I’m All-In on “Team Mariota” – Here’s Why

I’ve written a lot about Marcus Mariota. In case you missed all those pieces, here is a quick recap about my feelings on the 5th year quarterback:

1. I was not convinced he was the right choice when the Titans drafted him.
2. I quickly became convinced that I was completely wrong about point 1.
3. I would adopt Marcus Mariota if he needed a family. (Marcus, if you need a Middle Tennessee family, we are here for you.)
4. I believe he can lead the Titans to a Super Bowl.

That sums it up. I am well aware of what his detractors say. I know there are a surprising number of Titans’ fans who are ready to move on from Mariota. I can’t say I agree with that perspective, but I am aware of it. I know when I listen to Nashville talk radio, scan Titans Twitter, or talk to fans, I encounter many naysayers.

I get it. After two seasons, Marcus Mariota looked like an up-and-coming franchise QB. He was everything the team could want, both on and off the field. He put up fantastic numbers that second season. He was nearly unstoppable in the red zone. He was great in the final minutes of a game. He was unflappable, poised, accurate, and his numbers in the second half of that season were as good as any QB in the league. He was special.

Then he broke his leg. His next two seasons have been statistically uneven, to put it mildly. He is improving in some areas (completion percentage for example) and regressing in others (touchdowns, interceptions). He is also struggling to stay as healthy as many would like to see – though he misses far less time than the non-believers would have the rest of us believe. Yet still, even his most loyal and passionate fans (myself included) have to admit that the last two seasons have been frustrating and disappointing from a numerical standpoint.

That’s why this article won’t be about stats. Based on Mariota’s numbers the last two seasons, I can’t really present a strong defense from a statistical perspective, though I believe he has shown enough, even with the injuries to prove he is a solid NFL QB. This is not a deep-dive into advanced analytics and all that stuff. I’m going with my gut feelings on this one. I realize that is absurd to many and you have my permission to stop reading at this point. I will say, I don’t believe the facts disprove my feelings. While the facts don’t exactly bolster my feelings, I do think they can walk hand-in-hand with them.

So, what do I feel? It’s simple actually. I’ve been a Titans’ fan since day one. I watched this team reach the Super Bowl, make the playoffs multiple times, and have a great multi-year run with a franchise QB leading the way. Steve McNair was that QB. He dealt with many of the same things Mariota deals with, missing time or playing far below 100% due to one injury after another. Yet the team was always competitive while McNair was the guy. They won more than they lost. McNair rewarded the team with multiple playoff runs, an MVP award, and one play away from taking the Super Bowl to overtime.

After McNair, the Titans took a decade long journey in the wasteland that hits almost every team without a franchise QB. I watched a team struggle, stumble, and fall apart with a rotating cast of average to below average QBs. The fortunes of this team, and most NFL teams, are tied directly to their starting QB. That is not to say the QB deserves all the credit when a team wins. But it does mean that if your team lacks a franchise-type QB, your team will probably not have any sustained success. It was a bleak time for Tennessee Titans’ fans. After a season where they were clearly one of the worst, if not the absolute worst team in the NFL, they finally had one of the top picks in the draft and they selected Marcus Mariota. From the day until now, this team has been different.

How different? Well, since Mariota was drafted, the Titans have had a winning record for 3 of his 4 years. (3 in a row if you want to get specific.) A Mariota led Titans team did something no other Titans team has ever done: they had a winning record three years in a row. Mariota led the team to the playoffs two seasons ago – and won a game! That hadn’t happened since the McNair era. Since Mariota joined the team, and they fired Ken Whisenhunt, the Titans have been competitive and competent.

Here’s my argument in its very basic form: The Titans were a 9-7 team with a QB that could barely feel his throwing arm/hand. If that is true (and it is) then how good could this team be with a much healthier Mariota? No matter what his detractors say, last year was his worst year in regards to injuries. It was a weird, fluky, unlucky set of circumstances that had Marcus struggling with nerve damage all season. I am confident that sort of thing cannot happen again. I’m not saying Marcus won’t get hurt anymore. Obviously, his track record says he will. But as far as I am concerned, I would rather have a healthy Mariota for 13 or 14 games than just about anyone else. I am convinced that if the Titans sign Marcus long-term, his basement is what we saw last season. That’s the lowest he can go and even with that he led the team to a 9-7 season and one game from the playoffs. We haven’t seen his ceiling yet. I believe his ceiling is a very healthy season where he leads the team to 12 or 13 wins and a deep playoff run. He has the ability to do just that. He needs to stay mostly healthy to make that happen, and a fully healthy season might only happen once or twice in his career, but I am completely comfortable with that proposition. I will take multiple 9-7 type seasons with a banged up Mariota for the one or two special seasons where the team makes a Super Bowl run.

Yes, there is a strong element of faith on my part here. I am hoping and believing that Mariota can stay mostly/completely healthy at least a few seasons. I could be excessively optimistic about that. If so, I am wrong and the team is never much better than they have been the last two seasons. Fine. I would rather the Titans be what we have seen the last 3 seasons than what we saw the nearly 10 seasons prior to that. If that is our fate as fans, I’ll sign up for that right now, because I am not convinced that drafting a hotshot college QB will solve anything. It could turn out great or you could wind up with another Vince Young, Jake Locker, Christian Ponder, Geno Smith, Blake Bortles, or Blaine Gabbert. We’ve already seen what a Vince Young, Jake Locker, and a Blaine Gabbert led Titans team looks like. It’s not pretty.

I’m team Mariota. All the way. From here on out. Pay him after this season unless his body falls apart and he never plays football again. I’m fine with cheering for a good kid who can win games in the clutch, even if he is often injured. I can be proud of the team that takes the field every week with Marcus Mariota under center. I can be proud of the product on the field as well. I get it if you can’t get on board. I do. If you are done with Mariota because you are convinced he will never be healthy enough to take the team to the promised land, I am okay with that. Based on his injury history, it’s not an illogical stance to take. I just can’t go down that road with you. I’ve been on the road of desperately looking for “the guy” at QB. I’ve done that and it’s no fun at all. I’m fine with rolling the dice on Marcus even if it means we get 10 more years of what we have seen the last three seasons. My guess is, even if it’s mostly like that, we are bound to get one or two really special years mixed in there. That’s good enough for me.

Maybe I am being naïve. Maybe. If so, I don’t care. Marcus is my guy.

Agree or disagree? Comment below or you can hit me up on Twitter @philliplytle or @ramblingeveron.

(Editor’s Note: The article has been updated and edited for clarity. Thanks to The Midday 180 for the comment which sparked the edit.)

Is It Ever OK to Change Sports Allegiances To A Rival? A Ridiculous Debate

A couple of years ago, in an undisclosed location, the REO staff had a meeting. Present were Phill, Ben, Mike, Dave, Nathan, Mark and me. We ordered pizza and as the doorbell rang signifying its arrival, Phill rolled a die to see who would have to get it, counting off each of us seated at a round table as a number. I informed Phill that by casting the die he was then creating a world with six alternate timelines. One where each of us has to get the pizza when the die lands and seals our numerical fate.

In one of the timelines––let’s call it The Darkest Timeline––things go berserk thanks to some terrible luck, a Norwegian troll doll and an Indiana Jones diorama. People get hurt. Things catch on fire. Apocalyptic chaos ensues.

