Finally… I have posted a new blog entry! But more importantly, FINALLY (starting in 2014), college football will have a playoff to determine the national champion. The BCS (computers) will be no more, and the automatic qualifier status that favored specific conferences has also been vaporized.
The BCS system has long been scrutinized by national media and fans alike, and for good reason. Here’s a fun example of why it did/does not ensure the best two teams me(e)t in the championship game – a decade ago, Nebraska lost its final game of the regular season by a horrendous 62-36 margin and STILL played in the 2002 championship game. No surprise, they were pulverized in said championship by Miami. Nebraska’s making the championship game in 2002 specifically displayed the culmination of an egregious systematic error, but year after year, great teams are getting leapfrogged by lesser teams based on polls and rankings and automatic bids that cheapen the prior season of play, not to mention make little sense.
The new playoff plan, approved Tuesday by a committee of university presidents, will consist of two national semifinal games (four top teams – #1 vs. #4; #2 vs. #3), and the winners of each will meet in the finale.
That’s the mantra and namesake of an international initiative launched in March aimed at ending homophobia in hockey.
You Can Play was created by Philadelphia Flyers scout Patrick Burke (son of Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke) in honor of Patrick’s brother, Brendan, who passed away in a car accident in 2010. Brendan notably came out in 2009 while in post as the manager of the Miami of Ohio hockey team.
The mission of You Can Play is simple –
You Can Play is dedicated to ensuring equality, respect and safety for all athletes, without regard to sexual orientation.
You Can Play works to guarantee that athletes are given a fair opportunity to compete, judged by other athletes and fans alike, only by what they contribute to the sport or their team’s success.
You Can Play seeks to challenge the culture of locker rooms and spectator areas by focusing only on an athlete’s skills, work ethic and competitive spirit.
– and yet the mission is difficult in reality. Challenge the preexisting culture in sports? Yikes. But with professional athletes on board, not to mention an entire college hockey team (see below), things are moving in a direction where this seems possible.
You Can Play – The Faceoff
Brooks Orpik, Pittsburgh Penguins:
Cal Clutterbuck, Minnesota Wild:
The UCONN Men’s Hockey team is on board with the Captain’s Challenge. Head coach Bruce Marshall said wanting to participate in the videos came from the players, not the university. UConn is one of eight total teams that have joined the initiative as a group.
And when I say Coach, I mean the brand. Coach, known for its foundations in fine leather, has made available a Baseball Heritage Collection. The collection includes wallets made out of glove-tanned leather, a leather baseball and paperweight, and baseball duffel, among other items.
Last year New Era, Major League Baseball’s official cap-maker, pitted Alec Baldwin (Yankees) vs. John Krasinski (Red Sox).
This year, Craig Robinson and Nick Offerman are facing off over baseball in Chicago. If (somehow) you do not know these actors by their real names at this point, let me break it down – Ron Swanson is a Cubs fan, and Darryl Philbin likes the White Sox. Commence awesome shit-talking. Like this sequence:
“How old is Wrigley anyway? Do you even have electricity?”
“It’s powered by tradition, my friend. Something you wouldn’t know about at mobile phone park.”
Check out the full (extended) Round 1 video below. Enjoy.
A man with a funky swing who never took a golf lesson won the Masters on Sunday (4/8). That man is pink driver-wielding Bubba Watson. Watson (33) hails from Bagdad, FL, is wont to cry, and seems to be an all-around good guy – but one shot is going to stick in the minds of anyone who watched (or watched highlights of) the Masters this weekend. After driving a ball into the woods, Watson hooked his next shot (off of literal pine needles) – an essential 40-yard curve ball – that landed 10 feet from the hole. Watson tapped in the easy par for the win.
“I got in these trees and hit a crazy shot that I saw in my head, and somehow I’m here talking to you with a green jacket on,” said Watson after the win.
Bubba Watson is now the highest-ranked American golfer in the world at #4.
Arkansas sacked head football coach Bobby Petrino Tuesday (4/10) for both hiring his mistress to work on the football staff and for withholding the fact that said mistress was present (on the backseat) at his recent motorcycle accident. Petrino is married with four kids, but he apparently had a long-standing affair with Jessica Dorrell (25), a former Arkansas volleyball player. Dorrell had worked as a fundraiser for the Razorbacks until Petrino hired her as the football program’s student-athlete development coordinator (she was one of three finalists out of a pool of 159 candidates) – but never disclosed his affair or the fact that he had gifted her $20,000. Athletic Director Jeff Long said Petrino was fired “with cause,” which means Petrino will not receive an $18 million buyout listed in his contract. Assistant coach Taver Johnson became interim head coach while Petrino was on leave, and ESPN.com is reporting that Johnson will continue to hold the head coaching spot.
