NFL Draft Becomes The Place To Be For Sports Fans

The NFL draft has, somewhat inexplicably, become one of the premier sports events on the American calendar.

Despite it being little more than a group of talking heads projecting the careers of players who are selected by teams on slips of paper, the sports-loving public in this country has fallen in love with the NFL draft to the point that it is now a destination event for fans.

This means that the draft is one of those sports events that cities actually compete to gain the rights to host. This competition is a relatively recent development, with the draft having been held in New York City from the date of the first draft in 1965 through to the 50th-anniversary edition in 2015.

Since then, the NFL has held the draft in cities such as Chicago, Philadelphia, and Dallas, with the 2019 NFL Draft emanating from Nashville, Tennessee.

There are several reasons why the NFL draft has become one of the most significant sports events of the spring.  First, the event is perfectly positioned at the point where we start to miss football and crave it back in our sporting lives.  Sure, the NBA and NHL playoffs are in full swing, but the MLB season is still 100 games away from being over and, importantly, college basketball just wrapped up with the fantastic sports event that is March Madness.

Football, however, has been over for a couple of months by the middle of April. While new leagues seem to come and disappear in the spring every couple of years, millions of people across the globe still miss the NFL. That is why an event such as this has grown from a bunch of team executives in a musical hall picking in private to a full-on production that is watched worldwide.

The other main reason that the NFL draft has become one of the most significant sports events is that it manages to hit right down the middle of the football fan demographic. While the divide between college fans and pro fans is not what it once was, there are still large sections of the country, especially in college football heartlands such as the south, where the NFL game is barely followed, but where college football is almost its own religion.

The NFL draft ignites both sets of fans, with college football guys getting to see how high their favorite player is drafted (ideally ahead of the first player taken from the rival school) while NFL fans get to find out about and research a new crop of talent coming in from the college ranks.  The NBA draft (at two rounds) is too short. The MLB draft (at 40 rounds) is way, way too long. The NHL draft simply features too many players that you have to be an absolute hockey diehard to have ever heard about most of them.

The NFL draft, however, hits the sweet spot and that is why it is the only draft that is truly event viewing.

Article by Steve Wright

LA Chargers Make The Premier Fashion Statement

The premier fashion statement in the NFL will be making a long-awaited comeback later this year as the Los Angeles Chargers have announced they will be switching to their powder blue jerseys as their home uniform of choice for the 2019 season.

The iconic jerseys are not only the premier fashion choice in the NFL, but they also represent one of the best uniform color combinations in sports, period. The Chargers will be making the look even more striking as the team will be wearing the equally iconic gold facemask whatever uniform is being worn for their game.

The uniform dates all the way back to the team’s opening season in Los Angeles back in 1960. Since moving away from the powder blue in 1974, the uniform has made sporadic appearances after fans were treated to seeing the color again on the gridiron in 1994 for the 75th anniversary season of the league.

This decision automatically makes the LA Chargers the premier fashion team in the league.  Here are the best of the rest in the NFL when it comes to uniform color schemes:

Oakland Raiders
The silver and black color scheme of the Raiders was the best in the league until the Chargers stole their spot. Instantly recognizable, the Raiders scheme is unlike anything else we see in sports with the bold use of silver and black and the fact that they haven’t changed a single thing about them since the 1960s adds to the mystique.  This is a premier fashion choice in the NFL as much because of what the colors represent, the violence and the intimidation factor, as anything else.

Buffalo Bills
This is not a team that would have featured on this list until recently.
The Bills made a bold choice in blending aspects of their 1970s uniforms with a modern style, and the risk has paid off in as much as now they are one of the best looking teams in the entire league. While other franchises have tried to merge styles like this and failed, the Bills have a look that their fans now need to see mirrored by their play on the field.

Pittsburgh Steelers
Maybe it is just something about the black on a uniform that makes it one of the premier fashion statements in the league.  The Steelers, like the Raiders, make the most of the black in their scheme to create an intimidating and dominating look. While some of their throwback choices, specifically the bumble-bees, have been less than impressive, this timeless look of black and gold needs nothing in the way of changes.

Green Bay Packers
The green and gold of the Packers always look iconic, but it is at its very best when Lambeau Field is frozen over, and a playoff game is on the line.
Simplicity is the key here. The helmet logo that was first adopted in 1961 somehow always manages to stay in style. In an ever-changing world, there is something very timeless about the whole ethos of the Packers franchise. That is why these uniforms will always be one of the top five styles in the NFL.

Top 25 Premier Players of The National Football League

The Premier Players of College Football will be called onto one of the biggest stages in sports when teams select their picks for the 2019 NFL Draft.  At a minimum, all of them are hoping for picks that will immediately have an impact on team performance.  At best, each team wants an athlete that can impact the game like our Top-25 players to ever play in the National Football League:

25 – Rod Woodson
Woodson is the NFL leader in interception returns for touchdowns. He is a player who seemed to have a sixth sense of where and when to cut when on an interception return, proving to be a spark for the Pittsburgh Steelers every time he got his hands on the football.  An 11-time Pro Bowl player and six-time All-Pro, Woodson scored on 12 interception returns and sits third overall in terms of total interceptions. Woodson is a player quarterbacks never felt comfortable throwing against as he was able to use his physicality to get to the ball before the receiver on countless occasions.

