June 3, 2013

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The Week In Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Grant Hill retires: In a somewhat expected move, forward Grant Hill retired from the NBA last season. For many, Hill will be remembered for the injuries that ate up much of his career. Injuries again kept him down this year as the forward appeared in only 29 games all season with the Los Angeles Clippers, and at 40, it’s clear he should have retired. But Hill should never be forgotten. He was the 1994-95 Rookie of the Year and a seven-time All-Star. Hill wasn’t always healthy, but when he was, he was one of the NBA’s best forwards earlier in his career.

The Kansas City Royals hired George Brett to be their Hitting Coach.

Rangers coach John Tortorella fired: Shortly after being ousted by the Boston Bruins in the NHL’s Eastern Conference semifinals, the New York Rangers dumped head coach John Tortorella. The Rangers had hopes of reaching the Stanley Cup finals this season, but actually regressed after making the Eastern Conference finals last year. Tortorella had some success in New York, but was rumored to have rubbed some of his players the wrong way. After not advancing past the first round in each of his first three seasons with the Rangers, Tortorella had done better each of the past two seasons. It wasn’t enough to keep his job, but as a former Stanley Cup winning coach in Tampa Bay, he should get another chance down the line.

Steve Smith (the other one) retires: New York Giants receiver Steve Smith (not to be confused with the Carolina PanthersSteve Smith) has decided to hang up his cleats. Smith was a former Pro Bowler and just signed a deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this offseason. He was always a bit underrated as a receiver and finishes with seven 1,000-yard seasons under his belt. He nearly had another in 2009 when he finished with 982 yards and there’s little doubt he had something left in the tank. Smith had nearly 2,600 receiving yards over the past two seasons with 11 touchdowns. At 34, he probably still has some football left in him. It will be interesting to see if he changes his mind when training camp rolls around.

Phoenix Suns hire Jeff Hornacek as head coach: Jeff Hornacek, a former shooting guard in the NBA, will head back to Phoenix to serve as the team’s new head coach. Hornacek played for the Suns from 1986 – 1992 and also had stints with the Philadelphia 76ers and Utah Jazz. He helped the Jazz to two trips to the NBA Finals alongside Karl Malone and John Stockton. After retiring, he became an instructor with the Jazz and then an assistant. Hornacek will come in somewhat unproven with only a few years of experience as an assistant. And considering the mess that is the Phoenix Suns right now, that will make it even harder to succeed.

Everett Golson suspended for 2013: Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson was suspended by the team due to ‘poor academic judgment.’ There hasn’t yet been confirmation on what exactly that means, but one thing is for certain – he won’t be suiting up for the Irish this fall. It’s a blow to a team that went to the BCS Championship with him at the helm last year. Notre Dame must now turn to another option – most likely senior Tommy Rees. But Malik Zaire could have an outside shot at the job as he comes in as a highly touted freshman this year. But without Golson, the team’s stock is taking a significant hit.

Kansas City Royals hire George Brett as hitting coach: Stuck in the middle of a long losing streak, the Kansas City Royals have turned to perhaps the best player in the history of their franchise – George Brett. Brett will assume duties as the team’s new hitting coach. Let’s face it – giving the job to a franchise icon who just happens to be one of the best hitters in the last 50 years isn’t a bad idea. But stars generally have a difficult time coaching and often, aren’t able to teach others how to play the game as well as they could. Still, for just taking a shot in the dark on a midseason hire, the Royals could have done worse.

Floyd Mayweather to fight Saul Alvarez: Floyd Mayweather, Jr. recently announced that he would fight Saul “Canelo” Alvarez on September 14th. The match will pit a pair of unbeatens as Mayweather is 44-0-0 while Alvarez is 42-0-1. While this is a big deal and surely a fight that Mayweather will trumpet, Alvarez isn’t Manny Pacquiao - the fighter many would like to see battle Mayweather. In the announcement on (where else) Twitter, Mayweather made sure to tell us that he’s ‘giving the fans what they want’ by participating in the fight. Thanks, I guess?

