Damar Hamlin Incident is Frightening Reminder of Football’s Violence, Consequences

I love football. During the past year, especially, perhaps because I was able to watch without thinking about what I might have to write, I really enjoyed college football Saturdays and NFL Sundays. (The success of Michigan and the Detroit Lions probably didn’t hurt either.)

But there have been plenty of times over the past 15 years or so when I’ve wondered if I should watch football, if I should support it with my fandom, viewership, and work. The sport is so incredibly violent, taking such a toll on the physical and mental conditions of the men who play it. Players are left with broken-down bodies and diminished mental capacity due to head trauma.

It was impossible not to think about that Monday night as Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field and required CPR before being taken off the field in an ambulance. Hamlin appeared to be hit hard in the chest while tackling Cincinnati Bengals receiver Tee Higgins, though his head and neck could also have been affected by the impact. The Bills later confirmed in a statement that Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest and is currently hospitalized in critical condition.

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Deion Sanders Will Make Colorado Football a Story Worth Covering

If generating headlines and media buzz is now the game in college football, then the University of Colorado undoubtedly made the right decision in hiring NFL Hall of Famer Deion Sanders as its new head football coach.

“Coach Prime” might not be ready to make the jump from Jackson State, HBCUs, and lower-level FCS to upper FBS and a Power Five conference in the Pac-12. But if football is football, Sanders brings an impressive record to Boulder and an ability to recruit top-flight talent attracted to his personality and history as a player. Everyone following college football will be curious to see if Coach Prime finds success and maybe moves up to an even more established program.

This week, Demetri Ravanos invited me onto his Media Noise podcast for Barrett Sports Media to discuss a column I wrote on Sanders and how he’ll provide plenty of content for college football media to cover. You can listen to the show below. My segment begins at the 4:21 mark:

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A Ric Flair Documentary is Peacock’s Christmas Gift to Wrestling Fans

Peacock and WWE are giving wrestling fans — and anyone who follows sports and entertainment — a gift during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. A documentary on wrestling legend Ric Flair will premiere on NBC’s streaming platform Monday, Dec. 26. The two-hour doc is titled Woooooo! Becoming Ric Flair. possibly

Renowned sports reporter Tom Rinaldi narrates the film, also interviewing the many figures providing insight and commentary. Since leaving ESPN for Fox Sports, Rinaldi has expanded his work to documentaries, including last year’s John Madden retrospective, All Madden. That probably shouldn’t be a surprise since storytelling is Rinaldi’s trade. Many of his features for ESPN and Fox are essentially mini-documentaries.

Woooooo! is the second mainstream documentary to chronicle Flair’s life and career, following ESPN’s 30 For 30 film, Nature Boy, which premiered in 2018. Rory Karpf focused largely on Flair’s wrestling exploits and the effect that they had on his personal life and loved ones.

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A Sad Goodbye to Pat Ryan, But Happy Memories of the Fun We Shared

Image via WLOS-TV

Asheville, North Carolina lost a good man and a great friend Thursday with the death of longtime radio personality Pat Ryan. Pat had been struggling with colon cancer for the past four years, going in and out of treatment while enduring the ordeals that often come with that.

To sum up Pat in a sentence, he was a friend to all who met him. Pat would often take the contributors to the WISE Guys radio show out for lunch to show his gratitude. I often joked it was like eating with the mayor. He always had warm greetings for people he knew (or just met) and so many would come over to say hello, whether they were friends or fans. Pat would always make sure to introduce those he was with as well, making sure no one was left out of the conversation.

That was pretty much Pat’s philosophy as a radio host too. No one was left out. Pat hosted a sports talk show and that meant sometimes talking about national stories and topics. But he knew it was a local show. The WISE Guys could offer the audience something that ESPN Radio or Fox Sports Radio syndicated programming couldn’t.

Local high school and college coaches across Western North Carolina were a big part of the show, many of whom became friends. Current and former athletes, along with local sports reporters were featured as well. UNC Asheville, Western Carolina, Owen High School, A.C. Reynolds, Asheville High. And not just football and basketball coaches. Soccer, baseball, swimming, track, lacrosse, boys and girls sports, were also highlighted. When Asheville had a roller derby team, players appeared on the show.

Pat didn’t just feature sports either. Charities and local fundraisers had an opportunity to reach a wider group of potential donors on the air. Listeners got to hear what was going on locally in entertainment, events, and business with writers like Ashvegas‘s Jason Sandford and Alli Marshall of Mountain Xpress. The WISE Guys wasn’t just a sports show; it was a show for Asheville. But out-of-towners tuning in could get a feel for what was happening in town too.

I was lucky to be a (very) small part of Pat’s show — and “merry band of contributors” circle — for the past nine years. Anybody who’s checked out this fledgling new venture, Bowls Media, or my personal blog knows that my appearances on WISE Sports Radio are a big part of the content here. While most of my writing time and energy was devoted to work at Awful Announcing or Barrett Sports Media, those audio clips kept the lights on here.

