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
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):

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

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

All, Fan Clubs, Football, Sports Data, Sports Fan Data, Top 10, watch party

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

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 Data, Soccer, Sports Fan Data, Top 10

Top European Soccer Teams: #1 Real Madrid

Real Madrid is the top team in FanWide’s European soccer rankings. From their 33 domestic league titles to 207 million aggregate social media followers to 13 Champions League titles and beyond- Real Madrid’s numbers speak for themselves. Few teams have the ammunition to form meaningful rivalries with Real Madrid. Barcelona, FanWide’s #3 team, is one of those teams. Games played between Real Madrid and Barcelona, nicknamed “El Clásico,” are consistently some of the most viewed sporting events in the world. While Barcelona currently leads the all-time rivalry (the overall record is 115-99-61), games between the two giants in La Liga are much closer. The all-time El Clásico record in La Liga games is 72-72-34. The rivalry goes beyond soccer- Real Madrid is said to represent Spanish pride while Barcelona is said to represent Catalonian pride. Cristiano Ronaldo, who is tied as the second leading all-time El Clásico goal scorer with Alfredo di Stefano (behind Lionel Messi), was a major part of the rivalry. Now that Ronaldo has moved to Juventus, it will be interesting to see how the rivalry sways. Ballon d’Or winner Luca Modric will have to continue stepping up big for Real Madrid for reasons that go beyond just their rivalry with Barcelona. Real Madrid has begun a new era. Time will tell if Real Madrid flourishes post-Ronaldo, but if history repeats itself, they’ll do just fine. There’s a reason Real Madrid is FanWide’s #1 European soccer team.

The Real Madrid Los Angeles is the largest Real Madrid supporters group on the West Coast. | Photo courtesy of realmadridlosangeles.com
All, Analysis, Baseball, Basketball, Football, NCAA, News

Can There Be a Modern Multi-Sport Athlete?

Deion Sanders and Bo Jackson posing together before an MLB game. Photo courtesy of mlb.com

For most athletes, making it to a professional league is a daunting enough task. Yet a few select people in modern history managed to play at the highest levels of two sports.

The most famous examples of this phenomenon have to be Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders, both of whom played professionally in the NFL and MLB.

All, Analysis, Events, Hockey, Uncategorized, watch party

Why would the NHL Limit Viewership for Game Watch Parties?

You would almost think Bill Wirtz had risen from the grave to formulate the National Hockey League’s broadcast plan.  The late Chicago Blackhawks owner, known as “Dollar Bill”, refused to put his team’s home games on the local TV broadcasts, slowing the growth of local support.  His short-sightedness echoed in the NHL’s efforts in recent years to restrict viewing parties — you know, those huge, public events where fans go to whip themselves into a fervor over the product the NHL is trying to sell.

Some people wonder why the NHL wants to limit viewership. Watch parties are perfect for certain segments of fandom: those who can’t afford to watch in person but want the communal experience; bandwagon jumpers (who just might get hooked); and folks who live out-of-market or are traveling.  FanWide has the world’s largest database of sports fan clubs, making it easy for NHL fans to find the closest game watch party, wherever they live or travel.

FanWide's Hockey Fans
FanWide’s Hockey Fan Map
All, Basketball, Events, Football, Hockey, watch party

Traveling for the Holidays? Find a Watch Party Wherever You Go

The holiday season is upon us, and many people take advantage of this time to travel. After a long 2017, it’s nice to ring in the New Year with family, holiday celebration, vacation – and sports!  Find FanWide Events in your area here!

FanWide’s Events Map (12/21/17)

If you are taking time off for Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Boxing Day, or your own holiday festivities, make sure to use FanWide. FanWide’s website (www.FanWide.com) or app (iOS & Android) can help you find a local place to watch your games while you are away from home.