11 Ways to Improve Your Fantasy Football League

Fantasy football is one of the greatest new pastimes in America. In just ten years, the activity has grown from 18 million players in 2006, to 57.4 million players last season according to the FSTA. That said, with more players comes more ideas of ways to improve their fantasy football leagues. As self-proclaimed best fantasy football commissioner of all time, I’ll let all our readers in on how to improve their leagues to be as good as mine.

There’s clearly no waning interest in fantasy football, but there’s been an explosion of articles on how to improve fantasy football leagues. Well, here’s the thing. All those articles say the same things, and steal from one another. I admit, some of my improvements are similar to other writers’, but I came up with mine all by myself, so leave your pitchforks at the door.

All of these 11 ways to improve your fantasy football league are imperative to making your league as successful as possible, so make sure you implement them all. If you’re wondering why I’m giving 11 ways, it’s because most other sites give ten, and I like to one-up others. Take that, other fantasy sites.

 

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Why Not the Knicks? Well…

Does Anyone Want to Play for the Knicks?

 

It has been over three seasons since Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks won their last playoff series against the Boston Celtics in the 2013 playoffs. It has been closing in on 20 years since the Knicks’ last NBA Finals appearance. And it has been over 40 years since their last championship with, as many Knicks’ fan will affectionately swoon at the mention of, the likes of Willis Reed, Walt Frazier and Earl Monroe. New York is considered by some to still be the Mecca of basketball and Madison Square Garden is the hallowed ground on which it stands. 13-time champion (two as a player, 11 as a coach), Phil Jackson has been the president and head of all basketball operations for the last two years and yet, no free agent seems to want to come to the Big Apple. Why? In a city that doesn’t seem to have the time for the slow process that is rebuilding a team, expectations are astronomical and, let’s face it, downright stupid. The reasons for Knicks fans’ suffering could take a long time to add up, but I will just talk about the four reasons I’ve compiled that have attributed to the last couple years to save some time.

Courtesy of Sporting News.

The Owner is Too Involved and Under Too Much Pressure

Leading up to the arrival of Phil Jackson as head of basketball operations and President, owner James Dolan has often had a hand in some of the big trades and acquisitions of players and coaches throughout his reign, most notably the deals that brought Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony from their respective Western Conference teams to the Knicks; deals in which the Knicks gave up draft picks and a handful of players. Since Melo and Amare came to the Knicks, they made the playoffs 3 times with Stoudemire battling injury in 2013; Dolan’s Knicks would have to eat most of Stoudemire’s contract due to injury during his time there. It was clear that these moves did not pay off as the duo of Stoudemire and Anthony just weren’t meshing well and the head coach for half of their partnership, Mike d’Antoni, wasn’t getting the job done with the pieces that the team had. After firing d’Antoni, keeping Mike Woodson on as head coach and being somewhat competitive in the Eastern Conference playoffs, Dolan decided to fire the defensive-minded coach at the beginning of the Phil Jackson era. However, prior to Jackson’s hire, Dolan made decisions on which free agents or trades to go after and sign to help Carmelo bring a championship back to the Garden, and let’s just say they weren’t exactly what the Knicks needed, as they were without draft picks as a result of these failed trades and acquisitions.

Courtesy of USA Today.

Phil Jackson is the President of the Knicks… Not the Coach

One of Jackson’s first moves as President was the hiring of recently retired NBA veteran and former Los Angeles Laker Derek Fisher as the new head coach of the Knicks. This being Fisher’s first coaching job ever and not having a .500 season or better after his first season, it should surprise many that he only lasted about a season and a half (40-96 record over that span). This off-season, Jackson seemed hell-bent on keeping interim head coach Kurt Rambis, another ex-Laker, on as the permanent head coach. This didn’t seem like a wise move to anyone in the basketball community, so Dolan, being an active owner, insisted Jackson look elsewhere and Jackson then hired former Suns coach, Jeff Hornacek. I am not sure what to expect from the new hire, but the feeling remains the same; the feeling that Phil Jackson should come down from the front office and coach this team himself. Whatever health concerns there may be about Phil traveling around the country, the belief is that only Phil Jackson can properly teach and execute the triangle offense, which he has consistently preached that these Knicks can employ. Phil Jackson as a coach, would make the Knicks a more attractive destination for the more attractive free agent. When a man has coached teams to 11 championships, there is not a player in the league that wouldn’t at least consider New York an option if that man is coaching.

Courtesy of Huffington Post.

Melo Isn’t the Superstar Player He’s Paid to Be

The Knicks’ star came into the league with the likes of LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh (those 3 would later team up and win two championships together), with Anthony being the player without a ring. Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James, going into that draft, were often compared to each other, both being around 6’8” and the ability to take over games in a multitude of ways. Since then, the two players’ paths have vastly differed and their true abilities shown. LeBron has won Rookie of the Year, three titles, four MVPs, and a scoring title. Melo, on the other hand, has won one scoring title and has only made one conference final; in fact he’s only made it past the first round of the playoffs once and is now being paid upwards of $122 million dollars over five years. Anthony’s game is much different from the two superstars who have dominated the league during his time; those two superstars being LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. While critics of James have said he doesn’t have the scorer’s mentality or killer instinct that the Mamba and even Melo appear to have, he has had a greater effect on the game with his passing and vision that Carmelo has only dreamed of having by scoring. Speaking of scoring, it seems that the majority of Anthony’s efforts are put towards scoring rather than playing defense; LeBron nearly won Defensive Player of the Year a couple of years and even Kobe, who’s been touted as “selfish” on the offensive end, and who I would liken Anthony’s game more than LeBron, wasn’t a blow by on the defensive end.

