Author: Ashley Conley

ESPN’s layoff extravaganza just makes sense

ESPN’s layoff extravaganza just makes sense

By: Ashley Conley

ESPN’s self-proclaimed motto as “The Worldwide Leader in Sports” just doesn’t seem to fit anymore. The television network yesterday laid off more than 100 employees including a host of easily recognizable on-air and in-print personalities like beloved football analyst Ed Werder, NCAA football analyst and podcast host Danny Kanell, longtime baseball writer Jayson Stark, and former SportsCenter host Jay Crawford, to name a few.

Here’s my take on the situation.

ESPN has become the LeBron James and Stephen Curry show, covering the two NBA star’s every move even if it’s something irrelevant like James’ whining over a stupid call; it’s become the 24-hour NFL pre-Draft coverage show, detailing the draft months in advance and broadcasting “mock” draft situations that don’t even end up happening; it’s become the “we don’t care about hockey and neither should you” show, as was proved yesterday when it cut basically the entire hockey staff right in the middle of the Stanley Cup playoffs; it’s become a laughing stock during the NCAA Tournament when people like LaVar Ball, a top collegiate player’s FATHER got more face time than any of the actual players because of his dramatic demands and on-screen fanatics; and it’s become a fake debate circus that’s lost all its journalistic integrity as TV hosts like Stephen A. Smith (who DID NOT get laid off yesterday) are shown on air arguing over the oddest of topics.

These are just a few of my examples. If you go on Twitter and type “ESPN” into the search bar, you’ll find thousands of tweets from people all around the world describing in 140 characters or less why they agree that the ESPN layoffs make total sense. A lot of viewers tab the network’s “politically correct” descent as the reason why they stopped watching. Others feel as though the reporting has turned into scripted entertainment, and some are baffled at the channel’s lack of interest to cover more than just the NBA and NFL.

The situation has simply spiraled out of control. Viewership has been decreasing for months and even years, according to the numbers. If sports fanatics like me no longer wish to tune in to “The Worldwide Leader” anymore, you know something is wrong. If ESPN wants to survive, the network needs to bring back the coverage that made them popular to begin with — highlights and recaps from a variety of sports and stories pertaining to an assortment of athletes — all brought to you by reporters (like some of the great ones they just let go) that actually cover things in an enjoyable manner.

Cover Image: sportingnews.com

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Championship rings: the ultimate trophy

Championship rings: the ultimate trophy

By: Ashley Conley

Why are championship rings such a big deal? There’s one basic answer to this question: because they’re freaking awesome.

One of the many rewards that come with winning a title is the ginormous, usually customized ring full of diamonds and other gems to commemorate the success. The latest example of an incredible championship ring comes from the 2016 MLB World Series Champion Chicago Cubs.

*Warning: the following picture may cause temporary blindness from the amount of bling. Please proceed with caution.* – Just kidding. But seriously, these rings are a thing of beauty.

C9QKrUSXoAEXIiu.jpgThis particular ring is valued at $30,000-$40,000, according to the Chicago Tribune. Each one consists of 108 diamonds, one for each year since the Chicago Cubs last won the World Series, plus an extra 106 diamonds, and multiple karats of red rubies and blue sapphires. This ring is no joke, and basically tops every other ring in recent sports history.

Perhaps the coolest part about championship rings is that the culture doesn’t just exist in the professional leagues. It’s a tradition that’s alive for both high school and collegiate championships and even some youth leagues, like minor league baseball and AAU basketball. Also, rings aren’t only given out for state or national titles, but conference and tournament titles, too.

A lot of folks in the sports world measure the overall success of an athlete or team by prompting this simple question: how many rings do you have? While it’s not entirely common for professional players to win multiple rings throughout their playing careers, some of the greatest of all time have a ridiculous collection to their name. Here’s how the numbers add up:

  •  26 NBA players have at least five rings. Bill Russell holds the record with 11.
  • Two NFL players have a record five Super Bowl rings, including Tom Brady who recently clinched the 2017 title with the New England Patriots.
  • Yogi Berra, a New York Yankees legend, takes the top spot for Major League Baseball with a whopping 10 World Series rings.
  • Henri Richard leads all NHL players with 11 rings, all of which were won with the Montreal Canadiens.

When it comes to NCAA teams, here’s how the numbers add up:

While championship rings are hard to come by, they’re a prized momento that represents a perfect and unforgettable moment in history. Below, check out some of the sports world’s most recent jewelry shown off on social media.

And you can’t forget the look on an athlete’s face when they first see that bling . . . priceless.

Props to those who are lucky enough to have earned one of these one-of-a-kind treasures.

Cover Image: diamondcuttersintl.com

Ashley Conley is a senior journalism student at WVU. She aspires to become a writer or reporter in the sports industry upon graduation. You can follow her on Twitter @ashleyconleyyy

The Internet fell in love with the Marlins’ Rally Cat

The Internet fell in love with the Marlins’ Rally Cat

By: Ashley Conley

Something unusual happened at the Miami Marlins game on Tuesday; a feline somehow made its way onto the field during play and totally stole the show!

