February 27, 2013

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What Danica’s Daytona Performance Means For NASCAR

By: Tyler Vespa

Danica Patrick’s performance at the Daytona 500 was way more than just a few personal milestones. Yes, she became the first woman to win a NASCAR pole, while also becoming the first woman to lead a lap in the Daytona 500, but even more impressive is the way Patrick overcame the critics and labels placed upon her. Danica legitimized herself as a racer, and in turn broke the mold for auto racing.

Danica's performance at the Daytona 500 changed NASCAR history.

Now, aside from consistent performance every race, fans just want to see Danica do well. With that I give you four things Danica’s performance does for NASCAR:

1. A Good Role Model

Along with being a woman in a man’s game, she overcame many obstacles and bad critics to become what she is today. She didn’t let the sport define her whole career.

2.A Wider Fan Base

NASCAR is now for every kind of fan. The casual supporter, the hardcore enthusiast, and now even those who know almost nothing about NASCAR.

3. A New Reason To Watch

Much like Tiger Woods with golf, Danica is key to viewership of the sport not just at the track, but also on television.

4. A Legitimate Contender

Danica is no longer just a beautiful girl who can drive really fast. She doesn’t have to win every race, but being a mainstay in the top 10 is huge for the sport of NASCAR.

I was glad to see Danica get the monkey off her back. After a few tough seasons of racing she finally broke through. A lot of the critics against her seemed a bit premature. Everybody has bumps along the road; it’s the way you react to them that shows who you really are. It’s not about the car; it’s about the driver. Danica has proved herself in Indy and NASCAR. The fact is that the personal milestones Danica achieved this week speak for themselves. She changed the history of NASCAR forever.

February 26, 2013

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NBA Playoff Races To Watch

By: Joe Williams

With about 25 games to go in the NBA regular season, we’ve got a pretty clear picture of the teams that will make the playoffs and the ones that will be in the lottery. What we don’t know is who will face who once the playoffs get started. And that will go a long way toward determining what happens in the NBA playoffs. Here are a few races I’ll be keeping my eye on as we inch towards the final game of the regular season.

Will the Lakers make the NBA Playoffs?

The Heat will be the top seed in the East. We know that. But the second and third seeds could go to Indiana, New York, Brooklyn, Chicago or Atlanta. These teams ought to be desperate to finish second or third. That will get them home-court advantage in the first round, but that doesn’t really matter too much. The important thing for these teams is to get on the other side of the bracket and avoid a second round meeting with the Heat. You don’t want to face the defending champs any sooner than you have to.

Speaking of avoiding the Heat…Boston and Milwaukee shouldn’t be too worried about anyone below them stealing a playoff spot. But they will be battling to get the seventh seed and avoid the Heat in the first round.

In the West, the final playoff spot is getting all the attention. Can the Lakers squeak into the playoffs? That’s what all the talk is about, but I’m not counting out Dallas or Portland yet. All three teams are tied with 30 losses at the moment and are going to have to get red-hot to catch Houston or Utah. On second thought, after looking at the Blazers schedule, I’m counting them out. Their final 16 games are against teams in the playoff race. If they find a way to get in, nobody will be able to say they didn’t earn it.

Of course, whoever does get that final spot is going to be facing the team with the best record in the NBA, San Antonio. It would be quite the series if the Lakers do end up as the eighth seed.

The Clippers and Memphis must keep winning to stay in the top four and get home-court in round one. With so many good teams in the West, home-court will be important.

One more race that is a little bit interesting will be to see which team finishes with the worst record and gets the most ping pong balls in the lottery. It looks like this will come down to Charlotte and Orlando.

February 25, 2013

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Jimmie Johnson wins the Daytona 500: Danica Patrick made a bit of history as the first woman to start at the pole position in a Daytona 500 race. She was passed up quickly, but also later regained the lead to become the first female to lead a lap in the event. But the day belonged to Jimmie Johnson who won the race and his second Daytona 500. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. made a late push, but for the third time in four years, he finished in second place. Winning second place on the biggest stage in NASCAR is quite an achievement and to do it three times in four years is flat out amazing. But it also has to sting to finish as the bridesmaid that many times.

NASCAR kicked off its 2013 season with the Daytona 500 this weekend.

Curtis Granderson breaks arm … on first Spring Training at bat: After sitting out for months, major leaguers probably can’t wait until their first Spring Training at bat. Yankees’ outfielder Curtis Granderson may be having second thoughts about that, though. Granderson was promptly hit by a pitch in his first at bat by the Blue Jays’ J.A. Happ, suffering a broken arm. The star will be out for two to three months and will likely miss the first five weeks of the regular season. Granderson was the team’s biggest offensive star last season, leading the Yankees in home runs (43) and RBI (106), so it will be a significant blow. The loss hurts even more when you consider that New York lost several offensive stars in the offseason including Nick Swisher, Raul Ibanez, and Russell Martin, who combined for 64 home runs last year.

