Post-NBA All Star Game Dojo Spar

Greg to Joe

So the NBA All-Star Game just happened… I didn’t watch. I prefer Saturday’s festivities, personally. I know that the Dunk Contest usually is quite boring, but I always have to watch. I watch so I don’t miss out on a never-before-seen dunk. I had also bet on that event, along with the 3-Point Contest. I had bet on Ben McLemore in the Dunk Contest. Unfortunately, McLemore had to “Battle” against John Wall, who had the best dunk of the night. I, also, did not like the format at all. It was a lot stupider than they led it on to be, and I was left feeling like there was no real winner. Bradley Beal had a valiant effort, but fell short to Marco Belinelli; meaning my bet fell just short.

(And you always have to Celly)

With the NFL season ending two weeks ago, I was able to think about this season as a whole. First of all, the Seahawks were the best team and deserved to win the Super Bowl. They were the best team all year and deserved the title. That is the first time that has happened in a long time. I can’t even think of the last time that happened. It may have been when the Steelers beat the Cardinals in 2009, I think.

I also have some thoughts about some sleepers for next year. Do you have any thoughts about that?

Joe to Greg

I actually listened to the first quarter of the NBA All-Star Game on the radio on my drive up to school. By the end of the quarter the announcers ran out of way to describe the dunks that Blake Griffin was doing. I’m with you though; I prefer Saturday’s festivities more, but I’d have to say I was disappointed. The format was too lackadaisical. The first round was an awkward 90 seconds, and the battle stage wasn’t really as exciting as I was expecting. Props to John Wall on his dunk, I was impressed with that and Damian Lillard‘s between the legs dunk.

I looked back to our past Dojo Spars and we both predicted 4 of the 6 NFC playoff teams in July. I didn’t get a chance to look at the AFC side but there is no question that the Seahawks were the best team this year. The only real concern I had for this team was playing outside of Seattle, and they handled that fairly well, I’d say. As far as sleepers for next year, you’re going to have to give me one more E-mail because I haven’t put much thought into it. I will say that I think some of the players coming out of the NFL Draft have the chance to immediately make an impact on some teams.

Greg to Joe

The NFL Draft is always fun. I can’t wait to see what happens at the combine. I don’t watch, but I like to see the crazy stats that come out of it. Apparently, Jadeveon Clowney said he is going to break a 4.4 40 yard time. That would be INSANE for a man his side. It is also fun to see the crazy changes in mock draft boards after the combine.

Rookies that will make an impact right away, I think, are Clowney, Sammy Watkins, and Mike Evans (You know what? That list really makes me wonder what I am doing with my life because they are all younger than me). I can’t say much about the offensive linemen, but they could be impactful as well. My reasoning for these three are Clowney is just a freak. If he wants to, he can dominate a game. He could end up being on the same D-line as JJ Watt, which would just be scary for all of the QBs in the AFC South and, quite frankly, the NFL as a whole. Watkins will improve any NFL offense he joins. He can stretch the field, but he is also big and can jump. Yet, he is also larger than most CBs in the league. Evans is a Wes Welker-type receiver, and it is not because he is white. He is a great possession receiver that can catch anything over the middle. He will do great as a slot receiver on any team (hopefully the Ravens).

My deep sleeper team for next year has to be the Browns. They have a great defense. If they can keep Alex Mack for their center position, draft one of three top quarterbacks in the draft, and get a receiver at the back end of the first round, they could be deadly. I mean they are the most dysfunctional franchise in the history of the NFL so this probably won’t happen.

My sleeper team for 2015 is the St. Louis Rams. They are in the toughest division in the NFL, but they are really talented. If they could dump Sam Bradford and draft a top QB and grab a lineman or receiver, they could have the offense to compete in the NFC West.