24 – Deion Sanders
As loud and brash as he was supremely talented, Deion Sanders is the best cover corner in the history of the NFL and one of the premier players of all time.  The two-time Super Bowl winner was an eight-time Pro Bowler, and he won the award for the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1994. Sanders retired second all-time in both career interception return yards and career interceptions returned for touchdowns. Ironically, Sanders had the talent to lead in both the categories, but he was so good at his job of locking down a receiver that quarterbacks barely threw the ball in his direction for fear of the interception.

23 – Otto Graham
Graham was the best player football had ever seen before the NFL existed.
Graham took the Browns to league championship games every year between 1946 and 1955 and won seven of those contests. With Graham under center, the Browns posted an almost unbelievable record of 114-20-4, including going 9-3 in the playoffs. Perhaps most astonishing, Graham still holds records for the most average yards per pass attempt (8.98) and the record for career winning percentage by a starting quarterback at almost 83-percent.

22 – Randy Moss
Moss may have been the most uncoverable receiver in the history of the NFL. While other players used their route running and cunning to get open, Moss used his freakish speed and 6-foot-4 inch frame (with a 51 inch vertical) to merely be better than any defensive back trying to cover him.
Moss caught 17 touchdown passes as a rookie as the Minnesota Vikings went 15-1. He then bookended his career with a 23 touchdown season, breaking a Jerry Rice record no less, as the Patriots completed the first ever 16-game undefeated regular season. Moss finished his career with over 15,000 yards receiving and 156 touchdowns in the premier league in the sport.

21 – Marshall Faulk
Faulk was the first true hybrid running back/wide receiver who played the running back position. Without his powerful ability on the ground and out of the backfield the Greatest Show on Turf would never have been so successful.  While he never led the league in rushing, Faulk had the hands of a wide receiver. He finished his career with 6,875 yards catching the ball and had more than 19,000 total yards from scrimmage to his name. A seven-time Pro Bowl player and a three-time All-Pro, Faulk won the MVP in 2000 when he had 2,189 yards from scrimmage and 26 touchdowns.

20 – Dick Butkus
The greatest middle linebacker in the history of the game, Dick Butkus had a name that basically meant his only career choice was to be an NFL defensive star and one of the premier players of all time.  Playing nine seasons in the NFL when middle linebacker was a brutal and dangerous position to play, Butkus struck fear in the hearts of both quarterbacks and wide receivers as he was known for his punishing hits. He was named to the Pro Bowl every year from 1965 to 1972, and he showed his versatility as a player by finishing his career with 22 interceptions and 27 fumble recoveries.

19 – Aaron Rodgers
Aaron Rodgers is a player who has always had to fight through some level of adversity. After going the JuCo route and only getting a scholarship to Cal when the head coach was watching another player, the nation had to suffer on draft day as Rodgers sat in the green room until the24th pick of the 2005 draft.  Rodgers landed in Green Bay and was able to learn from the great for three seasons before taking over the team. He is a two time NFL MVP, a one-time Super Bowl Champion and Super Bowl MVP, and a seven-time Pro Bowl choice at the quarterback position. At 35 years old and with a new head coach to invigorate his career, Rodgers has plenty of time to climb this list.

18 – Gale Sayers
Sayers is an anomaly on this list of players with long, storied careers in the NFL.  The Kansas Comet played just 68 career games in the premier league of football, playing in only six seasons from 1965 to 1971. What we did see of Sayers though was enough to list him this high on a list of the greatest players of all-time.  During his rookie season, Sayers scored 22 touchdowns in 14 games. In one game on a rainy afternoon against the San Francisco 49ers, Sayers scored six touchdowns as he outclassed everyone else on the field.  A gliding, smooth, and burning runner, Sayers is an NFL Hall of Famer even with his short career arc.

17 – Bruce Smith
The only player in the history of the league with 200 career sacks, Bruce Smith, was an absolute force to be reckoned with from the defensive end position.  His 200 sacks is a record that may stand forever, with no current player within range and few feeling the need to play for the extended amount of time at the NFL level that would be required to break the mark. Smith played for 19 seasons in the NFL, recording 10 or more sacks in 13 of those years. An 11-time Pro Bowler, Smith was savvy, quick, and powerful at the point of attack.

16 – Deacon Jones
Jones is the player that invented the whole concept of sacking a quarterback. Before Jones, a quarterback tackle was recorded as simply that, a tackle.  To get a feel for Jones’ place in the pantheon of NFL defensive ends people have had to rewatch old game footage to come up with his totals. Jones has been credited with 173.5 sacks during his career, enough for third on the all-time list and a number that would have put him top of the pile when he retired. The 6-foot-5, 270-pounder, was a physical freak in the 19060s, perhaps showing how he was able to record 21.5 and 22 sack seasons in just 14 games each in 1967 and 1968.

15 – Emmitt Smith
Smith is sometimes overlooked on this type of list because he wasn’t the flashiest back in the league even when at his pomp.  Smith may not have been as naturally gifted athletically as some on this list, but his toughness and physicality as a runner made him stand out. He always got stronger as the game wore on, using his incredible endurance to work through games and pound the rock in the fourth quarter. He retired with 18,355 yards and 164 touchdowns, both the most of any back in NFL history.

