Friday, May 24, 2019

Some Game Bibs Championship Predictions

Photo credit: skysports.com
The final rounds of the NHL and NBA playoffs are nearly set, with just a few games left to decide whether the Toronto Raptors or the Milwaukee Bucks will take on the defending champion Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals. On the hockey side of things, the Boston Bruins cruised into the Stanley Cup Finals and waited for a back-and-forth fight between the St. Lous Blues and San Jose Sharks to be decided before prepping for the Blues.

While this marks the Warriors fifth straight chance at a title, it will be either the Raptors’ first appearance ever or the Bucks’ first since 1974. As for hockey, the Bruins will be making their first championship appearance since the 2012-13 season, while the Blues will be making their first ever appearance. That all said, it’s time for us to give our expert opinion on these matchups the only way we know how: by uniforms and colors!

NBA - Warriors vs. ?
Since Golden State reverted back to their familiar blue-and-yellow color scheme after many years of wearing a weird blend of navy blue, orange and yellow, they’ve been a uniform darling of the league. Royal blue and standard yellow are an underappreciated pairing, and it’s great to see a great team rocking those colors on the court. Their uniform logo is a bit on the large side, but it’s uniquely styled so we give them a pass.

Photo credit: tmj4.com
The Bucks have played around with their uniforms and color combinations over the decades (let’s all try to forget those dreaded green-and-purple years), but have always retained green as part of their uniforms. The team underwent a uniform redesign a few years ago after sporting a red-and-green Christmas getup that resembled their first ever uniforms, and now their secondary color is a cream gold that resembles the lagers Milwaukee is known for brewing.

The Raptors have also toyed with their uniforms and color schemes since coming into the league at the height of 1990s fashion, sporting bright purple as their main color. They’ve since dropped purple entirely for a blend of black, red, white and gold, and their uniforms look pretty slick even if they are a bit uninspired.

Our Prediction - The redesign of the Bucks looks clean with just enough unique elements to elevate them above the competition. They might not win on the court, but they’re our pick for NBA champions based on their uniforms.

NHL - Bruins vs. Blues
You have to appreciate teams that don’t mess with a good thing. While other black-and-yellow hockey teams flirted with shiny gold for a few years, the Bruins have always stuck to their traditional look since serving as one of the founding members of the NHL (even if they had brown for a few years in the 1920s and 30s).

Photo credit: nhl.com
The Blues have always been blue, but they’ve thrown in different shades of blue and even some red as recently as the 1990s. We wish they’d take a page from the Warriors’ book and return to a simple blue-and-yellow set, and maybe a league championship will encourage team ownership to make the full switch.

Our Prediction - Tradition trumps all in this one. It’s a bit of a toss-up how the games will turn out on the ice, but we like the Bruins to take the win based on those classic uniforms.

Which uniforms/colors do you like in this year’s crop of championship teams, or do uniforms not matter so much to you? Let us know in the comments below and enjoy the finals!

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Draftees Get Jerseys in Record Time

Photo credit: Andy Lyons / Getty Images
The latest edition of the pro football draft just wrapped up this past weekend, with 254 individual players realizing their dream of being drafted to a team. The bulk of those players celebrated in the comfort of their homes with friends and family, but the marquee names were on-site in Nashville to cross the stage and receive congratulatory hugs from the league commissioner. They also got to pose with a jersey with their name on it. Ever wonder how they got a personalized jersey in a matter of minutes? We did too.

In regular-season games, player names are either screen printed and then stitched onto the back of a jersey or embroidered directly onto the jersey itself. In the few minutes the jersey team has to screen print a jersey and get it in the hands of the draftee, they don’t have any time for sewing. Here’s how it works:

  • All prospective first round draft picks have their surname nameplates stylized in the font and color of all 32 teams.
  • This is, at minimum, 960 nameplates made ahead of time if all 32 selections plan to be in attendance.
  • Once the pick is selected, the jersey-printing team is informed before the commissioner walks out on stage to announce the pick to the audience.
  • The printing team immediately grabs the appropriate jersey and the player’s nameplate in the correct font and screen prints the jersey. 
  • The jersey is removed fresh from the press and passed along to be given to the draftee as he arrives on stage.

