Shohei Ohtani

Shohei Ohtani

Shohei Ohtani was the name on everyone’s lips leading up to the 2018 MLB season. A double threat with a .286 batting average and 42-15 pitching record in the Japanese league, Ohtani was a fiercely sought after free agent. He eventually signed with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim last December and quickly made an impact after the baseball season began in late March, going 2-0 in his first two starts for Angels.

Some are already going as far as to ask whether he is the next Babe Ruth but a little scepticism is healthy. He could be the next Babe Ruth, a baseball legend, but he could just as easily be the next Jeff Francoeur, a man who had an unbelievable start to his career before his bat cooled and he spent 11 years sliding into mediocrity.

Before we use video games to see what the future holds for Ohtani, let’s indulge ourselves in a little statistics. At the time of writing, Ohtani has had 59 at-bats and 5 pitching starts, giving him a batting average of .339 and a pitching record of 3-1. Thanks to data on Retrosheet, we can compare Ohtani’s first 59 at bats to those of Ruth and Francoeur

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As you can see, the three players are on a level playing field in terms of batting average after 59 at-bats (about 15 games or so). Ruth would go on to finish the 1915 season with 92 at-bats and a .315 batting average, while Francoeur would garner a .300 batting average from 257 at-bats in the 2007 season.

I also compared Ohtani and Ruth in terms of pitching, given that both have started their careers on the mound. Babe Ruth went 1-3 in his first five starts for the Red Sox in 1915 (though he would go onto finish the year 18-8 from the mound), the inverse of Ohtani’s previously stated 3-1 record.

Quick fun fact- Francoeur actually went to the mound as well. While playing for the Philadelphia Phillies, he pitched two innings against the Baltimore Orioles on June 16, 2015 and posted a single strikeout while giving up a 2-run home run and 3 walks.

Honestly, it’s probably too early in the season to be comparing Ohtani to my chosen metrics so maybe I’ll do a revisit at the All-Star break.

However, we can use Out of the Park Baseball 19, a baseball management simulation game touted for its accuracy, to see their take on Ohtani’s rookie season. This will be far from gospel, as the game is likely to under-use Ohtani at the plate. As with all my OOTP 19 simulations, I hand all control over to the AI and simply run the season.

I began by running till the All-Star game, the season midpoint.

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So safe to say things aren’t going great for the Angels, though the game doesn’t think that the AL West is going to be a particularly strong division. Before we get to Ohtani’s specific stats according to the game, I can tell you that he doesn’t make the 2018 All-Star Game.

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Batting first. As I expected, the game doesn’t give Ohtani much time off the mound. That’s fair enough, a guy who can pitch and hit doesn’t come around too often so the game is unlikely to have intricate algorithms to process that. However, I find it a little hard to find that after 97 games, he has less than 20 at-bats more than he does after 16 in the real world. The game played him at designated hitter and occasionally right field and his numbers are respectable but nothing special.

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As for pitching, the game has not been generous either- Ohtani has a 4-9 record from 20 starts. It is not uncommon for young pitchers to have a sub-par first season in the majors. However, again the game appears to underestimate Ohtani, at least in the first half of the season. Unless he is truly destined for Francoeur-dom and the game knows something we don’t.

Let’s move to the end of the season

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Yeah, bad season for the Angels. In fact, a terrible season, their worst since 1999.

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As for Ohtani, I feel that the game really cheated him out of a decent rookie season. He batted .258 and achieved a 9-11 pitching record (though that does indicate that he had a much better second half of the season, giving up only two losses in 14 starts). However, the game still awards Ohtani the American League Rookie of the Year title so, there’s that.

(For anyone interested, the game also has the Cubs beating the Yankees in 7 to claim the World Series)

As one final act of curiosity, I simmed the game through to 2022 to see where it places Ohtani after 5 seasons in the majors. After 5 seasons, Jeff Francoeur was batting .277 and had been traded from Atlanta to the New York Mets. Meanwhile, Babe Ruth was batting .307 and was a year or two away from truly starting his path to legendary status.

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Outside of a single-season snapshot, the game is kinder to Ohtani. However, according to the game, he is destined to be more of a Francoeur than a Ruth. After 5 seasons (and a trade to the Chicago Cubs) Ohtani holds a .265 batting average and a 43-35 pitching record.

Video game simulations aside, Ohtani is an exciting MLB prospect and definitely one to watch. As I previously mentioned, I am likely to revisit Ohtani’s rookie season later in the year.


Who to support to sate your bandwagon success needs

Who to support to sate your bandwagon success needs

Fans of ‘sport’ typically fall into one of three categories- the diehard, name every player on the roster, fanatics; the mild interest, check the scores once a week, fans and finally, the bandwagon, I support X because it’s trendy/I want to connect with someone and they like sport so I’m going to make the effort to learn about something they like. There is no shame or issue about being in any one of these groups (although members of said categories will tell you otherwise). But that’s not what this blog is about- this blog is for the success seekers, those looking to jump on a bandwagon.

