RE-AIR: UCLA vs Arizona | NCAA Mens’ BB

UCLA vs Arizona | NCAA Mens’ Basketball–Rivalries take time to build and this one has had decades.  UCLA and Arizona are two of college basketball’s premier programs.   Over the years the race for Pac-12 titles and the right to move to March madness has created high heat when they meet.

Today we hear the magnitude of that rivalry from two who were in the middle of the spotlight.

UCLA vs Arizona

Don MacLean

Don MacLean played at UCLA from 1988 to 1992.  They won the Pac-12 championship in the ’91-’92 season. He thrived on the rivalry.

Matt Muehlebach

Matt Muehlebach played at AZ from 1987 to 1991.  His teams never lost a game at home. Ironically, that streak would be broken by UCLA and MacLean.

MacLean was a pot-stirrer, especially on the court.  Listen to Matt talk about that while Don tells you how that went over with former UCLA coach John Wooden.

Matt speaks to what it was like to be on each of these raucous home courts when the two great basketball programs went head to head.  He’ll tell you about the “offer the hand and take it back move” made by Don to one of Matt’s teammates.  

Enjoy the story of an epic basketball rivalry through the memories of two who helped create it. 

Don MacLean with Coach Jim Harrick

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AFL | Flores vs Maguire | Ep 30

AFL | The friendship derived from a rivalry can be amazingly close and long lived. Such is the case with our two guests today. Their rivalry came in a league that no longer exists, but one that transformed professional football.

The American Football League (AFL) played for ten years beginning in 1960. The AFL competed so successfully with the NFL that it forced a merger in 1970.

AFL Players

Paul Maguire and Tom Flores are 2 of only 20 who played in the American Football League for its entire 10-year existence. Flores was a quarterback for the Bills and Raiders and is the 5th leading passer in AFL history.

Tom Flores

He went on to a highly successful coaching career in the NFL, leading the Raiders to two Super Bowl wins – 1980 and 1983.

Paul Maguire

Paul Maguire was a linebacker and punter for the Chargers and Bills in the AFL. He played in 6 of the 10 AFL Championship Games. Following his playing days, he became a nationally recognized network television broadcaster, a career that lasted 46 years.

Flores and Maguire met on the football field, but their friendship has taken them around the world.

Did they really meet at the bottom of a tackling pile-up? Did Flores maneuver his offense not around, but at Maguire?

Smile. This rivalry comes with a lot of stories embellished with laughter. Flores and Maguire were football rivals and their lifelong friendship only enhances those football memories. Fortunately for us, we get to listen in and share the joy derived from their passion for the game and the life that went beyond.

Celebrate rivalries. Celebrate friendship. Celebrate Paul Maguire and Tom Flores.

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RE-AIR: 1983 Sugar Bowl | PSU vs GA | Ep 17

1983 Sugar Bowl | Seasons in sports are played to lead up to a moment of finality – the World Series, NBA Finals, etc. College football is no different as teams play for a national championship game and a number 1 ranking to end a season.

In January of 1983, that moment was the Sugar Bowl.  Georgia came into the game ranked number 1 and Penn State number 2.  While not classified as a national championship game at the time, few doubted that the winner would claim that moniker.  

The Quarterbacks

Todd Blackledge

Todd Blackledge was the passing quarterback for a high-powered Penn State team that featured the running prowess of Curt Warner.  Penn State was a favorite in the game even though ranked number 2.  

Todd had a 31-5 mark for his career with the Nittany Lions and did not know when entering that game, that when the day was done, he would be the MVP of the Sugar Bowl.

Todd would go on to play in the NFL with KC and Pittsburgh and have a noted career as a television football analyst.

John Lastinger

At quarterback for Georgia was John Lastinger, who entered that day never having lost a game he started at quarterback from the time he was in high school. John was joined in the backfield by Herschel Walker who did the leg work.

John would go on in 1984 to win a Cotton Bowl game and scored the winning touchdown.  However, such was not to be John’s fate in 1983.

1983 Sugar Bowl 

Penn State won the game 27-23 and the national number 1 ranking that went with it. The game lived up to its pregame hype as you will hear Todd and John remember the day.