14 – Brett Favre
Favre may have become something of a comedic figure because of how the end of his career played out, but at his peak, he was the most feared quarterback in the game.  Taken with the 33rd overall pick of the 1991 NFL Draft, Favre was soon traded up to Green Bay where he embarked on a Hall of Fame career. Favre was at his best in the mid-90s, when he led the Packers to a pair of Super Bowls, winning in 1996, and when he was named the NFL MVP for three consecutive years between 1995 and 1997. His tough as nails reputation and gunslinger attitude made Favre a legend in his own time.

13 – Johnny Unitas
Unitas was one of the first star quarterbacks the NFL had ever seen, and he is undoubtedly one of the premier players of all time.  Playing from 1956-73, Unitas retired as a quarterback legend. The 10-time Pro Bowler and seven-time All-Pro just seemed to have a feel for the game and how offensive systems worked that no one before him had managed. One of only four players to win three NFL MVP awards, Unitas led his Baltimore Colts to an NFL Championship game win in 1958 that is widely considered as the game that created interest in professional football.

12 – Joe Greene
“Mean” Joe Greene is on the shortlist for the title of best defensive lineman in the history of professional football.  Greene was the best player on the Steelers “Steel Curtain” defense that basically ruled the NFL for six years in the 1970s. That team won four Super Bowl rings in those six years, with the 6-foot-4, 280 pound Greene simply proving too powerful to offensive linemen to contain on a play by play basis. The 10-time Pro Bowler and six-time All-Pro was also named Defensive Player of the Year on two occasions.

11 – Drew Brees
Drew Brees is the forgotten man of the current era of quarterbacking.
Overlooked in favor of Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Aaron Rodgers, the former Purdue Boilermaker has done nothing other than excel in the Bayou. A 12-time Pro Bowl player, Brees began his career in San Diego before almost joining the Miami Dolphins when hitting free agency. Instead, he signed with the Saints, and the match has been perfect. Brees is the fastest quarterback in history to hit the 60,000 and 70,000-yard plateaus, and he has shown no signs of decline as he chases several Peyton Manning records.

10 – John Elway
Elway took an interesting path to the NFL. A two-sport star at Stanford, he spent a year in the New York Yankees system before becoming the No. 1 pick of the 1983 NFL Draft by the Baltimore Colts entering the premier league of football.  Elway, though, never played a down for the Colts. He was instead traded to Denver, a city he would make his own as he played for 16 seasons with the Broncos. Elway led the Broncos to five Super Bowls, winning two, including being named the MVP of the final game of his career in Super Bowl XXXIII. The nine-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro was an athletic player who could beat defenses with his scrambling or his laser of an arm.

9 – Walter Payton
The Chicago Bears picked a franchise changing running back with the No. 4 overall pick in the 1975 NFL Draft when claiming the rights to Walter “Sweetness” Payton.  Payton was a stunning runner with a bruising style that belied his ability to quickly change direction when needed. He was a back who would never run out of bounds on his own accord, instead lowering his helmet to initiate contact with whichever defender was in his way. Playing all but one game of his 13 year NFL career, Payton rushed for 16,726 yards and 110 touchdowns.

8 – Barry Sanders
Barry Sanders was must-see TV throughout the 1990s. After tearing the college game apart as a member of the Oklahoma State Cowboys, Sanders was drafted into the league by the Detriot Lions and was a star from day one.
Sanders was the most elusive, difficult to tackle, and flat our electric player in the history of the NFL. He was a powerful back, one blessed with a jump cut that didn’t even look human, and he consistently ran for 1,000-yard seasons despite playing behind what would graciously be called a poor offensive line. Sanders became the first back in the history of the NFL to produce five 1,500 seasons.

7 – Lawrence Taylor
Taylor had a presence about his play that was terrifying. The linebacker won most battles with opposition quarterbacks before he even stepped on the field, such was the fear that he projected thanks to his pass rushing skill.
Taylor was one of the first defensive players that coaches had to scheme their offenses around. Joe Gibbs of the division rival Washington Redskins would employ a two running back formation against the New York Giants just to give his quarterback an extra blocker and hopefully have time to deliver the ball.

6 – Reggie White
Reggie White was the ultimate example of a player who could flip that switch on game day and became an absolute wrecking ball on the field.
The “Minster of Defense” was a deeply devout and religious man, but come Sunday he would morph into the greatest defensive end the league has ever seen. The 13-time Pro Bowl selection, 13-time All-Pro choice, and two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, White ranks second on the NFL sack list win 198 quarterback takedowns in 232 career games.

5 – Joe Montana
A player who went a perfect 4-0 in his Super Bowl appearances, Montana first flashed signs of greatness while leading Notre Dame to a college football national championship.  After falling to the third round of the 1979 NFL Draft, Joe Cool was selected with the 82nd pick by the San Francisco 49ers. Montana is a playoff legend, with three Super Bowl MVPs and the highest all-time Super Bowl QB rating (cumulative) of 127.8. The five-time All-Pro was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 200.

