Sports fans in Cleveland will settle for a championship any way they can get it.
Even if it comes by way of the city’s NBA team as opposed to their beloved NFL Browns.
Even if it comes via the help of the greatest player in the world, who several years back went on national television and publicly embarrassed the region when he took his ball and won titles elsewhere.
But again, make no mistake, you take the sweet taste of success any way you can get it.
Just a couple of days after it was published Skinner was put in the intensive care unit after going into septic shock. An infection was discovered, then more than a week later he was flown by air ambulance to Dallas in hopes of undergoing a previously planned experimental treatment.
After years of grinding my way through freelance writing assignments and radio shows, I finally latched on full-time as a multimedia sports reporter at the Orlando Sentinel newspaper. There, the grind carries on.
I’ve been busy since the end of July on the high school and local sports beat at the Sentinel, which encompasses much more than you’d care to read about at this point.
The exciting part has been the high school football coverage we’ve been doing for the 76 area programs (yes, 76 high school football teams) through print and online video features.
SANFORD, Fla. – When it comes to sports in Brazil there’s no bigger name in soccer than Ricardo Kaká and no bigger basketball icon than Oscar Schmidt.
On Tuesday at the Orlando City Soccer Club’s training facility the two friends took a moment to chat while Schmidt was in town with family just as Kaká was preparing to head out for a U.S. Open Cup match in Chicago.
Kaká presented the Naismith Memorial Basketball and FIBA hall of famer with a personalized No. 14 OCSC jersey before the two shared stories of how they met many years ago.
The passing of former Oakland Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler at the age of 69 is likely to revive old debates over The Snake’s Pro Football Hall of Fame worthiness.
There’s room for argument on both sides of the table. I mean, the Hall’s selection committee named Stabler a second-team member of its All-Decade Team of the 1970s, despite 24 interceptions thrown in 1975 and 30 in 1978. They were clearly impressed once upon a time.
Stabler finished his 15-year NFL career (11 as a starter with three teams) in the shadows of contemporaries such as Terry Bradshaw, Roger Staubach, Bob Griese and Fran Tarkenton, each immortalized in Canton, Ohio.
But what about Kenny? He led Oakland to a 69-26-1 regular season record in the 1970s and finished with 96 wins in all after wrapping up a career with the Houston Oilers and lowly New Orleans Saints.
More shocking than the footage below is that the driver on the wrong end of this wreck early Monday at Daytona International Speedway actually walked away in one piece.
Austin Dillon and his No. 3 stock car went airborne into the fencing just before 2:45 a.m. late Sunday along the final stretch of the Coke Zero 400.
Kevin Harvick clipped the back end of Denny Hamlin, spinning the No. 11 car around and into Dillon, who was then hit by Brad Keselowski upon returning to the track while upside down.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the race, which did not get underway until after 11 p.m. after being delayed by rain. But it’ll be how the race ended, with the No. 3 car caught up in a horrific wreck at Daytona, that’s going to have people talking about the sport this week.
“I think it’s very possible that we’ll see players that are out West coming to the Eastern Conference, or free agents that are in the Eastern Conference staying out East, because players understand that the Western Conference is brutal right now. It’s hard to make a Finals run. You can be on a loaded team in the West and still miss the playoffs,” Kennedy said.
Imagine waiting three years for your one big opportunity. Then imagine knocking it out of the park on the very first pitch.
Jay Bell on 1988 Topps card #637
That’s how the first Major League Baseball swing played out for Cleveland Indians shortstop Jay Bell in 1986 when he connected for a homer off Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven in his first trip to the big league plate.
The irony was likely not lost on the baseball fans in attendance that day.
After being taken with the No. 8 overall pick out of high school by the Minnesota Twins in 1984 Bell was part of a minor league package shipped to Cleveland in exchange for Blyleven.
Cleveland also received pitcher Curt Wardle and outfielder Jim Weaver up front in the deal, and later pitcher Rich Yett. The man affectionately known as the Frying Dutchman would go on to help the Twins win a championship in 1987 just as Bell’s career was getting started.
