Greetings from the Hoodwood, where we honor one of our own. Though we never met, he was an inspiration to the sports writers and broadcasters alike.
NFL: Not so wild weekend
The first weekend of the NFL playoffs were not the usual wild upset filled weekend that everyone has become accustomed to. The three games were kind of boring. The woeful Panthers tried every which way to lose their home playoff game to the rudderless Cards but in the end the Panthers got a 27-16 win that sends them to a Saturday Night execution in Seattle. It was a sad coda for a team that won 11 games and for a time was looking like one of the preeminent teams of not only the NFC but the NFL, but after losing a bevy of quarterback and Ryan Lindley proving in spades why he wasnt an NFL caliber quarteback at all the Cards were a shell of the great team that had dreams of being the first team to play as a true home team in the Super Bowl
The Saturday nightcap looked like it would be a true grudge match, the Steelers hosted their bitter divisional rival the Ravens and a slugfest was expected. But without the dynamic running of LeVeon Bell the Steelers looked flat and uninspired. The Ravens never looked like that they were in any danger and a rowdy Heinz Field crowd sat mostly in stony silence as the Ravens dominated a 30-17 win from start to finish. The Ravens now head to Foxboro where they have had more success in recent memory. The Pats have been resting for two weeks having had clinched the #1 before Christmas. The Steelers having been so haughty just ten days ago and harboring dreams of their 7th title were sent home rather rudely
The Sunday game featured two teams that are the closest in the AFC, at 112 miles between Paul Brown Stadium and Lucas Oil Stadium both teams are so close yet so far away. The AFC South Champ Colts are ascending and with the dynamic Andrew Luck and dominant in their division. While the Bengals continue a stagnant pattern, decent in the regular season and having qualified for their fourth straight playoff appearance and like the three before it, a lifeless playoff effort. The Bengals have yet to lead in the 2nd half of any of their playoff games and the Bengals Andy Dalton remains an enigma. The Colts led most of the way in the 26-10 win and head to Denver where Luck's p[redecssor Peyton Manning waits as only the 2nd QB to face the team he led to a title in the playoffs. Now the questions begin anew in Cincy, after 100 wins and 6 playoff apperances in the last decade is Marvin Lewis on the way out? Is he the right man to finally break the Bengals 25 year playoff jinx.The natives are restless and the spectre of the dark years of 1991-2002 hangs over this franchise.
The weekend nightcap looked to be another boring game as the Lions jumped on the Pokes and led 14-0, I was all ready to write another sad chapter in the litany of playoff failures by Romo, Garrett and the star crossed Pokes. But a funny thing happened, the Cowboys hung tough and rallied aided by a curious non call pass interference call or rather a call that was made and picked up that short circuited a Lions drive. To Romo's credit he did lead the Pokes on a late drive capped by a touchdown strike to Terrance Willams to give them the lead and the win. The Pokes head to the frozen tundra of Lambeau to face a Packers squad that has yet to lose at home and a defense that has to solve the riddle of Aaron Rodgers who has yet to make a turnover at home. To their credit the Pokes have yet to lose on the road...something has to give
Thoughts on Stuart
I remember when ESPN2 started in the early 90 and they had Sportsnight, Trying desperately to seem hip and cutting edge, It was almost painful to watch Keith Olbermann try to be overly cool. Suzy Kolber was always easy on the eyes but she looked dumb reporting on sports that ESPN stopped showing in the early 80s with slo pitch softball and log splitting. The real star was Stuart Scott one of the few black anchor/reporters who looked and sounded like me. Now no dis to John Saunders who I admired (and still do) but Scott knew the hip hop lingo and sounded like he did, He reported the scores and highlights like the dudes at the barbershop did. But Scott was more than a hip linguist, he knew the sports and oozed a cool mannerism that was edgy yet disarming and magnetic. Scott became a favorite anchor of mine on ESPN and though I detested his often smug pompuous partner on Sportscenter the preening Rich Eisen I tolerated him to hear the catchphrases Scott said like "Having a block party with Pookie, Ray-Ray some Funkadelic on the 8 track" or The Lawd said you have to rise up-ah" or everyones favorite "Cool as the other side of the pillow" Scott was like me a father to two daughters and was very poignant in his acceptance speech of the Jimmy V Espy for perserverance after having battled cancer on numerous occasions. He dedicated his fight to them and was eloquent in doing so. Scott lost his fight with cancer on Sunday and the sports broadcasting world mourned his passing. You might not like ESPN but you had to give Scott his credit for making sports a little more cooler and urban and urbane.
