April 21, 2014

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Jabari Parker to the NBA: Duke lost another talented underclassman to the NBA – this time, it’s Jabari Parker. The freshman forward seemed like a lock to leave early, but didn’t make the decision immediately casting some doubt as to if he would return to school for another year. That’s not always an easy choice for players who get used to life in college, but it’s also difficult to turn away millions of dollars as a pro as a top pick. And for someone like Parker who is expected to be selected near the top of the Draft, it’s nearly impossible to return to school. With sophomore star Rodney Hood leaving as well, the Blue Devils could be rebuilding a little bit next season.

Bryce Harper benched: When he came into the league a few years ago, Washington Nationals’ star Bryce Harper was known for his obsession with hustling on the baseball diamond. Ironically enough, it was his hustling (or lack thereof, actually) that cost him his spot on the field. In a game on Saturday against the St. Louis Cardinals, Harper hit an infield ground ball to the pitcher and virtually walked to first base. To demonstrate, his lack of effort, he was thrown out when he reached approximately the midway point between first and home. Manager Matt Williams yanked Harper from the game as a result. Harper, for what it’s worth, has played the game well since arriving in the big leagues and afterwards said he respected the decision – but that’s what made this so odd. Many players fail to try hard enough to beat out ground balls, but few show the lackluster display that Harper did. Because of that, the benching was completely justified.

Bryce Harper

Bryce Harper was benched this week for lack of hustle.

Mets minor league team to hold Seinfeld night: Recognizing the 25th anniversary of Seinfeld’s first episode, the New York Mets’ Class A team in Brooklyn, the Cyclones, will hold a Seinfeld night at the stadium. Latex salesmen will get in for free, mailmen (as a tribute to Newman) will throw out the game’s first pitch, the Cyclones will wear puffy shirts, and there will be an Elaine dancing contest. If none of that makes sense to you, start here.

Warriors fan, meet water. Water, Warriors fan: Blake Griffin fouled out in the Los Angeles Clippers’ playoff game against the Golden State Warriors. Then he proceeded to dump a cup of water on a Warriors fan before tossing the cup at him. I guess that’s way his of apologizing, no?

Donald Trump to the … Bills?: Billionaire/Millionaire/Overall Rich Person Donald Trump is reportedly a candidate to become a part-owner of the Buffalo Bills. Depending on what you read, Trump could either be interested in becoming the owner of the franchise or simply an investor. The team could be up for sale following the death of owner Ralph Wilson and other names mentioned as potential owners or investors include Jim Kelly and Jon Bon Jovi. Kelly would be the popular choice, obviously, but the former quarterback continues his battle against cancer.

Jeff Van Gundy hates him some paddleboats: Broadcaster Jeff Van Gundy went on a mini paddleboats rant during an NBA playoff game. So there’s that.

Miracle on Ice team gold medal up for auction: Mark Pavelich, a player from the iconic 1980 Miracle on Ice hockey team, is auctioning off his gold medal from the 1980 Olympics. The famous team beat Russia in the semifinals on their way to winning the medal. It might seem foolish to want to give up such a treasured item, but considering a previous medal from that team was reportedly auctioned for more than $300,000, it’s hard to fault him.

76ers owner says 19-win season was a success: Philadelphia 76ers owner Joshua Harris watched his team win only 19 games this season. To most, that would be a disgrace. Harris, however, seems pleased with the outcome, calling it a ‘huge success.’ No, really. Harris hasn’t really talked much about his team tanking on purpose to lose games in order to secure a higher draft pick. However, his recent comments about not wanting to be 41-41 and lose in the first round of the playoffs while terming the season a success are easy to construe as losing being his preferred option. Comments like that and the continued suspicion about teams not giving their best effort is the primary reason the NBA needs to abolish the lottery. There’s a somewhat justified concern that the best teams could wind up with the best college players. However, that pales in comparison to being an actual problem when you consider that franchises can essentially guarantee themselves of getting the best young players by losing games on purpose.

