Sunday, June 29, 2014

Uniforms: Atlanta Falcons Through the Years

I've always been a sports fan who loved uniforms.  When I was young I would even gravitate towards certain teams just because of the uniforms they wore.  The Michigan Wolverines are probably the biggest example of that for me.  I want to take a quick look at the Atlanta Falcons uniforms throughout the years.  While it wasn't the reason I became a fan of the team, that red uniform of the 70's is still my favorite of all-time among any sport. 

From the inception of the Falcons until 1970 Atlanta wore a black uniform with white numbers and letters.  Above is all-time Falcons great linebacker Tommy Nobis.  I was too young to remember this uniform but it was a good start for Atlanta.  They were the only team to wear black other than Oakland at the time.  Their helmet was a primary red with the Falcon logo black with a white outline.  A black and white stipe ran from the back to front down the center of the helmet.  Again a good first offering but I wouldn't consider it one of my favorites.  The Falcons currently wear this as a throwback uniform. 
 Gerald Riggs, above, is wearing the uniform the team wore from 1971 through 1989.  While hard to see here his uniform has the silver numbers and pants as opposed to the white numbers and pants used through the 1977 season.  There were other minor changes but I believe those were the biggest.  This uniform is my all-time favorite of the Falcons.  Of course the 70's were my formative years as a young lad when it came to watching sports so this is how I remember Atlanta in my early years.  I own the Mitchell and Ness Steve Bartkowski  version of this jersey.  I really like the red in the uniform paired with the black and the silver.  Again this will always be the benchmark for me when it comes to uniforms.  I really wish Atlanta would wear these as a throwback from time to time which they last did in 1994.
Next was the Falcons' back in black look as I refer to it.  The bold change was good a look and led to other teams moving to black uniforms.  This is Terrance Mathis showing off the look that Atlanta took their only Super Bowl appearance as they wore this particular uniform from 1990 through 2002.  The black version had white numbers with a red outline with the helmet featuring the original helmet logo outlined in white.  The white uniform had black numbers until 1997 when they changed to red.  Considering how much I loved the red unis Atlanta won me over fairly quickly with this version.  Again a sharp uniform that harkens back to the team's original uniform while also starting a trend that spread to other sports as well.  I have the Deion Sanders version of this jersey that I purchased back in the mid 90's.  Even if Deion left for greener pastures he is still a beloved figure in Atlanta.


The current Falcons uniform was introduced in 2003 and the black version is shown at the left as modeled by Keith Brooking.  Warren Dunn shows off the red version below.  There have been different combinations of pant colors used over the years with the team settling on only white pants starting in 2009.  Again Atlanta did well.  It is hard to come up with different uniforms over and over and still come up with something that looks good.  I like the black with more red and white added in stripes and shoulder colors.  At first I was leery but it looks good.  The uniform numbers on the black version are white outlined in red.  The helmet logo was redone with red added and outlined in white.  The redesign definitely updates the logo in a sharp way.  The red version has white numbers outlined in black.  Both look great.  I own the Warrick Dunn black version.  Wouldn't mind a red version but as I already have three Falcons jerseys and I'm not sure I really need to add another. 
So as you can tell I'm pretty happy with the history of the Atlanta Falcons uniforms.  None were too plain nor went off the deep end with some crazy design.  A good page for seeing the evolution of the Falcons jersey, among all the other teams, can be found here at Gridiron Uniforms.  Check it out.  I doubt this will be my last post on uniforms.  It is definitely something I enjoy so I'll see what else I can come up with.  


Friday, June 27, 2014

Trail Blazers Season Ends (Yeah this is a little late)

This is a little, well quite a bit, late but I wanted to put a cap on the Portland Trail Blazer season.  Actually San Antonio did that ousting Portland in the second round in five gamesI thought it might go six but they ran in to a Spurs team that was on a mission after barely beating Dallas in round one.  This just wasn't a good matchup for Portland and having no depth hurt this team.  The Spurs stifled the Trail Blazers as the Blazers only shot 41% from the field.  In retrospect we could just say nobody was going to beat the Spurs but the Trail Blazers played well in round one and I still don't think a six game series was too much to ask for.  Portland also turned over the ball 35 more times than the Spurs.  That is crazy for a five game series.  Nicolas Batum alone averaged over four per game.    

