BLOG POST

It Feels Like Forever

By Danny Radical

Created by Speedy Pete

It feels like forever: How the sports world has changed since the last time it wasn't a Cavaliers/Warriors NBA finals

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Just when you think the Celtics or the Rockets, up 3 games to 2, had a chance to end the streak that has led to the NBA being very predictable year in and year out, we watched their offenses go cold when it mattered most. The Celtics scored 79 points, which is good for college basketball, but definitely not in the NBA. Maybe somebody should give Brad Stevens a reminder he isn't at Butler anymore. As for the Rockets, they were not much better. They scored a
combined 63 points in the second half in Games 6 and 7, and Game 7 featured them missing 27 consecutive three pointers. So as a result, we're back to square one, despite all the adversity both teams have had to face. The 4 seeded Cleveland Cavaliers will once again take on the 2 seeded Golden State Warriors in what seems like a reoccurring pattern. It seems like a while since it wasn't those two teams. The world was different. Stars were of different ages or not even in the league yet. Moments hadn't been created. The sports world as a whole was so different in May and June of 2014, when the San Antonio Spurs and the Miami Heat were playing in the NBA finals. Here's a look at some of those fun facts:

Kawhi Leonard was on top of the world and not whining to be traded yet

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This one seems obvious. With all the news surfacing about Kawhi Leonard wanting out of San Antonio, that would never have been thought of in 2014, when Kawhi Leonard was the finals MVP in a series where the Spurs routed the Heat in 5 games. While Kawhi Leonard wasn't the same offensive player that he is today, his passing and defense were all that was necessary for the Spurs in that particular year. And when it came to locking down LeBron James when it

mattered most, Kawhi was more than up to the challenge. He was a rising star in the making that was growing in other phases of the game as well, and seemed like, with the way Gregg Popovich likes to hold on to his home-grown talent, there was no way that Kawhi Leonard would be traded. This was especially coming from a time when he was thought of as one of the most humble players in the league, similarly to Spurs great Tim Duncan, and would never have these
kind of personality and maturity issues come about. Kawhi Leonard, even in college, was never that player with a lot of personality when he played for a similarly defensive San Diego State team. So 4 years later, amidst all these Cavaliers and Warriors finals, the fact that Leonard wants out of San Antonio after playing just 9 games in what is now his 7th season was never a thing to be thought of when they were just the defending NBA champions and Leonard was a
rising star and vital part of that organization's present and future.

Odell Beckham Jr. didn't blow up the internet

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At the time of the 2014 NBA finals, Odell Beckham Jr. was an unknown. Some said he was drafted too early. Some say he had the skillset to be a superstar. To be honest, as a Giants fan, I was fine with him at the time, but it wasn't even my top preference (C.J. Mosley was that year). And while it is his stats and skillset that make him a superstar receiver in this league, the thing that got him national recognition was his one-handed catch while being pushed off against the

Dallas Cowboys on the night of November 21, 2014. But during the last NBA finals not involving the Cavaliers and Warriors, nobody would ever think it would be a 5'11", 198 pound (and I think he was less when he was drafted) college slot receiver doing that in his rookie year in primetime against a team that was 7-3 at the time. And especially with a rookie class that had a lot of talented receivers that were taller and thought of as more athletic at the time (Mike Evans, Kelvin Benjamin, Sammy Watkins), nobody would have expected this little guy to be the one to
shock the world like he did that particular night. Since then, Odell Beckham Jr. has been an elite wide receiver in this league and continues to make even more one-handed catches, including one later that year against the Washington Redskins. His numbers this early in his career are comparable or even ahead of that of Randy Moss. And with his stardom also came his famous one-handed catch warmup routine that people deliberately come early or further down just to see. And now, he is ahead of everybody in that receiving class for sure and is a Top 5 receiver
in this league talent wise (I believe he's #3). But in June of 2014? Everybody was pegging Mike Evans and Sammy Watkins as the can't miss talents of that draft that would turn into superstars. And while they are both talented players, they are nowhere near that of Odell Beckham Jr.

The Rams and Chargers were still in their old cities

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The San Diego Chargers and St. Louis Rams. Such a concept that I was able to live with for a long time in my life. And while in June 2014, while neither team was overly talented and championship competitive, they were likable teams. Enter January 2016 and January 2017, where a city that wasn't a great sports city to begin with besides basketball and maybe college football got not one but two NFL franchises. And what have they done to deserve this? Have a

bunch of celebrities and the 2nd highest population in the country? Remember, this was the same city that had FOX cast actors as Rams fans for their 4:25 featured matchup with the Eagles. While St. Louis didn't get a lot of fans either, a lot of that had to do with having a dump of a stadium that had issues with players getting hurt, the turf once lighting on fire, and some rarely renovated seats and concession stands. And when that doesn't happen, fans don't want
to spend the money to go to your stadium. That doesn't mean, however, that St. Louis had bad fans. While they are a baseball city first with great love for the St. Louis Cardinals, football is still the #1 sport in the nation, and just because a city has that as a secondary sport should not mean they should take it away. As for San Diego, while they did not have a great fan base at all, the move to L.A. is still a betrayal.

