May 28, 2013

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The Week In Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Tony Kanaan wins Indy 500: After years of frustration, veteran racer Tony Kanaan finally won the prize of his life with a win in this weekend’s Indianapolis 500. For Kanaan it was his first victory at the historic race. With only three laps to go after a green flag, Kanaan quickly took the lead. It was a good thing, too, because defending champion Dario Franchitti crashed further back from the front and the race finished under caution with Kanaan in the lead. Rookie Carlos Munoz finished in second place.

Brian Urlacher retired from the NFL after 13 years with the Chicago Bears.

Brian Urlacher retires: After not re-signing with the Chicago Bears and becoming a free agent, Brian Urlacher figured he’d be playing again in 2014. But Urlacher surprised a few folks last week when he announced his retirement. Having played 13 seasons, it’s not as if his career is being cut short but he likely still has something left in the tank. Urlacher is believed to have reached out to every team in the league, but in the end, decided he’d had enough. There’s little doubt that he’ll be on his way to the Hall of Fame at some point.

San Francisco and Houston awarded 2016 and 2017 Super Bowls: NFL owners approved the cities of San Francisco and Houston as hosts of the 2016 and 2017 Super Bowls respectively. Both edged out Miami, which was also vying for the games. San Francisco will host the historic 50th Super Bowl, which will be played in Levi’s Stadium, expected to be complete in 2014. For Miami, the biggest negative was the franchise not securing funding for improvements to their stadium. That likely cost them a bid and they may not see another one until either the team or the city forks over some money for upgrades to Sun Life Stadium.

Lebron James and Kobe Bryant headline All NBA First Team: The All NBA teams were named last week and among first-teamers were Kobe Bryant and Lebron James. Others included Kevin Durant, Tim Duncan, and Chris Paul. Left off was the scoring champion, Carmelo Anthony. Duncan had a great season, but I’m not sure I would have given him the nod over Anthony.

Cleveland wins NBA Draft lottery: Cleveland had a miserable season, but wound up with a pretty good consolation prize when they won the top spot in the NBA’s Draft lottery selection on Tuesday. It’s the second time in three seasons they’ll have had the No. 1 selection and, should they keep it, could pair a big man such as Nerlens Noel along with Kyrie Irving. In a year where there isn’t considered a dominant player at the top, trading the pick could be an option. But when you consider that they have four selections in the top 33 picks, they may need to get a proven player or two in return instead of more picks. And for what it’s worth, Cleveland’s general manager Chris Grant has said he’s willing to consider dealing the selection.

NFL Draft moving to May: Commissioner Roger Goodell confirmed in the NFL’s spring meetings last week that the league’s draft will move to May in 2014. The main reason for the switch? Radio City Music Hall will be booked during the regularly scheduled time in April.

Mike Trout becomes youngest AL player to hit for cycle: Anaheim Angels phenom Mike Trout already has an amazing track record in his short time in the big leagues. But he added another honor on Tuesday when he became the youngest AL player to hit for the cycle. Trout picked up five RBI in a 12-0 win over Seattle to accomplish the feat.

Michael Crabtree tears Achilles: The 49ers received some great news when it was announced San Francisco would host the 2016 Super Bowl. But things evened out a bit with the news that star wide receiver, Michael Crabtree, tore his Achilles and is expected to miss six months. Crabtree, who had gotten off to a modest start with the 49ers, had a breakout season last year with 85 catches, more than 1,100 yards, and nine touchdowns. The good news for San Francisco is that the team has some depth in the passing game with newly-signed Anquan Boldin, draft pick Quinton Patton, tight end Vernon Davis, and Mario Manningham.

Mike Krzyzewski will remain coach of Team USA: It was widely believed that Coach K would step down from his role as head of the U.S. men’s Olympic basketball team, but he’s apparently had a change of heart and will return. In a nutshell, that’s nothing but great news for the program. Since taking over in 2005, Team USA has had nothing but success, winning gold medals in 2008 and 2012. The players have responded well to him and there’s also something to be said for consistency in the program.

St. Louis Rams sign 400-pounder: The St. Louis Rams made a big splash, literally and figuratively, last week. The team signed Ole Miss’ Terrell Brown as a free agent. If you’re not familiar with Brown, that probably doesn’t sound like a big deal … at least until you get to the part that he’s 403 pounds. And oh yeah, he’s 6’10”, too. Brown didn’t play much during his time at Ole Miss and is considered at best to be a project. He was mostly on the defensive line in college, but will shift to the offensive line in the NFL. It may sound like an interesting story, but if coaches couldn’t find a way to use him against smaller, slower players in college, the chances that he’ll be able to compete against the best players in the world are slim.

May 1, 2013

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2010 NFL Draft Winners

By: Joe Williams

It’s been nearly a week since Mr. Irrelevant was selected in the NFL Draft. That’s plenty of time to figure out which teams improved and which ones blew it. But that seems like a lot of work and judging by last week’s mock draft, I could be wrong about these picks. I’ll take the easy road again this year and see who the winners were in the 2010 NFL Draft.

