Tag Archive | olympics

High Five Headlines: A Crap-Ton of Football. And a Little Men’s Figure Skating.

1–Like most kids, I was a very logical little girl. So I never could understand why our U.S. service academy football teams always seemed like sort of an afterthought. They were America’s smartest, bravest, and fittest young men, weren’t they? So why didn’t we see them in the sports headlines, like, every single day? I didn’t grasp that the academies don’t have as much flexibility in recruiting like other schools, and these soldiers were also tasked with the tiny burden of defending our country and that football might not be their top priority.

Can somebody help me up, please?

I’ve fallen since last season, and I can’t get up. (No, really, lil’ help here?)

Except for one day a year—the annual Army-Navy Game in Philadelphia, when the U.S. Military Academy and the Naval Academy square off in what is considered by many to be college football’s greatest rivalry. Unfortunately, the last decade or so, it really hasn’t been. Navy has won every year since 2004, including Saturday 34-7 over an Army team that has averaged fewer than three wins a season since 1998. Navy’s Keenan Reynolds set a Division I record for quarterbacks when he rushed for his 29th touchdown of the year and will lead the 8-4 Midshipmen to the Armed Forces Bowl against Middle Tennessee State. As for Army, well at least they will always be our heroes, long after their football careers end.

2–Speaking of struggling programs, I usually try not to focus on my local Washington Redskins, but they were the NFL’s top story last week, so…

OK, so Coach Mike Shanahan “shut down” quarterback Robert Griffin III for the rest of the season, ostensibly to rest the knee he blew out in last year’s playoffs. He won’t play at all, while backup Kirk Cousins has taken the helm. RGIII was literally in the national sports news every day the last year—fans and non-fans alike wanted to see the affable, witty, Subway Sandwich-loving Offensive Rookie of the Year return to full strength. He did not. Challenged by his knee, a weak defense and a shaky relationship with Shanahan, RGIII’s sophomore year was middling at best, with a bunch of icky stats I don’t even have the heart to go into.

Then there is the Family Shanahan: Coach Mike, who by most accounts seems to be lobbying to be fired so he can depart his Skins losing legacy fully paid. His son Kyle is the offensive coordinator—therefore having a direct hand in RGIII’s performance. Would he be fired too? Or follow Dad if he quits? Or stay on and try to atone for the “RedSins” of the father? To be continued. Wish *I* could authorize a shutdown.

3—Florida State freshman quarterback Jameis Winston was named the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner by a landslide Saturday over five other players, including last year’s winner Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M) and Alabama’s A.J. McCarron–who I calculate got about 1/16 of the camera time as his girlfriend (you know it by now, say it with me) Miss Alabama Katherine Webb in the audience. Winston thanked his family and coaches ebulliently, noting several times his gratitude for the “truth” being on his side. Winston was cleared last week of potential rape charges from a 2012 incident, and will lead FSU into the national championship game against Auburn January 6. The alleged victim, meanwhile, has had to withdraw from FSU. I’ve said it before—no one knows what happened but the accuser and Winston. There are unscrupulous people out there of both genders. It’s just sad to me that one party is starting a great career, while the other is likely launching one at Taco Bell. But the law has spoken, so we move forward.

4–Sometimes good just isn’t good enough. Head football coach Mack Brown resigned from the University of Texas Saturday, but will stay on to coach the Longhorns against Oregon in the Alamo Bowl. Texas went 8-4 this year, but detractors still have questioned Brown since the program began declining—despite double-digit win seasons from 2001-2009—after its 2005 national championship. Coaches come and go every year, but if you know “Friday Night Lights,” you have some inkling of what football means to the Lone Star State. Brown’s departure is major news because he has had what is, in his words, “the best coaching job at the premier football program in the country” since 1998.

Another reason football fans’ antennae were up over this one was the possibility of Alabama coach Nick Saban coming aboard, and he’s won the last two national championships. But the hope didn’t last long—Saban signed a deal last week to remain with the Crimson Tide for roughly $7 million a year, a raise of about $1.5 million a year and more than that of most NFL coaches.

5—American 2010 Olympic figure skating gold medalist Evan Lysacek will not be able to defend his title at the Sochi Winter Games due to ongoing issues with a torn labrum in his hip. Lysacek hadn’t competed since his win in Vancouver four years ago, but had remained optimistic for Sochi. During his comeback attempt last year, he experienced an abdominal tear, followed by the hip injury, which doctors feared could be permanent if he did not stop.

But in happier news, skier (and Tiger Woods paramour) Lindsey Vonn returned to the snow for practice runs in Colorado this weekend for the first time in the nine days since she reinjured her right knee. She had torn it completely February 5 of last year. Vonn hopes to return to competition next weekend and keep her Olympic hopes alive. She is the defending downhill gold medalist, holds four World Cup titles and is considered the most accomplished Alpine skier in American history.

