June 10, 2013

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The Week In Sports

By: Anson Whaley

NBA Finals tied up 1-1: After a close loss at home on Thursday, the Miami Heat rebounded for a 103-84 blowout win in Game 2 over the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals on Sunday. The Heat still find themselves without home court advantage, but now have a fighting chance to win the series. Another loss would have put the team in an 0-2 hole facing three straight games in San Antonio under the 2-3-2 Finals format. And against the experienced Spurs, that may have been too big a deficit to overcome.

The Heat tied the NBA Finals series at 1-1 with their Game 2 win on Sunday.

French Open concludes: Tennis’ French Open wrapped up with a couple of the game’s biggest stars finishing on top. For the men, Rafael Nadal won a record eighth French Open title, defeating David Ferrer this weekend. Nadal won easily in straight sets and his eighth title at the French is the most of any man at any Grand Slam tournament. On the women’s side, Serena Williams won her 2nd French title, also in straight sets, over the defending champ Maria Sharapova. For Williams, it was her 16th major championship.

Major League Baseball/Biogenesis scandal: Major League Baseball is reportedly trying to suspend a group of 20 players linked to the Biogenesis/PED scandal. The alleged list includes some big names such as Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Braun, Melky Cabrera, and Bartolo Colon. If the suspensions happen, some teams could find themselves in a bind. Players like Nelson Cruz, and Jhonny Peralta are parts of teams (the Texas Rangers and Detroit Tigers, respectively) in playoff races. Because of that, it will be interesting to see what types of moves that clubs make in advance of any potential suspensions.

Coach Jason Kidd?: The recently retired Jason Kidd doesn’t want to spend a season without basketball. ESPN reports that the former point guard is interested in coaching – specifically, he wants the Brooklyn Nets’ job. A few years ago, that may not have been a half bad idea. But the Nets have a lot invested in this team and if I’m GM Billy King, there’s no way I’m taking a call from a player with no coaching experience in college or the pros.

The ‘Average’ Lebron: Dennis Rodman made headlines again when he said LeBron James would be an average player in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The comments were made when comparing James and Michael Jordan. James may not be as great as Jordan, but average? It’s hard to envision the 6’8” freak of nature as just an average player in any era. Rodman made a good point in that the game may not be as physical as it once was, but James does so much more other than score. He’s a tremendous rebounder and passer and there’s no question he would still be a star in that era … or any other, for that matter.

Marc-Andre Fleury to return as Pens’ starter: The Pittsburgh Penguins, Stanley Cup favorites after, were unceremoniously swept by the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference finals. In the process, starting goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, was replaced by backup Tomas Vokoun who played well in the series. But head coach Dan Bylsma said afterwards that Fleury is a franchise goalie and will return as the team’s No. 1 starter – and that’s probably the right move. Fleury is only 28 years old and helped the Penguins to back-to-back Stanley Cup Finals appearances only a few years ago. And with two years and $10 million left on his current contract, the Pens have little choice but to at least give him another shot if they are against trading him away.

Tommy Rees chosen as Notre Dame starting QB: Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly recently lost his starting quarterback Everett Golson to an academic-related suspension. As expected, Kelly announced that he will turn to Tommy Rees as the starter in 2013, per mlive.com. That’s no surprise as he’s the most experienced player of the other options, Andrew Hendrix and newcomer Malik Zaire. The Irish are fortunate to have Rees as few teams have two quarterbacks with as much experience as he and Golson. Instead of turning to an inexperienced backup, Notre Dame has Rees, who started nearly every game in 2011 and has played in 33 career games.

Brett Favre takes blame in parting with Packers: Quarterback Brett Favre accepted some of the blame for his ugly divorce from the Green Bay Packers in a recent radio show interview. That’s good news for the two since Favre will always be recognized as a Packer even though he also played briefly with the Minnesota Vikings and New York Jets. The Packers will want his participation in team-related events for the rest of his life, and it’d be much better if the two sides can reconcile and get along since Favre has been such a big part of the organization.

