August 27, 2013

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The Week In Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Japan wins Little League World Series: Japan and the U.S. (Chula Vista, CA) battled for the Little League World Series final on Sunday and for the second time in three years, Japan came out on top, winning 6-4. Despite a close matchup, the game still featured its trademark sportsmanship. After hitting Giancarlo Cortez in the helmet, pitcher Kazuki Ishida went to first base to check on him, shake his hand, and apologize. After the game, both teams shook hands and even exchanged hugs. Despite several bad calls both ways, as always, there wasn’t any complaining by the players and even the coaches were held in check. The Little League World Series remains the standard for sportsmanship.

Allen Iverson will officially retire: Yeah, I get it. The obvious reaction is, ‘Wait, didn’t AI hang up his sneakers years ago?’ Technically, no. He hasn’t played in the NBA since 2010 or even overseas since 2011 when he suited up in Turkey, but Iverson had never officially given it up. That should change next week as word broke that Iverson has finally realized his NBA days are over. Regardless of the years it took to make it official, AI has to be a Hall of Famer. For years early in his career, he was arguably the league’s Most Valuable Player leading some very mediocre Philadelphia teams to the playoffs, and even once, the Finals. His career 43% field goal percentage is modest (if not below average) for a star guard, but he was one of the game’s most prolific scorers.

Vince Young is returning to the NFL with the Green Bay Packers.

Vince Young to get another shot in NFL: Vince Young hasn’t been on an NFL roster for a regular season game since 2011 when he suited up with the Philadelphia Eagles, but could be back in the league this season as a backup. Young has impressed in Green Bay in training camp and by all indications, will be the backup to star Aaron Rodgers. He attended training camp with the Buffalo Bills in 2012, but was cut before the regular season. Young’s chances of making the Packers’ roster dramatically increased when the team released Graham Harrell. How he will perform in a regular season game is unknown, but he’s got a track record in the NFL and as a backup, is surely worth a small gamble.

Ryan Braun apologizes (finally): Milwaukee Brewers’ slugger Ryan Braun found himself in an awkward position after the recent Biogenesis scandal rocked Major League Baseball. He was named among the suspended players who had taken a deal giving up their right to appeal, virtually declaring his guilt in taking PEDs after previously denying it. Braun apologized last week, but it will take a lot more than that for him to get back into good graces with fans. The bigger problem for many isn’t so much that he took the drugs initially. Rather, it’s that he lied about it, denying the truth until he was caught. That typically doesn’t go all that well – see Rafael Palmeiro.

Miguel Tejada suspended for 105 games: In another drug-related issue, Miguel Tejada was dealt a 105-game ban for his reported use of Adderall. Tejada’s penalty was so stiff because he was said to have failed two tests before a suspension was handed down. Having previously been suspended for a failed test, these were Tejada’s second and third flunked tests. The curious thing is that Tejada apparently had permission to take the drug for his ADD previously. However, his permit ran out and he continued taking it. A 105-game ban for a drug legitimately being used to treat a disorder might seem harsh, but baseball really had little choice. If he no longer had the required permission, technically, he violated the rules and baseball’s front office could find itself in a bit of a sticky situation if they allowed him to skate free.

Soccer star Ronaldinho has dental surgery: Well, okay.

Claude Giroux injured by golf club: Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux had an unfortunate mishap, injuring a finger during a round of golf when a club accidentally shattered with pieces going into his finger. While he’s expected to fully recover from the tendon damage, it will take a little over a month. That sounds bad but things could have been much worse for the star. While he could be out for preseason games if the injury is too painful, Giroux shouldn’t miss much, if any, regular season time. The Flyers’ first game is on October 2nd and he should be back to 100% right around that time.

Calbert Cheaney to begin coaching career: Former Indiana Hoosiers star and NBA player Calbert Cheaney recently left his post as Director of Basketball Operations at his alma mater to take an assistant coaching job at St. Louis University. Cheaney was one of college basketball’s most celebrated players in the 1990s and will try his hand as a coach now.

Ian Kinsler hustles his way to inside-the-park-homer: Note to Little Leaguers – always run as hard as you can.

August 30, 2011

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NFC Preview

By: Joe Williams

Unlike the AFC, NFC has been wide open over the last few years. Six different NFL teams have played in the last three conference title games. Can the Cowboys, Redskins, Lions, Vikings, Falcons or 49ers make it 11 teams in 11 years? I think so.