Give me 8 hours and Ill put the rest of the column in here...check back for it...seriously.
College Football: Is this the end for the SEC? I find it ironic that it started with Urb and he may have started the end of it as well. The SEC for the past ten years has been the preeminent if not dominant entity in college football. Start with Meyer’s Florida teams, add Alabama and LSU in the mix with a splash of Auburn and you’ve had a nearly unbroken stream of SEC teams dominating the college championships. Many shrugged off the Florida State win over Auburn in last years title game as a magical team at the right time catching an SEC team that was good but extremely lucky to be that far. But this year…the silence is deafening. Meyer’s Florida team put a whooping on Ohio State and in an ironic twist. Meyer led Ohio State to a thrilling shootout win against Alabama, long consider the bully of the bullies in the SEC. The odds were stacked high against a good but not great Ohio State team. I considered their teams from the past two years better. Starting a 3rd string QB in the capable but wholly untested Cardale Jones, the Bucks rolled up 537 yards on the Tide defense. Hold up 537 yards? On BAMA??? Yes, now Ive seen the Bucks offense twice in person. Once, in Columbus where they ran roughshod on my poor beloved Bearcats and in the Big Easy on New Years Night. I’m no Buck honk in anyway, but I was trying to tell my friends I was at the game with that the Bucks play high speed like an SEC team with Big Ten (plus four) brute power. They sat mouths agape as the Bucks rallied again and again, taking the Tides best punch and bouncing back with clutch scores. The 42-35 thriller sent the Bucks to North Texas where they will face Oregon who humiliated defending national Champ Florida State in a brutal 59-20 slaughter that was close for about 2 ˝ quarters then got completely housed as the Ducks took advantage of every Seminole miscue to score the last 34 points of the game. Let that sink in …34 straight points in less than 25 minutes of game clock time. But back to the SEC, the other teams in the conference got housed badly. TCU angry about being left out of the national title picture, thrashed Ole Miss as the top 5 teams were blanked. Auburn, Mississippi State, LSU also took losses. You have to drill down to Georgia neophyte SEC members Mizzou and Texas A&M to find bowl wins
To Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, Craig Biggio and John Smoltz, the newest members of the Baseball Hall of Fame. No questions on the creds of these four. These are my generations great players with no taint.
To the Oregon players that chanted No Means No in the waning moments of the Ducks semifinal rout of Florida State. Obviously directed to Jameis Winston, that was pure bad taste. And additional slap goes to the chowder head that keyed some of the Noles players cars in Tallahassee. The Noles had their 29 game win streak shattered they didn’t need that as well.
If Atlanta is so fo real, why are they not drawing and rumors have them moving to Seattle
Jameis better get used to having his head kicked in…hes gonna experience that a lot in Tampa or Nashville next year
The Winter Classic…in balmy DC, is this something that should always be in an arctic venue?
If Marvin Lewis gets fired, he wont be unemployed long
Was it me or was it kinda weird to see Jim Harbaugh on the sidelines calm in Pittsburgh with the Ravens
Luck and Whitten both are hosting Wild Card round games...
Greetings from the Hoodwood where the locals are looking at the New Year with a lot of questions and not enough answers.
Well here we are again another year just about done. Most people are looking back at the previous year, me I’m looking forward. I can at least say a few things that I have accomplished.
I lived in the same address and had the same job for the entire calendar year for the first time in my life.
I had a daughter that graduated from high school and started college.
I finally got my production company off the ground, Its not far off the ground but its moving
So those are a few things I can look back at 2014 and be happy about.