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.

March 26, 2013

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The Week In Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Sweet 16 set in the NCAA Tournament: The first week of the NCAA Tournament is complete and, as usual, there were a fair share of big upsets. The big ones in the first round were tiny Florida Gulf Coast shocking the world by beating No. 2 seeded Georgetown and No. 3 seed New Mexico being ousted by Harvard. Lots will be made about some of those weaker teams being underseeded, but the fact is that if you played the tournament a dozen times, you might have a dozen different champions. Any team is capable of losing on any given night and if a team like Florida Gulf Coast played Georgetown ten times, it’s difficult to believe they’d win the majority of those games. But that’s the beauty of March.

Brian Urlacher appears to be on his way out of Chicago.

Brian Urlacher leaving Chicago: A bit of a surprise in NFL free agency was that the Chicago Bears didn’t re-sign longtime linebacker Brian Urlacher. Urlacher, a mainstay on the team for the past 13 years, couldn’t come to terms with the team. He had come down considerably from his initial asking price for the 2013 season, but that still wasn’t enough to get the Bears to move from their $2 million offer, as reported by ESPN. Reportedly, his agent has already talked with the Dallas Cowboys, Minnesota Vikings, and Arizona Cardinals. Now at 35, Urlacher is surely slowing down – his tackles have dropped each of the past two seasons. But the bet here is that some team will take a chance on him. With no other options, his asking price may have to come down, though.

Denver Nuggets dominating with 15-game winning streak: With everyone focused on the Miami Heat’s remarkable streak, the Denver Nuggets have gone under the radar. The Nuggets won their 15th straight game this past weekend, beating Sacramento on Saturday. As a result, Denver has soared up to the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference, passing the Los Angeles Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies in the process. The Nuggets have been winning this year on youth and depth. The team has only three players over the age of 25 and only one of those, Andre Miller, is over 30. Also, nine players average more than eight points a game, but none average more than 17. With so much youth and balance, if the Nuggets keep their core together, this is a franchise that could compete for years to come.

Hanley Ramirez out for two months: The Dodgers got some bad news with Opening Day just around the corner. Star shortstop Hanley Ramirez had a torn ligament in his thumb and required surgery last week. Because of it, Ramirez will miss about eight weeks recovering. That’s a tough break for the Dodgers, who picked him up in a trade last season. In 2012 splitting time with the Dodgers and Marlins, Ramirez hit 24 home runs and drove in 92 runs, having one of his best offensive seasons of his career. Not having him until close to May could mean the Dodgers get off to a slow start.

Sergio Garcia hits golf ball … from tree: The final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational was on Sunday. You might assume that the real news was that the event was suspended due to weather, but you’d be wrong. The big highlight came from Sergio Garcia hitting a golf ball while atop a tree branch. Don’t believe me? Here’s the video. Whatever your interest level is in golf, there’s no denying that shots like these make it interesting. Still, I’m not sure Garcia’s move was all that wise. A slip of the foot could have meant a nasty fall and possibly even an end to his season. Not to mention that Garcia double-bogeyed the hole anyway and later withdrew. Still, if we’re going by entertainment value, this one’s a ten all the way. And as a spectator, I’d much rather see Garcia take a gamble like that.

U.S. Soccer wins match over Costa Rica despite snow protest: You read that right. The U.S. Soccer team defeated Costa Rica 1-0 in the qualifying for the FIFA World Cup in the snow in Denver. Costa Rica protested during the match and also filed a formal protest immediately afterwards. Typically, this is where I’d say that both teams had equal playing conditions so Costa Rica should suck it up. But I also understand the point in protesting. Soccer isn’t like, pardon the pun, (American) football where snow is considered as a part of the playing conditions. When you think of soccer, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? For most of us, it’s not white stuff falling to the ground. I don’t mind a match being played if it’s a little bit of snow, but the field was covered to the point where Costa Rican players were complaining that they couldn’t even adequately see the lines. Keep in mind, this is also the qualifying for the World Cup – it’s not a meaningless preseason MLB game. With so much at stake, postponing the game would have made more sense. Similarly hilarious is the fact that a qualifying match was even scheduled in Denver when there’s always a chance of spring snow.