There was an opening Penn State drive that both agreed set the stage.

There was a penalty non-call in the game they each remember as critical. A little thing it was not, but rarely is it remembered except by those in the game.

Many in sports say it is far easier to lose by an overwhelming margin than a tight matchup. In the former, you forget the mistakes-they didn’t matter anyway. In the tight ones, you harken back and think “what if.” You will hear that here.

Two QBs in the Louisiana Superdome with a football world watching.

Here are their stories of that game.

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Thanks!

Gary and I would like to thank everyone who listened to our podcasts as well as our guests who shared their stories, including successes, failures and laughter. Also, a special thanks to our awesome audio guru David Roberston, and our webmaster Zach Kutlow, who make The Sports Rivals podcast a reality.

Looking back, we had so many fun episodes this past year highlighted by:

-Bill Raftery and P.J. Carlesimo poking fun at their coaching rivalry (did Bill really have priests ref his home games?).

-Mark Allen and Dave Scott taking us step-by-step through their intense & grueling Iron War triathlon.

-Hall of Fame pitchers Jim Palmer and Dennis Eckersley remembering their amazing journeys including that fateful pitch by Eck to Kirk Gibson.

-And who could forget the wild ride with Steve “Psycho” Lyons and Rex “Bug Eater” Hudler?

Fasten your seatbelts – we’re looking forward to more rivalries that make the games in 2021.

Thanks again and Happy New Year!

ps        Please let us know which rivalries you’d like to hear.

MLB Closers | Brantley & Shaw | Ep 29

MLB Closers | “A closer is often considered the best relief pitcher that a club has in its bullpen. Closers are most often deployed for the final inning of a game when a narrow lead — three runs or less — needs to be protected. Closers almost always excel against both right- and left-handed batters and are more often than not capable of striking out batters at high rates.” 

MLB Glossary

So you want to be a closer. We have two award-winning MLB closers today, and they say you better want the job or you’ll never excel at it.

How do you know who wants it? Jeff Brantley and Jeff Shaw have seen those who do and those who don’t – they’ll tell you the difference.

MLB Closers

Cincinnati Reds relief pitcher Jeff Brantley celebrates following the final out of game three of the National League divisional playoff against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Friday night, Oct. 6, 1995, at Riverfront Stadium, in Cincinnati. The Reds won the game 10-1 to sweep the series. (AP Photo/Mark Lyons)

Brantley was the NL relief pitcher of the year in 1996 and Shaw took that crown in 1997.  Brantley was in the Majors for 14 seasons and Shaw for 12. They were both opponents and teammates during that stretch.  

7 Jul 1998: National League member Jeff Shaw #41 of the Los Angeles Dodgers starts his wind up during the All-Star Game at Coors Field in Denver, Colorado. The American League defeated the National League 13-8. Mandatory Credit: Brian Bahr /Allsport

Who did they learn from? How do you maneuver through the middle of a line-up, game on the line, and you need three outs? They’ll describe a unique universe they inhabit when they take to the mound in the 9th inning, a roaring crowd and a game with no room for error.

And all that time spent waiting – a couple of bullpen stories will be shared as well.

Jeff Shaw and Jeff Brantley take you into the world of the closer – then, now and tomorrow.

Enjoy.

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NHL Bargaining | McPhee & Scott | Ep 28

NHL Bargaining | GM and the player agent – relationships have redefined the business of sports and will be a major factor in the continuing evolution of the business.

George McPhee

George McPhee is the President of the Las Vegas Golden Knights. He has been a major force behind the amazing success of the new franchise that went to the Stanley Cup Finals in its first year. He was recognized as the NHL GM of the Year in 2018.

He had previously spent 17 highly successful years as GM of the Washington Capitals after an NHL playing career with the New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers.

McPhee has seen the contract negotiation matters from both sides.

Andy Scott is a player agent, certified by the NHL in 2008. He works within Octagon Sports, a global sports and entertainment agency, through the Scott Law Group which he helped create.

Scott represents, among others, Leon Draisaitl, Kaapo Kakko, Patrik Laine and Mikko Rantanen — all considered among the top players in the NHL.