NFC EAST

Traditionally, Daniel Snyder and the Redskins win the offseason with big-name free agent signings and then the games begin and someone else wins the division. But this year, it has been the Eagles grabbing all the headlines and bringing in high profile players. Question: What do you get when you take an NFL team that went 10-6 last season and add Cullen Jenkins, Jason Babin, Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rogers-Cromarti, Ronnie Brown, Vince Young, and Steve Smith? Answer: The NFC East champs. Washington still needs to figure who is going to play quarterback. Dallas and New York will be in the playoff hunt, but Philly has too much talent.

Division winner: Philadelphia

Will the Philadelphia Eagles come out ahead of the pack?

 

NFC NORTH

This ought to be one of the most compelling divisions in football. Green Bay is the defending Super Bowl champion and returns several players who were out with injury last year. The Bears won the division last year and hosted the NFC title game. How will they rally around Jay Cutler after his knee injury in the NFC title game? Detroit seems poised to make a playoff run if they stay healthy and Minnesota has Donovan McNabb as its new quarterback. Chicago visits Minnesota and Detroit will be in Green Bay in the last week of the season. Expect those games to be meaningful.

Division winner: Green Bay

NFC SOUTH:

I expect the South to be the most competitive division with three teams battling for the division crown all season long. Carolina should be better than the 2-14 team of last year, but the Panthers are another year or two away. The Falcons and Saints remain made the playoffs last year and have Super Bowl aspirations. Tampa Bay won 10 games and should be even better with another year of experience for a young NFL team. One or two of these teams is going to have its playoff hopes dashed in the last week of the season.

Division winner: Atlanta

NFC WEST

Year after year, the West is thought of as the weakest division in the league. However, no other division has had three teams in the Super Bowl in the last decade. Once again, nobody expects much from the West, so watch out for a surprise team to make a run come playoff time. It would be nice if the team that wins this division at least has a winning record this year though. Who will it be? When in doubt, go with the team that has the best quarterback. Kevin Kolb could prove to be that man, but until he gets a full season under his belt I’m going with Sam Bradford.

Division winner: St. Louis

Wild Card winners: Dallas, New Orleans

NFC champion: Atlanta

August 15, 2011

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Are the Eagles the NFL’s Version of the Miami Heat?

By: Anson Whaley

When the final buzzer sounded on the 2010-11 NBA season, basketball fans across the globe celebrated wildly as the Dallas Mavericks defeated the Miami Heat in six games. Sure there was a contingent out there (particularly in Miami) that felt differently, but the majority of NBA fans were happy to see the underdog Mavericks win the title.

The Philadelphia Eagles aren’t quite as hated, though – mostly because football is not nearly the individualized sport that basketball is. In basketball, much of the game is broken down to one-on-one matchups and football is more of a team sport. That fact makes it far easier for a single player to dominate a game. However, there are some parallels that can be drawn between the Heat and the Eagles.

Chief amongst them is the fact that both franchises have a polarizing figure leading the way. Miami has Lebron James and Philadelphia now leans on quarterback Michael Vick. Vick became a controversial figure after being jailed for his involvement in a dogfighting ring and while he’s slowly making his way back into the good graces of fans, there is still a large segment of the population that simply won’t root for him. James, of course, did not end up in jail, but his television special in which he announced he was going to the Miami Heat made him unpopular over the past season.

The main reason the Eagles may be hated on a Heat-esqe level is because of the large amount of stars they’ve added since last season. Things officially kicked off when they traded backup quarterback Kevin Kolb to the Arizona Cardinals for cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Rodgers-Cromartie is a player that can help the Eagles’ secondary right away and in trading Kolb, they let go of a player who likely wouldn’t have seen much time on the field (barring an injury to Michael Vick, of course). Another splash was made when they signed free agent cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha – perhaps the top defensive player on the market. The Eagles then followed that up with several more signings, highlighted by the pickups of 1,000-yard rusher Ronnie Brown and 1,000-yard receiver Steve Smith. Brown will backup Lesean McCoy and Smith will be the No. 2 receiver behind Desean Jackson, but both could play integral roles on this year’s team.

Another wildcard in the offseason was the acquisition of quarterback Vince Young. Young, once considered one of the brightest young quarterbacks in the NFL, certainly isn’t expected to start. But should the scrambling Vick become injured, he gives Philadelphia an experienced backup who will have plenty of weapons at his disposal should he need to step in and play. Young has struggled over the past few seasons playing for the Tennessee Titans, but he didn’t have the talent around him that he does now. Even if Vick doesn’t get hurt over the course of the season, Young could also play a part in some trick plays that would utilize a bit of his extreme athleticism.