Georgia Tech spring game a disaster: From one disaster to the next, Georgia Tech’s spring football game didn’t draw much interest, putting it mildly. To be fair, the weather was rainy and the Yellow Jackets held the game on a Friday night, which is generally a bad idea. However, the reported crowd of a little more than 100 people is still pretty shocking. Even small schools generally draw at least a few thousand fans and while larger ones like Georgia Tech have struggled to draw big crowds, an attendance that low is unheard of.

April 14, 2014

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

UConn wins … again: The Connecticut men’s and women’s basketball teams both took home NCAA championships last week with their respective wins over Kentucky and Notre Dame. While the women were heavy favorites coming into the tournament, the men’s team checked in as a No. 7 seed. They were the lowest seed to win it all since the Villanova Wildcats’ 1985 championship squad, who were victorious as a No. 8 seed. The men’s championship game, in particular, which featured No. 7 and No. 8 seeded teams, proved that it’s difficult to write off nearly any team in the field.

UConn Huskies

The UConn Men's & Women's basketball teams both brought home NCAA Championships this season.

John Calipari and the NBA: Shortly before the UConn-Kentucky game on Monday, former Wildcat Rex Chapman tweeted a rumor that Kentucky’s coach, John Calipari, would be leaving after the game to coach the Los Angeles Lakers. Chapman later retracted the statement, but the buzz was already generated. For what it’s worth, Calipari denied the rumor and says he intends to stay with the Wildcats. The coach leaving for the NBA, particularly the Lakers, seems intriguing – but it also would be the wrong move. Few collegiate coaches do well enough to have long careers in the league and while Los Angeles is a prime job, there’s no guarantee for success there with not much else around an aging Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol. Los Angeles will have cap room this summer but still aren’t guaranteed to land a major star. Plus, Coach Cal has perhaps the best setup in the NCAA with top recruiting classes every year and a rabid fan base at one of college basketball’s historic programs.

Bubba Watson wins the Masters: Golfer Bubba Watson held off the field over the weekend to win the Masters. The victory on the sport’s grandest stage was his second in three years and his score of 69 in the final round gave him a three-stroke win over Jonas Blixt and Jordan Spieth. Crying afterwards and with his family close by, he just comes off as a guy that’s easy to root for. Despite the drama and popularity of the Masters, television ratings plummeted. A few reasons could be given, but the primary one is the absence of Tiger Woods. Love him or hate him, Woods’ appearances draw viewers. With his recent back injury knocking him out of the event, fewer viewers tuned in.

Rory McIlroy … and toast: A college lecturer bet $1,700.00 on golfer Rory McIlroy to win the Masters after seeing his ‘image’ on a slice of toast. Seems totally reasonable.

Ultimate Warrior dies: The Ultimate Warrior, one of the WWE’s brightest stars in the 1990s, passed away unexpectedly last week when he suddenly collapsed at the age of 54. Making the death even more eerie was that only days before, he had reconciled with the federation that made him a star after disagreements between the two sides that spanned many years. James Hellwig, who legally changed his name to Warrior, was inducted into the WWE’s Hall of Fame over the weekend then appeared on Monday Night Raw just prior to his death.

Shawne Merriman to the WWE: Speaking of pro wrestling, a former football player is reportedly on his way to the WWE. Defensive standout Shawne Merriman is hoping to make the jump from the NFL to pro wrestling, after debuting briefly at Wrestlemania as an announcer. Merriman is an outstanding athlete but my bets are generally against these sorts of things working out. Not only is wrestling a difficult art to grasp, but the schedule is incredibly demanding with the talent often working several dates a week with live shows and non-televised house shows. Traveling on the road makes it a difficult life and learning how to wrestle is just part of it.

Chad Johnson could land in Canadian Football League: Last we saw Chad Johnson, he was Chad Ochocinco and catching passes for the New England Patriots. After a disappointing year where he caught only 15 balls for 276 yards in 2011, he didn’t play another regular season game. According to ESPN, Johnson is now hoping to latch on with the Montreal Alouettes in the Canadian Football League. He may be able to still play at the age of 36, but using a stint in the CFL to revive his NFL career is unlikely. The wide receiver has been in steady decline since 2007 when he caught 93 passes for a career-best 1,440 yards. Since that season, he has had only one 1,000-yard season. His brief time in New England may have been a bit of an aberration since he wasn’t targeted very much. However, it’s been a few years since Johnson has even played competitively – let alone all that well.

