Backyard Sports Games

A tribute to one of the all time greats on an anniversary.

S.Samek

Sports and video games often seem like they don’t go together. That often those that play video games don’t watch sports. Conversely those that play sports don’t have time to play video games.
Though the perfect match is sports video games. Taking time to play as your favorite NFL, or NHL stars in virtual form can be a lot of fun. I was quite the fan of NHL 01 when I first got my PlayStation two for Christmas in 2001.
Most of my gaming was and still is done on my computer. It was one title in particular that was the reason for this. It had numerous forms that I would pick up and play depending on what I was feeling that day, or time of year. It was the Backyard Sports series.
The most well-known of these titles is baseball. It fact it just turned 20 years old the other day. You can read all about it here.

I too would love to give a shutout to the games that shaped my future career path the most. These games even a bit to this day are put into a cd room drive and hoped that they work so that I can practice announcing.

The first game I played in the series was baseball back in 1997. This was the original version with no pro athletes as kids. I remember playing with the easy ball and not being very good.

I picked the Bombers as my team name and a bunch of random kids, including the goat in Pablo Sanchez. They never won the championship. I later restarted as the Giants. This was a team that I stacked with better talent such, as Jocinda Smith, Keisha Phillips, Pete Wheeler and of course Sanchez. It was this team that would carry me to my first backyard sports title. I would then pick up the 2005 edition to replace it and it’s still my favorite of all the backyard games.

I then remember getting backyard football 2002. There I took a Pittsburgh Steelers team of almost all quarterbacks and won it all, multiple times. I then switched to a more accurate team with actual position players and continued to win big.

Backyard Soccer then came into the mix in 2004. There I got my first taste of MLS. It was a fun game, but just not my favorite. Though It would be my pick for most challenging as you had to win your way through three divisions like in real soccer to even have a shot at the championship title.
Next to the mix was basketball and hockey. Both equally as fun. In fact, basketball is the one I played most recently.
Then finally we have skateboarding. Overall this maybe the worst of the main series games. They only made one of this game. It was on the trickier side if I recall. You had to remember some button combinations for each trick. Some of which could be rather long. I haven’t beaten this title yet in fact. I got through to the medieval level’s final boss and it keeps beating me. Still pretty fun though.

 
Now why this game is so useful. I like to use it as a broadcast practice tool. Even before I knew I wanted to study broadcasting I would do play by play during each game. It didn’t matter the sport, nor the team, or even time of day. Yes, I was told to quiet down after announcing games at midnight, or later.

 
It didn’t matter to me though, it was always fun. Weather it was a big run by Pablo Sanchez, or routine ground out back to the mound for Dontrelle Willis to Carlos Delgado each play was done best I could. Often in a very informal style, but best I could.

 
After I learned a bit more of theory I would try to apply it to each game. Though it was a bit tougher at times. Three on three hoops aren’t five on five. The in-game power ups don’t have real world applications, even if they are fun to use. Yet it was still a chance to get experience even if just for fun and myself.

 

Overall, I just think this game has contributed greatly to my passion for sports. Didn’t matter if I was just a pick-up game, or the last game of the Astonishingly Shiny cup of all cups tournament. I was immersed in a game and it meant something to me. It was a chance to chase the passion, to dream my future dream. Even if it was just for 4 minutes of entertainment.

 
Sadly, most of my editions no longer work from trying to download on multiple computers. Also, doesn’t help that even if you find a disk it’s either expensive, or you don’t have a disk drive on a laptop.
Yet the legacy lives on. It lives on in my heart and mind as I remember those hours spent drafting, practicing and playing around. Winning games by absurd margins using strategy that would never work in real life. It instilled in me that passion for sports that is just as present today as it was back in 1999. Here’s to a great game celebrating a fantastic run.

 

 

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NBA Playoffs may Change.

League mulling over change in seeding procedures.