NCAA Golfer penalized for car washing: Yep, you heard that one correctly. The NCAA penalized an unidentified women’s golfer for washing her own car. The reason? She reportedly used water on the campus that technically belonged to the university and was forced to pay the school $20.00 – the approximate value of the water and hose that was estimated by the organization. I’m all for following the rules and I think the NCAA gets a bad rap sometimes. They’ve got a difficult job in trying to police schools and student athletes, and I get that letting smaller things go can easily escalate into bigger problems. But seriously, can’t we have a common sense clause that allows for a warning in some instances?

May 22, 2013

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MLB’s Emerging Stars

By: Matt Bowen

Major League Baseball has a brilliant future. Fans everywhere should be ecstatic for the next decade.  Scattered throughout the league, even teams currently below .500 have budding stars.

Sure, every generation of players has their own crop of cornerstones, but this is different. The league is stacked. The competition will be fierce. Playoff races will come down to Game 162. Interest throughout will reach a fever pitch.

We all know the likes of Bryce Harper and Mike Trout are the leaders of the pack when it comes to the “next-generation”, but they are not alone. They’re joined by a bushel of future heroes. Some of which are a touch older than the young 20-somethings, but a star is a star, no matter how long it takes to shine so bright.

Bryce Harper is already a household name for MLB fans.

Here’s a quick rundown of players to fall in love with:

Catcher: Wilin Rosario, Colorado Rockies

This kid has pop at the plate and in the thin air of Colorado he’ll find the cheap seats with ease. A catcher who can hit for average is always a plus and Rosario is holding his own this season. Even though his numbers have dipped in May, he’ll be just fine. The Rockies have smooth sailing ahead of them with Rosario in their lineup for years to come.

First Base: Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks

Fans may not have had a chance to catch Paul Goldschmidt much due to proximity, but he’s a stud. By season’s end he’ll be in the NL MVP conversation. Possessing power, average and enough speed to motor around the bases, he also helps his team with a stealthy glove at first base. The Diamondbacks are in good hands thanks to Goldschmidt. Yes, he’s currently 25 years old, but it’s never too late to be one of the best.

Second Base: Jose Altuve, Houston Astros

The Houston Astros may own a dismal record, but with Jose Altuve on their side better days are in store. At 5’5” he may be undersized, but he shouldn’t be underestimated. The dude can do it all and is the key to the future in Houston. He’s more than fun to watch and should be respected and feared by all.

Shortstop: Jean Segura, Milwaukee Brewers

Whoa baby! Jean Segura of the Milwaukee Brewers puts up silly numbers in the box score. Blessed with plate presence and speed to burn, Segura is a nightmare for the opposition. Just checking his numbers makes one want to move to Milwaukee and watch this guy in person 81 times a year. With the skills he has, it’s almost not fair. Cheers to Segura. Expect him to be an All-Star this season.

Third Base: Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles

Talk about a cornerstone, Manny Machado is it in Baltimore. He’ll be manning the hot-corner for the next 15 years for the Orioles and has yet to scratch the surface of his true talent. He’s only 20 years old. Diehard O’s fans have to be drooling when thinking of the future. Dare I say he’ll be the most beloved in Baltimore since a guy named Cal Ripken, Jr. Machado is the man. Come September, expect heroics.

No Surprise Here, Bryce Harper and Mike Trout Made the list:

It’s safe to say that the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are set in terms of a superstar. Bryce Harper and Mike Trout will bring fans out in droves until they retire. Some may argue that they aren’t “emerging” stars, but let’s be real—they are so young it’s not fair to say we’ve seen or that we can comprehend their “ceiling.” They are the future. Embrace it.

Rounding out the Outfield, Starling Marte, Pittsburgh Pirates:

The Pittsburgh Pirates have been begging for a winner since neon slap bracelets and Nickelodeon slime were in style. Now, with the emergence of Starling Marte to compliment star Andrew McCutchen, the Pirates are built to win.

Marte looks like he’s on skates in the outfield and handles himself well at the plate. He bolsters and gives the Bucs lineup much needed depth. There should be nothing but smiles from the Pirates faithful these days after decades of futility. Marte is the difference in Pittsburgh.

Pitcher: Matt Harvey, New York Mets

While it’s tough to pick just one pitcher, have you seen Matt Harvey on the mound? The 24-year-old is off to a ridiculous start to his career. He looks like Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers and future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux wrapped into one.

