September 30, 2013

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5 Things To Watch As The NHL Season Approaches

By: Tyler Vespa

With only days until a new NHL season begins, let’s take a look at what happened this offseason, and look forward to a schedule that includes 6 outdoor games.

The Red Wings and the Leafs outside at the Big House? Check. Dodger Stadium? The Ducks? The Kings? West Coast? Check. A double dip in the Big Apple? Check. The Rangers will play the Devils and Islanders three days apart at Yankee Stadium. It wouldn’t be complete without the defending Stanley Cup Champion Blackhawks hosting the Pittsburgh Penguins at Soldier Field.

The Big House in Ann Arbor, MI will host the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs this season.

Canada’s version of the Winter Classic, the Heritage Classic will continue after a two-year absence. The Ottawa Senators will take on the Vancouver Canucks at BC Place in Vancouver on March 2nd.

With that here’s 5 things we should keep an eye on as the new season begins:

Realignment: Will the Red Wings march through the Eastern Conference? Is Winnipeg out of their league?

Training Camp: Will teams be sharper due to full offseason?

Olympic Year: Who’s going to challenge for the U.S. and Canadian rosters? Will certain players on worse teams focus more on country’s Olympic run?

Best Offseason – Dallas Stars: New GM Jim Nill traded for Tyler Seguin and also brought in Rich Peverly, Shawn Horcoff, and Sergei Gonchar. Combine that with star forward Jamie Benn and goaltender Kari Lehtonen and its great expectations in Dallas.

Worst Offseason: Tie- Buffalo, Calgary, Florida: The Sabres lost leading scorer Thomas Vanek, and star goalie Ryan Miller has been inconsistent. Buffalo failed to make a move to replace Vanek.

The Flames lost franchise star Jarome Iginla and goalie Miikka Kiprusoff. Youth and inexperience haunts                               Calgary.

Of all the teams in league, the Panthers would probably win for negative effects brought on by the realignment. The competition for the Panthers in the new Atlantic Division is a considerable change as the Boston Bruins and the Detroit Red Wings are ready and waiting. Keep in mind, the Panthers finished dead last in the weakest division in the NHL last season.

It’s time to drop the gloves. Let’s play hockey.

September 27, 2013

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When Will The NFL’s Unbeatens Lose?

By: Joe Williams

There are just seven unbeaten teams left in the NFL after three weeks of play. Kansas City is surprising. New England is not. When will these teams go down for the first time? Good question.

Chicago Bears

The Bears picked up two last-second wins over the Bengals and Vikings before beating down Pittsburgh on Sunday night. Chicago has a tough match-up in Detroit this week and will get another last-minute win in a shootout to go 4-0. But they won’t get to 5-0 because the New Orleans Saints come to Chicago on Oct.6 and will hand the Bears their first loss.

The Bears have a big game coming up this week at Detroit.

Denver Broncos

This looks like the best team in the league right now. Peyton Manning has put up at least 37 points every week and that makes it easy for the defense to make enough stops. I’m not seeing a lot of losses on the schedule with just a couple games against the top teams in the league. They play Dallas, Indianapolis, New England, Kansas City and Houston all on the road. All those games could be tricky. But they will survive in Dallas and Manning will get it done against his former team. Speaking of getting it done against a former team…it will be Mike Shanahan and the Washington Redskins that hand Denver its first loss on Oct. 27.

Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs are the most-improved team in the league and already have more wins that last season. And if they can pick up another one at Arrowhead against the reeling New York Giants, they’ve got a good chance to get to 6-0 with Tennessee and Oakland up next. But I don’t think that happens because the Giants can’t start 0-4 can they?

Miami Dolphins

Nobody expected the Dolphins to be 3-0. And I don’t expect them to reach 4-0 because they will be on the losing end of a battle of unbeatens on Monday Night in New Orleans.

New England

The Patriots are at it again. The names and faces surrounding Tom Brady keep changing but the wins keep coming. And they will get a couple more against Atlanta and Cincinnati before Brady gets out-gunned on his own field by Drew Brees on Oct. 13. (Is there a pattern here?)

New Orleans Saints

The Saints have two divisional wins over the Falcons and Buccaneers to go along with a blowout of Arizona. They’ve got three straight games coming up against undefeated teams in Miami, Chicago and New England. They’ll find a way to win all of them before heading into their bye week. They’ll get by a couple of weak AFC teams in the Jets and Bills to get to 8-0 before hitting a brutal stretch against the Cowboys, 49ers, Falcons and Seahawks. And their first loss will come in that stretch. At home. At the hands of the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday Night Football.

Seattle Seahawks

At 3-0, the Seahawks have looked unstoppable and already have a two-game lead over everyone in the NFC West. Don’t expect them relinquish that lead anytime soon. But they won’t be undefeated for long because they’ve got an early game in Houston on Sunday and the Texans are going to be irate after getting beat up in Baltimore. Houston will get the win and hand Seattle its first loss.

September 26, 2013

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Billy Hamilton Steals “The Show”

By: Matt Bowen

There’s a phenomenon occurring in Cincinnati and his name is Billy Hamilton. The Reds rookie outfielder has made his long awaited MLB debut and wasted little time displaying his gift.

