Category Archives: Sports

My Night with Muhammad Ali

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This Friday, Muhammad Ali passed away at the age of 74. I can’t claim to know that much about him–I don’t really follow boxing–but I sure do admire him. He was an incredible athlete, a superb wit, and a civil rights icon. Since his death, I’ve come across numerous accounts of ordinary people meeting the legend and remarking upon the warmth and graciousness that he showed to strangers. It seems everyone has their Muhammad Ali story. Here’s mine.

It was an unseasonably warm evening back in March of 2012. After downing my fifth virgin daiquiri of the night, I found myself in the men’s room of Atlantic City’s Showboat casino. Nothing out of the ordinary there.

Bathroom-stall

So imagine my surprise when, after finishing up my business, I spun around to face the world’s greatest boxer. Perched in the restroom attendant’s seat was ol’ Cassius Clay, there in the flesh!

Normally, I don’t like to bother celebrities. They’re people too, and deserve peace and quiet when they can get it. I tried my best to exit the lavatory without ruffling any feathers, but ‘The Greatest’ had different plans. He looked me straight in the eye and asked, “Would you care for a towel, sir?”

That just stopped me dead in my tracks. Now, I had heard Ali could be quite the cut-up, but this was hysterical! America’s most celebrated sportsman cornering me in the john and trying to dry my hands off–it was just too much.

I waved the towel away. “No thanks! What were planning on using that for, anyway? Mopping the floor with me in the ring?”

Mr. Ali held the towel back up to me and asked again, assuring me that it was complimentary. Thinking fast, I knocked the towel to the floor and assumed my best fisticuffs stance (I knew it was impossible to match his deadly wit, but I had to at least try to play along). Even that couldn’t get him to break. Those famous fists picked the towel up off the bathroom tiles and dropped it in a nearby wicker basket.

I chuckled and patted him on the back, “I’m surprised at you. You never were one to throw in the towel, Muhammad.”

“What?” he shrewdly retorted. Ali then pointed to the nametag pinned to his jacket. It read “Nelson.”

Oh wow, was he good. Not that his grace surprised me of course. Even as a septuagenarian, Ali possessed the manners of a much younger man. His smooth features betrayed no bruises or scars from past battles, and almost resembled the countenance of a thirty-year-old. Better luck next time, Father Time! No matter the challenge, Muhammad was simply unbeatable. It was just like his famous catchphrase, “Float like a butterfly, and sting like one too!”

By this point, it was clear that we had become close friends. I had to get a picture to show the folks back home, and I figured he wouldn’t mind. Excusing myself for a moment, I fished a disposable Kodak out of my fanny pack.

I grinned and snapped a selfie of the two of us, but then he blew me away with perhaps the wisest advice anyone’s ever shared with me: “No photographs are permitted in the restroom.” I knew exactly what he meant. Sometimes you have to break the rules to make the world a better place, just like Ali did when he refused to fight in Vietnam. I wiped away a tear and bade my hero good night.

As I made my way back to the casino lounge, my head was swimming. Would anybody ever believe my incredible story? I figured the bartender would be up for a good yarn, so I made my way over to him.

“What a night! How about we cap it off with another virgin daiquiri, my good man?”

“Oh, you wanted those virgin?” he repeated. “My mistake.”

RIP, Muhammad.

daiquiri

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Did ‘Hey Arnold!’ Predict Deflategate?

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MOVE IT, FOOTBALL-HEAD!

These are words ingrained into the mind of every child of the 90s. We know them, of course, from beloved Nickelodeon cartoon ‘Hey Arnold,” a popular show about kids growing up in the big city. But beneath its original, thoughtful humor, was ‘Hey Arnold’ pushing forward a secret message?

Is it possible, nearly twenty years in advance, that it predicted…

DEFLATEGATE???

