May 13, 2013

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The Week In Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Tiger Woods wins The Players Championship – Tiger Woods won his fourth tournament of the year on Sunday when he captured The Players Championship. The event went down to the wire as Woods held off Sergio Garcia and David Lingmerth. Lingmerth missed a long birdie putt that would have sent it to a playoff, but it was Garcia and Woods who were the hot topic of discussion over the weekend. Garcia claimed Woods removed a club from his bag, which drew a roar from the crowd during his backswing, causing him to hit an errant shot. He and Tiger had a verbal back-and-forth spat through the media about the incident and the intensity increased as both were in contention on Sunday. But Garcia, tied for the lead at the time, hit an incredible three shots into the water on the 17th and 18th hole, and completely fell apart. His two gaffes on No. 17, gave him a quadruple-bogey, ending his chances of winning the title. The two have a long history of disagreements and this will only make any future pairings that much more uncomfortable.

Off to a 1-5 start, Strasburg is off to a slower start than many expected.

Phil Jackson reportedly says ‘No’ to New Jersey – Even though no one has been successful to date, that hasn’t stopped a steady stream of NBA teams in pursuit of the services of coaching legend, Phil Jackson. Jackson has been chased by a number of suitors but hasn’t been intrigued enough to take on his next challenge yet. Word is that he is seeking either a coaching job with some control over personnel decisions or a front office job in more of an administrative role. Jackson will only take the right job at this stage in his career. He’s obviously not hurting for money and his legacy is firmly intact. But my guess is we’ll see him back in some capacity down the line. The coach is already involved to a degree, reportedly helping the Detroit Pistons with their head coaching search after they dismissed Lawrence Frank.

Stephen Strasburg drops to 1-5 after another loss – The Washington Nationals’ ace Stephen Strasburg got off to a quality start this year with an Opening Day victory, but he hasn’t gotten into the win column since then. The starter is 1-5 on the season and lost another game this weekend against the Chicago Cubs. But if you’re ready to write Strasburg off, you’ll want to think again. He gave up four runs in that game, but none were earned due to an error. Strasburg’s ERA is still a more-than-respectable 3.10 and his 51 strikeouts placed him in a tie for seventh in the National League after the game. His biggest problem has been getting offense out of the rest of the team. In six of his eight starts, Washington has scored two runs or less. The Nats have given him only 2.25 runs per game and that’s not much to work with. As long as Strasburg keeps pitching well, though, the wins will come.

Kobe Bryant could battle mom in court – You read that correctly: the Mamba and his mother could head to court over some of the star’s memorabilia from his high school days and early years in the NBA. The “Cliffs Notes” version of the bizarre story is that the items (including jerseys, awards, autographed memorabilia, and more) have been at his mother’s house and that she moved them to storage to convert Bryant’s old bedroom into a playroom for her grandchildren. Somewhere along the way, she made a deal with an auction house to sell Bryant’s old belongings and received a $450,000 advance on the items, which were appraised at $1.5 million. She claimed that Bryant gave her permission to do what she wanted with the items, but the player says that’s not true. I don’t even know where to go with this – going to court with your parents isn’t an option most of us can fathom. The auction has been delayed recently by a court, so hopefully some degree of common sense can be restored.

Rumors of an ACC Network heating up – The Atlantic Coast Conference hopes to make a splash with a television deal, similar to the Big Ten Network, according to recent reports. The conference already has a deal with ESPN to broadcast games that will pay each ACC school $13 million to $17 million. But now the conference has its sights set on a separate ACC Network. That network could air football games not picked up by ESPN, games from low-revenue sports, and other conference content. The deal isn’t done, but it’s believed it would add millions more to member schools. To be honest, I’m surprised other conferences haven’t already gone that route. Getting cable companies to make the package readily available may not be the easiest thing to do, since it would represent an increased amount they need to charge customers. But in the end, all of the major conferences will likely have their own network at some point since there’s too much money to be made.

