Richard’s Weekly Sports Round-up
This past week, the sports world was out of control. There were scandals, signings, an NBA championship won and a Stanley Cup won. Who says the Summer sports months are boring? Actually, wait about one month and come back to me. If you spent your whole weekend on the beach and missed all the major events, then dive into my Weekly Sports Round-Up. I look back on last week’s Top Ten sports happenings. Also, I look ahead to the future. No crystal ball is involved. After reading my Round-Up, it will be easy to impress spouses, siblings, parents and co-workers. As well, don’t forget my weekly column every Thursday.
10. English soccer club Manchester United accepted Real Madrid’s bid for the extremely-gifted Cristiano Ronaldo. It was rumored that the $131 million bid and contract negotiations for the Portuguese winger were already settled upon back in early April. United will use the money to pay off its estimated $1 billion in debt. Real Madrid is no stranger to pricey signings. Brazilian forward Kaka was recently signed from AC Milan for an estimated $92 million. In 2001, Madrid acquired French superstar Zinedine Zidane for $65 million. The signing makes Cristiano Ronaldo the most expensive soccer player ever. The 24-year-old has already been named FIFA World Player of the Year in 2008. Coaches and players have said that Ronaldo has yet to reach his prime. My Take: Ronaldo has the most fearsome free kick in the game. Combined with his quickness and speed, he is constantly double and triple-teamed. The world was able to view some of his brilliance in the Champions League final against Barcelona three weeks ago. His former team United lost, but it was evident that Ronaldo was one of the best players on the field. Look for Cristiano Ronaldo to show off his talents in next year’s FIFA World Cup in South Africa.
9. Former Jacksonville Jaguar Matt Jones’ name was brought up in Dallas earlier this week. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has numerously denied adding the former Arkansas Razorback quarterback to his roster. For one, the Cowboys are lacking in the wide receiver department. Patrick Crayton has practically locked up the No. 1 wide receiver position. Roy Williams, acquired from the Detroit Lions last season, should claim the No. 2 role. Unproven receivers Miles Austin and Sam Hurd will battle for playing time. Last year, Matt Jones recorded his best NFL season in 12 games with 65 receptions for 761 yards and 2 touchdown catches. Interestingly, in 16 games, Crayton, going into his sixth season, made 39 catches for 550 receiving yards and 4 touchdowns. But, he was playing alongside Terrell Owens. My Take: Jerry Jones has given Pacman Jones and Tank Johnson opportunities to prove themselves. Jones wouldn’t be a first for the Cowboys. Out of the Jaguar receivers who were released (Jones, Jerry Porter and Reggie Williams), Jones has the best opportunity of making an NFL roster. I can’t say for sure that Tony Romo will get Jones the ball, but Jones can catch the ball in the slot and shy away from contact. Jones won’t take catches away from Romo’s favorite target, tight end Jason Witten.
8. Tim Floyd resigned Tuesday as the men’s basketball coach at the University of Southern California. He sent a letter to USC athletic director Mike Garrett announcing he was quitting. As the primary motive for resigning, Floyd stated he no longer has enthusiasm for the job. A month ago, allegations surfaced that Floyd gave $1,000 in cash to someone to get former USC one-and-done star O.J. Mayo to play for the USC Trojans. Other allegations are that gifts and money were passed along to Mayo through a sports agency representative. In four seasons at USC, Floyd was 85-50 overall with three trips to the NCAA Tournament. Prior to arriving at USC, Floyd coached the NBA’s Chicago Bulls and New Orleans Hornets. The 2008-09 season was O.J. Mayo’s first NBA season with the Memphis Grizzlies while starting all 82 games and averaging 18.5 points per game. He was runner-up to Chicago Bull point guard Derrick Rose for the NBA Rookie of the Year award. My Take: Tim Floyd is not a first-rate basketball coach. Few people remember, but the 55-year-old was the primary reason the Chicago Bulls suffered during his four years as head coach. Granted the championship team was broken apart; however, Floyd had multiple verbal arguments with upper management and players from 1998-2001. He should avoid college basketball for awhile. He can stay out of the public eye and maybe coach high school ball. When enough time passes, Floyd can make his way back into the college ranks as an assistant. But, it will take three or four years for enough people to forget.
7. Former superstar quarterback Michael Vick was released by the Atlanta Falcons on Friday. The move was anticipated after owner Arthur Blank stated that Vick wouldn’t be welcomed back to the team. Vick spent 19 months in jail for a dogfighting conviction. Since his release from a federal penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas, he has been in home confinement in Hampton, Virginia. Vick’s release from federal custody is July 20. The Falcons’ attempts at trading Vick were obviously unsuccessful. Vick has another important date on July 2 when he has to tell a judge how he will pay off his debts. In April, the same judge discarded Vick’s initial repayment plan. No word on when or if NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will suspend Vick from playing in the NFL. My Take: Reports are that Michael Vick has stayed in excellent physical condition. Of course, NFL condition and man-on-the-street condition are not one in the same. When the NFL season begins, Vick will be 29, which is not young in football terms. But, it is complicated to overlook Vick’s last season in the NFL. He started 16 games in 2006 while throwing for 2,474 yards with 20 passing touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Vick ran for an NFL record for rushing yards by a quarterback with 1,039. Vick could be signed by a number of teams. Most likely, a team will sign Vick after Goodell makes his decision on whether to suspend him.
