December 30, 2013
NFL Playoffs: The NFL Playoffs will begin next weekend and the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos have both clinched home field advantage throughout in their respective conferences. Both teams are the likely favorites but neither can really be considered invincible. Even though each has lost only a single game at home all year, anything can happen in a one-game situation. Still, if I’m picking two teams to reach the Super Bowl, it’s Seattle and Denver.
Bill O’Brien/Texans Talk Contract: The Houston Texans have had a dismal season and have already fired head coach Gary Kubiak. Next up for the franchise could be Penn State coach Bill O’Brien. On Saturday, news broke that the two sides were already discussing a contract and if he leaves the school, it would be yet another blow to the Nittany Lions. With the program reeling a few seasons ago from the Jerry Sandusky scandal, O’Brien rescued Penn State to a degree and put together a couple of decent seasons. The school is still on probation for a couple of more years, but he has them headed in the right direction. The one thing in Penn State’s favor, however, is that the program is in far better shape than it was when O’Brien took over. There’s still work to be done, but landing a qualified head coach shouldn’t be too taxing this time around since Penn State is in a better situation.
LeBron James and Serena Williams AP Athletes of the Year: NBA star LeBron James and tennis great Serena Williams were named the Male and Female Athletes of the Year by the Associated Press for 2013. Both were clearly deserving as James helped his team to their second consecutive Finals win and Williams won 11 titles, including two majors this year.
Paul Blair Dies: Former Baltimore Orioles outfielder Paul Blair collapsed at a celebrity bowling event and died last week – he was 69. Blair played in six World Series, winning four of them with the O’s and New York Yankees. He was a reasonable hitter, but more known for his defense as he won eight Gold Gloves as a centerfielder. Blair batted .250 and hit 134 home runs over his career, and was a two-time All-Star.
Andrew Bynum on way out in Cleveland: Just two years ago, Andrew Bynum was fresh off his best year in the NBA with the Los Angeles Lakers, averaging nearly 19 points and 12 rebounds per game. But after a trade to Philadelphia as part of a four-team deal that involved Dwight Howard, his career has taken a nosedive. Bynum missed all of the 2012-13 season and then signed with Cleveland this year, where he’s struggled to be a consistent player. So far this year, he had been averaging less than half of the points and rebounds he was in that final year in L.A. and on Saturday, the Cavs suspended him indefinitely for unknown reasons. It’s looking more and more like Bynum will soon be on the open market as the team may simply release him. At only 26, Bynum still has time to turn his career around if he wants to, but right now he’s a far cry from the player he was with the Lakers.
Soccer is fun: Hey look – a Turkish League soccer player managed to miss a goal despite being only few feet away and having an open net. No, really.
Russell Westbrook is Injured. Again.: Sadly, the Oklahoma City Thunder know this tune. Similar to the Derrick Rose symphony, this one ends in predictable disaster. The Thunder have again lost guard Russell Westbrook to a knee injury and he’ll reportedly be out through the All-Star break after having surgery. At this point, OKC just can’t catch a break. They’ve got Kevin Durant, one of the league’s best players and with Westbrook, the team is clearly a contender for the title. Without him, though, as we saw in last year’s playoffs, they probably can’t even win the Western Conference. The good news is that the Thunder should get him back in plenty of time for the playoffs. The bad news? He’s got an injury history longer than the list of teams with losing records in the Eastern Conference. If you’re Oklahoma City, you just can’t feel good about him being healthy for the postseason.
Nnamdi Asomugha retires: In 2011, Nnamdi Asomugha was one of the top cover cornerbacks in the NFL and had just signed a five year, $60 million deal with the Philadelphia Eagles. A little more than two years later and the three-time Pro Bowler has officially announced his retirement. Asomugha’s decline is the perfect example of how quickly skills can diminish when playing in the NFL. The Eagles cut him, finding him to be a liability after two years, and he failed to stick with the San Francisco 49ers, playing in only a few games this year.