Cubs Win The Pennant!!

img_0051It was a very memorable weekend for baseball fans but all the more important to Cubs fans.  It has been 71 years since the Cubs last graced its fan base with a World Series appearance and the road back has been nothing short of emotional.  Mike Greenberg from ESPN’s Mike & Mike Show stated, “This is the reason why I love sports the way I do, for moments like this.”  I totally agree and I’m not a Cubs fan.  It was the tears, the elderly people who have waited a lifetime sitting in the bleachers, my generation who’ll be able to tell the story, and all the other small moments shared we may never know about.  To see the city come together the way it did was truly a fun and amazing sight to see.

Aug 12, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks throws a pitch against the Milwaukee Brewers in the first inning at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Before I go further, I must commend the play of Kyle Hendricks…unrattled and poised as he made easy work of the Dodgers bats in this close out game.  As always, Athletes Arise takes pride in commending the hard work and commitment to success shown by any athlete.  I know his body of work is much bigger than game 6 but I was highly impressed and could see why his resume is what it is.

img_0053The World Series brings us a very emotional matchup between the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago Cubs.  You don’t have to be a baseball fan to know that these two cities have been married to disappoint for more than a lifetime.  Numerous letdowns for the Indians over the last 30 years have left these baseball fans hungry for a title.  If time allows, I recommend you watch “Believeland” the ESPN 30/30 on Cleveland and its failed mission to capture a championship until this past summer.

Then there are the Cubs, who have went from being flat out unlucky to booking a ticket to the big dance.  Praise must first go to Theo Epstein on his phenomenal job turning this organization around, and secondly, Joe Madden on a great job managing the team this year.  I have never been this excited to watch a baseball series of any kind but with the story lines and bragging rights on the line in this one, I wouldn’t miss it.  You shouldn’t either!! Good luck Chicago Cubs, bring our city home a championship!!





Temper Your Expectations For The Chicago Bulls!!

After the Derrick Rose trade a few months ago, I was very pessimistic about the outcome of this new season.  Then we made a couple of decent acquisitions in DWade, Rondo, and the Snell for MCW trade.  I’ve watched a couple of preseason games and my initial assessment is to have tempered expectations for this Bulls roster and I will tell you why.

1. Hoiberg’s System

img_0045Hoiberg is entering his 2nd season as the Bulls head coach and failed to deliver a playoff birth with the same roster Thibbs kept in the playoffs every year of his tenure.  The defensive minded philosophy we once had is now being substituted with a high pace offensive tempo which unfortunately will not work with this roster.   Dwayne Wade is a slasher and Jimmy Butler is an Iso/1on1 scorer, neither of whom are knockdown 3pt shooters. Dwayne Wade is shooting lower than 30% on his career and just under 33% for Jimmy. Rondo is a great PG, but once again no 3pt threats are on our starting lineup, so as a coach, I can clog the paint and force this lineup into a shooting team.

Let’s say if Hoiberg sees what I see, let’s say he sees the need for going back to a defense first philosophy.  That would immediately make Niko and McBuckets a liability and there would be a need to limit their minutes in order to preserve easy buckets on the defensive end.

2. A Better Eastern Conference

img_0046Let’s be real, the Eastern Conference is back and more exciting than it’s been in almost 10 years.  We have legitimate competitors and the fight for the 7th and 8th seeds are coming all the way down to the last game of the season.  We played poorly down the stretch, losing to irrelevant teams and Detroit stole the 8th seed.  Cleveland, Toronto, Boston, Atlanta, and Indiana are basically locks.  Milwaukee, Orlando, Charlotte, and Detroit have gotten better meaning we will have to battle to make it back in.  Lastly, don’t forget about the Wiz Kids in Wall and Beal, because if they stay healthy, they will be tough.

3. Who Will Lead?

Much of the conversation about the Bulls last year concerned some of the leadership qualities of Jimmy Butler.  I will be the first to say that being the best player doesn’t automatically make you a locker room leader.  img_0047That is something that comes naturally or it’ll be forced.  Noah was our leader not because he was our best player, but because he walked the role and held his teammates to the same standard.  With him being gone, new faces in the locker room, and questions around who this team belongs to, we need a leader.

I honestly believe the bulls will land somewhere between 6th-8th seed if we even make the playoffs.  Some people may say I’m crazy but realistically, DWade must play a minimum 65 games, and Rondo can’t be an issue in the locker room for us to have a chance.  Us making the playoffs mean we must bump someone who made it last year.  With DWade out of Miami, they may be the first to fall but like I said before, there is a hungry Wizards team who could be a force to reckon with.  I am curious to hear thoughts on this topic…

My best case scenario is we are a 3-5 seed, what I expect is a 6-8 seed, and worst case we don’t make it at all.  Let the games begin, season opener is 10/25/16 versus Cleveland and New York.

Odell Beckham Jr, Is He the Franchise’s Friend or Foe?