Pat and producer Jordan Devere enabled me to record clips from streaming audio, clearing it with station management. I was always grateful for being allowed to put out “an audio tape” each week and getting to share my radio appearances online (and on podcasts) with friends outside WISE Sports Radio’s listening area.

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‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ Successfully Pays Tribute, Moves Mythology Forward

Director Ryan Coogler had a thin line to walk for his sequel to Black Panther.

Following up 2018’s mega-hit that was unlike any Marvel superhero we’d seen before, reaching out to audiences and cultures that previously felt underserved by blockbuster entertainment, would have been difficult enough. Coogler had an opportunity to direct a sequel to 2015’s Creed, but passed on it to jump into the Marvel sandbox and bring comic books’ first Black superhero to the big screen.

Topping himself and continuing the story of Wakanda’s King T’Challa was going to be much more difficult — logistically and emotionally — after the death of star Chadwick Boseman two years ago. How could Marvel and Coogler, along with the amazing cast and crew that brought the fictional African nation to vivid life, keep the story going without the Black Panther himself?

Out of respect to Boseman, Marvel decided that T’Challa wouldn’t be recast. That was probably the correct decision, especially so soon after the actor’s death. Asking fans — and those who worked with Boseman — to accept a new face in the role would have been difficult. (Though during the past two years, sentiment — online, anyway — has turned toward recasting and advancing a character that was so iconic, so important to audiences.)

So Coogler and writer Joe Robert Cole (who collaborated on the first film’s screenplay) embraced the real world’s intrusion on Marvel mythology and acknowledged Boseman’s death in the story by giving T’Challa much the same traffic fate. As a result, Wakanda Forever serves as a tribute to the actor, allowing fans and colleagues to mourn and perhaps find closure with the loss.

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Baseball WISE Sports Radio: Astros Win the World Series, Everybody Loves Dusty Baker

After a week off while Pat Ryan was on vacation, during which we missed the 2022 World Series, our weekly WISE Sports Radio chat covers the Houston Astros winning the World Series!

How did the Astros take over the series after the Phillies took a two-games-to-one lead? Could Philadelphia make another run next season? Houston almost certainly will. And maybe they’ll be managed again by Dusty Baker, the oldest manager to win a World Series at 73 years old.

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Baseball WISE Sports Radio: Phillies vs. Astros in World Series

The Philadelphia Phillies have taken their improbable postseason run all the way to the World Series. On WISE Sports Radio, we chat about Bryce Harper’s star turn and how the Phillies are on the verge of a championship.

We also discuss the downfall of the New York Yankees and whether or not that will cost manager Aaron Boone his job. Elsewhere, the Texas Rangers surprised Major League Baseball by hiring veteran manager Bruce Bochy, who’s been retired for the past three years but boasts three World Series titles on his résumé.

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‘Black Adam’ Carried by Dwayne Johnson Through Shaky Superhero Movie Ride

Dwayne Johnson is a damn good salesman, which you likely knew. Black Adam is a testament to his star power. This movie almost certainly doesn’t get made, nor does the character headline his own film, without Johnson making it happen.

And without Johnson, this movie probably wouldn’t be that compelling — except to comic book diehards thrilled to see secondary DC Comics characters like Hawkman and Doctor Fate brought to life on the big screen. But they’re a big part of the story and look great. So does Johnson and his real-life superhero physique in a role that seems to have been made for him.

Set in the fictional Middle Eastern nation of Kahndaq, Black Adam immediately sets itself apart from other superhero stories taking place in New York, San Francisco, or fictional cities like Metropolis or Gotham City. (Maybe it’s not a coincidence that the best DC films are set in locations including Atlantis and the Amazon island of Themyscira.)

The movie also benefits from director Jaume Collet-Serra (The Commuter, The Shallows) having plenty of experience with action movies that keeps what story there is moving with little time given to exposition and character moments. Black Adam pretty much goes from one action sequence to another with momentary chances to give the audience a breath. But even “quiet” scenes have action like Johnson busting through walls rather than using doors.

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Baseball WISE Sports Radio: Phillies Shock Braves, Dodgers Stun Padres in Postseason Chaos

We’re back talking baseball on WISE Sports Radio after last week’s spot had to be canceled. And just as we know three of the four teams that will play for an appearance in the World Series.

In the National League, the Philadelphia Phillies and San Diego Padres — both of whom finished way out of first place in their respective divisions — face each other for the pennant. In the American League, the Houston Astros await the winner of the Guardians-Yankees division series. How did the Phillies beat the Braves? How did the Padres defeat the Dodgers?

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NFL WISE Sports Radio: Matt Rhule Fired, David Tepper Bristles, Daniel Snyder Threatens

Back on WISE Sports Radio after Monday’s baseball spot was unexpectedly canceled with some NFL talk. Matt Rhule was finally, mercifully fired as Carolina Panthers head coach. But team owner David Tepper raised many eyebrows during his press conference to defend his decision.

Among our other topics: Who could the Panthers hire next? Washington Commanders owner Daniel Snyder threatens to expose his colleagues if they try to force him out. Commanders coach Ron Rivera is getting testy. And Davante Adams could be in some trouble for shoving a photographer.

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