While I mock the Chargers for having the most fragile team in football and the least clutch team in football, their following in San Diego was still not god awful where they had to just move over to a non-football town. The Chargers were also gaining fans from Mexico due to being able to travel (if they had passports obviously) from the Northern coast of Mexico to San Diego to attend an NFL game, especially if they lived in Tijuana. It would have made sense for me if they moved to a midwestern or northern culture that has good sports fans and football areas in general, or even somewhere in the Southeast or Texas where football is prominent on all levels. L.A. just didn't make sense, and I was very disappointed when it happened for both San Diego and St. Louis sports fans. And in 2014, with all the stalling going on to expand both domestically and internationally, the thought of 2 teams in Los Angeles was never even thought of. Now we see the Rams with one of the more talented rosters in the NFL and the Chargers being a playoff contender in the City of Angels. And while the rosters could have improved either way, whether Los Angeles deserves those teams is still in question. San Diego and St. Louis sports fans could look forward to football season after the end of the Spurs-Heat NBA finals in 2014. Now with all these Cavs-Warriors finals 4 years later, it is not the same case, as many fans in those cities and regions felt a sense of betrayal.


The Yankees farm system was bad

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Aaron Judge. Gary Sanchez. Didi Gregorious. Luis Severino. Most recently Gleyber Torres and soon to be Clint Frazier. This is the Yankees' young core that has been dominant this year and is expected to be dominant for years to come. In 2014, though? Nobody would have thought that. The Yankees had an old lineup including Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, Brian Roberts, Brett Gardner, and Jacoby Ellsbury, with only one player that showed young promise in Yangervis

Solarte. Their #1 pitcher on their depth chart was an aging Hiroki Kuroda and they had 2 good pieces in the bullpen. So 4 years later, THIS team was supposed to contend? Never would have been thought of in June of 2014. Yeah, they're the Yankees, so they were never going to be terrible and fall off the face of the earth. But in 2018 for a farm system that was 23rd in 2014 to be all superstars in the major leagues? Unheard of. According to Baseball Prospectus, Gary
Sanchez was an 85 overall rated prospect, and Severino was labeled a breakout candidate and player to watch, but wasn't flying on the radar as much as somebody of his talent level would. Aaron Judge was an afterthought, and Gleyber Torres and Clint Frazier were still in other organizations.

Didi Gregorious was a 7 hitter who was more in there for his defense with the Diamondbacks. That's what this Yankees lineup looked like in 2014. As for their bullpen, they had Betances and Robertson at that point, but didn't yet have Tommy Kahnle, Chad Green, or Aroldis Chapman yet. Green and Kahnle were not heard of except for fans of their previous teams, and at that time it seemed like there was no way Chapman would be traded by the Reds because they weren't a bad team. While the Yankees always have the spending potential to get anything, the fact that all these young guys clicked all at once 4 years later is very hard to imagine in June of 2014 when they had a lot of old and fragile players on their roster that weren't worth much trade value. But here we are 4 years later, watching them turn into a potential dynasty right before our eyes, and they have even more waiting in the wings in the minors in the most loaded far system in the American League and one of the best in all of baseball.


The Seahawks didn't yet throw the ball on the 1-yard line

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The single worst play call in Super Bowl history was something that had to be researched in May and June of 2014.On February 1, 2015, that answer came right before our eyes on the 1-yard line. Whether you blame Pete Carroll or Darrell Bevell for calling a slant play in this situation, it was still easily the worst play-call in the moment we have ever seen. But before that, in May and June of 2014, the Seahawks were enjoying their lives as champions, having just annihilated the Denver Broncos 43-8 in the Super Bowl the year before. They had a great roster and a defense that was loaded and deep in all areas, and a quarterback and running back that were towards the top of their respective positions. And it seemed like the coaching staff was stable and not going to make mistakes, as they have been very good with game planning and player development as long as Carroll has been there. So making a call like that, with Marshawn Lynch, at that stage in the game, was unbelievable. They should have just simply run to the left, away from Vince Wilfork, and hope Lynch can break the tackle of a smaller end or linebacker or even corner if he can set the edge. Not to mention, even if they did miss, they still had a timeout, or even enough time to run back up inside the 5 and run a play on second down.

So there was that decision to not run. And then there was the kind of throw. Goal line defenses clamp the middle of the field with usually just two corners on the edge, sometimes a linebacker on different play calls. So in what universe would throwing quickly with not much motion and everybody set on defense work? It's one thing if Russell Wilson runs around and then throws it across his body back to the middle of the field. It's another to impulsively throw it on a slant with just one route in mind and hoping it would work with a receiver in Ricardo Lockette that isn't even that big. So how was it going to work? Beats me. But it will forever go down in history as the single worst play call of all time. Before 2014 though, the answer to that question had to be researched or even pulled back randomly from just your own team. The Seahawks answered that question on a national stage in Super Bowl 49.