A fine blend of power and finesse, Harvey may be considered the best pitcher in baseball by the end of 2014. His fastball is tough enough to blow back hitters while his offspeed arsenal makes them weak in the knees.

After just 19 career starts, he’s being considered a legend. Watching him is a must.

May 6, 2013

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The Week In Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Lebron James wins 4th MVP award: Widely regarded as the best player in basketball, the Miami Heat’s Lebron James won his fourth NBA Most Valuable Player award. The award put him in some elite company – the only other players to win as many were Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, and Bill Russell. There was little doubt that James would win the award as he was the best player on the best team in the league, and the vote was nearly unanimous (one voter chose Carmelo Anthony as the winner). A good case could have been made for Kevin Durant, who led the Oklahoma City Thunder to 60 wins this season and averaged more points than James. But in the end, Durant finished second and my vote would have gone to James, too.

Will Adrian Peterson break the single-season NFL rushing record in 2013?

Floyd Mayweather, Jr. wins. Again. Big surprise, right? Floyd Mayweather, Jr. moved to 44-0 after disposing of Robert Guerrero in a unanimous 12-round decision this weekend. Guerrero was a worthy foe, but the win was a fairly decisive one for Mayweather, who had a 117-111 win on all three of the judges’ scorecards. He didn’t deliver the knockout that many pay-per-viewers wanted, but the important thing is that he remains undefeated. Mayweather now plans to fight again in September and the only question at this point is who will get the next shot to knock off the champion.

College athletics a losing proposition? The NCAA recently completed a study, the 2012 Revenue and Expenses Report, which showed that athletic departments are spending more money in expenses than they are generating new revenue. More importantly, perhaps, is that only 23 Division I schools reported a profit. That’s nothing new, though some fans may be surprised to hear that plenty of major universities lose money on sports. Even if a school has a big time football program, that money is often used to help support other non-revenue sports. And when you factor in salaries of athletics department staff and coaches, facility-related expenses, and scholarships, breaking even isn’t the easiest thing to do.

Adrian Peterson sets lofty goal for 2013: Last year, Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson nearly broke Eric Dickerson’s long-time NFL record for most rushing yards in a season. The running back not only wants to break the mark next year, but shatter it. Peterson recently said in a Sports Illustrated interview that his goal is to reach 2,500 yards. On the surface, that appears nearly impossible. No other running back has even come close to that total and with Peterson’s big season last year, opposing defenses will be doing all they can to shut him down. And when you factor in that he would need to be fully healthy all year, it’s difficult to expect that much out of him.

SEC Network announced for 2014: ESPN and the SEC announced a new 20-year deal to broadcast games last week. As a part of that package, the two sides will launch a 24-hour/day SEC network that will air football, basketball, and baseball games, as well as other events. With the B1G already airing games on its own network and the ACC reportedly making plans to do so as well, conference networks are becoming the norm. One of the biggest benefits not specifically related to revenue is that smaller sports will get a bit more coverage. Non-revenue programs should draw a bit more interest from fans that may not have paid that much attention to them in the past.

Warren Moon says Tim Tebow not good enough for CFL: Football Hall of Famer, Warren Moon spoke recently about Tim Tebow in a radio interview and his comments were a bit surprising to say the least. There are plenty of ex-players that don’t think Tim Tebow is a legitimate NFL quarterback, but Moon isn’t even sure Tebow can play in the Canadian Football League. Even though the CFL is a significant step down from the NFL, Moon doesn’t believe that Tebow can pass well enough to play in the league. Moon makes a valid point in that the league is high on aerial attacks, but what he doesn’t factor in is that the level of competition in the CFL isn’t what it is in the NFL. Since he’s been in the NFL, Tebow has completed less than half of his passes. But in college, where the competition wasn’t as difficult, he completed nearly 70%. Tebow may not be a great passer, but the guess here is that he’s capable of having success in the CFL if he ever decided to go that route.

May 11, 2011

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More Than an Overtime Thriller

By: Sonya

Monday night was a treat for NBA basketball fans. In the first match up, the Miami Heat escaped the Boston Garden with an overtime win over the Celtics. The game was exciting, just as you would expect with arguably seven superstars involved, but after regulation ended all knotted up, the Heat took over with ease. The late game was the real treat.

