Another seasons is now behind us with the Baltimore Ravens winning Super Bowl XLVII. They went out and proved all the doubters wrong by beating three excellent (some may say superior) teams on the road to the title. They battled their way into the post season, after some disappointing losses (blown out at home by the Broncos, defeated by the Charlie Batch led Steelers and an end of the season loss to the one and done Bengals). Entering the post season, many analysts wondered if they were playoff material, let alone championship worthy. But just like the winning teams that preceded them, they were able to heat up just in time. No one could argue that the Ravens made plays to win. Whether it was a timely tip by Cary Williams or Joe Flacco extending a play with his legs before making a third down completion, they executed a game plan and succeeded.
On the other side of the field, the San Francisco 49ers came up just short. They looked nervous to start, which was reflected in back to back drives ending in turnovers. And just when it seemed like the Niners couldn’t get up from the mat, we get one of the most unexpected occurrences in sports history. Jacoby Jones’ kick return for a touchdown seemed to knock out San Francisco. The team was on its last legs. And as if some executives realized the rout was on, the lights went off. And 2 quarters worth of time elapsed. And then it seemed like the brothers and their respective teams’ roles reversed. Though they failed to convert on third down when play resumed, Colin Kaepernick and the Niners displayed the poise of a championship caliber team. Kaepernick made all the right reads and throws. He got his team to within a two point conversion of tying the game. But where the Ravens made plays to win in the 4th quarter, the Niners didn’t. Vernon Davis had a ball slip out of his reach during a pivotal moment. Linemen and tail backs were unorganized forcing Jim Harbaugh to use one of his time outs. And Kaepenick’s play reminded you that while he has been a wunderkind, he still has started less than a dozen games in the NFL.
Looking forward, the Niners appear to have a brighter future. They have a quarterback who has the all world skills and talent to run the very popular spread option offense. On defense, they remind you of the Ravens’ squad from the early 2000’s. They have a fearsome defender in the middle (Patrick Willis) and several playmakers on the defensive line and in the secondary. The Ravens will go into next season a team full of veterans that is another year older. With Ray Lewis making his expected move to sports analysis, and several players with contract issues (Ed Reed, Anquan Boldin and Joe Flacco), it might be a transition year. But even I’ll admit it is too early to wonder who will be playing in New York for the title in 2014. To the victor go the spoils and the time to enjoy them.
A lot has changed since the last RG3 post I made. Amidst a weekend where the playoff games weren’t particularly exciting and each favorite won by a touchdown or more, the biggest news was the status of Griffin’s knee. It seems like everyone has an opinion for what Mike Shanahan should have done. On one hand, the team rode Griffin to the playoffs with spectacular results. He gives the team the best chance to win. However, a hobbled Griffin who is at best 60% of what he normally is might not. And that’s where the coach has to decide what’s best not only for this year, but for the future.
Now the counter argument was presented by Drew Magary earlier today. In a well written article for GQ, he talked about the memory of Willis Reed helping the 1970 Knicks win the title in Game 7. He had been considered out for Game 7 with a torn thigh muscle that prevented him from playing in Game 6. Magary talks about every kids dream of not only winning a meaningful game, but doing so while incapacitated. You can also look at Michael Jordan’s Flu game during the 1997 NBA Finals. It’s considered one of his finest moments in a career defined by excellence. So at what point is that will to play detrimental? With the worry from DC that Griffin’s sophomore season is over before it begins, I think we can now define it. Pencil me down as one of those that thought he should have been pulled right after he fell awkwardly in the first quarter. Hopefully he can come back 100% this upcoming season, because frequently he was the most exciting player on the field on Sunday. To see a bright prospect with all the talent in the world sapped of the trait that makes him special would be something tragic. Call it a gift and a curse.
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All jokes aside though, I was happy that Manny seemed cognisant and alright following the fight. The fight was spectacular, as each of there previous three bouts were. Marquez displayed resilience throughout (especially in the fifth round) and skill. As all counterpunchers do, he bided his time and picked his spots. He came away a winner in a fight where he was a heavy underdog. And for all we know he may retire victorious. Manny on the other hand seems to be slipping. With all his outside interests and a political career that awaits him after boxing, he may not have the same hunger he once did. And what about the fight of our generation between himself and Mayweather? Does that fight happen next year if ever? The one certainty is that boxing fans wouldn’t mind a fifth and final bout between Marquez and Pacquiao. Given what has just happened and the respect these two have for each other, it would just seem natural to settle once and for all one of the greatest rivalries in recent boxing history.
The Miami Heat, a team that boasts 3 of the games top 20 players, a team that has two finals MVPs in Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, and a current payroll of $84,177,641, well…man…their defense sucks this season. This year the Heat rank: 22nd in DEF, 29th in rebounds, 19th in steals, and are tied for 23rd in blocks per game.
Carmelo Anthony pointing to show he was fouled. (cc: NBA.com)
The Heat dropped from a league top 5 defensive squad to the same level as the Brooklyn Nets…(a team that has finished and is poised to finish in the bottom 10 of defensive teams). In both steals and blocks, the Heat ranked 3rd and 9th respectively; these are tremendous dips in a team who boasts the talent (and payroll) of the Miami Heat. Pending all things go as the world expects and the Heat turn up their defense, it goes to wonder…Is LeBron and company really going to get 6 rings like Michael Jordan? Playing this level of defense you are certainly not.