I look at Carmelo Anthony’s game, at age 32, as a wanna-be Kobe; He has to have the ball in his hands to affect the game and he believes he can score on every possession no matter how cold of a night he is having, which is all well and fine if the team can pick up the slack, but Anthony’s teams usually haven’t been able to. Carmelo Anthony (41% FG, 21.4 FGA, 32% 3FG, 7.3 reb, 2.8 assists, and 25.7 pts for his playoff career) seems to have needed an all-star point guard that knew how to run an offense and play defense whenever his teams have been successful in the postseason; Chauncey Billups (Nuggets in ’08) and Jason Kidd (Knicks in ’13) both played with Anthony whenever he made it past the first round of the playoffs. And for some reason, the Knicks felt that this player, whose numbers don’t backup the talent, was a guy who could be built around to win a championship, a guy who they signed to a $122-129 million dollar five year contract and locking themselves down for any cash to offer quality free agents. Melo needs to adjust his game in order to draw free agents like LeBron has done in the latter portion of his career. Kobe, who’s offensive game and mindset I liken Carmelo’s to, could no longer draw free agents to LA because Phil Jackson was no longer the coach (discount injured and soft Dwight Howard), which attributes to Phil’s ability to draw players as a coach, not a GM (see above). In my opinion, the type of contract Anthony is under is reserved for younger MVPs and champions like LeBron or Kobe, none of which Anthony is or, the way it’s heading, will ever be.

Was New York Ever the “Mecca”?

In the sports world, a Mecca of a particular sport would have a rich history filled with banners, titles, MVPs and housed some of the greatest sports moments ever. Madison Square Garden may be in the most famous city in the world, but it doesn’t house the historic franchise a sports fan would revere as one of the greatest ever. The Knicks have two NBA titles (1970 and 1973). That’s better than none, but when other franchises like Boston, Los Angeles, San Antonio, and Chicago have at least twice as many (almost nine times as many if you’re Boston, eight if you’re LA), it begins to look like a foot note on the history of the game. One moment that the Garden did play host to and that all Knick fans will point out was the Finals game in which Willis Reed came out of the tunnel, bum ankle and all, to lead the Knicks to their title victory. Okay, so that’s one moment. Where are the other highlights on the NBA finals reel? I can count only one moment that is engraved in Knicks lore and, I believe, has made fans delusional about the idea that New York is the Mecca of basketball. The team has also not produced one league MVP in its history; not Walt Frazier, not Willis Reed, not Patrick Ewing. No one in the history of the New York Knicks has ever earned the title of MVP, so why should Madison Square Garden and the Knicks be considered the Mecca of basketball? Sure, the city has a history of producing some of the game’s greats and has the famous Rucker Park, but the franchise that represents the city has done nothing that says to the world, “This is the franchise people come to see”. The minute the city and Knick fans stop calling themselves “The Mecca” will be the moment when they begin to turn things around for the better; a “nothing is given, everything is earned” mentality has to set in. Prove to the world that New York is “The Mecca” and the allure and aura will return to the Garden once more.

Courtesy Slamonline.

What Now?

With all the dysfunction within the organization, here’s what the Knicks have going for them: The Knickerbockers drafted the Latvian phenom, Kristaps Porzingis, with the 4th pick in the 2015 draft last year. The 7’3” 19 year old stretch center finished second in the Rookie of the Year race to Karl Anthony-Towns; not bad for an unproven European import. In stretches during the season, the young player showed passion and energy for the game by blocking shots, throwing down putback dunks and draining perimeter shots. Hopefully, his role on the team will grow rather than shrink with the newly acquired point guard, Derrick Rose.

Speaking of the new Knick, Rose is reaching the end of his contract he signed originally with the Bulls before blowing out both of his knees, so he will be coming into the 2016-17 season with something to prove and a new deal to earn; if not with the Knicks, then elsewhere. I am sure Anthony is excited to play with the former All-Star and MVP, even if he hasn’t been the same since achieving those awards. Carmelo Anthony will, however, have to learn how to move without the ball to get a good portion of his points since Rose, being the point guard, has to make the decisions on the court and Rose may not always pass to Anthony as often as Anthony is used to being given the ball. And with Porzingis’ frame still relatively thin, it’s reasonable to expect 3 point and mid-range shooting to be a key component of his game; a lot of pick and pop with Rose, dishing to Melo on the wings whenever the mismatch is in Kristaps’ favor in the post, and vice versa.

Courtesy CBS Sports.

The Knicks are also interested in signing Chicago Bull Joakim Noah, who played with Rose in Chicago. This move probably won’t sit well with the New York media considering Noah has had injury problems in the last couple seasons with his feet and knees; at this point he might as well be as fragile as Rose. Depending on if the Knicks do sign Noah and what kind of contract they sign him to, Noah, when healthy, can offer the Knicks a defensive backbone, smart passer and an emotional leader. Removing health from the equation, signing Noah would be a good move.

