All posts by kristanbravo

I am a junior studying broadcast journalism at American University. I am obsessed with my dog and would die to see the Mets win the World Series.

Phil vs Carmelo

New York Knicks’ star forward, Carmelo Anthony, has recently received a lot of attention in the media for his open dispute with Knicks’ president Phil Jackson. The dispute has stemmed from Jackson’s willingness to publicly put his own players under a microscope.

Jackson is a well-known and well-respected NBA coach with 11 championships to his name; not to mention the two he won with the Knicks as a player in the early 70s. In total, Jackson holds the NBA record for most championships as a coach and a player.

While he undoubtedly holds a very impressive resume, many would argue that Jackson is pushing for an outdated system. He is known for his use of the “triangle offense,” which can be successful when implemented by the right players. Knicks’ coach Jeff Hornacek, however, has not made consistent use of the triangle. He usually opts for a more fast- paced approach that the players responded to earlier in the season.

After getting off to a fairly strong start, the Knicks have struggled as of late. Some blame the problems on the difficult transition of key players from Chicago to New York, and even the team’s star Carmelo Anthony for holding the ball for too long.

Even the team’s president, who should be one of the biggest advocates of the players, has more or less thrown his star player under the bus.

The true problem with the Knicks lies in distractions off the court. At the heart of these distractions is Jackson himself. After the Knicks won four consecutive games in December, the team’s president publicly called out Anthony for being a ball hog.

Jackson’s comments came as a shock, especially because the Knicks were doing so well at that time. Among other factors, the timing just didn’t make sense.

It has become more clear now that Jackson’s plans for the future of the Knicks do not include Carmelo Anthony.

The two have rarely seen eye-to-eye on the team’s operations and plans for the future, but Anthony has always seemed more willing to work with Jackson for the success of the team. After a meeting between the two this week, it appears that Jackson is less eager.

In the meeting, Jackson reportedly asked if Anthony even wanted to be a Knick anymore. Time and time again, Anthony has proven himself and his love for New York to the organization and its fans. He is the centerpiece of a team that has great potential. In his meeting with Jackson, Anthony reiterated his desire to stay with the team. His only roadblock might be his own president.

Many Knicks’ fans fear Anthony will soon grow tired of Jackson’s shenanigans and accept a trade to a team that gives him a more immediate chance of winning, and less of an everyday battle with the front office.

Tensions are high in the Knicks’ organization. The team is struggling and certainly cannot afford to lose Melo. He has been a power force, team leader, and model citizen for the Knicks since 2011, and should not have to continuously answer for the president of the organization.

If someone has to go in order for the Knicks to have success, it has to be Phil Jackson.

image: http://clutchpoints.com/

Domestic Violence in Professional Sports Is Out of Control

Mets’ closer Jeurys Familia is currently facing the consequences of a domestic violence incident that took place at his home in New Jersey. He was arrested on Nov. 11th,  2016 and later released on $1500 bail. Major League Baseball has yet to take any disciplinary action against Familia, but it is almost certain that a suspension will be issued for the start of the 2017 season.

What makes the incident even more appalling is that Familia was featured in an ad campaign launched by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence just under a month before his arrest. The #NotAFan campaign features other big names in the sports world such as Joe Girardi, John Starks, and Rod Gilbert who say that they are a fan of their team, but not a fan of domestic violence. http://www.notafandv.info/

It is a sad reality that we are no longer surprised when we hear of another case of domestic violence at the hands of a professional athlete. However, in the case of Familia, it is nothing short of shocking that he did this such a short time after pledging that he would not.

Familia’s case is unfortunately one of the many related to domestic violence that professional sports have seen in recent years.

Former Colorado Rockies’ shortstop, José Reyes, also had a recent run-in with the law for domestic violence. After an incident in Oct. 2015 that left his wife with injuries to her leg and scratches on her neck, Reyes was arrested, and shortly after released on only $1000 bail; an insignificant amount compared to his yearly salary. Nothing further came of the investigation as Reyes’ wife was unwilling to cooperate as a witness.

Reyes was signed by the Mets in 2016. He made significant contributions to the team as they overcame injuries to key players en route to the wild card game. His domestic violence incident surely lurks in the back of the minds of some fans, but it is my belief that for most it is an afterthought.