S. Samek

After making changes to the draft and all-star game you think the NBA would be happy. This isn’t the case as it is debating the idea of changing the playoffs.
This change would seed the 16 playoff teams into one bracket, rather than two eight team conference brackets.

 

 

Though according to the article and commissioner Adam Silver it would depend on balancing out the schedule. The may reason this is tricky is to avoid more travel than is needed.

Step Curry likes the idea though of 1-16 straight seeding. Many of the NBA players also agree with the super star on this issue.

I think it could be a good idea as well. It would have the 16 best records in and all have a fair shot at the title. It wouldn’t have the bottom tier, or fringe type teams trying to get a playoff spot just to meet the quota for the conference.

 
Sure, you may have conference matchups in reach round, but you may also have cross- conference matchups. It may lead to an NBA final of all one conference, but if they are the best two teams shouldn’t they match up anyway.

 
Conference affiliation is nice for scheduling purposes. It is also nice to have that sense of pride that you represent you conference in the NBA title game after winning the conference championship. Though I would say that every player wants the NBA title over a conference one.

 
Overall, I think this would be a good switch for the NBA. You can have the 16 best teams play and get matchups you won’t normally see in the playoffs happen. With the all-star game also dropping conference ties why not have the playoffs drop them too.

 

 

 

 

 

NBA All Star Changes.

S.Samek

The NBA has been quite busy recently. After announcing changes with the draft, they are now tweaking the all-star game.

It will no longer be an East vs. West conference based show down. The top two players with the most votes will become captains and draft their team. Any player they want can be chosen from the pool of eligible all-stars without worrying about conference affiliation.

24 players are still selected, so no change there, nor is there a change in the starter selection. Fan vote, current players and media vote is still in play. Also remaining is the coaches picking the 14 reserves.

I’m in favor of this new format. It gives it very much a school-yard pickup game feel. That it’s about making the best team, not just conference stuff. It’s a really good idea, especially if it doesn’t have anything to do with picking home court advantage for the NBA Championship series. The conference thing isn’t really needed. It just serves as an easy way to divide teams for the game.
This makes it a lot more fun. You have endless combinations of players in starting and reserve roles. Ones that would be impossible to pay for under salary cap and see on a regular basis. You could have the dream starting five, if at least only for one night.
Though why stop there. Maybe have multiple five on five teams with a bunch of captains and tournament them. Give the fans lots of high level basketball to watch. The all-star game is a showcase game and a fun atmosphere. With all the before game contests why not make the game light and fun as well. Picking teams makes it more fun and light. This is a win for the NBA.

 

 

NBA Draft Reform

S.Samek

The NBA made some changes to the draft. The chance for each team to win the first overall pick has gone down to 14 percent for the three worst teams. Some of the other teams to rank low see their chances going up.

Though the common critique of this draft system is that it promotes tanking. That trying to lose games on purpose to steal the top pick and hope to develop them into franchise changing superstars.
The moves were made to try and curb the tanking. Thinking that even if you finish say with the fifth, or sixth worst record you have a better chance than you did in the past to get a number one pick. You’ll have more of an incentive to win a couple extra games.
I think they system is the way it is. It theory the tank get superstars, may work it may not. It’s the same in every sport too, not just basketball. Just because your drafted number one overall does not guarantee a title. Heck it doesn’t guarantee any degree of success.
True you could be the transcendent talent your team seeks. There’s no doubt Laron James was what Cleveland wanted him to be. Sidney Crosby, or Mario Lemieux saved the Penguins and won them cups. It can work to select your team this way.
Though for every superstar you need role players. Crosby can’t play four other positions and goalie now can he. Even Michael Jorden needed Scotty Pippen and three other guys on the floor with him. What’s to say some of the elite players couldn’t hold their own going one on five. I doubt it though. That’s why it’s a team sport. One person can’t win the game all alone. They can help, make that one big play happen, or score the game winner, but they needed some help to get to that moment.