Marquise Goodwin dominates NFL Combine: The NFL Combine started over the weekend and a few wide receivers made their marks. Most notably, Texas’ Marquise Goodwin had a great weekend. He was timed unofficially at 4.25 and officially, he received a 4.27 – narrowly missing the 4.24 Combine record set by running back Chris Johnson. Breaking 4.4 is considered at the elite level and a sub 4.3 is insane. There’s no doubt that Goodwin improved his draft status in a big way and could make himself a top pick.

49ers looking to unload Alex Smith: News broke over the weekend that the San Francisco 49ers were not only hoping to trade backup quarterback Alex Smith, but that they might already be close to a deal with an unspecified team. Trading Smith is really a no-brainer for the team since they’re all in with Colin Kaepernick. And since Kaepernick nearly helped lead the team to a sixth Super Bowl title this past year, it’s hard to argue with that logic. Smith was finally turning into a serviceable quarterback and San Francisco should be able to land a nice deal for him. He’s not an elite player by any means, but he would be an upgrade under center for many franchises. Ideally, the 49ers would be thrilled to have a backup of Smith’s stature. But he’s obviously unhappy after losing his job to Kaepernick last season and keeping him makes little sense when they can bring in another player who can help them.

Jerry Buss dies: Iconic Lakers’ owner Jerry Buss passed away this week at the age of 80. With his ten NBA championships, Buss wasn’t only one of the top owners in the NBA, but all of sports. Think of all he’s seen … Magic Johnson winning a title as a rookie. The 1980s Showtime Lakers with Magic, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, and company. A three-peat with Kobe and Shaq. Buss had really seen it all in the NBA over the past 30+ years and had the experience of a lifetime.

Evgeni Malkin has concussion symptoms: The NHL’s Most Valuable Player for 2011-12, Evgeni Malkin, has showed signs of a concussion after a recent game. The Penguins’ star suffered the injury on Friday against the Florida Panthers. If Malkin misses any length of time, it won’t be anything new for Pittsburgh. The Pens have dealt with missing Sidney Crosby for long stretches after a concussion and the team can’t seem to catch a break. The timing couldn’t have been worse for the Penguins, who lead the Atlantic Division.

Syracuse retires Carmelo Anthony’s jersey: Knicks star Carmelo Anthony had his jersey retired by Syracuse in a game last week. Anthony played only one season for Syracuse, but it was one to remember. He was the best freshman in college basketball that year and led his team to an NCAA championship. Typically, I’d be against retiring the jersey of a player who stayed in college for only a single season. I think that honor should be reserved for the best players of all time in the sport and you simply can’t be in that conversation if you only stick around for one year. But in winning a title, I’m okay with it. Anthony had such a special year that he probably deserves the recognition. Syracuse also waited a decade to do this, so it clearly was something with which they had reservations. But if they’re okay with it, I’m okay with it.

February 21, 2013

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NBA Trade Deadline Deals

By: Joe Williams

It happens every year in the NBA. There are a lot of discussions, a lot of rumors, a lot of hype, and not very many deals. At least not the deals that have been getting the headlines for the last few weeks.

Dwight Howard is not going anywhere. Pau Gasol is not going anywhere. Kevin Garnett is not going anywhere. Neither is Josh Smith. Ok, Smith is the one guy who may get moved.

Should the Celtics trade Rondo before the Trade Deadline?

But if it was up to me, just about all of these guys would be changing zip codes. The question is – where should they go?

The Lakers will be taking a huge risk when they don’t trade Dwight Howard or Pau Gasol. Without an injured Gasol, the Lakers are poised to miss the playoffs this season and have no guarantee that Howard will stay in L.A. next year. And even if they convince the big man to re-sign, there is no evidence that he can play nice with Kobe Bryant or Pau Gasol. And even if they do all come together…they will all be another year older and didn’t Kobe make headlines already this year saying the team is too old? They need to trade Gasol and go all-in this season or trade Howard and re-load for next season.

If it is all about winning a title, the Atlanta Hawks should give Josh Smith what he wants to stay and then use him to recruit Dwight Howard in the summer.

Howard may not like playing with Kobe, but one would think he would enjoy playing in his hometown of Atlanta with one of his best friends in Smith.

Several teams are after Smith and if he ends up with the Nets, they could challenge Miami in the East.

With Rajon Rondo out for the year, Boston needs to do something. We all thought they were done without Rondo, but the team has gotten hot without him and will give anybody in the East a tough time in the playoffs. Since Kevin Garnett has made it clear he isn’t going to accept a trade, they need to get him some help this year. How many more times can Boston give it one more run with Paul Pierce and Garnett? That’s why I would try to trade Rondo. The Celtics could get help now and future picks for the injured all-star.