This whole process must be done in a little under two minutes. Imagine the pressure of doing it right under a tight deadline! To account for the unexpected, the printing team keeps extra jerseys on hand just in case teams make trades to acquire more picks in the opening round. Word has it they’ve had to pull spare jerseys off mannequins when they ran out of jerseys!

Photo credit: Phil Velasquez / Chicago Tribune
What do you think of the practice of players holding up jerseys when they’re drafted? Would it be cooler if they held a team-branded football or helmet instead? We don’t know about you, but a pair of color-coordinating game bibs would be just the ticket! Let us know what you think in the comments below, and best of luck to your team this upcoming season!
Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Baseball Fast & Slow Starts: Celebrate or Pack It In?


We’re now a little more than a week into the baseball season, and every team has had a chance to play through a few series, see which players got off to a hot start, send a few players to the injured list and start to take inventory of how their season will shake out. A few teams are performing as expected, while some are performing well above or below expectations. Let’s break down three teams doing well and three teams doing poorly, and whether or not you fans should celebrate or hit the panic button.

FAST STARTS

Seattle Mariners
Taking three out of four against the Red Sox to open the season was impressive, but rolling over the Angels, White Sox and Royals was expected. The Mariners will play Houston in a few days and go on the road in May to the Indians, Yankees and Red Sox. A fast start was important for a team that shed large contracts, but their pitching has allowed more than 60 runs to this point, and the best pitching staffs are averaging less than half of that through the first few weeks. We hate to say it, but this start is no reason to celebrate in Seattle unless they can control the Astros all season.

Milwaukee Brewers
Photo credit: Chris Kohley / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Christian Yelich picked up exactly where he left off and crushed plenty of home runs to start the season, and the Brewers dominated NL Central rivals in the Cardinals and Cubs. They are more or less even in runs allowed and runs scored, but the real test is the teams that can grind out the close wins. Milwaukee has the clutch hitting and pitching to do just that. Brewer fans, go ahead and celebrate this start. You’re on your way to the postseason again.

Tampa Bay Rays
They may be tops in the division, but they’re not scoring a lot of runs against inferior pitching staffs. Always a feel-good story in baseball, the Rays likely won’t be able to maintain this momentum once they face potent offenses in the heart of the season. Unless some major injuries befall the Red Sox and Yankees, we can’t say the Rays should go ahead and celebrate their fast start.

SLOW STARTS

Chicago Cubs 
You can’t win baseball games if your pitching staff can’t hold leads. After an Opening Day slugfest, the Cubs lost six straight games despite scoring the third most runs in both leagues. Granted, three of those losses were to the postseason-contending Atlanta Braves, but another two came to the lowly Texas Rangers that don’t expect to contend this year. If Chicago can’t get seven or eight innings out of every starter this year (and they won’t), then the middle relievers need to be trusted in tight situations. We say there’s slight reason to be worried, especially considering the danger lingering in the Brewers and Cardinals. The Cubs could be in for a rude awakening this year.

Boston Red Sox
Maybe it’s the hangover from winning another championship, but the boys from Beantown just don’t look like themselves. Their pitching staff has been hit hard to the tune of 72 runs allowed through 11 games. That’s tops in the league. On the plus side, the Tampa Bay Rays can’t possibly continue their fast start once they get into the bulk of divisional play. We say no reason to throw in the towel. The Sox will be fine and back in contention in short order.

