January 21, 2014
Super Bowl set: The Super Bowl matchup has been decided with the Denver Broncos topping the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks defeating the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday. Both teams were the best ones in their conferences all season and home field advantage paid off handsomely for each. The matchup in the NFL’s championship game is an intriguing one. On one hand, you’ve got the record-setting offense of the Broncos. On the other – an incredible defense in the Seattle Seahawks. And when you factor in that the Super Bowl will be played in a cold-weather climate with even a potential for some snow, it could be anybody’s game. You can really make a strong case for either team and that equals an attractive matchup for fans. For now, though, I’ll take the Broncos to win the big game.
Clayton Kershaw lands monster deal: The Los Angeles Dodgers made a huge splash in the offseason by signing star pitcher Clayton Kershaw to a $215 million, seven-year contract – the largest such deal for a pitcher in Major League Baseball history. Unlike the monster contracts given to players such as Albert Pujols and Robinson Cano, the Kershaw deal actually makes a little more sense. Those players will be significantly older when their contracts end, but at 25 now, Kershaw will only be 30 or 32 when he reaches his first year of free agency. I’ll never be convinced that giving a pitcher that kind of money is a great thing to do since he can only impact the team every five days. But if a team is going to do it, it’s wise to make the move when the player is still young as the Dodgers did. There’s a good chance that by the end of the contract, Kershaw is still among the league’s best pitchers if he remains healthy.
Serena Williams bounced in Australian Open: Top-seeded Serena Williams got her 2014 off to a dubious start by falling to Ana Ivanovic in the fourth round of the Australian Tennis Open, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3. Williams had never even dropped a set to Ivanovic before, let alone lost an entire match to her. The loss opens up the door for other players to claim the title – one that Williams had won five times before. Second-seeded Victoria Azarenka now becomes the clear favorite as she is still alive in the event and has won the last two Aussie Open titles.
Kevin Durant is good at basketball: In case you’ve not been following the NBA, the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Kevin Durant has been on an incredible scoring streak. He put up 54 against the Golden State Warriors last week, and has now scored at least 30 points in seven straight games. The streak has upped Durant’s lead for the scoring title over Carmelo Anthony and he’s now averaging 30.6 points per game on the season.
NASCAR expansion: NASCAR is reportedly considering changes that could expand its championship to even more drivers. Currently at 12, there’s talk that the sport’s Chase for the Championship could be opened up to include 16 drivers. According to ESPN, there would then be a series of cuts in the 10-race Chase postseason. Expanding the field may water down things a bit, but it also gives more drivers a chance at the ultimate goal of a title, keeping a larger contingent of fans interested for a longer period of time. This may be oversimplifying it a little, but more fans involved equals better TV ratings equals more money.
Metrodome ‘deflated’: The Metrodome in Minneapolis was deflated for the final time this weekend. The historic stadium hosted two World Series for the Minnesota Twins and many other major sporting events including a Super Bowl, two Final Fours, and a Major League Baseball All-Star Game. The Vikings played their final game there this season and will play two seasons on the campus of the Minnesota Golden Gophers before moving into their new stadium in 2016.
January 9, 2014
In the NFL, 2013-2014 will be the season of redemption for Peyton Manning. He’s already set the NFL record for touchdown passes and passing yards (barely) in a single season. He’s going to win another MVP award and over the next month he will exercise the demons from his career. The first demon to hit the bricks will be the San Diego Chargers. The Chargers have quietly been a thorn in Manning’s side for years now. In 2005, San Diego knocked off Manning’s 13-0 team. In 2007, San Diego beat Manning’s Colts in the Divisional round of the playoffs and in 2008, San Diego bounced the Colts in overtime of the Wild Card round. But in 2014 Manning will get revenge and send the Chargers packing from the Divisional playoffs. Next up will be Tom Brady and the Patriots. We all know the history here. They’ll get it on one more time with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line and Peyton’s Broncos will get payback for the loss they suffered in New England earlier this season. Then it will be Manning vs Drew Brees. A rematch of the Super Bowl four years ago when the New Orleans Saints beat Peyton Manning and the Colts. Manning will lead Denver to its first Super Bowl win since the 1998 season and will surprise everyone by pulling a John Elway and announcing his retirement. After all, what could he do for an encore?
In the NBA, just Indiana and Miami will try to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. Six other teams will be forced to play despite their best efforts to get into the draft lottery. In the Western Conference, two teams will finish over .500 but be left home watching the playoffs. Kevin Durant will carry the Thunder to more than 50 wins without his running mate Russell Westbrook for most of the season. He’ll win the MVP award, but lose in the playoffs to the L.A. Clippers. Chris Paul and company will reach the finals and knock-off the Indiana Pacers who finally get over the hump against Miami in the Eastern Conference Finals.