There’s also the fact that Philly fans are, well, Philly fans. They have a strong reputation for being a bit too hard-nosed and are often the derision of other sports fans. This is, after all, the fanbase that once booed Santa Claus. Santa Claus!

Really, when you think about it, the Eagles aren’t so much Miami Heat as they are New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox. They didn’t round up three of the best players in the league, but they did manage to secure about a half dozen key pickups this offseason that will greatly strengthen the team at various positions. Either way, though, the Eagles will face lots of opposition from fans outside of Philadelphia.

July 19, 2011

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8 Very Improbable NFL Playoff Teams

By: Joe Williams

It is looking like the NFL lockout is finally about to end. Now we can get back to the hope and excitement a new season brings. Unless, of course, you are a fan of a perennial cellar dweller. In every sport there are the haves and the have-nots. Even in the NFL, the league most designed to have parity, some teams have no shot to make the playoffs. Here’s a team from each division that no matter what happens in free agency or by trade in the next few weeks, will be unlikey to play in the NFL playoffs. If you are a fan of these teams you may want to begin planning your 2012 draft party.

Buffalo Bills - AFC EAST

This team has two major problems. The Patriots and the Jets. With two of the top teams in the league in their division, Buffalo is likely to lose at least three of those games. They would have to go at least 9-4 through the rest of the schedule to have any kind of chance. The NFL playoffs are not going to happen for a team without an obvious franchise quarterback.

Cincinnati Bengals – AFC NORTH

If you look up dysfunctional in the dictionary, you will see a picture of the Bengals. Their quarterback says he would rather retire than play on this team. The top wide receiver is feuding with the head coach. The running back just got arrested. Does this sound like a team ready to make an NFL playoff run?

 

Tennessee Titans – AFC SOUTH

The Titans are moving on from Vince Young and Jeff Fisher. They got their quarterback of the future in the draft and a new head coach. Tennessee could be on the rebound, but with lockout shortened preseason preparations, a team with a new coach and new quarterback is at a major disadvantage.

 Denver Broncos – AFC WEST

Here’s another team hurt by the lockout because they have a new head coach. John Fox has turned around a bad team before but this job is going to take more than one season. His biggest task is going to be figuring out what to do at quarterback. Do they stick with Kyle Orton? Do they look to the future and hope that the one smart move Josh McDaniels made was drafting Tim Tebow? Or do they put Brady Quinn behind center and play for the top pick in the draft? 

Washington Redskins – NFC EAST

Mike Shanahan has been one of the top coaches in the league, but many are starting to wonder what he is doing in Washington. Why trade for McNabb to play quarterback and continually pull him out for Rex Grossman? Now it looks like he’s going with John Beck. If they were in one of the West divisions, I’d give this team a shot. But they are in the toughest division in football.

Minnesota Vikings – NFC NORTH

If I had been writing this every year for the last decade, this would be the first time I would have said anyone other than Detroit. The Vikings have gone backwards since being one stupid Brett Favre play away from the Super Bowl. They have a quarterback of the future, but this division looks much tougher than just a year ago.

Carolina Panthers - NFC SOUTH

Teams don’t go from the number one pick in the draft to the NFL playoffs. Especially with a rookie head coach. They could have used more training camp to get Cam Newton going in their system. They have a bright future if he proves he was worthy of being the top pick in the draft. That bright future isn’t 2011.

San Fransisco 49ers – NFC WEST

This division is a real crapshoot but I’ve got to pick someone. They have a rookie head coach. Do we know who is going to play quarterback? There are questions to be answered but if any team on this list is going to make me look bad, it’s the 49ers.

January 8, 2010

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Unfair Fairwell

By: Alex

How can one not feel bad for Texas Longhorn quarterback Colt McCoy? The Texas Superstar sat out all but 2 minutes and 7 seconds in Thursday nights BCS National Championship Game. Colt McCoy is the all time leader in wins in all of Major College Football! It seemed like fate that McCoy got his chance to win a National Championship in the same Rose Bowl where Vince Young and the Longhorns won their last BCS title 5 years ago. But as fate has it, he would get hurt running the option against Alabama’s vaunted defense. I am not saying that if he didn’t get hurt, the Longhorns would have emerged victorious. I am just saying that I feel extremely bad for this young man who had waited four years for his opportunity only to watch the game from the sidelines. Mark Schlabach from ESPN wrote a great article about the Texas quarterbacks night.

Colt McCoy will rise again with the NFL. I believe some team will give him an opporunity and he will have even more motivation to continue his success at the next level.