Shaquille Harrison: A Journey From Obscurity to Eminence

Written By Mason Kern, Contributing Writer for InFluential Magazine 

It was 2012 and Shaquille Harrison had a decision to make. He could either play Division I college football at the University of Kansas or go a different route toward Division I basketball at Tulsa University. He opted for the latter, which was a pinnacle decision that has wholly defined his life ever since.

Harrison grew up in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, and attended Lee’s Summit West High School. His former basketball coach, Michael Schieber, watched Harrison’s progression throughout high school and, subsequently, at the collegiate level.

“I don’t know of a kid who has worked harder for everything that he’s gotten from the time that he was a 5’7,” 110-pound freshmen to the point that he is now,” Schieber said in a Kansas City Star report. “I couldn’t be prouder of him.”

Mar 28, 2018; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Shaquille Harrison (10) goes up for a layup against LA Clippers guard Tyrone Wallace (12) during the first half at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Photography courtesy of  Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports.

Mar 28, 2018; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Shaquille Harrison (10) goes up for a layup against LA Clippers guard Tyrone Wallace (12) during the first half at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Photography courtesy of Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports.

Harrison became a four-year starter for the Golden Hurricane. At 24-years-old and 6 feet 4 inches tall, he is a lengthier point guard than the traditional type. He utilized that length to his advantage while honing his skills in college. For the first two seasons of his college career, Tulsa competed in the Conference USA (CUSA) before switching to the American Athletic Conference (AAC) for the 2014-15 season and beyond.

Harrison’s main prowess throughout his career has been on the defensive end of the ball. His career totals at Tulsa saw him average 11.1 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game while also maintaining a clip of 1.8 steals. He is the only player in Tulsa history to register 1,300 points, 400 assists and 200 steals in his entire career. In his senior season, Harrison was also awarded the AAC Men’s Basketball Scholar Athlete of the Year.

“I like to go out there and match up and just go at them hard,” Harrison said.

Ever confident, Harrison put himself into contention for the 2016 NBA Draft after completion of his senior season but went undrafted amid concerns about his offensive production. He shot only 21.6% from three-point range and 64.5% on free throws throughout his stint with the Golden Hurricane.

Eventually, Harrison started his professional career by signing with the Phoenix Suns on September 25, 2016. However, he was waived on October 10 of the same year. He then moved to the Suns’ affiliate G-League team, the Northern Arizona Suns. In two seasons with the affiliate, he averaged 10.3 points while keeping up with his defensive production averaging 1.6 steals.

Mar 28, 2018; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Shaquille Harrison (10) dunks over LA Clippers forward C.J. Williams (9) during the first half at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Photography courtesy of  Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports.

Mar 28, 2018; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Shaquille Harrison (10) dunks over LA Clippers forward C.J. Williams (9) during the first half at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Photography courtesy of Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports.

Harrison fortuitously then went on to join the Phoenix Suns’ 2017 Summer League team, during which time he made a notable mark. On February 21, 2018 he was signed to his first professional 10-day contract. That contract was extended another 10 days, and Harrison was signed to his first official NBA contract on March 13, 2018, signing a multi-year deal with the Suns.

During his multiple 10-day stint contracts with the team, Harrison actually made NBA history. In his first four appearances, Harrison had eight steals; four in his debut against the Los Angeles Clippers and then four in the road win against the Memphis Grizzlies–when all four came within a four-minute fourth-quarter stretch to help seal the victory. In the process, he became the first player to have multiple four-plus steal performances in his first four career games since Mario Chalmers in 2008. The only other Suns player to achieve that feat was Alvan Adams in 1975.

“You know Shaq is a guy that can come in and bring that type of energy,” Suns’ backup point guard Tyler Ulis said. “It’s just about playing hard, he has a great motor.”

In his 17 games with Phoenix thus far, Harrison has fought for minutes with Ulis, as well as point guard Elfrid Payton–whom the team received in a trade deadline deal with the Orlando Magic.

After a downward trend by Ulis, and no chance at a playoff push for the Suns, interim head coach Jay Triano has allowed Harrison more minutes on the court, and he has delivered in droves.

Harrison poured in a career high 17 points in 30 minutes of action to go along with four steals in the March 28th home contest against the Clippers. Although the Suns lost the game 111-99, the game was a bright spot for the future of Harrison’s career.

“There’s a lot of people out there that want to be in my position,” Harrison said. “I’m just trying to make the most of it the best I can.”

In the 17 games he has played, Harrison is averaging 5.6 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 14 minutes per game. He is also contributing 1.1 steals. However, with only six games remaining in the season, Harrison will surely see those averages increase with an uptick in minutes played.

The Suns–who maintain a 19-57 record on the year–will most likely attain a top-3 pick in the upcoming draft. This is the last season that the “tanking” method will work, as commissioner Adam Silver has changed the rules for the NBA Draft going forward after this season.

“I’m just trying to work hard every day and continue to put up numbers,” Harrison said. “Help the team win in any way possible.”

Season Preview: Can the Arizona Diamondbacks Break Through NLDS?

Written By Mason Kern, Contributing Writer for InFluential Magazine

After going 93-69 a year ago, the Arizona Diamondbacks have the tools to make another successful playoff push in the 2018-19 MLB season. Fans should expect power swings and strikeouts galore from their two superstars: perennial National League MVP candidate (and first baseman) Paul Goldschmidt and ace pitcher Zack Greinke.