4 – Jim Brown
Watching old highlight footage of Jim Brown is like watching a grown man playing against high school players.  Brown was a 6-foot-2, 230-pound running back playing in the late 50s and early 60s. This meant that not only was he bigger than all the other skill position players, but that he was often bigger than the offensive linemen blocking and the defensive linemen trying to tackle him. Brown was a freak, too fast for the defensive front seven and too strong for the defensive backfield. He won the rushing title in eight out of his nine NFL seasons and owned every rushing record that mattered when he ended his career.

3 – Peyton Manning
Manning holds a plethora of NFL records after a long career that saw him win two Super Bowl rings and cement his name as one of the premier players to ever lace up a pair of cleats.  His 71,940 passing yards, 539 touchdown passes, and 186 regular season wins are all NFL records. A five-time NFL MVP, Manning is the only starting quarterback to lead two different franchises (Indianapolis Colts & Denver Broncos) to Super Bowl wins. A 14 time Pro Bowler, Manning had legendary battles through the years with arch nemesis Tom Brady and his career numbers would have been even better had he played in an ear without a second dominant quarterback.

2 – Jerry Rice
An unheralded draft pick out of Mississippi Valley State in 1985, Rice fell to the middle of the first round because of a perceived lack of speed despite starring for the Delta Devils.  The rest of the NFL’s loss was the San Francisco 49ers gain as Rice forged incredible partnerships with quarterbacks Joe Montana and Steve Young. Rice was the king of the West Coast offense, with his sure hands and game speed allowing him to pick up yards after the catch at a rate never seen before. Rice finished his 20-year career with three Super Bowl rings, 197 touchdowns, and a mark of 22,985 yards receiving that will never be matched.

1 – Tom Brady
Brady may have made it to No. 1 on this list without his record sixth Super Bowl win last February. That sixth ring, though, seals the deal and makes Brady the best player in the history of the league before he has even retired.
A four-time Super Bowl MVP, Brady is always at his best in the biggest games. The 199th overall pick of the 2000 NFL Draft was the seventh quarterback off of the board behind names such as Tee Martin and Spergon Wynn. Brady is a 14 time Pro Bowler, a three-time league MVP, and has set a postseason record with 30 wins. He also is showing few signs of slowing down as he continues to play in the NFL into his 40s.

Gronk Leaves The NFL As One of The Best Ever TE

When Rob Gronkowski announced his retirement late last month, he did so as one of the premier players at his position in the history of the NFL.  When talking about the best tight ends of all time, Gronk has to be in the conversation.  At worst, he is in the top five to ever play the position. While at best, he makes a great argument to be the single most uncoverable tight end that has ever put on pads.

The pros for Gronkowski being one of the premier players at the tight end position start with his ability to perform in the clutch.  While Gronk may not have always put up the receiving numbers expected, especially later in his career, if Tom Brady needed a player to make a big play and break open a game he would invariably look for his giant tight end.

That ability to be clutch links into Gronkowski’s second greatest trait. Gronk, more so than perhaps any player ever, could be open even when he was covered (and sometimes double covered).  His combination of size, speed, and strength, didn’t so much make him a matchup nightmare as a complete matchup impossibility.  You would struggle to find a single game during his entire NFL career when Gronkowski wasn’t a threat to take over with a big play on any snap, no matter who was tasked with keeping him quiet.

Other premier players in their time period are worth comparing with Gronkowski.  Tony Gonzalez caught way more passes, mainly for the Kansas City Chiefs, but he played (and was at his peak) for a much longer period of time.  Kellen Winslow brought the tight end position out of the dark ages, turning it from a purely blocking position into a dual-threat to block or pass.

One of the Gronkowski’s most significant accomplishments is that at his peak he was just as good at blocking as passing.  Gonzalez was more of a pure pass catcher (the Chiefs employed Jason Dunn as a tight end for years for running downs), and Winslow is another who caught passes better than he blocked. Gronk, as athletically gifted as any player in the league, could do everything at a high level when healthy.

Health is about the only negative on Gronkowski’s record. Gronkowski, though always seemed to be able to push through the pain barrier in the biggest games, especially when the Patriots needed his skill the most.

It will be interesting to see what Gronkowski does in retirement.  As one of the premier players in the game, there are many routes open which he could choose.  In his first public appearance since retirement, Gronkowski was part of a team that made dreams come true for four Make-A-Wish kids, showing a side to him we didn’t often see as a player.  Gronk has an ideal personality for events like this, and it would be cool to see what he could do in terms of charitable and volunteer work to add another string to his bow after a remarkable professional football career.

Proper Nutrients Equals Peak Performance On & Off Field

We often look at premier players and other people that seem to have limitless energy with a sense of wonder. The way a LeBron James or a Patrick Mahomes is able to operate at peak performance over a season that stretches for months on end is nothing short of remarkable. One of the major reasons for this is that these players are in tune with what their bodies need, taking on just the right amounts of important nutrients to stay at their best.

We can learn a lot from these athletes in this regard. While we may not lead lives that depend on our athletic abilities and skills to earn a contract, we should all be looking to perform at the peak of our personal performance in our work and personal lives. Taking in proper nutrients on a daily basis is part of a much bigger overall picture to make sure that our lives are being led to their fullest.

There is literature all over the internet about which vitamins and nutrients are the most needed for performance and recovery. These are especially needed by people that are active in their lives, even if being active means church league softball or hiking as opposed to playing in the NBA Finals or fighting to take your team to the Super Bowl.

