Pavel Buchnevich’s Birthday Bash

Pavel Buchnevich’s Birthday Bash

Photo Credit: New York Daily News
As the saying goes in sports, it is hard to beat a team three times in a row.  Entering Saturday’s matinee matchup at Madison Square Garden, the Rangers had a chance to pull off three straight wins against the Devils.  New York had won the first two games by a combined score of 7-0 behind back-to-back shutouts from Igor Shesterkin.  

With Shesterkin back between the pipes, the Blueshirts got off to a fast start thanks to the birthday boy Pavel Buchnevich.  After the Devils tilted the ice early, Artemi Panarin sauced a perfect pass over to Buchnevich to give the Rangers the early 1-0 lead.

Photo Credit: bignewsnetwork.com
Buchnevich’s 17th goal of the season tied him for the team lead with Chris Kreider, a team lead Buchnevich would take sole possession of just over four minutes later.  After Ryan Strome potted a five on three power play goal to make it 2-0, Buchnevich finished the five on four portion with tally number two on the afternoon.  
Photo Credit: San Diego Tribune
The Rangers appeared to be running the Devils off the ice again after a Panarin goal, but Michael McLeod put New Jersey on the board for the first time in the three games to make it 4-1.  McLeod’s seventh of the season snapped Shesterkin’s shutout streak against the Devils at 199:23. As the game moved into the third period, the Devils kept charging in an attempt to come back from down 4-0 and put a crimp in the Rangers’ playoff chances.

Gray hairs were growing on kids’ day at the Garden.  Back-to-back goals from P.K. Subban and Yegor Sharangovich cut the Rangers’ lead to a skinny goal.  The Rangers had relied on their offense in their 4-2-0 start against the Devils in this season where teams only play regional rivals.  It was the Rangers’ young defense and goaltending that held off the Devils’ barrage in the final frame.  Shesterkin made 10 saves on 12 shots while the defense came up with six blocked shots.

The defensive effort led to the ultimate birthday gift for Buchnevich.  In the final minutes, Lindy Ruff pulled goaltender Aaron Dell for the extra attacker.  Mika Zibanejad gift-wrapped a pass which Buchnevich deposited into the empty net to complete his first career hat trick.  Another empty netter from Kreider sealed a 6-3 victory for the Boys in Blue.  

Buchnevich became the 14th player in NHL history and the first Ranger to tally a hat trick on his birthday.  The last player to accomplish the feat?  Nashville’s Viktor Arvidsson only nine days earlier on April 8 in a 7-1 win over the Red Wings.  Buchnevich also joins Wayne Gretzky, who did it twice, as a skater who netted three on his special day.  Any time you can put yourself in the Great One’s company, it is worth bragging about.             

Birthday hat tricks are a nice present to give yourself, but there is a greater gift Buchnevich could receive for his 26th birthday: a contract extension.  Buchnevich has stepped up this season with 40 points in 44 games on 19 goals and 21 assists all while being a +13.  

A restricted free agent at season’s end it would be wise of the Rangers to keep Buchnevich at 4 Pennsylvania Plaza for years to come.  Let us not forget to give credit to coach David Quinn for Buchnevich’s development.  Since Quinn took the helm in 2018, the 23-year-old left-winger has seen increases in ice time and points.

Photo Credit: blueshirtbanter.com
After only 43 points in 74 games in 2017-18, Buchnevich almost matched that point total the following season with 38 in only 64 games.  After 46 points in last year’s shortened 68-game season, Buchnevich is on pace to surpass that this season with 11 games still left to play.

Wouldn’t you know it, Buchnevich’s birthday pixie dust spread to his line mate Mika Zibanejad, who was celebrating his 28th year around the sun.  The fourth and final game was in Newark on Sunday with the Rangers looking for the sweep.  With the game tied 3-3 with three minutes remaining Zibanejad snapped home a birthday goal of his own on the power play to lead the Rangers to a 5-3 victory.  