Despite getting swept in the NLDS by the eventual World Series runner-up Los Angeles Dodgers, the D’backs were able to put on a convincing performance in the single-elimination Wild Card game, defeating the Colorado Rockies in dramatic fashion, 11-8.

The challenge in 2018 is to keep pace with a suddenly very competitive NL West Division, which boasted three of the five playoff teams in 2017.

However, there are plenty of questions that the D’backs will have to answer heading into the new season.

Where is J.D. Martinez?

Sep 22, 2017; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks right fielder J.D. Martinez (28) runs the bases after hitting a home run against the Miami Marlins during the ninth inning at Chase Field. The Diamondbacks won 13-11. Photography courtesy of  Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports.

Sep 22, 2017; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks right fielder J.D. Martinez (28) runs the bases after hitting a home run against the Miami Marlins during the ninth inning at Chase Field. The Diamondbacks won 13-11. Photography courtesy of Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports.

Fans were semi-confident that manager Torey Lovullo would be able to resign impending free agent J.D. Martinez after the success they had in the final year of his contract. Martinez was a large part of the D’backs offense last year after arriving in a mid-season trade with Detroit. He was a huge part contributing 16 home runs for the Tigers and 29 for the D’backs–good for third best in the MLB–as well as a .303/.376/.690 season slash line that culminated in an OPS of 1.066.

Martinez went into free agency in search of a seven-year, $210 million contract as reported by BleacherReport.com. He stalled multiple offers from multiple suitors waiting for the time when an organization would come to the table with the money he felt he deserved.

The Boston Red Sox emerged as the frontrunners for his services after they offered a five-year, $100 million contract. Martinez stalled on that contract, waiting to see if the D’backs or others would be motivated to make a better offer. He has since signed with the Red Sox on a five-year, $110 million contract. The full amount is not guaranteed, as there are opt-out clauses mixed in after the first two seasons. Martinez will make $25 million the first two years, if he opts into the third year of the contract that value will decrease to $22 million. If he opts into the final two years of the contract the value will decrease further to $19 million for the remainder of the contract.

Who Closes Out Games?

Former closer Fernando Rodney bolted Arizona, signing with the Minnesota Twins on a one-year, $4.5 million contract. Rodney became a fan-favorite in Arizona thanks to his high-energy antics and signature move of the “bow-and-arrow” celebration after successfully closing out games. Rodney had 39 saves for the D’backs, tied for the third highest total in the National League last season.

Lovullo now has to make the decision as to who is going to close games for the upcoming season. With names such as recent acquisition Brad Boxberger and Archie Bradley surfacing as frontrunners, Lovullo has some talent to work with and develop into a potential closer in the near future. The D’backs also signed Japanese reliever Yoshihisa Hirano to a two-year, $6 million contract to increase the depth of their bullpen.

The wild card here is Shelby Miller. It is unclear if the Diamondbacks would ask him to pitch out of the bullpen once he returns from Tommy John surgery. That is a possibility and an intriguing thought though.

Where do the D’backs go from here?

Obviously, the loss of Martinez takes a big chunk out of the D’backs’ offense. But, the team has made moves to try and fill the gap for the upcoming season.

The D’backs acquired outfielder Steven Souza in a three-team trade with the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays, hoping to find a replacement for Martinez’s power stick. Souza hit 30 home runs and stole 16 bases last season.

The Yankees receive former D’backs’ infielder/outfielder Brandon Drury.

The deal also saw Arizona receive New York’s pitching prospect Taylor Widener, a 23-year-old right-hander who pitched at High-A Tampa last season. They also gave up 24-year-old left-handed pitcher Anthony Banda to Tampa in the deal.

Souza immediately fills a gaping hole within Arizona’s outfield left by Martinez. The 30 home runs he hit last year will help to offset the loss of the 29 produced by Martinez in just 62 games for the D’backs as well. In terms of base-running, Souza will help to generate more runs for an Arizona offense that already produced at a high level in that department.

The team did have to give up a utility player in Drury in the deal, but they have a competent enough infield to replace his impact.

If Souza is not immediately thrust into the outfield from day one, there are rumors that David Peralta assumes the role that Martinez leaves behind, while Yasmany Tomas takes the starting spot in left field.

However, Tomas has been wildly inconsistent since he signed a six-year, $68.5 million contract with Arizona back in 2014. Tomas has struggled for the first three years in his career, hitting .268 with 48 home runs. With trade rumors swirling around him, he will need to drastically improve if he is to overcome the enormous standards that have been set before him.

What about the team as a whole?

Along with the addition of Souza in the outfield, the D’backs signed former Seattle Mariners outfielder Jarrod Dyson to a two-year contract reportedly totaling $7.5 million.

Dyson will give Arizona some protection in center field in case A.J. Pollock departs in free agency after the 2018 season, and he provides depth in case any of Pollock, Tomas, or Peralta—each of whom has spent a lengthy stint on the disabled list at some point over the past two seasons—suffers an injury. His greatest immediate value, however, will come from base running, where he’s swiped at least 20 bags in six straight seasons, including 28 in 2017, and in the outfield, where he recorded a combined 15 defensive runs saved last year while seeing action in both center and left field.

Left-handed pitcher Robbie Ray had a breakout all-star campaign as well as Cy Young award consideration in the 2017 season after turning in 28 starts of 2.89 ERA (166 ERA+) ball. His strikeout rate, north of 12 batters per nine, was second in the majors only to Chris Sale.