February 4, 2013

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Baltimore Ravens hang on to win Super Bowl over San Francisco 49ers, 34-31: What looked to be a dud of a game early finally became interesting with the help of … a power outage. Down 28-6, the San Francisco 49ers rallied to score 17 consecutive points. The comeback came up short, though, after the two teams traded touchdowns.  Baltimore added a field goal with about four minutes left in the game and after driving nearly the length of the field, the Niners were stopped inside the 10-yard line. Baltimore got the ball back and wisely took a safety with only a few seconds remaining to provide the final score.

49ers fans will focus on the non-call of what appeared to be pass interference in the end zone on that final drive, but the Ravens’ defense should be lauded for coming up big twice in the fourth quarter. In addition to the aforementioned stand, the D stopped a two-point conversion attempt by the 49ers that could have tied the game (and would have meant they would have only needed a field goal on that final drive). The Ravens allowed 31 points, but stopped San Francisco when it mattered.

Seven elected to Pro Football Hall of Fame: Lost a bit in all of the Super Bowl hoopla were the Pro Football Hall of Fame elections. Coach Bill Parcells and players Cris Carter, Jonathan Ogden, Warren Sapp, and Larry Allen will all be inducted later this year. In addition, senior selections Curley Culp and Dave Robinson were elected as well. All were deserving, but if you’re looking for a snub, that would be former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jerome Bettis. Bettis ranks sixth on the all-time NFL rushing list, but still couldn’t find a way into the Hall despite eight 1,000-yard seasons, six Pro Bowls, and a Super Bowl victory. He should eventually get in, but it has to be a bit disappointing that it didn’t happen this year.

Dwyane Wade tries to convince Lebron James to participate in All-Star weekend activities: The NBA has been fighting a losing battle in trying to add more excitement to their All-Star weekend. Unlike the 1980s and 1990s, the league’s biggest stars generally no longer take part in the slam dunk championship or three-point shootout. Gone are the days when players such as Michael Jordan, Julius Erving, and Larry Bird were participating, but one guy wants to change that: Dwyane Wade. Wade has been pushing for teammate Lebron James to suit up for the slam dunk and three-point contests this year. While LBJ has reportedly said he’s not interested in dunking, we could see him in the three-point shootout. I’d be all for it, to be honest. If there’s one thing that will draw more eyeballs, it’s the participation by the game’s best players. I don’t think the league should try to force its stars to join in, but the players should want to do it. The weekend is all about the fans and if there’s any way to reward them, it’s by doing more than sitting on the sidelines.

Adrian Peterson wins NFL’s MVP award: Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson won the NFL’s Most Valuable Player award, beating out Denver Broncos’ quarterback Peyton Manning. You can make a strong case for Manning, who came back strongly after an injury kept him out last year. But Peterson is the right choice in my opinion. Not only did he carry the Vikings on his back to the playoffs this year, but he nearly broke Eric Dickerson’s long-standing record for most rushing yards in a season. Others have challenged the mark, but Peterson came the closest falling only nine yards short. Manning had one of his best seasons ever and for one of the best quarterbacks ever, that’s really saying something. But Peterson had less to work with if you look at it objectively. The Vikings passing attack was one of the worst in the NFL and the team won only three games last year when he suffered an injury. Meanwhile, Manning had a solid rushing attack and also took over a team that won a game in the playoffs last year. In other seasons, Manning could be an easy pick. But this year, the award belongs to Peterson.

