All, Analysis, Baseball, Football

Was Kyler Murray Right In Choosing Football?

Last September, FanWide asked if there would ever be another multi-sport star? The gold standards in this regard have long been the inimitable Bo Jackson and the flashy Deion Sanders. Russell Wilson and Tim Tebow have tried to join the club, with mixed results. Usain Bolt looked decent on the pitch when he gave soccer a shot, but a contract dispute prevented him from fully pursuing what might have become an interesting career. And then, of course, there was Michael Jordan, whose brief foray into baseball didn’t exactly pan out.

The reason we’re revisiting this idea now is Kyler Murray, who was mentioned in the previous article mentioned above and was just drafted first overall in the NFL Draft. The Oklahoma quarterback made his mark on sports history when he was selected, becoming the first athlete to be drafted in the first round of both the NFL and MLB drafts. He was picked ninth overall in the MLB Draft just 10 months ago, by the Oakland Athletics. Following that selection, Murray received permission from Oakland management to play out his senior year in college football and certainly made the most out of the opportunity. In his final season, he totaled 5,362 yards and 54 touchdowns and was awarded the Heisman Trophy.

The world will never know what would have come to be had Kyler Murray stuck to baseball. Photo courtesy of ESPN.com.

This stunning season was all Murray needed to give up the diamond for the gridiron. Murray opted to enter the NFL Draft (forfeiting most of his MLB signing bonus in the process), and sure enough, the Arizona Cardinals selected him with the top overall pick. Along the way, though, many questioned Murray’s decision – among them the great Joe Theismann. Himself a former quarterback, Theismann argued that the 21-year-old would find football life difficult. “I think that he should choose baseball,” Theismann said. “I think that he would struggle in the NFL.” Theismann also questioned Murray’s height, as well as his ability to pass from the pocket under heavy pressure.

But are such questions fair? Will Murray indeed regret his decision to choose football over baseball? That’s a possibility, yes. Then again, it’s also far from a sure thing. The NFL has seen plenty of draft busts, from Paxton Lynch and Johnny Manziel recently, to Matt Leinart and Jake Locker years back. But there have also been plenty of success stories, and players who have thrived despite legitimate doubts and concerns. Russell Wilson, who as mentioned also flirted with two different professional sports, is a good example of the latter. Incidentally, he happens to be perhaps the strongest comparison to Murray among current NFL quarterbacks. The two are similarly sized, both are exceptionally mobile for the position, and both faced questions because of relatively small stature and vaguely unconventional style.

Unlike Murray’s detractors, Wilson himself believes the former Sooner can succeed on the gridiron. “Kyler’s one of those players that can electrify a football field,” Wilson has said of Murray. “I think he can also do the same thing in baseball too. I think no matter what he decides, he’ll do great.”

One thing Murray has going for him is that there seems to be a place now for mobile quarterbacks in the NFL. Wilson, again, is a prime example. And though they’re all bigger, the Cowboys’ Dak Prescott, the Panthers’ Cam Newton, and the Texans’ Deshaun Watson, in addition to a few others, also use their legs about as well as their arms. In other words, Murray won’t necessarily be an outlier in the league; he might, in fact, be perfect for where the pro game is headed. Plenty of teams appear to be making an effort – sometimes by way of college-inspired offensive sets – to implement a more free-flowing, high-scoring style of play. This at least creates an environment in which Murray is positioned to succeed.

Murray is also more than “just” a running quarterback. He has a cannon of an arm, perfect for throwing deep balls and hitting tight windows, and all without sacrificing his deadly accuracy. Really, he passes every bit as well as he runs, and that’s exactly the requisite combination for a good quarterback in today’s game. On top of that, Murray also has a reputation for playing smart. He reads a game well, limits turnovers, and seems to have an inherent feel for the moment.

Another point in favor of a successful transition to the NFL is that Murray will be playing for former Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury, someone well-versed in using a dual-threat QB. Kingsbury’s protégé at Tech, Patrick Mahomes, was the NFL’s MVP last season, and it stands to reason that the rookie coach will be able to harness Murray’s physical gifts, too – this time at the pro level. (Not for nothing, Kingsbury actually tried to recruit Murray in college!) In all likelihood, the new head coach will be looking to install a high-octane offense with the Cardinals, and thus take full advantage of Murray’s natural skillset.

Despite a difficult 2018 season, Cardinals fans have high hopes for their new star QB. Photo courtesy of azcardinals.com.