NFL: The chosen 12
Well now the fun begins, the fakers and jakers have been excused from the room…Im not really sure how to explain Carolina in this though, but the 7-8-1 Panthers are hosting the Cardinals Saturday afternoon. The Panthers are the 2nd sub .500 playoff team hosting a playoff game and there are many pundits that think that they could win. All four games are playoff rematches, though the Bengals and Colts met before in the playoffs…in 1970…in Baltimore. These are my favorite games, though I find a degree of fascination with all the matchups. Of the eight teams playing this weekend only the two Cat teams the Bengals and Panthers were in the postseason last year.
NFL: Axes falling and a real shock hire
It was Black Monday…wait its always Black Monday every Monday for your humble scribe but I digress. The firings came swift and fast. Rex Ryan got the ax so fast he was in Orlando cheering his son on in the Russell Athletic Bowl that night. His grins and jeers got old fast and his GM John Idzik got the ax as well. Marc Trestman had been the chic name for years to become an NFL coach after being an offensive coordinator for various NFL teams and a head coach in Canada but his alleged offensive wizardry didn’t translate to the NFL. Trestman and recalcitraint QB Jay Cutler never got on the same page and despite having an embarrassment of riches on the offensive end, the Bears never got rolling. The slight surprise was in Atlanta where the Falcons fired the winningest coach in Falcons history. Though the Falcons started out with 5 straight winning seasons under Smith’s stewardship, they went 10-22 in his last 2 seasons including a 6-10 season punctuated by an embarrassing home blowout to the Panthers. The other NFL coaching release was a bit of a shock as Jim Harbaugh was let go by the 49ers, after 4 tumultous years and to no ones real shock (other than those at Ohio State) Harbaugh heads to Ann Arbor to coach the team that he quarterbacked in the mid 80s back to prominence.
College Football: The final four gear up
Well after a month of speculation the big games on New Years are on tap. The shootout between the past two Heisman winners in Florida State and Oregon at the Rose Bowl looks to be the first of a pair of entertaining semifinals. The nightcap will be a grudge match of sorts, you can already hear the SEC and Big Ten (plus four) honks gearing up for the posturing with their alpha dogs Alabama and Ohio State set for battle in the Sugar Bowl. The word here in Hoodwood, the opener will be a last team to score wins it. Oregon will have the guns to match Famous Jameis (in what could be his last college football game) the Noles like to fall behind and make a dramatic rally. But I think that the Ducks will put up too many points and will claim a high scoring win. In the nightcap, I think that Bama’s defense will stop the Bucks rugged running game and force Cardale Jones to beat them in only his 2nd collegiate start. I don’t think Jones can shoot the moon twice. I have Bama and Oregon moving on to the final and forcing my mom’s neighbors (He’s a Florida State fan, she’s a huge Buck booster) to be peaceable and not fuss about the matchup that never happened.
To me…The Bandits won the 2014 GMFL Championship, their 5 title in the last 11 years. Hey, I haven’t hoisted a trophy in four years. I deserve the dap.
NDomakung Suh…you would think that he would know better but stomping on Aaron Rodgers ankle? That move got him thrown out of the game and suspended for the Wild Card round game against the Cowboys, the Lions need all hands on deck to beat the Pokes. Suh is a talented player but he makes such stupid mistakes emotionally
Wait, Clemson just scored again on Oklahoma…Sooners getting boomed on
Is David Blatt keeping the seat warm for John Calipari
I hate the UK Wildcats but they might be the best team in the country and its not even close
I jinxed the Warriors, they lost 2 of 3 since I hyped them.
The less you say about that farce of a bowl game my Bearcats played the better off you’ll be
Two of the nations heartwarming sports stories, Lauren Hill of Mount St. Joes and Leah Still are both close to the Hoodwood, in Cincinnati. The support that this area has had supporting them both is heartwarming.
For the second time in a week, the Celtics face off with the Orlando Magic. But this time around, the Celtics ended up on the wrong side of the final score, losing 105-100.
While that score may suggest to you that the Celtics fell in a close game, don't let it fool you to the reality of what unfolded in the game.
The Celtics got pasted throughout most of the game. The first quarter saw the Magic up 26-9. At halftime, the deficit was 23 points at 53-30. In the second half, Boston trailed by as many as 27 points.