With a new big three and a new coach in place at “the Mecca”, hopefully, for New Yorkers and Knick fans everywhere, they can begin to make strides towards playoff and eventually title contention. But the team needs a couple of things to happen to earn the title of “Mecca” back: Jackson needs to seem a little more invested in the franchise if he isn’t going to coach. Carmelo needs to look to pass more, raise his basketball IQ and play more consistent and better defense (play like the player he is being paid to be). Dolan needs to let Phil do his job. The fans need to stay behind their team no matter how bad they look, while at the same time putting pressure on the organization to be competitive, not just sign free agents, but to go out and perform to the best of their ability. Everything else will fall into place should those things happen and the Knicks will become relevant again, this time for a longer spell and, who knows, they may even win a championship along the way.

VP Dota2 disbanded after “unsatisfactory results”

Out with the old, in with the new.

Out with the old, in with the new.

 

Today marks a regrettable day for Virtus.Pro Dota 2 fans. The boys up stairs have decided to let go of their Dota 2 team members and managers.

This comes after quite a bad season, losing to team OG in the Frankfurt major, and failing to qualify for the Manila major.  In fact the best they’ve done all year is coming in third place at DreamLeague Season 5. However the straw that broke the camels back was the TI6 qualifiers, in which they finished only 6th place in their group. 

But why has their season been so bad? Well if we look at their recent roster changes, we can see that they made mistakes and gave up some of their most valuable players. Players such as Ilya ‘Illidan’ Pivcaev, and Ilya ‘Lil’ Ilyuk, whom they traded for Alexander ‘NoFear’ Churochkin and Maxim “Yoky-” Kim. Why get rid of these players that had literally earned them millions from prior tournaments? Perhaps because they saw value in the fact that Yoky had placed at least 3rd and often 1st in 7 tournaments with Team Empire, and were trying some kind of Moneyball strategy. Maybe they didn’t practice enough or perhaps their lineup just didn’t work.

But the blame seems to have been placed on the managers of VP, as they have been removed from office. Regardless of the reason why, it’s happened, and the ceo of Vp, Cherepennikov Anton has elected for a fresh start, and has chosen to personally manage the formation of the new Virtus.Pro.

Why the Rhode Island Rams Will Make the Sweet 16 in 2017

The Rhode Island Rams, have not made the NCAA Tournament since 1999, will be a Sweet 16 participant in March of 2017. On the surface this sounds like a hilariously bold claim to make. In reality, the Rams’ situation is significantly better and more complex than their 17-15 record would indicate. There is a lot more to the story.

 

Lamar Odom was the star the last time the Rams made the Big Dance. (Photo courtesy of heavy.com)

The Rams are no strangers to success despite being a small school from a small state. Their best campaign was in 1998, when they made a splash and ran all the way to the Elite Eight and were two points from making a Final Four appearance. Lamar Odom was the team’s leader when the Rams last appeared in the Bid Dance in 1998. The 12th-seeded Rhode Island squad lost to Charlotte in overtime. After that the Rams began a lengthy, multi-decade NCAA Tournament drought and have made very little noise since.

 

On another note, the team plays in a conference that is not given the amount of credit that it is due. The Atlantic 10 conference is far from a one-bid league, but for some reason is not looked at in that light. Last year, three teams made the tournament (St. Joseph’s, Dayton, and VCU). So the conference has current legitimacy and it does not lack historical importance.  LaSalle won a title in 1954, VCU had a magical run in 2011, Shaka Smart built the VCU program into a tournament regular, and Phil Martelli has led several runs in his tenure with St. Joe’s. Yet, the notion of the Atlantic 10 being a productive conference is strange. This should not be the case at all.

 

That is where the notion of the Rams making the Sweet Sixteen is generated from. If we look at the conference in a different light, then we can give Rhode Island a bit more credit. If they are a legitimate contender in the conference, then they can be a legitimate contender nationally. So let’s take a peek at the Atlantic 10’s recent history: The conference received three bids in 2015, a whopping six in 2014 (more than the SEC, Big East, and American conferences), and five in 2013 which was the third most by a conference in the tournament. The conference is due a little more respect. They have proven that year in and year out the Atlantic 10 can produce tournament teams. That means that any team able to compete in the A-10 is due some respect.

 

That does not change the fact that Rhode Island has not danced since 1999. So what makes this Rhode Island team ready to not only break through the tournament bid barrier, but also make a run this year? It is the process that has been the re-formation of the Rams’ program. In reality, the Rams have proven that, when healthy, they can be one of the best teams in the conference and thus one of the best teams in the country.

 

E.C. Matthews was preseason all A-10 and a candidate for the conference player of the year. (Photo courtesy of draftexpress.com)

Current head coach Dan Hurley took over for the 2012-13 season.  The team went 8-21. Over the next few seasons, Hurley steadily improved the team’s standing, capped by a 23-10 record in 2014-15. Unfortunately, the team was not one of the A-10 teams invited to the dance. Then, just when they seemed poised to finally make that coveted NCAA appearance, disaster struck.  A whole ten minutes into the team’s opener guard E.C. Matthews tore his ACL. In 2014-2015 season, he had averaged 16.9 points, 2.0 assists and 4.6 rebounds per game.  Matthews was a legitimate candidate for A-10 player of the year. The loss was devastating and all of the momentum that Rhode Island and Hurley had built dissipated.