Aside from the tired questions about his size, the only real strike against Murray might just be the current state of the Cardinals. The team was woeful last season, winning just three games. Even if Murray is as good as advertised, odds for the upcoming NFL season are going to spell doom for the Cardinals. Indeed, it’s a good bet that even five or six wins will be a stretch. It’s simply going to take more than a rookie quarterback (and some other interesting draft picks) to turn this franchise around. The question may become how well Murray his able to handle what’s likely to be a lot of losing in the early going. If he can overcome adversity, focus on his own game, and do his part for a sustainable rebuild, he’ll be well on his way to a successful season. If it gets to him, and he starts to press or lose his edge, questions about long-term viability will arise quickly.

There is no doubt that Kyler Murray’s NFL journey will be one of the league’s biggest storylines. As to whether or not he picked the right sport, only time will tell. All we know for certain is that he’s talented enough to have earned the decision, and we should certainly give him a chance to thrive with his choice.

Fan Clubs, Fan Data, Football, Top 10, Uncategorized

Top NFL Teams: #2 Dallas Cowboys

Coming in at number 2 in FanWide’s Top 10 NFL Team rankings is America’s Team, the Dallas Cowboys. Currently, the Cowboys have one of the youngest and most explosive offenses in the entire National Football League. Their young nucleus consists of quarterback Dak Prescott, running back Ezekiel Elliott, and wide receiver Amari Cooper. On the defensive side of the field, The ‘Boyz are loaded with playmakers such as defensive lineman Demarcus Lawrence, linebacker Jaylon Smith, and safety Byron Jones. With this talented core, the Cowboys were able to win the NFC East and advance to the NFC divisional round in 2018. While the Cowboys have been successful as of late, their historical success truly separates them from every other NFL team. The Cowboys have won a whopping 35 playoff games and 5 Super Bowls. America’s team is home to countless NFL greats such as Emmitt Smith, Roger Staubach, Troy Aikman, and Tony Dorsett. Playing for America’s team comes with a lot of pressure and responsibility. This young and talented Cowboy roster is more than capable to handle these enormous expectations.

Dallas Cowboy fans celebrating / Photo Courtesy of the SCDCFC Interview on FanWide
Analysis, Basketball, Fan Clubs, Fan Data, NCAA, News, Sports Data, Sports Fan Data, Uncategorized, watch party

Top 10 College Basketball Teams: #9 Arizona Wildcats

Coming in at number 9 in FanWide’s Top 10 College Basketball Rankings is the Arizona Wildcats. While the Wildcats have not won a national championship since 1997, they have had a lot recent success. Ever since Arizona hired Sean Miller as the head coach in 2009, the Wildcats have seen an uptick in tournament appearances and regular season wins. Not only has Miller been able to drastically improve Arizona’s winning percentage, he has also had a lot of success recruiting the top high school basketball players. Former top recruits and current NBA stars such as Deandre Ayton, Stanley Johnson, Lauri Markkanen, and Aaron Gordon have helped stabilize and improve an Arizona Basketball program on the rise. With a top-3 overall recruiting class (which includes top point guard Nico Mannion) for 2019, the Arizona Wildcats future looks very bright. Because of Arizona’s recent success and their massive fanbase, the Wildcats place 9th in FanWide’s Top 10 College Basketball Team Rankings.

Arizona Wildcat fans celebrating their team / Photo courtesy of zonazealots.com
Basketball, Fan Clubs, Fan Data, NCAA, Top 10, watch party

Top 10 College Basketball Teams: #10 Wisconsin Badgers

FanWide’s #10 College Basketball team is the Wisconsin Badgers! Few programs can combine historical greatness and present success the same way Wisconsin can. Though the team has not won a National Championship since 1941, the Badgers are a consistent threat in the always-competitive Big Ten conference, year in and year out. Even more impressive, however, is the unwavering commitment of Badgers fans, who are always there to support their team. Top 10 finishes in the categories of fan clubs, recent tournament wins, attendance, and aggregate social media followers earned the Wisconsin Badgers the #10 spot among FanWide’s Top 10 College Basketball Teams.

Badgers fans have devoutly followed their team through many Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments in recent years. Photo courtesy of uwbadgers.com.

