Kevin Fixler
    Sport Matters

23 November 2015

How the Gatorade Shower was Born

He’d been coach Bill Parcells’ whipping boy in the media all week, so when his New York Giants were just two minutes from completing a 37-13 blowout of the rival Washington Redskins on Oct. 28, 1984, nose tackle Jim Burt decided it was time to get even. The 6-foot-1, 260-pound player grabbed one of the big orange Gatorade buckets from a sideline table, sneaked up behind Parcells and giddily dumped it over his head. The unsuspecting victim was soaked from headphones to toes, and Burt had unwittingly inaugurated a sports tradition: the game-ending Gatorade shower.


17 November 2015

The NFL Pioneers Who Kicked Off Their Cleats

The temperatures in Cleveland had dropped below freezing. Unlike the local children, who were bundled up, one young man dressed only in polyester and wearing a single shoe ran around in the cold. The Browns were ahead and gunning for just their second playoff win in nearly 20 years when Denver’s Rich Karlis stepped onto the field — with a bare right foot and only 5:32 remaining on the clock.


4 November 2015

Josh Johnson, the NFL’s Emergency Man

Less than a full day after watching the Indianapolis Colts win a close game from the sideline—where he waited in uniform, ready to fill in at quarterback should misfortune befall Matt Hasselbeck, who was already filling in for injured starter Andrew Luck—Josh Johnson was cut. For the second time in a week, in fact. Only Johnson didn’t have much time to feel disappointed, not with the Buffalo Bills on the phone the next day, calling before he could even hop a flight back to his hometown of Oakland, California.


26 September 2015

The Olympic sprinter with an inner Greek god

Wearing gold track spikes and taking a deep breath, the 200-meter world record holder knelt into position, set his feet in the blocks and carefully placed his hands. Then, just as he had done before coasting to gold and an Olympic record in the 400-meter race three days earlier, he waited for the call and the starting gun’s bang.


28 August 2015

Erik Palmer-Brown: Soccer Phenom

The evening is mild, the pitch is pristine and the visiting forward sees only daylight between him and the goal. He is wrong. Behind him, quiet and quick, comes center defender Erik Palmer-Brown. The kid shoulders the evasive striker, slowing him down. His foot connects with the ball. Then comes the slide tackle that dislodges it definitively — and returns possession to the American all-star team.

That whole episode, in Denver last month, took 11 seconds; Palmer-Brown works fast.


27 August 2015

How a new coach made Kei Nishikori a grand slam contender

How does one begin to measure toughness? It’s probably most akin to gauging or producing team chemistry, and about as tangible. Lucky for Kei Nishikori and his coach, American legend Michael Chang, both have seemed to arrive for them almost effortlessly, with favorable results nearly as rapidly.

Since naming Chang, the former world No. 2 and the 1989 French Open champion, to a support team that includes longtime coach Dante Bottini, Nishikori’s game and results have continued to grow. After turning pro in 2007, the top-ranked Japanese player slowly rose in the rankings up to a career-high No 11 for a handful of weeks in 2013, ending that season at No 17. But talk about impact. Since Chang began working with him, Nishikori, now 25, has won seven of his 10 ATP titles (including three this season), broken into the top five (he’s currently No. 4 in the world), and made it to his first grand slam final at last year’s U.S. Open.


9 August 2015

Kei Nishikori up to world No. 4 after downing John Isner in Citi Open final

On Saturday, after a tight semi-final victory in Washington DC, John Isner told the crowd that he’d need them out in full force the next day to win the title. They did their part on Sunday, showing up and providing him with backing in the championship match against world No5 Kei Nishikori, but it was not enough as the top-ranked American lost in a hard-fought three-setter, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4.

In a match where Nishikori was only a little better than his opponent, the final outcome was never obvious until late in the match. That’s in part because it featured just three breaks of serve. The first was for Isner, but it was the latter two for Nishikori that were ultimately the difference.


25 June 2015

Devin Booker aims to do what his father Melvin couldn’t – star in the NBA

On the eve of the 2015 NBA Draft, where franchises each year attempt to choose the next sure-fire stars and unearth diamonds in the rough, the selection of one particular lottery pick is actually a generation in the making.

That’s because University of Kentucky guard Devin Booker, like his father Melvin before him, is a basketball prodigy and a product of tiny Moss Point, Miss. But come Thursday night in Brooklyn, Devin will undoubtedly do something his dad, a standout at Mizzou in the early-1990s, was never able to accomplish – being drafted into the world’s premier professional basketball league. The younger Booker, the SEC Sixth Man of the Year and an All-SEC Freshman Team selection, is in the discussion as the class’s best shooter and may even go in the top-10 picks. No matter the differences, father and son will both anxiously await the commissioner reading the surname they share.


23 June 2015

He courted Wimbledon wins and controversy

After losing the first set to the reigning Wimbledon champ on July 3, 1920, the upper-crust Pennsylvanian looked destined for defeat. But the American hadn’t devoted those many months to honing his backhand to be disgraced by his well-built Australian opponent. So instead of matching stroke for stroke to overcome his rival, this “consummate tactician” relied on his brains.


20 June 2015

Boxing’s detested king

The tale of Charles “Sonny” Liston is far more complex than that of just an intimidating ex-con who broke legs for the mob on his way to seizing boxing’s heavyweight title. “His story,” says boxing writer and historian Springs Toledo, is “almost Shakespearean.”


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