 

This year will be different. Mathews is back along with an excellent supporting cast and a great deal of experience. In all, the team returns four of its five leading scorers. It gets better because, these five players are also the five leading rebounders on the team. The only notable departure is fourth leading scorer Four McGlynn who graduated. So a team that was already able to muster a .500 record (9-9) in a conference that has proven itself all comes back with another year of experience–and returns a star player.

The crux of the matter is this: the team that lost their star player was still able to muster a .500 record in an underappreciated conference. They have proven that, when all together, they can win. Three players plus Mathews return who played on the 23-10 2014-2015 team and Four McGlynn was not even a part of that team. So, what we have is a team that has proven that they can win, when healthy, and now adds Kuran Iverson’s production. Last year’s team was actually picked second in the preseason Atlantic-10 poll and Matthews and Martin were preaseason all A-10. This team was supposed to win last year. Now they have another year under their belts and a returning star.  This is an experienced team that knows how to play together. Sure, it may take a moment for E.C. Matthews and Iverson to gel. However, this team has the experience and drive to make some noise.

Dan Hurley did not lose all of the momentum that he had been building with the boys in baby blue when Matthews was injured. He merely stowed it away for the 2016-2017 season, the season in which the Rhode Island rams will taste the sweetness that is the second weekend in March.

 

 

A Conversation with Joshua “Jio” Otis

The City of Atlanta, Georgia is biggest home for Tekken players on the East Coast. Many notable American players such as Circa’s Hoa “Anakin” Luu call Atlanta home. Today, I’m going to be speaking with Joshua Otis, or more commonly Jio in the community. Having played in numerous majors, Jio is a notable member of both the Atlanta community and Knoxville, Tennessee communities. A transplant from Memphis, Tennessee, Jio has been playing the game competitively for 13 years. As of late, Jio can also be found commentating for the upcoming Tekken 7 alongside community figure,Mark “Markman” Julio. I caught up with Jio after his performance at Wizard World Minnesota for a brief conversation.

Courtesy of Final Round

Courtesy of Final Round

Seth Hall: Your main game is Tekken. What drew you to play it and what continues to drive you competitively?

Jio: I started playing as a masher back in T3. I was drawn to the character design, the music, and how a lot of moves were derived from real martial arts and wrestling disciplines. I didnt start playing competitively until the end of T4. I continue to play competitively to prove to myself that I still can do it at a high level.

Seth: What got you into the competitive side of the scene? What was your in?

Jio: I worked at the local arcade. The manager would organize local tournaments and I decided to play. Went 0-2. The salt of losing drove me to compete.

(Note: Salt is a common term in the community used to describe the feeling of loss.)
Seth: So what are your thoughts on the local scene? Tekken 7 is on the horizon and there is most likely an influx of new players. Are the any general hurdles you see the community struggle with? I know that competitive SF players are always trying to catch up to Japan, does Tekken have something similar?

Jio: Well the local Tekken scene has shrunk from 50+ players to around 8 or 9. Everyone is just ready for Tekken 7. Some of us watch videos of T7 and play solo TTT2 to try to make the most of the wait. Other players have moved on entirely to other games, such as SFV and MKX. I think catching up to Japan and Korea has been difficult in every iteration, because they always get the game significantly earlier. T7 was released in SE Asian arcades over a year ago. The wait T7 has been even more frustrating because we are teased by location tests and exhibitions at majors, and still haven’t been given a release date. Even the best american players will have difficulty bridging that gap.

Courtesy of Namco Bandai

Courtesy of Namco Bandai

Seth: So you’ve recently been doing commentary at events. I saw you alongside MarkMan at KIT/FR. Have you considered moving more into the streaming and community sides of things or attempting to work for PR on the American side of things with all the work you’ve done for the scene?

Jio: Ive done commentary for 4 or 5 years. In the past couple years, Ive had the opportunity to commentate larger events. I enjoy it nearly as much as playing. Id love to do it more often, should the opportunity present itself. I take pride in serving the community in any capacity. I usually only make guest spots on Anakin’s stream, because I dont own any streaming equipment.

Seth: Tekken Tag 2 is ending its life cycle. What about Tekken 7 has you excited and what do you think it will do for the scene? What has you concerned about it? I know Tag 2 had a steep barrier to entry, do you think Tekken 7 will have the same?

Jio: Im excited to go back to 1v1, because having two life bars made a lot of pokes almost obsolete. Im also looking forward to exploring the new combo system, especially the new floor and wall break possibilities. Also Xiaoyu received a much needed buff in T7. Im concerned that the movement nerf may hinder more skilled players, but I’ve started to become more accustomed to it. The wakeup game has been toned down, making escaping oki situations less daunting for new players. I believe this Tekken will significantly easier for new players to pick up and compete with more established players.

(Notes: Pokes are when players use basic buttons as an attempt pressure, catch or harass the opponent. Okizeme, or Oki, is usually the pressure applied to a player getting up after a knockdown.)

