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Jermaine Every: Adam Silver is the best commissioner in pro sports

Adam Silver is a commissioner who gets it. NBA.com

NBA commissioner Adam Silver gets it. There’s no other way to put it. People can come up with other fancy ten dollar words and phrases to describe what he’s done and continues to do if they feel so led. But simply stated “gets it” does the job as efficient as Silver himself.

I was enjoying the NBA All-Star Weekend festivities on television this past weekend with my family. Throughout that time, there is a core group of guys I consider hardcore basketball fans that I will keep in contact with to discuss the goings on. One of them is Gow Media’s own Raheel Ramzanali.

Raheel and I go back to the early days of 1560 when he worked there and I interned. We both love basketball and he can actually play pretty well, so don’t let him hustle you if you ever get the chance to play him. One of the things that came up was the fact that Silver has his hand on the pulse of how to keep the league fresh and interesting to its ever-changing audience, while still honoring the game’s history and traditions.

In one of his many public addresses this past weekend, Silver hinted at a revamped playoff format. His idea is to keep the top eight teams from each conference that qualify, but re-seed them one through sixteen, regardless of conference, so we get the best two teams to meet in the Finals every year. Brilliant idea! While he’s honoring the tradition of the top eight teams from each conference, he’s also shuffling the deck to ensure we get better matchups in the playoffs. The only drawback would be travel. Silver mentioned potential matchups of teams in the first couple rounds that could present travel nightmares. Imagine if the Golden State Warriors played the Atlanta Hawks in the first round, which carries a 2-2-1-1-1 seven-game format? He acknowledged the potential travel issue, but said the league is committed at working on a solution.

Another progressive sign of Silver’s influence is the way the league embraces culture. The Rising Stars Challenge was revamped in 2015 to its current Team USA versus Team World to honor the diversity of the up and coming players. No longer does it use the tired old East versus West format. Also gone is the legends “coaching” opposing teams of their choosing, which kept some of the spotlight on them, and not the young talent. Silver also understands what’s appealing to the younger audience as evidenced by the musical performances over All-Star Weekend. Some had a political overtone; others were populated by rap music and twerking dancers (my personal favorite). Either way, it showed the commissioner knows he has to appeal to a broader spectrum.

Silver has also been at the forefront of the gambling issue by seeking legalization of sports gambling. He took office as commissioner on February 1, 2014. On November 13 of that same year, he wrote an op-ed in the New York Times about legalizing sports betting. This is a clear 180 degree flip from what major pro sports in this country have stood for. The NBA is also reportedly seeking a one percent fee on every legal bet on its games should sports betting become legal. Two of Silver’s quotes that have stuck out to me on this subject that gives insight to his mindset are “It’s good for business, I don’t want to hide from that” and “I’m not pro sports gambling. I’m just a realist.” Major League Baseball considers gambling so taboo that it has banned one of its greatest players, Pete Rose, due to gambling, and still hasn’t placed him in its Hall of Fame. The National Football League endorses fantasy football, yet won’t fully endorse sports betting. Silver on the other hand knows what kind of revenue stream it can be and has looked into making it safe for those who wish to place bets, as well as protecting the integrity of the game.

While he may look like Judge Doom, his actions are more consistent with a man of the people. He hasn’t tried to disparage his predecessor, or anything he had done. Yet he’s embraced change with a progressive outlook to the future, all the while continuing to honor the game’s past. This was particularly evident in one of the performances over the weekend in which there were several current stars speaking on the country’s current social climate. Towards the end of the song, Grant Hill came out with Bill Russell and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Whether it’s gambling, reformatting stale traditions, making sure the halftime entertainment is thicker than a snicker dancing to rap music, or improving league revenue, Silver is steadily proving himself to be the best commissioner in all of pro sports.

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Yordan Alvarez provided the offense to back up more stellar pitching by the Astros as they took ALCS game 6 to advance to the 2021 World Series. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

After splitting the first two games of this series in Houston then falling behind in the series 2-1 by dropping the first of three games in Boston, the Astros took over the ALCS in Games 4 and 5, sending them back to their home crowd with a chance to finish things off in Game 6 at Minute Maid Park. After another stellar performance by their pitching staff and more timely hitting, they would accomplish that mission, winning the series and moving on to the 2021 World Series.

Final Score: Astros 5, Red Sox 0

ALCS Series (Best of Seven): Houston wins 4-2

Winning Pitcher: Luis Garcia

Losing Pitcher: Nathan Eovaldi

Houston strikes first to start tightly-contested Game 6

After a scoreless top of the first inning by Boston's offense, the Astros capitalized on a chance to be first to score in the bottom of the frame. Alex Bregman started the two-out rally, reaching base on a single against Nathan Eovaldi for the first hit of the night. Yordan Alvarez followed, delivering his sixth RBI of the series with a double to put Houston on top 1-0.

That did not spark further immediate scoring, as the one-run score held while both starting pitchers provided solid outings for their team. For Eovaldi, he was able to limit Houston to just that single run through four frames. He returned in the bottom of the fifth, facing two batters, allowing a single, and getting a strikeout to end his night.

Garcia impresses in big start

For the home team, they were recipients of another expectation-exceeding performance from one of their young arms. Only anticipated to go a handful of innings, Luis Garcia worked efficiently and effectively against Boston, keeping them scoreless and hitless through five innings. He continued in the sixth, getting two more outs before allowing a two-out triple, ending his night as Phil Maton would enter to strand the tying run. Garcia's final line: 5.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K, 76 P.

With both teams dipping into their bullpens, the Astros took advantage of Boston's as Yordan Alvarez's dominance went on display once again. He led the inning off with a triple, then scored on a double-play ball to extend Houston's lead to 2-0. Kendall Graveman took over on the mound in the top of the seventh and worked himself into a big moment. He gave up a one-out walk, followed by a single, which put runners on the corners for Boston. He continued to struggle with the zone, falling behind the next batter 3-1, but was able to battle back to get the strikeout paired with a terrific throw by Martin Maldonado to cut down the runner from first trying to steal second, ending the inning and maintaining the two-run advantage.

Astros headed to the World Series

Ryne Stake was Houston's next reliever, and he put Houston three outs away by getting a 1-2-3 eighth. With Ryan Pressly warming, he watched and hoped that his offense could give him some more insurance to work with when he went to the mound in the top of the ninth. His wish would be granted, as after getting two on base, Kyle Tucker would put a major exclamation point on the night's offense, hitting a three-run opposite-field homer to the Crawford Boxes to push the lead to 5-0.

Pressly, now with the five-run lead, came on to try and start the celebration by getting the final three outs. Against the tougher part of Boston's order, he would get a 1-2-3 inning, giving the Astros the American League pennant, which along with those won in 2017 and 2019, puts them back in the World Series for the third time in five years.

Up Next: The Astros will have three days off before The Fall Classic kicks off. While Game 1 will be on Tuesday, October 26th, nothing else has yet been determined as Houston awaits to see which of the Dodgers and Braves will advance out of the NL, which will also dictate if the Astros will host or travel to World Series Game 1.

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