New Rutgers’ basketball coach Eddie Jordan reportedly without degree – Eddie Jordan was hired to take over the head coaching duties for the men’s basketball program after embattled Mike Rice was dismissed. But last week, a new twist emerged when it was learned that Jordan may not actually have graduated. The university says a degree is not required for the position, but the problem is that the school’s official bio for Jordan says that he possesses one. Jordan, for his part, reportedly took classes at Rutgers from 1973 to 1985 and claims that he didn’t get a diploma because he wasn’t registered properly. But that’s a pretty vague statement and it’s not yet known if Jordan deceived administrators when he pursued the job. One thing’s for certain – regarding all of the hiring flaps over the years with resume errors, it’s a bit odd that schools aren’t yet at the point where they’re fact-checking background information a bit more thoroughly.

April 22, 2013

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The Week In Sports

By: Anson Whaley

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.

Already the NBA's scoring champion, can Carmelo Anthony add another championship this season?

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.

April 8, 2013

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The Week In Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Louisville vs. Michigan in NCAA title game: Tonight Louisville will take on Michigan for the NCAA basketball championship. With March Madness coming to a close, it’s been an exciting tournament to say the least. Wichita State, a No. 9 seed reached the Final Four. Louisville guard Kevin Ware suffered a terrible and potentially career-ending injury. And tiny Florida Gulf Coast shocked the world, reaching the Sweet 16 as a No. 15 seed. With one game left, I’ll stick with my bracket pick and go with Louisville to win it all. Michigan has been on an impressive run in the tournament, beating a slew of very good teams but the Cardinals haven’t lost a game since early February. My guess is that Rick Pitino wins his first title at Louisville on Monday.

Former 49ers QB Alex Smith will meet his former team in Week 2 of the Preseason.

NFL preseason schedule set: The NFL released its preseason schedule this past week. While there are plenty of intriguing matchups, my favorite might be the San Francisco 49ers vs. the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 2. That, of course, will pit former Niners quarterback Alex Smith against his former team. The bad news is that since it’s only Week 2, Smith’s action could be limited in the game against San Francisco since coaches typically shorten the play of their starters. But one reason Smith may play a bit more than normal is because he’ll still be learning the offense and needs all the practice he can get. Regardless of how long he plays, though, the game is sure draw a lot of attention.

Dwyane Wade could sit out until playoffs: Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade has been sidelined with a knee injury and word broke this past week that the guard could miss the team’s remaining regular season games. At 60-16, Miami has only six games left. The problem for the Heat, though, is that Wade has been out since the end of March, missing the team’s last four games. If he can’t play in the next six, that would be a significant break from game action for him. Miami should be able to win its first round playoff series even with a subpar Wade, but it’s not an ideal situation as the champs prepare to defend their title.

Yu Darvish just misses perfection: At this stage in the season, pitchers are generally ahead of hitters. Still, what Yu Darvish nearly accomplished was pretty impressive. The Texas Rangers pitcher took a perfect game into the ninth inning and after recording the first two outs, he was as close as you can get to perfection. But the next batter, Marwin Gonzalez, singled up the middle to break it up. Losing a no-hitter is one thing, but losing a perfect game is another. There have been nearly 300 no hitters, but only 23 perfect games in Major League Baseball history. Darvish was agonizingly close to joining an elite group.

Darrelle Revis and Jets still at odds: Cornerback Darrelle Revis could be traded any day now, but that doesn’t mean the New York Jets are willing to let him sit back and relax. According to ESPN, the team is reportedly insisting he participate in the team’s offseason conditioning program to begin in the middle of this month. The move sounds ludicrous as Revis isn’t likely to be playing for the Jets this fall, and could thus be a huge distraction. But if you’re not expecting him to show up, think again. Revis is due to collect a $3 million bonus for showing up. His contract states that he would forfeit money if he fails to participate in offseason events – even non-mandatory ones. The chances are slim that Revis isn’t participating if he’s still a member of the team.

