Archive for July, 2011

WATERCOOLER CHAT: US WOMEN’S SOCCER IN FINALS, HARRISON INTERVIEW, ESPY’S

SOCCER

The U.S. Women’s Soccer team is heading to the World Cup finals after defeating France 3 – 1. With two goals around the 79-minute mark, the U.S. broke up the 1 – 1 tie. Hope Solo made 7 saves in the match. Now they will play Japan in the Finals.  On Sunday, the U.S. will hope to get the opportunity to pull off something they last did in the U.S. back in 1999 with Mia Hamm and company.

FOOTBALL

The hard-hitting James Harrison gave an interview to Men’s Journal that is now under everyone’s microscope. The Pittsburgh Steelers’ linebacker, insulted the Commissioner Roger Goodell saying he was a ‘devil,’ ‘dictator, and ‘puppet’ amongst other things. In the same interview, he made negative comments about his teammates Ben Roethlisberger and Rashard Mendenhall. Last year, Goodell fined Harrison $100,000 for illegal hits and comments throughout the season, and it looks as though that amount will rise.

 

Saturday Night Live’s Seth Meyers hosted ESPN’s big night of awards,.The ESPY’s handed top nods to Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks as the best male athlete, best NBA player, best coach/manager, and  best team in sports in the past year. Blake Griffin was honored as the breakthrough athlete of the year and Dewey Bozella was given the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage because he was sent to prison for a murder he did not commit and when he was released in 2009, went right back to fighting. And perhaps the biggest buzz from the night came from San Francisco Giants’ closer Brian Wilson with his full body spandex tuxedo outfit with high-tops and a cane.

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WATERCOOLER CHAT: NL WINS ALL STAR GAME, LOPEZ MAY HAVE TO PAY IRS FOR GIVING BACK BALL

BASEBALL

Monday night, the National League won the All Star Game 5-1. What does this mean? It means that the National League gets home field advantage in the World Series.   Prince Fielder hit a 3-run bomb to put the NL ahead and was given the honor of All-Star Game MVP.

The NL has now won two All Star Games in a row by holding the stacked AL lineups to just one earned run in the past two games. The sole run coming last night from an Adrian Gonzalez home run off of Cliff Lee. The game missed some of baseball’s biggest stars in Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Albert Pujols and Ryan Howard to name a few.

Christian Lopez passed on selling Derek Jeter’s 3000th hit, and gave it back to the Yankees. The Yankees then gave him season tickets and various signed memorabilia.  But, now the IRS may step in and make Lopez pay about $14,000 in taxes on what the Yankees gave him. If it is determined that the transaction was a trade agreement, then Lopez will have to pay taxes on the items received. The Yankees however, say that the memorabilia and tickets were a gift to Lopez for giving them the ball.

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WATERCOOLER CHAT: JETER MAKES HISTORY!!!! WOMEN’S WORLD CUP UNBELIEVABLE WIN FOR US, WORLD SERIES POKER

Derek Jeter made history this weekend. On Saturday against the Tampa Bay Rays with only two hits to go to get to the historic 3000, Jeter hit a dramatic home run to seal the deal. But that wasn’t it for Jeter, he ended up going 5 for 5 and even connected on the game-winning hit.  The stadium went crazy!  Jeter is the 28th member of the 3000 hit club and the only player to do it all for they Yankees.

In the women’s World Cup, the United States is ranked #1 in the world.  But as we’ve seen in other tournaments, that doesn’t guarantee a victory.  On Sunday they had a very tough match-up against Brazil, led by Marta, one of the best female players in the world.  The U.S. led 1-0 early because of an accidental goal by Brazil, but Brazil took a 2-1 lead in overtime, and it looked like the United States was headed home after a valiant effort… UNLESS they could somehow come up with a miracle goal in the last minute.  Not possible, right?  Especially in a sport like soccer where only 2 or 3 goals are typically scored per game.