6. The University of Alabama has had 16 of their athletic teams placed on 3 years’ probation by the NCAA because of a free textbook scandal. Most notably, the Crimson Tide will vacate 21 football wins from 2005-07. The NCAA reported that a total of 201 athletes were involved in the scandal. Student-athletes used their scholarships to receive free textbooks for fellow students. The NCAA did not penalize any of the sports’ postseason play or eliminate scholarships. Also, the university has to pay a $43,900 fine. Five of the university’s 21 sports teams were not involved. Twenty-two athletes were recognized as offenders by the school. Seven were on the football team, and the remaining 15 were tennis players. My Take: I find it impossible to believe that these athletes weren’t keeping the money they made off the free textbooks. University President Robert Witt said, “…not one athlete pocketed $1.” That’s absurd. So, football players were doing this to make friends? Football players don’t have to make friends. They immediately have friends once they say, “I play football.” Alabama got off easy by not losing any scholarships. Boosters can pay the $43,900 fine with a snap of their fingers. This whole debacle is an unnoticeable scratch on head coach Nick Saban’s Rolls-Royce football program.
5. The Washington Nationals selected San Diego State pitcher Stephen Strasburg with the No. 1 overall pick in the MLB Draft on Tuesday night. Deemed the best prospect ever to go No. 1, Strasburg, a right-hander, went 13-1 this season with a 1.32 earned run average (ERA). He led Division I pitchers with 195 strikeouts. In addition to collegiate success, Strasburg was the only amateur to win a bronze medal with the U.S. Olympic team last summer in Beijing. Strasburg has already earned the nickname “The $50 Million Man” since his agent Scott Boras is attempting to sign him to an enormous rookie contract. My Take: It was a given Stephen Strasburg was going to be drafted No. 1 months ago. His No. 1 overall selection came as no surprise. The question now is whether the Nationals will sign him. Any club that doesn’t sign its draft choices before August 15 will lose the rights to the player. The Nationals need more talented players than solely Strasburg if the team wants to climb out of the cellar. The negotiations between the Nationals and Scott Boras will be more thrilling than a Nationals game. Citizens in and around the Washington, D.C., area are probably focused on the upcoming NFL season and the Washington Redskins.
4. College football is still more than two months away, and the 2010 NFL Draft is ten months from now. However, college football is in the air. On Thursday, Gil Brandt, NFL.com writer, released his top college senior quarterback prospects list. No shock to Gator fans, Jacksonville native Tim Tebow was No. 1 on the 12-quarterback list. Behind Tebow were Colt McCoy of Texas, Dan LeFevour of Central Michigan, Jarrett Brown of West Virginia and Tim Hiller of Western Michigan. Brandt, former Vice President of player personnel for the Dallas Cowboys for almost 30 years, reasoned that Tebow’s 67 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions in three seasons is why he’s at the top. Brandt believes Tebow and McCoy will be top-10 draft selections. At No. 11, Jacksonville native and Florida Atlantic quarterback Rusty Smith was recognized. My Take: Preseason lists and rankings always get the fans interested, so that’s why sportswriters do them. I believe there was a span of maybe 12 days where Tebow’s name wasn’t mentioned. I’m predicting that will be the longest streak of its kind. Either Tebow or McCoy will win the Heisman Trophy. Another Jacksonville native Rusty Smith is finally receiving national recognition. The Sandalwood graduate already holds five FAU football records: passing attempts, completions, yards, touchdowns and rushing, passing total yards.
3. The Pittsburgh Penguins shocked the Detroit Red Wings and their fans in Game 7 with a 2-1 win Friday night. The Penguins’ third Stanley Cup triumph (the other two were in 1991 and ’92) was aided by two goals from Max Talbot. The play of Penguin Marc-Andre Fleury was nothing short of impressive with 23 saves. His diving save of Niklas Lidstrom’s shot with one second left in the game sealed the deal. Superstar Sidney Crosby, 21, was the first Penguin to lift the Cup although he only played one shift after getting shaken up with a hit into the boards. Evgeni Malkin earned the Conn Smythe Trophy as the postseason Most Valuable Player. During the playoffs, Malkin contributed 36 points. The Red Wings almost tied the game at 2 when Niklas Kronwall’s shot, with less than 2:30 remaining, nailed the crossbar. My Take: I’ve been watching the Stanley Cup Finals for 13 years. Each year, I become more and more of a fan. But, I’ll never fully enjoy regular season NHL games. Fleury should receive loads of credit for that last-second save. More likely than not, the Red Wings would have stormed back for the win if that shot had slid past him. My prediction of the Red Wings’ winning was incorrect, but I don’t mind being wrong when there is a thrilling result. Expect Mario Lemieux’s club to bring the Cup home to Pittsburgh more than just this once.