Mike Rice fired as Rutgers coach: Rutgers’ basketball program took a bit of a hit this week when it was announced that head coach Mike Rice was fired after video surfaced of him berating and being physically abusive towards players. The video also cost athletic director Tim Pernetti his job. The move will surely mean more scrutiny of college coaches and their behavior toward athletes. And in the end, that’s a good thing. Much was made of the fact that the players didn’t complain about the rough practices, but then again, it’s easy to understand why. No kid that’s worked his entire life to earn a scholarship and play basketball at the highest level would want to risk that by speaking up. It’s a shame that it took so long, but firing Rice was the right move in my opinion.

November 26, 2012

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Jack Taylor goes off – Jack Taylor, a Division III guard playing for Grinnell College scored an NCAA record 138 points in a game. He surpassed Bevo Francis’ mark of 113 set in 1954 in doing so. Taylor’s performance awed NBA All-Stars Kobe Bryant and LeBron James and LBJ even said he was interested in getting a tape from the game. Sure, Taylor hoisted up 71 three-pointers and made only 27 (good for a modest 38% if you don’t have an abacus handy), but overall, he made nearly half his shots, going 52-108. That’s quite a few attempts, but the mere fact that Taylor could have thrown up that many in the course of a game without getting too tired, still makes it a worthy accomplishment.

How many wins will Belichick get to with Brady at the helm?

Bill Belichick wins No. 200New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick made news when the Patriots crushed the Jets 49-19 on Thanksgiving night. Lost a bit in the headlines of the 30-point rout is that Belichick won his 200th game. Belichick became only the eighth coach in NFL history with that many wins and as long as Tom Brady’s still around playing pitch and catch with wideouts (Brady, by the way, threw for 323 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions), he’s probably got plenty more in the tank if he wants to keep going.

Maryland and Rutgers are Big 10 bound – The ACC and Big East got a bit weaker with Maryland and Rutgers officially announcing they will head to the Big 10 (aka B1G) this week. Both football programs have been up and down, but each brings something valuable to their new conference. Maryland brings the DC market along with a successful basketball program while Rutgers adds the heavily desired New York/New Jersey market. The ACC is already on the move, reportedly interested in Big East teams Connecticut and Louisville to replace the Terrapins as of last week, which begs the question – with Virginia Tech, Miami, Boston College, Pitt, and Syracuse already in the fold, doesn’t the new ACC look a lot like the old Big East?

Michael Finley wants to return – Michael Finley, a former NBA All-Star, is hoping to return to the league, according to ESPN. Finley was planning to work as an executive in the NBA, but after playing in pickup games over the summer, is hoping some team will give him a look. At 39, he’s young enough that a return could be possible, but his production shrunk considerably over the last season of his career. Finley only averaged 15 minutes a game playing in 45 games for the San Antonio Spurs and Boston Celtics, scoring about four points a game. He could be a quality reserve late in the year for a playoff team in need of some depth, but don’t look for him to be a significant contributor.

Melky Cabrera signs with Blue JaysMelky Cabrera inked a two-year $16 million deal with the Toronto Blue Jays in one of the first big off-season splashes. Cabrera’s signing is significant because it comes on the heels of a 50-game suspension for testosterone. Last season, he was leading the National League in batting average before the suspension and he removed himself of consideration after the positive test result. The question will be, of course, if Cabrera can repeat his stellar 2012 season. He was a career .284 hitter and before last year, had only hit greater than .300 once when he batted .305 in 2011. Because of the dramatic improvement, there will be plenty of questions surrounding him in 2013 – none greater, perhaps, than from Blue Jays’ fans who will question his signing if he gets off to a slow start.

NHL cancels more games – The National Hockey League made a minor splash when it announced games through the middle of December (including January’s All-Star game) would be canceled due to the continuation of the lockout. There’s still a chance for a season, but the key thing of note is that the two sides don’t even appear to be all that close to a reconciliation. There’s still time for the players and owners to come to an agreement in time for a partial season, but it’s not looking good right now.

