The Play by Play
Over the weekend the NFL held its annual draft, four days during which the thirty-two professional teams select the best college players to join their ranks. Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma’s quarterback and this year’s Heisman Trophy winner, went to the Cleveland Brown as the number one pick. While clearly talented, Mayfield saw his fair share of controversy during his senior year, known as much for his sideline antics as his play. After the Browns’ disastrous choice of Johnny Manziel (aka Johnny Football) back in 2014, some thought they’d steer clear of drafting a similar personality. It will be interesting to see if Cleveland learned its lesson or whether history is bound to repeat itself. Saquon Barkley, lauded by many as the best player in the draft, has a new home with the New York Giants. The Buffalo Bills’ selection of Josh Allen, one of the five quarterbacks drafted in the first round, was overshadowed by the discovery of racially insensitive tweets he posted in high school. And Shaquem Griffin, the one-handed linebacker who impressed the crowds during his NFL combine, went to the Seattle Seahawks in the 5th round, the team that also drafted his twin brother last year. Ryan Shazier’s surprise appearance to announce Pittsburgh’s first round choice proved icing on the cake of this year’s memorable draft. Last December, Shazier suffered a severe spinal injury which left him unable to feel the lower half of his body, making his walk across the stage a truly unforgettable moment.
WrestleMania Meet Saudi Arabia
Last Friday, the WWE hosted The Greatest Royal Rumble in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, its first ever televised wrestling event in the country. To most this might appear an odd, if not incomprehensible pairing. However, just as Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salam makes moves to “modernize” and open doors to foreign entertainment, the famous wrestling organization seeks to expand into new international markets, including India, China and the Middle East. In fact, last month the WWE signed a lucrative 10 year deal with the Saudis, promising to bring more events and streaming to the region. Yet this influx in popularity is not without controversy. While the government permitted women and children to attend this $25 million dollar rumble, a small sign of progress made, none of the WWE’s female wrestlers were welcome to perform and the General Sports Authority apologized for accidentally airing an advertisement featuring these athletes, calling it “indecent.” Interestingly, back in the States, the wrestling organization strives to empower women and encourage their participation, leaving many to question their willingness to hold a male-only event. The Greatest Royal Rumble serves to remind us of three things: progress has been made, there’s still a long way to go, and to always watch your footing.
The Faces and Facts
Featured Female – Joan Marie Laurer (Wrestling): Better, and widely known, as Chyna, a female wrestler in the WWE. Joan initially entered the arena back in 1997 as a bodyguard yet soon found herself in the ring wrestling exclusively against men. Chyna became the first woman to win the Intercontinental Championship, the first to participate in the Royal Rumble, and to compete in the King of the Ring Tournament. Eventually, Laurer moved into the women’s division, where she finished her career as the female winner of WrestleMania X-7. A trailblazer for all the women wrestlers to follow.
Derek Fisher (Basketball): A professional basketball player and coach who spent most of his career as a guard for the LA Lakers. Fisher returned to headlines last week upon announcing his engagement to Gloria Govan. While most proposals don’t lead to numerous article publications, this one proved special, largely because Govan is the ex-wife of Fisher’s former teammate Matt Barnes. Derek and Gloria began dating back in 2015 unbeknownst to Barnes who, when learning of the relationship, drove 95 miles to confront Fisher at his home. The altercation led to the arrival of police and some serious bad blood. Many waited, and hoped, for a similar outburst upon hearing of the engagement. Yet Barnes shocked many when he offered a heartfelt congratulations to the couple. Love triangle no longer.
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (Hockey): Not your typical hockey player. A “rookie” at the age of 29, Bellemare is one of only 11 Frenchmen to reach the NHL. Prior to entering the Philadelphia Flyers’ training camp back in 2014, Pierre-Edouard had already spent a year in medical school studying to be a chiropractor, learned three languages, lived in Sweden, and played in the 2004 World Championships. Now a member, and alternate captain for the Las Vegas Knights, Bellemare hopes to help his team win it all and hoist the Stanley Cup.
We are officially onto the second round in both hockey and basketball playoffs. Rather than diving into all the matchups and game times (you can click here to see the full second round NBA and NHL schedules), here are a few pairings that stand out as especially interesting:
- The Washington Capitals v. The Pittsburgh Penguins (Hockey): Facing each other in the second round for the third year in a row. The Capitals look to end their two-year losing streak while the Penguins seek their 3rd championship in a row. With players like Ovechkin and Crosby on the ice, there’s bound to be some stellar offense. The series is currently tied 1-1 with game 3 scheduled for tonight, May 1.
- The Las Vegas Golden Knights v. The San Jose Sharks (Hockey): Both teams swept their opponents in round 1 which should make this an excellent series. The Knights currently lead 2-1 with game 4 tomorrow, Wednesday, May 2.
- Toronto Raptors v. Cleveland Cavaliers (Basketball): In a rematch of last year’s second round, the Raptors look to dethrone King James and the Cavaliers. Experts are 50/50 on who will advance, which hopefully means an exciting series awaits. Keep an eye on the Lebron-Drake matchup. Game 1 starts at 8pm EST tonight, Tuesday, May 1.
The Social Hour
As Memorial Day approaches and spring weather finally moves in, it’s time to prepare for some lawn games. With ladder toss, bocce ball, horseshoes and what feels like an endless list, how does one choose? I’d start with a perennial favorite and one you can make yourself: corn hole. While it might take some time to construct (directions included) the final product makes the work well worth it. Feel free to decorate as you see fit, although it seems like the perfect opportunity to represent your favorite sports teams. Get your creative juices flowing by checking out a few of these pre-made sets.
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Camaraderie fostered amongst teammates but also built between fans remains one of, if not the best aspects of sports. Athletics bring people together in times of joy and pain like nothing else. This could be seen in its fullest glory last Monday when the Toronto Maple Leafs played game 5 against the Boston Bruins. Earlier in the day Toronto suffered an unspeakable tragedy when a van drove down a pedestrian street, killing 10 and injuring 15 more. The city rallied around its hockey team, singing the national anthem with such passion the hired singer took a backseat. A truly wonderful moment in sports.