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More Signs of NASCAR's Struggles

Jul 09, 2014 -- 9:21am

Today’s topics: NASCAR woes and July:

  • It’s no secret NASCAR has problems. Attendance is down. TV ratings are down. It’s harder than ever to get sponsorship dollars.

The problems may be worse than NASCAR is willing to admit.

I was in Daytona Beach for the 4th of July weekend. I was there with my wife visiting friends, not for the races which I have covered for many of the last 40 years. The timing for a relaxing weekend would have been awful in years past because then the hotels and motels were jammed with racing fans. Ditto for the restaurants and bars. Traffic was horrible. There was a party on every corner, from the race track to the ocean, from Flagler Beach to well south of Daytona.

Not last weekend. There was little sign it was a racing weekend in Daytona Beach.

That may be the worst sign of all for NASCAR.

  • I love July. I hate July.

I love July because of Independence Day and the British Open. It’s the heart of the baseball season. It’s the month of my birth and that of one of my give grandsons. It’s vacation time.

I hate July because it’s the slowest month on the sport’s calendar. It’s when so many people whine about there not being any football. (I don’t want to hear from any Canadians or soccer lovers.)

And I hate July because of all of the damn lists. Because it is such a slow month for sports many of my unimaginative colleagues labor for ways to fill time and space. So they come up with lists: The best coaches, the worst coaches; the best fans, the worst fans; the greatest plays, the biggest chokes. They make lists of stadiums, hairdos, uniforms, mascots . . . anything they can think of.

Seldom, if ever, do they do any real research or give the lists any serious thought. Most often some guy or gal comes up with an idea about a sport he covers and then comes up with a quick list so he can leave the office early and take a long weekend.

And yet we can’t resist them. Yeah, dadgumit, I say “we”. 

Carmelo Anthony: Loser

Jul 07, 2014 -- 1:56pm

I don’t pretend to be an NBA expert. I’m confused by this free agent frenzy involving LeBron James and whomever else in looking for a new contract. I’m totally confused when the talk turns to the salary cap and the salary cap exceptions and all that stuff.

But I am certain of one thing as I look at the NBA from the outside:  I wouldn’t sign Carmelo Anthony if he came for free. Okay, that’s an overstatement but I’m trying to make a point.

Carmelo is a scoring machine, no doubt about that. But he can’t spell the word pass; he thinks defense if something you put around your yard; he rebounds by accident.

He is the epitome of the superstar loser. The Nuggets became better when he left. The Knicks have been horrible since he arrived.

The only thing he does better than score is turn teams into losers.

I do understand some team, probably the Knicks, will give him a $100 million contract. The fans of that team will celebrate and, yes, Carmelo might sell a few tickets and give the TV ratings a bump. But his next team will lose more than it wins and the locker room will be in chaos.

There’s talk he could wind up with the Lakers. I can’t imagine Carmelo and Kobe Bryant happily sharing the ball. If he goes to Houston Dwight Howard might not ever get the ball on the offensive end and James Harden will go back to being a second option.

Yeah, he might fit in Chicago where the Bulls need a scorer, but Derrick Rose isn’t going to stay injured forever, is he?

Maybe he’ll wind up teaming with LeBron. If anyone can keep LeBron from scoring it might be Carmelo.

Summertime Thoughts on Baseball and College Sports

Jul 02, 2014 -- 9:54am

“Come see the stars of tomorrow today” has long been the No. 1 selling pitch of minor league baseball. It works because it’s true. The Jacksonville Suns are proof of that.

The Suns are one of the most successful minor league franchises in the country for lots of reasons, a great ballpark and marketing team among them. It also helps that such Hall of Famers as Hank Aaron, Phil Niekro, Nolan Ryan and Tom Seaver have worn the Jacksonville uniform. The list also includes Randy Johnson and Larry Walker and a couple of today’s biggest stars, Marlins slugger Mike Stanton (2010) and Dodgers pitching ace Clayton Kershaw (’08).

By the time their careers end, Kershaw may well rank behind only Aaron as the greatest star to hone his game in our city. By some accounts, Kershaw just completed the best pitching month in Major League history, his 6-0 record including a no-hitter. He already has won two ERA titles in his MLB career.

I don’t know if any of today’s Suns are headed for the Hall of Fame, but you never know. Go check them out for yourself.

 

It’s easy to make fun of the geographical layout of most of today’s college conferences.

Really, does Rutgers and Maryland belong in the Big Ten? Can you wrap your arms around Missouri and the Southeastern Conference? Isn’t West Virginia an odd fit in the Big 12, the land of the 10-gallon hats and cowboy boots? Does Syracuse and Miami really belong in the same conference?

Nothing, however, can match the lowly-ranked Sun Belt Conference – yes, the Sun Belt is considered big boy football – when it comes to geographical lunacy.

Don’t you know fans of Idaho and New Mexico State really get fired up to play Georgia Southern, South Alabama, Troy, Georgia State, Appalachian State, Arkansas State and a couple of directional schools in Louisiana?

At least they’ll earn a lot of frequent-flier miles. 

 

I know I probably come across as something of a nerd when I talk about today’s topic. I really do understand that boys will be boys and sometimes that means doing something dumb. Shoot, I’ve done a few stupid things myself.