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High Five: Serena Is Thirty-One-derful, Puppies, and Robert! Griffin! The Third! Returns!

From quarterback brilliance to tennis upsets to the Ottoman Turks, what a week it’s been for sports. Here are five of the biggest stories for the office, the other half, and the offspring…

1) The first week of the NFL season did not disappoint–well, unless you’re a Baltimore fan. Here are a few highlights based on headlines you might have heard in recent months:

–The reigning champion Ravens fell, hard, 49-27 Thursday night to Denver quarterback Peyton Manning (seven touchdowns!) and pint-sized powerhouse (and super-adorable) receiver Wes Welker, formerly a Patriots legend.

–The New York Jets defeated Tampa 18-17—not particularly noteworthy except it gives rookie quarterback Geno Smith a 1-0 start after two years of daily discussion over starter Mark Sanchez, who injured his shoulder in a pre-season game. Sanchez versus backup Tim Tebow (traded to New England, now released and seeking a new team); Sanchez and the “butt fumble.” We’ll see what happens when he returns.

Colin Kaepernick threw for 412 yards and three touchdowns in a win over Green Bay, whose Aaron Rodgers is pretty much agreed to be the NFL’s best quarterback. But the better story was Anquan Boldin—traded in March to the 49ers from their Super Bowl opponent, Baltimore. Boldin finished with 208 yards receiving and a 10-yard touchdown.

On behalf of pit bull puppies everywhere, you know who we're pullin' for tonight!

“On behalf of pit bull puppies everywhere, you know who we’re pullin’ for tonight!” (Rudy and Roxy, Humane Society foster pup-leaders) 

–Sunday night’s Cowboys-Giants matchup saw New York’s Eli Manning (brother of Peyton) throw Victor Cruz (the one who “salsas” after each score) three TD passes—yet the Giants fell 36-31 after six turnovers.

But the BEST is yet to come tonight (and yes as a DC resident, I am a tad biased)…

2) That rumbling sound you’re hearing is thousands of Washington Redskins fans geeking out to finally finally watch our quarterback Robert! Griffin! The Third! return tonight against the Philadelphia Eagles, new coach Chip Kelly, and QB Michael Vick (of the pitbull-fighting-ring infamy) in the first game of Monday Night Football.

Griffin was named 2012 Offensive Rookie of the Year despite a soul-crushing knee injury in the Skins’ first-round playoffs loss to Seattle. Now after daily media debates, blame-gaming (who decides if a hurt player can play—the athlete, the coach, or the doctor?), surgeries, speculation, and, oh, his July wedding to his college sweetheart Rebecca Liddicoat, RGIII is set to be the Washington starter–and hopefully stay there, but fans and detractors alike wonder if his brashness will re-injure him.

Tonight’s second game features the Houston Texans and AFC Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt (see him “SHUT YOU DOWN!” in a Yahoo! commercial below) versus the San Diego Chargers, who will be without rookie linebacker Manti Te’o of the Facebook-fake-girlfriend scandal. T’eo is out with a sprained foot.

3) Serena Williams, 31, won her 17th Grand Slam title Sunday, defeating Victoria Azarenka 7-5, 6-7 (6), 6-1 to defend her US Open title. The win puts her only one Grand Slam title behind Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert all-time. And she’s done it after two retirements and a near-fatal blood clot. She has now played in 21 Grand Slam finals, winning all but four.

"First Istanbul, now Constantinople, then it's Istanbul..." No wonder they lost.

“First Istanbul, now Constantinople, then it’s Istanbul…” No wonder they lost.

4) As for the men’s U.S. Open final, world #1 Novak Djokovic will play in his fourth straight final tonight at 5 p.m. ET against beloved hottie Rafael Nadal of Spain. It will be the third time the two have met in the final in four years. “Rafa” sat out last year with a hurt knee. Scotland’s Andy Murray won in 2012—and famously Britain’s first Wimbledon title in over 70 years this year—but was eliminated in earlier play.

5) Tokyo beat out Istanbul and Madrid Saturday in a vote for the 2020 Olympic Summer Games, despite worries over radioactive water leaking from the Fukushima nuclear plant. Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe personally promised Tokyo’s safety. Personally, I loved my Turkey visit and would have loved to see Istanbul win—a modern, Muslim city (well, today – Turkey has been occupied by so many cultures, its Hagia Sophia cathedral bears markings of Ottomans, Christians, and even Vikings) with fantastic transit and welcoming citizens. Not to mention the Grand Bazaar’s six centuries of shopping—clothing, spices, art, and…even leeches. Oh well, maybe 2024.

10 Must-Know Sports Miracles (or Forget Slippers, Cinderella Wears a Sports Bra)

As I watched Florida Gulf Coast University celebrate advancing to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen, the first-ever 15-seed to do so, my buddy Jorge suggested I revisit some of sports’ other upsets, unusual runs, and astonishing accomplishments we never tire of seeing replayed because they remind us that anything is possible.