The thing about sports is that there rarely are times when there is nothing to talk about. This weekend was rife with story lines. Saturday had a title game that had people reminiscing about the epic USC v. Texas bowl game of several years ago. And after Sunday, the cloudy playoff picture cleared up a bit for a few teams. Meanwhile, the rookies (ie. Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson) took it upon themselves to carry their teams to victories amidst the hunt. And then you can talk about tonight’s much anticipated rivalry game between the hungry RG3 led Washington Redskins and the battle tested New York Giants
Any of these topics could be worth expanding upon. Instead, the battle amongst two teams with nothing to gain from a win yesterday was watched with watery eyes and heavy hearts. No one could have faulted the Kansas City Chiefs from falling on their faces. Hell, they have been doing so all year as they are on pace to end the season as the worse team in the league. But after a tragic weekend, one that had people trying to figure out how such an event could occur, the team payed their respects and played to bring some relief to a saddened community. Brady Quinn gained some much earned respect with his comments after the game.
The one thing people can hopefully try to take away, I guess, is the relationships they have with people…I know when it happened, I was sitting and, in my head, thinking what I could have done differently. When you ask someone how they are doing, do you really mean it? When you answer someone back how you are doing, are you really telling the truth?…We live in a society of social networks, with Twitter pages and Facebook, and that’s fine, but we have contact with our work associates, our family, our friends, and it seems like half the time we are more preoccupied with our phone and other things going on instead of the actual relationships that we have right in front of us. Hopefully, people can learn from this and try to actually help if someone is battling something deeper on the inside than what they are revealing on a day-to-day basis.
Hopefully these words have an impact on how you approach things are with your friends, especially in a world where friend is primarily a Facebook term.
It’s this type of weekend that has people sitting in front of a TV for about 12 hours. Football in both the college and the pros was exhilarating. This past Saturday illustrated a reason for the upcoming 4 team playoff system. Both the top seeds went down, one handily and the other closely. Other story lines emerged like Johnny Manziel aka Johnny Football becoming the clear favorite for the Heisman. Pro prospects vying for the number one spot emerged like Geno Smith and Manti Te’o, while others like Matt Barkley faltered.
Though the NFL didn’t have any compelling matchup going into Sunday, by the time the day ended, you were happy things like Red Zone existed. The Texans, Buccaneers and Cowboys needed overtime to fend off mediocre teams and the Falcons and Packers went into the final minutes to seal their victories. The Jets also put the Tim Tebow talk to rest for at least an afternoon, taking care of the Rams in St. Louis. It is the league of parody, where no clear favorite for the title has been established. You must keep watching this season.
Though the hometown Giants came up a little short, they brought everyone together as fans. For a few hours, the devastation of Hurricane Sandy was an afterthought. The same feeling was felt when the Brooklyn Nets took the floor as the first professional franchise in Kings County since the Dodgers. And in the first game played in New York, the Knicks played a game that all their fans will remember. This is the power of sports. When life changing events occur, for a few quarters, innings or periods, we can put those tragedies aside and just be a fan. You just root as hard for your team to win, and nothing else matters.
It just wouldn’t be a proper summer unless the Yankees traded for some big name current/former All Star. Too bad he can’t wear the #51 like he used to in Seattle. There are just too many good memories with the number (good ol’ Bernie Williams). Let’s just hope that this trade sparks something in Ichiro, cause if he can return to being a hitter who just gets single after single and is a threat on the base, he can help us get number 28.
Outrageous. Embarrassing. Rigged. Just a few words you have heard over and over again after the split decision victory Timothy Bradley had over Manny Pacquiao in Las Vegas this weekend. There has not been this type of clamor over a boxing match since the Holyfield v. Tyson II match in 1997 (and that feedback was over the lunacy of Tyson, not for the skill being displayed during the match). But for a dying sport such as boxing, isn’t this what you are looking for. It’s a negative headline, but a headline nonetheless. It made me, and many others completely forget about the other major sporting event of the weekend (the Miami Heat’s game 7 victory over the Boston Celtics). And the old adage is that “there is no such thing as bad press”. Perhaps this will give those viewers who are on the fence about watching a fight a reason to purchase the PPV. Not necessarily for the skill on display, but for the entertainment value and discussions that would occur over who they feel won.
Yet, there has been little dispute over who many believe should have won. I have yet to hear an analyst or a fan who did not think Pacquiao won, narrowly or by a wide margin. Talk about match fixing has been running rampant. Given the state that boxing is in, if reports were to surface that illicit conduct had occurred, boxing would cease to exist as a credible sport. It would become wrestling, where fighters play up their characters and story lines would unfold like a soap opera. Fans would no longer care or respect what occurs inside the ring, because there would always be that thought of what if. If Manny were to face Floyd Mayweather Jr, and the fight were decided by the judges scores, what if Mayweather pays someone to rule favorably for him? What if one of the judges likes Pacquiao’s religious openness and hates Mayweather’s level of arrogance that he rules in favor of Pacquiao in the close rounds because of it?
There is no bounce back for boxing if a scandal were to be uncovered. No amount of Mayweather and Pacquiao fights would repair it’s image. Basketball continued amidst the Tim Donaghy scandal because it was quickly swept under the rug and occurred during the summer the Boston Celtics assembled “The Big Three”. Hockey survived a year long disappearance because they embraced the changes the fans wanted and opened up the game to more scoring and shootouts. It has provided us with one of the most entertaining postseasons in NHL history as the New Jersey Devils continue to stave off elimination and make the Los Angeles Kings look human. For the sake of boxing’s future, let the next headline be about a fight. Not a fight to be held in a courtroom, but of one to be held in the ring.