In a Game Full of Stars, Craig Sager Shines The Most

It’s amazing that after 17 seasons covering the NBA, Thursday night’s Game 6 was Craig Sager’s first time working the Finals.

Sager joined the ESPN/ABC broadcast team, working the sidelines along with Doris Burke while rocking another one of his iconic suits. In 2014, Sager was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. For the past couple years, he’s gone through multiple treatments including chemotherapy, stem cell transplants and bone marrow transplants.

After a few returns, covering marquee games and events for Turner Sports, Sager revealed in an interview with HBO that his leukemia was no longer in remission. Recognizing his juggling of work, travel and treatment, ESPN will present Sager with the Jimmy V Perseverance award in July. It’s even cooler that they and Turner could team up to give him his first NBA Finals assignment

On the court, LeBron James was the star. He recorded 41 points for the second straight game and has willed the Cavaliers back from a 3-1 deficit to Game 7 on Sunday. Cleveland could be the first team to win a Finals after being down that much, and it would be even more impressive to do so against the 73-win Golden State Warriors. Off the court though, literally, it was Sager getting standing ovations from the Cleveland crowd.

Before the game, Sager spent time FaceTiming with University of Pittsburgh running back and Hodgkins lymphoma survivor James Connor. A mentor of Connor’s was shooting the game for WJET and connected the two on the phone.

After the game, James shared a really special moment with Sager.

“First of all, let me ask you a question: How in the hell did you go 30-plus years without getting a Finals game? That don’t make no sense. But I’m happy to see you, man. Much love and respect, and I’m happy we were able to win this in front of these fans. We really appreciate you.”

Leave it to Richard Jefferson to add some more humor to it. Game 7 tips off at 7 PM Sunday on ABC.

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Stop Blaming Millennials For Your Problems, Especially in Sports

I am tired of the lazy “Millennials are soft” narrative.

Monday night, sports fans were treated to one of 2016’s early instant classics as #1 Kansas University went 3 overtimes to fend off Buddy Hield and #2 Oklahoma 109-106 at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence. It was one of the better regular season basketball games in a long time. Brent Musburger and Dick Vitale nearly lost their voices. It was a great time had by all, thanks to millennial athletes.

Meanwhile, Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver was busy doing his best Grandpa Simpson impression by blaming “Millennial Culture” for his team’s second to last place record in the Western Conference.

“My whole view of the millennial culture is that they have a tough time dealing with setbacks,” Sarver told the Arizona Republic. “I’m not sure if it’s the technology or the instant gratification of being online. But the other thing is, I’m not a fan of social media. I tell my kids it’s like Fantasyland. The only thing people put online are good things that happen to them, or things they make up. And it creates unrealistic expectations.”

It’s cool though, because local journalists are Sarver’s version of a Facebook wall to rant on, and his “instant gratification” are hot take sports talk shows like FOX Sports Live (I thought this was supposed to be a highlight show) with panelists echoing his sentiments…because none of them are millennials themselves.

Screen Shot 2016-01-05 at 10.26.34 AM

On this particular FSL panel from Monday night, moderator Randy Travis led off the discussion with the typical “We all know Millennials are the most coddled generation…”, and I felt more compelled to change the channel than ever. Ironically, everyone on this panel was screaming “Let Johnny Manziel be Johnny Manziel” just beforehand.

I appreciate Sports Illustrated’s media reporter Richard Deitsch for pointing out exactly where I wanted to take this on Twitter.

The group in question is exactly the audience Fox Sports 1 is fighting for with ESPN too. Fox Sports Live was originally packaged to us as the “fun” sports show with entertaining highlights, anchors who get it (like Jay Onrait and Dan O’Toole), and smart analysis. Instead, the network adds former ESPN First Take executive producer Jamie Horowitz – who brings Colin Cowherd and Jason Whitlock with (reasons millennial audiences wanted an alternative) – and we’re back to searching for something else again. ESPN then capitalizes by handing the late night SportsCenter reigns to their most millennial friendly talent, Scott Van Pelt.

In case you weren’t aware, the millennial generation covers people born between the early 80’s to the early 2000’s. These are impactful business owners (Mark Zuckerberg), soon-to-be college grads (Jack Gleeson aka Prince Joffrey from Game of Thrones), teenagers standing up for important causes (Malala Yousafzai), and kids who never saw Michael Jordan play live. They love nostalgia (reminiscing about 90’s Nickelodeon shows and NES cartridge games) and can’t wait for what’s next (standing in line around the block for the new iPhone).

Millennials are another young generation, shaped as much by previous generations as they are criticized by them. The people who can’t stand anyone younger than them actually gave birth to them and had the opportunity to raise them the way they wanted to. The irony is hilarious. Yet for every Phoenix Suns team, there’s a Golden State Warriors roster dominated by 20-somethings on top of the basketball world. The best player in the league currently and millennial athlete, Stephen Curry, had his game influenced by a specialist from the previous generation…his dad.

Obviously the disconnect isn’t limited to basketball, as Mr. Sarver generalizes. The old folks write pointed letters when Cam Newton dances in the end zone. They take to social media and sports talk radio when Jose Bautista flips his bat. Alas, when a millennial has something to say to defend their generation, they tell you to shut up and stop being so sensitive.

