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 4, 2013

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The Week In Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Magic Johnson offers $1 million dunk challenge offer to Lebron James: Each year, nearly all of the NBA’s biggest stars forgo the league’s slam dunk contest held during All-Star Weekend. Once a marquee event that featured some of basketball’s biggest stars such as Michael Jordan and Julius Erving, the dunk contest now showcases some smaller, and even obscure, names. Magic Johnson is the latest person to challenge Lebron James to partake in the event … but he’s backing it up with his wallet. Magic offered James $1 million to participate in next year’s dunk contest. More specifically, he’s willing to put the money up as a prize to the winner and LBJ is reportedly thinking about the offer. Here’s the thing – while it would be cool to see the best player in the league show up, only doing so after a significant purse is put up makes James look bad. The dunk contest is supposed to be about the fans, but if Lebron participates now, it looks like it’s all about the money. One way James can dunk next season and not look greedy? Donate the money to charity.

Joe Flacco is now the highest paid player in the NFL.

Joe Flacco becomes highest paid player in NFL: Funny what a Super Bowl win can do for you. First, wide receiver Jacoby Jones gets a Dancing with the Stars invite, and now Joe Flacco is in the news. Heading into this season, Baltimore Ravens’ quarterback Joe Flacco was widely regarded as a solid, but unspectacular, player. He had the always-popular ‘Can’t win the big one’ tag and no one knew that he’d ever shake it. But this season, Flacco took a fairly unheralded Ravens’ team and not only bulldozed their way through the AFC, but knocked off the favored San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl. Flacco parlayed that into a record NFL contract and is now the highest paid player in the league. Does he really deserve it? Probably not. There are many players more valuable to their respective teams and Flacco may never again reach another Super Bowl. But kudos to the Ravens for stepping up and paying their franchise quarterback. He’s still young and should have a lot of seasons ahead of him.

Mike Trout to make near minimum after historic season: By most accounts, Mike Trout had one of the most astounding rookie seasons in baseball history. It was so historic, that he nearly won the American League’s Most Valuable Player award. But if you think Trout was due for a big raise, think again. The Angels could have renewed his contract for a significant amount, but chose to give him only slightly more than the league minimum. The club is perfectly within its rights to pay Trout what they want since he’s not yet eligible for arbitration, but low-balling him after he proved he’s one of the game’s top players could come back to bite them when it comes time to re-sign him. Trout hasn’t openly complained, but I can’t imagine he’s too happy right now.

Randy Moss could leave San Francisco 49ers: Randy Moss didn’t have one of his biggest seasons, but he fit in with the 49ers this past season, helping the team reach the Super Bowl. It seemed like a good fit, but the wide receiver tweeted this past week that he wished the team good luck, indicating he may be moving on. If Moss does leave, it will be interesting to see what teams want to pick him up. He just turned 36 this month and is surely on the downside of his career. There just may not be many suitors for his services.

Catholic Seven to keep Big East name: The Catholic Seven, otherwise known as the non-football members of the Big East, decided recently to leave to create their own conference. The schools aren’t only leaving, but they’re reportedly taking the Big East name with them, according to ESPN. Assuming that happens, that’s the right move. When you think of the Big East, you think of schools like Georgetown, Providence, and St. John’s – not SMU, Houston, and Tulane. And frankly, the Big East name just wouldn’t fit the conference anymore once new members join since so many of them are away from the east coast.

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.

September 10, 2012

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Shaquille O’Neal and Roger Clemens Prove there’s a Career for Athletes after Retirement

By: Anson Whaley

First, it was Roger Clemens who came out of retirement to pitch in a couple of games with the independent league Sugar Land Skeeters. Now, it appears to be former basketball star Shaquille O’Neal tossing his hat into the ring for a brief post-retirement stint. According to ESPN, Shaq is reportedly in discussions with the Fuerza Regia team in Mexico to play a few games this October. His availability may depend largely on his ‘other’ job as a studio analyst for TNT.

Truth is, this type of stuff has been happening for a long time. But with more money to be made now from smaller leagues owned by rich owners, could it be the beginning of a trend? My guess is yes.

