Archive for December, 2011

2011 A Year in Review

Taking a look back at this past year in sports, there has been everything. Stories of triumph and underdogs and comebacks were everywhere but seemed to be overshadowed by the dark events that have taken place this year. Tragic, horrific and disturbing stories that take the magic that sports can bring to people away and brings everyone to the realization that there is much more important things in sports.

Tragedy struck hard for me personally as me and a nationally televised audience watched a extremely talented driver and kind human being lost his life. Dan Wheldon’s life reached the highest of highs and the lowest of lows in 2011. Getting a one race ride together for the Indianapolis 500 was difficult for Dan, who was a former winner of the race in 2005. Getting into the race was hard enough but to compete and have a chance to win the race was a task that seemed unreal. But it was becoming real as the race continued as Dan was in second with one lap left in the race. Trailing rookie J.R. Hildebrand (the very driver who replaced Dan) heading into the final turn it appeared that a second place finish was in Dans future when the unthinkable happened as Hildebrand took a turn too wide attempting to pass a lap car and crashed into the wall coming off turn four. Dan made the pass taking first and his second Indy 500 victory. It seemed like a dream that a driver who everyone seemed to give up on and nobody wanted could reach the highest peak in his sport again. The emotion that race brought to Dan and his family made us all believe in the magic that sports can bring to us. Unfortunately the next time we would see Dan on a national stage would be the last.

At the season ending race in Las Vegas, Dan was racing for a $2.5 million prize if he won this race as well as the Indy 500 while other drivers were racing for a championship. It was learned before the race that Dan would replace Danica Patrick and race full seasons for Andretti Autosport. Several people around Indy Car and complained about the dangers of the high speeds the cars obtain on the oval in Vegas reaching over 200 MPH at times. At lap 11 running in a pack of about 15 cars, one car got loose, taped another car and all hell broke loose. Cars hitting other cars, getting airborne and flying everywhere. It was a mess. As the cleanup began, one by one drivers walked away from the accident until there was only one driver who did not. Dan was loaded into a helicopter and taken to a local hospital. As we all waited watching the accident again and again on tv and still not hearing any news about Dan, everyone started to fear the worse might have happened. At 1:54 PM PST Dan Wheldon was pronounced dead. Because of the events the race was called and the grieving began for the entire sports world. The sport lost one of its bright stars.

Losing faith and trust in coaches is a unfortunate fact that we all have had to cope with this year. The horrific atrocities that allegedly have occurred at Penn State from former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky and his inappropriate relationships with young boys and the events that have taken place afterwords still shake all of us to the core that all of these acts can go undiscovered or just pushed under the rug for so many years. And knowing that head coach Joe Paterno knew about all of this and did not do everything in his power to make sure the truth came out and keep Sandusky away from his program and report him to the proper authorities is just as disturbing.

Having these types of stories at one organization is bad enough but to have more coaches from more universities now being brought to light pushes the issue of really knowing who is around your children. Former Syracuse mens basketball coach Bernie Fine sexual abuse allegations shows that this is and has been a problem all over and has been happening for a longer time than we first thought. Parents must pay attention to who they are letting their children around and really know who that person is.

Along with the NBA lockout that stretched into the beginning of the NBA season and resulted in lost games for the season, all of the colleges breaking rules for recruiting and obtaining illegal benefits showed that not all things in sports are nice and good and friendly.

Hidden behind all of the dark stories are the moments in sports that we all love to see.

The Vince Lombardi Trophy returning home in Green Bay as the Packers beat the Steelers in the Super Bowl. Aaron Rodgers escaping from the shadow of Brett Favre and reaching the potential greatness that people had projected him to reach. The unbelievable season that Tom Brady had and the unexpected exit that the Patriots had all lead to a exciting NFL season that lead into a lockout that scared all NFL fans into the reality that their might not be a NFL season in 2012.

The excitement of the final day of the Major League Baseball regular season and the craziness that ensued. Having two of the biggest collapses in MLB history with the Boston Red Sox and the Atlanta Braves falling to the Tampa Bay Rays and the St. Louis Cardinals. Who would have thought in August that the St. Louis Cardinals and the Tampa Bay Rays would be in the post season. As the playoffs continued the Cardinals continued their miraculous run all the way to the World Series to face the Texas Rangers returning to the Fall Classic for the second consecutive year. In game 6 the Rangers lead the Cardinals 3 games to 2 as the Rangers led the game in the 9th inning with one out remaining from their first championship. But David Freese hit a game tying 2 run Triple to send the game into extras. After the teams exchanged runs again in the 10th inning again the Cardinals coming back from the brink of elimination to send the game into the 11th inning. Again David Freese came to the plate and again he came up clutch. Smacking a solo shot to dead center over the fence sent St. Louis into madness and into game 7 and the eventual championship. The unbelievable events that occurred in game 6 have caused many people around baseball to call this one of the best games they have ever seen.

