The Toronto What?

This week saw the intersection of two of my favorite things- Jeopardy! and sports.

The Internet was in an uproar this week after a Jeopardy! contestant risked all of her money and lost under the final category “sports mascots.”

Here’s a look at the clue.

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According to numerous tweets and online posts on the subject, the answer is obviously the Toronto Raptors. Unfortunately, one contestant came up with the incorrect answer of the Timberwolves and lost everything she had earned. CBS Sports and Yahoo Sports both reported this “incident” at the top of their news feed (was it that slow of a news day?). CBS Sports’ headline read “Jeopardy! contestant loses everything by screwing up easy NBA question.”

Meanwhile Yahoo Sports took it a little further by insinuating that the contestant couldn’t remember that dinosaurs are extinct writing, “Raptors. It was the Toronto Raptors. Dinosaurs are extinct. You don’t have to remember when the dinosaurs died out, just as you probably don’t need to know when Epcot Centre debuted in Orlando…”

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“Ignores?” 🤔

But is the answer really that obvious.

I don’t know about you, but the Toronto Raptors is not the first team to come to mind when I am racking my brain recalling NBA team mascots. These sports media outlets seem to be doing the Raptors a tremendous favor by implying that of course everyone should know about them.

How many national championships do the Raptors have? Zero. How many conference titles do they have? Zero. To be fair the team has consistently made it to the playoffs the last four years and hold four division titles. They will be going to the playoffs this year as well.

But all things considered, the Toronto Raptors is still a relatively new franchise, founded in 1995 as part of the NBA’s expansion into Canada. The Raptors used to have a pal in Canada with the Vancouver Grizzlies, but the Grizzlies have since migrated for warmer pastures in Memphis, Tennessee, leaving the Raptors to fly solo in Canada.

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RIP 

While it has been a consistently performing franchise, it just doesn’t have the star-power of Russel Westbrook, LeBron Jame, or Steph Curry to truly put it into the mainstream media eye (outside of NBA centered sports outlets). The biggest player to come through that team is arguably Chris Bosh and he left the Raptors to go win two championships with the Miami Heat.

Jeopardy! is a high pressure situation. Contestants have thirty-seconds to come up with the correct answer while risking their money and cognitive reputation. This is not a question of the Jeopardy! contestant not knowing that dinosaurs are obviously extinct and therefore Raptors must be the correct answer. This is a question of- do the Raptors generate enough media attention, outside of NBA dedicated outlets, that identifying them as the correct answer should be a piece of cake?

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On second thought maybe pictures like this should be in the media more

Personally, I don’t think this Jeopardy! contestant just glossed over the Raptors and instead put down the Timberwolves because she couldn’t remember that the Raptors are an extinct dinosaur that lived 75 million years ago. I think she didn’t even remember that the Toronto Raptors are a team. The media pays attention to winning franchises, and thought the Raptors may be coming close, they are not truly there yet. Mainstream NBA news remains dominated by the Warriors, the Thunder, and the Cavs because of the superstars on those teams. Toronto unfortunately is one superstar short.

Hey, at least the Jeopardy! contestant put down the name of an existing NBA mascot. That’s step one. Unfortunately, she did risk all of her money answering incorrectly and the Internet is not going to let her forget it anytime soon.

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It’s Time to Ball Out

Parents.

We all got ’em.

Sometimes to our advantage, other times to our detriment.

Parents always think they know best, whether they do or not. Parents can be loud and outspoken when they believe they are advocating for their kid. Lonzo Ball is well-versed in having a loud, outspoken parent.

Now, I can relate…a little. My mother is extremely vocal when she believes she is right. She was my biggest advocate growing up (still is), always voicing to others my accomplishments and what I was capable of doing. One time in high school I wanted to take AP Art History, but it conflicted with AP Latin. The school told me that I couldn’t do it, so my mom marched down there and told them that not only would I take the class, I would also pass the AP test. A little context for this, AP Art History had only been offered at my school for a couple of years at this point and no one had ever passed the test. But that didn’t stop my mom, according to her I would pass the test. Surprise surprise, my mom won. I ended up being able to take the two classes (and I did pass the test).

As much as I love my mom for standing up for me, she is also the reason I tend to be a rather quiet person. Who needs to do all the talking if your mom is just going to do it for you?

Lonzo Ball is going through a similar situation. Except this isn’t a high school AP class; this is his career.

Lonzo Ball is clearly a very talented student athlete who will most likely thrive in the NBA. Scouts have been looking at him at all season and he is a projected top pick for the draft. But, his father, LaVar Ball, is starting to become the more famous member of the Ball family, or perhaps infamous is a better word. It is clear that LaVar Ball has always been extremely outspoken. As a quiet kid with a loud parent, I totally understand why Lonzo is seemingly so quiet to the media. I shudder to think what LaVar was like on the sidelines of his kids’ youth basketball games.

LaVar is clearly the type of parent who enjoys living vicariously through his kids. He was a professional football player in his youth who never quite made it. But lucky for him, he has three kids that will give him three more shots at celebrity status. And this time LaVar is not going to miss it.

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Don’t be this guy

He’s done everything he can to market his kids. I mean their last name is even “Ball” is that really a coincidence?? He’s even created a company that markets merchandise with his kids’ names on them. All three Ball brothers are known throughout the sporting world. Even the youngest brother, LaMelo, who is only a sophomore in high school, has made a name for himself, after scoring 92 points in a single game. All three Ball brothers have committed to UCLA, which as it turns out is actually a 3 for 4 deal because LaVar also seems to have committed.

But what if no one wants LaVar Ball?