Optimal performance is also important in making decisions on a day to day basis. While the wear and tear of intense activity is going to cause levels of all nutrients in the body to drop faster than in those less active, everyone loses minerals through sweat and other aspects of daily living.

Think of this as an investment in your future. By making sure you are keeping your body balanced with calcium, iron, zinc, potassium, and more, your life will be happier in the long run. Standard improvements to health such as stronger bones and less tiredness in the mind and body will result in a better, and healthier, form of living.

The ability to retain important nutrients and minimize fatigue is particularly important. Nothing is worse as a fan than seeing your team fall apart in the fourth quarter because they are tired. There is a reason why Gatorade has become such a well-known business, such a big brand in American sport, and that is because it refuels players with the nutrients they need to mount a huge comeback or hold onto a lead late.

As a parent, an investor, a social athlete, a premier player or a common worker, that same principle applies to you. If you are dragging during the day at 4pm, it is more than likely because your body minerals aren’t in balance. Sure, a coffee is an easy fix, but by adding in more exercise and a better understanding of nutrition, it is amazing how quickly you feel like a newer, and younger, version of yourself.

Wildcats’ John Calipari Is Not Going Anywhere – Today

John Calipari of Kentucky is widely regarded as a premier coach in his sport. Calipari sits alongside perhaps on Coach K (Duke), Bill Self (Kansas) and Roy Williams (North Carolina) as coaches who can lead their blue blood schools and all the expectations that come along with being in charge of a program that simply HAS to be among the best in the country on a yearly basis.

It seems like it would be easy to argue that a college basketball blue blood should never fall from grace. These programs have built in advantages for recruiting and coaching with their combination of money, boosters, alumni groups, and tradition. It shouldn’t take a premier coach to keep them at the top.

That, though, is simply not true. Historically there are six programs (give or take) that would be granted blue blood status. Of those six, UCLA and Indiana (to a lesser extent) are heavily underperforming their status.

It is also hard to imagine a coach leaving one of those key job voluntarily. When you have one of the best jobs in your sport, one where you can hand pick whatever recruits you think you need to reach the Elite Eight (at a minimum) every year, you tend to keep it. After all, what could be better than cementing your coaching standing in the history of a blue blood?

How about the prospect of becoming a coaching legend at two of the premier institutions in the history of the sport?

Calipari is paid very, very well in Lexington. His total compensation of $9.2 million dollars for this season will only increase in the future as he hits specific escalators in his contract. Kentucky knows they have a premier coach and the powers that be at the school know that they have to pay to keep him in place.

What those powers that be cannot have expected, however, is legitimate interest from UCLA to return the Bruins to their glory days.

Calipari also might have been tempted by a change of scenery. After reaching the Final Four in 2011, 2012, 2014, and 2015, the Wildcats have now bowed out at some point during the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament for three straight years. While there is no danger that Calipari would have been under any type of job scrutiny at Kentucky, this is a trend that he will need to reverse quickly to justify his monster contract.

UCLA was offering something in the region of $48 million over six years for Coach Cal to jump to the West Coast. Sensing that their premier coach may be intrigued by the offer, Kentucky is set to offer Calipari a lifetime contract that will transition his role from coach to ambassador when the time is right.

The moral of this story is a simple one. Schools realize that coaches that can recruit, develop, and win don’t come around all that often. It also shows that Calipari, or his agent, is a shrewd businessman who knows how to turn rumored interest into the type of contract we would all dream to be on. Being a premier coach really does have its perks!

Our All-Time Top 25 Premier Players of Soccer & Why

Below is our list of the all-time Top 25 Premier Players of Soccer.  Who’s No. 1?  Some will disagree but we give a brief reason why he’s our No. 1 guy on this list. Counting down from No 25 is:

25.  Jimmy Greaves

Greaves is a hard one to place on a list like this because of his sheer lack of silverware at the top level of the game. The top goal scorer in Tottenham history with 266 goals, Greaves scored 357 goals in 516 matches during his career. He was supposed to be the player spearheading the line for England at the 1966 World Cup before injury in a group stage game took that opportunity away. Even so, Greaves was once described by Pele as the most naturally gifted player he had ever seen.

24.  Roberto Baggio

The divine ponytail is another player whose career is remembered more for one mistake than for his achievements. Baggio may have blasted the crucial penalty over the bar in the 1994 World Cup final against Brazil, but his legacy is so much more than that. A gifted dribbler and passer from attacking midfield, Baggio completely changed the role of midfielders, and creative players in general, in Italy. He opened the door for creative players to succeed in the national team and he won the Ballon d’Or in 1993.

23.  Thierry Henry

Henry is another player that had a hand in redefining how a position was played. When he arrived at Arsenal, playing as a striker in England was for big, powerful brutes. By the time he left the position it was one that managers were trying to fill with graceful artists on the ball. Henry had the ability to cut in off of the left wing and score into the far corner with amazing regularity. He was the key piece for Arsenal in their invincible season where they went the entire season without losing a game. Henry won two Premier Leagues, a Ligue 1 title, two La Liga crowns and the Champions League with Barcelona in 2009. Internationally, Henry won the World Cup in 1998 and the Euros in 2000.

