February 17, 2014
Winter Olympics – The Winter Olympics continued last week and the United States is holding its own in the overall medal count. As of Sunday, the Americans were in a tie for second place with Russia with 16 total medals. The Netherlands led the way with 17, including five gold medals. One intriguing story line is that of the U.S. men’s speed skating team. The ballyhooed unit was expected to bring home several medals, but as of Sunday, the team was still looking for their first piece of hardware. Several skaters complained about the suits designed for the Olympics and that brought about a change to an older version. That didn’t help matters immediately, though, as the U.S. is still without a speed skating medal after dropping the 1,500 meter race.
NBA All-Star Weekend – The NBA held their All-Star weekend and as usual, there was the standard amount of shenanigans. The highlights on Saturday night were a reformatted three-point shootout and dunk contest. The events, along with the skills contest, were part of an East-West team format that had its highs and lows. The fact that the players individually had to work together was intriguing, but it was a bit counterproductive since the highlight of those weekend contests is to spotlight individual achievements by individual players. Beyond even that, the new dunk format, which featured a freestyle round and one-on-one battles, just confused even the NBA’s own players. Marco Belinelli took home the three-point shootout title while John Wall was named the top dunker. The weekend concluded in the defensive struggle that was the East’s 163-155 victory. The Cavs’ Kryie Irving took home MVP honors after scoring 31 points and recording 14 assists.
Derek Jeter’s final season – New York Yankees star shortstop Derek Jeter announced that he will retire at the end of this season. The decision means the future Hall of Famer will have played his entire career as a Yankee. Jeter will turn 40 this year but as his 2012 season proved, he’s still capable of not only contributing, but thriving. At 38, he turned in one of his best seasons, batting .316 and leading the league with 216 hits. Beaten down by injuries, though, Jeter had a 2013 to forget, appearing in only 17 games. While it doesn’t sound like a change of heart is in the cards, if Jeter goes on to another 2012-like season, what then? I’m not expecting Jeter to go back on his word, but a big season might make it that much harder to step away.
Pigs can’t fly … but they can surf!: Um … yeah
Jadeveon Clowney says college athletes should be paid – Former defensive star for South Carolina, Jadeveon Clowney, was the latest to speak out about college athletes being paid money to play. Clowney said in a recent interview that he might have stayed in school for another season if he would have received money. The argument is a complex one and while it makes sense to some degree for athletes to be compensated beyond a scholarship, opening that can of worms isn’t something the NCAA should be interested in. How would you determine which athletes get what amount of money? What about athletes of non-revenue sports that work just as hard? What about programs that can’t afford to pay players? The idea of paying players creates just too many hurdles and would shift the competitive balance of college sports even more out of whack.
Roy Oswalt retires – Pitcher Roy Oswalt ended his career, announcing his retirement from Major League Baseball last week. The three-time All-Star won at least 14 games seven times and finished in the top five for the Cy Young Award in five different seasons. Oswalt was one of the game’s underappreciated hurlers and is only 36, but the retirement makes sense at this point. He hasn’t been a serviceable pitcher since 2011 when he was 9-10 with a 3.69 ERA with the Phillies. Oswalt struggled badly in 2012 with a move to the American League pitching for the Texas Rangers, going 4-3 with a 5.80 ERA. He went back to the National League hoping to jumpstart his career with the Colorado Rockies, but was even worse last year with an 0-6 record and an 8.63 ERA. Still, Oswalt finishes with 163 wins and a 3.36 career ERA, and he was one of the best pitchers of the 2000s.
Shut your mouth – A South Korean basketball coach apparently heard enough from one of his players. His solution? Force the player to tape his own mouth shut. On TV. For real.
Orange keep rolling – Syracuse’s dream basketball season continued with a pair of dramatic wins this week. The Orange had two narrow escapes with nailbiting wins over Pitt and North Carolina State. Syracuse remained undefeated snatching a win from the Panthers on a Tyler Ennis buzzer-beater from well beyond the three-point line earlier in the week. Trailing by one on Saturday with only about ten seconds to play, the Orange stole an inbounds pass from the Wolfpack and scored a late layup to win the game. Syracuse’s season has included a string of miracle finishes and at some point, you have to wonder if or when it will catch up to them. At 25-0, the Orange will just keep riding this streak for as long as they can.
Matt Kemp not a backup – Los Angeles Dodgers star outfielder Matt Kemp made some waves last week when he said he wasn’t a fourth outfielder. The team has an interesting decision to make now that Kemp is healthy since they still have Yasiel Puig, Carl Crawford, and Andre Ethier. The Dodgers have no doubt looked to trade one of the four players, but likely haven’t found a deal they like. It’s really a good problem to have if you’re Los Angeles but the Dodgers would still be better served by trading one of the four since keeping everyone will cause one of them to be unhappy and they can use a deal to bolster a weak spot on their team. Plenty of teams are looking for quality outfielders and the guess here is that someone gets dealt this season … if not before it even begins.