Thankfully we don’t live in that timeline unless you get on Twitter where apparently everybody is in a perpetual state of cataclysm. But due to a Dreamatorium created and shared by Mike and me, Darkest Timeline Gowdy has a chance on occasion to interact with our timeline. Today, I, Regular Gowdy (RG) invite Darkest Timeline Gowdy (DTG) to my house to have a debate over whether there is ever a justifiable reason for a sports fan to change their allegiance from one team to their rival.

RG: Welcome back.

DTG: Thanks for having me. How about Brady adding another Super Bowl since our last debate?

RG: We need not talk about that.

DTG: Yeah, your anti-Brady articles haven’t aged well.

RG: Disagree, but moving on…you may have heard I am moving.

DTG: I guess that means I’m moving too?

RG: I’m not sure how that works.

[Both sit in awkward confused silence for a few seconds.]

RG: Anyway, as a Chicago Cub fan for my entire post-college life, I am now going to reside in St. Louis Cardinal country. I have zero intention of switching allegiances but it has caused me to wonder if that kind of thing should ever be allowed. I have to say, my gut says a hearty NO on this one. No one should ever change sports allegiances from one team to their rival, especially as an adult.

DTG: First, I just want to point out that I doubt the Cardinals and their fans would want you. Remember your Pujols Facebook comments in 2011?

RG: Vaguely…

DTG: How he went 0-8 the first two games of the World Series and you were blathering on Facebook about how poorly he hit in the clutch and then in Game Three he hit like a dozen home runs?

RG: Clearer…

DTG: Yeah, you really know how to use social media to make athletes you hate win championships.

RG: He stopped hitting after that and I had a great Facebook post about Alberta Mendoza-line ready when they were down two runs on their last strike—twice!

DTG: But they still won. 

RG: Yes, they did. Regardless, he moved on and so did St. Louis. What I want to know is why you think I should be willing to change allegiances when these two teams are fierce rivals.

DTG: I want to be clear that I do not think you should, but that you shouldn’t feel like you can’t either.

RG: Why is that? Because I vehemently disagree.

DTG: First, because it’s sports and we take them way too seriously anyway. Second, you weren’t a Cub fan before you moved to Chicago, right?

RG: I wasn’t, but I see where you are going and it’s not the same.

DTG: You gonna tell me you didn’t root for the Braves until you moved to Chicago, at which point you switched to the Cubs?

RG: That is different for several reasons. Two gigantic ones. First, the Braves and Cubs aren’t chief rivals.

DTG: You just said rivals. Every team in the National League is basically a rival to each other.

RG: OK, but even if they are rivals, I didn’t pull for the Braves like I have for the Cubs. The Braves were a convenience pick due to geography…

DTG (under his breath): And I bet you were a charter member in 1991…

RG: I pulled for the Braves in the 80s!

DTG: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Dale Murphy! And who else played for them?

RG: Jeff Treadway?

DTG: [Quickly searching on his cell phone.] Barely. Baseballreference.com says he joined them in 1989.

RG: Still counts!

DTG: Just get back to your point.

RG: The Braves were a convenience pick. The Cubs were my city. They filled my heart with emotions that only the University of South Carolina had given me.

DTG: So you think you have to root for the Cubs the rest of your life?

RG: I am not saying I have to as if it were some act of volition. I’m saying I have to because my heart won’t let me do otherwise. I tried to switch to the White Sox in 2015 after I lost a bet and my heart wouldn’t let me do it.

DTG: Let’s say you could, though. Don’t you think it could be a good thing to do to join your new home and root for their team?

RG: Well, Southern Illinois has some Cubs fans…

DTG: Let’s say you moved into St. Louis then…

RG: Still would be perverse to switch.

DTG: What if you moved into St. Louis to plant a church?

RG: That makes it harder but I would have to hope that the people would understand my predicament.

DTG: I think part of your problem is that you think people’s sports rooting interests should be simple since yours are with Gamecocks for all college teams and Chicago for all pro.

RG: I do like simple sports rooting interests. You can’t tell me you like it when someone roots for the Warriors in the NBA and Duke in college basketball and Alabama in college football.

DTG: I don’t like it but I’m not the sports fan police and sometimes you have to accept that there will be people like that and it’s not worth complaining. I’m not talking about that anyway. I’m speaking to how you are about to experience something that others have experienced multiple times: moving. It makes it hard to have simple rooting interests when you’ve moved seven times in your life.

RG: I don’t deny that…

DTG: And then there are people who live in cities, like Nashville, that only have a couple of pro teams. What are they supposed to do for the NBA and MLB? And what about people who live in the middle of nowhere who love pro sports?

RG: You are getting away from the original point, though. Even if I’ve moved seven times I can’t root for Florida the first move and then the Vols the second move and then Georgia the next. It’s ludicrous to even imagine that.

DTG: What if you lived in Boston eight years and then New York for 30? You’re telling me that you would stick with the Red Sox because they came first? Chronology doesn’t mean preeminence.

RG: You’re making this too nuanced. How would I know how long I’m going to live in each place?

DTG: People know that all the time!

RG: I think integrity demands you find a team as a teen, or as a young adult at the latest, and stick with them.

DTG: Like you did with the Braves…

RG: OK. Post College at the latest. There can be exceptions but they need to be extreme.

DTG: I’ve given extreme exceptions and you just shoot them down. Why can’t you just admit you think everyone should do what you do? Like you are some great North Star.

RG: I don’t think that. My thesis is simple: Don’t—as an adult—change sports allegiances to a rival, especially a chief rival.

DTG: I still think you should root for the Cardinals once you move. They have knowledgable fans, a storied history, and no stupid song or flag they parade after they win.

RG: I’m going to miss singing “Go Cubs Go” with 38,000 other people. And that flag is awesome!

DTG: Chicago is always trying so hard, coming in third in big cities in the US. Which reminds me, do you know what would make a great Christmas movie? A New York cop in a Los Angeles hotel…


Five NBA Playoff Predictions

After making preseason NBA predictions for two consecutive years I failed to do so for the current NBA season. REO received thousands of emails from distraught readers wondering why they were not getting any predictions. To be perfectly honest, I have no excuse and I am sorry for the pain I have caused. The following article is my attempt to make it up to our loyal readers. Here are five predictions for the 2019 NBA playoffs.

1. There will be an inordinate amount of close playoff series.

Each year there are a total of 15 best of seven playoff series. I am defining a close series and one that lasts six or seven games. On average, over the last five seasons, eight series per year have been extended to at least six games. I predict we will have at least 11 such series this year. The first round generally gives us several sweeps and for the last few seasons the Golden State Warriors have dominated and finished off quite a few teams in four or five games. I don’t see that happening this year. The talent is spread out pretty well around the majority of the playoff teams and we should see quite a few close series. Closer series usually mean exciting series so if this prediction comes true it will be a very good thing.

2. LeBron James’ name will be mentioned at least 874 times during NBA broadcasts throughout the playoffs.

For those who haven’t been paying attention, LeBron won’t be in the playoffs for the first time since 2005. Even more remarkable, it will be the first time since 2010 that LeBron won’t be playing in the finals. So why would a guy who is not even participating in a single playoff game this year be mentioned so many times? Many people don’t realize that the league’s television and radio broadcast partners are contractually obligated to mention LeBron’s name at least 10 times per game whether he actually is playing in the game or not.