22.  Roberto Carlos

Roberto Carlos is the greatest fullback in the history of the game. While he is mostly known for his free kicks, it’s worth noting he missed far more than he scored. It is his longevity at the top of the game in the professional era that is impressive. He made 500 appearances locking down the left wing-back spot for Los Blancos, winning four league titles and three Champions League trophies. Also, when his free kicks were good they were mind blowing with the best example being his outside of the foot effort against France at la Tournoi in 1997.

21.  Gerd Muller

Muller was a lethal goal scorer for West Germany in the 1970s. It was his goal that stole the 1974 World Cup from perhaps the best Dutch to ever play the game. Muller scored a stunning 68 goals in 62 appearances for West Germany to go along with almost 400 for Bayern Munich. He won the German Golden Boot on seven occasions out of the 11 years he played in the league along with topping the goal scoring rankings at the 1970 World Cup and at Euro 1972. Muller basically invented the ‘fox in the box’ style of striker, seemingly always being in the right place to poke the ball over the line.

20.  Paolo Maldini

Maldini is another Italian defender of astonishing ability. The son of a former club legend, the younger Maldini outstripped his father as he played for a quarter of a century in the famous red and black of AC Milan. Amazingly, Maldini was able to play internationally for almost as long as his club career. Making his debut in 1986, Maldini last played for Italy in 2002. Along the way he picked up seven Serie A titles and five Champions Leagues trophies with the Rossoneri.

19.  Bobby Charlton

Charlton was a driving force behind the Manchester United and England sides of the 1960s and he remains a legendary figure within the game to this day. Charlton was a rampaging midfielder who could always be counted on to drive his team forward and get them on the front foot when needed. After almost dying in the Munich air disaster, Charlton collected the 1966 World Cup Trophy in the same year he was announced as the European Footballer of the Year and the tournament’s Golden Ball winner.

18.  Lothar Matthaus

Matthaus started his career as an attacking midfielder playing with pace and skill as he pushed Germany forwards. Over the course of five World Cups, in which he played a record 25 games, Matthaus gracefully slid down the pitch until he was playing as the best sweeper in the world. He captained his side to the 1990 World Cup, being named World Footballer of the Year at a position so technically different from the one he started playing in that the achievement is remarkable.

17.  Franco Baresi

In the 1980s and early 90s the Italian league was unquestionably the best league in the world. It was where all the best foreign talent played and it was where Italian defenders of incomparable aggression and talent plied their trade. Baresi only knew one way to play the game. He was tough, powerful, aggressive, and ruthless. He wore the AC Milan shirt for 20 seasons, winning the league title six times, the European Cup three times, and the UEFA Super Cup twice. He also was handed the captaincy of his country at the age of just 22 due to his outstanding physical and mental attributes.

16.  Garrincha

Garrincha was a player who was never meant to be as good as he became. Declared a cripple at birth it is hard to believe that the winger would, for a time, be considered the equal of Pele. His disability meant that Garrincha had to play with a unique bow legged style that defenders simply could never seem to figure out. He had an uncanny ability to glide past players before delivering perfect crosses into the box as he played as a pure winger who just wanted to beat his man every time he touched the ball. Garrincha was simply a joy to watch at a time when soccer could be tedious viewing.

15.  Bobby Moore

Booby Moore is still the only player to captain England to a World Cup win. One of the greatest defenders in the history of the game, Moore had an innate ability to know exactly what was going to happen and was always in the right place at the right time to stop an attack. The captain of his country at 22, Moore played 108 times for England and was so valuable that he played every minute of every one of those games. Pele once called him the greatest defender ever, which Scottish manager Jock Stein called for a law against Moore playing because ‘He knows what’s happening 20 minutes before anyone else.”

14.  George Best

Best only played at the top of the game for around six years but what glorious and skillful years they were. Winning a pair of league titles and a European Cup with Manchester United, Best was a tricky and skillful Northern Irish winger who could get a crowd on their feet with his electric dribbling and control of the ball. He was a strong player, one with fast twitch muscles allowing him to do anything he wanted on the pitch. Off the pitch, however, he lived too hard and he flamed out of the game quicker than he should have given his immeasurable talent.

13.  Ferenc Puskas

One of the greatest strikers to ever play the game, the legendary Puskas averaged almost a goal a game for his career at both club and international level. He was the key member of the Hungarian national team in the 1950s that was known as the Mighty Magyars, a team that only lost one game in six years between 1950 and 1956 and that is considered the greatest international team to ever play the game. After moving to Real Madrid, Puskas was the top scorer in La Liga four times and won 10 league titles across his time in Hungary and Spain.

12.  Eusebio

Before Cristiano Ronaldo there was Eusebio. The Black Panther was a prolific scorer and attacking threat, scoring nine goals at the 1966 World Cup in England. Averaging more than a goal a game (320 goals in 312 appearences) when playing for Benfica at the peak of his career, Eusebio had devastating pace at a time where speed in the game was uncommon. When this was combined with his ability to beat a defender on the dribble it is easy to see why he scored so many goals against terrified defenses.