Reds fans can look forward to watching Billy Hamilton steal plenty of bases at Great American Ball Park.

The 23-year-old from Collins, Mississippi is the fastest man in baseball at the moment. One day he’ll arguably go down as the best base-stealer of all time. This is a bold statement considering Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson holds the record with 1,406 career swipes, especially when one considers that as of September 25, Hamilton is currently sitting on a robust 13 steals.

This is where curiosity creeps in and takes over this article. You see, Hamilton has only played in 11 Major League games. Quickly, his legend is growing. Throughout ball parks and office conversation throughout the land baseball fans are asking each other, “Did you see what Billy Hamilton did last night?”

When one thinks about legendary players and some of the stories told many are hard to fathom. As badly as we want to believe all of the feats players from Babe Ruth to Bo Jackson are said to have accomplished, it’s hard. Someday, the same type of tall tales will be spoken of about Billy Hamilton and in his case, like the greats ahead of him, they’ll all be true.

His speed is remarkable—it’s something we’ve never seen.

Speed is nothing new to Hamilton; in 132 minor league games in 2012 he stole a record 155 bases. This is not folk lore, rather fact.

Fans almost have to watch him in slow motion to appreciate the true beauty of what he brings to the game. His marquee game in his short but illustrious career came on September 18 against the Houston Astros when he stole four – yes four – bases. This is where his status grows amongst the legends—he stole second base on a pitch-out.


Even when the opposition knew what Hamilton was going to do, even when they strike to mow him down they failed to do so. Remember this feat as you’ll one day hear, “Did you know Billy Hamilton once stole second one a pitch out?” Of course it’s been done before, but it doesn’t happen often and it’s something we may only see from him again.

Hamilton brings back speed to the game, an element pure baseball enthusiast miss dearly. No one has stolen 100-plus bags in the majors since Vince Coleman of the St. Louis Cardinals did it in 1987 with 109. They aforementioned Henderson holds the modern-day record with 130 in 1982. Just to show how “The Show” has veered away from stolen base paths, this year’s winner will likely be Jacoby Ellsbury of the Boston Red Sox. Right now, he has 52. Hamilton has 25 percent of Ellsbury’s total in just 11 games.
The Reds have been waiting for Hamilton to blossom into someone who can consistently make his way on base and that time is now.

In those 11 games he’s 6-for-14 with two walks, eight runs scored and just one strikeout. While the sample size may be small, it sure is promising.

The Reds have been looking for a spark all season. There may have never been a 90-plus win ball club who lacked a fire-starter quite like this Cincinnati club. As the trade deadline came and went fans wondered why they didn’t make a move, in the end the front office knew Hamilton would be called-up in early September and here to stay.

Now, because of the 23-year-old phenom they have an added dimension, a weapon every team desires but few have—speed.  Hamilton is a star waiting to shine bright. He’s the difference between a 90-plus win team and a true World Series contender.

September 23, 2013

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Andy Pettitte retiring … again: New York Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte has announced he will retire at the end of the season. The retirement marks his second one, as he previously stepped down after the end of 2010 only to return in 2012. Pettitte has had an incredible career, but it will also be marred by his involvement in the Roger Clemens’ PED scandal and his own admission that he took PEDs. The drugs likely cost Pettitte any chance that he had to make the Baseball Hall of Fame as voters have been slow to vote for admitted steroid users. With a career ERA approaching 4.00, getting in would have been difficult, anyway. The PED admission, though, will likely keep him out despite more than 250 career wins and nearly 2,500 strikeouts.

Trent Richardson didn't stay in Cleveland long.

Cleveland Browns make blockbuster trade: The Cleveland Browns shocked the world with a trade early last week, dealing 2012 first-round pick Trent Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts for their 2014 first-round pick. The move was a curious one as the Browns gave up on the running back only 18 games into his career. He was the No. 3 overall pick and it’s quite possible that the selection they receive in return will not be nearly as high. Richardson rushed for nearly 1,000 yards in his rookie season and had 11 touchdowns. His weak career 3.5 yards per carry didn’t impress the Browns, but the move still seems a bit premature. There’s no telling how good Richardson can be and at only 22, Cleveland could have given up on him too soon. The rumor is that the Browns are stockpiling picks in the hopes of moving up to select a franchise quarterback in the NFL Draft, but without the top selection, there’s no guarantee they’ll get the player they want.

Metta World Peace makes bold claim: New York Knicks forward Metta World Peace, the artist formerly known as Ron Artest, is used to making bold claims. He made another one recently when he declared the Los Angeles Lakers, his former team, would reach the NBA Finals. Most seasons, that doesn’t sound so ridiculous. However, after L.A. recently lost Dwight Howard, Antawn Jamison, and Metta World Peace himself, the team isn’t expected to do much. In fact, even with that strong supporting cast last season, the Lakers barely made the playoffs where they were unceremoniously swept by the San Antonio Spurs. It’s hard to see Los Angeles making his claim come true.

Supreme Court: A Kansas City Royals mascot is headed to the Supreme Court for throwing a hot dog. Seems about right.

