Sports

Oct. 14, 2015

By Marc Platt

As enjoyable as the 2015 baseball postseason has been, I miss hearing Vin Scully's voice the most.

He has been there for me since I was six years old. This was my 50th baseball season listening to him call the games on the radio and/or television. The Dodgers Radio Network has switched three times since then and the television stations went from channel 5-to-11-to-9-to13-to-cable, but Vin Scully has always been there throughout the transistions.

Scully was also one of the best football, basketball and golf network commentators I ever heard. There was nothing this man couldn't do behind a microphone.

He has been going through some medical problems lately, but I want to keep pounding the point home what he has done to lift Dodger baseball to the highest levels and building fanbase of just about any franchise.

Vin Scully arrived in Brooklyn in 1950 as a very young graduate from Fordham University. He was an appentice of Hall of Famer Red Barber and the very-talented Connie Desmond in the booth.

The Brooklyn squads of 1950-51-52-53-55 were elite, Hall-of-Fame powerful teams who won a lot of games and the latter three played The Yankees in the World Series with players like Jackie Robinson, Duke Snider, Don Newcombe, Pee Wee Reese and Gil Hodges. These were the teams he covered in his earliest years.

In the 1960's Scully covered the pitching-dominated teams with Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale. These were weak-hitting teams who relied on pitching and defense.

In the 1970's and early 1980's they were once again a very powerful squad with Garvey-Cey-Lopes-Russell in the infield, Dusty Baker, Reggie Smith and Mike Scioscia getting them to the postseason year after year. That elite squad finally broke through in 1981 beating the Yankees, just like the 1955 squad beat The Bronx Bombers.

Vin Scully magically brought Los Angeles and the world the exploits of the Kirk Gibson-led 1988 team who defied all the odds to destroy a better Oakland Athletics squad. Scully and Tommy Lasorda are the two most-reverred Dodgers who were NOT known for their exploits on the baseball field as players. Lasorda WAS a player, but not heralded for his pitching skills.

This brings me to my personal connection to Vin Scully.

I was hooked at age six and listened faithfully to most games since. Scully helped me get through the loss of my mother at age 12 all the way through many of my life experiences. He has always been there for me.

My brother Ben has had a professional connection with Vin Scully since the early 1990's. Ben worked for Vin and helped bring Scully into the computer age. My brother has helped Scully for many years with his computers and other things related to the Internet.

In 2003 when Ben got married, Vin quitetly showed up and sat in the back row. Ben (politely) INSISTED that Mr. Scully take a picture with him and his bride and Vin was more than glad to do it.

When Ben and I lived together, Scully called our place many times and I was fortunate to speak with the Hall of Famer myself about baseball and life many times when Ben wasn't around. I cherish those conversations.

A few months after Ben moved out the phone rang one evening. It was Vin Scully. He had called the wrong number, meaning to get my brother at home. For the next 45 minutes it was my great pleasure to talk baseball and life with one of the most important figures in my life. At the end of the call I told Scully just how important he had been in mine and Ben's life during our youth.

His reply: "I'm glad to have been along for the ride."

Get well soon Vin. I am really missing you call these playoffs.

 

Sep. 15, 2015

"Corporate society takes care of everything. And all it asks of anyone, all it's ever asked of anyone ever, is not to interfere with management decisions."                                   (Rollerball, 1975)

Commentary by
Marc Platt

I know there are a slew of articles coming out about all the concussions and health problems being suffered by NFL players. There have been suicides (due to brain injuries) and even shorter careers than the past.

The American and even fans in other countries thirst for the kind of violence the NFL offers the comsumers in 2015, but didn't we see this coming years ago.

Year round training, better diets and vitamin supplement programs developed as early as grade school have changed the face of all levels of football.

In the 1960's, the Chicago Bears Dick Butkus was the most feared hard-hitting linebacker of the decade and maybe for all time. He played nine seasons and is entrenched in the Hall of Fame. Butkus stood at 6'3" and weighed 245.