Teams were evaluated in 8 different categories (visit this blog post to see the methodology):

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Top NFL Teams: #3 New England Patriots

At #3 in FanWide’s Top NFL teams ranking is the New England Patriots. The Patriots have been the epitome of success for the better-part of the 21st century. Recently, the Patriots, otherwise known as the Pats, have had an incredibly high success rate. In this decade the patriots have a regular-season winning percentage of 74%. What New England has done is unlike anything else in sports. The New England Patriots were the laughing stock in the NFL in the 1980s, but quite a lot has changed. The Pats have created a dynasty like no other in which a playoff win seems to be guaranteed every year along with a Super Bowl appearance. The reason for the Patriots’ recent success is because of the brilliance of head coach Bill Belichick, the magnificence of future-hall-of-famer Tom Brady, and caring owner in Robert Kraft. Many may hate the Patriots for their cheating allegations, but no person can take away the dominance and greatness from the Patriots in the 21st century. Tom Brady is still going strong at 41 years old, along with the Patriots’ chances of winning.

Patriots fans in Houston, Texas celebrating after a big play.

Photo Courtesy of the Boston Globe

Basketball, Fan Data, Sports Fan Data

Introducing the Top 10 College Basketball Teams

More colleges participate in men’s basketball than any other sport. Because of this, with more than 1,000 men’s basketball teams currently competing in the NCAA, college basketball is one of the most competitive sports at any level. Still, among these 1,000+ teams lie a handful of programs that always seem to perform at a level above the rest. In college basketball, continued success is partially reliant on consistently landing talented high school players. As a result, team popularity and fan engagement are closely related to victories on the court. Nevertheless, there are always some teams which remain popular, no matter how well their season is going.  FanWide is using its own fan engagement data alongside traditional measures of success to quantify program popularity. Read below to get an inside look at how FanWide is cultivating a top ten list that uses its proprietary fan data to rank teams based on more than just production on the field.

Top 10 (Check back here periodically to see the updated list)

10. Wisconsin Badgers

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Top NFL Teams: #4 Pittsburgh Steelers

Coming in at number 4 in FanWide’s Top 10 NFL Team rankings is the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers, also known as the Black and Gold, have a history like no other. The Steelers have won six Super Bowls and have had a lot of star-power since the dominance in the 1970s. Superstars such as Joe Greene, Franco Harris, James Harrison, and Ben Roethlisberger are the backbone of the Steelers’ special legacy. The Steelers have always been known as a team of toughness and grit, and that will always be their reputation in the NFL. The Steelers have the second strongest fan base according to FanWide and one that is very loyal. The Steelers have lost two superstars in Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell, but there tenacious play will continue. Do not be surprised if the Steelers make a deep run in the playoffs this season.

Photo courtesy of steelersbars.com

Analysis, Events, Fan Data, watch party

FanWide Promotes 1 Million Fan Club Events!

Three years ago, FanWide was born to unite fans and fan clubs across the nation and form unique, sports-focused digital communities. We went from only promoting events for only the largest US sports leagues to now 23 different sports and esports leagues around the world. Today, we have united millions of fan club members from 12,500 fan club chapters at over 10,000 sports bars, and now promoted over 1 million events. We wanted to showcase some of the top states, cities, sports, and teams who have hosted the most events from our first million. 

 

Fan Clubs, Fan Data, Football, Sports Data, Sports Fan Data, Top 10

Top NFL Teams: #5 Philadelphia Eagles

Coming in at number 5 in FanWide’s Top 10 NFL Team rankings is the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles have a very storied past which includes many Super Bowl appearances and NFL legends. Superstars such as Reggie White, Brian Dawkins, and Randall Cunningham played with pride for the Green and White and will forever be remembered by the NFL community. These players set the tone for future Eagles players and fans. The Eagles play with a certain type of swagger and fury that is unprecedented in the NFL. This mindset extends to the bleachers. The Eagles have one of the most loyal and hardcore fan bases in the NFL and are always cheering for their team from Eagles game watch parties around the country, which is why it made FanWide’s list.

Photo courtesy of philly2hoboken.com
Fan Clubs, Football, Uncategorized

Top NFL Teams: #6 New York Giants

Placing number 6 in FanWide’s Top 10 NFL Team rankings is the New York Giants. While the Giants have disappointed as of late, their future looks very bright. General manager David Gettleman and head coach Pat Shurmur are building a young and elite offense around superstar running back Saquon Barkley and two time Super Bowl MVP winner Eli Manning. In addition, the Giants are in a great position to add more young stars to their roster through the NFL Draft. Due to the recent trade of Odell Beckham Jr, the G-Men now find themselves with two picks in the first round. The Giants are in prime position to draft their quarterback of the future in either Kyler Murray or Dwayne Haskins or to add defensive center pieces such as Quinnen Williams, Montez Sweat, or Rashan Gary.  The Giants roster will continue to improve before the start of the 2019 NFL regular season.

New York Giant fans celebrating before a game | Photo courtesy of CBS New York