3. Someone you interact with on social media will enlighten you with their vast basketball knowledge.

This is an easy one to predict because it happens every year. A Facebook friend will watch five minutes of a playoff game (the first actual NBA game he or she has watched all year) and suddenly become an expert on everything that is wrong with the league. He or she will then proceed to lecture all of us on the finer points of playing the game the right way. If you are really lucky your friend will take his or her basketball complaint and attempt to make a broader point about society in general. Good times for everyone involved!

4. Steph Curry will lead all players in total points scored during the playoffs.

Several factors come into play here. First, Golden State will need to advance pretty far in the playoffs for Curry to play enough games to lead all players in scoring. I believe they will and I’ll elaborate on that in my next prediction. Second, Curry himself will need to stay healthy (not a given) and lead his own team in scoring (also, not a given). I predict he will and I think the team wants him to win finals MVP so they will do their best to feature him during that series. Which leads me to my final prediction . . .

5. The Golden State Warriors will win the 2018-19 NBA title.

This will be their third straight championship and fourth title in the last five years. Many are tired of the predictability. Others celebrate their greatness and their unselfish style of play. Wherever you stand, it is foolish not to rank them among the all-time best teams. They certainly deserve to be in the conversation. With the impending free agency of several of their top players, this could be their last title run. I believe they realize this and will be ready. I don’t expect them to breeze through the playoffs, but I do expect them to win it in the end.

The Five Most Insane March Madness Runs I’ve Witnessed

March Madness is hands down my favorite playoff in sports for several reasons. It never fails to produce gigantic upsets (UMBC over Virginia!) and buzzer-beaters (Bryce Drew to beat Ole Miss!) and more emotion than an episode of This Is Us (just watch the 2017 One Shining Moment for proof). Even One Shining Moment itself is a mammoth part of March Madness’s appeal.

Another significant one is to me is when a team comes out of nowhere and catches fire, busts brackets everywhere by reeling off upset after upset and is still standing in one of the late rounds. Today I want to discuss what I consider to be the five most improbable of these runs in all the tournaments I have seen. This means that anything that happened before 1986 will not be included, so two of the premier examples in N.C. St. in 1983 and Villanova in 1985 will not be discussed. That is sad in one sense but in another those have been written about numerous times in the last 35 years. So I am happy to give some props to some others.

To qualify what I mean by improbable, I want to be clear that I do not simply mean a low seed makes it far in the tournament. I am considering all other things as well—the history of the program, the immediate context of the program, how they won their games and who they beat. To give an example, the list that I considered before whittling it down to five did not include UNC making a Final Four run as an 8-seed in 2000, Michigan St. making it as a 7 in 2015 or Syracuse as a 10 in 2016. Those are championship programs and constantly do well in the NCAA tournament, so even low seeds didn’t make their runs that big a shock to my mind. Similarly, Kent State’s run to the Elite Eight as a 10-seed in 2002 didn’t feature any truly earth-shattering wins (though they were upsets) so while it was considered, it was quickly dismissed. Similarly dismissed were a run by 10-seed Temple in 1991 and the same Temple program as an 11 in 2001, and a championship game run by 8-seed Butler in 2011 after making the same game the year prior. Finally, I add that a “run” to me is at least two games, and in the modern era, two games starting with the 64-team field and not the “First Four” de facto play-in games. So as amazing as UMBC’s victory over Virginia was, they didn’t really have a “run” in the tournament in my mind. You need to at least survive the first weekend.

But here are some other honorable mention examples of what I mean, in chronological order:

1986: 11-seed LSU’s run to the Final 4
Why It Was Insane: Only team in modern era seeded as low as 11 to make the Final Four until 2006. Even more amazing they were the only team to be seeded lower than 6th in the modern era to make the Final Four until two 8s made it in 2000. Beat #1 Kentucky.

1986: 7-seed Navy’s run to the Elite 8
Why It Was Insane: Beat Syracuse in the 2nd round. Hasn’t won a tournament game since. Hasn’t made the tournament since the 90s.

1987: 6-seed Providence’s run to the Final 4
Why It Was Insane: Beat recent champ and #1 seed Georgetown and hasn’t returned to Final 4 since. Didn’t return to even Sweet 16 for ten years.

1988: 13-seed Richmond’s run to Sweet 16
Why It Was Insane: Beat defending champ Indiana in the first round and Georgia Tech in 2nd Round.

1991: 11-seed Loyola Marymount’s run to the Elite 8
Why It Was Insane: Beat defending champ Michigan in 2nd Round. Only their 2nd tournament with any advancement ever. Has not returned to the tournament or even the NIT since. Pulled off the run after their leading scorer, Hank Gathers, died during the conference tournament.

1994: 9-seed Boston College’s run to the Elite 8
Why It Was Insane: Beat defending champ and #1 UNC in 2nd Round, in what I consider to be the biggest 2nd round upset ever (maybe tied with N. Iowa over Kansas in 2009 in a very similar game). Has not been back to the Elite 8 since.

1997: 14-seed Chattanooga’s run to the Sweet 16
Why It Was Insane: Beat #3 Georgia and #6 Illinois. One of only two 14s to make it this far. Haven’t won a tournament game since and haven’t won one since before 1982.

1999: 10-seed Gonzaga’s run to the Elite 8
Why It Was Insane: Only 2nd NCAA appearance ever (the previous one was five years prior) and the first one with any advancement. Nearly knocked off eventual champ UConn in the Elite 8.

2000: 8-seed Wisconsin’s run to the Final 4
Why It Was Insane: Only 5th tournament appearance in sixty years. First in the modern era ever going past the 2nd round. Beat #1 Arizona.

2002: 12-seed Missouri’s run to the Elite 8
Why It Was Insane: Remains the lowest seed to date to make the Elite 8. The program has never made the Final 4.

2008: 10-seed Davidson’s run to the Elite 8
Why It Was Insane: Beat Gonzaga, Georgetown, and Wisconsin (easily). First time in school history ever winning one game in the tournament in the modern era. Nearly knocked off eventual champ Kansas. Have not won a tournament game since.

2013: 9-seed Wichita St.’s run to the Final 4
Why It Was Insane: Beat #1 Gonzaga and popular champion pick #2 Ohio St. Program has never made another Final 4. Last Elite 8 was in 1981.

2013: 15-seed Florida Gulf Coast’s run to the Sweet 16
Why It Was Insane: The first, and still only, 15-seed to win two tournament games and survive the first weekend. Beat #2 Georgetown. The program didn’t even begin until 2002. Still the only non-First 4 wins in program history.

2014: 11-seed Dayton’s run to the Elite 8
Why It Was Insane: Program’s first Elite 8 since 1981. Only 2nd time even advancing to Sweet 16 since then. Beat heavily favored Ohio St. and Syracuse.

2017: 11-seed Xavier’s run to the Elite 8
Why It Was Insane: Destroyed #3 Florida St and beat #2 Arizona. Only three E8s in program history and 0 Final Fours.

2018: 11-seed Loyola Chicago’s run to the Final 4
Why It Was Insane: Hadn’t even been to the tournament since 1985. No deep runs since 1963. Heart-stopping win over #3 Tennessee.