Ball Girl interference: A Baltimore Orioles ball girl accidentally fielded a live ball and somehow couldn’t stop smiling about the gaffe.

April 7, 2014

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

NCAA Men’s Title Game Set: The Final Four got underway on Saturday with UConn knocking off overall No. 1 seed Florida while Kentucky topped Wisconsin. Both games were considered upsets and those outcomes ensured that a low seed will win the NCAA Title game on Monday. The Huskies were a No. 7 seed while the Wildcats were a No. 8. Heading into the tournament, UConn was ranked near the bottom of the Top 25 rankings while Kentucky was unranked. Monday’s title game is just another example of the unpredictability of the NCAAs.

NCAA Women’s Title Features Two Unbeatens: While the men’s basketball final features two unexpected teams, the women’s finale consists of the two teams many expected to be there. 39-0 UConn takes on 37-0 Notre Dame on Tuesday, meaning the champion will finish the season with a spotless record.

DeSean Jackson

DeSean Jackson is changing teams within the NFC East.

Desean Jackson Signs with Washington Redskins: The Philadelphia Eagles cut ties with star wide receiver, Desean Jackson. Last week, the Washington Redskins quickly signed him, sending the talented playmaker to one of the Eagles’ fiercest rivals. The idea that Jackson was let go due to his playing ability would seem to be ridiculous. Not missing a game last year, he set new career-highs in receptions (82), targets (126), and yardage (1,332), while tying his career best of nine touchdowns. The fact that Jackson now joins a division rival makes the move even more difficult to swallow for many Eagles’ fans.

Charity Hockey Brawl: A charity hockey game between New York’s firefighters and policemen included a bench-clearing brawl. Of course it did.

Toews Out: The Chicago Blackhawks are sitting their star Jonathan Toews for the remainder of the regular season. The captain is expected to return for Game 1 of the team’s first playoff series, but head coach Joel Quenneville said he has sustained an upper body injury. Rather than play him now, the team is hoping to get him to 100% for the postseason. Toews has been incredibly reliable and hasn’t missed any games since 2012. While he could probably play, at this point in the year the playoffs are the important thing.

Tennessee Titans Cut Chris Johnson: A few short years ago, Chris Johnson was regarded as the best running back in the NFL. On Friday, though, the Tennessee Titans released him, making him a free agent. Johnson has never rushed for fewer than 1,000 yard in the league and after his 2009 season when he racked up 2,006 yards and 14 touchdowns, he was setting the NFL on fire. Johnson hasn’t returned to that dominant form, but has still been a very good rusher, averaging nearly 1,200 yards per season. Johnson is finding the end zone less these days, but at only 28, should find plenty of suitors interested in adding him to their roster.

Masahiro Tanaka Shines in Debut: It’s only been one game, but so far the Yankees’ new starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka looks like a keeper. Tanaka scattered six hits over seven innings, allowing only two earned runs in his debut against the Toronto Blue Jays. He also recorded eight strikeouts and after earning the win, the Japanese pitcher is off to a solid start to his career in Major League Baseball.

Arian Foster Fail: A woman met a man that she thought was Arian Foster and after having her picture taken with him, tweeted it to Foster, saying she was happy to meet him. Only one problem – it wasn’t actually him, as Foster himself had to point out in replying to her. Oops.

Kevin Durant Tops MJ: Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant passed Michael Jordan on the NBA’s all-time list of most consecutive 25-point performances. Durant dropped 38 points in a loss to the Phoenix Suns on Sunday to pass Jordan with his 41st consecutive game scoring at least 25 points. The forward now sits in third place on the all-time list and while he can catch Oscar Robertson, who accomplished the feat in 46 straight contests, he’s unlikely to pass the record holder. Wilt Chamberlain stands atop the list after scoring at least 25 points in a whopping 80 games.