Consider that the biggest statistical difference for Ray in 2017 was his hit rate. He allowed 6.4 hits per nine, down from 9.6 the previous season. It stands to reason that Ray should allow fewer hits than the normal pitcher, and that the Diamondbacks defense will be closer to their .705 defensive efficiency rating from last season. Even so, Ray still has to deal with his wavering command–hence his walk and home-run rates remaining largely unchanged from previous seasons.

If there’s one area outside of the bullpen that looks like it could need some help, it is the D’backs double-play combo. Ketel Marte is young and fun, while Chris Owings would seem better deployed as a super-sub option, while Nick Ahmed is really a glove-only shortstop. The team traded Drury, giving them a little less depth than they would like.

The D’backs further tried to bolster their power-swinging offense with the addition of catcher Alex Avila who signed a two-year $8.25 million contract. He will likely fit in well with the current duo of Jeff Mathis and Chris Hermann.

Key additions & subtractions from last season

Breaking it down a little easier, here is the rundown of the D’backs offseason:

Key additions: Brad Boxberger, Alex Avila, Jarrod Dyson, Yoshihisa Hirano

Key losses: J.D. Martinez, Fernando Rodney, Brandon Drury

So how does the season turn out?
With all of the moving parts within the organization to replace what was lost while still maintaining their star core, expectations remain the same for this D’backs team.

They surely will remain competitive throughout the entire season and I expect them to finish with a winning record in the mid-to-high 80’s. They will most likely make another wildcard berth and advance.

However, with the other teams in their conference competing at the same, if not higher, level it will not be easy for the D’backs to achieve their ultimate goal of making a World Series push.

With the loss of offensive production from Martinez, and with no true, experienced closer, this is not the year for the D’backs. They will get bounced in the division series round of the playoffs same as last year until they can find a suitable, consistent replacement and make a heavier impact in the NL West against their biggest current threat in the Dodgers.

Los Angeles Dodgers Lose Justin Turner to Injury

Written By Mason Kern, Contributing Writer for InFluential Magazine 

Mar 11, 2018; Salt River Pima-Maricopa, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner loses his helmet as he slides safely into third base against the Colorado Rockies during the fourth inning at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. Mandatory  (Photography courtesy of  Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports)

Mar 11, 2018; Salt River Pima-Maricopa, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner loses his helmet as he slides safely into third base against the Colorado Rockies during the fourth inning at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. Mandatory (Photography courtesy of Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports)

The Los Angeles Dodgers lost their offensive leader from last season to injury in this past Monday night’s spring training game in which the team achieved a 3-1 victory over the Oakland Athletics. Justin Turner, third baseman for last season’s World Series runner-ups, reportedly sustained a non-displaced fracture in his left wrist upon being hit by a pitch rocketed by right-hander Kendall Graveman.

It has been announced by Dodgers’ manager Dave Roberts that Turner will not require surgery for the injury. However, Roberts did not give a timeline for Turner’s absence or expected return to the diamond.

With opening day just a few days away, Turner’s absence will surely be felt throughout the dugout. As for how the team might adapt, expect Logan Forsythe to slide into the third base slot, as well as Chase Utley and Kike Hernandez splitting second base duty.

Turner was last season’s NLCS co-MVP, an honor he shared with Chris Taylor. They were the third set of co-MVPs in LCS history, joining Rob Dibble and Randy Myers for the 1990 Reds, and Jon Lester and Javier Baez for the 2016 Cubs.

The 33-year-old Turner batted .322 with 21 home runs and 71 RBI’s in 130 games played last year. He went six for 18 (.333) with two home runs and seven RBI’s in the five-game NLCS series, and he logged more walks (five) than strikeouts (four). Most notably, Turner clubbed a walk-off home run in Game 2. That was only the second postseason walk-off in Dodgers history.

Currently, the Dodgers are looking to improve upon their extraordinary season last year in which they maintained a record of 104-58. Some have suggested that the 2017 Dodgers may actually have been the best baseball team ever. Now, without Turner for the first few weeks of the season, other players will have to step up, step in or otherwise pick up the pace if they want to scratch the surface of that mark this season.

Big Flavor for the Big Game

When hosting a game-day party, you’d think the focus would be on the score or the award-winning commercials, but it’s actually a great reason to indulge in flavor-filled bites. When the big day rolls around, let your guests obsess over the game while you serve up ooey-gooey dips, saucy wings and football-themed desserts that can keep them happily glued to their seats.

Dip into delicious. No watch-party menu is complete without a cheesy dip. This over the top dip brings big flavor and is perfect for kicking the party up a notch as your team works to post that next big win.

Slow cook your cornbread. Not only does this recipe for cornbread amp up the flavor with paprika, garlic powder and cheese, you can set it, forget it then enjoy it with your favorite chili or ribs.

Go ahead and wing it. Wings and football go together like quarterbacks and touchdowns. This year, try a south-of-the-border version and rub wings in cheesy taco seasoning. For extra flair, serve them on a platter with taco fixings.

Fan-favorite desserts. Win or lose, there’s always room for dessert. It can be surprisingly simple to create fun and tasty football-themed treats. These bite-size truffles require just five ingredients and are the perfect finishing touch(down) for your game-day spread.

Find more flavorful game-day recipes and ideas for your party at McCormick.com.