By now, you’ve either seen the game I’m referring to or heard about it endlessly at various media outlets. The triple overtime extravaganza between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Memphis Grizzlies. The game was by far the most entertaining of the 2011 playoffs, and the best second round game that I can remember seeing.

I won’t go into deep analysis of the game, as I’d be repeating thousands of other people. But I can say although the game was more thriller than Michael Jackson himself, was actually considerably sloppy. The Griz jumped out to an early 18 point lead, then relaxed on defense, allowing the Thunder to come back on the shoulders of Russell Westbrook. Not to be outdone, the Thunder built up a considerable lead only to allow the Griz to come back.

OKC should have taken this game. They would have won this game in regulation, if not for a Mike Conley game tying three. They would have won it in the first over time, if not for a game tying, off balance three by Greivis Vazquez (that’s right – Greivis Vazquez). They should have won it in the second overtime after Conley and OJ Mayo fouled out in the first OT. But it took three extra quarters to take the game. Memphis was exhausted. The youthful legs of the Thunder didn’t give in whatsoever, and it won them the game. The series is now tied at two games apiece.

But the game itself, and the whole series for that matter, has a league wide impact fans should be aware of. OKC and Memphis are both regarded as small market teams, home to places it is typically difficult to build a franchise for both geographical and economic reasons (I realize the Thunder have not been in Oklahoma very long, but if you had a choice between there and New York, where would you go?). But they’re building long term competitors through high value drafts and savvy trades and free agent signings, ready to compete with the large market teams in Dallas, Miami, Boston, Chicago, and Los Angeles on a regular basis.

The media prefers the big market teams make deep playoff runs, and as a fan, I agree it can be exciting to see old school rivalries play out. And I’ll admit, I will love the NBA no matter what, I’m hooked. But there’s something refreshing about an actual old school mentality being put into action right in front of your eyes.

The Thunder, for example, have drafted two core superstars in Kevin Durantand Westbrook. Three key role players – James Harden, Serge Ibaka, and Nick Collison – were also drafted by the team, as well. Former start Jeff Green, also drafted by OKC, was shipped to Boston in exchange for Kendrick Perkins to fill a glaring weakness for a true big man. They’re building a team that plays well together, and honestly enjoys being around each other. Hang out with each other on off days. Constantly tweet at each other. It’s like a close group of friends that complement one another, except they happen to be very good at basketball.

The Thunder aren’t attracting the most talented players possible with any glitz and glamour, and hoping they mesh. There are no overzealous endorsement deals, no appearances at South Beach clubs between playoff games. There’s no ego, just basketball.

Everyone has their opinion on what happened in NBA free agency last summer. As a lifetime Cleveland fan, I feel the right to have strongly negative feelings toward LeBron’s decision to leave. But I don’t. His reasons for leaving may not have been amicable, and there are a lot of mitigating factors involved, but if it was a purely basketball decision, he would have left anyways. The team around him was way below his caliber, as we’ve witnessed this season, and for him to fully blossom, he needed more talent around him. To be honest, I have more of a problem with Chris Bosh, simply because he’s not any good.

The larger issue at hand is the ability, and willingness, of players to leave the team they drafted, even if it’s their hometown, to go to a larger market. Following the money, rather than basketball greatness. These “big threes” that are spawning are entertaining, yes, but they also create a gap in competition. For every “big three,” there’s the teams and fan bases they left behind (I realize the two teams I’m championing were formerly located in Seattle and Vancouver, but a fan base unable to keep their entire team there is an entirely different situation).

The Thunder are different, though, and it brings a smile to my face to see them blossoming. Monday night’s game was nearly five hours long – and I stayed up until 2:00 AM to see the ending, then another couple hours laying in bed wide awake because my mind couldn’t process how awesome the game was. And I’m not even an OKC fan, nor have I ever been to the state of Oklahoma. There’s just something about the team, the city, the fans, that just seems right. It’s a wholesome underdog story, a rarity in the NBA, that may need to succeed for the future competitive balance of the league.