This NFL season has been full of excitement and surprises from the opening kickoff between Carolina and Denver.  Dallas at 5-1 with rookie QB Dak Prescott, New England going 3-1 without Brady and a banged up Gronk, a 5-0 Minnesota team without the likes of Adrian Peterson, and a previous one loss team in Carolina at 1-5.  This in itself is why I love football, there is no predicting this type of outcome.

At the bottom of the NFC East there’s the NY Giants at 3-3 with a bit of an issue on their hands, in my opinion.  Their star receiver, Odell Beckham Jr (OBJ), has been showing his acting skills off at an all time high this season.  img_0044We already knew him to be a personality from past seasons but it seems as if it’s still manifesting itself to the world.  Where my concern comes into play is his attitude towards not performing at his full potential in the beginning of the season.  In early October, OBJ made a statement saying he was no longer having fun playing football.  This coming after a career low game to an amazing Minnesota defense, alongside being held to 0 TDs until yesterday’s game.  This is a very immature statement because any athlete with common sense knows that there will be some challenging times in the field of competitive sports.  That led me to the next point of questioning whether his 12 catches for 222 yards and 2TDs against the Baltimore Ravens was fun.  It definitely looked like it was after his extended and penalty warranted celebration at the end of the 4th quarter.

So “Friend or Foe?” I ask this because amidst all of the talent that OBJ possesses, can he ultimately be to doom of his team? Tantrums, penalties, fighting, and attention seeking antics have been adding up.  Since 2014 he has accumulated $130,000 in unsportsmanlike conduct penalties and I’ve yet to see him poised in a tough matchup.  The penalty received for taking his helmet off after a lead taking touchdown could have come back to haunt him but the team lucked out.  Next time they may not be so lucky. Here’s a look…

Unique personalities in sports is a huge part of why we watch, but I’m certain Giants fans are getting irritated as well.  I believe being yourself and unique is important, but not more important than the concept of team.  He took off his helmet, totally ignored the teammates who came to celebrate with him in the end zone, and started his own celebration.  Notice the look on Eli Manning’s face, the man who delivered you the pass.  OBJ has to be alert to the dynamic in play here, because his naiveness will cost them an early playoff exit if they even make it.  As always, it’s my continuing effort to discuss these type of moments in sports, as they help build conversation around healthy athletic competition.  I am interested in hearing your thoughts on this…Am I being overly critical? Does my viewpoint make sense? Is OBJ helping his athlete to arise?

Don’t Mistake A Hill For A Mountain!

imageI watched one of many exciting games this past weekend in college football, but there was one in particular that came with all the hype it deserved. Louisville and Clemson, ranked 3 & 5 respectively, matched up at Clemson which turned out to be an exciting game.  Much of the hype coming in was surrounding quarterback phenom Lamar Jackson who has started his sophomore year with a big bang.  The game on Saturday came down to a 4th & 12 that the Cardinals came up short on by 1 yard, in my opinion at the fault of the receiver.  The Cardinals were down by 18 points at the half which were answered by a 26 point turn around led by Jackson.  Over the course of the game he tallied, over 160 yards rushing and about 300 through the air.  He proved that he was undeniably the best player in college football.

Unfortunately, in college football, one loss means a lot.  Jackson who was a contender for the Heisman this year is also in contention with the opposing Clemson QB, DeShaun Watson who is now 5-0.  The bias that goes into picking Heisman winners has just as much to do with on field performance as it does winning.  Jackson may have lost that opportunity with this loss in spite of being the best athlete on the field.  This is why I say, “Don’t mistake a hill for a mountain.”  Lamar Jackson must look beyond this game and focus on what’s next.  He must tune out media, friend’s opinions, analysts, and focus on Lamar.  To often we hear about these sort of athletes and then games like this cause them to lose sight of what’s really important…making it to the next level.  There are many Heisman winners who didn’t amount to much in the NFL, and many who didn’t win it who did.

This message are for those who have found themselves in similar situations or will be in them.  Understand this is not a Peyton Manning super bowl game before retirement situation, which was his mountaintop.  This is a test preparing you for it, so win or lose…you will only become stronger by what you take from it.  Conquer this hill, reflect in the valley, tame the mountain, and let your athlete arise.

Remembering Excellence Both Young and Old…

The sports world suffered two losses since I last posted.  Two individuals who took up the titles of leader, role model, and pioneer for their respective sports. One changed the light of how we view this sport, Arnold Palmer, and another who was on pace for a hall of fame career, Jose Fernandez.

imageJose Fernandez, Pitcher for the Miami Marlins passed away this passed Sunday morning in a tragic boating accident off the coast of Miami, Florida.  At the moment, there is little knowledge as to causes of the accident other than it was dark and the driver couldn’t see the rocks ahead.  Fernandez was having a tremendous season, 16-8 with a 2.87 ERA and a MLB high average of 12.49 strikeouts a game.  Originally from Cuba, Fernandez had seen his share of adversity being jailed as a teenager for a defect attempt. In another attempt it is reported that Fernandez saved the life of another defectee who had fallen overboard.  This hero made it to the US in 2008 at age 15 and has arisen to every challenged he faced. In 78 career starts, Fernandez went 38-17, recording 589 strikeouts in 4711/3 innings, and a 2.58 ERA. He leaves behind an expectant daughter who I’m sure will be proud of the father who passed before her time. RIP JOSE FERNANDEZ, YOU’LL BE MISSED.