Chocolate Raspberry Football Cookie Truffles

  • 4         cups crumbled chewy chocolate cookies
  • 1 1/2   cups marshmallow creme
  • 2         teaspoons McCormick Raspberry Extract
  • 12       ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1         ounce white chocolate, melted
  1. In large bowl, mix crumbled cookies, marshmallow creme and raspberry flavor until well blended. Shape mixture into 1-inch ovals. Set aside.
  2. Melt chocolate as directed on package. Using fork, dip one cookie truffle at a time into chocolate. Tap back of fork 2-3 times against edge of dish to allow excess chocolate to drip off. Place on wax paper-lined tray. Refrigerate 30 minutes, or until chocolate is set.
  3. Spoon melted white chocolate into small, re-sealable plastic bag. Cut small piece from one bottom corner of bag. Close bag tightly then pipe lines on truffles to resemble football stitching. Let stand until chocolate is set.

Note: Cookies can be stored in covered container at room temperature up to 5 days.

Texas Trash Dip

  • 1          package (8 ounces) cream cheese
  • 1          cup sour cream
  • 2          cans (16 ounces each) refried beans
  • 1          can (4 1/2 ounces) chopped green chilies, drained
  • 1          package McCormick Taco Seasoning Mix
  • 4          cups shredded Mexican cheese blend, divided
  • nonstick cooking spray
  • chopped cilantro (optional)
  • tomatoes (optional)
  • sliced olives (optional)
  • avocado (optional)
  • tortilla chips
  1. Heat oven to 350° F.
  2. In large, microwavable bowl, heat cream cheese and sour cream on high 1 minute, or until cheese is softened. Remove from microwave. Mix with wire whisk until smooth. Add refried beans, green chilies, seasoning mix and 2 cups cheese; mix well.
  3. Spread bean mixture into 13-by-9-inch baking dish sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.
  4. Bake 25 minutes, or until cheese is melted. Top with cilantro, tomatoes, sliced olives and avocado, if desired. Serve with tortilla chips.

Cheesy Taco Wings

  • 2 1/2    pounds chicken wing pieces
  • 1          package McCormick Cheesy Taco Mix
  • nonstick cooking spray
  • 3          cups chopped romaine lettuce
  • 1/4       cup finely chopped tomato
  • 2          tablespoons sliced green onion
  • 1       tablespoons crumbled queso fresco
  1. Heat oven to 450° F.
  2. In large bowl, toss chicken wings with seasoning mix. On large, shallow foil-lined baking pan sprayed with nonstick cooking spray, arrange wings in single layer.
  3. Bake 30-35 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through and skin is crisp.
  4. On large serving platter, arrange lettuce. Top with wings, tomato, green onion and queso fresco.

Slow Cooker Cheesy Cornbread

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1          cup milk
  • 3          eggs, beaten
  • 2          packages (8 1/2 ounces each) corn muffin mix
  • 1          teaspoon McCormick Paprika
  • 1/2       teaspoon McCormick Garlic Powder
  • 1/2       teaspoon salt
  • 1          cup frozen corn
  • 2          cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
  1. Spray inside of 6-quart slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray. In slow cooker, mix milk, eggs, corn muffin mix, paprika, garlic powder and salt until well blended.
  2. Stir in corn and 1 cup cheese. Place clean kitchen towel over slow cooker and cover with lid.
  3. Cook 2 hours on high, or until toothpick in center of cornbread comes out clean. Uncover.
  4. Sprinkle cornbread with remaining cheese. Let stand, uncovered, 30 minutes, or until cheese is melted. (Family Features)

SOURCE:
McCormick

Tensions Run High as NBA Altercations Escalate

Multiple physical incidents prompt ejections and suspensions league-wide

Written By Mason Kern

What a wild week it has been in the NBA, quite literally. Tensions clearly ran high across the entire league this week as fans bore witness to unsavory NBA behavior similar to past unbecoming incidents like the infamous “Malice in the Palace” melee.

Photography courtesy of Jacob Gonzales

Photography courtesy of Jacob Gonzales

To kick off this week’s fury-fueled iteration of the NBA, the faceoff between the Toronto Raptors and Philadelphia 76’ers saw Raptors’ point guard Kyle Lowry and 76’ers forward Ben Simmons engage in a heated verbal exchange—only to be promptly ejected. Simmons then motioned with his arm, seemingly pointing to the tunnel—a gesture that many speculated was a suggestion for Lowry to meet him back there for continued confrontation. Despite the invitation, nothing occurred after the ejections and Philly took the game 117-111.

“I won’t play around,” Simmons said of the altercation. “I’m not going to take no s— from anybody,” as reported via ESPN on Instagram.

Just a day later, superstar point guard Chris Paul was reunited with his former team in a match between his Houston Rockets and the Los Angeles Clippers in the so-called “City of Angels.” Things started fine—pleasantly even, as Paul was actually received with a standing ovation. However, things eventually turned sour as Clippers’ forward Blake Griffin benefitted from a no-call after an apparent goaltend. As he came back up the court he nudged Rockets’ head coach Mike D’Antoni with an elbow, sending the coach into a rage. Words were fired, and the rest of the game unfolded with a palpable air of discontent. Subsequently, Rockets’ forward Trevor Ariza ultimately ripped Griffin’s tights and multiple hard fouls occurred thereafter. When the dust settled, the Clippers claimed the victory 113-102.

When asked what he had said to Griffin, D’Antoni responded “you mean after he hit me? Just that I didn’t appreciate him. But other than that, it’s good,” as reported by the New York Times.