College football still had a regular National Championship Game

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Remember the days of the National Championship game automatically becoming the top two teams in the nation and the other Top 4 teams just playing in the Orange Bowl or Sugar Bowl for school pride? 2014 featured the last year where the defending champion, who was Jameis Winston's Florida State Seminoles, played in a straight on National Championship game. Since 2014, we have seen the more interesting college football playoff structure, which has featured some parity as well as a very interesting race leading up to the 4 teams that are selected. We've seen two 4 seeds win in the college football playoff in the 4 years it has existed, in 2015 Ohio State and 2018 Alabama. We've seen, despite back-to-back years of Clemson and Alabama, some interesting combinations of teams making it, as well as different teams contending down the stretch with the extra spot available to win the National Championship. As a whole, this has made the college football season more interesting, and you see teams play with more of a sense of urgency down the stretch rather than just settling for a regular bowl game. In 2014, this was not a concept, and while games and bowl games were still great, the games before Thanksgiving weekend rivalry games were often times boring. Now, they've scheduled relevant games all year long and at different points in the season, making it more interesting as a whole.

But in 2014, we just had bowl games, and we had the two teams set for the National Championship a month in advance. And despite having some classics in the past such as the USC-Texas title game in 2006, the playoff system still has made it more interesting and has created some exciting title games and playoff games as well. And the combination of that and some great games down the stretch, college football is growing into an even greater product
than it's ever been thanks to the playoff.


The Cubs were still cursed

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And lastly, there was this. In June of 2014, the Chicago Cubs were entering a drought that lasted where they hadn't won a World Series in 106 years. And on the date of that championship for the Spurs, June 15, the Cubs were in last place at 28-39, and seeming like there was nowhere to go but down once again. They had a good farm system at the time, so there was hope at least for the offense. They had very little pitching. No Arrieta yet. No Lester yet. Kyle Hendricks was still in the minors and wasn't expected to be anything special like he's become. Didn't seem like they had a chance to lure in one of the best managers, if not the best, in Joe Maddon at that point in the season. But 2 years later, following a year where they got swept in the NLCS by the New York Mets, the Cubs came out hungry with young players on a mission. And thanks to the production of players like Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Willson Contreras, and Javier Baez throughout the season, the Cubs dominated the National League Central and got home-field advantage throughout the National League playoffs. Up 2-1 in the series with the Giants leading Game 4, the Cubs rallied back down 5-2 to score 4 runs in the Top of the 9th, and eventually win that game in that series. They rallied back down 2-1 in the NLCS versus the Dodgers, having got shut out in back-to-back games, to win three straight including a shutout of their own. This proved the mental stability of this young bunch, and finally, for the first time since 1945, the Cubs were on the way to the World Series. But if they didn't win, they still would be cursed. The opponent? A hungry American League bunch in the Cleveland Indians trying to break a curse of their own.

While it was 40 years less than the Cubs, a curse that lasted back before 1950 is still a curse. And similarly to the Dodgers series, they got shut out in two of the first three games, and were down 3-1. Fans are thinking "here we go again" imagining something dark to happen to their constantly cursed baseball team. Until it didn't. The Cubs went on to force a Game 7, and jumped out to a 5-1 lead early on. All of a sudden, in the 8th inning though, the darkness struck them again, as Rajai Davis, who has 60 career home runs, hit his first career home run of the playoffs on a 3-2 pitch that was almost out of the strike zone. All of a sudden, it was a tie game. And then there was a rain delay, making the entire world wait for extra innings. But unlike past Cubs demons, these Cubs delivered, as veterans Ben Zobrist and Miguel Montero delivered RBI hits, giving the Cubs an 8-6 lead.


Zobrist's hit came after intentionally walking Anthony Rizzo with 2 outs. As a Mets fan, seeing how Zobrist dominated the World Series, I knew that was the wrong decision. But then, there was more from the Indians end of it. Brandon Guyer, a backup outfielder, walked, and advanced to second. He would later score on a hit by, yeah, Rajai Davis again. However, amidst all that, with Mike Montgomery in the game, a spot-starter and definitely not near a closer, he battled
through, and was able to get the final out, sealing the curse-breaker for the Chicago Cubs, as they won their first World Series in 108 years in the most wild baseball game I have ever seen. It just seemed like the demons were haunting this franchise for years, throughout many different eras of baseball. And at that time, it seemed like the Cubs were hopeless. Two years later, they did the impossible and overcome every mental adversity situation that hindered Cubs teams of the past that couldn't do nothing but lose. And despite the Back to the Future II superstition, not a lot of people realistically believed, especially with the success of the St. Louis Cardinals, that the Cubs would crack the World Series nevertheless win it and break their curse.