Seth: So continued before I grab food, what would you tell new players to develop starting with T7? Where are the best starting points? What are easy pitfalls to avoid that kill a lot of newer people.

Jio:  You need to identify your best moves for keepout, pressure, and tracking and practice utilizing them appropriately. Remain aware of stage position, using attacks that allow to take advantage of the stage (floor/wall breaks). You want to learn the most damaging combos that you can consistently execute, and your punishment for each frame window. One of the most difficult things for new players is character familiarity, so don’t allow the number of moves to discourage you from playing. Continually learn from either watching or playing with or against unfamiliar characters. Find the weaknesses of their strongest maybe 3 or 4 attacks, and concentrate on learning how to exploit them.

Seth: So you recently went to Wizard World in Minnesota. What was your experience there, how was the competition. What do you feel you did well at, and what do you feel you were lacking in?

Jio: Wizard World was a fun event. There were actually 2 tournaments. A first come 16-man bracket and the main double elimination event on Saturday, with top 8 on Sunday. Very high production value, friendly and helpful event staff. I feel I played well for the most part, I have a lot of work to do learning the new characters in the game. I ended getting 4th, losing to the same Katarina player in both pools and top 8. The tournaments were run pretty quickly, so there was a lot of time for casuals. The competition was probably one of the more stacked Tekken 7 events so far with players such as Rip, Mateo, Jannakazama, ZTS, Spero Gin, Rick Da Ruler, and Datboi STL among others.

Courtesy of Wizard World

Courtesy of Wizard World

Seth: Thank you so much for your time. Did you have any shoutouts or social media you wanted to promote?

Jio: Shout out to MarkMan, TastySteve, RockSteady, ATL Tekken and TN Tekken. You can find me on twitter @thebigjio and on Instagram as thatman_Jio.

Dwyane Wade Leaving the Heat?

Courtesy of CBS Sports.com

Courtesy of CBS Sports.com

Is it actually possible that Mr. Miami, Dwyane Wade, could leave the Miami Heat? Even after one of his best seasons in the last five years? Wade played 74 games, the most in five years, averaged 19 points, four assists, and four rebounds. But in NBA Free Agency anything can happen.

ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported that Wade and the Heat are not seeing eye-to-eye in negotiations on a new contract. I could see why Miami may want to part ways with Wade. Of course, Pat Riley has to try and get Kevin Durant. At this point in the NBA, Kevin Durant is a better option. The Heat have nine free agents this year, that includes Wade, Luol Deng, and Hasaan Whiteside, among others.

All three could possibly leave especially, Whiteside. The Lakers are courting Miami center Hasaan Whiteside. Whiteside may want to leave the Miami Heat for a team that will give him the max. This would allow him to be the foundation piece for a great organization like the Lakers. Other teams have been told that Wade is up to listen to offers from other teams. We don’t know exactly which teams are in consideration but I can think of a two teams.

One team of course is the Cleveland Cavaliers. After this postseason his good friend, LeBron James, won his third title, tying Wade. If Wade really wanted to team up with James, the time is now. The Cavs could trade some players to clear some more money for Wade and he could fit right into the shooting guard spot for the Cavs. Think about that potential lineup in Cleveland: Kyrie Irving at the 1, Wade at the 2, LeBron James at the 3, Kevin Love at the 4, and Tristan Thompson at the 5. They could still have J.R. Smith and Richard Jefferson coming off of the bench.

The Cavs would run through the East with even more ease than last year. But, this is all wishful thinking because I really don’t think the Cavs could ever get enough money. Trying to pay Irving, James, Love, Thompson, and Wade, unless Wade takes a significant pay cut would be hard. Wade will most likely not want to do that. But, if Dan Gilbert and the Cavs can clear that cap space, Wade will definitely be pursued.

Another team is the Chicago Bulls. It’s Wade’s hometown and he could give the Bulls something to cheer about after Derrick Rose was traded to the Big Apple to play for the Knicks. We all know how much NBA players love winning for their hometown. Even though the Bulls received a good starting point guard in Jose Calderon in the Rose trade, they need more offense. Wade could be there go to at the 2 and move Jimmie Butler to the 3. If they wanted to they could move Wade to the 1, move Calderon to the bench, and keep Butler at the 2.

More importantly, Wade could be the leader in Chicago after their heart and soul, Joakim Noah is ready to leave the Bulls organization. In Chicago, Wade could mentor Butler and incoming Michigan State guard/forward Denzel Valentine.  The Bulls are a work in progress in terms of competing for the NBA Championship, but with Wade they can speed up the process.

Esports Doesn’t Need Legitimacy, It Needs Professionalism

I often hear people in esports, as well as those in the gaming world at large, say that esports needs legitimacy. In their minds esports won’t be successful, taken seriously or “legitimized” until the folks who follow Football either watch it or give it the same respect as they would traditional sports. The idea that esports needs any kind of “legitimacy” is strange considering more people watched the 2014 League of Legends championship then the NBA finals. If anything esports is already legitimate, and the overall scene is growing all the time. TBS even runs their own Counter-Strike league on live television, it seems like we already reached this goal we people keep pining for.