Stan Van Gundy of the Detroit Pistons has a solution better than the draft. Cancel the draft and all rookies that would be eligible become free agents. The teams sign them and try and stay under the salary cap.

It’s a cool idea. They only problem is what’s stopping all the top picks from trying to sign in one place and form a super team. My only way to stop that would be the salary cap.
What’s wrong with forming super teams. I think you should try and build a super team and go out and win titles. Though if you can keep some degree of fairness to stop it from just being blowout after blowout and having the same team win all the time that would be nice to.
Fun think about sports though is that the best team doesn’t always win. The underdog after gets their day and upsets the super team it challenges. Sports are not won on paper they are won on the court, or field. Singing the best free agents doesn’t guarantee you win the championship, or even make the playoffs. Case and point this season with the Washington Mystic’s who only made it to the semi-finals after having the best offseason. Yes, they made the playoffs and had more success than past years, but still didn’t win it all.

Drafts are part of the fun, they are a major event for fans. It would be losing out on a great marketing tool to get rid of the draft.
They system isn’t perfect, but at least give it a try to see if it works. Then if not just vote to change it.

Rick Pitino Out

S.Samek

To build a strong athletics team you need good coaching and strong players. Ones that will do anything to have success at the sport. Sometimes this comes with not playing by the rules as a way to achieve victory on the field.
Recently there was a bribing scandal in the NCAA involving an Adidas executive and four assistant coaches. One of these schools under investigation is Louisville.
Because of this investigation Louisville has decided to put head men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino on administrative leave.
Louisville’s athletic director Tom Jurich was placed on paid administrative leave as well.
This isn’t the first time the Cardinals have made headlines off the court. A 2015 scandal may result in a forfeit of the 2013 national title. A 2010 incident involving extortion also took place.
Pitino was a good coach in terms of getting results. He owns a .744 winning percentage sense 2001-2002. Three of those seasons he led the Cardinals to the final four.

It will be tough to replace him for sure. However, it was best to see him go. It’s not the first, or even second time something like this has happened to the program. Best if they just let him go and figure this whole mess out.

Then get a new coach and have the players focus on playing basketball. Louisville looks to still be able to contend for a top 10 spot in the nation, even without their head coach. They also had the seventh best odds at 15-1 to win this seasons title going into the season. This could change after Pitino got fired. The season starts on Oct. 30 against Kentucky Wesleyan for the Cardinals.

WNBA Championship Preview 2017

By S. Samek

Seems like it was just yesterday that we were previewing the WNBA semi-finals.

The matchups offered a bit of intrigue, as a couple of unlikely contenders went head to head with the top two teams in the league.

Both series ended in three game sweeps. So, to battle it out we have the reigning champion LA Sparks and the top -seed Minnesota Lynx. This is a rematch of last season’s championship series.

Last season I picked the Lynx to win. I was wrong as the Sparks took home the title.

LA Sparks

LA is a strong contender and deserves their chance to defend the title. They finished with the second-best record at 26-8, just a game behind Minnesota. They won their last seven games in a row and went 16-1 at home, best home record in the WNBA. A 10-7 away mark was pretty decent as well.

The duo averaged about 36 points per game during the regular season. Parker averaged 20 points a game during the one playoff series the Sparks played in and combined it with 8.7 rebounds and 6.7 assists per game. Ogwumike averaged 10 rebounds during the playoff matchup with Phoenix.

While LA is without Kristi Toliver a major contributor to last season’s run. They do have Chelsea Gray. Gray is averaging 6.7 assists per game, tops for the playoffs along with Parker.

Odyssey Sims came up big with 22 points in the game three win over Phoenix. She adds another scoring option for LA.

Minnesota Lynx

Yet Minnesota has dominated this season. Number one seed at 27-7. They put up the runner up home mark at 15-2 and 12-5 on the road. The concluded the season on a three-game winning streak. Heck they went on a 37-0 run against Indiana in a 59-point blowout win, both WNBA records this season. How’s that for dominating.