The real predicament plainly happened after the game in a scenario reminiscent of the “Trojan Horse” scheme implemented by the Greeks during the Trojan War. The Rockets used a back door in an attempt to confront the Clippers in their own locker room while Rockets’ center Clint Capela knocked on the front door as a diversion. Reportedly, Paul and Rockets’ shooting guard James Harden were trying to calm down their teammates—mainly Ariza and shooting guard Gerald Green, in an attempt to deflate the situation, but to no avail., Both Ariza and Green have been suspended two games due to the incident.  Somewhat surprisingly, punishments were not doled out to anyone else involved.

In the Minnesota Timberwolves contest against the Orlando Magic, things also got heated as multiple plays between Timberwolves’ forward Nemanja Bjelica and Magic shooting guard Arron Afflalo escalated to an all-out skirmish. At first, Afflalo was visibly upset after being slightly shoved by Bjelica as he attempted to crash the rim for an offensive rebound. He responded with a haymaker of a right arm swing that narrowly missed Bjelica’s face. In order to “protect himself,” as has been reported, Bjelica subsequently put Afflalo in a devastating headlock, a power play leveraging the significant size he has over Afflalo. This prompted both teams and the referees alike to get involved in attempts to separate the players and diffuse the situation. Once detached, both players were ejected and the Magic ended up conjuring up a win of 108-102. Adding more insult to injury, Afflalo has since been suspended two games for the altercation.

“I was just trying to protect myself and to help him, to calm him down,” Bjelica said in reflection of the rumble as cited by FOX Sports.

But the week had yet more wrangling in store.  Most recently in the game between the Charlotte Hornets and Washington Wizards, point guards for the opposing teams Michael Carter-Williams and Tim Frazier were both ejected after the Hornet saw fit to scream in Wizards’ center Jason Smith’s face after a hard boxout. Frazier tried to evade the referees attempts to hold him back in his efforts to get to Carter-Williams. Due to the ferocity of each players’ actions, both were ejected. In the end, the Hornets severely stung the Wizards with a final score of 133-109.

With all of the animosity that has been on display throughout the NBA this past week, one has to wonder what is prompting the sudden change in players’ attitudes and actions.  Perhaps it’s underlying resentment relating to NBA all-star snubs or maybe it’s just bad behavior, plain and simple. No matter the impetus, while these antics can demonstrate the heart, passion and intensity that drives the league, the hardwood is functioning more like a UFC octagon of late and, in my opinion, to the game’s detriment. A solid dose of anger management infused with coping strategies and rage redirection methods would surely do the NBA some good. My hat’s off to those players who do aptly rise to the occasion by keeping their emotions in perspective and their actions in check. Now that’s winning.

Mason Kern

Mason Kern, Host of ‘The Sports Watchdog’ Radio Show on KFNX 1100 Phoenix (also available globally in podcast form), spotlights newsworthy current events and happenings in the world of professional and college sports as well as notable sports and fitness gadgets and gear. Mason also frequently appears as a sportscasting guest on various TV and other radio programs, including Good Morning Arizona, KUSI-TV San Diego, NBC Sports Radio Phoenix and more. View his TV segment clips online at www.tinyurl.com/TTWVideos. Reach Mason on Twitter @ASportsWatchdog, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SportsWatchdog and on LinkedIn at www.tinyurl.com/TTW-Linkedin.

Make Game Day a Win

It’s game day, which means your party needs food and needs it fast. Use recipes that can pump up the crowd this season and make every game a win.

These quick recipes for an Olive Bar Flatbread and a Mediterranean Nacho Bar can leave the fans in your home screaming for more.

Your fans will almost assuredly be dipping, diving and running for these simple snacks created with fresh ingredients like Sabra Hummus, which is available in more than a dozen flavors in the deli section of your grocery store. Spread it on fluffy flatbread with your favorite veggies to create a snack that fans can go crazy over, or set it out buffet-style for everyone to munch on at halftime.

Find more game day recipes at sabra.com.

Mediterranean Nacho Bar

  • Sabra Hummus
  • Diced tomatoes
  • Chopped green onions
  • Chopped zucchini (1/4-inch chunks)
  • Chopped Greek olives
  • Chopped pepperoncinis
  • Shredded lettuce
  • Crumbled feta cheese
  • Grilled chicken
  • Pita chips
  1. Assemble hummus, tomatoes, green onions, zucchini, olives, pepperoncinis, lettuce, cheese and chicken in buffet format.
  2. Serve with pita chips.

Olive Bar Flatbread

Prep time: 15 minutes

Servings: 2

  • 3          tablespoons Sabra Roasted Red Pepper Hummus
  • 1          flatbread
  • 1/2       cup desired vegetables, chopped (olives, roasted peppers, peppadew or artichokes)
  • 3          miniature mozzarella balls, sliced
  • 2          cups arugula
  • 2          tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1          tablespoon olive oil
  • ½         teaspoon salt
  • 1          teaspoon pepper
  1. Heat oven to 400° F.
  2. Place hummus on flatbread. Top with desired vegetables and mozzarella.
  3. Bake on lower rack 10-12 minutes, or until crispy and browned.
  4. Toss arugula with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Place on flatbread and serve. (Family Features)

SOURCE:
Sabra

Chow Down on Championship Snacks

When the clock ticks down toward game day and you’re putting together a snacking plan of attack, turn to recipes like these that you and your guests can savor for all four quarters of action.

With different choices to draft from, there’s no need for a superstar main course at the center of the meal. Instead, rely on options like customizable brats and pulled pork sandwiches, baked chicken wings and game-day dips for winners all around.