Joe to Greg

I think the Browns have a very good defense. They played extremely well in a game they should have won against the Patriots this season. One of my other predictions is that the 49ers are going to win the NFC West. I don’t think this is too far out of the question, or on the level of a dark horse like the Browns, but I think that they came so close to edging the Seahawks in the NFC Championship game. The 49ers have the team capable of dethroning the defending Super Bowl Champs. That division is only getting better as Arizona looks to improve on a strong finish to their season.

Another team I’m looking for next season is the Chargers. I think Phillip Rivers put together one of the best seasons of his career. He threw for close to 4,500 yards (4,478 is the actual number) and also had his highest completion percentage of his career (69.5 – compare to 64.1 last year). How the Chargers contend with the Broncos and Chiefs will be interesting. Will we see 3 teams from this division go to the playoffs? Is that possible? Who knows.

How do you feel about the O’s picking up Ubaldo Jimenez?

Greg to Joe

If 3 teams from the AFC West go to the playoffs again, I would not be surprised, but I think it will probably be different. I bet the Dolphins make the playoffs this next year. Tannehill is too good, and they will have finally gotten their Bully-Gate behind them.

But enough about football… IT’S BASEBALL SEASON

I am loving what the Orioles are doing. They are paying Ubaldo Jimenez a lot, but it should be worth it because, sadly, he is better than most of their pitching rotation. They also got a STEAL in Nelson Cruz. They get potentially 25-30 homers from him, if he can stay healthy. With the price only being 8 million dollars, that is awesome. I think they shouldn’t stop though. They need to pick up Ervin Santana and accept that they won’t have a draft pick until the 4th or 5th round in the upcoming draft. If they get Santana, the Blue Jays do not get him and he improves the O’s rotation. I am excited for this season and to see what happens with Ervin Santana.

Boston Red Sox starting lineup in Game 1 of the 2013 ALCS (Photo Cred: Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Boston Red Sox starting lineup in Game 1 of the 2013 ALCS (Photo Cred: Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

You like what the Sox have/haven’t done this off-season and are you excited them for to try and defend their title?

Joe to Greg

Coming into the season I’m extremely excited to see Xander Bogaerts play. That being said, I wasn’t expecting Ryan Dempster to leave. He was a great starter during the season, and I thought he’d stay for at least one more year. I like the addition of Edward Mujica, formerly of the St. Louis Cardinals, as well. I think he strengthens their bullpen going forward.

I think that Cruz addition is great for the Orioles. That just helps their line up out even more. I also agree that the O’s need to keep going. The Yankees have made a splash this off season, the Rays have a great rotation coming in, and the Sox have made a few additions. Its gearing up to be another competitive AL East. I love it.

Greg Danchik and Joe Meola

King of the Hammers

So if you didn’t know, I spent February 5th-8th in the desert all the way in Johnson Valley, California. Now, I will tell you that story.

It all starts on February 4th around 12:30. Actually, it started in December 2013. Heather told me that Eric, her dad, wanted to take us to the desert to watch him race. She didn’t really have to tell me what it was for. Once I found out I would be missing 3 days of classes, I was all in. Fast forward to February 4th around 12:30.

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

I was rushing to finish a homework so that I could get to New York tonight and fly to California in next morning. Then Heather called me telling me the flight from Laguardia to Ontario, California was cancelled.

I was very split about this. Basically, I didn’t want to leave because I was fearful of all the school I was going to miss, and I didn’t know if I really wanted to go out to the desert for 3 days. However, part of me wanted to go out and get a break from school and find out what the huge race called the King of the Hammers was all about.

After an hour phone call with American Airlines, we found a flight out of DC at 7 am on the 5th. My parents got us a hotel room, and we realized that we were going to take most of the 5th to get out to the middle of the desert in Johnson Valley, California.

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

We got to the desert around 3:30 in the afternoon, and found the most unbelievable scene, Hammer Town. You get into the middle of no-where, but  instead of just desert, there is a makeshift town built, a town that was almost completely gone by the night of the 8th. In the town there was a giant jumbotron showing video of everything happening across the desert, and on race days, the 6th and 7th, it showed live footage from some of the toughest rock climbs on the course. It was one of the more incredible things to see.