Ozzie Guillen, known for being outspoken and outrageous, has done it again- only this time on a much more serious level. The new manager of the Miami Marlins, insulting the heart of the fanbase for his new team, made comments to Time magazine that he loves Fidel Castro and admires the Cuban dictator’s ability to hold onto power for so long. The Miami Marlins promptly suspended Guillen for five games and issued a public statement that the organization is not in line with the sentiment of Guillen’s statements and that “the pain and suffering caused by Fidel Castro cannot be minimized especially in a community filled with victims of the dictatorship.”
Guillen, who in 2006 was fined and sent to sensitivity training for a gay slur he directed at a Chicago-based columnist, held a press conference in Miami Tuesday (4/10) in an effort to apologize.
“I say a lot of things and I never apologize but now I have to because I did the wrong thing. I’m behind the Cuban community. How am I going to make it better? I’m going to show the community that I support them 100 percent,” said Guillen.
Bench coach Joey Cora will step into the Marlins’ managerial role until Guillen’s return.
March Madness is coming to a close tonight and tomorrow night (4/2-4/3) with the Men’s and Women’s NCAA basketball championship games (respectively) set to take place. The upsets, the upheld reputations, the drama, the dunks, the lady dunks, the tears, and the triumphs have all led to this (also, the month of March has literally ended).
Number 1 seed Kentucky will face number 2 seed Kansas in New Orleans this evening (tip off around 9:30 PM ET). Kentucky and Kansas met once (much) earlier this season; the Wildcats were victorious (75-65). The Jayhawks are again certain underdogs but overcame adversity throughout much of the tournament (most recently working out of a 13-point deficit in their Final Four match-up Saturday against Ohio State) to reach tonight’s final. Both programs have winning histories, but these 2012 teams are made up very differently. Where Kentucky’s roster is thick with freshmen and sophomores, several of whom won’t return to college ball next season (like freshman Anthony Davis, the AP’s college basketball player of the year), Kansas brings more juniors and seniors to the court (specifically junior Thomas Robinson, the only unanimous AP All-American this season). Kentucky will seek its eighth national title tonight (the last coming in 1998), while Kansas will seek its fourth (the most recent title earned in 2008). Speaking of 2008 – Kansas, coached then and now by Bill Self, defeated Memphis in the Championship that year (in OT), a Memphis team then coached by John Calipari. Calipari became head coach of Kentucky in 2009, meaning this is a rematch of sorts for the two head coaches.
Prediction: Though Kansas has shown much heart, the sheer amount of talent (and depth of talent) on the Kentucky squad might be too much to overcome. Kentucky wins.
On Tuesday night (at 8:30 PM ET in Denver), the women’s championship game will also be a rematch of sorts. Number 1 seed Notre Dame gets another crack at fellow number 1 seed (and favored) Baylor, who felled them in a preseason match-up (94-81). A lot of season has unfolded since then. Baylor rolled undefeated and now looks to seal off a record 40-0 season – a 40th win that would bring a championship title to Baylor (the second in program history). Notre Dame, with only three losses this season, looks to claim a title that proved elusive in 2011 (the Irish fell to Texas A&M 76-70 in last year’s championship game). Just as in the men’s final match-up, these women’s teams bring two very different squads to the court. Brittney Griner, the 6’8 Lady Bears center, has been the talk of the tournament, a woman dunking and blocking at will. The Fighting Irish, on the other hand, play without a center (starting four guards and one forward), but they have one of the best backcourts in the country.
Prediction: Though Baylor has dominated its opponents all season, Stanford was able to defend the Lady Bears well in the Final Four game – they just couldn’t score to back it up. If Notre Dame puts up points as well as they did against Connecticut, they have a strong chance of upset victory. Notre Dame wins.
The New York Post is often crass in its cover headlines. And I use “crass” as a (gross) understatement. Following Tiger Woods’ win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational yesterday (3/25 – his first PGA Tour win since 2009), the viewing public was treated to this:
I am not a big Tiger fan (especially in light of his undoing). I don’t think he’s necessarily a good or decent person. From everything I’ve heard about him (via people who have been in close contact with him), he’s an asshole. But these covers are RIDICULOUS.
Not that this is anything new. Here are a two other recent, ridiculous, sports covers from the Post. And there are so many, many more (google it).