As a success seeker, looking to align yourself with a consistently successful team, you may be wondering who to even support in the first place; what sport to invest yourself in. Well luckily for you, I have complied the data for nine US cities who host a baseball, hockey and basketball team (I would have included football but its inclusion reduces the number of viable samples to seven) and turned the data into an easy to understand guide to who you should support for maximum success.


Boston, Massachusetts is home to the Red Sox of baseball, the Bruins of hockey and the Celtics of basketball. The city has long been considered a successful powerhouse of the east coast, with the three teams collecting 23 championships between them since 1946, including the Celtics winning every NBA championship of the 1960s bar one.

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As for who to the support, the graph of season by season records shows that Boston offers the potential of choosing any of the three teams. Some things to note- as the green line shows, the Celtics have a precedent for a cycle of boom and bust, with stretches of prosperity nose-diving to a sub-.500 season or even an extended run of losing seasons. This unpredictability could be off-putting if success is your main focus as a fan. The Red Sox are a typical safe bet with a losing season being rarity for them but all-in-all, the Bruins are your best bet for a Boston area success team. They haven’t had a sub-.500 season since 2006-07 and since then, they’ve only failed to make the playoffs twice. All three teams appear to be improving season by season as of the last three or four seasons but your safest bet would be to back the Bruins.


Chicago, Illinois is home to the Cubs and White Sox of baseball, the Bulls of basketball and the Blackhawks of hockey. Sports fame for the city has largely stemmed from the mythos surrounded the teams that have played in the city- the Cubs Curse, the 1919 World Series Scandal, Michael Jordan, the Wirtz dynasty and the continuing controversy over the Blackhawks’ name. There’s a lot going on with Chicago’s sport teams.

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There is a reason that this graph looks so chaotic- most of Chicago’s teams have a very similar record when it comes to the late 20th Century. The Cubs, White Sox and Blackhawks never spent more than a few seasons either side of the .500 line at any one time. Closer to the present, the trends become a little clearer as the Bulls are on a downward slide and looking for their first division title since 2012 (and their first championship since 1998) while the Cubs are the feel-good story with their sensational 2016 World Series victory. However, it is once again hockey that brings you your best bet of following a successful team- the Blackhawks’ last sub-.500 season was in 2006 and since then they have won three Stanley Cups and only missed the playoffs once.


Denver, Colorado is home to the Rockies of baseball, the Nuggets of the basketball and the Avalanche of hockey. Denver has not always been a sports hub- while it is the long time home of the NFL’s broncos and has hosted the Nuggets since the 1960s, it was only granted an MLB and NHL franchise in the mid-90s. Aside from the Bronco’s Super Bowl win in Super Bowl 50, the last major championship for the city came from the Avalanche winning the Stanley Cup in the 2000-01 NHL season.

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As could be inferred from the lacklustre introduction of the Mile High City, there is nothing spectacularly about the city’s baseball, basketball or hockey. The Rockies haven’t recorded a winning season since 2010 (although they look on course do so in 2017) while the Nuggets are on the cusp of breaking .500 after a steady decline since 2011. Meanwhile, the Avalanche has crashed in a series of increasingly worse seasons. If I had to a pick team to recommend, I’d choose the Nuggets or the Rockies. Or the Broncos, go off book and support football.


Detroit, Michigan is home to the Red Wings of hockey, the Tigers of baseball and the Pistons of basketball. The city and surrounding area was once the heart of the American automotive industry and strong, robust sporting franchises. While the industry has gone, the sport has remained and many denizens of the city embrace the Red Wings, with the affinity for hockey strong enough for the city to be nicknamed ‘Hockeytown’.

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Of all 10 cities I looked at, Detroit maybe the hardest to gauge. The Red Wings the dominant sports powerhouse for years but have shown consistent decline since the early 2000s while the Pistons fell from their highest point and are still slowly rebuilding. The Tigers are generally successful but when they fall below .500, they either fall hard or they tend to stay below .500 for a substantial period. At the conclusion of 2016, all three had reached something of a crossroads, with the Tigers and Pistons rising above .500 and the Red Wings slipping below it. While Denver was a case of letting you pick the lesser of three disappointments, Detroit is more a case of picking one and hoping for the best.

Los Angeles

Los Angeles, California is home to the Dodgers of baseball, the Kings of hockey and the Clippers and Lakers of basketball.  LA is the punchline to most jokes about the relocation of sports teams. The Dodgers originated in Brooklyn; the Clippers came from Buffalo via San Diego and the Lakers started life in Minneapolis. Only the Kings and the NFL team, the Rams, started life in LA.