At first Lavar’s color commentary during the basketball season was amusing. He told the media his kids are the best. They are better than Steph Curry, Kobe Bryant…you name a player, the Ball kids are better. But now, LaVar’s commentary is starting to anger people- people who have powerful positions in the basketball industry and can decide whether they want to sign Lonzo, LiAngelo or LaMelo. LeBron James is one of the most recent basketball players to speak out against LaVar saying he has no business to talk about James’ family. This is after LaVar told the media that he’ll be able to coach his kids better than James will coach his son. “Under promise, over-deliver” is clearly not the Ball family motto.

Poor Lonzo is the guinea pig in this whole situation. He is the eldest child which means he gets to do everything first. If his father messes up with his career there still two more kids that he can try to get it right with.

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You’ve only got three chances

This may sound like good news for youngest son, LaMelo, but this is a double-edged sword LaVar is wielding. If he continues to be as obnoxious as he has been, by the time it is LaMelo’s turn at a hot-shot career, the NBA may just be sick of the Ball family altogether.

Is all of this fair to Lonzo (or any of the Ball kids for that matter)?

Lonzo is a great player. He has proven that. He’s going to get his shot in the NBA, if his father doesn’t mess it up for him.

At every point in a child’s life there comes a time when the parent finally has to sit back and let the kid do it on their own.

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You’re not the star LaVar

That time has come LaVar.

Lonzo has made it. He made it to a Division 1 college basketball team and now he’s declared he’ll enter the NBA draft. But only if you give him the chance to do it on his own. NBA teams will want to sign Lonzo Ball, but they might not want to sign Lonzo/LaVar Ball. LaVar Ball needs to gracefully bow out and let Lonzo take it from here. Somehow I don’t think that’s in LaVar’s DNA, but if he truly wants what is best for his kids, he will recognize that his place is in the stands…as a silent onlooker.

Very Supertitious

I come from a “basketball” school.

What does that mean?

Apparently that we’re supposed to be good at basketball.

We have 11 national titles. We have 31 conference titles. We have 45 seasons with over 20 wins. John Wooden (I don’t think I even need to say anything more other than John Wooden).  “We,” if you haven’t figured it out, is UCLA.

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The man, the myth, the legend

As for myself, I personally haven’t witnessed a good basketball game in the eight years since I became a UCLA Bruin. And by “good” I mean they win.

I’ve sat through a lot of bad games. Two of the four years I was at UCLA as a student we didn’t even make the NCAA tournament. For a “basketball” school this is a big deal. In 2013, my senior year, I did the unthinkable and got my hopes up when UCLA surprisingly won the Pac-12 tournament after missing the tournament entirely the previous year. I learned quickly from that mistake as the team decided they were tired of winning and instilling hope in their fans, and lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament to 11th-seeded Minnesota.

imgres-1 But this year- this year we are supposed to be good.

We opened the regular season undefeated. We knocked off #1-ranked Kentucky on the road (although apparently now everyone has knocked Kentucky off this year). We held a no.2 ranking for a few weeks. This is the best I can remember us being since 2008 when we made it to the Final Four (one year before I became an official Bruin).

You can imagine how excited I was then to get tickets to the UCLA vs. USC game at USC this year. A small aside- I currently attend USC for graduate school (yes, yes, I’m in enemy territory, I’m a traitor, I am the enemy now- I’ve heard it all from both sides). But my loyalty for my Bruins remains intact.

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Should have known this high wouldn’t last

This year has been a little rough to be a UCLA fan going to USC and working in the USC athletics department (yes, I’ve really crossed some lines in grad school). Luckily, football season is over now and I can just put that small hiccup behind me. After all, I come from a “basketball” school.

I’ll admit, I was maybe a little cocky when game day rolled around on January 25th. I may have said some things to my USC colleagues (all in good fun of course). I even wore bright blue into the office (what? it’s a nice color, brings out my eyes). This was our year.

Well, I don’t think I need to go into the gory details, but UCLA lost that game in dramatic fashion. Actually, it wasn’t very dramatic. They never really showed up to play. They got whooped by USC 84-76. USC is not a “basketball” school.

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I got free tickets to this?

I, for my part, went back into the office the next morning quietly, with my head down.

Last night, was the highly anticipated rematch at Pauley Pavilion. This time UCLA soared. They killed USC by 32 points, 102-70! Four game losing streak against USC snapped! All five starters hit double-digit points for the night.

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This is what I imagine the game was like

 

And before you ask- no.

I did not watch the game.

I fully intended to, until I realized the night before that it was on the Pac-12 network. The dreaded Pac-12 network. Call your cable providers now because odds are you don’t get the Pac-12 network. No one does (sorry Colorado). One of the most highly anticipated games of the season (at least within the Pac-12) and the Pac-12 took the broadcasting rights for themselves.

I’ll hand it to them- that’s savvy business sense for the Pac-12 to keep the TV rights for the game. But from a fan perspective it’s kind of terrible. It’s hard enough to find millennials who are actually willing to pay for cable these days (I am actually one of those unicorns), much less pay for the Pac-12 network (my mystique stops there).

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Could be the Pac-12 Network for all I know

So instead of watching the game, I worked on homework (I am in grad school after all), and saw the occasional ESPN update about the game.

Do I think UCLA won because I wasn’t watching? I won’t count out that possibility. Sports are nothing if not superstitious. Let’s just say for once I am OK with being a hostage to the television networks.

All’s well that ends well. I can go into the office with my head held high on Monday and finally have proper bragging rights (which I fully intend to do). No one needs to know I didn’t actually see the game.

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Forever true