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Smoltz, Vrabel and Brown talk American Century Championship and Everything in Between

For those of you that have been living under a rock for the past few months, we’ve been living in a pandemic with very little to keep us busy. Luckily, the American Century Championship is right around the corner, with the tournament starting on Friday, July 10 and ending on Sunday, July 12.

The tournament takes place just outside of Lake Tahoe.

This year marks the 30th anniversary. Originally planned just to fill dead air in the summer, the week-long celebrity charity tournament has now taken a life of its own.

All prize money this year will be donated to COVID-19 related efforts, with the purse being $600,000.

 

We at In The Zone had the opportunity to catch up with three participants in this year’s tournament: John Smoltz, former Atlanta Braves pitcher and Baseball Hall of Famer, Mike Vrabel, current Head Coach of the Tennessee Titans and former Super Bowl winner with the New England Patriots, and Tim Brown, former Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders wide receiver and member of both the College and Pro Football Hall of Fame.

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With topics ranging from the impact of coronavirus, to the absence of fans and the social climate in the U.S., Smoltz, Vrabel, and Brown all had a wide array of answers.

 

When MLB Network Analyst John Smoltz was asked how a labor dispute works and who is to blame for the work stoppage, he noted a similar experience.

“Well I went through one of these on my own and let me tell you a lot is the same, but there’s also many differences.  The biggest similarity between this and ’94 is that there’s a lot of misinformation.  I don’t believe you can blame either the players of owners more,” said Smoltz.

“Misinformation is everywhere and it’s being spread by whoever to make the other side look bad. The owners want this and the players want that and everyone just needs to be careful of what’s being spread,” Smoltz responded. “The biggest difference is how it’s being spread.  Information is received so much quicker nowadays. Do I think they could work all of this out? Yes. But both sides are going to have to make sacrifices.”

Smoltz is also an avid golfer and one of the better celebrity golfers. When asked about if the pandemic has helped his golf game, he did agree, stating that he’s no longer trying to fit games in between his busy schedule. But he added “I miss structure.  I’m starving for something and I’m sure a lot of people are starving to get back to some kind of structure.”

 

When I asked Mike Vrabel about how he’s handled quarantine. His response?

“”It was like a fraternity house. I spent most of my time with my three boys and it got busy. It got very crowded.”

He went on to say that although he loved spending so much time with his family, he was anxious to get back to his football family. Vrabel uses that close familial bond with his football family.

“Once I found out the facility was opening I was sleeping outside, ready to get back to work,” Vrabel said.

To a fan, it might seem “back to work” looks much different this year, but Vrabel didn’t think so.

“it’s really not all that different,” noted Vrabel. “We have our Zoom calls with all the coaches and we’ve just been preparing a similar way. We had a lot of success last season, and we’ve all just been watching film and trying to find ways to improve.”

 

Tim Brown is going to miss the fans at this year’s American Century Championship.

“That’s really what makes this tournament, said Brown. “The fans and the craziness you get with having fans. I can’t imagine the wild 17th hole without having fans there. It’s going to be really different, no doubt about it. ”

With many sports limiting the presence of fans at games and events, the NFL has yet to announce its policy for the upcoming season. But the changes don’t just stop there for Brown.

Brown has already adjusted to the fact that the Raiders have moved on to Las Vegas. He wasn’t surprised they made the move. Brown played for the Raiders in both Los Angeles and Oakland.

He also made a point to speak a little bit about how the Raiders were always one of the first organizations to evaluating their impact when it came to social change.

“We had the first African-American head coach in modern football, Art Shell. We loved Art and we played hard for Art, but we also knew there was a lot of pressure on us and on him because we didn’t want him to get fired,” Brown said.

And it doesn’t just stop with him…

“Al Davis was fantastic,” Brown remarked. “You never knew this but he would take care of guys years after they retired. And most of them were Black. We didn’t feel like we were treated any differently.”

 

Check out more of Chris’ interviews and stories here.

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Chris Passarelli
Football Editor - Hockey Editor - New York Islanders Lead Writer - New York Lizards Lead Writer - UConn Football Lead Writer
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