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By Matt Robinson — 4 years ago
[ecko_quote source=”Maya Angelou”]People won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.[/ecko_quote]
Maya Angelou was right, and often times sports are the same way. We may not remember every play or sometimes even the final score, but we always seem to remember where we were during the big games (because of the strong feelings we have at those moments). A championship game can pump you up so much that you riot into the streets as if you were invincible, but it can also bring you down so low that you have to call into work the next day. Below are my personal accounts of the feelings I’ve had with both the Mavs and the Rangers, followed by some odd similarities that may give DFW sports fans a reason to feel optimistic about November baseball.
June 20, 2006 – Mavs lose the Championship: After Game 6, Dwayne Wade and the Miami Heat accept the Larry O’Brien Trophy in the American Airlines Center. My body-painted jersey begins to fade as I watch in disgust from the lower level. That championship was ours for the taking, and we let it slip through our fingers. The shock slowly sets in as I begin to realize the Mavs will have to start over at square one next year.
June 12, 2011 – Mavs’ Redemption: Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks payback the favor to Miami, as the Mavs are crowned NBA Champs after Game 6 in the American Airlines Arena. I watch the game at a friends’ ‘Man Cave’, where Phil (the other half of the SOS podcast) and I both brought multiple bottles of champagne as if we would be celebrating with the team afterwards. Complete hysteria ensues; the party begins; 2006 is forgotten.
October 27, 2011 – Rangers lose the championship: I am the only Rangers fan in the bar, on the north side of Chicago. Several beers and shots in, I may or may not have been talking trash to the sea of St. Louis Cardinals fans, in both the 9th and 10th innings. I feel like a toddler in timeout, as I sit in my corner booth, after David Freese hits a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 11th inning. Many of the aforementioned Cardinals fans walk by with some choice words for my premature celebrations. The next day, I sneak away to the doctor’s lounge during my on-call OB night shift, to watch yet another DFW major sports championship slip away as the Cardinals pulled off an easy 6-2 win in game 7.
November, 2016 – Rangers’ Redemption?: Currently, the Texas Rangers sit atop of the American League with their eyes set on November Baseball. But will they get there? The similarities between these franchises seems to point towards the Rangers righting the wrongs of five years ago, just as the Dallas Mavericks did in 2011. Let’s take a look…
For starters (pun intended), both the 2016 Rangers and 2011 Mavs are returning about 15-20% of their roster from five years before. This shows that both teams did have strong cores in their previous championship run, but trying to make a run with the same team five years later will not work. Jon Daniels and Donnie Nelson both made the necessary moves to keep their teams in contention. Dirk and Jason ‘The Jet’ Terry returned for the Mavs, while the Rangers held onto Beltre, Mitch Moreland, Colby Lewis, Elvis Andrus, and Derek Holland. Jon Daniels could’ve gone the way of the Marlins after both the 1997 and 2003 World Series wins and completely blown up the roster for a rebuild. Instead, he chose to keep a good core while letting go of a few expensive luxuries, so that he could retool the Rangers into a team that could make another run in October.
In both the 2010-11 NBA season and the 2016 MLB season, there was a team in the other conference/league that was getting all of the headlines. The 2010-11 Miami Heat “Big-three” of Wade, Bosh, and Lebron made a hater out of everyone, and had them tuning in just hoping they would lose every night. While the MLB doesn’t have a team with quite that star power, they do have the Chicago Cubs who started out the season an incredible 24-6 pacing them to win 130 (which would’ve blown their own record of 116 wins out of the water). Now its mid-August, and the Cubs have cooled, but they still lead the majors in wins and are on pace for over 100 wins.
Both teams also lost what was thought to be an integral piece to a championship run mid-season, and would never see that player in their team’s uniform again. The Mavs lost starting wing, Caron Butler, to a season-ending knee injury and he signed with the Clippers the following year. This forced the Mavs to bring defensive-minded Deshawn Stevenson into the starting lineup, who added a toughness to a team usually thought of as ‘soft’. Stevenson was usually ignored on the offensive side of the floor, but could always nail a three when his man sagged off a little too much. JJ Barea is probably the player who gained the most from Butler’s injury, since he grabbed a boatload of quality minutes in the playoffs that earned him a 4 year/$19 million contract from the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The Rangers, on the other hand, just recently lost starting 1st baseman/DH, Prince Fielder, to a career-ending neck injury. While Prince was not having a very good year for himself, he was still a dangerous bat that opposing pitchers would fear in tight ballgames. The recent loss of Shin Soo Choo could be added to this injury issue, as well, although he may be available very late in the postseason.
Personnel trades are always a big part of championship runs, and 2011 and 2016 were no different. The Mavs pretty much stole candy from the baby when they swapped Erick Dampier for the Bobcats’ Tyson Chandler. Chandler turned out to be the most important player on the Mavericks, not named Dirk. His presence, both on the defensive end of the floor and in the locker room, changed the Mavs into a driven, determined force to be reckoned with. Put Dampier back on the team, and ‘Mother’s Day Massacre’ might have a completely different meaning for Mavs fans.