Fast forward to 2015 and defensive end JJ Watt is Butkus's equivalent in today's game. Watt is 6'5" and 285 pounds. The way the game is played in 2015,  Watt has the same impact in his position. Watt is bigger, faster and feared the same way Butkus was.

You know that Watt hits hard and has the same skillset as Butkus, but with everyone else in the sport just as big and fast, he is one bad hit away from a career-ending injury.

Rollerball is the classic tale of corporate-run cities, states and sports franchises. The way things are headed in the NFL, college and even high school football, we are not too far off the story of Rollerball.

The only question left to be answered is whether they will eventually eliminate rules and time limits. Will we see on-field deaths? Will we see corporations become even more prevelant like in Rollerball? Will executives call all the shots?

Stay tuned...

 

 

Sep. 12, 2015

By Marc Platt

There are a few definitions to the phrase “The Chosen One.” In science fiction, The Urban Dictionary defines “the "Chosen One" is the sole person chosen by destiny to stop an impending disaster that threatens all life, save the world from a super villain, stop corruption, etc.” In the Jewish Religion “The literal translation of the Hebrew word mashiach (messiah) is "anointed", which refers to a ritual of consecrating someone or something by putting holy oil upon it.”

Reporters are always looking for a good story and/or angle in the press box. Calling Jewish freshman phenomenon quarterback Josh Rosen “The Chosen One” is a no brainer. BUT did you know that the 18-year-old true freshman was the only Jew on an all-Catholic high school?

When Rosen went to St. John Bosco High School in Bellflower (Los Angeles) he went to confession twice a semester, attended team Mass before games, would huddle for post-practice prayer sessions, he journeyed on faith-based retreats and would attend an annual religion class. This was the norm for a Catholic high school student.

Both Josh’s parents were athletes. His spine surgeon father Dr. Charles Rosen was a nationally-ranked ice skater, while his mother Liz is a former journalist and was also a lacrosse player and team captain at Princeton University.

Josh gave up playing competitive tennis (his preferred sport) avoiding surgery for scapula dyskinesis and glenohumeral internal rotation deficit or GIRD. He began playing football in high school and found opportunity at the Catholic high school, despite having been a Bar Mitzvah. His mother comes from a Christian Quaker background.

Rosen was stellar in his first division 1 college effort for the Bruins beating Virginia 34-16 throwing for 351 yards and not taking the credit for his 28-for-35 completions for three touchdowns, a stunning debut for a freshman quarterback “I am a true freshman, but our team is most certainly not,” he pointed out. “Everyone put last year’s UCLA team as a national champion [in the preseason] and after a 10-win season, everyone sort of got off the bandwagon this season. We have the same exact team. I really don’t have to do much to keep this incredibly powerful train on its tracks. I’ve just got to get the ball in our playmakers’ hands and play within the system.”

UCLA head football coach Jim Mora knows what he has on his hands with the young freshman athlete: “People are going to start patting him on the back and telling him how great he is,” he said. “We have to do the best we can to make sure he doesn’t listen to the noise -- keep pushing him, keep demanding a lot out of him and keep supporting him.”

The season is just beginning and it may take a while to know just how big an impact Rosen will have on the football landscape nationally, but it will be fun watching as he competes with better and better competition.

Sep. 3, 2015

By Marc Platt

I have been called a New England Patriot “apologist” before.

They ARE my favorite team, but I have insisted since the beginning of this “Deflate-Gate” episode that everybody is guilty of something here.

The Patriots have had a culture of stretching the limits of “gamesmanship” for more than a decade, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has consistently overstepped his duties as the $40 million stooge for the owners and the media has rightly or wrongly perpetuated the myth that New England did something illegal.

Judge Berman correctly made Goodell’s farce of a witch hunt a reality, pointing out all the deficiencies in their case. The NFL had “no proof” of wrongdoing, but rather “must have known” that something was going on.

My friends, there is ALWAYS something going on when it comes to “the footballs.” Why do you think all the other teams and their quarterbacks have kept their mouths shut for nine months? Hall of famer Jerry Rice even walked back his statements of condemnation, citing his use of stickum as “gamesmanship’ back in his glory days.