They have Maya Moore and Seimone Augustus, both average 19 points per game in the playoffs.

That’s not to forget they also have Sylvia Fowles and Lindsay Whalen. Fowles is the 2017 WNBA MVP, this for a season averaging 18.9 points per game 10.4 rebounds, both in the top five league wide. She also tied for the league-led in double doubles with 20.

This high level of play is being kept in the playoffs, where Fowles is average 20 points per game and 10 boards per game.

Whalen is among the playoff leaders in assists with just under five per game with Moore and Augustus behind per at just under four and a half per game.

The Lynx have a lot of talent to contend with. They seem to be the favorite again this year as well.

During the season series LA took two of the three match ups. This including the most recent matchup on August 27,2017 in LA. LA won last year despite being the underdog and is more than capable of during it again.

Either way this should be a treat of a series. I think it goes down to the fifth game once again. This time with the home team winning. I take the Lynx 3-2, just like last season.

 

 

 

WNBA Semi-finals Predictions 2017

By S. Samek

Play off dust is starting to settle after the chase for spots.

Actually, they have played two rounds and the semifinals sit before us.

Battle number one is between the off-season winner’s Washington and the favorites from Minnesota. Washington got to this point with victories over Dallas and fourth seeded New York. Minnesota dominated this season earning the number one seed and a double bye into the semi-finals.

In the season series, the Lynx took all three meetings. Most recently the two played on September third, an 86-72 Lynx victory.
Taking a look at the matchup that features a lot of star power. Minnesota will go with Mya Moore, Sylvia Fowles and Lindsey Whalen. The Mystics counter with Elena Delle Donne, Kristi Toliver and Emma Messman.

Delle Donne scores at will averaging 19.7 points per game. Moore does too with 17.3 points per game. Though she does seem to elevate her game against Washington averaging 21.6 points and 5.3 rebounds. All of Moore’s other stats also improve vs. the Mystics as well.

Delle Donne missed a good bit of time this season with an injury, but has come to life in the playoffs, averaging 21.5 points and 10.5 boards.
Toliver adds three point shooting ability, including nine as part of a 32-point night against NY. Plus, she was a part of last season title winning LA Sparks, who beat the Lynx.
Fowles should be able to offer a 1-2 punch with Moore in scoring. She scores at a 18.9 points per game pace and controls the glass with 10.4 rebounds. Minnesota should be tough to stop offensively if both of them click.

I think the Lynx are favorites for a reason. They win games and titles like it’s their job. This experience should help against a Washington team that has never played for a title and has a 6-18 playoff record coming into this season.

Prediction is Lynx in thr.

Second Semi-final

The second semi-final is the two seeded LA Sparks and the Phoenix Mercury. The Mercury beat Seattle and Then upset Conneticut to advance to this round as the five seed. The defending champions come in at the number two position and earned a double-bye.
The season series was swept by LA. Though Phoenix kept in close in the first game of the series, losing by just a basket.

Though the last time these two met in the playoffs in 2014 it was the Mercury who survived.

LA is looking to Candace Parker and Nneka Ogwumike to led the way. Parker averaged 16.9 points per game and Ogwumike 18.8.

Phoenix will look to Britney Griner to led the way. Griner is the playoff scoring leader, averaging 24.5 points per game. This is over her 21.9 points per game regular season average, also tops in the league.

Diana Taurasi will complement Griner. Taurasi averaged 17.9 points per game during the regular season. She is also the WNBA all-time leader in three pointers made.

Phoenix can score a lot, but will it be enough to beat LA.
LA should lean on the experience of last year’s win. They are a formidable  team, having beaten a possible dynasty in Minnesota last season. They aren’t going to bow out early if they can help it. Phoenix may keep it close, but ultimately should falter. Sparks 3-1 is my prediction.