Colorado Rockies
Photo credit: milehighsports.com
Back-to-back years in the postseason have fans believing the Rockies’ core can get it done, but giving up lots of runs to the always-dangerous Los Angeles Dodgers and following it up with series against the Braves, resurgent Padres, Phillies, Nationals and Brewers spells a very tough stretch for the Rockies before the bulk of the May calendar. It’ll depend heavily on how they fare in those close games, but we think there’s a bit of a reason to worry if the Rockies don’t come out of this April gauntlet intact.

The beauty of baseball is the season is long and full of ups and downs, so there are plenty of chances for teams to rebound from rough patches. What do you think of our expert analysis of these six overachievers and underachievers? Share your comments below, and enjoy the rest of the season. Play ball!

Friday, March 1, 2019

The Next Possible College Basketball Cinderella Teams

Upset secured, from Kinfay Moroti at news-press.com

The calendar has turned to March, which means college basketball is entering its final month of regular season competition before 68 of the best teams in the country battle it out for the ultimate crown. Every year, it seems there are a number of small teams that unexpectedly make it deep into the tournament. Last year, 11th seeded Loyola-Chicago made it all the way to the national semifinals in the men’s tournament, while 11th seeded Buffalo made it to the regional quarterfinals in the women’s bracket. Which will be this year’s surprise teams? We have a few predictions.

Ja Morant, courtesy of si.com
Murray State
The men’s team has been a low-seeded regular in the national tournament, but they’ve been taking their Ohio Valley Conference by storm. Smaller teams usually need to go on a near-perfect regular season run to be able to tango with the bigger schools, and Murray State could be just that team. They also have Ja Morant on their team, who’s been one of the more complete, under-the-radar players in the men’s game this year.

Florida Gulf Coast
The women’s team pulled a huge first-round upset last year as a 15th seed, and they could very well do it again this year. The team is performing better than it did in 2018 and is projected to slot in at a 14th seed, giving it a slightly more favorable matchup. A 3rd-seeded team is no slouch, but FGCU is a basketball program known for working its magic when the cards are stacked against it.

Dukes celebrating, from jmu.edu

South Dakota State
The men’s Jackrabbit squad is no stranger to the postseason, having been in the tournament five of the past seven years. They’ve faced very tough competition in every round but put up good fights against some of the best in men’s college basketball. Could this be the year they finally break through into the second round?

James Madison
The Dukes have appeared in the women’s tournament or just missed being included seemingly every year for the last few decades. Having made the National Invitational Tournament the last few years after back-to-back-to-back appearances in the national title postseason, we think 2019 is the year JMU breaks through. They’re first in their conference and are beating most of the competition by wide, convincing margins. Look for the Dukes to be around 11 in the seeding, giving them a favorable matchup with a 6th-seeded squad.

The great thing about postseason college basketball is you can never plan for the impossible, last-second plays that swing a game one way or another. However it happens, we’re bound to see a couple surprise teams ride a wave of nail-biting wins into the national conversation. Which teams do you think will be this year’s Cinderella squads? Let us know in the comments below, and enjoy the rest of the regular season!
Thursday, January 31, 2019

The Use of Brown in Sports Uniforms


The San Diego Padres recently announced the team will be changing their uniforms ahead of the 2020 season, returning to the team’s beloved brown-and-yellow color scheme last regularly worn in the 1980s. The move has been met with a lot of positive buzz, as the Padres have struggled to find a consistent and unique uniform since those days. While brown isn’t a color we see too much of in sports on any level, it has its loyal users. Let’s look back on the color and some other instances of its use in sports uniforms past and present.

Cleveland Browns
Photo credit: Matt Sullivan/Getty Images
This is an easy and obvious one. Since their inaugural 1946 season in the All-America Football Conference, the Browns have sported brown in some portion of their uniform. Named after their first coach, Paul Brown, the team relocated to Baltimore in the 1990s before returning as an expansion team in 1999 and sporting their same familiar orange, brown and white uniforms in a simple, logoless design. The team has since undergone some uniform tweaks that haven’t been well-received, but word is they are looking to possibly change back to a traditional look. We’re fans of the clean and simple look sported here by former running back Peyton Hillis.

