champions.  Nice.

Expectations were high last season but failed at the hands of the Winnipeg Jets in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

For the first time, my wife and I watched all or portions of every game the Predators’ games last season so it was painful to see them fail to win the Stanley Cup.   Home ice turned out to be a disadvantage in the playoffs at the Predators were 3-4.  Then to watch former Preds coach Barry Trotz take the Washington Capitals to the promised land was just another salt in the wound.  My fellow Preds fans loved it and cheered him on.  Not me.

The Nashville Predators once again begin another NHL season with high expectations.  Two hockey “experts” pick the Predators to fulfill the expectations and win the cup.   I’d like to believe it but I’m not quite ready to embrace it.

Let me begin with my apprehension about the new season.  First, let’s talk about Pekka Rinne.  Most Predators’ fans are in denial about Rinne.  Shockingly Rinne was named the Vezina Trophy winner which is awarded to the season’s best goaltender.   I will say that in the REGULAR season he was pretty good as he posted a record of 42-13-4 with a Goals Against Average (GAA) of 2.31 but he fell apart in the playoffs with a dismal 7-6 record and a horrific 3.07 GAA.  Don’t get me wrong, I want Rinne to do well but my feeling is that he will be a liability this season and will be a glaring weakness to hopes for a Cup.  His partner, Juuse Saros, played well last year and should be ready to take over if he is called upon.  I hate to say this but Rinne chokes when it counts the most.  This season is the time for him to come through for the franchise.

P.K. Subban.   Here’s another concern.  Everybody in Smashville adores Subban.  While he is known for his defense, he has too many lapses at times which makes life difficult for Nashville netminders.  He’s another that tends to fail when you need him the most.  Is he really the defenseman people think he is?

One thing that the Predators lost in the playoffs was scoring from their top line.  Viktor Arvidsson, Filip Forsberg and Ryan Johansen did their part but Kevin Fiala, Kyle Turris and Mike Fisher combined for only four goals in the postseason.  When facing teams like the Winnipeg Jets, the Predators needed offense.  Fisher, who came out of retirement last season, decided to retire for good in the offseason.

The Predators will open the season without two key players in the lineup as forward Ryan Hartman has been placed on injured reserve and forward Austin Watson will be serving a 37-game suspension due to a domestic abuse incident in the offseason.

The Predators have a chance to do something special.   It’s a long season ahead.  There is no question that the team has the talent and depth to bring home Nashville’s first professional sports trophy in June it’s just a matter if they can come through in the clutch moments in the postseason.  Notching the best record in the regular season means nothing.  It’s nice but without a Cup residing in Bridgestone with it, nothing else will matter.

The Predators open the season tonight in New York against the Rangers.