As the Rangers head into Nassau Coliseum to face the Islanders four points out of a playoff spot, they will look to ride the birthday heroics of Buchnevich and Zibanejad to their fifth straight win.  For those wondering, the Rangers are celebrating no birthdays today, but Kreider’s 30th birthday is coming up on April 30.  And no, the Rangers do not play on Kreider’s special day so he will have to choose either April 29 or May 1 to come up clutch and celebrate his big day.  Or why not both days?  

The Rangers’ opponent those days?  The Islanders, so any pre or post birthday heroics from Kreider would be crucial in helping the Rangers snag a playoff spot in the East Division.   

THE EUROPEAN SUPER LEAGUE WILL END FOOTBALL

THE EUROPEAN SUPER LEAGUE WILL END FOOTBALL

As I begin this I would like to say Rest In Peace to what was the glorious game after being murdered on April 18, 2021. It had a great run with some fantastic moments such as Liverpool in Athens, Aberdeen winning the European Cup, Kaka’s solo goal against Man United and the illustrious phrase “and Solskjaer has won it” in the historic treble winning Man United team in 1999. Seeing that the billionaires of the world wan to centralize all the money flowing throughout Europe.

I am very disgusted, saddened and angry when the news was announce last evening. The European Super League has 12 founding members with three other teams set to be included. The twelve founders as of April 19, 2021, are Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, AC Milan, Inter Milan and Juventus, with German clubs Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig rejecting the chance to be involved.

Looking at the structure, there will be two groups of 10 teams, with the top four from each side going to a somewhat “knockout” competition for the trophy. I have news for you, we have a competition like that: it’s called the champions league. What these teams are doing is making certain teams remain in a competition for every year. This is unfair to the rest of the footballing world and upcoming teams.

Look at the teams in the competition as well! Arsenal!?! Really?!? Arsenal haven’t been good since 2017 and are currently 9th in the Premier League, only because Leeds and Aston Villa haven’t played their respective games as well. Tottenham were eliminated from the Europa League by Croatian team Zagreb and sit 7th in the league. Juventus are 5th in the Italian Serie A and are atrocious as a football team. Four of the “founding clubs” have never won the Champions League/European Super Cup, but are considered super teams because of money.

Also, the greed involved in this was obvious. Each team will get a “bonus” of between 200-300 million Euros, and receive 400 million Euros each year for competing. A league with no relegation is basically the MLB, NBA or NFL. I’m not saying that those leagues are bad, but with the concept of relegation and promotion it adds a level of excitement to the season. As Sky Sports pundit says “It’s a joke!” Former coach of Manchester United, Sir Alex Ferguson said “It’s a load of Nonsense.”

It will end football because with the popularity and revenue that these teams bring, it would mean that sponsorship deals would decrease. Now they have stated that at least 450 million pounds to the pyramid, which is double what UEFA give to the league pyramids, but that was sustainable with TV rights and sponsorship deals. In 2009, Arsene Wenger, former coach of Arsenal stated that a super league might be formed within 10 years (2019) because of what he was hearing behind the scenes. Coincidentally, Wenger was fired a year before the supposed inauguration and it was shot down by those in high positions.

My view on this is that all those teams are scared. They are afraid of the Leicester City’s, the West Ham United’s, Everton, Real Betis, Atalanta, etc. who are generally better than at-least 7 of the teams in the new league. On the other hand, I am happy with the response from UEFA as the President Aleksander Ceferin has banned the teams from their domestic league and UEFA competitions. They have also banned players from competing for the countries on the world stage for their country.

Ed Woodward is the scum at the heart of all of this. The former investment banker and Manchester United’s Vice-Executive chairman was the one who ran the deals through all the sponsorship and the deals. He contracted JP Morgan, his former employers, to fund the competition. It is with a sad heart that I relinquish my position as fan of Manchester United. I have friends who support the club and have also relinquished their position and those who support other top clubs who have denounced the league and have supporting others. Florentino Perez, Ed Woodward, Joel Glazer and Andre Agnelli. The snakes of the world.