St. Louis Browns
Photo credit: seamheads.com
The who? You wouldn’t be blamed for not knowing this past chapter of the current Baltimore Orioles. They started in Milwaukee as the Brewers in the late 1800s, and ended up relocating to St. Louis after the 1901 season and changing their name to the Browns. You’ll notice an orange-and-brown color scheme similar to the Cleveland football team, but we can’t confirm if Paul Brown’s squad took a page out of St. Louis’s book for their color choice. The Browns experienced lots of success throughout their run but eventually fell into a prolonged period of losing, and ownership couldn’t compete with the cross-town Cardinals. The team eventually packed up and moved to Baltimore in 1953.

Wyoming Cowboys
Jumping back to current sports, the University of Wyoming has proudly worn brown as their main color since inception. Legend has it the color scheme took root during an alumni banquet in the late 1800s, when brown-eyed Susan flowers decorated a banquet hall. Across all varsity sports, the color has an instantly recognizable association with Wyoming, and it just works.

Photo credit: fanatics.com

Bowling Green State
The Falcons emphasize orange more than they do brown, but you can find alternate uniforms in brown across most of their varsity sports, especially baseball and softball. As the only university sporting this color combination, Bowling Green has owned the look at the collegiate level as much as the Cleveland Browns have in professional football.
Photo credit: bgsufalcons.com
Lehigh University
Lehigh has proudly sported brown since the 1860s. Brown is paired with a classic, shiny gold that reminds us of other colleges such as Boston College, Notre Dame, Georgia Tech, West Point and the Naval Academy. It’s a clean, simple look the college has worn well over the years.

Photo credit: lehighvalleylive.com

Valparaiso University
Photo credit: valposoftballclinics.com
Depending on which sport you’re watching, the Crusaders could be yellow-clad with brown as a trim color or sporting their brown uniforms proudly. The story goes that a former university president, Henry Baker Brown, and his VP, O.P. Kinsley, helped usher in the school colors. Brown chose the color brown because of his last time, while his VP had blonde hair, hence the use of yellow.

Some other teams sporting brown include Western Michigan and Brown University, but that’s a well-rounded list of the color being used in sports uniforms past and present. With San Diego set to reintroduce the color next year, perhaps brown will finally get the mainstream respect it deserves. What do you think of sports teams wearing brown? Is it cool and unique or garish and gross? Let us know in the comments below!

Friday, January 18, 2019

Our NFL Championship Predictions

Photo credit: Jake Roth, USA Today Sports

The table has been set and the final four teams are ready to battle it out for the NFL’s highest prize. After our poor showing on Wild Card weekend, three out of four correct picks in the divisional round isn’t bad! With just three games left to play this season, it’s time for us to make our final predictions for conference and league champions.

Chiefs vs. Patriots
Despite going 11-5 and winning their division yet again, the New England Patriots were a completely different team away from home. An unblemished home record was counterbalanced by a 3-5 record on the road, with notable losses against the Titans, Lions and Jaguars. Tom Brady doesn’t have a good playoff record on the road (he’s 0-3) and the Chiefs didn’t have a great run defense this year, so the Patriots will likely lean on their young running game behind Sony Michel to pick up the slack.

The Pats may have won their one 2018 meeting against Kansas City in a shootout that was decided by a last-second field goal, but the Chiefs have grown leaps and bounds since that game, and the receiving corps is clicking with Patrick Mahomes. That being said, this won’t be a high-scoring affair. The Chiefs will survive a late push by the ageless wonder that is Tom Brady and get back to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1970.