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It sounds crazy, at least until we take a look at the season 1, episode 11b story entitled, “Cool Jerk.” Here, Arnold is thrilled when he befriends a cool, older guy, but his new buddy has some sinister plans for our good-natured hero. In addition to telling a great story, this episode is also a perfect allegory for the New England Patriots’ deliberate tampering of footballs during the 2014 NFL postseason. All the pieces are there.

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1. Arnold is a football!

The entire series goes out of its way to prove that Arnold is basically a football. Aside from his unique head shape, Arnold’s personality encompasses many of the core tenets of football. He is fun-loving, team-oriented, and all-American. Arnold, like a football, is harmless enough on his own, but when in the wrong hands, he is capable of unleashing a world of destruction.
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2. Frankie G. is Tom Brady!

Frankie G. is a one-off character in “Cool Jerk” who bears an eerie resemblance to New England Quarterback Tom Brady. Like Brady, Frankie is popular, stylish, and a born leader, at least on the surface. Once confronted with something they desire, however, both men display a sick urge to do whatever it takes to win. He even tells Arnold, “Sometimes to be cool, you’ve got to bend the rules a little.”

Still not convinced? Get this: neither Frankie nor Brady was selected in the first five round of the NFL draft.

Feb 1, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) celebrates after beating the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports ORG XMIT: USATSI-185920 ORIG FILE ID: 20150201_pjc_se2_311.JPG

3. The store is the Superbowl!

Not long after Frankie takes Arnold under his wing, we soon learn Frankie’s true plan: for Arnold to rob an electronics store.  Granted, Frankie is not the first or last person to cheat his way to victory, but his methods for doing so are strangely familiar. You see, the store is only accessible through a distinctive football-shaped window, one which Frankie shoves Arnold through headfirst. In other words, Frankie’s plan for success revolves around unlawfully manipulating the size of a an ovular object.

Remind you of anyone?

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NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell answers a question during a news conference Friday, Feb. 3, 2012, in Indianapolis. The New England Patriots will face the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLVI on Feb. 5. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

4. Gerald is Roger Goodell!

Ultimately, none of the characters face any real consequences for their wrongdoings. In the middle of the would-be robbery, police sirens ring out through the streets. Frankie and his cronies (the Patriots) flee, leaving poor Arnold stuck in the window. However, the noise was nothing but Gerald, Arnold’s best pal, sporting a hand-cranked siren. Gerald forgives Arnold and takes him home, mirroring the weak leadership of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Both really only care about being perceived as the main influence on their beloved football, even while more corrupt forces determine the behavior of that football. Meanwhile, Frankie gets off scot-free, without any kind of jail-time, similar to Tom Brady’s evasion of a mere four-game suspension.

And here’s the freakiest part of all: “Cool Jerk” aired in 1996.

So there we have it–a veritable conspiracy. Who can say why or how this prediction happened? Perhaps Nickelodeon has some connections to the Illuminati. Maybe they were just the only ones who saw it coming. Regardless, you can witness the truth for yourself here.

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Fox NFL Robot Accused of Child Abuse

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In a year already plagued by countless instances of child abuse at the hands of NFL players, things have gotten a whole lot worse. The latest scandal involves none other than Cleatus the Robot, best known as the mascot of Fox’s football coverage, beating his own child live on air.

Recorded footage shows Cleatus grabbing an advertising graphic for Burger King and striking his son several times with it. He then proceeded to do a touchdown victory dance while his son, a small iPhone 6s, sobbed in the background.

No one has seen Cleatus in person since the incident. Legal experts speculate that this could either be because Cleatus is in hiding until the backlash subsides, or because he is a giant fictional robot.

Based on similar cases in the past, the accused faced little to no professional repercussions. When asked if the NFL would issue any fine or suspension against Cleatus, a dispirited Roger Goodell quipped, “There is no God, and everything is permissible.”

Although Cleatus himself has yet to respond to these developments, Fox has released the following statement on his behalf: “Don’t forget to tune back in for Fox football coverage next week, starting at Sunday at 1pm ET!”