A Sorry System: An Op-Ed Look at Football’s Race Problem

A Sorry System: An Op-Ed Look at Football’s Race Problem

Photo by Bleacher Report

I am an apologist; we all are. If I burn my signature dish and order takeout (happens more than you think), I try to justify the cost of restaurant food as “a nice change of pace” or “supporting the struggling service industry during a pandemic.” I’m not saying these things facetiously; they are honest sentiments, but I am using them to mask my brooding frustration with myself for ruining the original plan.

In order to maintain an even keel or status quo, a decision is made to make an excuse or give reason to something that is occurring that will cause a shift in the comfortable norm. This is an innate survival trait for most people, but to some, their mere awareness of a constantly shifting fulcrum is used actionably to counterbalance the narrative. This, in turn, can alter the perception of negativity by that person or a group of people. What the hell does that mean? Basically, a person in a position of influence can manipulate a situation to suit their (or their company’s) best interest, especially if the norm is shifting away from favorability.

The franchise owners in the National Football League are billionaires. Without throwing down the obvious race ace in their hand, the influence of these individuals and groups that own NFL teams is immense. Many of them also own good portions of the major city they call home. Everyone knowing your name and business in a small town is small potatoes, compared to that extrapolated over a metropolis with hundreds of thousands to millions of residents. We, as normal non-billionaires, would surely opt-out of the seedy and shady underbelly of that world. Here is where race comes in: that world runs on a system. That system hums along like a diesel generator that gets daily maintenance from a team of expert mechanics. The mechanics have lived by the adage “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” for centuries. It now translates to “Any change is a threat.”

I make excuses all the time for my Dallas Cowboys. My fandom has been torn down and rebuilt with masking tape and Popsicle sticks repeatedly for the last 25 years, each time seemingly with less care and skill than the last. Jerry Jones is known for a lot of things, but I will highlight his propensity to “give second chances.” Jones also holds the gavel over certain ownership privileges when it comes to collective bargaining, almost as a pseudo-commissioner. Jerry operates on both ends of the conversation masterfully and seems impervious to the backlash from either side. Jerry Jones is the face of the system and thus knows how to work it in his favor. He wields as much power as an owner as anyone, but seems to always endear himself with black players who might have otherwise been victimized by a system that is designed to mercilessly cull athletes with “question marks” or “character concerns.”

The system is inarguably racist. Fortunately, for many NFL teams, change has been embraced in the name of progress and improvement. In a league whose employees are 75 percent people of color, we are seeing the gears of progress slowly churn in the right direction. However, every 10 years we are reminded of the distance still to go when the owners and NFL Player Association union negotiate the next collective bargaining agreement. Negotiations between white billionaires and mostly black millionaires are an almost-perfect microcosm of race relations in the United States. Racial innuendos have even been uttered to the press by NFL brass. The same old inflammatory rhetoric to dehumanize and delegitimize minority groups even trickles down to the NFL draft process, mostly at the quarterback position.

Dak Prescott was an exemplary college quarterback and was obviously raised to be a fine young man, who carries himself with integrity and class. Prescott also has developed into a Pro-Bowl caliber player and ultimately earned a large contract extension. He is, however, far from the only example of a black quarterback whose draft stock (and earning power) was deflated immensely between taking his final snap at Mississippi State and his name being called in the fourth round in 2016. There was no evidence on tape to suggest he couldn’t read defenses, make quick decisions, throw accurately into tight windows, or grasp a pro-style offense operating under center. Each of these scarlet letters floated in from the ether, via anonymous scouts or attention-seeking “draft analysts.” Any and all micro-aggressions that can be applied to a black quarterback were predictably clamped to Dak in 2016, Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes in 2017, Lamar Jackson in 2018, Kyler Murray and Dwayne Haskins in 2019, and Jalen Hurts and Jordan Love in 2020. Kyler Murray’s selection by Arizona at number one overall was the only example of these listed quarterbacks whose rookie signing bonus was not adversely affected by the rhetoric surrounding him as a prospect. This has been shown to be mostly due to the chasm of talent between him and the rest of that quarterback class. He also fit into new coach Kliff Kingsbury’s Air Raid offense like a glove. The extreme example of my point is the case of Lamar Jackson, who despite posting prolific passing numbers at Louisville, was pressured to change positions to “better utilize his skillset (athleticism).”

Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

With time, the universe is expanding and horizons are broadening. Offensive coaching gurus are all the rage. They are adapting schemes around their talent, instead of vice-versa. Quarterbacks with the ability to run the football, regardless of race, are cherished like never before for their propensity to stress the defense and extend plays beyond the pocket. The days of labeling just the white quarterbacks as “cerebral” or “a field general” are dwindling. There will come a time in the near future when the rumors will stop swirling around only black quarterbacks about work ethic, study habits, and effort. Eventually, the men who run the system will stop apologizing, making excuses, or outright ignoring deficiencies and character flaws in white quarterbacks, while illuminating lesser blemishes elsewhere. Someday, football will look back and feel sorry for the missed opportunities to be better…earlier. It took a Brian Billick to trust Randall Cunningham, Dick Vermeil to empower Mike Vick, and Andy Reid to elevate Donovan McNabb and then Mahomes for the football world to change perspective. Hopefully, tomorrow brings permanence to the steps we are taking right now.

Julian, Get In Your Spot!

Julian, Get In Your Spot!

New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman signals a first down against the Miami Dolphins during an NFL football game at Gillette Stadium, Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020 in Foxborough, Mass. (Winslow Townson/AP Images for Panini)

“JULIAN, GET IN YOUR SPOT!” yelled seven-time super bowl champ Tom Brady to recently retired and patriots legend Julian Edelman. The New England wide receiver announced his official retirement, and today, we’re going to explore a little bit of his life and his exciting NFL career.

Coming out of Redwood City, California, the 5’10 receiver from Kent State University was drafted in the 7th round as the 232nd overall by the New England Patriots during the 2009 NFL Draft. Although in college he played quarterback, Patriots offensive coordinator Erhardt-Perkins and receiver coach Chad O’Shea had other plans for him.

Not only does Edelman play wide receiver, but he’s also played special teams serving as a punt and kick returner, having a total of 1,986 career yards with four touchdowns. You’re probably reading this thinking, “wow, he’s a multi-dimensional player” little did you know that he’s also played a little bit of defense as well. From his last three seasons, he has also relived his quarterback days, recording a total of 128 passing yards and one touchdown.

In his 11 seasons with the Patriots, Edelman has a career total of 6,822 receiving yards, 620 receptions, and 36 touchdowns. Statistically, it’s not bad at all, but stats sometimes don’t tell the whole story. Besides being Tom Brady’s favorite receiver, Edelman is mainly known for making all the big catches for the Patriots. With that in mind, he is also a Super Bowl MVP winning it against the 13-3 win against the rams in 2018.

New England Patriots Julian Edelman (#11) holds the Vince Lombardi Trophy after the NFL Super Bowl 53 football game against the Los Angeles Rams, February 3, 2019, in Atlanta. The Patriots won 13-3. Edelman was named the Most Valuable Player. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Although he’s not a big-name wideout like Randy Mossand Jerry Rice, he’s still a patriots legend, three-time Super Bowl champion, and a Super Bowl MVP. Not to mention he has one of the craziest catches in Super Bowl history.

Congrats on retirement; we’ll probably see you on the Buccaneers in the near year or two!