Let’s take a look back at his historic season.


Arnold Palmer, in my mind, is the Jerry West of basketball, Vince Lombardi of football,  Babe Ruth of baseball, or the Wayne Gretsky of Hockey for golf.  He was the standard and it was because he lived it in and outside of the country club.  He lived a very long and fruitful life, one on the opposite end of the spectrum in contrast to Fernandez.  However, greatness doesn’t have to know an age, yet in consideration of how much Palmer accomplished in his 87 years, I food diary a clip that will do much better in telling the story.


I would just like to thank each of these men for being exemplary role models in their respective professions and showing us all how to let your athlete arise.

Inhale Confidence…Exhale Doubt (My Injury Story)

Rimageecently, I suffered an injury, nothing major but an inconvenience all the same.  In week 2 of my basketball season I tore my extensor tendon in my left pinky finger.  This is an injury commonly known as mallet finger where the tendon that holds and allows you to bend your finger snaps.  Upon the self-diagnosis, I was a little disheartened considering it was the beginning of what I thought to be a promising season.  I scheduled an appointment with a hand specialist and splinted myself up per Dr. Google.  I played twice before my appointment at my normal gym and found I could still somewhat function with a taped finger.

After my appointment the doctor gave me a 5 week recovery period, a uniquely splinted finger, and no need to miss games.  Adapting was difficult at first, I had less control of the ball and I had to think twice before acting.  In several of my early pick up games after the injury, I saw an increase in unforced turnovers, missed layups, and missed chip shots I’d normally make; the frustration was real.  The first two weeks after the injury I didn’t start for fear of messing up the chemistry with the first unit, but as I would check into games things began to feel more natural and one good play added to another built confidence. I got to a point where I didn’t think about the finger anymore, I just played. In my last three games I’ve started and posted a combined 54pts, shooting over 55% from the field, including 9/17 from 3.  Also, interestingly enough, I’ve made more layups with the injured hand than that of my strong hand.

I wanted to share this because I preach athletic wellness everyday, and I found myself in a situation where I had to take a piece of my own advice.  imageHere I am, the athletic wellness advocate, being tentative, passive, and unsure of himself.  I had to check myself for a minute and remind myself that fear could do nothing but limit me, but being bold would strengthen me psychologically.  What setbacks have you encountered recently that may have slowed you down or made you question your ability? You are bigger than your problem, and no gains are made without adversity. I have ultimately become a little bit better over something I thought would only be trouble.  I have become more confident and aware, understanding that this was a stepping stone. It has also been a tool that will push me harder upon a full recovery and continue to help my athlete arise!!


How Athletic Wellness Carries Over to Fantasy Football.

Fantasy sports has been one of the fastest growing entertainment markets over the last 10 years, which was exactly when I started playing.  In that time, I have managed a league for 5 years and some of the very practices I preach are the very reasons I’m successful in fantasy sports.  In 10 years of playing, I have finished 8 years in the top five, won a championship, and was runner up in another (this is just in football).  If you follow me or read my posts from time to time, then you’ll know that I believe athletic wellness spans from a proper balance of mind, body, and spirit.  When it comes to fantasy sports, I use these three factors as a checklist going into any season.  Let’s look a little closer and see how they apply…

1. Mind 

Before anything else, you must be knowledgable to some extent in the sport you are playing.  Knowing personnel is first and foremost, then you have to understand scheme and strategy of coaches and organizations. Without these two things, you will be solely depending on rankings and luck which only gets you so far.  After the application of knowledge, then there is the assessment of character, integrity, self discipline, grit, consistency, and dedication.  Social media is a great outlet to track players you may be interested in or like. I have found that those athletes who never lose sight of their athletic goals in the off-season, typically have the best seasons in general.  Also, athletes who give back to community typically are selfless and have a greater concept of team (less likely to get suspended or benched).

2. Body

As an athlete, your body is your money maker…similar to an Uber driver’s car, without it there is no income.  So I pay attention to athletes who are vocal about ways they take care of their body, and I watch for athletes who do or show the opposite.  Pay attention to when training camp starts…who’s there who doesn’t have to be yet? Who isn’t there because they don’t have to be yet.  When this type of thinking is an everyday process, you notice it without trying.

3. Spirit

The biggest thing I can touch on as it relates to spirit is have fun.  As a competitor, the stress I feel on opening Sunday isn’t supposed to drain me but remind me of why I compete in the first place.  The objective is placing my skills to the test, learning from mistakes, learning from other’s mistakes and successes, and lastly, networking and meeting new people.  There are several relationships that I have built and maintained all through fantasy sports that would have otherwise faded away.  

I challenge you!! Take some of these practices up as some of your own and see how they work for you.  It’s only the first week and many have com from behind to win it all and many have started great and ended horribly so there is still hope after week one.  I hope you enjoyed the read and as always, continue to let your athlete arise!!