He has traversed what he calls “a minefield of issues” in contract negations for NHL players during the pandemic.

NHL bargaining

Now you get to hear these two high profile NHL business representatives relate how management and player reps deal with one another and what makes the system work or sinks efforts to reach an agreement.

Should players be involved in the negotiations? Why does McPhee say this is a “hard business?” Hear about the late night phone calls from players to agents.

Open and frank – that describes what you are about to hear from these two highly influential men who construct NHL bargaining deals. This is about getting a deal done.

Enjoy.

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2003 ALCS | Boone vs Walker | Ep 27

2003 ALCS | You dream about it as a kid. Standing in the backyard, bat in hand. You take the swing that launches a ball out of the yard for a game winner. Not just any game winner, but a swing in a major league game in the playoffs of October against THE rival, in the deciding game, in extra innings.  

Aaron Boone and the swing of a lifetime

Aaron Boone, now manager of the Yankees, lived that dream in the 2003 American League Championship Series while playing for the Bronx Bombers.

Boston Red Sox Todd Walker hits a solo home run against the New York Yankees in the fourth inning of Game 4 of the American League Championship Series in Boston, October 13, 2003. REUTERS/Mike Segar JR/GAC

As he headed to second base in his home run celebration, he passed a longtime friend, Todd Walker, who was playing for the opposing Red Sox. Walker had a tremendous series against the Yankees, hitting .370 and leading the Sox in runs scored. Now that series was over and the Yankees were moving on to the World Series.

The 2003 ALCS

Pedro Martinez trows Don Zimmer to the ground during a bench clearing brawl.

This 2003 series was heated. There was Roger Clemens and Pedro Martinez. There was a lengthy bench-clearing brawl. There were managerial decision questions that will be argued about forever.
Here is the rivalry-the Red Sox and the Yankees-the 2003 ALCS. Here are two players in that series: Aaron Boone and Todd Walker. These are their stories from one of the most anticipated playoff series in baseball history. A series that lived up to all the hype.

The Brawl
Yankees tie it in the 8th
Aaron Boone walk off

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RE-AIR: Army vs Navy | NCAA Football | Ep 8

Army vs Navy – it is the “nation’s football game.”  At the end of each football season, there unfolds a pageantry that began in 1890..

The Oath

Each player took the same oath that brought him to this game.  Each has a mission far beyond football. When arriving at a military academy, each person takes one of these oaths:

United States Military Academy Oath of Allegiance (ARMY)

I, (Name), do solemnly swear that I will support the Constitution of the United States, and bear true allegiance to the National Government; that I will maintain and defend the sovereignty of the United States, paramount to any and all allegiance, sovereignty, or fealty I may owe to any State or Country whatsoever; and that I will at all times obey the legal orders of my superior officers, and the Uniform
Code of Military Justice.

United States Naval Academy Oath of Office (NAVY)

HAVING BEEN APPOINTED A MIDSHIPMAN IN THE UNITED STATES NAVY, DO YOU SOLEMNLY SWEAR (OR AFFIRM) THAT YOU WILL SUPPORT AND DEFEND THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES AGAINST ALL ENEMIES, FOREIGN AND DOMESTIC; THAT YOU WILL BEAR TRUE FAITH AND ALLEGIANCE TO THE SAME; THAT YOU TAKE THIS OBLIGATION FREELY, WITHOUT ANY MENTAL RESERVATION OR PURPOSE OF EVASION; AND THAT YOU WILL WELL AND FAITHFULLY DISCHARGE THE DUTIES OF THE OFFICE ON WHICH YOU ARE ABOUT TO ENTER, SO HELP YOU GOD.

Not exactly a common oath one must take to play football somewhere. 

For this game, those sworn to the same mission are rivals for one glorious late Fall afternoon.

The Army-Navy football game has been played annually since 1930.  It has involved players who went on to sports careers as well as military service:  Glenn DavisRoger StaubachPete DawkinsNapoleon McCallumDoc Blanchard, and so many more.

Army vs Navy – The Game

Keegan Wetzel played for Navy and in his senior year was selected as a 1st Team All Independent linebacker.  He played in the 2012 game that saw Navy beat Army for the 11thconsecutive time.