Everybody knows the Orlando Magic are looking to unload J.J. Redick. And if the reports on Derrick Rose looking good in practice and being ready to go sometime soon, the Bulls should do this deal. Chicago tried to get him a couple years back and couldn’t. But now they can and if they can add a great shooter and a healthy Rose to a team that is only 2.5 games out of the No. 2 seed in the East, they are legitimate contender.

Other deals:

The Clippers should keep Eric Bledsoe until Chris Paul has re-signed.

The Jazz should keep Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson.

The Raptors should trade Andrea Bargnani.

The Bobcats should trade Ben Gordon.

The Heat should trade for anyone who can rebound.

February 20, 2013

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MLB Teams Who Made a Splash This Offseason

By: Matt Bowen

Baseball fans, it may seem like we’re in the doldrums of winter, but the 2013 MLB season is now just a few short weeks away.

Fans should be packing the Rogers Centre to see the 2013 Toronto Blue Jays.

With pitchers and catchers reporting across the league recently, general excitement is beginning to brew within diehard fans yearning for the boys of summer. Spring training is set to get into full swing later this week and don’t be fooled, Opening Day is April 1.

While there is a laundry list of topics to talk about regarding the upcoming season, this article is dedicated to the teams who made a big splash this offseason. With key additions to their rosters, these teams have created positive momentum, reinvigorated their fan base and have a bright future ahead of them.

Each of these teams now expect to make the playoffs, don’t be surprised when they shake up the standings and reach their goal.

The Cleveland Indians Saved Themselves from Further Disappointment

The Cleveland Indians have finished no better than an even .500 every year since 2007. Just when fans thought they were in for another decade of futility, the front office did everything right this offseason.

First, they completed a three-team trade with the Cincinnati Reds and Arizona Diamondacks. What the Indians got in the deal was outfielder Drew Stubbs, who needed a change of scenery and a young pitcher named Trevor Bauer, who will someday be their No. 1. Bauer was the No. 3 overall pick in the 2011 MLB draft and has all the attributes a franchise could want in an ace.

The front office also made some noise via free agency when the inked prized outfield Michael Bourn just a few weeks ago. Bourn was highly coveted heading into the offseason but was lost in the shuffle. What he brings to the Indians is an Opening Day leadoff man, superior defense and ridiculous speed on the base paths.

The organization did themselves a world of good with the moves they made this offseason. The Indians could be real spoilers come late season.

The Atlanta Braves Have a Pair of New Faces Fans Will Love

The Atlanta Braves made a plethora of moves in the offseason, highlighted with the acquisition of both B.J. and Justin Upton.

Sure, the likes of pitcher Tommy Hanson and super-utility sensation Martin Prado may be out, but the Upton brothers are two of the best in the league.

It can easily be argued that younger brother Justin is better than B.J., but Justin’s presence will push B.J. to reach his full potential. It was the acquisition of B.J. that led the Braves to not chase after free agent Michael Bourn. Now, the sky is the limit for the insanely talented pair of brothers.

The Braves have one of the best bullpens in all of baseball and with all the offensive weapons they now have, anything short of a deep playoff run will be considered a failure.

Don’t Forget About the Philadelphia Phillies

Ask any Phillies fan and they’ll tell you that a .500 finish to the 2012 season was a major disappointment.

Not wanting to repeat, the Phillies front office went on the offensive this offseason and once again made the Phillies feared.

A trio of new Phillies has made them a contender in 2013. Although Delmon Young is a liability in the outfield and will start the season on the DL, he’s pure gold in the playoffs. Another outfield addition that will pay dividends is Ben Revere, who was brought over via trade. He’s young, can hit for average and is an automatic threat on the bases. Phillies fans will fall in love with him quickly.

The biggest move they made was for infielder Michael Young, who may be 36 years old, but is a .301 career hitter and brings that veteran presence to a team that needs some added focus.

A bonus, reliever Mike Adams is dominant and will bolster the back end.

Although it may seem that they are an afterthought, the Phillies will be primetime contenders for the World Series this season.

The Toronto Blue Jays Simply Dominated this Offseason

There’s no doubt that the AL East has been the toughest division in baseball. The Toronto Blue Jays felt the pressure to compete and made a splash so big they emptied the pool this winter.

Where to begin?

Well, 2012 NL Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey is now a Blue Jay.

Also, former Miami Marlins players Jose Reyes, Emilio Bonifacio, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle and John Buck are now all Blue Jays. This was a blockbuster trade that MLB fans live for. Yes, the Blue Jays took on a ridiculous amount of money, but they instantly made themselves favorites.

They also added Melky Cabrera, who may be guilty of using banned substances, but is still an above-average baseball player.

If this roster doesn’t bring fans flocking to their games, then I don’t know what will. They have an All-Star team all by themselves. If Toronto comes to town, do yourself the pleasure and buy a ticket.

On paper, they’re World Series favorites.