For various reasons, all of these were considered but not worthy of the final list of Five. Reasons ranged from Navy in 1987 having David Robinson to Xavier having many tournament runs in their history to Loyola getting to play two very low seeds in their last two wins. Now, on to the Most Insane Five:

5. 14-seed Cleveland St.’s run to the Sweet 16 in 1986

They are still one of only two 14s to make the Sweet 16 and one of only three to make it that far as a seed lower than 13. What separates their short but improbable run from Chattanooga in 97 and Florida Gulf Coast in 2015 is that they beat the next year’s champion (Indiana) and St. Joe’s, and then didn’t return to the tournament again until 2009. Additionally, those two years are their only appearances in school history. This run makes no sense. Its statistical probability is infinitesimal.

4. 7-seed UConn’s run to the National Championship in 2014

If you’re tracking with me you may be ready to cry foul (no pun) at this one since they are a championship program. But there are a few reasons I make this exception. One is that once Jim Calhoun retired, this program has bottomed out. Except for this outlier year. They have only two tournament appearances since 2011, and only one win other than this title year. Kevin Ollie, who coached this team, was fired four years later, which was almost quick enough to make Gene Chizek jealous.

Secondarily, the way they did it was mind-boggling. In their first game vs. 10-seed St. Joseph, they trailed virtually the entire final 5 minutes and were down three in the final 45 seconds and tied it on an ugly offensive rebound, put back, plus a foul and the and-one. They triumphed in overtime. Who would have guessed that a team that struggled to put away lowly seeded St. Joe’s in Round 1 would go all the way? Then there were the victories over 2-seed Villanova (the 2016 champion) in the 2nd round, Michigan St. (perennial Final Four contender) in the Elite 8, and Florida (the overall #1 seed in the tournament) in the Final 4. Each game they seemed woefully undermanned and in the Florida game, they fell way behind. Yet every time they plodded along and willed a victory to survive and advance. Finally, they faced Kentucky in the championship, who despite being an 8-seed felt like a team of destiny. UK had won game after game on late heroic shots by Aaron Harrison and seemed like the trendy pick. But UConn shut them down as well and took home the championship. Nothing about this run was normal. It was completely unprecedented for a 7-seed and in general.

3. 11-Seed VCU’s run to the Final Four in 2011

The most important facts are obvious:
–They were an 11-seed from a mid-major conference with not so much as a Sweet 16 in their tournament history
–They were the first and still only team to go from First Four to Final Four.
–They knocked out #6 Georgetown, #3 Purdue and #1 Kansas all by double digits. In fact, the only close game they had the whole tournament was vs. 10-seeded Florida St., in one of the most oddly seeded Sweet 16 games of all time. The Kansas game was the biggest shock because 11s beating 6s and 3s isn’t unheard of. 11s beating 1s in the Elite 8 had happened only twice in modern history (LSU in 86 and George Mason in 06).

Shocka Smart and crew just would not lose. Essentially no one saw this run coming. No one. To this day no other First Four team has so much made an Elite 8. And VCU has not even come close to replicating this success in the 7 years since, only winning one tournament game in that frame.

2. 11-Seed George Mason’s Run to the Final Four in 2006.

The thing that makes this run more impressive than VCU’s by a hair is the teams they beat. They rolled through #6 Michigan St., #3 UNC and #1 UConn–all championship programs–to break a 20-year drought of double digits seeds making the Final 4.

Additionally, while VCU was never a Final 4 team, they had won some games in the tournament before 2011. George Mason had three appearances before this 06 run—as a 15, a 14 and a 14 seed–and was ousted immediately each time. And like VCU, they have not been able to repeat this success, only procuring one tournament win in two total appearances since this amazing jaunt through March. And they have had 5 more years to add to that total than VCU has had. It was just an extraordinary and borderline bizarre run, both at the time and very much in hindsight.

1. 7-Seed South Carolina’s run to the Final Four in 2017

I may get pushback on this one for two reasons: First, I am a Gamecock fan in the heart, soul and blood. And secondly, how can a 7-seed from a major conference trump 11-seeds from mid-majors on the same run? Well, hear me out.

Here is a list of USC’s tournament appearance since 1975 to date (other than this one):
1989, 12-seed, out in First Round
1997, 2-seed, out in First Round
1998, 3-seed, out in First Round
2004, 10-seed, out in First Round

That’s it. The numbers are freakishly bad. Four total appearances in forty years. Zero wins despite two very highly seeded years. 13 years between their last appearance and this blindsiding run. And the team has not even come close to sniffing the NCAA in the two tournaments since.

At the risk of piling on, consider this as well: This Gamecock program made the Final Four of the National tournament despite the fact that they have not even made the semifinals of SEC Tournament since 2006. Read that again. The team has a Final Four more recently than a conference Final 4 by 11 years. This team has never even won the SEC tournament. All of this adds up to an anemic resume that even previously anonymous programs like George Mason and VCU could not match. And for that reason, I consider this run, in which they beat #2 Duke, #3 Baylor and #4 Florida, the most improbable of my lifetime.

What do you think? Comments, disagreements and declarations of ignorance are welcomed below!

The Rambling Ever On March Madness Bracket Challenge

It’s that time of year again, when Americans begin to talk about Madness, seeds, numbers, and brackets and ask that age-old question that has eluded past generations for millenia…which channel is TruTV?

We here at REO want to invite you to be a part of our bracket challenge, which you can join here. We also strongly encourage you to share some of your key picks in the comments below. We know it’s typical to think “No one really cares about my Final 4 picks.” But you are wrong! So wrong! REO wants to know. So post them below and we can discuss. Also, feel free to share your upset picks as well. But please spare us the lame 10s over 7s and especially those 9s over 8s (which happen as often as not historically[1. https://www.ncaa.com/news/basketball-men/bracket-beat/2017-03-11/march-madness-getting-know-no-9-seed-ncaa-tournament]). Sharing your upset pick on Facebook after the fact (particularly if you screenshot it) just makes people mad and jealous. But here we celebrate with you.

So join us this year and may we be merry with mirth and madness.

Link: REO March Madness Bracket
Password: letmeplay

The Game of the Century…That Didn’t Matter At All

I guess it was the Game of the Century only if the right team won.” [Lou Holtz]


Maybe if Florida St. had a decent kicker to beat Miami, it would have been different.

Back in the early 1990s, the college football world watched with pity as folksy head coach Bobby Bowden repeatedly lost to Miami to cost them multiple national championships. 1991 was a classic example. The Seminoles were the favorite that year to win it all, played dominantly all year long and came into the Miami game 9-0 and ranked #1. Yet their kicker missed a 34-yard field goal—Wide Right you may recall if you are reading this—as time expired and Miami won, 17-16.

The next year was the same, except a missed FG—Wide Right, of course—cost them a chance to tie Miami.

Then 1993 came along. Bobby Bowden had his best team yet it seemed and dispatched of Miami—finally!—early in the year. They were boat racing the ACC, winning against recent conference champions Clemson and Georgia Tech by scores of 57-0 and 51-0. With the curse of Miami behind them, nothing could stop the pollsters from finally voting Bobby Bowden, I mean FSU, #1.