11.  Marco van Basten

The Dutch striker is another who could have been higher on this list had injuries not all but ended his playing days at the tender age of 28. The scorer of one of the most famous goals of all time, a wildly crazy volley against the Soviet Union at Euro 1988, van Basten was part of a Dutch side that oozed class. Winning everything in the Netherlands while at Ajax, including leading the scoring charts on four consecutive occasions, van Basten moved to Italy and won three Serie A titles, two European Cups, and three Ball d’Ors before injuries forced him out of the game.

10.  Zinedine Zidane

A three-time FIFA World Player of the year winner, it is hard to shake the image of Zidane blasting Italian Marco Materazzi with a headbutt in the 2006 World Cup final from your mind. Getting past that legendary moment of hotheadedness, however, it is easy to see why Zidane is regarded as one of the greatest to ever lace up his cleats. The winner of a pair of Serie A titles with Juventus, Zidane was also successful at Real Madrid and on the international stage with France where he won the 1998 World Cup and the 2000 European Championship.

9.  Michel Platini

A player who tends to get overlooked on these lists, Platini was a midfielder for France in the 1980s who could do it all. Winning three consecutive Ballon d’Ors while leading first Saint-Etienne and then Juventus to league titles, Platini was famous for his first touch and composure on the ball. Playing for a French team that historically underperformed in major tournaments, Platini scored nine goals in five games from midfield at the 1984 European Championships to almost win that title.

8.  Alfredo Di Stefano

There are fewer and fewer people alive to talk about the early days of Di Stefano’s career which began back in the mid-1940s. Di Stefano was the first Real Madrid player to define what the team was about, bringing an Argentine flair to the Spanish league the likes of which had never been seen. Di Stefano, a rampaging attacker full of goals, played international soccer for three different countries. His most notable achievement is scoring in five consecutive European Cup finals as Real Madrid won the trophy an astonishing five years in a row.

7.  Franz Beckenbauer

The midfielder known as “Der Kaiser” was the first man to both captain and manage his nation to World Cup title wins. Winning five Bundesliga titles with Bayern Munich in his native Germany, Beckenbauer created his own position on the team in a role that had never been seen before. A tall, strong figure, Beckenbauer would routinely pick the ball up at the back and drive forward to start attacks as sort of an attacking sweeper. It is a role we see used by every major team in the game today, some 40 years after it was pioneered in Germany.

6.  Johan Cruyff

Cruyff invented the brand of total football in the 1970s that we see at every level of the game today. That “tiki-taka” passing style that is based on possession and movement to wear down a team and probe for openings was developed by Cruyff (and Rinus Michels) with Cruyff being the advocate on the pitch with his technical style. Cruyff won three Ballon d’Ors between 1971 and 1974 and he made one style turn on the ball so famous that it is now named after him. Eight Eredivise and three European Cups in a row with Ajax show that “Pythagoras in Boots” was a genius.

5.  Ronaldo

Ronaldo is a player that could have topped this list had his career not been destroyed by injury when he was supposed to be in his prime. R9 was a complete player, one who was deadly with either foot and who had a finishing ability the likes of which has never been seen before or since. He is the youngest player to ever win the FIFA World Player of the Year award when he picked up the honor at the age of 20. Ronaldo scored 247 goals in 343 appearances at club level and he is cemented in as the best pure goal scorer of all time.

4.  Diego Maradona

Maradona was the first real challenger to the crown of Pele and some will argue that the diminutive Argentine is actually the greatest to ever play the game. A playmaker of unmatched skill, Maradona had a short stature that led him to play with a balance and skillset that at times seemed to be inhuman in its effectiveness. Leading unfashionable Napoli to a pair of Italian league titles, Maradona also led Argentina to the 1986 World Cup, scoring perhaps the greatest goal the game has ever seen against England in the process. Controversy cut his career short, but this was a flame that burned bright at its peak.

3.  Pele

Pele was heralded as the greatest player in the history of the game before this new crop of players came through to usurp the king from his throne. Playing in a different era, one where defenders were basically allowed to get away with murder to stop an attack, Pele was still able to stand out with his mix of skill and athleticism. Winning the World Cup as just a 17-year-old in 1958, Pele was the hero of the 1970 World Cup as Brazil won their third title in four attempts. His 1,283 career goal total is mind blowing (though many came in semi-formal and exhibition games).

2.  Lionel Messi

The all-time leading scorer in the history of the Spanish La Liga, Lionel Messi has been a phenom since birth. The winner of five Ballon d’Or trophies while building Barcelona into a dynasty, Messi has a level of ball control and vision that is unmatched in history. What knocks the little Argentine down from No. 1 on this list is that he just hasn’t been able to inspire his country to the same level that he has taken the Catalan giants. That being said, his record of 91 goals in a single calendar year may never be beaten.

1.  Cristiano Ronaldo

The debate between Ronaldo and Lionel Messi will continue for generations but it is the Portuguese star who is No. 1 on this list. Ronaldo has been successful in three of the toughest leagues in the world, morphing from the creative young genius at Manchester United to a goal-scoring machine at Real Madrid and Juventus. He is the ultimate big game player, a force of nature who can will a team to a victory with no help, as he did when he led an underpowered Portugal team to the 2016 European Championship title.

AAF Sudden Suspension Puts Debut XFL In Spotlight

As the Alliance of American Football suspended operations eight games into its 10 game inaugural season there was a feeling that we had seen this all before. While the sports management company behind the league had decided to cut ties and give up like so many before it, there is still a feeling that there is an appetite for more football in this country.

