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.

June 13, 2011

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The Most Dominant Athlete In Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Tiger Woods put the sports world on notice with his record-breaking Masters performance in 1997. Since then, the now 35-year old Woods has won a total of 14 majors and is threatening Jack Nicklaus’ all-time total of 18. Despite his recent struggles, he should have a good chance of getting there, simply because he still has put together solid efforts in the aforementioned Masters.

Beginning in 2000, when Woods won three of golf’s four major championships, he was sports’ most dominant athlete. The popular question became ‘Tiger or the field.’  And while the field came out on top more often, Tiger’s ten titles from 2000 – 2006 was one of golf’s greatest strings of brilliance and proved that it wasn’t such a silly question. But Woods has since fallen in the golf rankings and hasn’t won one of those coveted majors since the 2007 PGA Championship nearly four years ago. Because of that, a new athlete has taken over as the most dominant athlete on the planet:

Rafael Nadal.

With victories in the 2010 French Open, U.S. Open, and Wimbledon tournament, and the 2011 French a few weeks ago, Nadal is clearly the class of all of tennis. He’s now won four of the past five major championships and at the age of 25, is clearly in his prime.

The knock on Nadal in the past has been that while he is an amazing player on a clay court, he couldn’t match Roger Federer on grass. But winning two of the past three Wimbledon’s has squelched that notion and while Nadal isn’t quite as dominant there as he is on clay, it’s quite clear that he is top tennis player regardless.

The thing about Rafa is that he’s not only the most dominant player in sports today, but he could wind up as the greatest tennis player of all-time. I’m not quite ready to give him that crown just yet, but with ten Grand Slam championships already, Nadal has a good chance of surpassing Federer’s all-time record of 16. As the years go by, like all great athletes, there will be a decline in his game. But Nadal is so good on the clay court (since 2005, he’s won the French Open every year except 2009), that he could win that championship for several more years.

Part of the reason he’s sports’ most dominant athlete is there just aren’t a bevy of great ones around ruling their respective games right now. Think of baseball – is any one player all that dominant? Albert Pujols may come the closest and he’s hardly as overachieving the way Nadal is. Football? I don’t know, Peyton Manning? Even in a one-on-one sport such as basketball, it’s hard to say that Kobe Bryant or Lebron James is as dominant as Rafael Nadal is. Bryant may have approached that level winning the past two NBA titles, but even on a good Lakers team, he couldn’t guide them out of the second round of the playoffs this season.

Note that most dominant is a different thing entirely from ‘best.’ Though Nadal dominates his sport like no other athlete, he may not be the top athlete. When comparing sports, it’s obviously extremely difficult to label a current No. 1 and to name one the clear best is virtually impossible to do. Nadal may be up there, but it’s not realistic to compare him to someone like Lebron James.

Still, it’s time to start recognizing Nadal as not only the world’s most dominant tennis player, but its most dominant athlete in all of sports.

August 25, 2010

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Countdown to the U.S. Open!!!

By: Stein

Although, Wimbledon, undoubtedly, is the most coveted prize for any tennis player, arguably, the most anticipated and exciting tournament this year for tennis fans is the US Open! The question on everyone’s mind and all the buzz is centered one man: Rafael Nadal!

Will Rafael Nadal stun us all and achieve the coveted and rare Career Grand Slam? Can the “King of Clay” and World’s number one player win on the speedy hard courts?  Will the man with the big guns blasts his opponents and all of the doubters off the court this year?

I say, “YES”! Sure, Nadal was demolished in uncharacteristic fashion by Andy Murray at the Roger’s Cup…However, we have all seen and know that Murray isn’t very mentally tough when it counts, and we know what that can do to one’s tennis career. Remember Amelie Mauresmo?  Nadal’s performance last week in Cincinnati, and the best comeback performance of the US Open Series, thus far, proves that although he may not have the best hard-court game on tour, he has the best heart .  Down a set and at match point against the Frenchman, Bennitaeu, Nadal fought back and won the match in a decisive fashion. No one else on tour can do that, not even Federer!

Although it will be tough, Baghdatis is back and better than ever, Federer is in hot pursuit of trying to achieve 20 Majors, the “Joker” and Roddick want to add a second Major to their resume, and Soderling, Murray, and Berdych all want a piece of the pie, but the man to beat, hands down, is Nadal.  My prediction for the final: Murray and Nadal in a stunning five setter.

Vamos Rafa!