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LA is a story of haves and have-nots. Despite enjoying extended periods of success, the Lakers crashed to well below .500 and have only just begun to pull themselves back up towards success. Inversely, after spending a majority of their time in LA below .500, the Clippers are currently the most successful team in LA, although they have been on a shallow decline in winningness over the last three or four seasons. The Kings are similar to Chicago’s teams in the manner they hug the .500 line, barring their recent spike in success and the Dodgers are a reliably successful team, whose last foray into sub-.500 territory was over a decade ago.

New York

New York, New York is currently home to the Yankees and Mets of baseball, the Knicks and (not included in this article for moving too recently) Nets of basketball and the Islanders and Rangers of hockey. New York and the surrounding area is famous being the starting place for many of modern professional sports teams, many of which appear on this list.

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Much like Chicago, New York is home to a number of sports teams who boast very similar franchise-long records. Every team has seen its share of failure and success. The Knicks are the only team to rule themselves out of being your bandwagon success team with their crash and subsequent sub-.500 rebuild. Of the four teams who are currently sitting above .500, only the Rangers are currently on an upward trend with the other the currently seeing periods of shallow yet consistent decline.


Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is home to the Phillies of baseball, the 76ers of basketball and the Flyers of hockey. Philadelphia has a long history of sport, in part to the character credit the city received for Rocky. It is especially well-known for its raucous fans and maybe the single most annoying mascot in history, the Phanatic.

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The city’s teams’ records bear a similarity to a number of cities we’ve seen previously. The 76ers have never decided whether they want to be successful or not while the Flyers have maintained a consistent success as the Phillies flirt with .500 line. Despite being on a downward trend, the Flyers have been the only team above .500 for the last years, making them the obvious choice to be your success bandwagon team.


Toronto, Ontario is home to the Raptors of basketball, the Maple Leafs of hockey and the Blue Jays of baseball. Toronto is the home of Canada’s first MLB team and the Raptors were one of two Canadian basketball teams to join the NBA in 1995.

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Toronto may be the most interesting city on this. With exception of the Raptors relatively poor performance until a turn around and rebuild towards success in 2010, the Blue Jays and Maple Leafs have been fairly consistent teams over the last 20 years. The Blue Jays won back to back World Series in the early 90s and the Maple Leafs are a staple of the NHL. All three teams are currently a safe distance above .500 so once more, the choice is yours. A want of consistency would lean you towards the Maple Leafs; room for disappointment would put you towards the Blue Jays and riding the coat-tails of the break out star would place you squarely in the Raptors camp.

Washington DC

Washington DC is home to the Nationals of baseball, the Captials of hockey and the Wizards of basketball. DC is home to the youngest team in the article, when the Montreal Expos moved to the nation’s capital and became the Washington Nationals before the 2005 MLB season.

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Washington is a city that leaves you spoiled for choice. All three of its teams have been above .500 for four or five seasons with Wizards and Nationals on the rise after seasons of breaking even. The Captials continue to be dominant and hold high-flying NHL numbers. This is certainly an occasional when any one of these teams would suit the needs of your success bandwagon.

My footnote in (fake) baseball history

My footnote in (fake) baseball history

There is a game in my Steam library I have become smitten with. It’s called Out of the Park 18 and it’s a pretty extensive baseball management simulator. I’ve dabbled with the game’s various mechanics for a couple of months now but recently, as one of the ways I’ve been breaking up days of job hunting, I’ve started to take the game more seriously.

For my first serious save file, I chose to be the manager of the Minnesota Twins. The game allows you to be the GM (controlling the franchise as a whole), manager (controlling the major league team) or you can do both roles. Because I hadn’t done a serious playthrough of the game, manager seemed simplest.

So let’s introduce the Minnesota Twins prior to the 2017 season. In 2016, the Twins finished with a record of 59-103, the worst record in the MLB since 2013 (the Astros went 51-111). For me, that meant my rookie season would carry fairly low expectations.

I have no control over the roster, only the lineups and pitchers so I simulate spring training and get right into the season.

April 7th, 2017- Minnesota Twins @ Chicago White Sox

My Twins are on the road at the White Sox for the second series of the season after a 2-1 loss to the Royals at home. The game begins at 9:10pm EST with a fastball from Miguel Gonzalez and goes scoreless for three innings. Max Kepler doubled in the top of the 4th and was run in by an Eddie Rosario double two batters later. Chicago ties the game in the bottom 4th and two half innings later, I’m staring at no outs and runners on first and second for Chicago. Given how this game likes to simulate, I assumed that Chicago was about to start scoring runs until I quit the game. Adalberto Mejia pitches a weak slider to Avisail Garcia who hits a line drive towards third base. The runners are moving, looking to at least advance on a single and load the bases.