The pretty blue kitty perched itself underneath an outfield wall in an effort to hide from right fielder Giancarlo Stanton before it took off for the Marlins Home Run sculpture, that it eventually reached after climbing up a video board fence. Those on social media were in complete awe of Rally Cat’s Spider-Man-like abilities and promptly fell in love with the furry showstopper.

The Marlins social media team made the cat’s appearance even more entertaining by tweeting out a pole asking fans to choose a new name for “Rally Cat”, which quickly came about as a hashtag on Twitter. The options, which mirrored the names of some of the franchise’s prominent athletes, were:

J.T. Realmeowto (J. T. Realmuto – Catcher)

Don Cattingly (Don Mattingly – First Basemen, Coach and Manager)

Kyle BarraClaw (Kyle Barraclough – Pitcher)

Nick Kittengren (Nick Wittgren – Pitcher)

Don Cattingly, not surprisingly, won with 45% of the votes. After getting its 20 minutes of fame, Rally Cat was rescued safely by Marlins Park staff. However, it didn’t hang around long. *cue the tears*

#RallyCat, you will be missed. I hope you found/find an amazing, baseball-loving home!

Cover Image: @NickAlvarezFSF/Twitter

Ashley Conley is a senior journalism student at WVU. She aspires to become a writer or reporter in the sports industry upon graduation. You can follow her on Twitter @ashleyconleyyy

Dustin Johnson’s unusual injury sparks banter from Masters fans

Dustin Johnson’s unusual injury sparks banter from Masters fans

By: Ashley Conley

The Masters at Augusta National begins today and the world’s No. 1 player, Dustin Johnson, may not be able to participate after falling down a flight of stairs and injuring his lower back at a rental home near the course.

With Johnson’s history of drug abuse and other behavioral problems, he’s always a popular topic on social media when major events roll around, but this incredibly untimely tumble just two days before golf’s biggest tournament has fans on top of their joke game.

All jokes aside, it’s beginning to look like Johnson will be able to play. The latest official update from his trainer states that he is “up and moving around” and “definitely going in the right direction” as of Thursday morning, about five hours ahead of his scheduled tee time.

Those betting money on Johnson to win the tournament also took to social media expressing their anxieties. He was a heavy favorite to win, but has since slipped (no pun intended) into third behind young guns Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy.

Even with an injury, you can’t count a player of Dustin Johnson’s caliber out. He has 15-career PGA Tour wins including three in 2016 and three already in 2017.

What’s missing from his highly-successful career? A green Masters jacket.

Cover Image: pga.com

Ashley Conley is a senior journalism student at WVU. She aspires to become a writer or reporter in the sports industry upon graduation. You can follow her on Twitter @ashleyconleyyy

The Will Grier era is about to take Morgantown by storm

The Will Grier era is about to take Morgantown by storm

By: Ashley Conley

The anticipation West Virginia fans have for upcoming quarterback Will Grier is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Grier isn’t just the ‘next man up’. There’s a certain type of hope that beams from his bright smile, strong arm and semi-proven ability–a championship-caliber hope.

There’s a million reasons for WVU fans to be excited. Players like Grier aren’t ‘supposed’ to come to West Virginia; this isn’t a school that’s known for getting highly recruited or top-rated players on the regular.

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Will Grier (14-gold jersey) breaks away from a team huddle. (Image Credit: Ashley Conley)

In 2015, Grier led the Florida Gators to a 6-0 start. Soon after, his football world rapidly fell apart when he received a one-year suspension from the NCAA for PED use. His future in Gainesville was up in the air. He decided to transfer. But where would he go? A powerhouse school? Another highly-decorated program with multiple national titles?

Nope. He chose West Virginia. Non-fans were pretty stunned…

…while Mountaineer Nation welcomed Grier and his endless potential with open arms. This is the kind of quarterback talent they’ve been anticipating since Pat White and Geno Smith, who led WVU to a Fiesta Bowl victory (2008) and Orange Bowl victory (2012), respectively.

As September approaches, the excitement has only grown greater, even though there’s a slight possibility Grier won’t be eligible to play in week one due to the 365-day nature of his suspension. However, West Virginia has made an appeal to the NCAA that will likely be approved.

These fans have every right to be this high on the Grier horse. A 10-win season in 2016 ended in a Russell Athletic Bowl loss and a broken connection between fans and two-year starting QB Skyler Howard. Disappointment is nothing new for this fan base, but being genuinely confident in the QB position months prior to the season starting is relatively fresh.

Since he last saw game action on a collegiate football field, Grier has grown up. He survived the public scrutiny resulting from his mistake, went through the transfer process, got married and became a father. Something tells me that he’s never been more prepared to win than he is right now.

Cover Image: Ashley Conley

Ashley Conley is a senior journalism student at WVU. She aspires to become a writer or reporter in the sports industry upon graduation. You can follow her on Twitter @ashleyconleyyy

Olympic gymnasts on back-to-back seasons of DWTS – is it fair?

Olympic gymnasts on back-to-back seasons of DWTS – is it fair?