And then came a huge rally. They outscored Orlando 35-15 in the fourth quarter but despite what was I'm sure a pyrotechnic offensive explosion, it was once again a case of too little, too late. The Celtics find themselves at 10-16.
The loss is disappointing enough, but when you factor in that the Celtics have won 12 out of the previous 13 games against Orlando, it is downright depressing that Boston can't even beat other bad teams now.
Tyler Zeller (pictured below) led the team with his second straight 22 point performance. He added 10 rebounds for a double double.
Avery Bradley (see below) added 20 points and Kelly Olynyk had 14 points (another bad shooting night at 5-12 though) and 8 rebounds.
Brandon Bass scored 11 points and newly acquired point guard Jameer Nelson (see below) scored 9 points with 11 assists.
These kind of games are really tough to take and become more and more disheartening as the losses pile up.
HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL
ORR Boys Varsity - The Bulldogs remained undefeated by virtue of their 84-58 demolition of GNB Voc-Tech last night. Raekwon did not score in the game.
Wareham Boys Varsity - The Vikings beat Fairhaven 56-42 last night to raise their record to 3-1 (2-0 in conference play). I also learned that I have another former player on the team besides Josh (who didn't score in the game). Mark ended up with 2 points in the box score.
It should be an interesting clash when both of the above listed teams clash on Saturday December 27th at ORR. Wareham has ruled the conference for almost a decade outright or via shared conference crown. But ORR might just have their best team ever and is blowing out teams. I'm going to the girls varsity game scheduled to tip off before the boys varsity game, so I might end up staying for this one.
Bristol-Plymouth Girls Varsity - Savahna told me she did okay in the game, but her team lost 44-27 to Holbrook and drops to 1-2 on the season.
Upper Cape Girls Varsity - The Rams moved to 4-0 with their 45-39 defeat of Old Colony last night. According to the newspaper account of the game, they had a better shot selection and turned up their pressure defense. Michaela had a season high 10 points in the game.
Wareham Girls Varsity - The Vikings picked up their first win of the season by beating Fairhaven 36-29. Tieyanna had 5 points in the game while Kali added 4 points. However, it was Gabby who, for the first time, led the team in scoring. She hit four three pointers and finished with 13 points. I'm hoping that this is a sign that she is finding her footing on the varsity team.
Sturgis East Girls Varsity - The Storm lost their 2nd straight game to open the season. Nantucket crushed them 46-25. Isabella didn't score in the game, but the newspaper published photos from this game in their Tuesday edition and online. She was featured (in white uniform) in the large above/below the fold photo on the front page of the sports section and in the background of one of the photos in the online gallery.
You know, sometimes it almost isn't worth turning on the TV for sports on the weekend.
A couple weeks back, I was overjoyed to see that all five teams I root for in college basketball won on the same day. Throw in the Celtics winning and it was simply a great day to be a hoop fan.
Such is not the case for yesterday. If it wasn't for the Patriots beating the Jets in brutal squeaker, it would've been a Sunday Sports Day from Hell.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
When I say that the Patriots beat the Jets, I should be clear that I mean on the scoreboard. Because if you watched the game or looked at the boxscore after it was over, you would've sworn the Jets had basically kicked the Pats butts all over the field.
The Jets outgained New England 307-231 and racked up 4 sacks (see below) and an interception on a mostly pedestrian day for Pats QB Tom Brady.
Brady did throw a TD pass to Rob Gronkowski, but his 182 passing yards showed that when he wasn't being pressured or just wiped out by the Jets defenders, he wasn't able to really get in sync for very long with his receivers. Of course the run game didn't do much to help things out either, they ran for a total of 85 yards on the ground. While Jonas Gray (pictured below with Gronk) did run for a TD, the offense was in fits and starts for the entirety of the game.
So the Jets offense rolled up more yards than did the Patriots offense. Unfortunately for the Jets however, they weren't going up against the Pats offense, but rather their defense.