Then something happens. The little icon at third, Miguel Sano, catches the ball and starts sprinting away from third. He intercepts the icon moving between second and third before stopping at second base. One pitch, three outs. Garcia caught, Cabrera tagged and Abreu forced out. Miguel Sano, a two-year major league veteran, has just completed an unassisted triple play. Disheartened, Chicago goes on to lose 6-2.

A rare gem

There are many rare feats in baseball- the immaculate inning (9 pitches, 9 strikes), the no-hitter (9 innings, no hits) and of course, the perfect game (9 innings, no bases conceded). Even a triple play is considered to be fairly rare. But there is one play that is rarer than them all- the unassisted triple play. This is a triple play (three outs from a single pitch) performed by a single player. Before we continue, allow me to tell you how rare an unassisted triple play is- between 1876 (the official inception of professional baseball in America) and August of 2017, there have been 713 triple plays, 296 no-hitters, 84 immaculate innings, 23 perfect games. There have only been 15 unassisted triple plays.

Given the number of MLB games played from 1876-2016, an unassisted triple play (UTP) occurs once every 14,225 games (or once every 6 seasons from a purely statistical standpoint). The average MLB career lasts 5.6 years or 907 games, meaning that the purely statistical probability of playing in a game in which a UTP occurs is 0.064 (one in 15.625 careers). The purely statistical probability of fielding a UTP depends on your position. Given how a baseball field is laid out, I think it is safe to say that outfielders (LF, CF and RF) cannot field a UTP because they would never be able to reach the infield in time. The pitcher theoretically could but to be honestly, that would be the most insane thing to happen in baseball and the same applies to the catcher (the only possible way a catcher could even do it would be to catch a fair or foul tip, force or tag out a runner coming home from third and then make it to third to run or tag out the runner approaching from second). So that leaves us with the three basemen and the shortshop. The existing fifteen UTPs tell us that in a game with a UTP, the probability of the position that completes the play is as follows: First baseman- 0.13; Second baseman- 0.33; Shortstop- 0.53. There have been no MLB UTPs by a third baseman but for the sake of this piece, let’s include my Sano UTP. That gives a third baseman the probability of 0.063. So before we move on, we now know that a third baseman making a UTP is about as likely as a UTP occurring in the first place.

This means that the probability of a third baseman making an unassisted triple play in Major League Baseball is 0.004032 or once every 248 unassisted triple plays. If a UTP occurs every 14,225 games; the math says that the 248th UTP would occur during the 3468 MLB season.

But Miguel Sano, a third baseman, made the play four games into the 2017 season. For arguably the league’s worst team.


If you liked this piece, I recommend you check out my similar pieces, such as seeing if the 2016 Browns improved by going back and kidnapping football legends of the past

Should the Cleveland Browns focus on inventing time travel?

Should the Cleveland Browns focus on inventing time travel?

For those of you who don’t follow American Football, the Cleveland Browns are very bad. They haven’t had a winning season since 2007 and they haven’t reached the post-season playoffs since 2002. The Browns are so bad that telling your child “you’ll end up playing for the Browns if you don’t eat your vegetables” is probably precedent for a visit from child protective services.

They have suffered nearly decades of mismanagement- whether it was moving the team to Baltimore in the middle of the night; an inability to actually make a first round draft pick who turns out well or the string of injuries, bad trades and just generally cellar dwelling the team seems so fond of.

2016 marked the worst season for Cleveland since 1999. They finished 1-15 (which is the worst finish for any NFL team since 2008). Granted, a promising 2017 draft has given hope to a rebuilding of the team but for now, they are still the laughing-stock of the NFL.

So this got me thinking. What could actually help the Browns? And being a sci-fi nerd, the answer was clear- time travel. Could the Browns actually improve their standing if they used time travel to kidnap some of history’s best NFL players during the best seasons of their career? Well, I ran the maths and here’s what I found out.

1. Who do the Browns use time travel to bring to the team?

Using data from a number of different sources, I came to the conclusion (using an aggregated scoring system) that the three best quarterbacks of all time were Joe Montana, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning; the three best running backs were Barry Sanders, Walter Payton and Jim Brown and that the three best wide receivers were Jerry Rice, Randy Moss and Terrell Owens.

2. How do the Browns utilize these new players?

So the rule I went with is that the player gains the same stats with the Browns in 2016 as they did in their best career season (with at least 8 games played). Essentially, they played their best season but with the 2016 Browns. Each football legend replaced the best player on the Cleveland roster in their respective position and their stats added to Brown’s stats. Touchdowns scored by the new additions to the team were distributed evenly across Cleveland’s 16 regular season games and any remaining touchdowns were assigned to games by a random number generator.

3. Anything else we need to know about your method?

Any tied games at the end of regulation were left as ties as I have no way of predicting how overtime would go. If a player managed to get Cleveland into playoff contention, Cleveland would replace the appropriate seed and then play their respective playoff matches using the specific player’s postseason stats for their best season.