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I remember that “wambulance” joke from Modern Family. It was funny the first dozen times the kindergartner on the show used it.

If the Suns are victims to “Millennial Culture”, then why are the current Chicago Cubs 7/1 World Series favorites with a projected lineup whose average age is 26? What the Suns are victims of is an organization and leadership that spends more time blaming everything but themselves for their own losing culture…and bad scouting.

Rather than sit back and criticize a generation for your problems, be proactive and either adapt or provide a productive solution. If you don’t like what you’re hearing, change the channel. Otherwise, this will be you someday.

Grandpa Simpson

For more, follow along and react on Facebook or Twitter

2015-16 NBA Season Predictions

Tuesday night, a new NBA season tips off with 3 games featuring the league’s biggest stars. TNT will feature a doubleheader with the Cavaliers and. Bulls in Chicago (7 PM CT), then the Pelicans visiting Golden State for the Warriors’ banner raising ceremony (9:30 PM CT). Also facing off will be the Pistons and the social media savvy Atlanta Hawks. Sure it will all be going on before the World Series, but that’s what sports bars are for with multiple monitor setups.

A new season means new storylines and intrigue that only the NBA can produce. The defending champion Warriors are very much the same team, built to score plenty and defend as well as anyone. The Spurs Big-3 (Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobli, and Tony Parker) have one last ride (at least) in them with rising superstar Kawhi Leonard and newly added LaMarcus Aldridge. LeBron James and Kyrie Irving still rule the Eastern conference, but the Bulls are playing the Star Wars “rebel” role with a healthier Derrick Rose and new head coach Fred Hoiberg. Don’t forget Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have a new coach too…

There’s plenty of drama I could go on about and plan to cover for each team, but for now we’ll just make some predictions for who will be making the playoffs and who will be taking home hardware by the end of the 2015-16 season.

Eastern Conference Playoffs

  1. Cleveland Cavaliers
  2. Chicago Bulls
  3. Washington Wizards
  4. Atlanta Hawks
  5. Toronto Raptors
  6. Boston Celtics
  7. Indiana Pacers
  8. Milwaukee Bucks

Eastern Conference Finals

Bulls vs Cavs

1. Cleveland Cavaliers vs 2. Chicago Bulls

Western Conference

  1. San Antonio Spurs
  2. Golden State Warriors
  3. Memphis Grizzlies
  4. Oklahoma City Thunder
  5. Los Angeles Clippers
  6. Houston Rockets
  7. New Orleans Pelicans
  8. Minnesota Timberwolves

Western Conference Finals

Spurs vs Grizz

1. San Antonio Spurs vs. 3. Memphis Grizzlies

NBA Finals

BASKET-BKN-BKO-NBA FINALS-GAME 5-SPURS HEAT

Spurs vs. Bulls (Spurs in 6)

Most Valuable Player

AD MVP

Anthony Davis (NO)

Defensive Player of the Year

Tony Allen DMVP

Tony Allen (MEM)

Rookie of the Year

Jahlil

Jahlil Okafor (PHI)

Coach of the Year

Billy Donovan

Billy Donovan (OKC)

Sixth Man of the Year

Taj

Taj Gibson (CHI)

Most Improved Player of the Year

NBA: OCT 23 Jazz at Clippers

Rudy Gobert (UTA)

ALL-NBA First Team

Stephen Curry (GS)

James Harden (HOU)

LeBron James (CLE) 

Anthony Davis (NO)

Marc Gasol (MEM)

Marc Gasol

All-NBA Second Team

Russell Westbrook (OKC)

Kevin Durant (OKC)

Kawhi Leonard (SA)

Blake Griffin (LAC)

Pau Gasol (CHI)

Cleveland Cavaliers at Chicago Bulls

How do your predictions look? Let me know on Facebook and Twitter

#NationalPuppyDay in Sports

No case of the Mondays here…

It’s #NationalPuppyDay!

I can’t be alone in greatly enjoying the cuteness overload on social media today. I have an epic thread of puppy photos being posted by friends on my own Facebook page. But I digress…

Let’s take a look at what sports clubs and outlets are posting from all over.

Starting with HANK…The Milwaukee Brewers Mascot Puppy…

Detroit Tigers

Chicago White Sox

NBA on TNT

San Francisco 49ers

SportsNet LA

Cincinnati Bengals

Golden State Warriors

Green Bay Packers

Georgetown Hoyas

Kansas City Chiefs

WWE

MLB GIFs (I heart this handle)

Calgary Flames

Arizona Diamondbacks

America’s Pregame on FOX Sports 1

Portland Winterhawks

UFC

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Portland Trailblazers

Baltimore Ravens

Anaheim Ducks

New England Patriots

Seattle Mariners

Detroit Pistons

San Jose Sharks

NBC Sports Network

Butler University

Cleveland Browns

Minnesota Vikings

Washington Huskies

NFL Network

Breeders Cup

San Diego Chargers

San Antonio Spurs

Duquesne University

Buffalo Bills

Atlanta Braves

Orlando Magic

Cal University

University of Georgia

Penn State

Colorado Rockies

St. Louis Rams

Oakland Raiders

Arizona Cardinals

 Feel free to Tweet your own #NationalPuppyDay picks to me at @Mike_PiFF03 and maybe we’ll feature them in a followup post.