Brazil made it even more difficult when one of their players, Erika, went down and pleaded for help.  This type of late-game move is typical when a team is trying to hold onto the lead and killing time and momentum.  Brazil brought out the stretcher crew and carefully lifted her onto the plank, thus killing precious game-time in the process.  Usually teams give up in moments like this.  Then, once they got off the field, Erika got up, and easily jogged to the sidelines.  What???!!!!  Time continued, and shortly after, that player came running back onto the field looking totally healthy.  It was just a shady, bogus move.  Well, in one last effort, the U.S. dribbled the ball down field, and their left-wing booted a prayer towards the goal.  Abby Wambach jumped up and bravely headed the ball perfectly into the net.  GOOOOOOOOOAAAAALLLLL!!!  Amazing.  Nobody saw that coming.  And with that, the score was tied at 2-2 and we were headed to penalty kicks.  This was the perfect opportunity for the best goalie of the World Cup, the United States’ Hope Solo, to show what she could do.  She let 2 go by, but blocked the 3rd one, and the crowd erupted!!!  Then, the U.S. hit their shots to seal the deal.  Just a phenomenal, never-say-die comeback from the United States. US 2, Brazil 2 — US wins in shootout.

And in poker, the World Series of Poker kicked off this weekend, and will bestow quite the cash award this year.  The pot of money is $8.71 million.  While most of that money goes to the top 8 players, the top 693 will still get about $19,000 each, which is a profit on their $10,000 entry.  However, there is a lot of controversy surrounding this year’s tournament because of the shut down of some of the biggest online poker gambling sites:  Full Tilt and Poker Stars.  Those companies used to sponsor some of the biggest celebrities in the game (e.g. Phil Ivey — the guy you always see playing with head phones on). But these stars aren’t there this year because they don’t want to answer questions about all the money that is currently frozen in online banks.  There is roughly $150 million in unpaid debts to players.  People made their livings playing online poker, but are unable to retrieve it right now. We’ll see what legislation is passed on the future of online poker.

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WATERCOOLER CHAT: TYSON CHANDLER UNRESTRICTED, HAFNER GRAND SLAM, COLLINS RETIRING

BASKETBALL

In the NBA, even though the players are locked out, there are still some off-season developments taking place.  While Dirk Nowitzki was clearly the star of the Dallas Mavericks playoff run, you can’t deny that they heavily benefited from the defensive inside presence of Tyson Chandler, whom they acquired at the beginning of the season.  Plus, Chandler had the role of really rallying the team in the locker room and on the court.  He was only a positive force. For the first time in his career, he is an unrestricted free agent and can sign with any team.  You can bet that there are a number of “great teams”, as Chandler says, looking for a player like him to push them over the edge.  The Bulls, Lakers, and Celtics come to mind instantly.  They could all use that type of tough player underneath to give them an edge.  We’ll see where he winds up.

BASEBALL

A phenomenal comeback from the Cleveland Indians.  They fell behind to the Toronto Blue Jays 4-1 and were seemingly out for the count.  But then, in the bottom of the ninth, their hero slugger Travis Hafner stepped up to the plate with three runners on.   Hafner is batting a career best .338 this season, and is possibly the last person the Blue Jays wanted to face in this situation.  They were right, because Hafner smacked a grand slam to give the Indians the lead they needed to win the game!  Wow! Imagine all the fans who left the ballpark early.  That’s why you stick around to the very end.  Cleveland 5, Toronto 4.

FOOTBALL

It’s the end of a storied career.  After 16 productive NFL seasons, quarterback Kerry Collins is finally retiring.  Collins was highly touted coming out of Penn State when he joined the then expansion franchise Carolina Panthers.  In just 2 seasons in existence, he led the Panthers to the NFC Championship.  Then, they parted ways for reasons behind the scenes.  That’s when he joined the New York Giants and led them to a Super Bowl, although they lost to the Baltimore Ravens, who some feel had the best defense of all time.  After that, the veteran headed to Oakland, where things didn’t work out, and then found himself as a back-up in Tennessee to Vince Young.  Nobody would have seen a Vince Young meltdown coming, and Collins got the starting duties.  In that season, he led the Titans to the best record in the AFC.  He was truly a reliable quarterback, but saw that the writing was on the wall when the Titans selected QB Jake Locker with their first pick.  With Young still there as a back up, Collins knew he wouldn’t be seeing playing time and just decided to hang up the spikes.  A great career for a very tough athlete.