4. So, what did you find?

Joe Montana (Best season: 1989)


Despite winning four Super Bowls with the San Francisco 49ers and amassing 29 touchdowns during his best season, Montana was let down by the failings in the rushing and receiving cores of the Browns. Most games in 2016 were lost by more than 14 points, meaning that Montana’s two extra touchdowns per game only made the games a little closer, and flipped two losses to ties.

Result: 7-7-2, 3rd in the AFC North

Certainly better than the 1-15 actual season and they do rise above Cincinnati, who finished on 6-9-1. With Montana at the helm, the Browns would record their best season since 2007 and technically finish with a winning season (.500). However, it is nothing particularly special.

Tom Brady (Best season: 2007)


The Patriots went 18-0 in the 2007 season before losing the Super Bowl and in large part, the success of the regular season is due to the sheer cyborg-like nature of quarterback Tom Brady. He threw 50 touchdowns and was just generally a beast.

Result: 14-1-1, 1st in the AFC North, #1 seed in the AFC, loses to Houston in the division playoff

Brady gives the Browns three extra touchdowns a game, plus a fourth in four of the  games. The only loss comes from the inability to overcome the 10-35 loss to the Dallas Cowboys in week 9, which became a 31-35 game. However, Brady’s numbers plummeted during the ’07 postseason, meaning that he was only able to put two touchdowns a game and so the Browns go out to the Texans 14-16. Still, best season since 1994 for the Browns and a  #1 playoff seeding is nothing to turn your nose up at.

Peyton Manning (Best season: 2013)


And here comes Peyton Manning, giving the Browns an even four extra touchdowns per game. Say what you will about Manning, when he was good, he was good.

Result: 16-0, 1st in the AFC North, #1 seed in the AFC, loses to Houston in the division playoff

Unsurprisingly, with Manning at the helm, the Browns are unstoppable and record the second ever perfect season in the NFL. Four extra touchdowns a game is enough to wipe out any real life deficit and turns the Browns into an unstoppable force of nature. Their undoing is once again Manning’s post-season performance. He recorded less TDs in the playoffs than Brady and this time can only manage to take the Browns to 7-16 against the Texans.

Barry Sanders (Best season: 1991) and Randy Moss (Best season: 2003)

1991 NFC Divisional Playoff Game - Dallas Cowboys vs Detroit Lions - January 5, 1992        RM03

The big problem that comes with using the Browns patented time travel to collect running backs and wide receivers is that your quarterbacks are still bad, as are the rest of your running backs and wide receivers. Just because you have a legend like Randy Moss doesn’t mean you are going to do any better. The other problem is that these players can’t be solely relied on to put points on the scoreboard. Not every play can be planned to have them take the ball and soon enough, your opponents with just smother them in coverage.

Result: 7-9, 3rd in the AFC North

Both Sanders and Moss give the Browns six victories more than the 2016 but due to the low numbers across the team, even their best seasons aren’t good enough to push the Browns to lower-middle wild card standings.

Walter Payton (Best season: 1977), Jerry Rice (Best season: 1993) and Jim Brown (Best season: 1963)

WALTER PAYTON   JR93        JB63

As I said with Sanders and Moss, even a legendary player’s best season may not be good enough to help the Browns do anymore than post a half-decent season. Most of the receivers for the Browns in 2016 scored 1 or 2 touchdowns apiece and the rushing core was not much better.

Result: 6-10, 4th in the AFC North

5 wins above the actual 2016 season. Here, have a tiny firework.

Party popper

and finally…

Terrell Owens (Best season: 2000)


Owens was a good, if controversial, player. However, he is largely remembered for his career records and so in his best season, he only recorded 13 receiving touchdowns. This means that for the Browns, he only added an extra touchdown for 13 of 16 games. At this point I should also note that of the three categories, wide receivers was the hardest to aggregate as almost every site had a different list or opinion.

Result: 4-12, 4th in the AFC North

Well, that’s three more wins than they actually got and one more than they got in 2015. Still, I don’t Terrell Owens circa. 2000 is particularly high on the Browns list of time-travel transfer targets.


So in conclusion, taking on the more legendary quarterbacks is probably the best way to go for the Browns, maybe add in a running back or two. However, in all seriousness, the Browns surprised everyone at the 2017 draft with a well-rounded and well-structured draft selection so maybe 2017 will truly see the start of the Cleveland rebuilding effort.

Johnny Bright

Johnny Bright


Let me tell you about Johnny Bright.

Bright grew up in an African-American neighbourhood in Fort Wayne, Indiana with his mom, step-dad and a few siblings. He was a talented sportsman; playing football, basketball and track for his high school and leading the school teams to either local championships or state finals in football and basketball.