 

Regardless of these facts people still look down on esports and I’d argue it has nothing to do with how successful it is. Esports doesn’t need legitimacy, it needs professionalism. In 2015 at the Archon Team League tournament, an event with a $250,000 prize pool, a caster by the name of Byron “Reckful” Bernstein made a casual joke about rape during a game. The comment became a controversy not only in the Hearthstone community but in esports at large. This isn’t the first time Reckful has apologized or been removed from casting a tournament, in 2014 he was taken off the casting roster during Lords of the Arena 2 after saying inappropriate things about two of the female players.

During the 2014 Dota 2 International, caster Bruno Carlucci commented “How sh*ty was that Sh*ty Doom pick”, criticizing a draft pick by one of the teams. During a recent Overwatch tournament, caster Jason Kaplan kept playing the game “marry boff kill” with fellow casters and players. What’s worse is all of these people are still in esports today. Can you imagine how the public would react if an NBA or NFL commentator did any of the things listed above? Chances are they would be removed from their position permanently instead of getting a slap on the wrist. There are tons of instances where sports personalities have been fired for saying inappropriate things on the job and off, This kind of thing is simply not tolerated in traditional sports.

Reckful

Byron “Reckful” Bernstein, has been banned from multiple tournaments

The problem doesn’t only stem from casters, players are also guilty of unprofessionalism. Many CSGO players have been banned from official tournaments by Valve and ESL for both doping and cheating. League of Legends player Khaled Abusagr was given a lifetime ban from League of Legends after he was accused of anti-semitic speech, physically threatening a Riot games employee and a ton of other complaints. “Abusagr’’s behavior represents the extreme edge of violations of the letter and spirit of the Summoner’s Code,” said Bitingpig, the senior esports manager for Riot Games. ”The persistence and ferocity of his abusiveness and aggressiveness are the antithesis of acceptable conduct for the League of Legends community.”

 

The audience is also to blame for a lot of these problems as well. At a recent Hearthstone tournament a player by the name of Terrance Miller was subject to racist comments and harassment by audience members. The comments and messages coming through the Twitch broadcast were coming in so fast Blizzard moderators couldn’t delete comments or ban users fast enough to stem the tide.

 

All of these are just some highlights of a lot of the unprofessionalism we see in esports today. I would argue that this phenomenon is one of the main reasons esports is held back, and why an outsider, and even some of those who enjoy it, don’t take it seriously.

 

a recent Dota 2 tournament in China. Poor planning led to the event running late, and the audience being kicked out.

A recent Dota 2 tournament in China. Poor planning led to the event running late and the audience being kicked out.

The fact that casters for the most part don’t even use their real names is a big red flag to me. Many argue that it’s because of the internet gaming culture’s long use of pseudonyms, but I don’t think this is a valid excuse. Professional players and casters are public figures, in an industry that’s trying to grow and be taken seriously. I can tell you for a fact that people unfamiliar with esports think it’s weird, and silly, that people commentating on games use strange screen names. We need to move away from this idea that people are more recognizable because of their screen names. The only reason their names are recognizable is because we watch the players regularly, we hear their names constantly in broadcasts, or we might be able to put their face to their name. If we moved away from using screen names predominately,  you could argue it would be exactly the same if we used people’s real name. It would add another layer of professionalism for the scene.

 

For the most part when esports works, it’s great, the Dota 2 International is a shining example of how the format can be taken seriously. Legitimacy for esports means nothing if we can’t take it seriously. If we can’t treat esports with the same professionalism and respect people involved in traditional sports do, then we shouldn’t be surprised when people on the outside don’t take it seriously.

Marcell Ozuna’s All-Star Case

The Marlins don’t have a single player even close to contention for this year’s All-Star game, with the deadline for voting just two days away. As we get closer and closer to seeing the rosters, opinions over players who were “snubbed” from well-earned opportunities become more prevalent.

Marcell Ozuna is a guys that I have very high on my snub list for the National League team this year. He sits in the top ten among NL outfielders in a majority of categories, but doesn’t even sit in the top 15 in the NL All-Star Vote (ASV). The current voting standings are based off of MLB.com’s latest report on them, published on June 23rd.

Marcell Ozuna (.321 BA, 16 HR, 44 RBI)

Ozuna currently leads the team in most major batting statistics, aside from OBP, so his case is certainly the strongest of anybody on Miami (aside from Jose Fernandez). Just looking statistically, Ozuna is putting up some solid numbers thus far in 2016. His .321 batting average currently ranks 4th among all outfielders in the National League, only behind Carlos Gonzalez (currently 7th in ASV), Starling Marte (9th), and Ryan Braun (5th).

He’s got a better batting average than the top four players currently in the All-Star Vote, but isn’t even within ten places of them. And it’s not like they all make up for it with a much higher walk count to beat Ozuna in OBP, either.

Ozuna ranks 7th in the NL in OBP, and only Bryce Harper (2nd in voting), and Dexter Fowler (1st) have higher OBPs than him despite having lower batting averages (in Harper’s case, .063 points lower). So even if Ozuna’s case was to be made entirely based off of batting average and on-base percentage, he should at the very least be in the top six.