In college football, the BCS will be gone and a 4-team playoff will make its debut. But that’s about all that will change. The teams battling for those four spots will look an awful lot like the teams that fought for the top two spots this year. The final four will end up being Florida State, Oregon or Stanford, Alabama or Auburn and Ohio State or Michigan State. Some team from a smaller conference will make a run at going undefeated but won’t even sniff the playoff field. Fans will complain that its the same old thing.
In MLB, as usual some teams will disappoint and others will make a surprising run. The Angels, Yankees, Mariners, and Cardinals will miss out on the postseason. Tampa Bay, Texas, Pittsburgh and the Dodgers will be among the teams in the playoff field. It will be Detroit and Pittsburgh in the World Series with the Pirates celebrating a championship for the first time since 1979.
In college basketball, Syracuse, Iowa State, Wisconsin, Witchita State, Arizona are all currently perfect. One of them will reach the championship game (but it won’t be Witchita State who will be the last team to lose its first game). But that team will lose to a teat that gets hot at the right time. And that team will be Oklahoma State. On the women’s side, five teams (Connecticut, Notre Dame, Iowa State and Indiana) have all yet to lose a game. Two of them will meet in the national championship game and once again, Connecticut will be cutting down the nets.
In golf, Tiger Woods will break Sam Snead’s record for most wins in a career. But he won’t get that 15th major championship that he has been looking for for the last few years. Phil Mickelson will get one, but not the coveted U.S. Open that he wants so badly. Team USA will get the job done on foreign soil and bring back the Ryder Cup. And the playoffs will be very entertaining once again, but it won’t be a big name player that wins it all.
May 28, 2013
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 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 6, 2013
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.
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.
April 22, 2013
Boston Marathon bombings – Obviously, the story of the week in sports (and in all other news, for that matter) were the bombings in the Boston Marathon. Not much to say here other than it was a horrific event. But the thing that should be recognized is the hard work of the police and FBI to not only identify the suspects so quickly, but catch them. Great work by all involved.
NBA Playoffs begin – The NBA’s postseason has begun and several teams are out to 1-0 head starts. We’ve got a long way to go, but my postseason prediction at the beginning of the year was the Miami Heat vs. Oklahoma City Thunder. I’ll stick with that pick. Each have the talent, offense, and young legs needed at this time of year.
Revis Island will get new address in Tampa Bay – Star cornerback Darrelle Revis was traded this weekend from the New York Jets to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the No. 13 overall pick in this week’s NFL Draft and either a third or fourth-round selection. Rarely are stars traded for first-round picks (particularly in the upper half of that round), but it’s also rare to get a player who may be the best at his position in the middle of his prime. And since Tampa Bay was dead last in pass defense in 2012, giving up just under 300 yards per game, this move will clearly bolster their secondary. Revis missed much of last season after suffering a torn ACL and the injury has to be a concern for the Bucs. But while he got the big money he sought with an extension, signing for six years and $96 million, if he returns to his former self, the trade will have been a good one for Tampa.
Death of Pat Summerall – Legendary sports broadcaster Pat Summerall passed away last week of cardiac arrest at the age of 82. Though he covered a variety of events such as the Masters and US Open tennis events, Summerall is best remembered for his work as an announcer alongside John Madden for football games, including the Super Bowl. Many, though, forget that Summerall actually played for several years in the NFL, primarily as a kicker. Along with Madden, he became one of the staples in pro football.
Carmelo Anthony wins first scoring title – It’s not as important as what he’ll do in the NBA playoffs, but New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony secured his first scoring title averaging 28.7 points per game. That was just good enough to top the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Kevin Durant, who checked in at 28.1. Melo has always been a bit in the background of the other 2003 NBA Draft picks, Lebron James and Dwyane Wade, but that could change this season. If he’s somehow able to propel the Knicks past the Heat juggernaut, he could win his first title. That may still not be enough to push him past Wade (who has two rings) or James (largely considered the league’s best player), but it will put him in a special class of superstars with an NBA ring.
Midnight Madness could start sooner – The NCAA passed a new rule that will allow teams to practice up to six weeks before their first regular season game instead of the four that was previously allowed. That won’t make a huge difference but one interesting note is that it will likely push the date of the popular Midnight Madness up a bit earlier.
Shamed Rutgers coach Mike Rice gets $475,000 in settlement – Now infamous basketball coach, Mike Rice, received $475,000 in a settlement from Rutgers for being fired before his contract was up. Rice, if you’ll recall, was fired after video surfaced of him verbally and physically abusing players. Rutgers president, Robert Barchi, stated the coach could rightfully be fired for bringing shame to the school. Rice clearly did that and, to be honest, I’m surprised he got as much as he did. If you’re the head coach, it’s hard to complain about a parting gift like that after you verbally berated your players and were lobbing basketballs at them. Want to know the worst of it, though? Rice is reportedly coaching an AAU girls’ basketball team. I’m all for second chances, but if this is true, it’s hard not to question it being allowed so soon after the Rutgers videos surfaced – and with 12- and 13-year old girls no less.