When Johnny graduated in 1947, he accepted a scholarship at Michigan State to play football, who were one of the giants of college football at the time. However, unhappy with the direction of the program, he transferred to Drake University, a small private college in Des Moines, Iowa. After being redshirted during his freshman, Bright began his college football career as a quarterback/halfback in 1949. He passed for 975 yards and rushed for a further 975, leading Drake to a 6-2-1 season. To put this in perspective, his passing yardage is about a quarter of an NFL quarterback’s season passing yards while his rushing yards, thanks to his experience at halfback, are better than the first NFL season of all 32 current starting NFL quarterbacks (there are maybe 3 quarterbacks who even come close to Bright’s stat). He only got better in the 1950 season, setting an NCAA record for total offensive yards and again leading Drake to a 6-2-1 season. Johnny Bright was a legend in the making.

Then came the 1951 season. Things started well- Bright was considered a surefire candidate for the Heisman Trophy during the pre-season and cemented these feelings by leading Drake on an unbeaten streak in the first five weeks of the season. Saturday, October 20th rolled around and the Drake team travelled the 513 miles from Des Moines to Stillwater, Oklahoma for their match against Oklahoma A&M (Now Oklahoma State). A&M were 1-3 going into the game and would go on to finish the season 3-7. Bright had become the first African–American player to play at A&M’s stadium, Lewis Field, during the 1949 match between the teams. But things were different this time, A&M’s The Daily O’Collegian and Stillwater’s The News Press both described Bright as being a marked man and many A&M students were openly claiming that Bright “would not be around at the end of the game” while students interviewed after the game said they had overheard coaches yelling “get that nigger” when the A&M practice squad ran Drake plays in the week before the game.

The game was horrific- Oklahoma DT Wilbanks Smith knocked Bright unconscious three times in the opening seven minutes, breaking the QB’s jaw on the third occasion. Bright still managed to complete a 61-yard touchdown pass a few plays later before he had to leave the field due to the injury. The final score? Oklahoma 24, Drake 17.

JB handoff
Johnny Bright (circled) hands the ball to FB Gene Macomber
JB Tackle
Johnny Bright is tackled by Smith. Macomber can clearly be seen with the ball towards the bottom of the photo

This story of how racism fuelled a shocking display of football may never have come to light, however, if it wasn’t for Bob Spiegel and Don Ultang. They worked as cameramen for the Des Moines Register and had a camera focused on Bright once the threats of him being a marked man became too large to ignore. The two photos you can see above are part of a sequence published 10 days after the incident. The article also included the “get that nigger” story from A&M students as well as a member of the practice squad showing a local businessman, sat in front of Spiegel, a facial injury he claimed was from Smith practicing his jaw-breaking tackle. The photographic sequence would go on to win the 1952 Pulitzer Prize.

Oklahoma A&M adopted a total denial attitude about the incident and continued to suppress the story, from their end at least, for the next 50 years. Drake University would later pull out of the Missouri Valley Conference in protest of the lack of reprimand for Smith and would not return to the Conference until 1971, Bradley University, who quit in solidarity, would never return to football in the conference. But this isn’t about Oklahoma A&M, this is about Johnny Bright. Despite having his jaw broken, Bright earned 70% of Drake’s yardage for the season and scored 70% of their points. He came fifth in the Heisman ballots.

At the 1952 NFL Draft, Bright was picked as the 5th overall pick of the draft by the Philadelphia Eagles. Due to the influx of southern educated players to the NFL and worries about how he would be treated, Bright declined and instead went to Calgary to play in the precursor to the CFL. However, it would be at the Edmonton Eskimos that Bright enjoyed the most success, joining midway through the 1954 season, he would go on to win three consecutive Grey Cups. He also worked as a teacher in Edmonton to provide for his family, as CFL salaries are not what they are today. Bright played 13 seasons of professional football, retiring in 1964 with a heap of records under his belt. After football, Bright continued to teach and was eventually principal of two junior highs in Edmonton.

Johnny Bright died in December 1983 and was buried in Edmonton, survived by his wife and four children.


-Oklahoma State University formally apologised for the Johnny Bright incident in September 2005, fifty-four years after the incident and twenty-two years after Bright’s death.

-The football field at Drake Stadium was named after Bright following renovations in 2006.

-During a 2006 interview, Wilbanks Smith, the DT who made the infamous tackles, maintained that he didn’t see the targeting of Bright as racially motivated.

-Canadian sports network, TSN, ranked Bright as the 19th best CFL player of the modern era in a November 2006 poll.