Across the line from him for that game was Army quarterback Trent Steelman.  Steelman is the only modern era Army QB to start every game in his four years at West Point.  He holds the Army career record for TDs and is second all-time in career yards.  

It was a game decided in the final minutes when Navy took the lead and held on as Army saw a final drive end on a turnover.

Steelman and Wetzel could not know this game would lead to a relationship that endures.

What was the intensity playing in those Army vs Navy games?  How did playing in those games shape the lives of the players involved?  What are the memories of Wetzel and Steelman about facing each other?

Listen to the depth of feeling from these two as they answer those questions and breathe individual life into the rigors and honor of playing football at the academies.  

Rivals? Army vs Navy and THE GAME, as good as it gets.  Enjoy.

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NHL | Robitaille vs Granato | EP 27

NHL | Both were teammates and rivals of Wayne Gretzky. Both played on each coast. Both played with one of the Original Six in the NHL: the New York Rangers. Both helped grow the game of hockey in the west with the Los Angeles Kings.

The NHL Players

Luc Robitaille playing for the Kings

Luc Robitaille retired from the NHL as the highest scoring left wing in the league’s history. He was voted as one of the top hundred greatest players in the history of the NHL.

His name is on the Stanley Cup as a player with the Detroit Red Wings in 2002 and twice as a member of the Kings’ front office. He was voted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2009.

Luc is now the President of the Kings after having played in their jersey for 14 of his 19 years in the NHL.

Tony Granato as a Shark

Tony Granato was an all-rookie selection with the Rangers in 1989 when he set the Rangers’ rookie record for goals with 36. He played in the NHL from 1988-2001 with the Rangers, Kings and Sharks.

Tony went on to be an assistant coach with Pittsburgh, Detroit and Colorado before becoming the Avalanche head coach. He is now in his 5th season as head coach of the Wisconsin Badgers, the home of his college hockey career.

Luc and Tony have long known one another on ice sheets across North America as rivals, teammates and friends. Here they take you through their intertwined careers: five as teammates and nine as rivals. They also share their experiences playing for an Original Six team and describe hockey’s growth out west as led by #99, “The Great One”, Wayne Gretzky.

Let’s drop the puck!

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RE-AIR: ACC College Basketball | MD vs VT | Ep 7

ACC College Basketball | Would you really ask a college basketball player to throw up during a game if things were going bad, just to change the momentum?

What do you do when the water main breaks on campus when there is a big game to be played that day?  How about when the opposing coach has a suggestion of what to do and uses the water break as a rallying cry for his own team?

Fictional questions?  Well, no, they are part of what you are going to hear on this edition of The Sports Rivals.

The Coaches

Gary Williams is a Hall Of Fame college hoops coach who coached at American UniversityBoston CollegeOhio State and at his alma mater, Maryland.  It was with the Terps that he won the 2002 NCAA Championship and where he spent 22 years on the bench in the conference which many consider to the best in college basketball year in and year out, the ACC.

Seth Greenberg spent 34 years as a college coach, including 2003-2012 at Virginia Tech as a Gary Williams coaching rival in the ACC.  He came through Long Beach Stateand the University of South Florida on his way to Virginia Tech.  He would face Williams’ teams between 2003-2011.

ACC College Basketball

Virginia Tech was a late arrival to ACC College Basketball and Gary Williams was not all that excited about adding to the league, especially when Tech started winning games in the conference.  He’ll tell you how the Tech addition just made the season that much tougher.  

These two outstanding coaches give you an inside peak into the ACC and what it was like to face the best college teams in the country on a nightly basis.  

They will take you through their own rivalry that is a history of intense games, overtimes and an “I can beat you” attitude that came from both coaches.   Neither missed the opportunity to find a way to inspire their team by using actions or words coming from the other side. This was a rivalry of “whatever it takes.”

Seth will take you through the impact Williams had on his coaching decisions in putting the Virginia Tech program together.  Williams will tell you his thoughts as he prepared to take on a Greenberg team.  

From two ends of the court, here is a coaching rivalry that had vivid games, great memories and the creation of a relationship of respect in the college coaching ranks.

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