By: Ashley Conley

On the last season of ABC’s hit show Dancing With the Stars, gold medal-winning Olympic gymnast Laurie Hernandez pretty much dominated the competition to claim the coveted mirrorball trophy. This season, Hernandez’s USA Gymnastics teammate and fellow Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles is a cast member and is already a favorite to win after just one dance.

Is it really fair to the other competitors to have a highly athletic, flexible gymnast who flips, practices balance and maneuvers through intricate floor routines on the world’s largest stage on back-to-back seasons? Some viewers believe it isn’t.

If you’re a regular DWTS fan, you know that there tends to be some sort of casting controversy every season. Athletes (like Apolo Ohno and Emmitt Smith), musicians who have background in dance (like Lance Bass and Kellie Pickler) and even professional dancers or actresses who have had major dancing roles (like Dirty Dancing star Jennifer Gray and former Beyonce backup dancer and Glee actress Heather Morris who’s competing this season) have been featured in the cast since season one. Despite the seemingly impossible-to-beat competitors from pervious seasons, people still flock to their TV’s at 8 p.m. on Monday nights.

At the 2016 Rio Olympics, Hernandez won three medals (one gold and two silvers). Biles, who’s considered the greatest gymnast in the world right now, won five medals (four gold and one bronze) including the gold for gymnastics individual all-around.

In her DWTS debut on Monday night, Biles and her parter, Sasha Farber, earned a score of 32/40-the highest of the night-with a stunning tango. You can see the performance here. The olympian’s supporters were live on Twitter to cheer on their star athlete and new favorite ballroom dancer.

And, of course, Hernandez was in attendance to encourage her BFF.

mirrorball-trophy-val-chmerkovskiy-laurie-hernandez-dwts-season-23-finale-horizontal
glamour.com

The ‘shoe-in’ to win it doesn’t always get the job done. Therefore, I have to say that Biles following in Hernandez’s footsteps isn’t unfair, but instead an added incentive to watch. I have a feeling someone (maybe Fifth Harmony’s Normani Kordei or NFL standout Rashad Jennings?) may give the 4-foot-9 impeccable gymnast a run for her money.

Cover Image: nbcolympics.com

Ashley Conley is a senior journalism student at WVU. She aspires to become a writer or reporter in the sports industry upon graduation. You can follow her on Twitter @ashleyconleyyy

Why does Tim Tebow have so many haters?

Why does Tim Tebow have so many haters?

By: Ashley Conley

Tim Tebow has a host of haters. Maybe it’s because he failed to become a pro sensation after displaying one of the greatest college football careers of all time; maybe it’s because he played in only 35 games over his five-year career in the NFL and didn’t live up to the potential of a first round draft pick (he was selected 25th overall in 2010); maybe it’s because he’s now participating in a second professional sport – baseball – and people think he only got a spot on the Gulf Coast League Mets because he’s Tim Tebow and not because he’s actually decent at the game.

Or maybe it’s because he’s a regular on television screens nationwide as a SEC Network broadcaster, an author (on the New York Times Best Sellers list), a very open Christian and one heck of a charitable man with his own profoundly successful foundation that benefits children around the world. Apparently, people love to hate amazing humans.

Since Tebow made his baseball debut with the Mets organization last week, he’s been all over the news and social media channels. There are those that embrace his efforts:

And there are those that wish he’d disappear from the sports industry once and for all.

Whether you love him or hate him (or just dislike him), you have to admit that Tebow’s humanitarian qualities are second to none.

Most recently, Tebow hosted a Celebrity Gala and Golf Classic. The Classic has raised over $7 million dollars over the last five years to benefit a handful of charities including W15H Program (Tebow’s wish-granting foundation), Timmy’s Playrooms (a section of Tebow’s foundation dedicated to building playrooms in children’s hospitals), Tebow CURE Hospital (a hospital opened by Tebow in the Philippines), Orphan Care and Adoption Aid (which helps children who have been left homeless or abandoned), and Night to Shine.

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timtebowfoundation.org

In February, Tebow’s 2017 Night to Shine created an “unforgettable prom night experience, centered on God’s love, for people with special needs ages 14 and older,” according to the charities website. A whopping 75,000 people with special needs attended the event made possible by 150,000 volunteers and Tebow himself.

Wow. Just wow.

Tebow’s minor league stint hasn’t been all that great thus far. In five games, he batted 3-for-14 and struckout four times. Check out the crowd reaction to his first-career hit:

But the social media reaction to everything else has been subpar.

I’m a Tebow fan. I’m not sure if I’ve seen an athlete who works harder than this guy does. The best part is that he’ll do whatever it takes to achieve his dream, even when the world is against him. In 2008, the Florida Gators were defeated by Ole Miss 31-30. Tebow, the starting quarterback, gave this speech following the game. The Gators went on to win the BCS National Championship.

So, the next time you degrade Tebow for what he does (or doesn’t do) on the field, just remember what he’s already accomplished and what he does off the field, because I’m sure it’s more than most people will accomplish in their entire lives – and he’s not even 30 yet.

Cover Image: esquire.com

Ashley Conley is a senior journalism student at WVU. She aspires to become a writer or reporter in the sports industry upon graduation. You can follow her on Twitter @ashleyconleyyy