Saints vs. Rams
Photo credit: Sean Gardner, Getty Images
Another ageless wonder in Drew Brees goes up against a young upstart team in the Los Angeles Rams. It’s actually quite interesting how both of these games represent a changing of the guard in the NFL, but we don’t see the Rams emerging victorious in this one. The Saints have one of the best run defenses in the league, and if they can control the Rams running game then they make the team more predictable and one-dimensional. All of L.A.’s fancy audibles and adjustments might be hard to hear at the line of scrimmage in the Superdome, where Saints fans get louder than anywhere else in the league.

On the flip side, the Saints will be going against a Rams secondary that’s healthy and includes Aqib Talib. As long as they play good deep coverage, Drew Brees likely won’t be able to pick them apart like he did the last time these two teams met. That means more time waiting in the pocket for an open receiver and more time for Aaron Donald to get a sack.

The Big Game
If our predictions hold true, that leads us to a Saints vs. Chiefs championship where anything could happen. How that hypothetical game turns out would be completely dependent on Drew Brees. If he has time to find receivers, he’ll make the Chiefs look confused and disorganized. If he doesn’t and the Saints have to punt more than five times in the game, look for the Chiefs to take advantage. All that being said, it’s been a crazy year where anything can happen. We’ll pick the Saints to win the game in the last minute or so on a very long, very tense field goal.

Who do you think will win the next few games? How close are we to getting our picks right? Let us know in the comments below and enjoy the rest of the playoffs!

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Our Picks for NFL Divisional Weekend

Photo credit: si.com
We made it through Wild Card Weekend and came out defeated, going 1-3 in our picks for the weekend’s winners. In our defense, a few of those games came down to the wire and could have gone the other way with a few lucky plays, but that’s football for you. We’re dusting ourselves off and getting ready for an even bigger weekend of divisional football, and we’ve got more predictions for you.

Colts vs. Chiefs
This one is probably even harder to pick than last week. The Colts are undoubtedly the hottest team in the playoffs, having won 10 of their past 11 games to qualify for - and advance to - the divisional round. How will that success and their talented, young offensive line pair up against a punishing 3-4 Kansas City defense that can keep Andrew Luck guessing with its coverage packages? Let’s not forget their gunslinging offense and Patrick Mahomes lighting up the scoreboard. It will be a close game for a few quarters, but the Chiefs will pull away late and win comfortably.

Cowboys vs. Rams
The Cowboys have followed a similar path to the Colts with eight wins in their last nine games to reach the divisional round. They eked out a tough victory against a Seattle team whose defense isn’t as lights out as it once was, but how will Dallas fare against a balanced Rams team that features Aaron Donald up front and a talented secondary? How this game turns out likely falls to sudden wunderkind Jared Goff, but we think the Rams will handle the Cowboys by a touchdown and some change.

Chargers vs. Patriots
Photo credit: bettingsports.com
Is this finally the year that Philip Rivers and the Chargers put it all together? A couple late drives by the Ravens made last week’s game look much closer than it was, as a suffocating defense kept Lamar Jackson in check. The Chargers won’t be able to settle for field goals against the Patriots, but they know that already. New England is only in the divisional round because of late-season falters by the Texans, so their first-round bye is a bit misleading. This could be the biggest toss-up of the weekend, as Tom Brady will be going against a capable quarterback with a capable offense. In a close one, we see the Chargers getting past the Patriots in the fourth quarter.

Eagles vs. Saints
We should’ve known better than to bet against the Eagles and Nick Foles. With some very, very late-game magic and a bit of luck from a goalpost, Philadelphia beat Chicago to make it to this matchup with New Orleans. The Saints, and Drew Brees in particular, look like a rejuvenated squad. They dominated through most of the season, and “just enough” from the Eagles won’t be enough to beat an offense with proven veterans. New Orleans will make it back to the NFC title game after last year’s last-second blunder against the Vikings.

We felt confident with our picks last week, but this time we really mean it. There’s no way these picks could come back to bite us, right? Who do you think will win the divisional round and move on to the conference championship weekend? Let us know in the comments below, and enjoy the game!