As November approached, one more huge game loomed. Notre Dame, led by fiery, witty and extremely accomplished head coach Lou Holtz, stood undefeated as well. And when the week of the game approached, the teams stood 9-0 and 10-0 and were ranked #1 and #2 in the country. It was billed, as college football games periodically were back then, the “Game of the Century”.

I don’t think many people were giving Notre Dame much of a chance, however. Even at home. Not only was FSU winning games by 50 points but they were the sentimental favorite since Bowden had come so close before and still hadn’t won it all. With an offense guided by Mark Richt and eventual Heisman winner Charlie Ward, it seemed that fate was on his side.

The environment for the game could not have been more picture perfect. Playing in Notre Dame Stadium, where the ghosts of Fighting Irish past stood to intimidate every visiting team, 59,000 raucous fans were primed. (Back then Notre Dame was the team with all the history: 11 National Championships and seven Heismans. At that point, Florida St had zero of both.) NBC had the telecast and Bob Costas and his golden voice gave a memorable introduction to the game as music from the Rudy soundtrack played behind. It was an immaculate Saturday afternoon for college football between the two top teams in the nation.

Notre Dame made it clear quickly that they would not be stampeded like the ACC and Miami were. FSU did indeed score first, and quickly, to go up 7-0. But then Notre Dame punched back and started controlling the line of scrimmage on both sides. Lee Becton gashed the FSU defense over and over again for 122 yards that felt like 172. The Irish defense swarmed Ward and mounted up sacks and turnovers. And ND reeled off the next 24 points. By late in the fourth quarter they led 31-17 and invincible Florida St. was on the ropes.

Florida State rallied, behind a lucky bounce on 4th and 20, to pull within a TD. Then after a quick Fighting Irish three and out, they had the ball for one last chance to tie the game. It was not to be, as one of the most familiar images etched in my mind to this day, Ward’s last pass in end zone was batted down. Holtz, as he had so many times with N.C. St., Arkansas, Minnesota and Notre Dame, had engineered a massive upset.

End of story, right?

Nope. It never is in college football, as champions used to be awarded based on beauty pageants and odd logic as much as on the for on-the-field results.

This year was no different. After the game, Notre Dame moved into the #1 spot in the polls. FSU dropped only to #2, ahead of undefeated teams like Nebraska, Ohio St., West Virginia and even Auburn, who was on probation and ineligible for the postseason. There was already talk of a ND-FSU rematch in the Fiesta Bowl. You could sense even at that point that the Seminoles were basically given a mulligan for the game. It was being spun, even by Florida State brass, that they played the #1 team tough on the road and so they must be the #2 team. If it played out like FSU was lobbying for, Notre Dame was going to have to beat them again.

Then something happened to spice up the pot even more. The very next week, Notre Dame was upset on a last-second field goal by #12 Boston College. The polls were a dumpster fire, as Florida St. resumed its spot at #1, ahead of all the undefeated teams still, and Notre Dame fell to 4th. Five different teams got first-place votes that week. (To be noted as well is that the following week Notre Dame didn’t play and still dropped to 5th in the polls.)


Bowl season loomed and it was apparent that Notre Dame was going to need a myriad of things to break right to win the National Championship. They more or less needed undefeated West Virginia to lose and for FSU to beat undefeated Nebraska in an ugly game in the Fiesta Bowl, while winning their bowl game vs. Texas A&M. And luck of the Irish, it all happened. Notre Dame beat A&M 24-21, Florida throttled WV 41-7, and Florida St. barely scraped by Nebraska 18-16 in a disjointed but thrilling contest, after the Cornhuskers missed a long FG on the last play that would have won it.

As a result it was clear that only two teams really could stake claim to the National Championship: Notre Dame and Florida State. (Auburn remained undefeated but was de facto excluded for being on probation.) Florida State took 48 of 60 first-place votes in the AP and 36 of 61 first-place votes in the Coaches poll, winning both championships. The argument that the coaches and media seemed to favor was that the two teams had the same record and that the Seminoles had the “better” loss, losing on the road to #2 instead of at home to #12. Holtz’s rejoinder was one of searing logic that, in my opinion, put all of those FSU voters to shame: They had the same record and one team beat the other. Head-to-Head is the most fundamental tie-breaker there is. Most voters ignored it.

Adding to Holtz’s ire was that in 1989 a similar scenario played out, except in reverse. Miami and ND both had one loss at the end, and the voters favored Miami because Miami won the game the two teams played. Holtz could not wrap his mind around why things all of a sudden changed four years later and was not shy about expressing it: “I really and truly felt we would win [the championship] when I went to bed,” Holtz said the Sunday after the bowl games. “Even Bobby Bowden said he felt that Nebraska outplayed them. I just felt that based on 1989 and the logic given then, and the head-to-head competition, I felt in my heart there was no way we would not win it.” As time passed he never wavered on this, later adding, “We played Florida State in the season and the game obviously didn’t mean anything. Everybody said it was the game of the century. I guess it was the game of the century if the right team won.” To this day, Holtz considers 1993 a “sort of” National Championship for Notre Dame.

Here’s what gets me as a college football fan, even 25 years later: So often in that era of college football, the two best teams did not play each other and we were left wondering who would win if they did. And typically, they split the two polls and both were given recognition as National Champions. It happened in 1990 with Colorado and Georgia Tech. It happened in 1991 with Miami and Washington. It happened in 1997 with Nebraska and Michigan. It even happened in the BCS era in 2003 with LSU and Southern Cal.

Yet in all of those splits, neither team could say of the other, “We beat them on the field where it mattered.” That is not true of 1993. Notre Dame won. And it didn’t matter. In my humble opinion, the vote in both polls was greatly impacted by how much people loved Bobby Bowden. He had never won, so they gave it to him. A similar thing happened the very next year when Nebraska and Penn St. both were undefeated and both polls gave the championship to previously ringless Tom Osborne of Nebraska.

So the Game of the Century? More like as meaningless a loss as any in the history of Florida State football. College Football has a history of injustice in determining its champions. To me, this was one of the worst. In my mind, Notre Dame won the biggest game and deserved the championship.

Then the game actually would have meant something.

The Biggest Reason LeBron Will Never Catch Jordan

“My motivation is this ghost I’m chasing. The ghost played in Chicago.”

–LeBron James


LeBron James has, in one sense, done the impossible. He has made the GOAT discussion a national discussion. If the greatness of Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Bill Russell, et. al., wasn’t enough to keep Jordan from being the consensus choice among knowledgeable NBA fans, I didn’t think anyone ever could. But according to what I read on sports media and Twitter, the discussion is real. It’s happening right now. REO’s very own Michael Lytle dealt with it back in June.

My take will be distinct from Mike’s, even if my conclusion is the same. Let me be absolutely clear about one thing from the outset: I am going to broach this with my opinion about how the debate is viewed nationally, NOT what my opinion is. I’ve already written about it before and it is that Larry Bird is the greatest. I do have an opinion on these two players and where they rank, but I think it will be more beneficial at this point to see it through the eyes of the nation at large and not just my own.

There is one huge reason why I think LeBron, given his age and time left to play, will almost certainly not catch Jordan in the public eye. Before I get to it, let me comment on how funny it is to observe debate when you have no horse in the race. I do not love nor hate LBJ or MJ and can see it more objectively. And this is common:

Dude 1: LeBron never lost in the 1st round.