Several other examples of sports moments like the Mavericks winning the NBA championship over the Miami Heat and their superteam, The US Women Soccer teams run in the World Cup and falling short of the championship, the exciting finish to the NASCAR season between Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards, the Bruins winning the Stanley Cup, Derek Jeter hitting his 3000th hit in grand fashion with a homer, Cam Newtons rise to prominence and winning a national championship with Auburn, University of Connecticut winning the NCAA Basketball championship behind Kemba Walker’s impressive run, and of course the media’s obsession with Tebow Mania, are only a few of the events that made the 2011 sports year the one that it is.

What we all must remember when these type of scandals and tragedies occur is that there is much more in this world than just sports and we all have to remember that. At the end of the day it is just a game that gifted athletes play against each other and should not be taken so serious some times. You must take a step back and look at the bigger picture. But when sports can show us good in the world and make us feel good, that is when it is more than just a silly game. It can heal woulds and give hope to people without it.

Unfortunately all of the other events that showed what good sports can do to for people was overshadowed by the countless stories of tragedy, scandals, and accusations.

This is what the 2011 year in sports will be remembered for.

by Andrew Isaac

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Andrew’s Week 17 NFL Picks

New England over Buffalo

NY Jets over Miami

Jacksonville over Indianapolis

Chicago over Minnesota

San Francisco over St. Louis

Philadelphia over Washington

Green Bay over Detroit

New Orleans over Carolina

Houston over Tennessee

Baltimore over Cincinnati

Oakland over San Diego

Seattle over Arizona

Atlanta over Tampa Bay

Denver over Kansas City

Pittsburgh over Cleveland

NY Giants over Dallas

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Drew’s Week 17 NFL Picks

Patriots over Bills

Jets over Dolphins

Jaguars over Colts

Vikings over Bears

49ers over Rams

Eagles over Redskins

Lions over Packers

Saints over Panthers

Texans over Titans

Bengals over Ravens

Raiders over Chargers

Cardinals over Seahawks

Falcons over Bucs

Broncos over Chiefs

Steelers over Browns

Cowboys over Giants

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Drew’s Week 16 NFL Picks

Texans over Colts

Panthers over Bucs

Steelers over Rams

Raiders over Chiefs

Bengals over Cardinals

Redskins over Vikings

Ravens over Browns

Jets over Giants

Titans over Jaguars

Patriots over Dolphins

Bills over Broncos

Chargers over Lions

Cowboys over Eagles

Seahawks over 49ers

Packers over Bears

Saints over Falcons

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Andrew’s Week 16 Picks

In vegas this week so no explanations

Houston over Indianapolis
Denver over Buffalo
Cincinnati over Arizona
Oakland over Kansas City
NY Jets over NY Giants
Carolina over Tampa Bay
New England over Miami
Baltimopre over Cleveland
Washingtion over Minnesota
Pittsburgh over St. Louis
Tennessee over Jacksonville
Detroit over San Diego
Dallas over Philadelphia
San Francisco over Seattle
Green Bay over Chicago
New Orleans over Atlanta
53 pts

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Hollywood Happy Ending Or Hollywood Tragedy?

Heading into the 2008 NBA season the Los Angeles Lakers faced much adversity in the offseason. Their roster didn’t have many fans/critics on their side, many thought Kobe Bryant was due to get dealt before the season even started. All this emotion, and frustration loomed over the Hollywood hills for much of the summer. Eventually the Lakers were able to re-sign Kobe Bryant heading into the season to ensure him being a Laker throughout his NBA career. But Bryant had one request, and that was to have a competitive roster, and an improved team to have a shot at another ring. Team owner Dr. Buss, and GM Mitch Kupchak held true to their words, and brought in All-Star PF Pau Gasol from the Grizzlies right before the NBA Trade Deadline.

Gasol made an instant impact on this Lakers team who’d eventually find themselves on top of the Western Conference, and in the NBA Finals. After a dramatic summer they had themselves a pretty outstanding season despite coming up short to the Celtics in the NBA Finals. Defense was their major concern heading into the next season, mostly because that was the main reason they lost in the Finals to Boston. Moving forward to the next season in 2009, the team defense improved significantly with Gasol getting more physical, Odom, and Bynum’s presence in the paint made it tough for the rest of the league to get by these 7 footers. Granit, Bynum got injured during the season, and Pau Gasol stepped in, and did a great job. The depth of this team kept the ball rolling, and with help from Trevor Ariza on both sides of the ball, Kobe Bryant led his Lakers to an NBA Finals appearance against the Orlando Magic. The Lakers dominated the series, and won it all in 5 games. Kobe not only received his first regular season MVP that year, but the Finals MVP honor as well. A true Hollywood happy ending story.

