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.

June 17, 2013

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The Week In Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Justin Rose wins U.S. Open: Justin Rose capped off a spectacular Sunday of golf winning the U.S. Open (+1) for his first major championship. He became the first British golfer to win the title since 1970 when Tony Jacklin did it. Just as big of a story was Phil Mickelson finishing as the bridesmaid yet again, as he finished in a tie for second at +3 with Jason Day. Mickelson’s eighth 2nd place finish ties him with Sam Snead, Greg Norman, and Tom Watson for the third most runner-ups in majors history. Jack Nicklaus leads the way in that category with 19.

Alex Ovechkin was the winner of this year's Hart Trophy over the weekend.

San Antonio Spurs take 3-2 series lead over Miami Heat: The San Antonio Spurs took a 3-2 series lead over the Miami Heat by way of their Game 5 win on Sunday night. That puts the Spurs in position to win a fifth ring for future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan … but it won’t be easy. San Antonio still needs to win one out of two games in Miami and the Heat just don’t lose very much at home. And with an NBA title on the line, you can bet the fans won’t be easy on the road team.

Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins tied 1-1 in Stanley Cup Finals: The NHL’s Stanley Cup Finals are tied at a game apiece with two exciting contests thus far. Andrew Shaw scored a goal in the third overtime of the Game 1 thriller to give the Blackhawks a 4-3 win. The Bruins won Game 2 in overtime behind Daniel Paille’s third goal. Even if you’re not a good hockey fan, two overtime games already should make you want to watch the rest of the series.

Chad Ochocinco Johnson heads to jail: Chad Johnson caught a break in his no-contest plea to battery charges against his then-wife when a court was ready to give him a community service/counseling deal to avoid jail time. But when Johnson smacked the butt of his attorney at excitement over the deal … well, let’s just say the judge wasn’t impressed. Judge Kathleen McHugh told Johnson it wasn’t a joke and promptly rejected his plea deal, sentencing him to 30 days in jail. Do not pass go, do not collect $200. Seriously, though – what was Johnson thinking? I can understand being happy at the prospect of not heading to the clink, but he clearly should have showed a bit more restraint until he got out of the court.

Alex Ovechkin wins Hart Trophy: The Washington CapitalsAlex Ovechkin took home his third Hart Trophy as the league’s MVP over the weekend. The winger is only the eighth player in league history to win that many. Other players such as John Tavares and Sidney Crosby were also deserving, but Ovechin led the league with 32 goals and did so in a season where he moved to wing.

Tim Tebow signed by Patriots: The New England Patriots made a bit of a splash last week when they announced the signing of quarterback Tim Tebow. I don’t question that coaching guru Bill Belichick can find a way to utilize him in some way. What is surprising is that New England would bring him in with what should be a minimal impact. Unlike in New York, Tebow isn’t being brought in to challenge starter Tom Brady. So unless Brady goes down with an injury, Tebow’s impact at the position would be small. The talk is already about making Tebow a receiver or part of offensive packages as a skill player, but will he really be such an offensive difference-maker that it will make it worth all of the added attention and scrutiny of the team? Not likely.

Jason Kidd hired as Nets’ head coach: Last week I mentioned the possibility of the recently retired Jason Kidd becoming the Brooklyn Nets new coach. The Nets, who hadn’t previously had Kidd in mind, were convinced after his agent reached out to them and Kidd was hired last week. My opinion hasn’t really changed on this – a team with expectations so high shouldn’t be hiring a rookie head coach. He was a great player, but other greats such as Elgin Baylor, Magic Johnson, and Wes Unseld didn’t exactly make a successful transition from player to coach.

Dwight Howard and Chris Paul teammates?: ESPN reported last week that free agents Dwight Howard and Chris Paul may be exploring options to end up on the same team together. This move, of course, isn’t unprecedented with several players doing this in the past, including the Miami Heat’s ‘Big Three’ of Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. Howard and Paul are rumored to desire to play for the Los Angeles Clippers, but that would require a few things to happen. The team doesn’t have the cap space to sign Howard, so they’d need to do a sign and trade for him. And chances are that Blake Griffin would need to be included in such a deal.

Hall of Famer Lem Barney says football will soon end: Speaking at a football academy, Pro Football Hall of Famer Lem Barney declared that the game of football will end in 10-20 years because it is too dangerous. Barney’s not the only one to voice such an opinion with all of the talk of concussions lately, but I’m not sure the game ends anytime soon. After all – a sport like boxing where athletes take repeated shots to the head still exists. And when you consider that football is the most popular sport in the country, the guess here is that football continues to implement more safety measures rather than shut down entirely.

March 23, 2011

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Chad Ochocinco and the Pursuit of Multi-Sport Excellence

By: Lionel

I’m sure you’ve heard by now that Chad Ochocinco is trying out for Major League Soccer’s Sporting KC.  Ochocinco has never shied away from publicity, and MLS needs all the publicity it can get, so the tryout itself can’t be looked at as anything but positive.  The potential for controversy really comes down to the decision the team will have to make at the end of the tryout.

Maybe he’ll legitimately earn his way onto the team.  There’s no denying that he, like so many pros in any sport, is an exceptional athlete.  He’s faster, stronger, more agile, more fit, and has better hand-eye coordination than 99.99% of the athletes in this country (when you include amateurs), so there’s no doubt in my mind that he has an infinitely better chance of making the Sporting KC team than I or any of the guys on my softball team would have.  But is freaky athleticism enough to secure a spot on a professional soccer team when you haven’t played organized soccer in a decade?