Dude 2: Yeah, but he didn’t have to play the 86 Celtics.

(same two people later)

Dude 2: Jordan never lost in the Finals.

Dude 1: Yeah, but he never had to play the 16 Warriors.

But my main point isn’t to make these types of claims but to speak to something that absolutely matters to the USA public conscience, more than anything else when it comes to sports: What is the perception of the athlete when it comes to the Championship game or round? And in this area, Michael is so far ahead of James I don’t know if he can catch him.

Note that I am NOT saying that Jordan is better than LeBron because 6 > 3. Mike dealt with that and dismissed it completely. Neither is it the brother of that argument that Jordan was 6-0 and LeBron is 3-6 in the NBA Finals.

What I am speaking to is a bit different.

You see, Michael Jeffrey Jordan didn’t just win six championships and go 6-0 while doing it. MJ dominated those series at times and, more importantly for my point here, he left us with lasting images of how he dominated.  That, in my opinion, is the biggest reason Michael Jordan remains a ghost that cannot be caught.

What do I mean exactly? Well, for one, can you see in your mind’s eye Jordan being assisted off the court by Scottie Pippen after making a crucial shot at the end of Game 5 in the 1997 Finals? How many times have you seen the highlight of Jordan shrugging after making his 6th first half three in Game 1 vs. Portland in 1992? Or of him switching hands on a layup vs. the Lakers in 1991, complete with Marv Albert saying “A spectacular move!”?

Image result for Jordan shrug gif

Beyond these iconic images that manifested how Jordan saved his best plays for the Finals, Michael Jordan did something twice that LeBron has never done: he made a game-winning shot in the final seconds of a Finals game. Almost any NBA fan knows he made the series clincher vs. Utah in 1998, his last game ever with Chicago. But true fans know he did the same thing in Game 1 vs. Utah in 1997. The former is also an image and one that is burned in the brain of people like me, in huge part because he posed after he shot it. Though I do remember him pumping his fist after the latter shot as well, that image will never compare to one in 98.


Image result for Jordan switch hands gif


There is little doubt that for most of these moments, MJ’s image-producing highlight swings the game and possibly the series. If he doesn’t score every one of those 38 points in the Flulike Symptoms Game, Chicago likely doesn’t win. If he misses that jumper over Russell in 98, they probably have to go to Game 7. If he doesn’t demoralize Portland in Game 1 that year, maybe Chicago doesn’t win in six. But what I’m communicating is that these truths aren’t nearly as important as the images themselves. People’s memories tell them Jordan was incredible and whether or not those moments were crucial sort of takes a backseat. I mean why is the image of him switching hands more famous than the buzzer beater to win Game 1 in 97?


LeBron just does not have this in his arsenal. He has the block vs. Golden State in 2016 and that’s about it. Most other images people have of LeBron in the Finals are negative: the grimace and pointing at JR Smith last year, playing hot potato vs. Dallas in 2011, etc. Remember, I’m not saying this is fair. You can bring out all sorts of stats and facts and data to convince people that LeBron is more clutch than Jordan (and he has made more shots in the playoffs late in games to put his team ahead than Jordan did and has made them at a higher percentage) but for people over 30, generally speaking, it won’t matter as much as the images. That is the disease of the video age.


Image result for Jordan Flu game gif


James has a chance with this next generation who grew up with Twitter more than with highlight videos. But in my humble opinion it will be a while before he catches him, probably long after I’m dead. Unless before he retires, he produces a plethora of Finals-defining images that can compete with Jordan. Which seems doubtful.

And so the ghost remains out of reach.


Five Sports’ Moments We Wish We Could Experience for the First Time

Not every sporting event is an instant classic. Most have their share of good and bad moments. A few are filled with so much bad that we wish we could forever wipe them from our memories. But then there are those special games, those special moments that keep us coming back again and again. The championship won on a last shot. The huge play that completely turned the game around. These games and moments become a part of us. Those memories will always be there but every now and then, wouldn’t it be amazing if we could relive them for the first time? Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could somehow go back in time and experience the excitement, tension, and overwhelming joy all over again? If we did have that ability, these are a few of the games and moments we would like to see again…for the first time.

March 28, 1992  Duke vs. Kentucky
by Steve Lytle

My most memorable basketball game, and probably the most memorable sports event for me was Duke-Kentucky, March 28, 1992.  I was traveling for the Mission (Free Will Baptist International Missions), and staying with a pastor in the mountains of Western North Carolina, probably less than 30 miles from Johnson City, Tennessee. The pastor and his wife graciously allowed me to watch the game, even as we conversed and fellowshipped. I knew my boys were watching it in Kingsport, TN where we lived that year home from Panama on stateside assignment.

Wilkipedia sums up the game like this:
The 1992 NCAA Tournament was highlighted by a game between Duke and Kentucky in the East Regional Final to determine the final spot in the Final Four. With 2.1 seconds remaining in overtime, defending national champion Duke trailed 103–102. Grant Hill threw a pass the length of the court to Christian Laettner, who faked right, dribbled once, turned, and hit a jumper as time expired for the 104–103 win. In 2004 Sports Illustrated deemed it the greatest college basketball game of all time, and ESPN included it as number 17 on its list of top 100 sports moments of the past 25 years (see ESPN25). It is ranked number one on the list of the greatest NCAA tournament games of all time compiled by USA Today in 2002.

The game had everything: drama, history (two of the most storied schools in the history of NCAA basketball), importance (the right to go to the Final Four), great coaches (Mike  Krzyzewski, Rick Pitino), and a huge television audience. I don’t think there has ever been a more dramatic ending. (NC State – Houston, 1983 when Lorenzo Charles dunked the winning basket against the highly favored Cougars comes close; I jumped up and broke a couch in Panama that day!)  My reaction in the Duke-Kentucky had to be subdued; I was a guest, they weren’t basketball fans, it was late, but I immediately went to where the landline phone was and called my boys! They had had to celebrate in silence as well; Judy was in bed with a migraine!

It had everything: an underdog KY team that played well throughout, featuring 4 players who had hung in even though the school had just come off academic probation, and future NBA star Jamal Mashburn.  Duke had outstanding point guard Bobby Hurley, the great Grant Hill, and Christian Laettner. Laettner would go on to the NBA where his game didn’t quite translate to all-star status at that level (only once in his career), but at the college level he was versatile, intelligent, talented, and dominant. In this game for all time, he scored 31 points, shooting 10-10 from the field, and 10-10 from the free throw line.

In short, one of the most entertaining games ever, and one of the most emotional, but neither my sons or I could express our emotions!


2008 Summer Olympics – 4×100 Swimming Freestyle Relay
by Gowdy Cannon

The fact this was ten years ago is as good an example of any of how fast time flies because it feels like it was yesterday. The buzz around Michael Phelps potentially winning 8 golds was electric. We had seen this type of buzz in years prior with people failing to do it [1.I’m thinking of Matt Biondi in 1988, though let it be noted that he still had an incredible Olympics, and earned a mention in the book Emotional Intelligence for his grit in coming back to win 5 golds after he failed to win his first couple of events.]. And when you have events where you have to rely on others to help you win, as Phelps did for a couple of relay races that year, it makes it even more tenuous.