Find more recipes for hosting game day at Culinary.net.

Top Your Tailgate

Take your tailgate or home viewing party to the next level by setting up a topping station with a variety of both traditional and unexpected condiments and garnishes to let your fellow fans customize their grilled fare. Include options such as:

  • Ketchup and mustard (with flavor variations for added zing)
  • Sauerkraut or cole slaw
  • Chopped fresh and grilled onions
  • Chili (homemade or from a can)
  • Pickle spears and relish
  • Barbecue sauce
  • Sriracha
  • Assorted shredded and crumbled cheeses
  • A variety of peppers

A Game-Day Winner

Game time is no time to mess around when it comes to fast, savory snacks. Crispy and light, tangy and bold, these wings have you covered for all your game-day needs. These spicy hot wings pair perfectly with Litehouse Chunky Blue Cheese or Homestyle Ranch Dressing and may result in another game day rivalry: blue cheese vs. ranch. Whether you’re hosting the game-day party or bringing a dish to a friend’s bash, these wings can make mouths water from the opening kickoff to the final whistle. Find more game-day recipes at litehousefoods.com.

Crispy Baked Buffalo Chicken Wings

Total time: 1 hour, 25 minutes

Serves: 8

  • 4          pounds chicken wings
  • 2          tablespoons baking powder
  • 1          teaspoon salt
  • nonstick cooking spray
  • 4          tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2       cup hot sauce
  • 1/2       cup Litehouse Chunky Blue Cheese or Homestyle Ranch dressing
  • 1/3       cup Litehouse Blue Cheese Crumbles
  • carrots
  • celery
  1. Lay wings on rack on rimmed baking tray and let dry in refrigerator overnight, or pat dry with paper towels.
  2. Heat oven to 250° F. Put one oven shelf in lower quarter of oven and one in top quarter.
  3. Place wings in large re-sealable bag. Add baking powder and salt. Shake bag to coat wings evenly.
  4. Line tray with foil. Spray rack on baking tray with nonstick spray. Place wings skin side up on rack. Bake on lower shelf 30 minutes.
  5. Move tray to higher shelf and turn oven up to 425° F. Bake 40-50 minutes, rotating tray halfway through. Wings are done when they are dark, golden brown and skin is crispy.
  6. While wings bake, whisk together butter and hot sauce; keep warm.
  7. Remove wings from oven and toss with hot sauce; sprinkle immediately with blue cheese crumbles. Serve with blue cheese or ranch dressing, carrots and celery sticks.

Dip into Game Day

Game day is about huddling up with friends and family, and feeling good about the food you share. Kick off the big game with Sabra, the official dip of the NFL, and help the crowd go wild when you put a twist on traditional hummus by topping it with bruschetta. Available in more than a dozen flavors, Sabra Hummus is made with fresh chickpeas, a touch of garlic and smooth tahini, making it a wholesome and delicious accompaniment for your favorite game-day chips, crackers and veggies. Find more big-game recipes at sabra.com.

Bruschetta-Topped Hummus

Prep time: 5 minutes

Bruschetta:

  • 2          cups multi-colored cherry tomatoes
  • 1          clove garlic, minced
  • 10        fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 1          tablespoon olive oil, plus additional (optional)
  • salt, to taste
  • container Sabra Classic Hummus (10 ounces)
  1. To make bruschetta: Cut cherry tomatoes into quarters or eighths, if large. Place in small mixing bowl. Stir in garlic, basil and olive oil, and season with salt, to taste.
  2. Scoop hummus out of container and swirl onto serving plate. Top with bruschetta and drizzle with touch of olive oil, if desired. Serve with fresh vegetables or pita chips.

A Heaping Handheld

Snack like a champion during the big game with recipes that please palates without overfilling like these Smoked Pulled Pork Sandwiches. Since guests can pile their sandwiches as high as they like with sweet pork and optional toppings, there’s no need to worry about serving sizes. Find more honey-infused recipes for tasty meal solutions at honey.com.

Smoked Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Honey Barbecue Sauce

Recipe courtesy of the National Honey Board

Servings: 8-10

Pork Rub:

  • 1/4       cup sugar
  • 1          tablespoon chili powder
  • 2          teaspoons paprika
  • 1 1/2    teaspoons seasoned salt
  • 1 1/2    teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 1/4    teaspoons onion powder
  • 1          teaspoon salt
  • 1          teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1          teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4       teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1          bone-in pork shoulder roast (4 pounds)
  • 2          cups hickory chips
  • 1          cup water
  • 1 1/2    cups barbecue sauce
  • 1 1/2    cups honey
  • 1          cup ketchup
  • 8-10     rolls
  • chopped jalapeno peppers (optional)
  • chopped onion (optional)
  • chopped pickles (optional)
  1. To make Pork Rub: Stir together sugar, chili powder, paprika, seasoned salt, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, cumin, pepper and cayenne pepper.
  2. Massage Pork Rub over surface of pork and let stand 30 minutes.
  3. Soak hickory chips in water; drain well. Wrap chips in foil; punch holes in foil and place on top of gas grill set on high. When chips begin to smoke, place pork on grill and cook until well browned on all sides with lid closed, about 30-45 minutes.
  4. Heat oven to 300° F.
  5. Remove pork from grill and place in turkey-size oven bag set in large, shallow baking dish. Add water and seal well; pierce bag several times with small knife. Cook 3-3 1/2 hours, or until meat is tender and pork bone can be removed easily. Remove from oven. Remove bone and set aside until cool enough to handle.
  6. Shred meat into small pieces, removing fat. Add juices from cooking bag, skimming off excess fat.
  7. In separate saucepan, stir together barbecue sauce, honey and ketchup, cooking until hot and honey has dissolved. Stir most of sauce into shredded pork and mix well.
  8. Serve on rolls and drizzle with remaining sauce. Top with jalapenos, onions and pickles, if desired. (Family Features)

SOURCE:

Culinary.net

A Fresh Tailgate Menu

Quick and tasty ideas for game day

Take your tailgating game to new heights this season with fresh dishes that are easy to make and serve, whether your tailgating tradition takes place at the game or at home.

