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An Ode to Defense

In Keep Updated on June 16, 2013 at 6:59 am

By Chris Hallenbrook

With the Stanley Cup Finals getting underway in Chicago, it seems like a good time to discuss what it is that wins championships. In all four major sports that (pitching and) defense win championships is such a truism that it has become clichéd. And yet, in all four leagues, fans seem to prefer offense, and the rules are being changed to give the people what they want. In baseball, they say that chicks dig the long ball (and Selig turned a blind eye to steroids because fans of both genders flocked to the power displays), the NFL has become an outdoor version of arena football, basketball caved in to those who love offense decades ago when they invented the three ball, and in hockey the 2005 season saw shrunk goalie equipment to facilitate more scoring and thereby boost TV ratings. The people have clearly spoken, and they love offense. Thus, the odds say that you, whoever you are dear reader, will think I’m crazy when I say: I love defense!!!

Seriously, I love defense. I love seeing a great pitching duel is baseball. A lot of people complain there is no action in them, but to me watching two pitchers dominate hitters is amazing, especially as they each know one mistake will be the game because the other guy is lights out. Great pitching beats great hitting, and it is beautiful to watch guys with nasty stuff make the sluggers look silly. Sure, I grew up in the steroids era, but the memories that stand out most are not the bombs Big Mac, Slammin’ Sammy and Company launched. It’s Pedro’s historic dominance in 1999, Nomar Garciparra going deep in the hole at short and making it look easy over and over again, Trot Nixon crashing into walls and coming away with the ball.

In football and basketball, no one ever doubts that defense wins championships. It isn’t sexy, especially in basketball, but watching one’s team manhandle the other team’s superstar scorers is amazing. Now there are flashy defensive plays like the pick six or the epic blocked shot. But just as beautiful to me is the goal line stand, the tackle for loss, the nose tackle stuffing the run as if he knew the play before it was called. When the Celtics won the title in 2008, the way they played on offense was great, but it was the shutdown D, Perkins neutralizing Dwight Howard and the like, that was truly a joy to watch.

Last but not least there is hockey. Let’s just look at the Eastern Conference Finals. The Penguins were the highest scoring team in the regular season and were historically prolific in the playoffs. But then you have Jaromir Jagr putting Crosby on the ice and probably saying, “son, I have aches that are older than you,” and Gregory Campbell redefining “taking one for the team” when he broke this leg blocking a shot. How can you not love the toughness and dedication of guys who go to the ice to block pucks with their bodies before they can get to the goalie? There was a truly sensational series in the final minute of Game 4 where a Bruin was on the ice in the shooting lane, and a teammate who has between him and the net dove over him to get at the puck him as if throwing himself on a grenade. It doesn’t matter what sport it is, defense is where it’s at.

So call me a relic, call me what’cha will; say I’m old fashioned, say I’m over the hill, but while you tune in to watch the superstars run up the score, my heart lies with the defense trying to stop them.


Signs of the Sports Apocalypse

In Keep Updated on May 30, 2013 at 6:56 pm

By Chris Hallenbrook 

As you may have noticed, I’ve been on a bit of a break from blogging lately; my dissertation on Thomas Hobbes has been using up all my writing energies lately, and while the last thing this world needs is another book on Hobbes, I’m determined to give it one! Anyway, turning our attention back to the sports world, now that 2012 has come and gone, we have been saved from yet another round of “the world is ending this year” nonsense. But just as we thought we were safe, in 2013 the sports world is giving us plenty of reason to believe that the sports apocalypse may be nearing. Let’s review.

–          Joe Flacco is the highest paid quarterback in the NFL

–          Bill Belichick drafted for needs clamored for by the media and fans for the second year in a row

–          A punter being cut was newsworthy (Chris Kluwe)

–          California had more teams make the second round of the NHL playoffs than Canada did

–          The Arizona Diamondbacks are in first place (and have a legitimate MVP candidate)

–          Did I mention that Joe Flacco is making more money than Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, and both Manning brothers

–          For once the NBA didn’t simply accept the highest bidder regardless of the consequences

–          Major League Soccer is bordering on relevance

–          The New York Yankees are letting the luxury tax factor into their decision-making process

–          Canada’s Stanley Cup drought has reached 20 years

–          Three players feature in the classic video game NHL 94 are still active

–          Both the Los Angeles Clippers and the Golden State Warriors won playoff series, and outlasted the Los Angeles Lakers

–          Stephen A Smith said something intelligent (just kidding!)

–          The Mississippi State softball team scored two runs on a dropped third strike when the other team jogged off the field and the batter circled the bases

–          The University of California, Davis intramural softball leagues force all batters to start with a 1-1 count

–          After recent lockouts in the NFL, NBA and NHL, MLB has become the model of labor peace

–          I rooted for Nicky Satan Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide in the BCS Title Game (as a Boston College fan, it is my sacred duty to root against Notre Dame)

–          Nick Saban’s reaction to all these Satan jokes indicated he might actually have human emotions after all

–          I was given the opportunity to write for a sports blog

–          The Phoenix Coyotes still exist

It’s Not The End Of The World

In Keep Updated on December 21, 2012 at 4:25 pm

In case you didn’t notice, has been a little absent this week. I was hoping we could keep up with our normal amount of articles until Christmas, but between holiday shopping, graduations, flus and colds, family visits, and long days of holiday travel, we’ve all been totally MIA.

Were the Mayans right, and the end of the world has prevent us from posting any new articles this week? Naw, we've just been super busy with the holidays!

Were the Mayans right, and the end of the world has prevent us from posting any new articles this week? Naw, we’ve just been super busy with the holidays!

It’s my fault, really. I thought the three of us could handle this week, but I should have been more realistic. For those of you eagerly and patiently waiting everyday for a new article, I apologize. We have failed you. I have failed you.

So here’s what I’m doing. I am announcing today that as of last Tuesday, Chris, Jeff and myself are pouring some egg nog, wrapping presents, wiping our runny noses, and taking off until the New Year for a well deserved vacation. Respectively, of course. We don’t all hang out and stuff.

Either way, don’t worry, because after the first of the year (or maybe even before then), we’ll be back with more articles, and maybe even a new writer or two.

Until then, happy holidays.

J, J, and C

Happy Thanksgiving!

In Keep Updated on November 22, 2012 at 10:17 am

Gobble gobble gobble!

Hope you all have a Happy Thanksgiving! Now go out there and over eat, and watch some football.

Gone Fishing

In Keep Updated on October 17, 2012 at 6:47 am


“Gone Fishing” isn’t a clever pun on some current sports topic. I literally went fishing today. Up before sunrise and all that. By the time I get back (late) I will be so tired everything I write will be blah blah blah, the LiveStrong Foundation won’t be as strong without Lance Armstrong as the head of the organization, blah blah blah, the Cardinals and Giants and Tigers oh my, blah blah blah.

As if it wasn’t already like that, you know?

I will try to make up the article this week.

Until then. Is On Vacation!

In Keep Updated on September 10, 2012 at 9:37 am

Again, still not what I’m doing.

The last time I took some time off, it was to work fourteen hours a day on my thesis. This time I’m taking time off just to take some time off.

New articles will be back up next Monday.

Until then. Is On Vacation

In Keep Updated on August 3, 2012 at 12:01 pm

This is absolutely not what I’m doing. will be going on a brief hiatus from August 3rd through 15th so I can finish my thesis (no beach, just a lot of writing and rewriting). More great articles will come again on Friday, August 17th.

Until then, peruse the archives for articles you haven’t read yet, and thanks for the support.

Until the 17th.

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