The one of the 8 that I will never ever forget was one of those relays, the 4×100 freestyle. Phelps swam the lead leg and did his part by setting an American record for 100 meters in the freestyle and putting the U.S. in first. But by the last leg, Jason Lezak found himself more than half a body length behind Frenchman Alain Bernard in the last half of the last lap. I remember thinking, “It’s over. He’s not going to get to 8.” I knew very little about swimming races but it seemed obvious that it was too big a deficit to overcome. I was devastated for Phelps and our country. A repeat of 1988 was unfolding before our eyes.

But then, like a superhero moment in a movie, Lezak began to catch him. Yet time and distance were running out. He couldn’t do it, could he? Swimming like they both were on fire, they rapidly approached the wall and touched it. It looked live like Lezak won by a finger tip, or maybe a fingernail. There was a second of anticipation for the official result…and he did it! He came from behind and won! I jumped around my apartment like a maniac, high-fiving and hugging people without a trace of inhibition. The official margin was .08 seconds. But Phelps earned his 2nd gold and kept the dream of 8 alive.

We love the Olympics for a million reasons and endings like this one are one of them. Phelps’ 8 golds were not won in a vacuum. They were won with the help of teammates and that makes it feel like the were won by the whole nation.

Click the image above to watch the video of the race.


Vince Young’s 99 yard Walk Off Drive
by Phill Lytle

2009 is not a season that most Titans’ fans remember fondly. The team finished the season 8-8. (A Jeff Fisher team finished 8-8? Whaaaaa?!?) Let’s back up a bit to understand why that 8-8 finish was so disappointing.

The Tennessee Titans were one of the best teams in the NFL in 2008, finishing with a 13-3 record. They started that season 10-0. They lost in the playoffs to the eventual Super Bowl champs – the Baltimore Ravens. After a depressing early exit from the post-season, every Titans’ fan just knew that 2009 was going to be another chance to watch their team make a run for a championship. Things worked out a little differently.

The Titans opened the season by losing their first 6 games. They lost their sixth straight game, falling to the New England Patriots 59-0. Yes, 59 to ZERO. Starting QB Kerry Collins was benched and Vince Young replaced him. What happened after that further solidified Young’s place as one of the most enigmatic and confounding players to ever step on the field.

The Titans proceeded to reel off four straight wins. On November 29th, they faced the Matt Leinart led Arizona Cardinals. The game itself was nothing spectacular. It was two mediocre teams playing mostly mediocre football. But the final minute of the game was the stuff legends are made of.

With a little over two minutes to play and no timeouts, Vince Young led the Titans on a completely improbable 99 yard drive. (They needed a touchdown to win the game. A field goal would have done them no good.) Young ran, threw, and willed his team down the field, getting a little help by one favorable bounce, and converting multiple fourth down throws. Finally, with seconds left, on 4th down from the ten yard line, Young, scrambled around hoping to find an open receiver, spotted Kenny Britt racing across the back of the end zone. Young threw the ball to an open spot and Britt flew through the air to make the catch.

I sat there in disbelief. While Young’s professional career was never as good as people hoped, it was moments like this that proved that when the moment called for it, he seemed to come up with just the right play. To this day, it is one of the best performances I have ever seen and I would love to sit down and see it again for the first time.


Jadaveon Clowney’s Hit vs. Michigan in the 2013 Outback Bowl
by Gowdy Cannon

South Carolina football has fallen on mediocre times recently, right where the program was for most of my life pre-Steve Spurrier. But for several years earlier this decade, the Gamecocks were a Top 10 team. The highlight of the run was a hit that got replayed over and over on sports highlight shows and to this day still fills people with a sense of awe.

The Gamecocks were battling the Wolverines in a January 1st Bowl in Tampa, FL. Ahead 22-21 midway through the 4th quarter, Michigan faked a punt but appeared to fail to convert the first down. A measurement seemed to confirm this—they were 2-3 chain lengths short. But the officials awarded the first down to Michigan, despite screams of protests from Spurrier.

The very next play it happened. Taylor Lewan had shut the All-American Clowney down all afternoon. But somehow someone missed a block on this play and as soon as Michigan QB Devin Garnder handed the ball Vincent Smith, Clowney was right there to blow him up, knocking his helmet off and forcing a fumble which he himself recovered. It was a play that earned the Gamecocks justice but also just looked incredible as it unfolded, like this monster defensive end took matters into his own hands and would not be denied. Clowney may as well have been Chuck Norris for that moment.

I was at the game with my brothers and dad and were behind the play in the end zone. I would not trade seeing it live for anything but if I could watch it for the first time again I would love to see it from the 50 yard line or on TV because seeing it from left to right shows how visually spectacular it was.

2014 NBA Finals
by Phill Lytle

Sometimes I feel like I am more defined by which teams I hate than the teams I love. Mainly, because the teams I hate win a lot. The Chicago Bulls. The New England Patriots. 2014 provided a wonderful convergence between the team I hated the most in the NBA at that time – the Miami Heat – and my favorite basketball team of the last 15 years or so – the San Antonio Spurs. The previous year, the Heat had made an impressive (and annoying) comeback and defeated the Spurs for the NBA championship. 2014 had no time for comebacks or heroics by the Heat. The Spurs put on a clinic, winning the series 4 games to 1. Every win for the Spurs was a blowout. To the casual fan, I’m sure it was not a very interesting series. To me, it was impossible to stop smiling as I watched my favorite team completely dismantle LeBron James and his band of front-running losers. Watching Kawhi Leonard win the Finals MVP while his team celebrated was the perfect conclusion to a perfect series. There are few times in my life as a sports’ fan that have brought me more happiness. I could live in that moment again and again.


Those are ours. What about you? What sports’ moment do you wish you could see again for the first time? What game, play, or even series would you want to relive? Let us know in the comment section below. And please, if you enjoy this or any other of our articles, share them with your friends on social media. We are entirely dependent on word of mouth for advertising.



Five Sports-Related Words and Phrases That Need to Go Away

Outside of church, there is probably no area in life that has more phrases, terminology, idioms, or figures of speech that get overused more than the world of sports. In almost every sporting event, an announcer, coach, or player will say something that we just accept even though it really makes very little sense. We need to stop accepting these things. We will begin the great purge with these five major offenders.

“In his wheelhouse.”

What is a wheelhouse? Why is it a good thing that something be in a wheelhouse? Baseball was the first sport to run with this phrase and we are all dumber for it. Originally, a wheelhouse was a boating term for the part of a boat or ship serving as a shelter for the person at the wheel. It has since become a way to show expertise in an area or something in which someone excels.

Why? Who was the first person to see an athlete performing at the top of their game and think to themselves, “Such and such skill is in his wheelhouse”? I would like to have a few words with that forward thinker.

Maybe I’m weird, but when I hear the word “wheelhouse,” I think of a house full of wheels. A house to store wheels of various sizes and purposes. I’m not sensing any real expertise here. Most people that I know that would have a house full of wheels are not experts at anything.

Or I think of a house that is a literal “wheel house.” Still not getting any expertise from this phrase.

“They ran into a buzzsaw.”

