March 18, 2013

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The Week In Sports

By: Anson Whaley

The NCAA Tournament is here: It’s NCAA Tournament time. The NCAA released its tournament bracket yesterday and while the field is generally wide open, that’s even more so the case this year. In case you missed it, the four No. 1 seeds were Louisville, Indiana, Kansas, and Gonzaga. There’s been no truly dominant team in college basketball with the No. 1 spot changing hands nearly every week. I haven’t hashed out my bracket yet, but my early pick to win it all might be Louisville. The Cardinals fell a bit off the radar in the middle of the season after three straight losses to Syracuse, Villanova, and Georgetown, but they lost two of those games by a total of four points. And as we found out, those are three pretty good teams. Louisville went on to win 13 of their last 14 games and the one loss was a five overtime thriller to Notre Dame.

Should the Cowboys move to the NFC South?

Team USA bows out of World Baseball Classic: Team USA lost games to the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico and was knocked out of the World Baseball Classic. Most amusing was the attitude by some players on Team USA who were none too pleased with the way the Dominican Republic celebrated after their victory. First things first – the tournament means much more in general to the other countries playing. Team USA’s players want the World Series, not the World Baseball Classic title. I’ve got no problem with the enthusiastic celebration by the Dominican Republic.  It’s not only a big deal to them, but it was a dramatic victory as they scored two runs to snap a ninth-inning tie. Team USA being upset about the celebration is akin to a ranked college basketball team losing on the road and then being angry that the home team’s fans storm the court. Want to know the best way to avoid opposing teams celebrating? Win.

Tony Gonzalez Un-retires: The NFL season has barely ended, but Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez couldn’t wait to get back onto the field, despite saying he was retiring during last season. Gonzalez is expected to now return for 2013 and his coming back isn’t really that much of a surprise. He’s still in great shape and with 93 catches for 930 yards and eight touchdowns in 2012, he not only was productive but had one of the best years of his career. What is surprising, though, was that Gonzalez made the announcement to come back so quickly. It’s only March and training camp isn’t any time soon. By making his decision so soon, it only shows he was never all that convinced that retirement was for him. You could make the argument that the team was pushing him for a decision in order to figure out what path they might need to take in free agency. But Gonzalez is a future Hall of Famer who’s still producing, so they would have given him a bit of leeway.

NHL Realignment for 2013-14: In a move that’s gone somewhat under the radar, the NHL will undergo some realignment for next season. The Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets will move into the Eastern Conference while Winnipeg will head to the west. Simply put, the move makes a ton of sense and the only hope is that other professional leagues will follow suit. Don’t hold your breath, though. While it would make far more sense for the Dallas Cowboys to be playing in the NFC South and the Carolina Panthers to move to the NFC East, things like that aren’t likely to happen for one big reason: rivalries. Unlike the NHL, with a limited schedule, the NFL can’t have all of its teams face each other every year. And Cowboys fans wouldn’t be all that thrilled with losing annual games against the Giants, Eagles, and Redskins.

The Miami Heat keep winning: In case you’ve not noticed, the Miami Heat are pretty good at basketball. The Heat have been winning, and winning … and winning. The team won their 22nd straight game on Sunday and is a threat to challenge the Los Angeles Lakers’ 33-game record streak set in 1971-72. Can the Heat break the record? Sure. But even though they’re steamrolling the rest of the league right now, there are a few things that will stand in their way. The Heat have many road games coming up in the next couple of weeks including some that should be tough. Among those stops are trips to Boston, Chicago, and San Antonio. The Heat have had several near losses during their streak. Four of their wins have been by five points or fewer and one has gone to overtime. If that’s not enough to convince you, consider this – the Heat have already clinched a playoff spot and have a large lead on the rest of the Eastern Conference for home court advantage throughout the playoffs. At some point, you’ve got to imagine the team will try to rest some players and that could bring an end to the streak.

January 16, 2013

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Why Tony Gonzalez is the Motivator for the Atlanta Falcons

By: Matt Bowen

The Atlanta Falcons finally won a playoff game, which has eluded them in the Matt Ryan era until their Divisional Round triumph over the Seattle Seahawks on January 13.

Can Matt Ryan take Tony Gonzalez to their first Super Bowl?

Now, they can focus on the task at hand.

The pressure of being the best regular season team since 2008, compiling a 56-22 record but going 0-3 in the playoffs is over. They have now shown they are a worthy No. 1 seed in the NFC.

All the Falcons need to do now is look at their future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez for motivation. Like Ryan, the win over the Seahawks was Gonzalez’s first playoff win. It’s hard to believe at 36 years old, with his credentials, he has never won until now, but it’s true.

You see, Gonzalez’s career lore is only growing—at this point he’s a living legend, his stature has almost reached mythical proportions. He’s almost like Superman—missing only two games out of the possible 256 regular season games in his lengthy 16-year career. Considering he plays the more physical position of tight end, that’s a rather jaw-dropping stat. He was the new-age hybrid tight end that is so popular across the NFL right now before there was such a thing.

His 1,242 career catches ranks second on the all-time list behind Jerry Rice’s 1,549. Gonzalez tallied an astounding 93 catches this season and has had 70-plus catches in 10 straight seasons. His 103 career touchdowns ranks No. 1 for tight ends and sixth overall. His 14,268 career receiving yards ranks seventh.

The Super Bowl is the ultimate goal for any NFL player/team and Gonzalez and the Falcons have unfinished business. Now that Ryan and the Falcons have hushed the critics, Gonzalez becomes the focal point. Sadly, this may be his last season in the league, as Father Time and the bumps and bruises of the NFL life eventually become too much for even superheroes like Gonzalez.

Even casual football fans will fall in love with Gonzalez in the coming days. He’s a class-act that every athlete should try to emulate.

Expect to hear stories of “Win one for the Gipper” style speeches coming from the Falcons organization soon. As the members of the Falcons sit in their locker room the rest of the season, the emotions that will be running through their souls as they peer at Gonzalez will be nearly overwhelming.

Not wanting to let him down, his teammates will reach never before seen heights in their upcoming NFC Championship Game.

When the Falcons host the San Francisco 49ers keep Gonzalez in mind. One can’t help but root for him.