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Change New England’s Team Name from “Patriots” to “Clam Chowder”

Change New England’s Team Name from “Patriots” to “Clam Chowder”

Activists of the internet, assemble! I need your help to support this important cause. Please sign my petition on change.org through the attached link. Here’s the message behind our crusade:

These days, we hear a lot of talk about inappropriate NFL team names. The Washington Redskins are the focal point of this controversy, with “redskin” being a pejorative term for a Native American person. Many people argue that it should be changed to a less derogative moniker. In all likelihood, this change would result in a shift from a potentially offensive name to an average, satisfactory one. It could certainly be a victory. But is it the biggest victory we can attain?

If you’re like me, then you think that great is better than good. That’s why we need to focus on turning an average NFL team name into a legendary one. For this purpose, I’ve determined that the Patriots should change their name to “Clam Chowder,” thus fulfilling their destiny as the epic football organization of the New England Clam Chowder.

Let’s get one thing straight. I’m not even a New England fan–but I could be. I could be if Tom Brady started throwing fourth quarter touchdown passes in a uniform featuring three different shades of off-white. I could be if Gillette Stadium replaced their fireworks with clouds of oyster crackers after each big win. I could be if the New England cheerleaders ran out onto the field every Sunday slathered in a delicious cream-based broth from head to toe.

For anyone worth their salt, New England Clam Chowder is in the top four soups. Chowder wins the hearts and minds of the people. Patriots waste perfectly good tea and stand in a straight line waiting to get shot. It’s not even a hard choice.

Do the right thing. Do it for the chowder.

Thanks for your help!

 

clam chowder

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MLB Starts Fictional Race War for Cancer Research

Call me old-fashioned, but I think that sports merchandising has finally jumped the shark, even if it was for a good cause. On Wednesday evening, the Philadelphia Phillies submitted the following post on their official Facebook page:

“The Phanatic and Mr. Met put aside their differences and Stand Up to Cancer.”

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“About time. Things between those two were really getting out of hand,” said nobody at all.

Major League Baseball has a bit too much invested in fan loyalty on this one. For one thing, it’s really hard to celebrate the end of a war when you were never aware that there was any combat in the first place. As a lifelong Phillies fan, I have always known that the Mets are a main (and usually pathetic*) rival, but I never realized that the conflict extended to the mascots’ relationship. Who knows, you have an anthropomorphic baseball and a pot-bellied seahorse creature—who is to say that they are not mortal enemies? Perhaps each is the last of his species, the lone survivor after millennia of galactic warfare, and that is why the team rivalry exists in the first place, just to satiate the timeless bloodlust of two dying alien nations.

That is the kind of backstory we need. Instead we have nothing but a history of the two dancing on dugouts and falling over at comically inopportune moments. Not quite the kind of behavior that leaves a whole lot of room for political analysis.**

The bigger issue, however, is that their reconciliation supposedly has some impact on the global quest for a cure for cancer. You would almost think that their fighting has been the only thing holding us back. As if these are the medical messiahs we’ve been waiting for. All we ever needed to do was stick these two in a room together overnight with a blackboard and—PRESTO—magic would happen. We had the right technology all along, but it wasn’t until we taught two enemies the meaning of friendship that we were able to put it all together. Bravo!

But in the end, the feigned camaraderie of sweaty men in cartoon suits does offer a feeling of unity for a worthy aim. Besides, what else could these two provide for humanity? Advanced technology? Groundbreaking philosophical insight? Teams with decent records? No on all counts, but it could be worse. At least we’re not relying on the Miami Marlin, who’s likely living under a bridge and pooping in a cardboard box right now. And for that, we are thankful. God bless America, and God bless baseball.

 

 

 

*Zing!