April 1, 2014

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

An Unlikely Final Four: After another crazy weekend of college basketball, an unlikely Final Four is finally set. Florida, the No. 1 overall seed, is there and the lone non-surprise. But Kentucky topped higher seeds Louisville and Michigan, UConn upset Iowa State and Michigan State, and Wisconsin beat No. 1 seed Arizona. Of the four teams standing, only Florida was a popular Final Four pick and this year is one of the best examples of what March Madness is really all about. By the way, I’ll take the Gators.

Florida Gators Basketball

Will Florida, the overall #1 seed, win the NCAA Tournament?

Northwestern Football Players Win Right to Form Union: Northwestern’s football players scored a historic victory when a court ruled that they have the right to create a union. We’re likely still a long way from anything significant happening on this, but in essence, it could open up the door for college athletes to earn money as employees. While the win holds some significance, I still find it difficult to believe athletes can get paid with things remaining the same in the NCAA. There are really too many hurdles with this – for example, who gets paid … the football players or all of a university’s athletes? How much do they earn? What about football programs that don’t earn boatloads of money? To me, the best solution always has been to allow high school athletes to go straight into the NFL Draft if they desire. The league could create a de facto minor league system, similar to the NBA’s Development League. For players that are good enough to be selected in the draft and want to earn money right away, that’s their ticket. For the others that wouldn’t be selected, they still have the option of playing in college for a scholarship.

Philadelphia 76ers Win: Typically a regular-season NBA win against a bad team isn’t big enough to garner much attention, but all eyes were on Philly after they defeated the Detroit Pistons over the weekend, 123-98. The Sixers had lost 26 straight games, tying an NBA record with the Cleveland Cavaliers for the dubious distinction. Philadelphia’s last win was a one-point victory over the Boston Celtics on January 29th.

Bowling for Records: A man nearly bowled a perfect game … backwards.

Mike Montgomery Retires from Cal: The head coach of Cal’s men’s basketball team is stepping down after a long career. Mike Montgomery gained fame from his 18-year run at Stanford, leading the team to numerous NCAA Tournament Appearances and a Final Four. After leaving that job for a brief NBA stint, Montgomery returned to the college ranks at Cal for six years. He led the Bears to six NCAA Tournament appearances, but couldn’t get the team past the third round. With a 21-14 record this season, Montgomery led Cal to the NIT, where they were eliminated last week by SMU.

Andrew Wiggins Declares for NBA Draft: Kansas freshman basketball star Andrew Wiggins suffered a disappointing loss when his Jayhawks were bounced early in the NCAA Tournament, losing to Stanford. Now, the phenom is ready for the next step and declared himself available for this year’s NBA Draft. Wiggins didn’t have a good game in that finale against the Cardinal and while he had some duds this season, they were few and far between. He averaged 17.4 points and six rebounds per game, and was a Second Team All-American, making the decision a no-brainer.

Mark Sanchez Photobomb: Quarterback Mark Sanchez signed with the Philadelphia Eagles, and then was promptly photobombed. By a photo.

Maurice Jones-Drew to Raiders: Longtime Jacksonville Jaguars running back will continue his NFL career after being let go by the franchise. MJD heads to the Oakland Raiders on a three-year deal and should give running back Darren McFadden some much-needed competition for the starting job. Jones-Drew rushed for a career-best 1,606 yards in 2011, but became expendable when he had an injury-prone 2012 and lackluster 2013, rushing for a combined 1,217 yards in both seasons. Over those two years, he only found the end zone six times on the ground and last year, really struggled with a meager 3.4 yards per carry average – a career worst. As bad as Jones-Drew has been lately, though, there’s still a fighter’s chance that he wins the starting job. McFadden has been a career underachiever, and only once reached the 1,000-yard mark. Over the past two years, he’s averaged only 3.3 yards per carry and might even be the underdog against the older Jones-Drew.