2. Sources revealed last Monday that NASCAR driver Jeremy Mayfield tested positive for methamphetamine on May 1. Someone close to the case said court documents revealed Mayfield admitted to taking Claritin-D and Adderall XR before his drug test at Richmond International Speedway. Along with those two drugs, the urine test revealed the presence of a third drug. Mayfield took two doses of Claritin-D, an allergy medication, and was prescribed Adderall by a physician for his attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). NASCAR has not publicly released their list of banned substances. On May 29, a gag order was issued in Mecklenburg County Superior Court in North Carolina. Neither Mayfield nor NASCAR can comment on the drug test. “Meth” is a highly-addictive stimulant that makes the user highly alert. The drug releases dopamine, a compound associated with adrenaline. Meth is also commonly referred to as “speed.” My Take: Race car drivers should not be doing drugs, period. However, NASCAR needs to release their banned substance list so drivers and fans are in the know. If Mayfield, 40, is really taking meth, then he needs professional help, especially if he was putting his fellow drivers at risk. It’s unfair to call Mayfield a meth addict until the drug test results are officially released. It wouldn’t be overly strict if NASCAR tested before every race.
1. The Los Angeles Lakers closed the door on the Orlando Magic last night with a dominating 99-86 win to secure the NBA Finals. After the five-game series, Laker guard Kobe Bryant has now won 4 championships and head coach Phil Jackson has won 10. Bryant can silence all the critics who thought he couldn’t win a title without center Shaquille O’Neal. And, Jackson passes legendary Boston Celtic coach Red Auerbach for the record of most championships for a head coach. During the series, Bryant, the Finals MVP, averaged an astounding 32.4 points per game. The Magic could not get anything going. Magic center Dwight Howard only scored 11 points on 9 shots from the field. From behind the arc, Orlando went 8 of 27. Three-point land was an area in which the team relied on all postseason. After finishing runner-up to the Boston Celtics last year, the Lakers ended a 7-year NBA title drought with the team’s 15th championship. My Take: The Orlando Magic had their chances to win ball games. Eventually, Kobe Bryant’s experience and leadership helped tremendously. The comparisons between Michael Jordan and Bryant will continue to grow. I’m not a Kobe fan and maybe it’s because the NBA tries to shove him in our faces so often, but we understand that he’s a fantastic player! Going over the game statistics, I noticed that Bryant led his team in assists each night. My jaw dropped. A few years ago, I remember arguing how Bryant was not the NBA’s best player because he never passed the ball or even tried to get his teammates involved. In five years, Bryant has gone from ball hog to the best player in the game. Until LeBron James wins a title, there is no Kobe/LeBron debate.
5. The Jacksonville Suns play the Mobile BayBears at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville in a five-game series beginning Wednesday. Ticket prices start at $6.50. Suns games are reasonably-priced family fun. And, Thursday Night Throwdown is a party for the younger crowd.
4. ESPN The Magazine is attempting to compete with Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue. ESPN’s first “Body Issue” will be on newsstands October 19, 2009. The “Body Issue” will contain photos of amateur, Olympic and professional athletes in the nude with strategically-placed items. Those items will primarily consist of sports gear and equipment. ESPN is owned by The Walt Disney Corporation, which is family-oriented so showing too much skin will be out of the question. SI’s swimsuit edition has been a mainstay in its 36-year existence. Look for it to stay that way.
3. Starting in January of 2011, college football’s Rose Bowl will be aired on ESPN. The 2011 bowl season will be the first time all the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) games will be on cable. The agreement between ESPN and the Rose Bowl was announced Friday. With all the BCS games on cable, chances of a college football playoff are as farfetched as a major university not breaking NCAA rules in a season.
2. Father’s Day is this Sunday, June 21. You have less than six days to find a tie your father doesn’t already own. If he wants to watch the U.S. Open or play a round of golf this weekend, let him. It’s his day, and he deserves it. Before you forget, make your reservation for Dad’s favorite steakhouse.
1. The 2009 U.S. Open begins this Thursday at the Black course at Bethpage State Park in Farmingdale, New York. Defending U.S. Open champion Tiger Woods won the last Open played at Bethpage in 2002. Since that tournament, the course has been extended to 7,426 yards. Following his Memorial win two weeks ago, Woods is the obvious favorite. For the first two rounds, Woods is paired with British Open winner Padraig Harrington and 2007 U.S. Open winner Angel Cabrera.