Celebrating Jackie Robinson Day – Story of William Clarence Matthews

Celebrating Jackie Robinson Day – Story of William Clarence Matthews

While baseball fans prepare to celebrate the 74th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking MLB’s color barrier on April 15, 1947, few people know of another rumored to beat Robinson to it 42 years earlier.

Almost 90 years before Martin Luther King Jr. made his five-day, 54-mile trek from Selma to Montgomery, William Clarence Matthews made his.

Born in Selma on January 7, 1877, Matthews lived with his two siblings, Fannie, the oldest, and Walter (or Buddy), the second oldest. His father died in the 1890s, and his family moved to Montgomery, Alabama.

Where did this rumor start?

In his seminal “Only the Ball was White” in 1970 on the Negro Leagues, Robert Peterson described Matthews as a great college player at Harvard in the first decade of the century and cites his rumored entry into the National League.

Sol White’s book “History of Colored Baseball” – published in 1907 – referenced this note on Matthews

“It is said on good authority that one of the leading players and a manager of the National League is advocating the entrance of colored players in the National League with a view to signing ‘Matthews,’ the colored man, late of Harvard.”

Most thought that manager was Giants legendary manager John McGraw, an enormous believer in the talent residing in anyone who could help his team win. McGraw, in 1901, tried to sneak Charlie Grant, second baseman of the Columbia Giants of Chicago, a black team, onto his roster as Tokohama, a full-blooded Cherokee Indian. McGraw also employed two black stars, Rube Foster and Jose Mendez, to coach his pitchers.

Article in “The Boston Traveller

On July 15, 1905, local paper “The Boston Traveller” (some sources reference the spelling with one L and others with two) – one of nine local Boston papers and known to stretch the truth sometimes for sales said this.

It is very probable that [Matthews] will become a member of the Boston Nationals very soon.

It has been hinted at for the past few days. Now it is rumored that it will transpire.

A person ‘on the inside,’ one who generally knows whereof he speaks, has this to say: ‘Captain Tenney has long been hunting for a lively second baseman to strengthen his infield. On hearing of Matthews’ remarkable ability, and after following the career of the young negro collegian-professional while at Harvard and Burlington, (he) decided that William C. was just the laddy buck he needed.’

The source “on the inside” then offers a rationale for Matthews’ acceptance where others would fail:

“As Matthews is a Harvard man, he should prove a great attraction… Matthews is a well-educated, gentlemanly fellow, as well as a clever ballplayer.

If Harvard men do not object to associating with and idolizing the negro, certainly none of the National IJeague players will object to breaking bread with him.”

The article refers to player/manager of the Boston Beaneaters (became the Boston/Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves) Fred Tenney (fellow Ivy Leaguer from Brown and off-season teacher at Tufts University).

Boston was awful – middle infielders Ed Abbaticchio and Fred Raymer had combined to commit 80 errors by mid-July on a team that finished 51-103. Would Boston’s futility open the door for talented players like Matthews?

Matthews Adulthood

He enrolled at the Tuskegee Institute from 1893 until 1897, where he graduated second in his class Tuskegee (was first football coach). Booker T Washington arranged for him to continue his study in the north, first at the Phillips Andover Academy, where he was the only African-American in his class of 97 students. Then, in the fall of 1901, at Harvard University.

Aaron Molineaux Hewlett & William Henry Lewis

While few schools provided opportunities for African-Americans, Harvard broke ground in many categories. Aaron Molineaux Hewlett, hired in 1859, became the first physical culture teacher in the nation. Hewlett also taught physical education, sparring lessons and coached baseball and rowing from 1859-71.

One of the foremost football minds of any generation, William Henry Lewis earned All-American honors at Harvard (the first African-American to do so), then coached the Crimson from 1895-1906. Harvard won over 85 percent of their games under Lewis (114-15-5).

Standing at 5’8″ 145 pounds, Matthews gained popularity with his classmates after arriving on campus in the fall of 1901. Under Coach Lewis’ guidance, his “wonderful quickness and pertinacity” helped him succeed playing QB. 