You hear this all the time from commentators when one team is completely overmatched by their opponent. “They ran into a buzzsaw.” First, that sounds unbelievably painful. Second, who is dumb enough to actually run into a buzzsaw? Finally, is this a common enough occurrence that an entire phrase has been built around it? Are there thousands of poor souls out there that have literally run into buzzsaws, thereby giving us this visually striking phrase?


More from REO!

Click here for more words and phrases that need to go away.


“We went out there and gave 110%.”

No. You didn’t. If we are being as literal as possible, you probably didn’t even give close to 100% either. Even if you are one of those athletes that go “all out”, you are most likely still holding a small amount in reserve because you would collapse in complete exhaustion if you actually gave 100% of your effort each play. Of course, there are the nerds out there that will site baselines, 800% growth in certain markets, and things like that to prove that athletes that say this know exactly what they are talking about. I guarantee that the athletes that say this are not thinking about those things at all – instead they are trying to pick a number greater than 100 to show how hard they played. I get it and I don’t hold it against them too much, but they could and should find better ways of describing their effort instead of this worn out phrase.

Below, you will see The Effort Chart. It is a comprehensive analysis that has taken years of research, time, and not ironically, effort, to put together. It is self-explanatory.

As you can see from the chart above, there is nowhere else to go after 100%. What you may not notice is the detail included in this chart. Based on the mountains of data we had to sort through to develop it, it is necessary to magnify it nearly 500% to truly appreciate the full extent of our findings. That line below the 100% Effort is not actually a line. It is an invisible barrier that cannot be crossed. It is literally impossible to give effort above 100%. As you can see below, the line is formed by those attempting to expend more than 100% effort.


“There is no “I” in team.”

I get it. I really do. When coaches or players use this worn out phrase, they are making a point about how important teamwork is. I just wish we had smarter ways of making that point. First, it is true that there is no “I” in the word team. Conversely, there are 21 other letters that don’t make an appearance in the word team. It’s not like the word “team” is just full of letters and the “I” got left out because it was being a jerk. There are a lot of words without the letter “I.” In fact, most words don’t have “I” in them. Why are we picking on “I” anyway? “I” is a great letter. I have two “I’s” in my name.


And if we are being really specific here, a team is made up of a bunch of individual players. So, technically, there are a bunch of “I’s” on any given team. “I’s” that are hopefully working together for a common goal. Without those “I’s” there is no team. Stew on that!


I’ve saved the worst for last. Discussions about the greatest athlete of all time are ubiquitous. We’ve had a few of those ourselves at REO. I have no issue with the conversation or even the title, “Greatest of All Time.” But can we promise to each other, swear in the most sacred words we can summon, to never again use the term “G.O.A.T.”? The best at anything should not be associated with goats.

This is a goat.


This is another goat.


This is not a goat. It’s a rabbit. And Michael Jordan.

To make matters worse, we used to use the term “goat” to describe someone that blew the game for his team – someone that failed. When did we decide that it was okay to change that? Did I miss the vote on this because I am not okay with it at all. Michael Jordan might be the greatest of all time. Tom Brady might be the greatest of all time. Neither is the G.O.A.T. because that sounds dumb. Let’s stop being dumb.

So there they are. These might not be the worst phrases out there. There are probably many others that I could have written about. I picked these five because they annoy me the most. I would love to hear what some of your least favorite sports-related phrases are. Tell us about them in the comment section below.


Jurrell Casey Has the Right to Protest and Tennessee Titans’ Fans Have the Right to Make Fools of Themselves

During an interview in London, at an NFL sponsored event, Tennessee Titans’ defensive lineman, Jurrell Casey, made some controversial statements regarding the new NFL anthem protest policy. “I’m going to take a fine this year, why not? I’m going to protest during the flag. That’s what I’m going to say now.” He further commented that he will continue to protest just as he has for the last few seasons – by standing for the anthem and then raising his fist as the anthem ends. He chose this protest because he did not want to disrespect the flag, anthem, or military.

Evidently, that is not enough for a certain segment of the Tennessee Titans’ fan-base. Social media blew up last night in Titans’ land. Some fans want him cut from the team. Some fans are announcing that if he goes through with this they will no longer support the team.

Conservative talk radio in Nashville has been just as over-the-top in its response. Popular radio Host Phil Valentine tweeted out that if Casey, or “bozo” as he decided to label him, carries out this protest, then he is done with the team. On Nashville Morning News with Brian Wilson, caller after caller lambasted Casey for his disrespect to the flag, anthem, and everything we hold dear.

The problem with all of this should be obvious to anyone paying any attention at all. Granted, paying attention is difficult for some. Nearly every person that I heard call in the radio show this morning was angry that Casey was going to kneel for the anthem. He is not. He stands for the anthem. He stands because he “wanted to be respectful.” He stands and when the anthem ends, he raises one fist in the air. He will continue doing just that. Clearly, that part of his statement and his track record has escaped many Titans’ fans (and radio personalities).

Even worse, many of the callers took cheap shots at the way Casey spoke, with not-so-subtle shades of bigotry and even racism. Look, I am loathe to accuse anyone of being a racist. I think that accusation is hurled about way too often in our society. Sadly, what I heard today reinforced in my mind that it plays a role in this debate. Casey did not choose his words perfectly. It was clearly off-the-cuff and not a prepared statement, and when one speaks that way, there is a tendency to say things less clearly than intended. I won’t say he misspoke, but his message was not delivered as concisely and effectively as it could have been. I am willing to give him a pass on this due to everything he has done in his career and the man he has shown himself to be. Casey’s actions in the past, his off-the field actions, and his overall track-record of integrity should inform everyone of what his intentions truly are.

There were also the cries from fans about how Casey is making nearly $15 million a season to play a game and he should be grateful for that and just shut up, stand up, and play football. It’s amazing to me that those who are ostensibly the most pro-capitalism people in the world would begrudge athletes for making millions in what is one of the most capitalist ventures in the world. Mocking NFL players because they make a lot of money is about the most self-defeating argument available to the conservative capitalist. Playing a sport for a living does not mean you lose your rights to speak your mind.

I have gone on record on my feelings about the anthem protests. You can read those here. To sum up my views: while I agree that players have the right to protest, choosing to do so during the anthem is not productive. It paints them as villains and unpatriotic to too many people. Coupled with the fact that Colin Kaepernick, the player who started all this anthem protest discussion, made incredibly negative comments about the flag after his early protests and from that point on, many fans were going to view any anthem protests in the same light. This remains an incredibly complex and difficult topic. Unfortunately, the loudest voices seem to be doing their best to reduce it to the level where you are forced to pick one of two sides – and both sides are flawed and their arguments are problematic. Frankly, that is irrelevant to this Casey/Tennessee Titans situation. Casey is not disrespecting the flag or anthem. He stands and shows respect during the anthem. His protest is the best possible version of any of these protests because he is still able to express his opinion but he is doing it in a way that cannot be perceived as a slight to the country, the military, the flag, or the anthem. Well, it can be perceived that way, but only by people that are either ignorant or willfully deceptive. Neither of those options are good.

Titans’ fans, be smart. Look at Casey’s career. He has been a model citizen, on and off the field. He has been involved in the community. He has done nothing to deserve mockery or attacks. These types of responses make the fan-base look stupid. They drive a further wedge between players that feel that there are injustices in the country that need to be addressed and the fans that cheer on the team who feel the matter is overblown. As fans, we need to be better than this.