Tag Archive | tennis

Baby, Baby, Baby, Ohhhh (Crap). Plus the Extra Point’s Future, Billion Dollar Brackets, and Tiger Declawed

—1—“The kick is up, and it…is…” no longer existent?

So, baby, you mean, baby, if I can't beat these charges, baby, I can't be an NFL kicker? Ohhhh.

So, baby, you mean, baby, if I can’t beat these charges, baby, I can’t be an NFL kicker? Ohhhh.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suggested this week that the league do away with the extra point or “PAT,” point after touchdown. “The extra point is almost automatic,” he told NFL Network Monday. “I believe we had five missed extra points this year out of 1,200 some odd attempts. So it’s a very small fraction of the play, and you want to add excitement with every play.” Instead he suggests making a touchdown worth seven points instead of six, with an extra play after from the scrimmage line worth an eighth point. But, if the team fails, their touchdown is only worth six points.

You would think concussions and crime would be enough “excitement” for the NFL any given day, but I must admit I am intrigued.

—2—Ahhhh, Warren Buffett. Gazillionaire, Philanthropist, College Basketball Fan. And now he and Quicken Loans are offering a $1 billion cash prize to anyone who correctly predicts this year’s men’s NCAA Tournament Bracket in the Billion Dollar Bracket Challenge. Unfortunately, the odds of getting all 63 games right, are around 1 in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808. That’s nine quintillion. But if you do win, you get 40 annual installments of $25 million or a lump sum payment of $500 million. If there are multiple winners, the pot is divided, and the 20 brackets closest to the perfect outcome will still receive $100,000 each from Quicken Loans to purchase or remodel a home or refinance a mortgage. Contest starts March 3.

—3—There are two new sheriffs in Tennis Town. If tennis players wore hats, spurs and funny mustaches. China’s Li Na had been contemplating retirement, but defeated Dominika Cibulkova (who had ousted #3 Maria Sharapova) for the Australian Open crown, and at 31 became the oldest women’s champion in the Open Era. Known for her funny remarks in broken English, Li joked in post-match interviews about her husband and his snoring, and thanked her agent “for making me rich.”

On the men’s side, it was Switzerland’s #8 Stanislas Wawrinka who finally hoisted the trophy after defeating #1 Rafael Nadal. Nadal had previously knocked out Roger Federer to reach the Australian Open final for the third time. It would have been Rafa’s 14th Grand Slam title. But he struggled with several small but nagging injuries, including a blister on his serving hand that drew gasps from the crowd when one TV camera got a little too close. Wawrinka was the first man in 21 years to beat the #1 and #2-ranked players (Novak Djokovic) en route to a Grand Slam title.

—4—For the first time in his career, world #1 Tiger Woods failed to make the PGA Tour’s secondary cut at Torrey Pines in San Diego. His 7-over-par 79 was his worst in an event he has won seven times. And it all means….meh, nothing. It’s the start of the season, and now, with girlfriend skier Lindsey Vonn sitting out the Olympics, they’ll enjoy a few free days before heading to Dubai.

5Finally, Saturday Night Live did two great sports parodies on “Weekend Update” the other night, one with Russian villagewoman, “Olya Povlatsky.” “So Olya, are your surprised the Olympics are coming to Russia?” “I surprised anyone would come to Russia…What was the other options, Haiti or middle of ocean?” The other had Kenan Thompson playing the Miami police officer who arrested Justin Bieber for drinking and drag racing. “You must have been shocked to pull someone over and discover it was Justin Bieber.” “Oh Cecily, I work in Miami. Nothin’ shocks me. When I pull somebody over, they usually got a tiger in the back seat, and an alligator in the trunk to guard their cocaine. It’s the only city where NBA players are the best behaved people.”

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High Five! Jellyfish, Johnny Football, and Jerseys That Fit

Welcome back, fans, to my slightly belated Labor Day week edition of High Five—five sports stories you should know for the office, the offspring, and the other half…

1) Don’t Mess with Swimmin’ Women
Through countless currents, storms, sharks, and jellyfish stings to her tongue, 64-year-old endurance swimmer Diana Nyad finally succeeded in becoming the first person (not “woman” — person) to swim from Cuba to Florida without a protective shark cage. The 103-mile journey took 53 hours and a 35-person team to keep critters clear before she set foot in Key West on her fifth try in 35 years. Kinda makes my laps at the community pool seem pretty pitiful…

Tiny dog sold separately.

Tiny dog sold separately.

2) Fan Fashion That Fits
With fan clubs like WOW Women of Washington Redskins and the Baltimore Ravens PURPLE women’s club, there’s never been a better time to be a female football fan—including what we wear. It was fun in high school to sport your boyfriend’s football jersey, but being Mature Grown-Up Gals now, we like our fan fashion to fit. Luckily, the NFL has heard us. Gone are the days of boxy, unflattering jerseys—now Target sells gridiron gear for girls: shirts that are sporty and even sexy. But before you accessorize, remember that model won’t pass muster with the NFL’s “All-Clear” bag policy.    

