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.

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
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. 

 

Analysis, Fan Data, Football, Rugby

FanWide Football Fan Survey Results – Your New Favorite Sport is Probably Rugby

 

Photo Courtesy of Olga Guryanova

FanWide, the world’s largest fan club network, has compiled and analyzed the data for our football survey and the results are in! The topics we chose to research were centered around the similarities and differences of football and rugby. Rugby is similar to football in many ways – such as some of the strategy, the physicality, but also different where it counts like stoppage times. Below are some of the highlights that were produced from your responses to show why rugby may be your new favorite sport.  You can also find local rugby watch parties with FanWide.

Analysis, Fan Data, Football, NCAA, Sports Data, Sports Fan Data

Football: America’s Favorite Sport, is it Yours? (Survey)

Photo courtesy of Sandro Schuh

Football is the number one sport in America, but what makes football so special? Is it the action? The strategy? Even the commercials? FanWide is the world’s largest fan club network, promoting over half a million game watch parties every year for almost 13,000 pro and college fan clubs nationwide. Visit www.FanWide.com to find a local sports meetup wherever you live or travel. At FanWide, we value our fans’ opinions and we want to learn more about what makes football such a popular sport here in the United States. Please take this short, 2-minute survey about what you love, and don’t love, about the game. We greatly appreciate your time and keep a lookout for our next blog post with our results.

LINK: https://fanwi.de/FootballSurvey 

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.

Analysis, Fan Data, Soccer, Sports Data, Sports Fan Data

The International Invasion of the MLS

Major League Soccer was created to grow soccer in North America, specifically in the US and Canada. As a way to ensure that local players gain visibility and experience, the league put a cap on the number of international players allowed in the league. Currently, there are a total 184 international roster slots for the 23 teams in the league. Although the MLS tries to limit international players playing in the MLS, the international players are arguably what makes MLS games exciting and where MLS teams gain most of their quality.

Photo by YouTube
Analysis, Football, NCAA, Sports Fan Data

Insights into College Football Game Attendance by Team

In our last post, we examined overall attendance for NCAA football. This time around we take a look at individual team attendance. Unsurprisingly the best teams with the largest numbers of alumni have the best attendance rates. Alabama leads in total attendance for the past five years (4,225,443), which is to be expected given that they have been competing for a playoff spot every year recently. Ohio State is second with 4,003.658, while Tennessee’s attendance seems to have outperformed its ranking at 3,845,002. Penn State (3,805,806) and Michigan (3,727,339) round out the top five.

Photo by Ohio State Buckeyes
Analysis, Baseball, watch party

David Bote’s Walk-Off Grand Slam Cinderella Story

Photo by NBC.

Five months ago, not even the biggest baseball fan had heard of David Bote.

He was 25 years old and posting mediocre stats across the board as an infielder on the Cubs’ minor league affiliate teams. And despite being picked in the 18th round of the 2012 MLB draft, Bote seemed destined to end up as a minor league career journeyman, condemned to a lifetime of obscurity and the pain of watching many of his teammates make it to the spotlight of the major leagues.

Yet fast-forward to the evening of August 12th, when Bote was in the process of making MLB history with one mighty swing of the bat. What happened between March and August to catapult David Bote from anonymity to stardom?