No matter how it ended it was a good season for Portland.  54 wins and beating Houston in six games in round one was a win as far as I'm concerned.  Now Portland needs to add quality depth in the off season.  The starting five is good but there is next to nothing in terms of production coming off the bench.  They didn't have a pick in last night's draft so developing what they have, trades or free agents seem to be about the only way to go.  We'll see how things look after the summer.  Many teams are looking to move players as they jockey for the best free agents on the market.  A few quality pick ups and this team could be in the second round again and maybe more.  They just have to continue to improve as a team and get a real bench.  It is nice to have a good season in the books and hope for the same or better next year. 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Carmelo to Houston? I'm not feeling it...

I'll make this quick.  I don't react to a ton of rumors because more times than not they don't go anywhere.  This one I just can't figure.  Some reports have Houston trying to get Carmelo Anthony and to do so would trade James Harden to clear the necessary cap space.  I like Carmelo but I just can't see anyone thinking he is better than Harden.  He is a great scorer and that is what I like about him.  But Harden is probably the best shooting guard in the league.  And while he'll never be confused with Magic Johnson he is also a big time scorer in this league.  I can't come up with one argument as to why Harden is better than Anthony.  Again I like Carmelo but I think if I'm any team I'd rather have Harden instead.  Assuming Houston can't get LeBron James I think resigning Chandler Parsons is the best move for Houston.  He won't give you 25 consistently but he definitely fits what Houston is doing.  I think if Houston can add quality depth or an excellent power forward or point guard they could be in the mix in the Western Conference.  I just don't see a Dwight Howard-Carmelo pairing being better than Howard-Harden.  Again, this probably won't come to fruition but every time I see this I bristle.  We'll see what happens.  Where Carmelo goes will if nothing else change the look of some team out there drastically, and it may be Houston's.  I just don't think it would be an improvement. 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Fandom: My Views and Journey as a Fan

Alfred Jenkins
Fandom.  The state or art of being a fan (per Merriam-Webster).  That in itself is pretty straight forward and doesn't sound difficult or hard to comprehend.  If you are a sports fan you are saying "fandom isn't a hard thing" and you are probably right.  I'm just a little different...

As I grew up in New Mexico WTBS was my link to the sports world as well as whatever would be shown on the networks in the 70's.  For me this meant seeing coverage of all the Atlanta pro teams - Falcons, Flames, Hawks as well as what seemed to be a Braves game every night.  The only "local" team would have been the Dallas Cowboys who were on TV every Sunday.  I was a fan during the 70's and 80's until Tom Landry was fired.  No biggie right?  Well for me I ended up latching on to more than one team in each sports.  So not only was I fan of the Hawks but I also liked the Portland Trail Blazers.  While following the Braves I also am a fan of the Boston Red Sox and instead of just following the Falcons I'm also a Buffalo Bills guy.  College has me following many teams from Michigan (my #1) to Texas Tech, Georgia, and New Mexico.  I know that doesn't seem too far out of the realm of normalcy.  Still some people just don't get it.  How can you be a fan, a true fan, of so many different teams.  I wish I had an answer .  It is just how I've always been.

 And it was worse at times.  I also was a fan of the San Diego Chargers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Denver Broncos (John Elway era).  In basketball the Spurs, Warriors, Kings (when they were in Kansas City) and sometimes Seattle (back when they were in Seattle only) were teams I've always liked.  In baseball the A's and Royals were the only other teams I've had any real love for but I always find myself rooting for them.  In hockey...ugh that one is really complicated.  Calgary and Boston are at the top but Toronto, Buffalo and the New Jersey Devils were there for a short time.  I'm a casual hockey fan so that makes it even harder. 

So you may think yeah it is a little different but so what.  Where this all comes into play is when I'm I'd talk to folks about sports and who we root for.  If I started naming off all these teams I got some really weird looks and people questioned whether or not I was truly a fan.  So I started whittling things down and decided two teams per sport was enough.  Doesn't mean I've dropped those other teams completely but it allows me to have somewhat normal conversations with other sports fans and I can devote my time, and money, to less teams.  I still root for those other teams but I'm just not that hardcore fan.  This last week I rooted for, and so enjoyed, the Spurs as they Trounced the Heat for their fifth championship. 