UMass Leaving MAC: Conference realignment and expansion in college football has slowed dramatically in the past year. It isn’t over completely, though, as UMass will be leaving the MAC – their home for football. The Minutemen currently play many of their sports in the Atlantic 10 and were offered full conference membership by the MAC. However, they declined and the conference asked them to look for a new football home after the 2015 season. With teams like Bowling Green, Northern Illinois, and Central Michigan finding success in recent years, the MAC is becoming a stronger football league. Still, the Atlantic 10 is rising too quickly in basketball to leave right now and the Minutemen basketball program is much farther along than the football program, which just leapt to the FBS in 2012. It may be difficult finding a new football home, but the option to remain as an Independent exists.

March 24, 2014

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

NCAA Tournament upsets galore: The NCAA Tournament continued to produce upsets and last week saw quite a few of them. The biggest was No. 14 seed Mercer topping Duke in their first game, but plenty of others were surprises, too. A Kentucky team that underwhelmed for much of the season knocked off undefeated No. 1 seed Wichita State. No. 2 Kansas fell in the second round to tenth-seeded Stanford. No. 12 seeds North Dakota State, Stephen F. Austin, and Harvard all knocked off No. 5 seeds in their first-round games. And 11-seed Dayton pulled off two upsets, defeating Ohio State and Syracuse. Each year, the tournament features a host of upsets and this year was no exception.

Jets make quarterback changes: The New York Jets believe they have their franchise quarterback in Geno Smith, but that didn’t stop them from making some intriguing moves at the position last week. The team cut one-time franchise quarterback Mark Sanchez on Friday and essentially replaced him with veteran signee Michael Vick. The Sanchez dismissal was a long time coming since he had lost his job and fell out of favor. That meant New York had to go out and sign someone and Vick is an experienced signal-caller that will give the team a bit of insurance if Smith doesn’t work out.

Mark Sanchez

After being released by the Jets, where will Mark Sanchez end up?

Dodgers open season in Australia with two wins: The majority of major league teams are still finishing up Spring Training, but the Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks have already kicked off the season. Opening Day took place in Australia and L.A. got off to a good start to the season with a pair of wins over Arizona on the backs of their starting pitchers. Clayton Kershaw struck out seven and gave up only one run in 6 2/3 innings in the first contest. Hyun-Jin Ryu came in for the second game and threw five scoreless innings in picking up his first win. The duo gave Los Angeles two of what they hope will be many more victories in 2014.

Bill Belichick sans hoodie: Bill Belichick showed up at the NCAA Tournament without his trademark hoodie. But his ensemble of an unbuttoned shirt complete with Florida Gators visor left a lot to be desired.

Roddy White backs out: Twitter is an interesting animal. Fans are not only given a more up close look at their favorite athletes, but they can also interact with them. Wide receiver Roddy White took to Twitter and after a fan told him Mercer would beat Duke in the NCAA Tournament, responded by saying he would give said fan season tickets on the 50-yard line. What happened next was nothing short of legendary. White responded to those who reminded him about the bet by saying he would give tickets to only the Falcons-Bears game. When others reminded him the bet was for season tickets, White then responded by saying it wasn’t even a real bet (and by proving he can’t spell the word ridiculous in the process). Well, then. The story obviously took off and instead of just buying the tickets and looking like a stand up guy, White’s stubbornness has now made him look foolish, cheap, and above human decency. Just pay up, Roddy.

Raiders trade for Matt Schaub: Oakland was in desperate need of a quarterback and addressed that issue with a trade with the Houston Texans for Matt Schaub. Schaub was benched last year after returning from an injury and Houston really had no future plans for him. The sixth-round pick they got for him wasn’t much for a guy that was a Pro Bowler as recently as 2012, but it was clear the team just wanted him out of town. Schaub had a down season in 2013, but the year before, completed 64% of his passes and threw for 22 touchdowns to 12 interceptions. At only 32, the guess here is that he has at least a few years left in the tank.

Andrew Bynum haircut fiasco: Indiana Pacers’ center Andrew Bynum was sitting out of a game with an injury and did what any normal NBA player would do – get a haircut. Bynum reportedly got the haircut during halftime of a game against the Chicago Bulls and continued to prove he doesn’t always do the right thing. Even if Bynum is injured, he’s still getting paid by the team. I mean, seriously – he can’t wait an hour or so until after the game?