Eric Berry lead a great Draft class for the Chiefs in 2010.

Seattle Seahawks

Seattle hit five of its first six picks and all five of those players are now starters on one of the best and youngest teams in the league. The Seahawks added Russell Okung at left tackle, Earl Thomas at free safety, Golden Tate at wide receiver, Walter Thurmond at cornerback and Kam Chancellor at strong safety. They also picked up Anthony McCoy who is still on the roster as a backup tight end.

San Francisco 49ers

It should be no surprise that one of last year’s Super Bowl participants makes this list. In the 2010 draft the 49ers picked up Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati who are starters on the offensive line. Navorro Bowman starts at linebacker on one of the best D’s in the league and Anthony Dixon is still on the team playing fullback.

New England Patriots

In this draft the Patriots picked up six players currently on the roster and transformed Tom Brady’s offense from very good to very scary with the addition of two pass catching tight ends in Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. Punter Zoltan Mesko and defenders Devin McCourty, Brandon Spikes and Brandon Deaderick were also part of this draft.

Kansas City Chiefs

The 2-14 Chiefs are on this list too? Yep. Eric Berry (strong safety), Dexter McCluster (receiver), Javier Arenas (cornerback), Jon Asamoah (guard) and Tony Moeaki (tight end) is a pretty strong draft class. The Chiefs have talent, but have been plagued with injuries and poor quarterback play.

Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers are consistently one of the best drafting teams in the league and 2010 was no exception.

Maurkice Pouncey, Emmanuel Sanders, Jonathan Dwyer and Antonio Brown are all contributors on offense and Jason Worilds and Stevenson Sylvester provide depth on defense.

Denver Broncos

This draft marked the beginning and the end in Denver. It was the beginning of putting together one of the best teams in the league today, but it also was one of the biggest nails in the coaching coffin of Josh McDaniels. He drafted Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker who are now part of the best receiving trio (with Wes Welker) in the league. Zane Beadles, J.D. Walton and Eric Olsen have all contributed on the offensive line. But of course the story of this draft is the trade up to pick Tim Tebow. It was a controversial pick and ultimately was a big part of McDaniels getting fired. Once McDaniels was gone, the Broncos had one magical season with Tebow before dumping him on the Jets and signing Peyton Manning.

St Louis Rams

The jury is still out on this one. They took Sam Bradford with the first pick in the draft and he has been a decent NFL quarterback. But it has been a couple years now and we will see if Bradford can take the next step and solidify himself as the Rams starter for the next 10 years of if the Rams start looking for the next guy to take his spot.

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.

January 30, 2013

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2013 Off To A Wild Start

By: Joe Williams

Is it just me or has this been one of the craziest months is sports, both on and off the field? At the top of the list of course is the story about Manti Te’o’s girlfriend and the hoax behind it. Every day there is a new unbelievable twist to this story. I’m not even going to try to comment. But it’s certainly not the only wacky thing we’ve seen recently…

More drama in New York

New York Jets coach Rex Ryan was spotted in the Bahamas with a tattoo on his right arm of his wife’s likeness wearing only a Mark Sanchez jersey. Does this explain why Ryan stuck with Sanchez as his quarterback for so long instead of putting in Tim Tebow?

The Jets were a major story throughout 2012. Now, it has continued into 2013.

Alabama wins BCS Title

The Crimson Tide winning another title is one of the few things that doesn’t seem out of the ordinary in 2013. But it’s not very often when the most talked about play of a title game comes with a team up by 35 points. It’s even more unusual for that play to be a shoving match between the game-winning quarterback and center (A.J. McCarron and Barrett Jones). One more oddity about this game….the biggest star to emerge was not even on the field. McCarron’s girlfriend, Katherine Webb has become the talk of the game after some comments we made by commentator Brent Musberger. She will now be in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue and will be covering the Super Bowl for Inside Edition.

Carmelo Anthony tries to fight Kevin Garnett

An on the court exchange of trash talk went too far when Kevin Garnett allegedly told Carmelo Anthony that his wife tastes like Honey Nut Cheerios. Anthony then tried to confront KG after the game as the teams were leaving the arena.

Tiger tops tee shot, misses cut

It was not a good start to 2013 for Tiger Woods. In his first tournament in Abu Dhabi, he not only topped a tee shot with his driver, but he was also penalized two shots for taking an illegal drop and ended up missing the cut by one shot. (He has since redeemed himself by easily winning the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines.)

Miracle in Atlanta

After blowing a 20-0 halftime lead, the Falcons moved down the field in just two plays to kick the game-winning field goal in their divisional playoff game against Seattle.

Stunning finish in Denver

The Broncos’ defense committed a cardinal sin by letting Jacoby Jones get behind everybody and Joe Flacco found him for a 70-yard game-tying touchdown with just 31 seconds left. The Ravens would eventually win the game 38-35 in the second overtime period.