These are just a fraction of hundreds of heroic moments any sports fan should know—and I just stuck to the ones in my own lifetime!—but feel free to post suggestions of your own. Now, in no particular order…

Dolphins Defeat…Everyone
It’s my birthday this week, so let’s start with the second most awesome event of 1972. The Miami Dolphins achieved the only perfect NFL season thus far, beating the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl VII to finish 17-0.

ripken

Click here to see Ripken reach 2,131 consecutive games. (Courtside Tweets)

The Iron Man
Cal Ripken’s accolades would take up half of IBM’s servers, but the Baltimore Oriole infielder is best known for surpassing Lou Gehrig in consecutive games played (2,131 in 1995). He continued his streak to a voluntary end at 2,632 in 1998 and retired in 2001 a 19-time all-star.

That Slam Dunk…No, the Flu Game…No…His Return…No…
Like Ripken, it’s almost impossible to pick the best Michael Jordan moment. So I’ll go with what is simply called “Game 6.” Chicago was visiting the Utah Jazz in the 1998 NBA Finals. Jordan hit a jump shot with five seconds left to put Chicago ahead 87-86, giving the Bulls their sixth title in eight years.

America’s Sweetheart Sticks it to the Competition
In Montreal 1976, Romanian Nadia Comăneci became the first woman ever to score a perfect 10 (uneven bars) in Olympic history and elevating women’s gymnastics to primetime.

Eight years later, Mary Lou Retton would trail another Romanian, Ecaterina Szabo, by .15 at the 1984 Los Angeles Games. Retton (who was nursing a knee injury) nailed two perfect-10 vaults, becoming the first American to earn the all-around gold medal and Wheaties boxes everywhere.

The Chase for Home Run History
In 1961, Yankees right fielder Roger Maris surpassed Babe Ruth’s 1927 record of 60 season homers. But in 1998, for weeks, Americans watched in awe as not one but two hitters chased the record—and exceeded it: St. Louis’ Mark McGwire (70 HRs) followed by the Cubs’ Sammy Sosa (66). Sadly, steroid allegations against McGwire have since added a silent asterisk to the honor.

Bra-va!
You probably don’t remember what it was (Women’s World Cup Soccer Finals) when (1999) where (Rose Bowl) or even who played (U.S. and China), but you will recall Brandi Chastain’s topless knee slide across the turf after scoring the fifth shootout penalty kick to win the U.S. the title. Attired in exultation and a sports bra, Chastain became one of the most photographed female athletes in history.

Red Sox Redemption
Things were looking pretty great for Boston in 1918. They had won five baseball world titles. They had the best player, Babe Ruth, on the roster. Gin and jazz for everyone!

And then it all fell apart. The team sold Ruth to their arch-rival Yankees (where Ruth went on to post historic numbers—see Roger Maris, above). And so began the legendary “Curse of the Bambino”—an 86-year championship drought until 2004, when the Red Sox swept the St. Louis Cardinals, never trailing in the series, and even Yankee fans had to smile.

“Hail Flutie”
At only 5-10, Boston College’s Doug Flutie was not your usual quarterback. But he made an unusually successful career, winning the Heisman Trophy and playing pro ball in both the U.S. and Canada. His prowess was due in large part to his last-second “Hail Mary” pass to Gerard Phelan to beat defending-champion Miami, November 23, 1984. The play is considered perhaps the greatest in college sports history.

Sampras Survives
Tennis has many historic rivalries and matches—Billie Jean King defeating Bobby Riggs in 1973’s “Battle of the Sexes”; Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert; John McEnroe and…everybody.

Maybe it’s not really a “miracle,” but the match that stands out to me is the 1995 Australian Open quarterfinal between Pete Sampras and Jim Courier. Sampras’ coach Tim Gullikson had collapsed at the tournament (and was later diagnosed with brain cancer). Shaken, Sampras openly wept as he played, but won. He lost in the finals to Andre Agassi, but all I remember is his determination to honor his friend (who passed away the following year).

miracel on ice

Click here to relive the miracle moment. (curtchaplin)

Miracle on Ice
Of all American sports celebrations, this moment stands skates above them all—and I think even Jordan and Ripken will agree. It was a Cold War, literally and figuratively, for the U.S. hockey team during the 1980 Winter Olympics at Lake Placid, New York. They were inexperienced underdogs facing an indomitable Russian squad with a 21-game Olympic win streak and considered by far the best team in the world. Yet somehow coach Herb Brooks led this group of amateurs and college players to defeat the U.S.S.R. and then go on to win the gold medal against Finland. Disney’s “Miracle” is the movie adaptation.

So will FGCU be the next miracle to remember? We’ll find out Friday night, 10 p.m. ET on TBS.