Panarama 1 Panarama 2We climbed on top of one of the trailers of the pit crews to watch qualifying for the big King of the Hammers race on Friday. Eric had already qualified the day before, and he would be starting 3rd in his class of 6, only behind a two-time champion of the King of the Hammers and a professional driver from England. There were about 60-80 cars that raced on Thursday divided into 5 classes. After taking these panaramas, I crashed. I passed out for an hour and a half. Once we woke up, Heather and I got out of trailer and found Eric waiting in line for his inspection. He passed inspection and went onto the stage. To be perfectly honest, Heather and I expected a shoutout from this interview, but that would come in time. It was a good interview, no mistakes or slip-ups. The car was driven off the stage, we all got dinner, and went to bed.

WednesdayInterview

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

It all started with Heather waking up Eric at 6. It wasn’t late or anything, but he was fast asleep and the alarm was not going to work. Eric woke up completely started. It was actually pretty funny. Luckily, there was no reason to be startled. He got ready, and we rested until 7:30. We got ready and got out to the start/finish line right before the race started at 8. Around 8:20 am, we saw Eric and his co-driver Rob take off.

Eric’s race was 2 laps, and they had a 10-hour time limit. It encompassed desert racing and rock climbs. The cars could be going 100 mph at one point, and 30 mins later, they could be stuck climbing rocks. Keep in mind, Eric isn’t a pro-racer. He is a banker from New York that was living an absolute dream.

Over the next two hours-ish, we got coffees from one of the vendors and made lunch in the RV. We got out to Eric’s pit stop just before he arrived around 9:45. We saw his co-driver pull in (his co-driver drove for the 2nd half of the 1st lap), and they had a sweet driver change. Then Eric took off on his second lap. This was the lap that was the toughest and longest because of the big rock climbs.

Heather and I had a decision to make now, do we walk or drive to Chocolate Thunder? It was the toughest rock climb that was visible to the spectators and was about a two mile distance from Hammer Town. Eventually, we decided to walk.

What an experience…

You can't really see the spec of white from this. If you see me around, ask to see it on my phone or zoom in a lot.

You can’t really see the spec of white from this. If you see me around, ask to see it on my phone or zoom in a lot.

Imagine looking to your left and right and seeing nothing but sand. We also had to wear our lab goggles so that we would keep our eyes open. It was a struggle, but we made it, and we got to look back to where we came from. See that small spec of white in the top right, that was the outskirts of Hammer Town. We also made it with perfect timing. We got to see the first car of the day come through Chocolate Thunder. However, we waited about an hour and a half until we got to see the best climb of the day. I apologize for my potty mouth.

As I say in the video, he flew up that climb. He was faster than anyone in his class. Before Eric came up, there were cars stuck, and huge traffic jams of cars taking it slow. Eric dominated that climb unlike anyone we saw.

Heather and I decided to leave when we saw a car parked behind spectators start to fall down the mountain slowly, and people were running away from it. We felt it was the best decision for our well-beings.

We managed to get a ride back in the back of a pickup truck. It was something that I got to cross of fmy bucket list that I never thought was on my bucket list.

Ride in the back of a pickup through the desert

We got back to Hammer Town and we suspected that we would be waiting awhile for Eric. He was hoping to finish in 8 hours, so we were just assuming that would be the time he would show up at. Turns out, we saw him crossing the side of the mountain a little over 6 hours after he started. This was within 25 minutes of the first finisher in his class. Here is the video of him crossing the finish line, courtesy of Heather because my phone died in the middle of filming this.

It took one moment for me to realize how passionate everyone at this race was about off road racing. Once Eric crossed the finish line, he was 4th. He hadn’t made the podium. Yet, there was this emotion that poured out of him. He had only finished, but he had lived his dream and done something incredibly dangerous and come back in perfect condition. I can’t imagine the happiness he felt then, but all I can say is it was one unbelievable spectacle and I am so happy that I got to watch it.