**Unless you host a cable news talk show!*

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5 Ways to Make Your Run Easier and More Enjoyable

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The running community is a lot like a cult, and that’s not just because its members wear unusual clothing and drink strangely colored beverages. The spiteful non-running majority just doesn’t seem willing embrace our pastime. This does not make them bad people, however, just ignorant ones. Anyone can enjoy running; it’s just a matter of motivation and attitude. Whether you’re getting started or just looking to improve your experience, here are some insider tips:

1. Do an actual workout

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to be training for the Olympics to throw a few workouts into your training schedule. Too often folks just decide to simply go out and run. Not only is this a boring option, but it also an inefficient way to build your speed and stamina. Much like your stock portfolio, your running plan should be a diversified investment. Include some hill repeats, tempo runs, fartleks (not as dirty as it sounds), or speedwork in your schedule, and you feel more motivated and ambitious as you train.

2. Listen to music

If you honestly haven’t thought of this yet, I applaud your efforts to read this far into the article. Still, it is a great option. Studies show that music blurs out internal signals of fatigue in the brain during a run, reducing perceived effort by roughly 10% (thanks, Runner’s World). I find that it can also set up a good rhythm for your pace on longer runs. Look to play catchy, upbeat songs—80’s hair metal is always a favorite. Just don’t try to pull this off during a group run, though. Very rude.

3. Find a training partner

No (wo)man is an island. Running is a lonely sport by nature, but that doesn’t mean you have to run it alone. Potential candidates are easy to find—you can easily ask a friend or join a local running club. What’s most important, however, is compatibility. You will want to find a motivated individual with a similar fitness level. It also helps if the person is both a decent conversationalist and comfortable with long periods of silence.

4. Play games

This doesn’t mean you should be bringing out Connect Four on your next morning run. Instead, make up your own simple games to keep your interest in the moment. Be creative. See that oncoming car up ahead? Race it to that telephone pole. Alternatively, a perennial favorite with my high school team was the Good Morning Game. It consists solely of wishing every passerby, “Good Morning,” which yields points if they respond in a similar manner. Extra points for strange encounters and weird physical appearances.

5. Enter a Race

Think you can beat me in a race, fatty? If so, then well done, but that’s not really the point. Many runners are averse to competition due to a fear of losing, but what they don’t realize is that the race isn’t about the other participants. It’s about the clock—stretching the limits of your own body and striving to overcome weakness. So find a race to motivate yourself for the next couple months. Don’t worry too much about losing to anyone else. And if you do, who cares? It’s more likely a 5k through your city park than a Saharan ultramarathon or nationally televised meet. Besides, there will always be another race. Learn from your shortcomings and push ahead to the next opportunity. Until then, run smart and run hard. And try to enjoy some of it along the way.

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The White Protagonist of Every Racially Themed Sports Movie

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  • “I’ll tell ya, Jerry—the 1960s—what a time to be alive! I’m young, white, handsome, and the star of my team. We’re gonna have a big season this year. Our traditional, All-American town is counting on us.”
  • “What!? Look here, Coach, I ain’t playing with no (Negroes/Chinamen/Swiss)! They don’t belong with us white folk. They’re too (violent/dishonest/unwilling to share the secrets behind their luscious chocolates).”
  •  “You don’t like me? Yeah, well I don’t like you either, Willie!”
  • “Coach, I’ve been thinking about that speech you gave. Maybe you’re right. Maybe all we need to do is work together, and our differences won’t matter.”
  • “Yeah, I think you’re a pretty good player too, Willie. I have a feeling that our athletic experiences are about to intersect with larger social developments in a meaningful way.”
  • “ Hot dog, We can’t lose!”
  •  “Listen up, Mr. Restaurant Manager, you will not stop my racially diverse friends from using your restroom. It’s not about the color of your skin, because we’re all the same on the inside. And how do I know that? Because in that bathroom, the stuff that comes out from our insides is all the same colors, and that means something.”
  • “I think we have brought the entire community together just in time for the big game.”
  • “I…I don’t know how to say this to you fellas, but I can’t play in the championships tomorrow. The doctor says I’m paralyzed from the scalp up.”
  • “You’re right, wise black groundskeeper. I’ve come too far to let my team down. You can go back to mowing the grass now.”
  • “That was a rough first half, guys. Just remember—friendship first, and winning second.”
  • “Willie, you just made an improbable play, and we won! Racism is dead.”
  • “I’m an old man now, and the past fifty years of my life are presumably unimportant. But boy oh boy, was that championship season something. It was so great that I’ve apparently accomplished nothing ever since.”
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2013 Australian Open Men’s Singles Predictions