Ben talks films: 5 athletes who found success in acting

Ben talks films: 5 athletes who found success in acting

In today’s world, people don’t tend to stick to one profession- athletes and musicians dabble in acting; actors dabble in music. However, while this leads to many many cringe-worthy attempts at crossing the professional boundaries. Some do manage to find success. Today, I am talking about five athletes who found success in acting. Criteria for this is that the athlete must have appeared in at least 3 films or at least ten episodes of a television series and at least one of these must have accrued a Rotten Tomatoes score of at least 60%

  1. OJ Simpson (NFL): The now infamous Orenthal James Simpson was born and raised in San Francisco. After a rough childhood and teenage years, including time in prison for association for a gang called the Persian Warriors, he found his drive in American Football. Awarded a scholarship to Southern California, joining in his junior year after two years at a community college. As a running back, he scored 13 touchdowns in his first season and was nominated for Heisman Trophy, the highest accolade for a player at the college level. This athletic excellence led him to be No. 1 NFL draft pick of 1969, picked up by the Buffalo Bills. Over the next eight years, OJ made 5 Pro Bowl appearances and is widely considered to have been one of the main reasons behind Buffalo’s moderate success in the 1970s. After he retired from football in 1978, OJ began to star in more and more bit roles in films and television. His big break came in 1988’s The Naked Gun: Files from the Police Squadalongside Leslie Nielsen. That would spawn two sequels, between which OJ would also star in the football drama First & Ten: The Championship. For some unknown reason, OJ’s last major acting role was in a TV movie called Frogmenin 1994, almost as if something would reshape the way people saw OJ the following year…After the Brown-Goldman murder trial, OJ largely retired from the public eye, again appearing in a few bit parts until his arrest and impris0nment for armed robbery and false imprisonment in 2008. Fun fact- OJ was turned down as a candidate for the lead role in The Terminator because he was considered to be “too nice”.
  2. Terry Crews (NFL): Terry Crews was born in Flint, Michigan and was considered a talented artist. After high school and a stint at the Interlochen Centre for the Arts (as well as working as a court room sketch artist for a Flint based media group), he was given an athletic scholarship to Western Michigan University (WMU). With the WMU Broncos, Crews won a division championship and would go on to be drafted by the LA Rams in the 11th round of the 1991 NFL draft. After playing 6 seasons of football across five different teams, Crews retired and began to pursue acting. His first major role was a ‘T-Money’ in the pilot of the failed Gladiatorsrip-off, Battle Dome. After years of bit roles, including the President of the United States inIdiocracy, Crews’ big break came as Julius, father of the main character on Everybody Hates Chris. This led to a few more TV spots before his next major success as Herbert Love on cult series Arrested Development. He lent his voice to video game Saints Row IV in 2013 as former Third Row Saints leader and current Presidential Chief of Staff Benjamin King before taking on a number of smaller roles once more. He can currently be seen as not-so-tough guy and former football player Sgt. Terry Jeffords on police comedy Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
  3. Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson (NCAA, CFL, WWE): Dwayne ‘The Rock’ ‘Franchise Viagra’ Johnson started his athletic career as a Defensive Tackle for the University of Miami Hurricanes, with whom he won a collegiate national championship with in 1991. After graduating in 1995, he joined CFL team, the Calgary Stampeders, but was cut soon after the start of the season. This led him to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps and join the world of wrestling. The Rock has been active as a wrestler in three stints since 1995. He was a popular figure in the wrestling world and garnered a large following. In the acting world, Johnson would follow a number of small roles, including roles in The Mummy Returns, The Scorpion King and Doombefore beginning to garner the title of ‘Franchise Viagra’ for his ability to breathe life into dying franchises. This is seen in GI Joe, the Fast & Furious films. He has a lot on his plate according to IMDB, with two sequels to Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, a sequel to San Andreas, another Fast & Furious movie, and the lead in the Baywatchreboot as well as the lead villain role in DC’s Shazam! Safe to say that we’ll be seeing Johnson for a long time to come.
  4. Andre the Giant (WWF): Starting out as a French wrestler, Andre is best known for his undefeated wrestling streak between 1973 and 1987 as well as a feud with Hulk Hogan. As an actor, his time was sadly cut short due to his death at the age 0f 46 but it he is well remained for an uncredited role in Conan the Destroyer, his hilarious performance in The Princess Brideas well as a cameo performance in Micki & Maude. His speciality was big lumbering, passive giants. His characters were often portrayed as being misunderstood and actually good people at heart.
  5. Arnold Schwarzenegger: The Austrian bodybuilder and former Governor of California is probably one of the most famous examples on an athlete finding success in acting. His first role was as Hercules in the 1969 film Hercules in New Yorkand he would continue in bit parts for the next decade, winning serval Mr Olympia titles in the interlude (consecutive wins between 1970 and 1975) before landing his first major lead as Conan in Conan the Barbarian and its sequel, Conan the Destroyer. You might not remember the 1984 sequel, Conan the Destroyer, as a little film starring Arnie called The Terminatorcame out, showcasing his signature wooden acting in a whole 16 lines of dialogue. The late 80s then became Arnie’s golden era with the release of Commando, Predator, The Running Man and Twins. His success followed into the 90s with Total Recall, Kindergarten Cop, Terminator 2 and Last Action Hero before the late 90s gave way to less acclaimed Arnie films such as Jingle all the way, Batman & Robin and End of Days. The 2000s are largely known for Arnie’s surprise political career, where he served as California’s Governor between 2003 and 2011 (the second actor to do so after Ronald Reagan), but it is also known for the two terrible Terminator films and appearances in the first two Expendables movies. The 2010s followed a similar path with a few Arnie roles, the standout performance being his lead in 2015’s independent film Maggie, which Arnie did for free and gives a very good performance in.