November 12, 2012

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Down goes Alabama …: The Alabama Crimson Tide looked unbeatable up until this weekend when they were surprised by Texas A&M losing 29-24. Alabama will still have a chance to play in the national championship, though – particularly if a couple of the undefeated teams in front of them falter along the way. And since they’re generally viewed as the best one-loss team out there, a title appearance may still not be all that unlikely.

Texas A&M's defeat of #1 Alabama shook up the BCS picture this weekend.

… and the same for Louisville: Louisville had a long road ahead to try to get in the title picture, even as an undefeated team. But their loss to Syracuse this weekend barely got a mention and proved yet again just how weak the Big East is viewed to be. A few weeks ago, the conference had three undefeated programs – Louisville, Rutgers, and Cincinnati. But now that all three have suffered defeats, there’s little doubt that the conference has some good, but not great teams.

Mike Brown fired: After a 1-4 start, the Los Angeles Lakers made a big splash by unexpectedly firing head coach Mike Brown. Brown always seemed like an odd fit for me and I was surprised that one of the most storied franchises in all of sports would settle on him after having the likes of Pat Riley and Phil Jackson. Speaking of Jackson, he appeared to be in the mix. But the sides couldn’t reach an agreement and offensive guru Mike D’Antoni has been hired instead. The Lakers have been vilified for making this move so early in the season, but with such a big payroll, it’s clear that the goal is to win a championship – this year. If they aren’t convinced Brown is the guy, waiting any longer on him would have been a mistake.

Lolo Jones bobsleds … no, seriously: In case you missed it, American track and field star Lolo Jones is now bobsledding. Jones actually even won a silver medal at an event last week. She isn’t stopping there as she was named to Team USA and could find herself in the 2014 Winter Olympics. I’m still not sure if this means the sport is simply that easy to break into or if Jones is such an incredible athlete that she can pick up new sports at the drop of a hat. Either way, if you thought Lolo got a ton of coverage this summer, just wait until 2014. And somewhere, McKayla Maroney is still not impressed.

College basketball season kicks off: NCAA basketball got off the ground and running and the “lulz” moment of the week goes to No. 25 Florida State for their upset loss to Sun Belt team South Alabama at home. It’s early and it beats losing to a Division II program (looking at you again, Miami), but if you’re a Seminoles fan thinking of hitting the ominous panic button, I might not blame you.

Atlanta Falcons lose first game: The final undefeated team in the NFL, the Atlanta Falcons, lost their first game this weekend to the New Orleans Saints. Even at 8-1, the Falcons aren’t the runaway pick to reach the Super Bowl. They’ve had several close calls this year (more than half of their games have been decided by a touchdown or less) and there are still plenty of questions surrounding them. I, for one, expect them to suffer at least a few more losses.

Davey Johnson coming back to Washington Nationals: It should come as little surprise, but the Washington Nationals are bringing back manager Davey Johnson for another season. The Nats were the big surprise in all of baseball this season and it’s difficult to not notice the job he did. Frankly, I’ve always been surprised Johnson wasn’t pursued a bit more. He’s won at least 85 games with every franchise he’s managed and won 90 games seven times. Johnson also indicated that 2013 would be his final season and with a strong pitching staff next season, he could just go out with a bang.

Ndamukong Suh doesn’t believe empty box score: Last weekend, Ndamukong Suh failed to record a tackle for the first time in his career. Suh, though, isn’t so sure according to these cryptic quotes. Seriously, in this day and age with replays galore, how can we not figure out who’s right? Suh was also voted the league’s dirtiest player last week. Not a great combination for the young star.

NHL Lockout continues: It’s time for this week’s look at the NHL lockout. Despite indications that progress was being made during talks between the owners and players, the work stoppage is still continuing. This concludes our look at the NHL lockout.