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WATERCOOLER CHAT: JETER CLOSE TO 3000, JAIR JURRJENS BEST RECORD, STEROID DOC IN TROUBLE

BASEBALL

Derek Jeter continues to march towards his remarkable goal of 3,000 hits — a milestone only a very few special players reach.  Against the Indians, Jeter hit a clutch double to obtain his 2,997th hit.  He needs just 3 more to achieve his goal.  And, good news for Yankees fans, this puts Jeter in a position to get the big hit in front of Yankees fans when he returns to New York to take on the Tampa Bay Rays in a 4-game home stand.  On top of all this, the Yankees are still in great position to make the playoffs and make another run at a World Series.  But, despite all this, the Yanks lost yesterday’s battle to the Indians.  Cleveland 5, NY Yankees 3.

Elsewhere in baseball, the Atlanta Braves seem to have found themselves an ace pitcher.  Jair Jurrjens has quietly obtained the best record in the Naitonal League.  Going into yesterday’s game against the Colorado Rockies, he was 11-3, with a 1.87 ERA (and if you don’t know if that’s good or bad, let’s clarify — it’s very very good).  What Jurrjens has been so brilliant at is getting out of jams with runners on base.  He knows how to key up the big strike out when he needs to.  And now the Braves are giving him terrific run support, posting 9 runs in a shellacking of the Rockies.  The Braves are still 3 games behind the Philadelphia Phillies in the NL East, but there’s a very strong chance that they might nab the top spot before the post-season.  Atlanta 9, Colorado 1.

MISC

Finally, in some sports legal news, a doctor from Canada is in serious trouble.  Dr. Anthony Galea has admitted that he brought illegal drugs into the United States, primarily HGH (Human Growth Hormone).  But here’s the rub:  He was apparently sought out by some of the biggest names in sports and pocketed close to a million dollars in services.  It was known that he was treating Alex Rodriguez, but investigators say that his client rosters included stars from golfers, baseball players, and football players.  Galea probably will not face jail time, but he has agreed to cooperate with the investigators about naming his client roster as well as other business people he has worked with.  Clearly, the investigative team is after shutting down the entire operation of performance enhancing drugs.  Although… this will prove very difficult.

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WATERCOOLER CHAT: FANTASY DRAFT FORMAT FOR HR’S, JETER CLOSE TO MILESTONE, COACHING CHANGE FOR PACERS

BASEBALL

This year’s Home Run Derby has a different format.  Up to this point, the competition has featured the best sluggers in the game duking it out over different rounds all to see who can hit the most homers in the final match-up.  Now, they’ve adopted a new fantasy draft type format.  Each league (AL and NL) will have one representative pick the three sluggers he wants on his team.  Last year’s champ, Prince Fielder of the Brewers will represent the National League and David Ortiz will represent the American League.  Fielder has selected the Cardinals Matt Holliday, the Dodgers Matt Kemp, and the Brewers Rickie Weeks.  Fielder said he wanted someone from the hometown Arizona Diamondbacks, but had to play it safe in order to compete with a tough AL roster of David Ortiz, Adrian Gonzalez also of the Red Sox, the Blue Jays Jose Bautista and the Yankees Robinson Cano.  It should be an exciting contest.

With the All-Star game approaching, Yankees ace C.C. Sabathia isn’t feeling so great about being snubbed.  And when gigantic pitchers get mad, they tend to throw some mean pitches.  Against the Indians last night, Sabathia struck out 11 batters in seven shut-out innings.  It was truly a dominating performance, and gives him 12 wins on the year. And, in that same game, Derek Jeter got two clutch hits to bring him within just 4 hits of obtaining the 3,000 hits milestone.  This is a very difficult feat to accomplish, but it looks like Jeter will do just that in a few games.  Plus, the Yankees went on to crush the Indians.  New York Yankees 9, Cleveland 2.