Michael Jordan was one of the greatest athletes the world has ever witnessed.  But even “His Greatness” wasn’t able to successfully make the switch from basketball to baseball.  Recently retired pitcher John Smoltz was one of the best hurlers in baseball of the past three decades.  His outstanding skills, however, have not yet been enough to launch a second career in golf.  Had either of them given the same time and focus to their “second” sports that they gave to their “first” sports, is it possible that Jordan would today be mentioned in the same breath as Cal Ripken, Wade Boggs, and Ken Griffey, Jr., and that Smoltz would have spent the last two decades competing with the likes of Ernie Els, Vijay Singh, Phil Mickelson, and Tiger Woods?

Multi-sport athletes are certainly not new.  Jim Thorpe, who competed well before the time of anyone reading this, is a legend in baseball, football, basketball, and many track and field events.  In more recent history, Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders put up very respectable baseball numbers while also playing professional football.  But few have been able to truly excel at more than one professional sport.  Even for the extremely gifted, it takes so much time and effort to compete at the highest level in one sport that there just aren’t enough hours in the day or energy in the body to be similarly elite at another game.

Did you know that Tom Brady was drafted by the Expos?  Daunte Culpepper was drafted by the YankeesJohn Elway played in both the Yankees’ and the Royals’ minor league system.  Pat Riley was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys, Danny Ainge played a few seasons for the Blue Jays, Tony Gwynn was drafted by the Clippers, Dan Marino was drafted by the Royals, and Randy “Macho Man” Savage played minor league ball for the Cardinals and Reds (Oh, yeah!).  Each of these guys made a choice to concentrate on a single sport in an endeavor to excel, recognizing, I’m sure, that he couldn’t reach the level of greatness that he eventually reached if his efforts were divided between two sports.

Is it completely a matter of divided efforts, though?  Or are some elite athletes just better suited for certain sports?  Did Dan Marino turn down the opportunity to play baseball because it was clear to him that his skills gave him a much better shot at being a stand-out football player than a stand-out baseball player?  A former college football playing buddy of mine often questions the choices he’s made.  “For all I know,” he’ll say, “I could be the greatest pickle ball player, buffalo chip tosser, or Marco Poloist in the world, but I haven’t ever attempted any of them.”  Maybe every elite athlete is built specifically for a certain game—athleticism can make him/her very good at many things, but only truly exceptional at one.

Whatever the case may be, the Ochocinco soccer tryout makes a great story.  Can he achieve greatness in a second professional sport?  I highly doubt it.  But I marvel at his athleticism, and I don’t think I’m alone in saying that I can’t wait to watch the story unfold.

February 4, 2011

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Piecing Together Ochocinco’s Day, According to His Tweets

By: Lionel

A condensed version of Chad Ochocinco’s February 3, according to his tweets:

Chad, in a Dallas hotel for the Super Bowl, begins his day with a top-of-the-morning photo and some good-natured cussing for his fans.  He’s a laid-back guy, so he flashes the “hang loose” sign.

Via @ochocinco twitpic

He next asks Adrian Battles if he’s ready for the Super Bowl

…and then stops for a photo-op with Dan Patrick and Darrelle Revis.

Via @ochocinco twitpic

Next up: Pants shopping at North Park Mall.

To save time between try-ons, he shops the mall in his underpants.

Via @ochocinco twitpic

Then it’s back to the hotel for some meditation, followed by game planning for the night’s Madden Bowl.

While at the hotel, Chad watches Paranormal Activity 2.

After the movie is over, it’s time for Madden Bowl, which proves to be a tale of extremes.

EXTREME HAPPINESS:  Chad teams up with Patrick Willis to win Madden Bowl!

EXTREME DISAPPOINTMENT:  Reggie Bush lets Chad know that he may have won Madden Bowl, but he still hasn’t won a Super Bowl.

Composing himself for the moment, Chad collects a ridiculously large Madden Bowl trophy.  For today, at least, it’s a happy ending.

Via @ochocinco twitpic

Follow Chad for yourself on Twitter (@ochocinco).

October 21, 2008

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Texans Eyeing Franchise History

By: realbigfathead

By Ignacio Salazar

The Houston Texans will be looking to do what no other team in franchise history has ever done before: win for the third consecutive time.  And this week, the Houston team welcomes the Cincinnati Bengals to Reliant Stadium as head coach Gary Kubiak looks to turn the 2008 season into a positive one.

After a horrendous 0-4 start, the Texans finally seem to be getting back to the basics and gelling as a team. Of course, they still have plenty of work to do.  After having the Detroit Lions on the ropes last Sunday, the Texans allowed their winless opponent to come back and get within distance of tying the game.  There is no reason the game should have been close – especially since the Texans were up 21-0 in the first quarter!  A little bit of discipline will go a long way in scenarios like this one.

This coming Sunday, the Texans will take on Cincinnati, another winless team.  However, the Bengals have some talent on the field and far fewer front office distractions drawing their attention away from the game than the Lions.  If the Texans are going to win on Sunday, then the defense needs to put pressure on Bengals backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick while keeping tight coverage on wide receiver Chad Johnson.

Matt Schaub and the offense will do their thing. Against the Lions, Schaub connected with seven different receivers as he went 26-for-31 with 267 passing yards and two touchdowns. His favorite target, Andre Johnson, enjoyed his third consecutive game of 100 or more receiving yards with 11 catches with 141 yards.

Here’s to three in a row!  Go Houston!