But, Ozuna’s case doesn’t end with just batting average, he’s also sitting high in the RBI and homer categories as well. Ozuna sits at 44 RBIs on the year, which places him 8th in the NL among outfielders. The only two guys ahead of him in the top five in outfield voting currently are Yoenis Cespedes (3rd in ASV, 7th in RBIs) and Bryce Harper (2nd in ASV, 6th in RBIs). Ozuna sits just two RBIs behind Harper, and three behind Matt Holliday, who currently sits at #12 in the vote and is fifth in RBIs.

Honestly, a lot of outfielders in the NL aren’t being given the chances they deserve in the Vote this year, as the top three in the NL in RBIs all sit outside the top 15. Cincinnati’s Adam Duvall (playing his first full MLB season and is currently tied for the NL lead with 21 homers and tied for second in RBIs with 53) is another guy who doesn’t even make the list, much to my dismay.

As far as homers go, Ozuna is currently tied for fifth in the NL among outfielders. Of those tied with or above him Bryce Harper, Yoenis Cespedes, and Carlos Gonzalez are the only guys on the All-Star radar.  Matt Kemp, Jay Bruce, and the aforementioned Adam Duvall all sit well outside the top 15 when it comes to outfielders. Much like Ozuna, despite having seasons statistically comparable to guys at the top of the outfield vote.

There is one category where Ozuna isn’t showing up, and that’s the stolen base category, but even there, only two guys in the NL top 15 for outfielders have double-digit steals so far this year: Bryce Harper (10 steals) and Starling Marte (20).

So, no, I’m not saying that Marcell Ozuna should have been the a shoo-in for starting in the outfield for the NL in San Diego this year. What I am saying is that he (and a few other outfielders) deserves a lot more respect for his performance this year than the vote gives him.

He ranks top ten in batting average, RBIs, and home runs among outfielders in the NL this year. That’s not just a fluke in one category, or spurred on by a single hot streak at some point. Ozuna has been a consistent hitter throughout 2016, and arguably one of the best outfielders at the plate in the NL.

But he doesn’t even make the top 15 in All-Star votes, where you instead find guys like Jorge Soler (.223 BA, 5 HR, 13 RBIs) in 6th? Ozuna certainly isn’t the only snub of 2016’s All-Star Vote, but he’s definitely one of the bigger ones in my mind.

In my opinion, Marcell Ozuna is one of the biggest snubs of the 2016 All-Star vote. Photo courtesy of ESPN.com

TI6 Europe Qualifiers: Alliance vs Escape

 

courtesy of dotablast.com

After a quite enjoyable and thrilling best of five series, Alliance took the win with a 3-1 score. Both teams played really well, and the result could have gone either way.

Game 1

Escape Alliance
Faceless Void Terrorblade
Winter Wyvern Vengeful Spirit
Invoker Dazzle
Rubick Batrider
Timbersaw Broodmother

Alliance’s lineup seemed to hold the better late game, with massive bonus damage and minus armour, and the now trendy Terrorblade pick. Escape however possessed the superior team fight. The Winter Wyvern pickup was the key to win plenty of team fights for them, rendering the Swedes’ huge physical damage output useless and making Loda kill his teammates more often than he’d like. Escape seemed to have the upper hand, claiming rax one after another.

Anything we could say won’t do this game much honour. Alliance managed to turn this around in the last minute, with one last building away from mega creeps and a Divine Rapier. Akke and EGM’s spectacular support plays kept Loda’s Terrorblade alive long enough to claim the enemy throne.

Game 2

Escape Alliance
Faceless Void Slardar
Lone Druid Disruptor
Io Bounty Hunter
Dazzle Ember Spirit
Necrophos Timbersaw

This time Escape didn’t allow any room for comebacks. Necrolyte made sure an enemy core wouldn’t buyback, making it very hard to stop Lone Druid’s insane push. On top of that, qojqva’s Lone Druid dominated the Net Worth chart from the very begining.

On the other hand, Loda’s favourite safelane Slardar showed his weaknesses once more. The idea was probably to snowball with Bounty’s track gold and Timbersaw’s huge burst, but the huge sustain from the whole Escape lineup didn’t allow for any of that.

Game 3

Escape Alliance
Night Stalker Juggernaut
Rubick Dazzle
Medusa Shadow Shaman
Undying Brewmaster
Tinker Nature's Prophet

This match reminded us of the old Alliance a lot. Who cares if the enemy has a Tinker+Medusa+Undying defense, let’s just push high ground constantly.

While Alliance had the upper hand early on, Escape’s decision to put Tinker in the safelane gave him a very fast Boots of Travel+Soul Ring. From that point, one would think Alliance would have a hard time pushing and taking it to the late game would be the only option; but they had a different opinion. Pushing their way through multiple March of the Machines and stolen Mass Serpent Wards by Rubick, they didn’t allow Medusa to get huge and ended this with style.

Game 4

Alliance Escape
Weaver Necrophos
Lich Kunkka
Timbersaw Dazzle
Rubick Lone Druid
Faceless Void Slardar

Escape opt for a similar lineup as in Game 2. Alliance answer by getting a Timbersaw to pair up against Lone Druid in the middle lane, and a Lich to ensure lane control and hinder the enemy push through Frost Armour.