Oh yeah, Eric ended up finishing 3rd. The guy who finished first, skipped the rock climb that you saw in the video. He made the podium. That was a great bonus on top of a great week of living in the desert.

Thank you to Eric for flying us out to California to watch him race, and then driving us over halfway to my house to get my car. Also, thanks to my parents for paying for our hotel room in DC. Thanks to my dad for picking up my car, and my mom for meeting Eric on the New Jersey turnpike.

Finally, I just want to say that my words, pictures and videos do not do it justice. It is way too hard to describe. I can’t possibly describe how great of a time I had and how incredible the races were. I really want to go again, and I want to learn about cars. I barely know anything about cars but this trip made me want to know as much as I can and more. If you are a sports fan, or a car guy, you have to go out there at least once. It is unbelievable, and you will not regret it for one second.

PS: Here is a bad ass clip that I got to see live from the King of the Hammers on Friday and some of my pictures from Friday.

Backdoor is the toughest trail on the course. That climb is taller than me, and cars have to go up it.

Backdoor is the toughest trail on the course. That climb is taller than me, and cars have to go up it.

Two cars are flipped at Backdoor causing a SLIGHT traffic jam.

Two cars are flipped at Backdoor causing a SLIGHT traffic jam.

Tom Wayes basically decided that the normal laws of physics do not apply to him, so he did this. 

Greg Danchik

Dojo’s Take on Championships

LeBron James and the Miami Heat celebrating after defeating the Oklahoma City Thunder. (Photo Cred: Don Emmert/AFP/GettyImages)

LeBron James and the Miami Heat celebrating after defeating the Oklahoma City Thunder. (Photo Cred: Don Emmert/AFP/GettyImages)

How much does winning a championship matter? Can it propel you from being a top 5 player in your sport to being the greatest of all time? How much should it really matter in determining someone’s greatness? I would say that it depends on the sport.

In baseball, a World Series Championship is nice to have when being looked at when getting into the Hall of Fame, but most of the focus is on whether or not they think you took PEDs, their likability as a person, and then they look at statistics (I am clearly over the Hall of Fame voting fiasco). The reason a World Series title isn’t vital when discussing greatness is baseball is a team sport where one player can’t really change the entire outlook of a team.

In basketball, I think it is all that people look at, and as I have said before, I think that is stupid. While basketball is a sport that can be drastically altered by one person, it is still a very team based sport. One player can’t defend or beat 5 other players. I don’t care if you put together the talents of LeBron, Kobe, Michael Jordan, Oscar Robertson, and Magic Johnson into Shaq‘s body; you aren’t going to win 1 on 5. That’s why I think LeBron is the best player I have ever seen play basketball even though a lot of people say MJ because of the 6 titles. *Full Disclosure: I wasn’t old enough to see MJ. I only see highlights that glorify him as a player. That’s a reminder to everyone my age who says MJ is the greatest basketball player of all time.* It has little to do with championships, but it is not the most important thing.

Peyton Manning chucking the football all over the field Sunday Night in 2012 (Photo Cred: David Zalubowski/AP)

Peyton Manning chucking the football all over the field Sunday Night in 2012 (Photo Cred: David Zalubowski/AP)

In the NFL, it doesn’t matter for 21 guys on the field. It does matter for quarterbacks. Again, I think there is way too much emphasis on it, but it’s just the way it is. That’s why Dan Marino doesn’t get as much love as he should. The quarterback has the more control over a sports game than any other position in any sport. He dictates the actions of the whole offense. While he needs to be protected, he can help the protection protect him (Yes, I know that sounds weird). Anyway, this brings me to my point that Peyton Manning‘s legacy as a big talking point this week. I think it shouldn’t be. This one game shouldn’t change anything. In a lot of people’s eyes, Manning will jump to the greatest of all time if he wins this game. In my eyes, his legacy is set in stone as this… He is the greatest quarterback of all time in controlled environment, but wouldn’t be considered that great if he played in New England his whole career.

Greg Danchik