Joe Ferguson
So it probably seems like now I'm talking (typing) to just talk.  Is there a real point to this?  Maybe not but bear with me.  There is so much that goes into being a fan.  Where you grow up.  Being in New Mexico I really didn't have those local teams so I latched on to teams for different reasons.  Coverage on TV, players who I really liked, or cliché as it may sound even the uniforms of the team.  No matter why I chose a team I am a hardcore fan.  I live and die with them each season and always come back the next season no matter what.  I still get made fun of for my love of two teams.  Some friends speak of my baseball team as "BosLanta".  *sigh*  It is all good.  I take it with the fun in which it is intended.  And at it's core that is what it is all about.  Fun.  At the end of the day who I root for in sports isn't a life changing discussion.  But I am sports fan.  It is a big part of who I am and I enjoy those discussions. 

One other aspect of fandom for me is I'm always rooting for someone.  No matter who is playing I'll be rooting for one team.  In my mind I'll either like or dislike one team more than the other so I'll have a rooting interest.  Maybe it is rooting against Yankees who I dislike on principal or rooting for the New Jersey Nets when Buck Williams played for them.  Yeah that is an old reference...  It is one more thing that allows me to enjoy games when my teams aren't playing in them. 

So fandom is an easy thing at it's core and it is with me as well.  Just because I have two teams in each sport to root for doesn't make me any less of a hardcore fan.  Again it is all about fun and sports is definitely that for me.
Eddie Johnson, Kansas City Kings

Saturday, June 21, 2014

LeBron James: The Decision Part II

Now that the NBA Finals are over LeBron James has a huge decision to make.  Does he stay with the Heat and hope they can add the needed players around him or does he bolt for another team in the hope than he can add more championship rings elsewhere?   This will be tough decision as many different things play into this.  While I'm sure he new this when he joined the Heat it won't make this any easier. 

First I don't think you could ask much more of LeBron in his current run with Miami.  James has been nothing short of a beast as he led the Heat to two championships and four straight Finals appearances.  Only the loss to Dallas in 2011 was an upset.  I still can't figure that one.  Doesn't matter as LeBron is the reason Miami made it to four straight Finals and it was in no way his fault they lost this year to the San Antonio Spurs.  Miami just ran into the best team in the league and it showed.  I think LeBron is probably the second best player all-time and there are good arguments about him being number one. 

Should LeBron return to Miami?  He doesn't owe the team anything.  He has held up his end of the bargain.  Some may think he should stay because Miami held up their end but the NBA is a business and there is no shame in James taking his talent elsewhere.  What can Miami do to better itself?  First, Lebron, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh will have to make a decision together to opt out of their player options and get new contracts that allows the team to better itself.  While that is what Miami needs it seems to put the Heat in a tough position.  Wade will be 33 in January and is showing his age.  Whether it be the time off he requires, the declining defense or lack of offensive explosiveness he just isn't the same guy he once was.  Is a player worth big money?  He has helped Miami win three championships and deservers some respect but that should only go so far.  Can Miami afford to pay him a big dollars?  And how many years should they give him?  Tough questions.  Bosh, while still good and younger, isn't a player I'd give max money too either.   He doesn't play big, in size or in the terms of stats, anymore.  I think he'd get his points with a team who isn't as good but I wouldn't trust him to carry a team.  So how does it play out? 

It all starts with the big three.  They must opt out.  They opt in on their contracts and Miami won't have enough money to go get a new ball boy.  Opt out and the ball is in Miami's court.  Doesn't mean it will be easy.  This team needs plenty.  Will Ray Allen return?  Is Mario Chalmers a good enough point guard?  Power forward is a need and they need depth at every position.  And there are no easy answers.  Miami will once again hope aging quality veterans and roll players will take a pay cut to play with the big three.  It has worked in the past but will players think this incarnation of the big three is good enough to carry a team to a championship?  While there seems to be only one strong contender in the Eastern Conference it won't always be that way.  Miami has to get better to ensure more trips to The Finals. 