While the yardage total was decidedly in New York's favor, the Patriots defense spread those yards out enough that the Jets had to settle for 3 field goals and a TD pass. Otherwise, while it wasn't pretty, the Patriots managed to get the right stop at the right time.
Sealver Siliga and Dont'a Hightower sacked Geno Smith twice and Jamie Collins (see below) picked him off in the midst of one of the Jets drives.
Big Vince Wilfork ended up sealing the deal for the Patriots when he tipped the field goal attempt that would've given the Jets the lead late in the game. It deflected the ball enough that the attempt was short. Patriots win!
The win ensures that the Patriots will have a first round bye in the playoffs and leaves them at 12-3 on the season. I tell you these games against the Jets are always brutal knockdown drag-out battles. But the Patriots have won 4 out of the last 6 and this win probably seals the fate of the always quotable Rex Ryan in New York.
Now, as for the Lost Sunday of Hoops...not all my teams were in action but all four that did play lost and they did it in disappointing ways.
In game 2 of the post-Rondo era, the Celtics couldn't capitalize on many opportunities and saw the Miami Heat run away from them and win 100-84. Tyler Zeller led Boston with 22 points. But the recent hot streak for Kelly Olynyk came to an end. His shooting numbers were poor (5-13 FG%) and he finished with just 13 points.
Jeff Green (see below) also had 13 points. Newly installed point guard Marcus Smart had 3 points and 4 assists in his starting performance. That is simply not going to get the job done if the Celtics expect to realistically hand over the running of the team.
The Celtics are now 10-15 for the year.
Hartford - The Hawks headed into their holiday break at 5-7 after their 70-58 loss to Quinnipiac. Amber Bepko (pictured below) fouled out the game with 1:38 left to play. She left the court with 18 points and 7 boards and was the only Hawk to hit for double figures in the game.
Shanise Bultron and Cassidy Bundy (see below) had 8 points apiece while Deanna Mayza scored 7 points to go with 6 assists. Cherelle Moore scored just 5 points in the game while grabbing a team high 8 rebounds.
I don't know what it is with the Hawks, but they seem to be unable to find any long term sustained consistency.
You can see highlights and brief post game comments from coach Jennifer Rizzotti in the video below.
Boston College Men - The Eagles led USC by 4 points at halftime but couldn't keep up with the Trojans enough in the second half and ended up losing 75-71 to drop to 6-4 on the season. Their 20-8 edge in points off of turnovers ended up going for naught as well.
Aaron Brown (see below) finished with 18 points to lead BC.
Olivier Hanlan (see below 1st) scored 15 points and dished out 8 assists and Patrick Heckmann (see below 2nd, on defense) had 13 points.
Dennis Clifford had a solid night with 9 points and 9 rebounds.
Boston College Women - I have to say that I was pretty disheartened by the Eagles losing this game. Hofstra came into the game with a much better record, but I was hoping to see BC put on a better performance than a 75-61 loss that dropped BC to 6-5 for the year. Hofstra started the game on a 7-2 run and never looked back.
Nicole Boudreau (below 1st) scored 18 points to lead the Eagles. Kelly Hughes (below 2nd) added 17 points and 7 boards while Katie Quandt finished with 10 points.
While the play of Boudreau and Hughes was great to see, the biggest positive for the Eagles might've been the return of Shayra Brown. It was Brown's (see below) season debut. She's been out of action since injuring herself in last season's first game. (I was there at that game and saw the injury). She didn't make it back to play at all last year and had still been out of action for the first 10 games of this season. Here's hoping she brings a little more fire to the team when she's out on the court.
You can see highlights from the game and the post game press conference with coach Erik Johnson below.
I made the mistake of watching a few Boston Celtics games this past week (the wife was at school/clinical and there was no college football games during the week) and was absolutely disgusted by the effort put forth by Rajon Rondo. After eight years in the NBA, Rondo is in position for free agency this off-season. In the last four seasons Rondo--rather than entering his prime from age 25 to 28--instead had injury-plagued campaigns topped off by his missing almost all of last season.