Later this evening, the tennis world will turn its eyes to the Australian Open, the first Grand Slam of the season. But who will win it all? Here are my predictions:

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Quarter 1: As the oddsmaker’s favorite and 3-time champion, Novak Djokovic will cruise through this quarter, especially with a cakewalk draw. Do not expect him to drop a set until the second week. The dark horse in this group is South American Kevin Anderson, who has a big hard court game that should smash through the weaker parts of this section.

Quarter 2: World No. 4 Rafael Nadal’s absence leaves a huge void in the bracket and provides a huge opportunity for a non-Big Four player. With no clear-cut favorite in this section, rising star Kei Nishikori is my pick to make it to the semifinals. He owns a winning record against fourth seed David Ferrer, who is likely exhausted after a long 2012 and two warm up tournaments, and eighth seed Janko Tipsarevic has a difficult draw that ensures an early exit.

Quarter 3: This section is all about Andy Murray and Juan Martin Del Potro. Both stars posted impressive finishes to the 2012 season and should enter the Aussie Open in form. In what will be a titanic quarterfinal, I stuck with Del Potro because he has taken at least a set off of Murray in each of their meetings and so desperately wants a win against the Big Four in a major. Also, the first round match between Gael Monfils and Alexandr Dolgopolov should be entertaining, but both players are too inconsistent to make a deep run in the tournament.

Quarter 4: Since the release of the bracket, one of the big stories has been Roger Federer’s “nightmare” draw. However, the Swiss maestro’s path is not quite that perilous. Benoit Paire and Nikolay Davydenko lack the level of play to give him more than a bit of trouble. Up-and-comers Bernard Tomic and Milos Raonic are mentally suspect and cannot match Federer’s full court game. Unfortunately, the health and consistency of seventh seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga always make the Frenchman a huge question mark in the later stages of a tournament. Inevitably, we will see Federer emerge from this quarter victorious, though not unscathed.

Semifinal #1: While Nishikori will make an amazing run to reach the semifinals, Djokovic will simply outplay him in this matchup. The Serb’s superior talent and experience will pull him through in straight sets, though look for the first two to be very competitive.

Semifinal #2: While Federer may own Del Potro in their head-to-head record, the Argentine owns big wins over the superstar at the 2009 U.S. Open and in their past two meetings. Still, the Swiss will make his way to the final in four tight sets, as Del Potro struggles against him in the bigger events and will surely be sapped from his epic victory over Murray.

Final: The blockbuster final will feature best player of recent times against the best player of all time, both with multiple Australian Open titles. Based on their match-ups in 2012, neither player has a decisive match advantage, meaning that intangible determinants–the need for victory and public expectation–will decide this final. These factors will weigh heavily on World Number One Novak Djokovic, who has not won a Major in a year. Additionally, Federer’s tougher draw will better prepare him for a challenging final, and he will come away with his fifth Australian Open title.

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I Was Right: Final Thoughts on Wimbledon 2012

By Dan Fitzpatrick

In a world of cynics and skeptics, believers are few and far between. Even fewer believed that Roger Federer would lift the sacred Wimbledon trophy in 2012. Nevertheless, he defied the odds and the passage of time this fortnight to win a record-tying 7th title in a 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 final win over a surging Andy Murray.

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As the most popular tennis player in the world, Roger had the support of millions of fans behind him, hoping for their idol to reestablish his grass court supremacy. The real question is, did Federer nation really make a difference in this tournament? The answer: no, only I did.

In his post match interview, Federer explained, “I think it was a time where I just had to believe that things were going to turn around for me.” This belief had not been around in full form over the past two years, but now it suddenly blossoms to championship status, at the same instant when I wrote a brilliant piece about Federer’s certain Wimbledon victory. This was no coincidence. Undoubtedly, Roger came across my previous post during some sleepless night and realized that he could, no, decided that he would, win.

