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Monday, June 29, 2015

Cooking with Banshee: Sweet Chipotle Butter

Grilling season is in full gear.  Of course, meat is the feature of any cookout, but a special topping can really set your backyard barbecue apart.  That is where Sweet Chipotle Butter comes in.  And did I mention it contains bacon?  This sweet and spicy butter is a perfect topping for steak.  It is also a delicious topping for a baked potato or corn on the cob.  Its uses are only limited by your imagination.

Butter Ingredients:
6 slices thick cut bacon
1/2 cup molasses, divided
1/4 cup chipotle flavored hot sauce
     (I used Horsetooth Smokestack Lightning)
8 Tbs softened butter

Butter Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Brush the bacon with 1/4 cup of molasses and 1/8 cup of chipotle hot sauce.  Bake the bacon until it is cooked through but not crispy.  Approximately 12-16 minutes.  Place softened butter into a mixing bowl.  Chop bacon and place in mixing bowl with butter.  Add remaining ingredients.  Mix and refrigerate.

Serve on steak, potatoes or vegetables.  Enjoy!

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Friday, June 26, 2015

Temper Temper: Sports Tantrums of Spring

It's officially summer.  The hot temperatures are here, but the hot tempers have been burning all spring.  The list from this spring is a little unusual.  No hockey players are on the list, but golf and the beautiful game both make an appearance.  Enjoy!

1.  Gentleman's Game.  Golf is different than any other major professional sport because, for the most part, the players officiate themselves.  At the WGC Cadillac Match Play Championships in early May, Keegan Bradley and Miguel Angel Jimenez had a strong disagreement over the placement of a relief drop.  Bradley's caddy gets in the act, as well.  These guys don't come to blows or anything, but it's a pretty unusual site to see professional golfers jawing nose-to-nose on the course.

2.  The People's Elbow.  Matthew Dellavedova, a backup guard for the Cleveland Cavaliers, is a pesky competitor.  In Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals, Al Horford of the Atlanta Hawks had reached his fill of the fiery Aussie.  This play was the source of a lot of debate on sports talkshows the next morning.  But, here's how I see it.  Horford and Dellavedova get tangled up going for a loose ball.  With a little assist from Horford, Dellavedova falls over a Hawks player and lands on Horford's leg.  Horford responded to the dangerous play by upping the ante.  Horford delivers the People's Elbow to Dellavedova's head.  Horford was ejected for his troubles.  Atlanta lost the game and the series.

3.  Dirty Girl.  I'm pretty old school.  I believe there is a place for physical intimidation even in high school sports.  But, this catcher in the Texas 4A softball state championship game definitely crossed the line.  Not once but twice.  The thing I don't understand about this video is why the opposing team didn't take any action to retaliate.  Rest assured that if this happened in a game in the coal region, punches would be thrown.

4.  Snapped Like a Twig.  Sure, it's been done before.  But, anytime a guy breaks a bat over his knee, it deserves to be in the spotlight.  Yasiel Puig joined the bat breaking club on June 15, 2015 in a game against the Texas Rangers.

5.  No Respect for Authority.  This makes an appearance on the list because it is unique.  There is nothing unusual about players arguing with a referee about a call.  But, Clint Dempsey of the Seattle Sounders literally tears up a call he disliked.  After a teammate is given a red card and sent off the pitch, Dempsey takes the notebook out of the referee's hand and tears it up.  Dempsey was rewarded with an ejection of his own.

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Monday, June 8, 2015

Renaissance of Sport

Spring of 2015 brought about a renaissance of sport.  Twice in the span of about a month, the nation stood still for a sporting event.  I'm not talking about just the people who wake up every morning to listen to sports talk radio.  I am talking about the general public.  Facebook was filled with comments.  Random texts were exchanged between random phone contacts.  And, of course, Twitter was alive.

It wasn't the Super Bowl or a World Series game that focused the eyes of the nation on these two occasions.  The cross-cultural consciousness was focused on the ancient sports of boxing and horse racing.

Sullivan vs. Kilrain in 1889
A century ago, boxing and horse racing both held prominent places in our nation.  John L. Sullivan, a bare knuckles boxer in the 1800's, was perhaps the first American sports star.  Man O' War was one of the first in a long line of horses that captured America's attention during the tough times of depression and war that dominated the early part of the 20th century.  Louis and Ali.  Seabiscuit and Secretariat.  Those are just a few of the stars of that graced those two sports over the next 100 years.

There is no question as the 20th century came to a close, the sports landscape was far more crowded and far different than it was at its start.  Football is now the undisputed king of sports in the United States.  Basketball also holds a place of prominence.  But during the months of May and June, the nation's eyes were turned back to its sporting roots.

May 2, 2015 may not have been the start of this old school sports renaissance, but it was a red letter day.  Shortly before 6:00 p.m. EST, eighteen horses were called to the post at Churchill Downs for the 141st running of the Kentucky Derby.  Two minutes later, American Pharoah earned a place in the winner's circle.  Little did we know at that time that we had witnessed the start of a historic run.