What are some of your favourite athletes turned actors? Let me know!


Ben talks TV: Friday Night Lights

Ben talks TV: Friday Night Lights

Warning: Some plot spoilers ahead

The late Tom Landry one said “Football is to Texas what religion is to a priest.” If you venture into the Lone Star State, you will find a sports culture unlike any other. Whole towns come to a standstill when the high school team plays on Friday night; Texas has twelve teams playing in the highest tier of collegiate football and the Dallas Cowboys once spent over two decades being considered the greatest football team in America.

Friday Night LightsA town, A team and a dream is a 1990 non-fiction work that follows the 1988 season for the Permian Panthers, a high school football team from Odessa, Texas. The book is not only a fascinating insight into high school football and its effect on the town around it, but also the journey of the author, HG Bassinger, who goes from looking to write an uplifting piece about high school football unifying a town to writing a much more cynical piece as he uncovers the darker truth about how much Texans love their football. Bassinger’s work was the basis for the 2004 film Friday Night Lights, which is a largely faithful adaptation of the book with Billy Bob Thornton taking on the role of Coach Gary Gaines. The film then served as an inspiration for an NBC drama of the same name, which is what I’m here to talk about today.

Before you stop reading, let me tell you that Friday Night Lights isn’t just a high school sports drama with a ‘game of the week’ format. It is a heartfelt series which really personifies the title of Bassinger’s work- a town, a team, a dream. The show follows the fictional Dillon Panthers, who must work to meet the high expectation placed upon them.

The cast of characters is diverse and likeable (or deliberately unlikeable). The show’s characters are split into three overarching categories- the Taylors, the team and the town. The show’s lead characters are Coach Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler) and his wife, Tami, and daughter, Julie, as they return to Dillon in the pilot episode after a number of years elsewhere. The struggles faced by Coach Taylor that is the main basis for the show. As you would expect from a show about high school football, the team roster changes as classes come and go. For the first two seasons, we follow the on and off field lives of star quarterback Jason Street (who is paralysed in the pilot episode); his replacement Matt Saracen, a sweet and sensitive boy who defies, and struggles with, the jock lifestyle; the arrogant and verbose running back Brian ‘Smash’ Williams, who has to learn to cope as one of the few black members of a largely white team as well as how to play nice with his teammates; and the sullen, often drunk fullback Tim Riggins, who is the show’s anti-hero character. After season 2, there are few squad changes, except for the departure of Smash and the introduction of the socially awkward Landry Clark, who had previously been a secondary character and a close friend of Matt Saracen. The other big change is the introduction of JD McCoy, a talented quarterback and Matt’s rival for first string quarterback. The biggest changes come in the last two seasons of the show, when Coach Taylor is transferred to the newly re-opened East Dillon High School. The major players that are introduced are Micheal B. Jordan’s Vince Howard, a boy from the rough part of town trying to make good, and Luke Cafferty, a nervous yet talented running back. Completing the cast is the rest of Dillon, showcasing the mentality of a football obsessed Texas town. Many of the characters are romantically or linked to players or are their family, such as Tim’s on and off girlfriend Tyra and Jason’s loving yet ultimately fickle girlfriend Lyla. We also meet Matt’s grandmother, who is slowly losing a fight to dementia, and Tim’s deadbeat brother Billy. The show also focuses on the relationship between Coach Taylor and the Boosters, the primary source of the funding for the football team. We especially see his relationship with former player and influential booster Buddy Garrity, who often comes as single-minded and rude but deep down, he’s just trying to do everything he can for the team.

As I said before, the show isn’t just about football and its in-season arcs do cover a wide range of issues. We get an insight into how football players are treated in Texas, with one story following a Hispanic player who assaults a fellow student but lies and says that he was racially provoked. Coach Taylor is torn between standing up for the victim and protecting his player. As you would expect from a Texan set drama, race is explored thoroughly. Most of the core cast get a few storylines thrown their way. The show deals with abortion and sex, both near taboo topics in Texas. Essentially, the show goes out of its way to create a snapshot of rural Texas and the issues that high school students and their town as a whole may face.

If you are looking for a good drama to watch, and you don’t mind a little football thrown into the mix, I’d definitely recommend Friday Night Lights, which you can find on Netflix.

Have you seen the show? What do you think of it? Let me know!