In a way, this Wimbledon title is as much mine as it is Roger’s. I am the Watson to his Holmes, the best friend killed in an explosion to his Rudy Rudinger. Although singles tennis is an individual sport, this was truly a team effort. Thank you all for your support.

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“Thank you, Dan. We did it.”-Roger Federer

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Roger Federer’s Inevitable 2012 WImbledon Victory

By Dan Fitzpatrick

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You’re traveling through another dimension–a dimension not only of sight and sound but of strawberries and cream. A journey into a land whose only boundaries are a set a of rectangular white lines on a patchy grass court. This is a place of dreams and nightmares, where champions can be made or broken. This is Wimbledon Centre Court.

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Above: The typical British tennis audience

     Enter the #3 Seed–6’1″, 187 lbs., and a net worth of 140 million American dollars (that’s almost $750,000 per pound). Entering the tail end of his career, he prepares to face his bigger, stronger, and, in the  Majors, better rivals for a shot at the coveted Wimbledon trophy. A tournament victory would bring him back to the top of the sport, but another disappointing loss may shake off the belief and desire of the champion. He needs to come up with his best tennis to thrust himself back into winner’s circle. Fortunately, as they say, necessity is the mother of invention.

Before getting too far into this post, I have to admit that I am the furthest thing from an objective, non-biased analyst on this topic. I have been filling out Grand Slam brackets since I was 14, and I have picked Federer to win every single tournament. Obviously, this was a fairly effective strategy through the mid to late 2000s, but has been much less successful since his 2.5 year Major drought. These past couple years have not been easy for a diehard Federer fan, but, alas, life can be tough when you’re emotionally invested in the career of a 30-year-old European stranger.

Still, the old man already seems to have luck on his side, receiving perhaps the easiest draw of the top 4 seeds. At Federer’s age, he cannot afford to scramble through hours of the physical, bludgeoning tennis through his first few matches if he wants to have the energy for the big Nadal or Djokovic encounters. Providence itself has scattered most of the dark horses and heavy hitters in other parts of the draw. The only possible threats in his quarter come from the racquets of the towering John Isner or the wily Gilles Simon, who both have less-than-steller records at Wimbledon. Federer’s draw should see him through comfortably through to the semifinals, where he will encounter his more battle-weary opponents, possibly with a few upsets.

Despite Federer’s age, his physical talent has seen no major decline over the years. He still possesses the most versatile and precise game in the sport, capable of demolishing anyone when he is at his best. His biggest weakness, however, is his mental strength. More than any top player, Roger struggles to maintain his focus and intensity for an entire match. This opens the door for the improbable comeback losses and devastating moments of self-destruction that have eliminated him from the past nine Majors. These lapses do not come as much of a surprise either. After 16 Majors, 74 titles, 285 weeks as no. 1, and over a decade of the nonstop grind of a professional athlete, Federer cannot possibly prevent the erosion of his drive. He needs motivation beyond another small trophy or meager million dollars (I remember when I earned my first million); Federer now requires the occasion to provide the drive for him.

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Roger’s alternative drive provider: Mercedes-Benz

     Luckily, a victory at this Wimbledon has so much to offer. Primarily, another Major win would bring his total to 17 and broaden the thinning margin between Federer and Nadal’s respective tallies. His 7th Wimbledon title would also tie Pete Sampras’s Open Era record and redeem his two past quarterfinal losses. In regard to the rankings, Federer can regain the Number 1 spot with a victory, thus breaking the pattern of Nadal/Djokovic dominance and putting him in prime position for the Olympic tournament in a few weeks. With favorable conditions and a considerable amount of history at stake, Wimbledon will invigorate Roger’s ailing mental game and deliver him with yet another title at the All-England Club. The King will retake his throne.

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Not overdramatic at all, really.

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