Fast prep times and short ingredient lists make these recipes a cinch to prepare in advance and have ready to go as soon as you reach the parking lot or before guests arrive. The star ingredients are naturally hardwood-smoked sausages and seasoned deli meats from Eckrich, which offers a variety of smoked sausage flavors in traditional ropes and bun-length links as well as gluten-free deli meats such as Black Forest ham and oven-roasted turkey, all with just the right blend of seasonings for a rich, savory taste.

You can switch up the flavors of these recipes by subbing in different varieties of smoked sausage, such as replacing the original rope-style smoked sausage with Eckrich Jalapeno & Cheddar Links. The roll-ups are also easy to customize for guests using any type of deli meat, and they’re easy to enjoy on the go if you need a quick bite on the way to the stadium.

Tailgate Like a Pro

Try New Toppings

Smoked sausage and deli meats are easy to add to a bun for an instant meal, and there’s plenty of ways to dress your tailgate menu up or down based upon the preferences of your guests. Be sure to keep some basics on hand for those who prefer traditional preparation, but for the more adventurous types, try out these ideas for toppings that create a new dimension of flavor.

  • Grilled onion
  • Grilled peppers
  • Grilled, roasted or sauteed mushrooms
  • Spicy mustard
  • Flavored ketchup (think spicy, fruity or sweet)
  • Ethnic flavors like curry or marinara sauce
  • Hot sauce
  • Roasted corn relish
  • Crumbled or shredded cheese
  • Bacon crumbles

Handy Hacks

  • Repurpose coffee filters as holders for your sandwiches. They’re easy to hold and help keep your favorite toppings contained.
  • Up-cycle an empty six-pack container into a convenient cookout caddy to hold napkins, condiments and utensils. Not only is it quick to grab and place on the table, but it helps keep napkins from blowing away in a breeze.
  • For kabobs, keep wooden skewers from charring by soaking them in water before threading on ingredients.
  • Prepare toppings the night before and arrange them in a disposable foil pan for a quick and easy DIY topping bar.

Million Dollar Moment

This season, Eckrich – the official smoked sausage and deli meat sponsor of the College Football Playoff – is once again hosting the Road to the National Championship sweepstakes. Fans around the country will have the chance to make a 20-yard throw for $1 million at some of the biggest college football games of the season, including the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship in Atlanta. Visit EckrichFootball.com for your chance to win.

Find more game-day recipes at Eckrich.com.

Grilled Sausage Skewer Sandwiches

Cook time: 15 minutes

Servings: 6

  • 1          regular size package Eckrich Smoked Sausage
  • 1          small red onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1          red bell pepper, seeded, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 6          wooden skewers, 10 inches long
  • 1/2       cup Italian salad dressing, divided
  • 6          bolillo or sandwich rolls, split
  • 1          avocado, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
  • 1/4       cup cilantro leaves
  1. Heat grill to medium-high.
  2. Cut sausage into 1/2-inch thick slices. Thread sausage, onion and bell peppers alternately onto skewers. Brush 1/4 cup salad dressing on skewered sausage and vegetables.
  3. Grill until sausage is golden brown and vegetables are crisp-tender, about 10 minutes, turning once.
  4. Brush remaining salad dressing on rolls. Fill rolls with grilled sausage and vegetables. Divide avocado and cilantro onto each.

Tip: To broil sausage rather than grill, heat broiler to medium-high, follow the same skewer preparation instructions and broil about 10 minutes, or until sausage is golden brown and vegetables are crisp-tender.

Ham and Turkey Roll-ups

Cook time: 10 minutes

Servings: 2

  • 4          ounces Eckrich Deli Oven Roasted Turkey Breast
  • 4          ounces Eckrich Deli Black Forest Ham
  • lettuce leaves
  • 2          tablespoons chunky guacamole
  • 1/4       cup chopped cucumbers
  • 1          tablespoon shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2          slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
  1. Layer turkey and ham slices. Layer lettuce, guacamole, cucumber, cheese and bacon crumbles. Roll meat and secure with toothpick.

Potato Salad with Smoked Sausage

Cook time: 30 minutes

Servings: 6

  • 3/4       regular size package Eckrich Smoked Sausage, halved lengthwise, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
  • 3          small red potatoes (about 2 1/2 pounds), cooked and quartered
  • 1          can (4 ounces) pitted ripe olives, drained and halved
  • 2          cups Italian dressing
  • 1          green onion, sliced (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1          clove garlic, minced
  • 2          teaspoons ground black pepper
  1. In large skillet over medium heat, cook sausage 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in potatoes; cook until heated through, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.
  2. Add olives, dressing, onions, garlic and pepper; mix lightly. (Family Features)

SOURCE:
Eckrich

‘Untold Stories of the Desegregation of Baseball’ Documentary Premieres

Did you know, that as a young man, Abraham Lincoln was a formidable wrestler and out of 300 matches, only lost one? Or that Congress voted for our independence from Britain on July 2, 1776, not on the Fourth of July?

