September 9, 2013

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Peyton Manning Kicks off NFL Season with Seven TDs: In case there were any growing concerns about the age of Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, he removed those with a monster performance in Week 1. The future Hall of Famer dropped seven touchdown passes on the Baltimore Ravens defense en route to a 49-27 romp over the Super Bowl champions. Those seven scores tied an NFL record and Manning also threw for 462 yards in the game. He continues to prove that no matter the receiver, he’ll find ways to get him the ball. In tight end Julius Thomas and the newly-acquired Wes Welker, two of Manning’s three starting receivers were both first-year starters.

Basketball Hall of Fame Inducts 12: The Basketball Hall of Fame inducted 12 players and sports personalities this weekend and the class was headlined by NBA stars Gary Payton and Bernard King, and coaches Rick Pitino and Jerry Tarkanian. All have a right to be thankful, but Tark’s induction came right on time. Now 83 and battling health issues, it was good to see the former UNLV coach get in.

Serena Williams wins fifth U.S. Open: Add another trophy to Serena Williams’ ridiculously crowded mantle as the tennis star won her fifth U.S. Open, defeating second-ranked player Victoria Azarenka this past weekend, 7-5, 6-7, 6-1. The win didn’t come easy as Azarenka staved off Williams’ serves as she went for the match in the second set. However, Serena was too dominant and claimed her 17th major title. Catching Steffi Graf’s record of 22 looked distant not too long ago, but with four majors in the past two years, it’s back up for discussion. Five more majors is still a lot to win and the odds are against her at the age of 32. But if there’s any player that can do it, it’s probably Serena.

Pirates fans can celebrate a winning season for the first time in 20 years!

Hey, Look – 81 Wins: For the first time in two decades, the Pittsburgh Pirates will have at least a .500 record after the team won their 81st game last week. The streak, the longest in major North American sports finally comes to an end and the Pirates now turn their attention to the postseason where they should be at least a Wild Card team. Finishing .500 is generally not something teams celebrate, but regardless of what Pittsburgh does in the playoffs, its fans will be glad the streak has ended.

Tim Tebow Reportedly Unwilling to Change Positions: SI’s Peter King reported last week that quarterback Tim Tebow is not willing to change positions to stay in the league. Tebow’s in a bit of a tough spot with this, actually. If he continues denying teams the opportunity to bring him in as a wide receiver, tight end, or other position, he may not get another option to play quarterback. Even if he changes that stance later, would teams be put off by his initial refusal? Quite possibly. As I said last week, I don’t think we’ve seen the end of Tebow. He’s too young to quit playing football and while others are forced out of the game soon after college, Tebow has shown some ability that will be intriguing to another team down the line. He may have to relent on his ‘quarterback only’ stance, but my guess is he’ll be back in some capacity.

Hi, this is Ryan Braun: Milwaukee Brewers star Ryan Braun took an interesting approach to his recent suspension for the use of performance enhancing drugs. While many players shy away from attention after being busted, Braun has instead stepped to the forefront. Last week, Braun took his apology straight to the fans, telephoning season ticket holders to say what he did was wrong. Whether Braun himself hatched the idea or whether it came from a smart PR person, the move is a borderline brilliant. While Braun will likely get his share of angry tirades from some fans, he’ll also help win some of them back. The fact is that Braun is still a fairly young player that should be around the game for many more years. While older players could fade away into the background, Braun is still going to be playing baseball for a significant amount of time.

So … the Lasagna Invite is an actual race: No, really.

Canucks to Retire Pavel Bure’s Number: Former NHL star Pavel Bure will have his number retired by the Vancouver Canucks. He didn’t play his entire career there, suiting up for the New York Rangers and Florida Panthers as well, but was with the franchise for seven of his eleven seasons. The Russian Rocket had two 60-goal seasons with the Canucks and finished his career with 437 goals. His 342 assists also helped him to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame last year.

NCAA Transfer Rules Could Change: The NCAA currently allows players to transfer to another school on a scholarship, providing their current school approves it. Technically, players are allowed to transfer wherever they want, but their current school can dictate if they are allowed to take a scholarship in their first season – otherwise, they have to pay their own way. However, the rule could be altered soon and allow players to transfer anywhere they want without approval from their former college. The rules are complicated here, but that’s probably the right move. Coaches often are able to break their contracts and leave for other opportunities with any other program they want and players should be able to do the same.

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.

January 29, 2013

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Rajon Rondo out for season – The Boston Celtics received some bad news fresh off of a close win over the Miami Heat as starting point guard Rajon Rondo will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL injury. The news couldn’t come at a worse time for the Celtics who are struggling just to make the playoffs, currently sitting in eighth place in the Eastern Conference. Even a heavy veteran presence in Boston with Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce might not be enough to carry the Celtics to another postseason appearance. Avery Bradley got the start in place of Rondo against the Heat, but the bigger impact is that the team will now rely more heavily on backup guards Jason Terry and Leandro Barbosa to play some extra minutes.

Will Alex Rodriguez miss the entire 2013 MLB season?

Could Alex Rodriguez miss entire 2013 season? New York Yankees’ general manager Brian Cashman said that there’s a chance that star third baseman Alex Rodriguez could miss the entire 2013 season after his hip surgery. While he doesn’t necessarily believe it’s likely, he did state that it was possible. If that’s the case, it would obviously be a tremendous blow to the team. Rodriguez has been in a noticeable decline over the past few seasons and is nowhere near the player he was in his prime. But he’s still a quality player as evidenced by his 18 home runs and 57 runs batted in last year in 122 games, and could help the team if he were on the field.

Pro Bowl comes and goes in Pro Bowl like fashion – This weekend, the NFL held their annual Pro Bowl game. It was a typical Pro Bowl that featured little defense and plenty of offensive fireworks as the NFC won 62-35 over the AFC. But guess what? That’s fine by me. The game is a far cry from regular season football (or even preseason football, for that matter), but it’s still an All-Star game. And after all, every all-star game is played different. The final score of hockey’s all-star game generally looks more like a low-scoring football affair. The basketball all-star game comes off as a triple overtime thriller. And even baseball, which has something on the line in deciding the home field advantage for the World Series, isn’t played to specifications. After all, if a pitcher is cruising through three innings, would a manager really take him out to get other players in the game? Football’s all-star game isn’t truly indicative of what the sport should be, but look around – it’s not alone. And oh yeah, it’s in Hawaii – who wants to complain about that?

Fan makes half-court shot; Lebron turns into a linebacker – In case you missed it, a fan at a Miami Heat game sunk a half-court shot to win $75,000 from Lebron James’ foundation. James was so surprised that he promptly tackled said fan right there on the court, giving him a gigantic bear hug in the process. Had to be an exciting moment, but let’s be real here – if a 6’8”, 250-pound guy is lunging at me trying to knock me down, I’m probably getting out of the way.

Australian Open Tennis concludes – Novak Djokovic and Victoria Azarenka won the men’s and women’s Australian Open tennis championships last week, but the bigger story may have been Sloane Stephens’ victory over highly favored Serena Williams earlier in the tournament. In the immediate aftermath, there were a plethora of wild statements about the torch being passed. What was conveniently left out in many of those discussions is that Williams was practically playing on one leg and with a bad back. While it’s true that she recovered enough to finish the match, she clearly wasn’t anywhere close to 100%. Even more to the point is that it was only a single match. I’m as excited as anybody for the future of Stephens, but the amount of enthusiasm about the win should be tempered. Stephens will be good – real good. I’m just not ready to call her the face of American tennis just yet (even if she did triple her Twitter followers since the win).