3) Texas Two-Step Continues
After weeks of uncertainty around his partying and alleged autograph sales, can we finally focus on Texas A&M quarterback “Johnny Football” Manziel’s arm? Maybe. The sophomore served his one-half-game suspension in a 52-31 defeat of Rice Saturday. It was an agreement between the Aggies and the NCAA (which becomes more dubious by the day for seemingly unfair policies, as in my previous posts about player images in video games and the Marine who can’t gain football eligibility). But despite throwing for three touchdowns, Manziel was benched after an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Man up, Manziel—the “eyes of Texas are upon you.”

4) Tennis’ Teen Queen
There were no major upsets in the first week of college football, but the U.S. Open saw several, including 17-year-old Haitian-American Victoria Duval—269th in the world—over 2011 champion Samantha Stosur. Unfortunately, Duval, who is coached by longtime prodigy-producer Nick Bollettieri, lost to Daniela Hantuchova in straight sets. Still, the teen relies on God and the inspiration from her father’s near-death experience during the Haitian earthquake as she strives to be the next U.S. tennis sensation. Meanwhile, Roger Federer—owner of 17 Grand Slam titles—fell Monday in the round of 16 to Spain’s Tommy Robredo.

5) Finally, here are two guys so nervous about upsets, they’ve choreographed a pre-game dance to avoid them. Check out the San Francisco Giants’ Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence performing their popular superstitious salsa below.

Go Me, It’s My Birthday…

OK, it’s not, but wow it feels like it. This week we have the Super Bowl, dating bombshells, reptiles, temper tantrums, murder, Beyonce, bear hugs, flying tomatoes, and more. Read on… (And for a quick review on the philosophy behind this blog, click here.)

donkey free stock photo.biz

Cheesed off?

Donkey Cheese
The Australian Open concluded this weekend with Belarus’ Victoria Azarenka beating China’s Li Na, and Serbia’s Novak Djokovic defeating Great Britain’s Andy Murray. Djokovic is the first male to win three Aussie titles in a row. The win is great for his “Novak Café” chain, for which Djokovic recently purchased a large part of Serbia’s donkey milk to make, yes, a cherished cheese known as pule. Sorry, McDonald’s.

But the women provided the real drama (yeah, women, drama, ha ha). Serena Williams was predicted to win the Open, but disintegrated (demolishing her racquet Jimi Hendrix-style) against another rising African-American star, Sloane Stephens, 19. Stephens later lost to Azarenka, whose 10-minute injury timeout was jeered as fake. Fair or foul? You decide.

Super Storylines
Out of hundreds, here are just a few Super Bowl headlines you should know:

BALTIMORE: Fans mostly cheer linebacker Ray Lewis (#52—he does the big dance before each game). But you’ll also hear “controversy” and, well, “fatal stabbings.” In 2000, Lewis was allegedly involved in an unsolved double homicide during an Atlanta nightclub fight. He was acquitted after a plea agreement, but his role remains a mystery. He is retiring after this season, and victims’ families take comfort in that.*

On a lighter note, watch for offensive tackle Michael Oher (#74, he’s a big boy), of “The Blind Side.” Oher grew up on the harder side of my hometown, Memphis, but was adopted by the Tuohy family, who ensured his education at Briarcrest Christian School (my volleyball nemesis!) and Ole Miss. Sandra Bullock received the Best Actress Oscar for her role as mom Leigh Anne.

Not Sammy, but you get the idea...

Not Sammy, but you get the idea…

SAN FRANCISCO: Quarterback Colin Kaepernick (#7) ranks third in the NFL (32 teams) in “quarterback rating” (QBR), a subjective but important measure from 1-100 based on factors like completions, mistakes, and general contributions to a win.

His 76.8 is only behind the two best QBs (who just missed the Super Bowl–Peyton Manning and Tom Brady). Kaepernick took over for injured starter Alex Smith, then set the NFL QB record for most rushing yards (181) in his first playoff game. Maybe it’s from lifting “Sammy,” the tortoise Kaepernick got at age 10—and is now 115 pounds.

Gridiron Guidance
Even experts struggle to follow 22 people on the football field. Here are two easy tips:

cheerleader

2-4-6-8…Wait, who are we playing again?

Who’s Who? When I was a peewee cheerleader, a coach offered this advice after we encouraged the defense to “do it again, first and ten!” Simply, the team huddling farther from the ball is the offense. They make their plan while the defense just has to wait and see. This is especially helpful if you leave the room and need to know who has the ball.