Lone Druid didn’t have as much dominance early on this time around. Timber’s Reactive Armour allowed him to not only survive but win the lane, giving the Druid a late 10 minute Midas. On the side lanes, Lich’s presence gave the Swedes a clear upper hand, leaving Slardar to only 1 CS, the moment Weaver had 20.

Escape’s great sustain evened the scales later on, with Ghost Ship and Shallow Grave ensuring it wasn’t easy to burst someone down during the Chronosphere. After plenty of team fights going both ways, Alliance got a slight upper hand. Lone Druid tried to split push a lot, but Timbersaw with his Boots of Travel was always there to stop him. The bear couldn’t do it on its own, and the Sweds earned their place in the International’s main event.

2016 Heisman Watch List

I just finished my Top Quarterback list and now it’s time for my Heisman Watch List. Some of the quarterbacks I listed before might appear here. When I rank these players, I take into account how far I think the team will go and how important that player is to that team’s success.

Christian Petersen/ Getty Images

Christian Petersen/ Getty Images

#5- Ohio State’s Quarterback J.T. Barrett

He is finally going to get his shot to really be the man at Ohio State. Every year he has had another great quarterback on the roster. He played behind Cardale Jones for bits of last season due to his ankle injury to end his 2014 season.

But now for the 2016 Buckeyes he has his chance to do what he could not do in the 2014 season. He has a chance to start the whole season, go to NYC for a chance to lift up the 25-pound bronze trophy named Heisman.

He has put up big numbers almost every time he’s touched the field. Even as a redshirt freshman in 2014 before his season-ending injury, he threw for over 2,800 yards, 34 touchdowns, and only 10 interceptions. Barrett also rushed for almost 1,000 yards and scored 11 touchdowns. In the limited time as a starter in 2015 he put up decent numbers coming in for an ineffective Cardale Jones. I believe with a full season of football at Ohio State with Urban Meyer’s offensive genius, he could get some Heisman votes.

AP Photo/ Thomas Graning

AP Photo/ Thomas Graning

#4-Ole Miss’ Quarterback Chad Kelly

On this list, he has what every player he wants on his resume, and a win against football royalty, the Crimson Tide of Alabama.

Kelly is also coming of a year where he and the Rebels only lost three games and won a New Year’s Eve bowl game. And individually he had a great season. He threw for 4,024 yards, 31 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions, while also rushing for 500 yards and had 10 touchdowns on the ground.

This was his first season as a starting quarterback. In my opinion his resume is already quite impressive. The 2016 Rebels will be looking for Kelly to take them to Atlanta for an automatic bid in the College Football Playoff, sorry, I mean a SEC Championship.

Courtesy of Getty Images

Courtesy of Getty Images

#3-Louisiana State University’s Running Back Leonard Fournette

I will say it now: Leonard Fournette was robbed of his chance to go to New York because he was up against Derrick Henry from Alabama that had 95 more rushes than him but only 266 more yards rushing than him.

If you give Fournette the same amount of touches as Alabama’s running back plus Fournette’s 6.5 rush average, Fournette finishes with 2,571 rushing yards. That same running back also had three more games than Fournette and Fournette had 162 more receiving yards than the Alabama running back.

Leonard Fournette was the best running back in the SEC last year and the second best running back in the nation. Therefore I believe he just got overshadowed by the Alabama Crimson Tide name. In 2016, Fournette and the LSU Tigers have a great chance to run the table and get to the Playoffs. Leonard Fournette will be almost everything for this LSU offense. If he does not get over 2,000 yards rushing I will be surprised. Fournette will be in New York this year for the Heisman Ceremony.

Harry How/ Getty Images

Harry How/ Getty Images

#2-Stanford Cardinals’ Running Back Christian McCaffery

McCaffery was the best running back in the nation in 2015 and possibly the best one coming into this season. He should have won the Heisman, but he is another running back overshadowed by a running back from Alabama.

In 2015, he rushed for 2,019 yards and eight touchdowns. He also was great at catching the ball; he had 645 receiving yards and 5 receiving touchdowns.

Also do not forget that he was also dangerous in the return game. As a kick returner, he averaged 28.9 yards per return, 1,070 kick return yards, and one touchdown. In the punt return game, he had 130 punt return yards on 15 attempts and had one touchdown.

McCaffery broke Barry Sanders’ all-purpose record. That should equal a Heisman Trophy. He is the closest thing we have to a Reggie Bush today, he even wears #5. If he breaks his all-purpose record this year and does not get the Heisman it will be a crying shame. It will almost be as bad as Ohio State winning the National Championship game over Miami because of a phantom pass inference call.

Courtesy of The Sports Bank

Courtesy of The Sports Bank

#1-Clemson’s Quarterback Deshaun Watson

He is the best player right now in College Football. If he goes into the draft after this year, he will most likely be the number one pick.

Deshaun has only lost to teams that have been featured in the College Football Playoff (2014 FSU and 2015 Alabama). In addition, both of those squad had Heisman winners.

Watson is the ultimate leader. He will torch any defense with his feet or his arm strength. His resume speaks for itself. He threw for 4,104 yards, 35 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions last season.

On the ground, he ran for 1,105 yards and scored 12 times. He was in New York last year and coming into this season he has the best chance to win the Heisman. I think he and his team are favorites to win the National Championship.

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