Would LeBron go somewhere else?  Teams like Chicago, the Lakers, Houston, Cleveland, New York and anyone with a dream will make a push to get the best free agent ever.  Some are in a better position than others.  I personally think Houston would be the best destination followed by Chicago.  Houston gives him a true big man and an excellent scorer.  Chicago has the great shooting guard and a good big man as well as shooters around them.  Would any of them be instant contenders with James?  Hard to tell but James carried the Cavaliers to a Finals appearance with a lineup that wouldn't scare anyone.  So putting him on a team with real stars and talent has to make you think they could do it.  Houston of course would have to fight through a stacked Western Conference so Chicago seems like a better fit assuming you believe Derrick Rose can stay healthy.  If I had my druthers I would like to see him go to San Antonio.  I know it would never happen but you have to love the thought.  He is perfect for their style of game.  Fast breaking style, team offense, and he can play defense.  Would be a great bridge to the post-Duncan era.  I can dream.  Well a real dream would be him landing with Atlanta or Portland but I haven't been drinking that much tonight. 
No matter what LeBron decides to do it will be the biggest story of the off season and will determine a lot as to how the next season will play out.  If I had to put money on it, LeBron stays in Miami and why not.  They have as good a chance as anyone in the Eastern conference to make it to The Finals.  Miami of course will have to do some tweaking but if I'm the Heat I'd do whatever it takes.  I can't wait to see how it all plays out.  It isn't often the greatest player on the planet has the chance to change teams and change destinies. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

San Antonio Spurs Dominate in Route to 5th Championship

This was not the NBA Finals I was expecting.  It was the one I had hoped for but I did not expect what I saw.  Watching San Antonio lose a heart breaking series last year I dreamed of a rematch in which the Spurs take out the Heat.  While his comments scared me, I wanted Tim Duncan and the Spurs to say "We want the Heat".  I would want nothing less.   They should be pissed they lost last year and should want to take out the "last year of having to live with it" on Miami

Other than game two this was a total domination by the Spurs.  And game two was very winnable had it not been for four straight missed free throws in the fourth quarter and iffy defense by Duncan on Chris Bosh in the last 30 seconds of the game.  All the talk has been about the Spurs' dominating play, the coaching, the passing and the play by Spurs players not named Duncan, Tony Parker, or Manu Ginobili.  But none of it was overstated.  San Antonio was all over the place on defense never letting LeBron or other Heat players get comfortable on offense.  The Spurs' offense was either running and gunning or constantly in motion.  Miami could never keep up on defense.  San Antonio seemed to have found the fountain of youth while Miami looked like a team who just couldn't stay with them.  Coach Gregg Popovich seemed to know what to do each game and when to do it.  Whether it was moving Tiago Splitter to the bench for the last three games or lighting a fire under Kawhi Leonard he didn't seem to make a mistake.  And the "non big three" players all did their part.  Even Patty Mills was a starred during game five. 

Miami for it's part looked lost and beaten down.  Wade isn't the star he once was and Bosh wasn't a banger but a spot up three pointer guy.  Heck Chris Anderson had more rebounds than Bosh.  It wasn't pretty.  No matter how bad it got Erik Spoelstra never had an answer.  His tinkering didn't work.  I think it was two things.  The talent around LeBron wasn't there and they didn't adjust when the Spurs' suffocating defense took away what had worked for them all year.  San Antonio was just too good to allow the Heat to win on pure talent like they could against everyone else in the NBA.   

Again San Antonio dominated.  It wasn't even close.  Look at the series box score.  You thought when Miami went up 16 early in game five that the Spurs would have to claw their way back.  It wasn't even close.  They blew Miami away the rest of the game when Miami should have been able to steal a game.  I should have wanted a close series but every now and then you have to love a good ole butt whooping.  Especially when the story behind it is revenge.  And there are many stories besides just the fact they lost to Miami last year.  The Spurs are a team that has many angles to it.  A nice story at Grantland talks about this team.  They dominated in the regular season and sans an unexplainable hiccup against the Mavericks in the first series of the playoffs they were just as dominating in the post season.  They may not be one of the top five teams of all-time but I think they have made the top ten.  Even if they aren't I'd love to see them face off against any of those lineups.  San Antonio was fun to watch.  The Grantland article talks about it.  Commissioner Adam Silver said while presenting the trophy to the winning Spurs how San Antonio showed the world how beautiful basketball is (I'm paraphrasing).  But it was so true.  Their style is exciting and selfless.  The stats from this year's team are mind blowing.  No player average over 29 minutes per game or over 16 points per game while winning 62 games.  That just doesn't seem to add up but that is what makes this team so great.  Ok, I'm done gushing now but I loved watching this series.  It was fun to see the good guys win and see them enjoy a well deserved championship.  I hope I can be back here next year talking about their greatness again.  No matter what they do next year this team is one I won't soon forget.