Sticking with baseball,  Aroldis Chapman of the Chicago Cubs was the first athlete to receive disciplinary action from MLB after its implementation of the Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, and Child Abuse policy. As a whole, this policy serves to hold players accountable for their actions in the realm of domestic violence. Chapman violently assaulted his girlfriend in his home in Miami in Oct. 2014, and was not eligible to play at the start of the 2015 season, when he was a member of the New York Yankees.

While it is progressive that MLB has taken the steps necessary to implement a policy against such actions, it will be curious to see whether or not preliminary discipline actually deters future incidents. In other words, I’m not sure that the precedent of a 30 game unpaid suspension has significant enough a financial impact on players to prevent future infractions of the sort.

In addition, a short-term unpaid suspension is 100% NOT sufficient enough a punishment for such appalling actions. It is a dismal part of our culture that props athletes up on such a pedestal that cases like these are forgotten shortly after they occur.

In the NFL, we have seen far too many domestic violence cases in recent years. The first to occur in the 2016 year was the case of Johnny Manziel. The former Cleveland Browns quarterback was dropped by both the team and his agent after an incident that left his ex-girlfriend deaf in one ear.

Another substantial case of domestic violence involving an NFL player was that of Ray Rice. Rice was arrested in May of 2014 for the assault of his then fiancée, now wife, in an elevator in Atlantic City. A video surfaced of Rice dragging an unconscious body out of the elevator after he had knocked her out. The former Baltimore Ravens running back was dropped by the team, and the league suspended him indefinitely. While this is certainly a more severe punishment than those handed down by the MLB, I do not believe that it is sufficient enough given the actions taken by Rice.

After the Ray Rice incident, the NFL vowed to take action in combating the widespread problem of domestic abuse across the league. Public service announcements, including a very powerful one that can be seen here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rTJT3fVv1vU were created by the organization No More, and supported by the NFL. This one in particular was showcased as a commercial during Super Bowl 49.

While the NFL has taken some initiative in their disciplinary actions against offenders of domestic violence within their business, are they really doing enough? I’m not sure that enough can ever be obtained in this sense. Despite the NFL’s attempt at progression, we seem to hear of new cases of domestic abuse on a regular basis. The problem lies in the fact that professional athletes are under the impression that because they are professional athletes, they can get away with this behavior having only suffered the loss of a minor portion of their income. Or, worst case scenario, getting dropped by a team and having to wait on another to pick them up.

Ultimately, the problem of domestic violence in Major League Baseball and the National Football League is completely out of control, and nothing up to this point has been overly effective in combating it.

image: http://www.wsj.com/

How Jose Fernandez Deserves to be Remembered

I’ll be the first sports fan to be frustrated with an owner or manager who is not honest with the media. People who are dedicated to their sports teams have an absolute right to know what is going on. No beating around the bush- tell me straight if our ace needs Tommy John surgery. Tell me straight if you won’t be calling up that prospect until August.

However, when it comes to real issues that affect people’s lives, leave out the details.

The death of Jose Fernandez has left the baseball world mourning. It was heartbreaking news to so many at its onset. Since then, we remain brokenhearted at the disregard for loss of life painted by headlines that attribute the deaths to Fernandez’s potential substance abuse on that night.

It is no right of the public to have any information regarding the boat crash that may lead to the misconception that Fernandez was anything short of a fantastic man.

The fact is that we lost three young men on that night to things that young people often find themselves involved with. It is a tragic loss of life that while preventable, does not warrant attribution of blame.

Jose Fernandez was truly incredible.  He was so vibrant and passionate. He was one of the few who  played the game purely out of love; never mind the fact that he was wildly talented. He deserves to be remembered for his excellence on and off the diamond, and not some headline that links him to drugs or alcohol. Those who love him have certainly suffered enough.

1992-2016

image: http://thecomeback.com/

Catch the Heartbreak

Prior to their 2015 surge to the World Series, the New York Mets experienced a nine-year drought of postseason-less baseball. This brings us all the way back to 2006, a year of wide-eyed young stars and seasoned veterans. The perfect combination, or so they had thought, to bring Queens its third championship in franchise history. Team chemistry had a lot to do with the success of the 2006 Mets. All of their hard work culminated to a National League Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals.