Can you imagine how rare it must be to hit a major league home run off of the first pitch hurled your way?
( – The following is a story I wrote for the June 15, 2015 edition of Lions Roar, the gameday magazine of Major League Soccer’s Orlando City Soccer Club, touching on the excitement surrounding new plans for a soccer-specific stadium – )
There has been plenty of excitement to go around locally throughout the first three months of the Major League Soccer season. But not even wins, losses or draws have sparked such passion from Orlando City SC supporters as that of the status of a new soccer stadium.
No matter the forum, there remains a lingering sense of anticipation and excitement renewed each time an update is provided on the Orlando City Soccer Club’s new venue.
Club officials made quite the splash at a press conference on May 29 by proclaiming the development of a soccer-specific stadium in Orlando’s Parramore area ready for liftoff.
That the club will privately fund its new stadium not only assures fans the project will indeed get off the ground, but also serves as a reminder of just how close the dream is to becoming reality.
This much is certain, no matter the details from here on out, there will be no more worrying about the specifics for the Orlando City faithful.
( The following is a story I wrote for the May 30, 2015 edition of Lions Roar, the gameday magazine of Major League Soccer’s Orlando City Soccer Club, exploring the continued support of a legion of loyal soccer fans throughout Central Florida )
You need only to cruise the pavement of Central Florida and tally the number of OCSC magnets adorning vehicles for proof. Or stroll the sidewalks of downtown Orlando wearing the club’s trademark purple and keep tabs on the responses you receive.
It’s as though lifelong relationships are being made by the thousands in 2015.
Whether it’s the club’s work in the community or the inviting presence of its leaders around town, purple pride is spreading throughout the state at an uncontainable rate.
“I remember when we first started going to games and there was maybe a couple thousand people in the stands,” said Randy Badilo, a season ticket holder in section 110 who has supported the club since its inception. “Then at the start of this year we sell out the entire Citrus Bowl for the first game, and it’s been incredible ever since.”
Boosted by home crowds of 62,510 in the club’s MLS debut against New York City FC on March 8 and 40,122 against the defending champion LA Galaxy a little more than two months later, Orlando City is averaging 37,446 fans at home this season compared to an average of just over 20,000 for the league as a whole.
The NBA didn’t matter the last time the Golden State Warriors played for a championship.
The National Basketball Association was still a decade away from garnering national interest amid the sports landscape when Rick Barry, Jamaal Wilkes, George Johnson, Butch Beard, Clifford Ray and Jeff Mullins last brought a title to the Bay Area.
It wasn’t until the mid-1980s, when Magic Johnson and Larry Bird were reaching all corners of the country through a complex rivalry, that both media and fans started to truly pay attention. But before those theatrical days were plenty of other benchmarks being laid throughout the history of the league.
The Warriors claimed the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference during the 1974-75 season with a modest 48-34 record. They did so by leading the 18-team league in scoring, rebounds and steals before pulling an upset (assuming they were indeed the underdogs, of course) of the Washington Bullets (60-22) by way of a sweep in the NBA Finals.
That series has some historical significance aside from the result as Golden State’s Al Attles and Washington’s K.C. Jones became the first black head coaches to face off in a professional sports championship. Never mind that Attles was thrown out of Game 4 for attacking an opposing player during the game.
So much changes over the course of eight years. Just ask the Cleveland Cavaliers, who last played for an NBA title back when they were swept by the San Antonio Spurs following the 2006-07 season.
Three years later the Cavs decided it was time to move on from head coach Mike Brown, while all-star LeBron James decided to move on from Cleveland following semifinal setbacks to the Boston Celtics (2008, 2010) and an Eastern Conference final loss to the Orlando Magic in 2009.
And now, mercifully, Cleveland gets another shot at breaking a pro sports title drought that dates back to 1964 when the Browns last finished on top.
This time the Cavs’ hopes won’t hinge on the likes of overachievers such as Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Drew Gooden, Larry Hughes, Sasha Pavlovic, Daniel Gibson and, unfortunately, Anderson Varejao, who is one of two remaining players still on roster from 2007 but has been sidelined due to injury.