Yankees may try to void Alex Rodriguez contract: As his career winds down, Yankees’ third baseman Alex Rodriguez has found himself in a number of controversies. The latest came last week when he was accused of using performance enhancing drugs. That’s nothing new as Rodriguez previously admitted to such use earlier in his career, but he has maintained that he has not done so recently. But because of the new allegations, the Yankees may be looking to void A-Rod’s expensive contract in the hopes of saving some money. That likely wouldn’t be the case if Rodriguez was in the prime of his career, but with his numbers in a steady decline, it makes sense that New York would want out of his hefty deal. Stay tuned.

Caltech ends historic streak: Chances are you’ve probably never heard of the California Institute of Technology if you live outside of the state. But their baseball team snapped a historic 228-game losing streak last week, winning their first game in nearly a decade, 9-7 over Pacifica. Even more shocking is that the school has had several other unbelievable recent streaks of futility. The men’s basketball team lost 310 straight games until winning in 2011 and the women’s volleyball team also lost 56 in a row at one point before a victory in 2012. Congratulations, I guess?

April 30, 2012

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Top 2012 NFL Draft Surprises

By: Anson Whaley

With this year’s NFL Draft concluded, there were, as always, plenty of surprises. Here were some of the big ones from last week’s mega event.

Browns Trade up to grab Trent Richardson: Few would argue that Richardson is a top talent in this year’s draft. He was projected by most as the top running back, so it’s difficult to lambaste Cleveland too much for this pick. But it’s what the Browns gave up that made this a bit of a head-scratcher. Cleveland was so determined to snag Richardson that they gave up 4th, 5th, and 7th round picks to move up a single spot in the trade to Minnesota. The Vikings already have Adrian Peterson, so there was little chance they would have drafted Richardson. The Browns were hedging against the possibility of another team moving up in front of them and wanted to be sure they got their man. Still, three picks was probably a bit much to move up a single spot.

Redskins Draft RGIII … and then Kirk Cousins: Talk about a fairly awkward moment. The Redskins, as expected, took Heisman winner Robert Griffin III with the No. 2 pick overall, essentially making him their franchise quarterback. Washington is without any real stability under center, so it’s safe to say that he’ll probably get his shot to start sooner rather than later. Teams are usually interested in giving a young quarterback weapons, but the Redskins did just the opposite in the third round. You could almost hear the collective ‘huh’ from fans after Washington drafted Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins in the third round. The move made little sense as the Redskins have more pressing needs and instead of giving Griffin a weapon to make the team better, they drafted another player at his position that probably won’t play much. It’s doubtful that Cousins will really push Griffin, but Washington appeared to be buying some insurance with this move. If Griffin doesn’t pan out, then it could be argued that this was a wise move. But until that happens, the Cousins pick warrants plenty of criticism.

 

RG3 will be joined by fellow QB Kirk Cousins in Washington this year.

Patriots Trade up to take Dont’a Hightower: Hightower was one of the elite linebackers in this draft and once the Steelers passed on him, New England moved up in the first round to take him fearing he wouldn’t last long. Hightower was a prime target of the Steelers, but once highly-rated guard David DeCastro fell to them, they couldn’t resist the opportunity to upgrade their offensive line. That opened the door for the Patriots to, in turn, upgrade their defense – one of the league’s worst last season.

Seahawks take Bruce Irvin at No. 15: This was perhaps the first big reach of the first round and one of the bigger ones in the whole draft. Irvin was a strong player for West Virginia, no doubt. But there are questions that he may not even be able to play every down in the NFL since he’s fairly one-dimensional, used mainly as a pass-rusher. Seattle could have probably traded down to secure an additional pick or two and still ended up with him if he was really the guy they wanted all along.

Mohamed Sanu gets Scammed: The story of the entire draft may have been when Sanu was prank-called by a fan claiming to be a Bengals representative, saying the team was taking him in the first round. An excited Sanu and company were then mortified when Cincinnati went with Kevin Zeitler and hilarity ensued in the Twittersphere. Ordinarily you might feel bad laughing about something like that, but the Bengals took him later in the draft so everything turned out fine. Still, imagine being told you were drafted only to find out you weren’t. Embarrassing.