John Fox confuses Peyton Manning for Tim Tebow

Denver had the ball on its own 20 with 36 seconds on the clock and three timeouts to use before halftime. Fox calls for a handoff to the fullback and a run to the locker room. Then, leading 35-28 with 2:23 left in the game and one first down away from a win, Fox decides to run the ball three times and punt. And after Baltimore tied the game, the Broncos had the ball on their 20-yard-line with 31 seconds left and two timeouts and Fox goes for the trifecta and calls for a kneel down and overtime. He probably is still in the habit of doing this after all the pathetic offensive possessions Tim Tebow gave him last season, but aren’t situations like these the reason you give $96 million to one of the top quarterbacks of all time?

Patriots lose; wife goes off

Following in the footsteps of Tom Brady’s wife Gisele after the Patriots Super Bowl loss in 2012, Wes Welker’s wife lashed out on Facebook against Ray Lewis after the Ravens AFC title game win over the Patriots. And as if that wasn’t enough, Hulk Hogan’s former wife Linda has got Lewis’ back and come out against Mrs. Welker.

Biggest interviews in sports go to Oprah and Katie Couric

Lance Armstrong finally came clean (maybe) on the Oprah show and admitted that he used PED’s. Couric scored the first interview with Manti Te’o where he explained the situation with his girlfriend to be a hoax.

Really NFL?

49ers running back Frank Gore was fined $10,500 for having his socks too low, which is completely ridiculous, but looks even worse when the NFL later fined Patriots quarterback Tom Brady $10,000 for trying to kick Ed Reed while sliding to the ground. So there is a stiffer penalty for how you wear your socks than there is for something that could injure another player?

Referee scandal?

We are all accustomed to people complaining about officials for favoring one side or the other, but the NFL showing favoritism among the officials is a new one. Apparently, several NFL game officials are questioning the league’s grading system and the selection of Jerome Boger as referee for Super Bowl XLVII.

Super sabotage?

Former Raiders wide receiver Tim Brown claimed that former Raiders coach Bill Callahan sabotaged the Raiders in their Super Bowl loss to the Buccaneers. Brown said the coach changed the game plan in order to hurt Oakland’s chances of winning…a claim that was backed up by another former Raider, Jerry Rice. Callahan has denied the allegations.

Also:

Oregon scored a one-point safety in the Fiesta Bowl.

Houston Rockets center Greg Smith was called for a three-second violation after stopping in the lane to tie his shoe.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock was hurt doing the Ray Lewis dance after losing a bet to Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.

New Orleans announces name change from Hornets to Pelicans.

Northern Illinois sets NCAA shot-clock era record with four points in a first half.

January 23, 2013

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Ray Lewis Passing the Torch to Patrick Willis the Premier Headline of Super Bowl XLVII

By: Matt Bowen

The dust has finally settled on the 2012 NFL season and the table is now set for Super Bowl XLVII between the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers on February 3, 2013 in New Orleans.

Ray Lewis will play his final game in Super Bowl XLVII.

Never mind the over-analyzed matchup between brothers and opposing head coaches  John and Jim Harbaugh known as the “HarBowl”, we’ll be sick of that story by the end of the week. The real headline is the fact that Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis will be passing the torch to counterpart Patrick Willis on the Niners as the premier NFL linebacker.

It is now well known that this is Lewis’ “last ride”, as the 37-year-old, 17-year veteran will hang’em up at the conclusion of the season. He has long been the most feared and respected middle linebacker in football. When one thinks classic, smash-mouth, and tough-as-nails NFL players, Hall of Fame Chicago Bears linebacker and leader Dick Butkus comes to mind; then there’s Lewis.

He’s simply the most captivating man in football.

Over the course of his career Lewis has transformed his body into a machine. His freakish diet says it all—mainly protein shakes, egg whites, apples, water and vitamins. He is as dedicated to his body as he is his team and his craft.

His counterpart and soon to be predecessor Willis is no different.  The 27-year-old looks nothing short of a Greek God. It’s no coincidence the two men are virtually the exact same size, both 6’1” and only a few lbs. apart from each other in the 240-245 range. There’s a reason both men share No. 52—Willis aspires to be as great as Lewis.

Often compared to Lewis in looks and leadership skills, Willis will soon hold the crown of the league’s undisputed top linebacker.

Willis has already been named an All-Pro five times in his first six seasons. Lewis has been named All-Pro a stout seven times in his career, but that seems something Willis will topple in just a matter of a few more seasons.

Now, these two Goliaths and future Hall of Famers lead their respective teams onto the field for a Super Bowl showdown for the ages.

Lewis will prepare his men by donning his eye-black turned war paint and by belting out his famed “Any Dogs in the House?” pregame war cry for the final time.

Willis will have his men focused on spoiling Lewis’ ultimate retirement party and permanently writing their names in the record books.

Who will budge?

Will Lewis have enough left in the tank to propel his team to victory?

Can Willis strike gold and steal the show?

Regardless of who lifts the Vince Lombardi Trophy when the clock strikes zero, Lewis will pass the torch to Willis as the best.

The player Willis will pass the torch to likely plays in high school right now. That thought alone is why we love sports.  Who’s next?