Jon Daniels proved to everyone that the Rangers have their eyes set on the World Series in 2016, when they picked up both Carlos Beltran and Jonathon Lucroy at the trade deadline. Many fans were upset when they didn’t pickup a starting pitcher, but Daniels was just not willing to give away the farm (system) for a single pitcher, but the trades he did make we’re still pretty bold. Beltran is a great bat to add to the lineup, the only issue will be if he will have to play in the field for three games in the World Series. Lucroy is a huge addition to the Rangers for this year and next, filling in the one weak position they had in the field. Not to jump the gun or anything, but in Lucroy’s first fifteen games with the Rangers, he has seven home runs and fourteen RBIs. Not bad my friend, not bad at all.
THE PRIOR YEAR
Finally, both teams also finished their prior year by losing to a rival in the playoffs. The Mavs, as a two-seed, lost in the 1st round to the much hated San Antonio Spurs in 2010. This rivalry during the Duncan/Dirk era will live on forever in fans hearts, and this series was no different. Losing again with such a high seed and a 1-0 lead made Dirk fans start to question if he would ever win a championship in the NBA. The articles circulated, which no doubt got back to Dirk to fuel the fire for the following year. And what a year 2011 was!
The 2015 ALDS between the Rangers and the Toronto Blue Jays may not have started as a rivalry, but, if Bautista’s bat flip and Odor’s punch heard round the world haven’t proven it to you yet – it is one now. The Rangers took games one AND two on the road, and it looked as if no one could deny the Rangers another chance at the pennant. We all know how this story ends though, with the Blue Jays roaring back to take both games in Texas, then flying home to crush Rangers fans’ hearts as Elvis Andrus committed two crucial errors to seal their fate. It may not have been all that bad though, considering it didn’t look like anyone could have beat the Royals in 2015.
Early November 2016: So where will I be at this time? Where will you be? Maybe I’ll scrounge up some tickets and see the magic unfold live before my eyes. And you can never rule out the camaraderie found in a sports bar, with hundreds of other strangers with one common goal: a win for the home team. They say championships live forever, but really, it’s the memories that do.
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By Matt Robinson — 4 years ago
For most of us, sports is a game, but one that must be taken very, very seriously. It comforts us to know that there is a higher power, a sports god if you will, that is protecting the very sacred laws of sports. When these sports gods are on your side, you’ll do whatever you can to keep them happy. This can range from the somewhat normal (Wade Boggs eating chicken on every game day), to the obsessive (Jason Terry sleeping in the shorts of his opponents the night before every game), to the disgusting (Serena Williams not changing socks throughout an entire tournament). It’s when the sports gods are against you that things start to get weird. Jason Giambi used to wear a gold thong to get out of slumps. Seriously!? What’s worse is that when it worked, his teammates started to do it too! (hopefully using different thongs)Views: 0
By Matt Robinson — 1 year ago
Just one year removed from retirement, Jason Witten has decided to leave Monday Night Football to do what he was born to do, compete on the gridiron. The future Hall of Famer, second only to Tony Gonzalez in TE receptions and reception yards, will dust off his cleats for at least one more year with America’s Team.
The Dallas Cowboys have released the following statement from Witten, ” The fire inside of me to compete and play this game is just burning too strong. This team has a great group of rising young stars, and I want to help them make a run at a championship. This was completely my decision, and I am very comfortable with it. I’m looking forward to getting back in the dirt”.
Witten will be 37 when the regular season starts for his 16th season. In 2017, Witten was a Pro Bowl selection with 63 catches for 560 yards and 5 touchdowns, starting all 16 games. His retirement after the season left the Cowboys with a question mark at the tight end position for the first time in 15 years.
The response was a tight end by committee with 4 tight ends, only one of which even had an NFL stat sheet prior to the 2018 season, in Geoff Swaim. All four tight ends (Gathers, Jarwin, Schultz, and Swaim) started at least 4 games in 2018, and combined had only 5 more receptions than Witten in 2017, and one less touchdown. With Geoff Swaim being an unrestricted free agent, and the other 3 salaries combined being less than $2 million for the 2019 season, it seems unlikely to see Swaim back in a Cowboys uniform.
The contract details for Witten have not been released yet, but he qualifies for a very cap friendly figure with veteran minimum benefits. The 2019 veteran minimum salary for players with 10 or more years of service is $1.03 million, with only about $650k of that counting against the cap. It is not known if this is the route that Witten and the Cowboys will go, or if he will be getting paid a salary closer to his $7.4 million salary for 2017. Seeing as he appears to be coming back more for a championship run rather than for money to pay off debts, the former seems much more likely.
Assuming that #82 is healthy and ready for another grueling NFL season, this will make the Cowboys offseason that much easier by being able to focus on other positions in free agency and also with the several looming contract extensions of Lawrence, Jones, Zeke, and Dak. This may also convince Sean Lee to make his 2019 salary more cap friendly for a team desperate for its first Super Bowl in 24 years.
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