But let me get to the point. This is the time of year when football fans and coaches live in fear their players will do something REALLY stupid and wind up in jail or injured. Ah, the dreaded summer down time.

Coaches preach to the players. They plead with the players. They threaten the players. The message is always the same: Be smart; use a driver if you’re drinking alcohol; don’t get into a physical altercation with anyone, particularly a woman.

Still, some players will get in trouble despite all of the advice, support and warnings. I feel bad for the fans and coaches, but I don’t have any sympathy for the players. Behaving themselves for 4-8 weeks may not be easy, but it isn’t that hard. 

10 Things That Need to Happen for Jags to Make Playoffs

Jun 30, 2014 -- 9:07am

The Jaguars make the playoffs this season if . . .

  • Quarterback Chad Henne plays better than he ever has.
  • WR Cecil Shorts stays healthy and one of the two rookie WRs, Marquis Lee or Allan Robinson, immediately becomes a go-to guy.
  • TE Marcedes Lewis comes anywhere close to earning his sizeable paycheck.
  • RB Toby Gerhart proves to be a reliable as the main man (and that includes pass blocking).
  • Rookie OG Brandon Linder plays like a veteran, free agent guard Zane Beadles is worth the money he received, center Mike Brewster doesn’t get pushed around, tackle Luke Joeckel is as good as advertised and tackle Austin Pasztor is for real.
  • CB Dwayne Gratz can stay on the field and safety Jonathan Cyprien plays as well as he did the second half of last season.
  • Pass rushers Chris Clemons and Andre Branch get constant pressure on the quarterback.
  • Paul Posluszny gets some help from other linebackers.
  • The team finds eight defensive linemen better than Tyson Alualu.
  • Coach Gus Bradley is the real deal.

Indeed, if the Jaguars do all that they will be playoff-bound.

Then, once in the playoff, they’ll need a few more things before they find themselves in the Super Bowl.

Soccer and NBA Draft

Jun 25, 2014 -- 1:17pm

Today’s topics: Soccer fans and the NBA draft:

  • Our newfound love affair with soccer is creating three types of very irritating fans.

First, there’s the guy who claims he’s always been a fan and knows the game inside out.

He acts shocked by anyone who even suggests a 0-0 soccer match isn’t every bit as exciting as a great football game. This is the guy who looks down on you if you don’t confess your love for soccer, much like the opera snob who scoffs at your lack of culture because you don’t think the “Barber of Seville” is more entertaining than an Indiana Jones movie. He celebrates every goal by his team like its Christmas morning and treats every opponent’s goal like it’s a death in the family.

Then there’s the guy who acts embarrassed that he suddenly has an interest in soccer. He’ll tell a tie to get out of the regular poker game – “I have to have dinner with my in-laws” – so he can get home to watch Team USA play.

Finally, there’s the anti-soccer guy who drags out the old clichés when asked about the sport. “I’d rather watch paint dry” is probably this guy’s most popular comment. “It’s just a bunch of guys running around for 90 minutes” is another example.

If you love soccer, that’s great. If you like it just during the World Cup, that’s great, too. Its okay to not like soccer, but it isn’t necessary to act like there’s something wrong with those who do.

The popularity of soccer in America is growing. That’s good. Soccer isn’t for everyone and it isn’t about to replace real football as our national pastime. That’s okay, too.

  • Remember how painful it was waiting two extra weeks this year for the NFL draft? It seemed like the draft would never get here. We had been “mock drafted” to the point of exhaustion. We had debated who was the best quarterback until our throats felt raw. Jadeveon Clowney had been analyzed and re-analyzed so much practically everyone learned how to properly pronounce his name.

The draft is one example why the NFL is the king of sports in America. By comparison, the NBA is a blip on the American sports world radar. Did I mention the NBA draft is Thursday?

Who’ll be the top pick? Duke’s Jabari Parker? Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins? How high will Australian point guard Dante Exum go?

I asked a friend what he thought.

“I think Parker would make a helluva tight end,” he answered.

Tradition in Sports is Overrated

Jun 23, 2014 -- 12:46pm

Tradition in sports is overrated.

The two sports most closely associated with tradition are golf and baseball, but take a good look at them and you’ll find they’ve constantly thumbing their noses at tradition.

What got me to thinking about this was a conversation I heard recently on Frank Frangie’s show. The discussion was about the elimination of home plate collisions between runners and catchers.

“Its part of the game,” said Brent Martineau. “It’s tradition.”

Well, so was not allowing black players until Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier; so was not having wildcard playoff teams; so was day-only baseball; so was not having a designated hitter and bullpen specialists . . . you see my point.

As for golf, few sports have changed more and continue to evolve. For one thing, the rules are constantly changing.

And no sport has undergone greater changes in its equipment than golf, right down to the ball. Imagine what Bobby Jones would think of today’s giant-headed drivers, for example? Or what Sam Snead would think of the cavity-back irons? Or what a young Arnold Palmer would think of the modern shafts?

The playing surfaces of the golf courses themselves have little in common with what Jack Nicklaus played on even in his final years as a major champion. The changes in the grasses from the tee boxes through the greens are significant.

Name a sport and it probably doesn’t look like anything played by your grandfather, even your father.

I’m all for tradition. I just wish there was more of it.  

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