Deron Williams hurt: The Brooklyn Nets made some significant offseason moves in bringing in former Boston Celtics All-Stars Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. Along with point guard Deron Williams, the club is expected to contend for the Eastern Conference title this season. The preseason isn’t even here yet, but the Nets are already off to an ominous start as Williams is reportedly in a walking boot, suffering an offseason injury. A team spokesman confirmed he has a sprained ankle and a bone bruise. It’s not ideal, but not the end of the world, either. Williams is expected to be ready in time for training camp, which opens up on October 1st.

Washington Capitals will host 2015 Winter Classic: The NHL made good on a promise a few years ago to award the Washington Capitals with a Winter Classic game and the franchise will host the event in 2015. The site and opponent are still unknown, but the Caps will get to host the game. FedEx Field, Nationals Park, and RFK Stadium have all been listed as possibilities for the event, which has become one of hockey’s premier events. Assuming he’s still in a Capitals jersey by then, the move is a good one for the NHL as it will feature Alex Ovechkin – one of the league’s top players.

Marc Trestman = Willy Wonka: Chicago Bears tight end Martellus Bennett said his coach, Marc Trestman, is kind of like Willy Wonka. Not Johnny Depp Willy Wonka, but the Gene Wilder version. So there’s that. No word on which teammates he equates to Oompa Loompas.

Coach K says transfer rules need fixed: Duke basketball head coach, Mike Krzyzewski, recently commented about the NCAA’s rules allowing players to transfer to other schools. Coach K is all for letting players transfer, but has called for some uniformity in the rules. Currently, players must sit out for a season if they wish to transfer to another school but the NCAA makes certain exceptions for players with extenuating circumstances, such as family illnesses. Krzyzewski is probably right since there are no real hard and fast rules when it comes to making exceptions for certain players. By forcing everyone to sit out for a year, regardless of situation, the rules would be more consistent.

Emeka Okafor out with herniated disc: Washington Wizards center Emeka Okafor is out indefinitely with a herniated disc. It’s unknown how long the center will be out, but if it’s for any considerable amount of time, it will be a big deal to Washington. The team currently has only one other true center on their roster in 6’11” Nene Hilario and the Wizards could be forced to sign another one before the season begins. At 30, Okafor is on the downside of his career. But he played well last year, averaging nearly a double-double (9.7 points and 8.8 rebounds) and was a productive player in the post for Washington.

September 18, 2013

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Paying Homage to Mariano Rivera

By: Matt Bowen

A sad day is upon us—as the 2013 MLB season nears to a close New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera will officially retire from baseball.

Mariano Rivera will retire after the 2013 MLB season.

Rivera has been transcendent throughout his 19-year MLB career because of arguably the most devastating pitch in baseball history—his cutter. It’s not easy to be an MLB closer.  Like a kicker in the NFL, a few blown chances will equal unemployment.  Rivera is different, a rare breed. He’s the best in the business past, present, and foreseeable future.

This fact may be a hard pill to swallow for baseball fans who love to hate the Yankees, but respecting Rivera, especially as he gracefully bows out of the game is imperative. In fact, every team he’s faced this year for the final time sent him off with a gift as a sign of respect—multiple teams donated to his charity, but others had interesting gifts.

The Minnesota Twins poked fun at the 43-year-old righty by giving him a rocking chair made out of broken bats. The Tampa Bay Rays crafted a unique sand sculpture with Rivera’s nickname, “The Sandman.” The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, an oil painting of him, the San Diego Padres, a beach cruiser. One team takes the cake in the gift department though and it’s none other than the Yankees most despicable rival, the Boston Red Sox.

The Red Sox were classy and gifted the No. 42 from the manual scoreboard in historic Fenway Park.  This has sentimental value for all of baseball. You see, the No. 42 was retired by Major League Baseball in 1997 to show respect to Jackie Robinson on the 50th anniversary of his integration into the big leagues. Being grandfathered into the number, Rivera is the only player still wearing No. 42. When he’s gone, it’s gone.

The number is not all that will be gone on September 29 in Houston when the Yankees close out the season against the Astros. The best closer of all time will be undoubtedly closing the game whether the Yankees are in a save situation or not.

Gone will be the oldest active player in the game. Gone will be “The Sandman”, a five-time World Series champion whose 651 career saves are a remarkable 50 higher than former Padres shutdown man, Trevor Hoffman.

Compared to active players, Joe Nathan of the Texas Rangers is the next closest on the list with 337 career saves. Considering Nathan is 38 years old, it’s safe to say that he won’t be surpassing Rivera on the all-time lists anytime soon.

In fact, there’s only one active player who may give the record a run for its money. That player is Craig Kimbrel of the Atlanta Braves. At only 25 years old, Kimbrel already has 136 saves under his belt. A fun fact about Rivera—he didn’t break into the majors until he was 25. Even with a four year head start Kimbrel would have to average 27+ saves/year for the next 19 years to eclipse the untouchable one. That’s easier said than done, especially because such longevity is hard to fathom.

Rivera has been around so long because of his deadly cut-fastball. One pitch has afforded him an iconic career in pinstripes.

Gone will be the greatest of all time.