Players such as Kobe Bryant have been offered a lot of money to play for smaller leagues.

Athletes are always looking for ways to earn more money – autograph shows, personal appearances, speaking engagements, and licensing rights are all ways to do that. Some go into coaching or front offices as those jobs can pay well and allow them to stay close to the game. But that doesn’t always work, as we’ve seen. Greats like Magic Johnson had a difficult time coaching mediocre players for the Lakers in the 1990s. Michael Jordan, perhaps the greatest player of all-time, hasn’t exactly produced a winning team as an owner.

You know what most of these guys would die for, though? Another chance to suit up.

With a few exceptions, we all understand the quality of their play isn’t going to be extremely high after retirement. Roger Clemens pitched 3 1/3 scoreless innings in independent baseball, but at 50, was unable to even reach 90 miles per hour on the radar gun with his trademark fastball. Throwing in the high 80s as he did is an unbelievable accomplishment at the age of 50, but unfortunately for him, 99% of pitchers in the major leagues can throw as hard as he is right now.

And the last time we saw O’Neal, he was averaging a modest nine points and five rebounds for the Boston Celtics two years ago. Now, out of game shape, Shaq would be fortunate to even come anywhere close to that production in an NBA game.

But guess, what – not much of that matters.

Unlike front office or coaching jobs, performance in these games isn’t a big deal. Fans eat this stuff up and so does the media. There are few things more intriguing than seeing a player well past his prime compete to see what he still has left in the tank. The simple fact is that it doesn’t really matter how well they do – people will pay to watch it. Whether it’s Clemens pitching a third of a game or the Diesel lumbering up and down the court against mediocre players, we’ll watch.

Back to the financial aspect a bit, we all know that Clemens and O’Neal don’t need the money. Those guys made enough in their lifetime to take care of their families handsomely as well as a few others if they wanted to. But what about players who had their careers cut short due to injury? Or star players that squandered their money? There’s room for them to compete in these types of leagues and the good thing is that they don’t even need to do it on a full-time basis.

There was a report last year that an Italian team offered Kobe Bryant $800,000 to suit up for them. Per game. Most of the players that would need the money aren’t on the level of Bryant, of course. But if he could get that much, why couldn’t a former All-Star secure a deal in the high five figures per contest?

As more and more independent and international teams open up their checkbooks, it’s easy to see that former athletes will be flocking to them to play a game or two.

April 18, 2012

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Why Matt Kemp Will Have a Monumental Season

By: Matt Bowen

Los Angeles Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp is set to have an explosive season in 2012. The 27-year-old propelled his career into the stratosphere by batting .324 with 39 homers and 126 RBI in 2011.

Dodgers fans will have a lot to look forward to this season.

His numbers last season were good enough to finish No. 2 in NL MVP voting behind Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun. This year, Kemp’s the odds-on favorite to take home the prized award. He’s not off to a bad start either—hitting .465 with six homers and 16 RBI in just 11 games this season. Most importantly, the Dodgers are 9-2 at the moment.

Kemp is now the quintessential five-tool MLB player. He can hit for average and power and also possesses stellar fielding skills and a lethal throwing arm. Last but not least, Kemp has staggering speed as he proved it with 40 steals last season. Needless to say, Kemp is now the poster child for the dream MLB player.

Although the Dodgers underachieved in 2011, finishing with an 82-79 record, they won because of Kemp and reigning NL Cy Young award winner Clayton Kershaw. Now that the Dodgers have new owners including Hall of Fame Los Angeles Laker Magic Johnson, there’s nowhere but up for this talented team.

Because of his breakout season, Kemp’s expectations are tall this season but he’s proven he’s up to the challenge with his strong start.  The challenge now is to become the first player to ever reach the 50-50 plateau, which means 50 homers and 50 steals.

Last season, Kemp was only one home run short of becoming only the fifth man in MLB history to accomplish the feat of 40 homers and 40 steals. This season, the ante has been upped as MLB fans will be captivated by the budding superstar all season long.

Anytime you get a chance to view Kemp this season, do yourself a favor and watch him unleash on opposing pitching during his soon to be historic season.