Baseball Career and Racism from Opponents

During his Freshman season, Matthew’s hitting coach was Wee Willie Keeler, while Cy Young coached the pitchers (both HOF). 

While Harvard initially sat Matthews when opponents like the University of Virginia refused to play if he was in the lineup, they eventually stood behind him. Georgetown and West Point considered forfeiting but relented after Harvard declined to accommodate their threats. 

Despite playing with future MLB players Eddie Grant and Walter Clarkson (combined to play 15 MLB seasons), Matthews was Harvard’s best player (2B-SS). 

He led the team in hitting his final three years (he hit .400 and stole 25 bases during his senior year). During his four years at Harvard, the Crimson won 81 percent of their games (76-18).

Breaks Northern League Color Barrier

On July 4, 1905, Matthews became the starting second baseman for the Burlington, Vermont team in the Northern League. Matthews became the only African-American playing in white professional baseball leagues at the time. He got three hits in his first game and fielded excellently. He played well for the whole season, with the Burlington team taking second place and narrowly missing first place.

Matthews was one of only four players who played the entire season for Burlington. 1905 was his only year in professional baseball as he entered Boston University School of Law to work on his law degree in Fall 1905.

Matthews other accomplishments 

  • married wife married Pamela Belle Lloyd from Hayneville, Alabama, in 1908.
  • Replaced his mentor at Harvard, William Henry Lewis, as the Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Boston area.
  • Named chief legal counsel for the Marcus Garvey founded Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League.
  • named the Head of the Colored Division of the Republican National Committee in 1924. (Matthews’ position was the first time a major U.S. political party put an African-American in charge of organizing the African-American vote).
  • Following the 1924 election, Matthews delivered a list of seventeen demands to improve African-Americans’ position in the Coolidge administration.
  • Under Coolidge, Matthews became U.S. Assistant Attorney General. 
  • Matthews died on April 9, 1928 (51 years old) of a perforated ulcer. 

Legacy

Obituaries for Matthews ran in most of the major newspapers in the country. The New York Times called him “one of the most prominent Negro members of the bar in America.”

Over 1,500 people attended his funeral in Boston, with William Henry Lewis serving as an honorary pallbearer.

He’s buried in the Cambridge Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Great quotes 

Negro Leagues historian Larry Lester

We have to look at this in the context of history; America during that period was under the separate but equal doctrine, upheld by the 1896 Supreme Court decision [in Plessy v. Ferguson, which allowed state-sponsored segregation]. The most visible Black athletes at that time were jockeys. The Black athlete was not acceptable in mainstream society and especially not in the most popular sport in America. That tells me that William Clarence Matthews must have been one hell of a shortstop.”

Boston Globe (1905 quote concerning Matthew’s ethics)

“For seven years, Matthews could have earned much money by playing for semi-professional teams, but this he has refused to do … Here is a man who, to maintain his amateur standing, has repeatedly refused offers of $40 a week and board to play semi-pro baseball in the summer. He had the example of many contemporaneous college ballplayers who were accepting ‘indirect’ compensation in an underhanded way, but he has kept his record clean, and his, it is sad to say, is an exceptional case.”

William Clarence Matthews

“I think it is an outrage that colored men are discriminated against in the big leagues. What a shame it is that black men are barred forever from participating in the national game. I should think that Americans should rise up in revolt against such a condition. Many negroes are brilliant players and should not be shut out because their skin is black. As a Harvard man, I shall devote my life to bettering the condition of the black man, and especially to secure his admittance into organized baseball”.

Sources:

1 – Wikipedia  

2- Research.Sabr.Org – Karl Lindholm “William Clarence Matthews” (Page 67-72)

3 – The Professor and the Pugilist – January 6, 2014

4 – https://vtdigger.org/2020/06/14/then-again-breaking-the-color-barrier-in-baseball-in-vermont-in-1905/ – VTDigger.org