With their entire season on the line, the Mets sent Oliver Perez to the mound against Jeff Suppan in Game 7. The game was tied at one going into the sixth inning. What happened in the top of that inning would be forever etched in MLB history as one of the greatest defensive plays in the sport’s postseason history. Endy Chavez robbed Scott Rolen of a home run at the left field wall and doubled off Jim Edmons at first base to end the inning. Had he not made “the catch,” the Cardinals would have been up by two runs, which would have likely put the final nail in the coffin for the Mets. Fittingly, the advertisement along the left field wall at Shea Stadium was AIG’s slogan, “the strength to be there.”

Despite Endy’s heroics, the Mets would lose that game in 2006, sending them packing until they finally reached the postseason again in 2015. Fast forward one year later, and the Mets are in the 2016 Wild Card game against the San Francisco Giants, trying to scratch and claw their way back to the NLDS.

The stage was set at Citi Field for the ultimate pitchers’ duel between Noah Syndergaard and Madison Bumgarner.

Each ace battled their way into the late innings of the game without allowing a run. Just as Perez did ten years prior, Syndergaard got into a bit of a jam in the sixth inning. With a man on second, Brandon Belt hit the ball to deep center field.

Curtis Granderson, who was playing center that night, had been having a mediocre year until about September. Once that final month hit, he turned on the jets, and had the breakout month the lineup desperately needed. Already a hero for his crucial role in getting the team to the do-or-die game, Granderson tracked the ball over his head all the way to the warning track, and made an incredible catch as he crashed into the wall.

Witnessing this from the right field stands transported me, and likely many other Mets fans, back to Endy in ‘06. But this time, ten years later, we were confident the results would be different.

They weren’t.

The Mets fell to the Giants after closer Jeurys Familia allowed a three-run homer to Conor Gillaspie in the ninth inning. A defeat equally, if not more crushing, than the one in ‘06.

The moments when Chavez and Granderson made their catches were the moments all Mets fans and players alike had the same thought: “We are not losing this freaking game.”

Hang in there Mets fans. Here’s hoping the third time will be the charm for a season-saving catch that will actually save the season.

images:
http://www.northjersey.com/
http://www.newsday.com/

Can They Get There Again?

In 2015, the New York Mets fell just short of their first World Series title in nearly 30 years. They were defeated four games to one by the Kansas City Royals in a series that, in hindsight, should have been much closer. Many even say that the Mets should have taken the series, as they had late leads in games one, four, and five. While I do credit the Royals for their relentless comeback efforts, and their ability to capitalize on errors made by the Mets in the late innings of games four and five, I wholeheartedly believe that the Mets  ultimately acted as their own worst enemy.

Mets closer, Jeurys Familia, who had been nearly perfect all season, blew three saves in the World Series. Two of these blown saves were direct results of errors made by Mets infielders (second baseman Daniel Murphy, and first baseman Lucas Duda). Perhaps it was the pressure that took a toll on the team during those late innings. Many of the 2015 Mets players had never played in such high stakes games before. Going into 2016, I believe the experience they have gained will propel them right back to the Fall Classic, and that we are likely to see a different outcome. I could very well see the 2016 World Series featuring the Royals and the Mets once again, but I believe the Mets have what it takes this time around.

2016 holds more promise for the Mets than ever before, with a key returning bat in Yoenis Céspedes, new additions in Asdrúbal Cabrera and Neil Walker, and the resurgence of Zack Wheeler to undoubtedly the best (and newly postseason experienced) rotation in baseball. All of this under the leadership of the Captain, David Wright, leaves me with little doubt that Mets can perform to at least the standard that they set in the previous season.

With all of that being said, I do not by any means believe that the Mets will run away with the league championship, or even the division title. The Washington Nationals will yet again pose a significant challenge to the Mets in the East, but the Mets’ rotation is what should ultimately lead them passed worthy competitors.

Other teams will now be more eager than ever to knock off the reigning National League Champions in what should be a very exciting season.

Here’s to 2016.

image: http://www.wsj.com/articles/who-is-this-team-and-what-have-you-done-with-the-new-york-mets-1445523148