The sport of hockey received good news this week – Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, heralded by some as the greatest player in the world, will return to the ice Thursday (3/15) against the New York Rangers. While the Rangers probably aren’t too happy (currently sitting in first in the Eastern Conference with 95 points), the Kid is the NHL’s golden boy – a hard worker, a Stanley Cup winner, a gold medal winner – and an overall good guy.
Crosby was cleared for contact last week after missing the last 40 games due to a soft-tissue neck injury (that was misdiagnosed as a concussion) at the beginning of December 2011. He had made his first “return” to the ice on November 21, 2011 (following a real concussion suffered in January 2011 that kept him off the ice for 61 straight games) with a four point performance against the visiting New York Islanders. But his return was short-lived – after only eight games, Crosby sustained the neck injury (in a Dec. 5 game against the Boston Bruins) that has kept him benched until now.
Despite not having Crosby in the line-up, the Pens have been streaking after the Rangers, having won nine straight coming into Thursday’s game at MSG (totaling 89 points, with a game in hand). In Crosby’s absence, Evgeni Malkin, who can be considered a phenom in his own right, has stepped up big time (now tied for league-leading points with Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos at 84). If you need more proof, look at this end-to-end Malkin score from game two of the current streak:
The Penguins’ top line is enjoying undeniable chemistry (most notably between Malkin, Chris Kunitz and James Neal, who is currently 14th in points with 65), and so is the power play unit (ranked 7th in the NHL at 19.7 percent). With Crosby’s return, the goal is to bolster the squad, avoid “fixing what isn’t broken,” and let Crosby ease back into things (coach Dan Bylsma said Crosby will likely play around 15 minutes against the Rangers). Crosby practiced and will likely play on a line with Matt Cooke and Tyler Kennedy, and he will work as the point on the power play unit. Malkin has been playing (and scoring at will) from Crosby’s old spot on the PP unit, and that isn’t going to be tampered with.
“My job is to distribute the puck amongst everyone. When [Malkin’s] shooting the puck like that, just give it to him in that area,” said Crosby.
Without a doubt, the clash of two of the Eastern Conference’s best teams – along with Crosby’s return – will create a certain electricity at the Garden tomorrow night. Oh, and I’ll be there to see how it goes.
It hasn’t been easy to be a woman in Afghanistan, let alone a woman who wants to play basketball – something considered “un-Islamic” in Afghan society. But the country’s women’s basketball team was able to play its first game against female staffers from the US Embassy in Kabul, known as the “Kabul Kats”. The Kabul Kats formed in December 2011 after Ryan Crocker, US Ambassador to Afghanistan, met members of Afghanistan’s women’s basketball team and heard of their issues finding opponents. The two teams faced off on a court owned by NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (or ISAF), and though they had been successful against the few student teams they were able to face, the Afghan team fell to the Kabul Kats (38-21). This game taking place at all is a bright spot in what has become a tense time for the women of Afghanistan. After gaining basic education rights, the right to vote, and the right to work since the Taliban were booted in 2001, Afghan women fear the future and what would happen should any power-sharing deal be struck between the Afghan government and the Taliban (officials in the US and Afghanistan are set to negotiate with the Taliban in light of planned troop withdrawal in 2014, with the goal of ensuring “stability”.)
The longtime (and successful) partnership between QB Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts dissolved Wednesday (3/7), when owner Jim Irsay released Manning into the free agency abyss. On paper, Irsay is opting out of having to pay a QB of questionable health a $28 million bonus (from the $90 million, five-year contract Manning had signed in July). In reality, the split was tearful and of great magnitude in the sport (Peyton Manning and the Colts had become synonymous in their 13 seasons of play together). Manning (35), will become a free agent and will likely don a new jersey for the first time in his career. Kansas City, and possibly Miami, the New York Jets, Arizona, Seattle, Washington, and six other teams (ESPN is reporting 12 teams) are purportedly interested.
In a statement released Wednesday (3/7), the NFLPA announced that it will hold its own investigation of the New Orleans Saints’ alleged bounty system and asked for the cooperation of the league in order to carry out interviews with coaches and team staff. The NFL announced its investigation last week, prompting former Saints defensive coordinator Greg Williams to admit to running a bounty program there that rewarded players (up to $50,000) for taking out target opponents. It is unknown yet whether Williams (now defensive coordinator for the St. Louis Rams) had implemented the reward system during his tenure with the Titans, Redskins, Jaguars and Bills. The controversy has sparked massive debate among current commentators (most of whom are former players). In a ridiculous moment during a SportsCenter segment Monday (3/5) night, (former QB) Steve Young noted that the NFL is not the Hunger Games (he really said that), that it isn’t a blood sport.