Like these facts, there are hundreds of other little-known stories of American history that rarely get told.

For instance, while many know about Jackie Robinson and his struggle to break the color barrier, not everyone realizes that even after he successfully joined the Dodgers, the process of desegregation was far from over.

“It’s worth remembering that it’s the end of that 1947 season that really marks Robinson’s triumph,” says filmmaker Gaspar GonzÃlez, who has produced documentaries for PBS, ESPN and others. “He had endured the hatred and racist threats directed at him to not only prove that he belonged in the Major Leagues but to lead the Brooklyn Dodgers to the World Series. Getting through that season – excelling the way he did – ensured that other players of color would follow.”

While Robinson opened the doors, what followed was a decades-long struggle to break down America’s racial barriers and for the game of baseball to become truly integrated.

It’s this untold story that GonzÃlez tells in his new film, “A Long Way from Home: The Untold Story of Baseball’s Desegregation,” which chronicles the struggles and triumphs of the pioneering black and Afro-Latino players who played minor-league ball in small, remote towns where racial segregation remained a fact of life well into the 1960s. These are the men who, before they could live their dreams, first had to beat Jim Crow and follow Jackie Robinson into white professional baseball.

The 45-minute documentary sheds light on the struggle toward racial equality in baseball, featuring original interviews with James “Mudcat” Grant, Grover “Deacon” Jones, Jimmy Wynn, J.R. Richard, Tony Perez and Orlando Cepeda. These former MLB stars endured racism on and off the field to pursue their big-league dreams – ultimately playing a significant role in making America’s pastime truly open to all.

To commemorate the 70th anniversary of Robinson’s trailblazing inaugural season, TV One will show “A Long Way from Home” with an exclusive early preview on video on demand (VOD) of the documentary, available now through Oct. 31. Following its VOD preview, the documentary will be added to TV One’s February 2018 broadcast schedule.

Funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, “A Long Way from Home” has enjoyed select screenings in Washington, D.C.; Houston; Miami; and the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. “NEH is proud to support this important project, which we hope will inspire broader conversations about the changing meanings of race, equality and freedom in American civic life and culture,” said Margaret Plympton, former acting chair, National Endowment for the Humanities.

To watch the trailer and learn more about the film, visit www.longwayfromhomemovie.com. (BPT)

10 Winning Hacks for a Stress-free Tailgate

Tailgate

If there’s one thing fans look forward to more than the game itself it’s tailgating. This pregame ritual is essential, but it can also involve a lot of planning and organization. This season, if you’re looking for less stress and more fun at your tailgate, it’s time to bring in a fresh playbook.

With the right plays and a few smart hacks, you can streamline your tailgating experience to earn rave reviews without breaking a sweat. To be tailgate MVP, consider revising your pregame plan with these winning plays:

1st play: Know the rules
Every tailgate location has its own rules. Know what’s allowed so you’re not caught off guard. Info on food, drink, music, even electronics and generators is widely available on stadium websites.

2nd play: Plan the menu
Forget manning the flames. Create a burger-building extravaganza with Red Robin Gourmet Burgers and Brews’ new Gourmet Burger Bar. The hassle-free, traveling burger bar is complete with 10 (or more) individually wrapped and made-to-order beef, turkey, chicken breast and veggie burgers, with plenty of Yukon kettle chips, a bounty of fresh toppings and mouth-watering condiments to create customized burgers to everyone’s tastes. To order, call your local Red Robin restaurant or visit www.redrobin.com/catering.

3rd: Hydrate
Just like your team needs stamina to win, you’ll need it to last an entire day of tailgating. Feel your best by staying hydrated. In addition to your favorite drinks, freeze water bottles to use as ice. As they melt, you’re left with chilled water to quench your thirst.

4th play: Keep organized
When your team is flustered, it can cost them the game. Similarly, when you’re disorganized, it can cause your tailgate to fumble. Stay organized by packing essentials like bottle openers, sunscreen, duct tape, permanent markers and first-aid supplies in a toolbox or craft container.

5th play: Magnets are magical
Heavy-duty or industrial magnets are a lifesaver when surface area is scarce. Stock up so you can adhere banners and garbage bags safely to your car or nearby light posts.

6th play: Stand out
Your tailgate buddies will have a hard time finding you in a sea of vehicles. To stand out, go high. Fly a flag or inflate helium balloons with long strings to help direct friends to your location.

7th play: Stay connected
The modern tailgater needs to stay connected. Bring a car phone charger so you don’t drain your battery by continuously checking the out-of-town scoreboard. What’s more, bring multiple extension cords to keep your entire crew charged up.

8th play: Game on
As you get closer to kickoff, why not have some friendly competition of your own? Classic tailgate games like cornhole, ring toss and ladder ball will get everyone in the mood to cheer their favorite team to victory.

9th play: Keep clean
To make sure a win is the only thing you bring home from the stadium, create a portable hand-washing station. Fill an empty laundry detergent dispenser with water, place a bottle of liquid hand soap beside it and hang paper towels with a bungee cord. You’ll keep hands clean for cheering and keep cold and flu bugs at bay.

10th play: Pack the night before
If you’re packing in the morning, you’re wasting valuable time while someone else is taking the best tailgating spot. Pack as much as you can the evening prior, leaving only the last-minute essentials for game day. (BPT)