Offside: One frequent football penalty is “offside”—basically, when a player on either team crosses the line of scrimmage before the ball is snapped. The ref will signal by placing his hands on his hips like a ticked-off teacher. Similar penalties are “encroachment,” “false start,” and “illegal motion.” We won’t get into those nuances, just look for the guy who jumps too soon.

Curves Ahead? Danica Dating
Aside from Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf’s post-tennis marriage, this one may be a sports first. NASCAR driving diva Danica Patrick, 30,  has confirmed she is dating JR Motorsports teammate and competitor (NASCAR is schizophrenic that way) Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.

The news has jump-started (sorry) Danica’s career, which struggled last year, though she was voted “Most Popular Driver.” Her November divorce from Paul Hospenthal is pending; Stenhouse is 25, the 2012 NASCAR Nationwide Series champion, and adorable.

NASCAR Notes: NASCAR is rooted in the souped-up Prohibition “rum runner” cars moonshiners used to outrun the law…NASCAR stands for National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing…NASCAR has some 75 million fans, nearly 1/3 of America…The first 2013 race, the Daytona 500, is Feb. 24.

Tiger on the Prowl?
Maybe as big as “RickDan” (not my acronym, and I’m glad) is the rumor of “TigVonn”–golfer Tiger Woods dating champion U.S. skier Lindsey Vonn (back on the slopes and winning after a debilitating bacterial illness). Both deny it, of course, but word is they have been together since November. Both are divorced, Vonn from skier Thomas Vonn and Woods from wife Elin Nordegren after he reportedly cheated on her with more than a dozen women. And she reportedly took a golf club to his SUV more than a dozen times.

Then again, other sources (well, the Enquirer) say the whole Vonn thing is false, to win Elin back. Maybe Tiger should talk to Manti Te’o.

Say Their Name, Say Their Name
SPOILER ALERT!!! We’ve known for some time that Beyonce will perform the Super Bowl halftime show. Now it seems she won’t be alone. After opening with “Crazy in Love,” she is expected to be joined by fellow Destiny’s Child members Kelly Rowland and…the other one.* Those who have stood by Beyonce will be thrilled (as long as there is no lip-syncing); those politicians who stood behind her at inauguration will wish they could again.

Nuke Laloosh

“Bull Durham’s” Nuke Laloosh was not the best interviewee.

Grammar Gaffes
OK, every week I hear this one from athletes and commentators–male, female, white, black, purple, rich, poor, and it DRIVES ME BATSH*T CRAZY! And it is: “Was” vs. “Were.” As in, “We was so excited to win!”

Come on people, you know better. Most athletes/commentators attended college, at least for awhile, and Lord knows there is enough controversy over college athletics already, so just try a little. Was is singular past tense, for one person: “I was at the game today.” “DWade was shooting the lights out.” Were is plural past tense. “We were cheering for the Nationals!” (Because who wouldn’t?) “They were sitting in our seats.” OK? OK.

I Love You, Man!
After eighth-grader Owen Groesser’s hoops performance last week despite his Down syndrome, I didn’t think I could be more touched. But then Miami Heat fan Michael Drysch hit a $75,000 half-court shot and was literally tackled by Heat star Lebron James in a massive bear hug. No bodyguards, no agents, just full-on athlete adoration.

And that’s why I write this blog—for the triumphs and trials not just of the players, but of the everyday fan, the armchair quarterback, the wild-for-the-Minnesota-Wild wife. It’s not the stats, it’s the stories that weave sports into the American fabric. I hope to continue to show you here day after day.

Final Buzzer

  • 6-8 Baylor women’s basketball center Britney Griner set two records this week, dunks—yes, dunks (11) and career blocks (665).
  • Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o admitted to Katie Couric that he knew Facebook girlfriend Lennay Kekua didn’t exist, but continued the ruse to protect his reputation and family.
  • Extreme sports megastar Shaun “The Flying Tomato” White struggled in the Winter X Games, placing fifth in the highly hyped Snowboard Slopestyle battle with Canadian rival Mark McMorris, who won. But White finished on top with a “six-peat” gold in the Snowboard Superpipe.
  • Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo is out for the season with a torn ACL.
  • A number of top men’s hoops teams fell this week, including Louisville, Syracuse, and Duke in a staggering surprise loss to Miami, 90-63.
  • New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton has been reinstated after the “bounty” scandal in which coaches and players were implicated for accepting money in exchange for intentionally injuring opposing players.

Coming soon this week: Someone’s in the kitchen with Super Bowl recipes…(not me, thank goodness!)

*Washington Post, Jan. 24, Ray Lewis’ Ties to Atlanta Murders Now a Footnote, But One Victim’s Family Still Struggles to Cope

*93.9 WKYS Washington, DC