Mayweather vs. Pacquiao
As exciting as the Derby was, the highlight of the May 2 sports calendar took place later that night in a boxing ring in Las Vegas.  In what was tabbed "The Fight of the Century," Floyd Mayweather finally faced off against Manny Pacquiao.  The fight was an amazing international spectacle.  Celebrities filled the stands of the MGM Grand Garden Arena.  People around the world doled out a record-setting $100 for PPV in record-setting numbers.  Floyd Mayweather put on a clinic for the ages in a dominating win.

A month later the momentum for old school sports reached a crescendo.  On June 6, 2015, horse racing and boxing once again held featured spots on a packed sports day.

NBC gave us high level boxing for free in the afternoon.  The PBC gave us a welterweight matchup between Robert "The Ghost" Guerrero and Aron Martinez in an outdoor fight at the StubHub Center in Carson, CA.  The heavily favored Guerrero won by split decision, but not before overcoming a 4th round knockdown.  The sports night ended with a middleweight championship fight between Miguel Cotto and Daniel Geale.  It was a mismatch on paper, and it turned out to be a mismatch in the ring when Cotto stopped Geale in the 4th round.  But, it was big time boxing in the Barclay's Center in Brooklyn, NY.

American Pharoah wins Triple Crown at Belmont Park
In between these two boxing events, the nation and the world were mesmerized by the events that took place at Belmont Park in Elmont, NY.  American Pharoah entered the Belmont Stakes with a chance to win horse racing's coveted Triple Crown.  The Triple Crown feat had not been accomplished since 1978.

Over the course of 2 minutes and 27 seconds, American Pharoah put on an incredible display of raw athletic talent.  American Pharoah led wire-to-wire against a rested field to win the 147th running of the Belmont Stakes.  That completed an amazing Triple Crown victory.

Boxing and horse racing are among the purest expressions of individual athletics.  Uniforms do not obscure muscles, and equipment does not impact performance.  Athletic superiority is breathtaking to watch whether it is human or equine.  It has been a pleasure to watch a renaissance of sport over the course of this spring.

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Wednesday, June 3, 2015

2015 NBA Finals Preview

This isn't so much a preview of the NBA Finals as a celebration.  I'm not making any predictions here.  I am taking this opportunity to express my excitement for this NBA Finals series between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors.

Star Power.   The NBA is a star-driven league.  More so than any of the other professional sports leagues.  The 2015 NBA Finals features two of the brightest stars in the game in LeBron James and Stephen Curry.  These two stars have arrived at this same place through very different different routes.  LeBron James came from a single parent family and was anointed as a basketball prodigy as a young teen.  Steph Curry is the son of an NBA player and yet had only one Division I scholarship offer.  The physical feats that LeBron James accomplishes on the court are mesmerizing while Steph Curry's graceful style of play is beautiful to watch.  LeBron James is the greatest basketball player on the planet, but Steph Curry is the 2015 league MVP.  It's an intriguing matchup of two great and contrasting stars.

Festus Ezeli.  A name that cool doesn't need a catchy header.  The Warriors' center's backstory is even cooler.  Festus Ezeli was born in Nigeria and graduated from Nigerian high school in 2004 at the age of 14.  Ezeli then moved to the United States so that he could pursue his career goals.  But those goals were in medicine, not on the hardwood.  Prior to arriving in the United States, Ezeli had not played any organized sports.  In just a few short years, Ezeli learned the game and earned numerous Division I scholarship offers.  Ezeli chose Vanderbilt because of its academics and enrolled as a biology major in 2007.  Ezeli switched majors partway through school and graduated with a degree in economics.  The Warriors picked Ezeli in the first round of the 2012 draft.  Although he is not the starting center for the Warriors, Ezeli makes significant contributions off the bench.  Ezeli's unique background makes him extra fun to watch.

Hungry Cities.  Sports are important to me.  Therefore, it is important to me that deserving fan bases get to enjoy the thrill of winning a championship.  Warriors fans and Cavaliers fans both fit that description.  The Golden State Warriors play their home games in Oakland, CA.  The bay area has seen a fair share of success in recent years with the 49ers and the Giants, but those teams both play on the other side of the Bay Bridge.  The Warriors share a home with the Raiders and the A's.  The Warriors have not won a championship since 1975.  Nonetheless, Warriors fans have turned Oracle Arena into one of the rowdiest gyms in the league.  But, the Warriors' 40 year drought is nothing compared to the pain that Cavaliers fans have felt.  The Cavs have never won a title.  In fact, no Cleveland team has won a championship since 1964 when the Browns won a pre-Super Bowl title in the NFL.  Cleveland's sports suffering is summed up in a series of iconic phrases.  The Drive.  The Fumble.  The Shot.  The Decision.  Cavaliers fans are hoping and praying that LeBron can lift them out of the doldrums of defeat and make "The Return" the lasting phrase from the 2014-15 season.

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