After the celebrations came to a close, and it was time to buckle down on the team’s defense of their title, the Lakers knew they’d have their work cut out for them. The team made a major move in the offseason by getting rid of Trevor Ariza for Ron Artest; a defensive minded player who can also contribute on the offensive side of the ball. With the team keeping their focus on the goal, and task at hand the Lakers indeed found themselves back in the Finals for a third straight year. This time around they would have their chances to redeem themselves against the Celtics, the rivalry was renewed yet again. This series was a hard fought battle between rivals, and it went 7 games. During Game 7 Ron Artest was a major factor on both sides of the ball, and helped lead the Lakers to Back 2 Back titles. Kobe Bryant won yet another Finals MVP to add to his career hardware of success. Kobe had surpassed Shaq in terms of career Championships, and Phil Jackson reached the 10 rings plateau passing the great Red Auerbach. Once the parades, and celebrations came to an end, the Lakers had their minds of a 3 peat…

The journey for a 3 peat is a tough road ahead, and that’s why not many teams actually get it done. Chicago Bulls of the 1990’s, also the Kobe & Shaq Lakers of the early 2000’s are the most recent teams to achieve such a feat. Andrew Bynum got the injury bug again, Kobe had his share of problems, and the team just seemed less hungry at times than they looked in season’s past. Los Angeles beat the Hornets in the first round of the Playoffs but had a tough time sticking with CP3. During the next round, the team looked tired, and couldn’t stop the Mavs quickness with Barea, Dirk’s domination, and Dallas’ defense held its own. The Mavs would eventually sweep L.A. out of the Playoffs, Bynum took a cheap shot at Barea (he will be facing a 5 game suspension once the 2011 season starts), Matt Barnes got into an argument with the opposing team’s assistant coach, and after all these altercations, and shenanigans were put to a halt, Phil Jackson didn’t go out the way he intended to.

Heading into this upcoming season the Lakers have many questions about their current roster, and their future as well. Once the NBA Lockout ended the Lakers got on the phones, and reached out to the Hornets. They wanted Chris Paul, but David Stern took reign over the deal that would’ve traded Odom to the Hornets, Gasol to the Rockets, and Paul to the Lakers, and turned down the deal. This trade rejection sent chaos through LA-LA land. Lamar would soon be dealt to the defending champion Mavericks for basically nothing (draft pick, and trade exemption). Many thought L.A. would go after Chris Paul, and Dwight Howard this offseason. They did go after Paul, but failed to get him. Now their attention has been on Howard. But is Howard really worth it in the long run? Yes, they’d have a promising future with the league’s best Center playing for L.A. for years to come, to take over the throne once the King retires (Kobe Bryant). But having Howard means losing Bynum, and Gasol more than likely. In my opinion losing both the Lakers big men may not be worth it, call me crazy but maybe the deals that didn’t work out or yet to happen have been a blessing in disguise…With The Black Mamba (Kobe Bryant) coming off of an innovative knee surgery in Germany, he claims he feels better than ever, and he could be more dangerous than ever this upcoming season despite getting another year older. Pau Gasol is an All-Star PF, who can get you rebounds, quality passing, solid defense, and an all-around great shooter for a 7 footer, and Andrew Bynum has the makings of being one, if not the best Center in basketball in his future. Being the youngest player ever to be drafted in the NBA, he’s had time to develop, and this year is no different. I believe Bynum could be gearing up for his best season of his career, and solidifying his spot on this team for years to come. He is the future, and always has been. Andrew took care of his body this offseason, he did a lot of boxing with his trainer to keep in shape, and stay stronger with better conditioning. His trainer says he’s primed for his best season by far. Andrew Bynum has a better post game than Dwight does, yes I know Howard won Defensive Player Of The Year, and he’s the most dominant big man in the game today but Andrew does have better post moves, post game overall, and can be just as good on the defensive end. The key to the success of Bynum is whether or not he can stay healthy. Is his career going to be plagued by injuries or is he just having a bad couple of years? We shall wait, and see…

Los Angeles has been put down quite a bit over the offseason thus far, critics saying they’re too old, they don’t have the right roster to have a championship team, this, and that…Well look at the offseason this team had leading up to the ’08 season, many questions lingered then, and they made it to the Finals that year. I see this playing out the same way this season, I truly think this team is still just as talented as ever, but the bench is going to be a factor in whether or not this team can make a run. They have to play well in order for them to make it to the Finals, and they certainly have the potential to do so. Bryant is primed for a big year, Gasol, and Bynum are looking to clear their names from trade rumors, and focus on the task at hand. The Lakers have had more rest than they’ve had in years, and the team will be ready to answer the doubters. Maybe not so fast on the Hollywood tragedy, when there’s still a Hollywood happy ending looming over these Lakers…

By Drew Kashmer

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Drew’s Week 15 NFL Picks

Falcons over Jaguars

Cowboys over Bucs

Giants over Redskins

Saints over Vikings

Panthers over Texans

Seahawks over Bears

Titans over Colts

Packers over Chiefs

Bills over Dolphins

Bengals over Rams

Raiders over Lions

Cardinals over Browns

Patriots over Broncos

Jets over Eagles

Chargers over Ravens

Steelers over 49ers

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