Rondo has gone from one of the five best point guards in the NBA at age 23 in 2009-10 to a 25% three-point shooter, a poor shooter who does not get the basket with regularity and whose field goal percentage went from 50% down to 40%, and a liability at the end of games with his almost inconceivable 33% free throw percentage. Once a key cog on a championship-level team, he became the unmotivated, surly, and disinterested veteran on a rebuilding team.
The Celtics appeared to have pulled the trigger on a deal sending the mercurial point guard and last holdover from their World Championship team to Mark Cuban and the Dallas Mavericks. Boston is sending Rondo with former Stanford big man Dwight Powell who is on team #4 in his brief NBA career after being a second round draft pick in June. Unless you watch a lot of the Maine Red Claws in the D-League or remember watching Stanford upset Kansas and New Mexico to reach the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament, Powell has just been a throw-in to three deals in less than six months. He’s done more packing than he has playing.
Boston gets back future first-and-second-round draft picks from Dallas and three players that will likely be gone by the trading deadline in February with skinny no-power forward Brandan Wright, washed-up ten-year veteran point guard Jameer Nelson, and third-year swingman Jae Crowder. None of the three are expected to be key pieces in Boston, but they should have some value in acquiring more assets.
The deal makes a ton of sense for both teams:
The Mavericks are in the thick of the Western Conference playoff picture and on pace for 50 plus wins again. However, the point guard position has been a black hole as the team has had little to no production there so far this season with Nelson and Devin Harris sharing the job. Rondo suddenly goes from feeding a team full of misfits, mis-cast players and overmatched youngsters to a team with Chandler Parsons, Dirk Nowitzki, Tyson Chandler, and Monta Ellis begging for a point guard who can set them up for open shots.
Rondo may be a gambler on defense, but he can generate pressure on opposing point guards when he feels like it. He is an excellent rebounder for a point guard and will gladly pass up any shot to feed a teammate the ball. Rondo has always been knocked for not bringing his “A” game unless it is a “television” game. In Dallas every game is a big game in the ultra-competitive Western Conference and the way Cuban makes every home game a production of pure excess.
Rondo is the right player for the right team in Dallas. He needs them (showcase for free agency) and they need him (distributor to their many scoring options).
The Celtics simply needed to get rid of Rondo. He had wore out his welcome in Boston and was a bad fit for the rebuilding team. The draft picks are all that the Celtics are really going to get out of the trade. It was clear that general manager had no desire to re-sign Rondo after drafting Marcus Smart with the sixth overall pick in the last NBA Draft.
Wright, Nelson, and Crowder are fodder for the trade deadline since now they can be moved at the deadline since they will have been on the team for 60 days since the deal is being made now (It also allows Dallas to move Rondo if the deal blows up). The Celtics have little need for Brandan Wright with youngsters Tyler Zeller, Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk already learning on the job at power forward/center.
Jae Crowder has veterans Jeff Green and Brandon Bass ahead of him at forward and being showcased to be dealt at the deadline potentially as well. Jameer Nelson is just a salary to match-up for cap purposes in a future deal (unless he is kept as a mentor for rookie guards Marcus Smart and James Young). Nothing is part of the Celtics’ rebuilding plans other than draft picks to accumulate.
One theory for keeping Rondo around for the last year is that he had to get his knee healthy enough to be traded. That may be so, but he was also the only draw Boston had for a free agent or player agreeing to be traded to Boston. With Rondo to feed the ball to a superstar and enhance his scoring, it was the only miniscule reason for anyone to agree to come to Boston. Once Kevin Love (one of the few players who did not have Boston as an automatic “No”) decided to go for the sure thing (Cleveland with LeBron James), there basically was no reason to rebuild around Rondo.
The Celtics reportedly will get a trade exception for Rondo in this deal since they are trading Rondo for basically nothing in return. If that is the case, it can help with trade flexibility later this season in getting rid of some of their few remaining pieces. This roster is not yet finished being blown up by the Celtics and anyone with more than two years of experience in the NBA would be wise to be living out of their suitcase.
Trading Rajon Rondo is turning out to be a deal that benefits both teams: Dallas has a distributor with playoff experience and renewed motivation at point guard and Boston gets a few more chips to use to try to continue to remake the roster and build for a championship in the future.