The list of failed league attempts at this point is long and not particularly distinguished. The World Football league, the US Football League, the XFL (version one), the Stars Football League, and many, many more have all sprung up before falling apart after varying degrees of success.

It is easy to see why a sports management company would want to present, develop, and promote the next great football league. The NFL, and college football for that matter, run such short seasons in relation to the other major American sports that there seems to be a huge hole in the market. Plus, football is still big business at the top level.

The problems for these leagues have never been the same. Some don’t have enough funding. Others seem to have the funding but no TV deal. Others had little of anything to offer. The AAF seemed to be heading in the right direction with its solid TV deal, innovative app, and fun rules. It even had good, and steady, TV ratings. It just had an owner who got scared and pulled the plug way too early.

So, is there a sports management company out there that has the financial backing, the contacts, and an owner who has the fortitude to make his league work against all odds?

Yes, yes, and 100% yes.

Vince McMahon has failed at this before. His first attempt at running a football league was the original XFL. While it had some innovations that made it to the NFL after the league collapsed, specifically certain camera angles and set ups, the league was doomed from the start as being too gimmicky in nature for a football fan and not interesting enough for a wrestling fan.

In 2020, Vince is going to try again. Having seen what he has been able to do with the WWE, turning it into a global monster that has made him a legitimate billionaire, only a fool would dismiss the chances of the league gaining some degree of success, however modest that is compared to the NFL.

The XFL is going to be well funded and well organized. It will also be a league where players not eligible for the NFL because of the three year high school graduation rule will be able to get paid professional money to play the game. This is a league that has learned from earlier mistakes, both its own and that of others, and that can hopefully bring a new dynamic to the spring sporting landscape.

These are all positives from a sports management standpoint that will put the league in a good place when play begins in February 2020.

Top 10 Ways to Prepare for A Baseball Game

For most players, baseball courses are through their veins. It’s more than a game – baseball is a way of life. This statement rings true for all players, from the premier players of the big leagues to the little leaguers down the street. Preparation is an integral part of the game, both before you arrive at the field and after, and we’ll cover the top 10 ways to prepare for the game and how to get better at baseball.

The Top 10 ways to prepare for a baseball game can be divided into three categories: What you can do before you get to the ballpark, mental preparation, and physical preparation.

Before You Arrive at The Field

1. If you don’t stay hydrated, the summer heat can zap your strength and slow you down. You must know what to do before a Baseball Game.

2. The same rings true for your diet, if you eat meals that are too rich- it can bog you down. Make it a game-day routine to find your superfood. Nobody wants to be thrown out or thrown up on a steal attempt.

Mental preparation

As the great Yogi Berra once said, “The baseball game is ninety percent mental, the other half is physical.” But how to mentally prepare for a baseball game?

3. The best way to prepare mentally is to study the scouting report on your opponents if one is available. That way you can figure out what type of pitcher you’ll be facing if he’s a righty or lefty and if he’s a junk ball or power pitcher. That would help you immensely in making a baseball game plan at the plate.

A scouting report can also help you with your defensive baseball game plan. Find out which of their players hit for power, and contact, if they’re a pull hitter, or if they can go opposite field. A spray chart can help you with that information, but you’ll only see those at the college or professional levels. If you’re playing American Legion, Babe Ruth, Little League, or High School Baseball Game, you can generally get this information from friends playing on other teams that have faced your opponents.

4. Another way to prepare mentally is to arrive at the park early. Put away everything else and focus on the upcoming baseball game- it’s amazing what being in the right state of mind can do.

Physical preparation

5. Before anything, you need to stretch, getting your muscles loosened up is necessary. With all the torque and strain you can put on your body while throwing, or in the batter’s box, you need to be ready.

6. Run. After stretching, you could do a few ninety-foot sprints, or do a foul pole jog, which would help get your blood flowing, and your adrenaline pumping.

7. Warm up the arm – play some catch. Many players, even premier players, recommend that you warm up with progression throws, starting with your wrist, then elbow, then full shoulder motion throws, then finally into the crow-hop and throwing motion. Proper progression while warming up can reduce the risk of injury or strain.

8. Step up to the plate and get some batting practice in, get dialed in, and work on your mechanics before the game. With batting practice, it’s great to have a routine. With a routine you can work on situational hitting: practice hitting ground balls to advance runners or for hit-and-run situations, even scoring a runner from third with less than two outs. If you’re struggling at turning pitches inside-out, work on that, try to take some pitches to the opposite field.

9. Let’s not forget about fielding practice – you can do a lot to prepare for a baseball game by just taking a few grounders to feel out your range to the right or left if you’re playing at an infield position. Make it a routine; range to the left a few times, then to the right, then work on charging and bare hand if you’re playing third base. You can do the same thing if you play outfield, practice reading pop flies and line drives.

10. Creating a routine that can cover all of these ways to prepare for a baseball game is imperative. If you can create the proper routine and adhere to it, your body will recognize the pattern, be prepared and get ready to run in baseball. Having a good routine is the most important way to prepare for the game of baseball, it can propel you into the premier league in the world – Major League Baseball.

Are you ready for some baseball?

Story by Michael Milliken