This was a BS witch hunt that the NFL could have skated through with a token one-game suspension that I feel reasonably confident Brady would have accepted. Everyone could have then moved on.

Tom Brady is “The Face” of the NFL. He is their golden poster boy of good looks, a bitchin’ babe of a wife and FOUR Super Bowl rings.

Yes New England’s equipment managers know how Brady likes his game balls. Yes the coach, owner and organization were probably aware (after the fact) that these guys messed around with the balls. Yes…EVERY TEAM does stuff to give their ball slinger an edge (if necessary). Ask Aaron Rogers…He likes his balls OVER INFLATED.

NFL…You need to take some advice from someone about how to deal with your teams. How about a 3-person commission who can take a recommendation from the commissioner’s office for ALL punishment? Goodell can recommend punishment for wife beating, cheating, drunk driving, murder indictments and this panel made up of one owner, a former player and a lawyer could hand out a final punishment that would be absolute and written in stone.

This panel can be a rotating (annual) body that would serve as a check and balance on a commissioner who has repeatedly stepped over the line by not really protecting the integrity of a sport that pays him big bucks. Goodell answers to the owners. This 3-person panel could answer to everyone and fairly go through each case.

This Deflate-Gate episode is not over, but the jig is up on Roger Goodell’s inept handling of judicial matters when it comes to his league. He wasted nine months chasing Tom Brady in the courts and really should cut his losses and change the culture in the league office.

Aug. 27, 2015

By Marc Platt

Being a professional athlete can be the ultimate high for a young impressionable athlete, who is willing to subject him/her to great adversity with just the hopes of a chance to compete at the highest level.

If that young adult is lucky, they will enter the professional sports workforce and thrive for at least a few years.

NFL players certainly have a realistic expectation of a 3.5-year career, MLB players make it for an average of 5.6 years, NBA 4.8 and NHL is 5.5 years. So athletes around 28-years-old with a long life ahead of them are out of work. Their dreams of glory on the field, or ice are over.

There have been a lot of news features, television stories and magazine features on this subject in the past.

Maybe it is important for young athletes to take heed of these facts before pursuing careers that are likely to end prematurely.

A few years back, I gave advice to my young 10-year-old nephew who wanted to play tackle football and expressed an interest in polaying high school football in a few years. This kid is a football-loving geek who studies all of the statistics starting at 5:30 in the morning when he gets up.

My other brothe (his uncle) has an awesome career job with Major League Baseball (MLBAM) and I pointed out to the young would-be athlete that he too could have a long and fruitful career in sports BEHIND the camera, or as a statistician, analyst, scout, or executive.

It wasn't hard to make my case, but he still wasn't completely convinced. 

Who could blame him? We live in a culture that glorifies, exploits and celebrates the gladiators who entertain us and give their blood, sweat and tears trying to hang on in a sport that is constantly turning over.

Football players are bigger, faster and stronger than they ever were. This contributes to damaging injuries that are much more dangerous than in past decades. When a 350-pound linebacker can run 4.4 and hit a 200-pound running back or wide receiver in full stride, we see many more concussions and ligament tears than 10/20/30 years ago.

This convinced the young man that the future as a high school, college and NFL star doesn't look very appetizing at all by THOSE standards. He is now on a course to become an executive.

I highly recommend talking to young people about their aspirations in life. Give them the wisdom of reality before they do something for the wrong reasons that can injure them in a way that will impact their future.

I wanted to write this piece without drudging up the recent evidence of NFL former players who have committed suicide, arrests and "Going-Broke" stories that the media covers on a regular basis. This needs to be a generic breakdown of the reality of the "Field of Dreams" that children are enamored by.

There are a million stories of heart break when it comes to athletes and their short careers. This should be a hopeful time in their lives and you can always point out that there are many ways to make a living in sports than getting your head bashed in by a gladiator who is a trained killer on the field.