BASKETBALL

And finally, a coaching change in the NBA.  Last year, the Pacers fired their head coach Jim O’Brien halfway through the season.  The Pacers hadn’t made the playoffs in 5 years, and the team just looked disjointed.  After releasing him, Frank Vogel, an assistant coach, took over for interim head coach.  Under his reign, the Pacers vastly improved, started to jell, made the playoffs, and even gave the #1 seed Chicago Bulls a real run for their money in the first round.  One of Vogel’s main changes was giving the former North Carolina star, Tyler Hansbrough, many more minutes.  And we got to see what he could do.  He can score and rebound like a mad man.  Former coach O’Brien sat Hansbrough most of the game, thinking he was too soft for the NBA, so you have to admire Vogel for recognizing such talent at the pro level.  Things are only getting better for the Pacers, especially after they nabbed Spurs point-guard George Hill in the off-season.

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WATERCOOLER CHAT: NOVAK WINS WIMBLEDON, MCCUTCHEN OUT OF ALL STAR GAME, HARPER NEXT SUPERSTAR

TENNIS

It was time for the typically classic Wimbledon Finals.  This year, it featured a fantastic match-up between the usually dominant Rafael Nadal and the up-and-comer Novak Djokovic. Now, one must realize that even though Nadal is accustomed to winning these big matches, Djokovic is the rising superstar.  He boasts a 48-1 record.  Yes, that’s right, he’s only lost one match, and that was to a man that most thought was unbeatable at the time:  Roger Federer.  So when it came time for the big match-up, Djokovic was ready.  It was a battle of course, but Djokovic just played harder and smarter tennis than Nadal.  He looked more nimble out there, and went on to win the Wimbledon Championship on Sunday.  Keep in mind that this came with a prize of $7.5 Million.  With the win, Novak Djokovic is now the man to fear in the tennis world.

BASEBALL

In baseball, with the All-Star selections in, there is a lot of outrage in the baseball community about the exclusion of one particular player:  the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Andrew McCutchen.  McCutchen is in the Top 10 in the National League in on-base percentage, walks, doubles, and even steals.  But… no all-star game for him?  Part of the problem is that the all-star games still has a voting mechanism — as voted on by the fans.  But the fans typically select the big name stars (e.g. Derek Jeter, who’s having a pretty bad year).  What’s odd is that the all-star game in baseball COUNTS.   The winning league gets home field advantage during the World Series!! That’s a big deal!!!  So why wouldn’t you put a stellar player like McCutchen on the team?  The consensus answer appears to be that nobody really cares.  Even though the all-star game “counts”, the players and seemingly even the league doesn’t really care.  After all, they have a myriad of pitchers during the game, instead of letting a superstar pitcher like Roy Halladay pitch 8 innings.  If the game matters, then why is it more for entertainment purposes nowadays?  It’s a bizarre paradox that baseball needs to address along with a bevy of other issues.

Finally, also in baseball, the fever surrounding 2010’s #1 draft pick Bryce Harper continues to heat up.  The Washington Nationals selected Harper with the expectation that he could be the next superstar in baseball (e.g. Albert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez, etc…).  In baseball, you don’t go to the majors right away — you have to prove yourself in the minor league system.  Harper, however, crushed pitches in the Single-A ball, much faster than the Nationals expected.  And now they are promoting him to Double-A.  For Nationals and overall baseball fans, this is very exciting!  It’s always good for a sport when a superstar seems to emerge.  His major league debut will pull huge ratings and his career could be both a big merchandising and marketing opportunity for the league.  We’ll see how Harper progresses.

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WATERCOOLER CHAT: NBA LOCKOUT, YANKEES 5TH STRAIGHT WIN

BASKETBALL

In the NBA, a day of doom.  Yesterday, the NBA lockout was declared official.  Why?  Basically because the players and the league couldn’t agree on any terms.  They couldn’t even come close.  There were talks leading up to this strike, with the Lakers’ Derek Fisher representing the face of the players.  But they simply couldn’t make peace on anything.  There are huge disputes on player salaries, rookie wages, revenue sharing, etc… Pretty much any issue that has been festering as a problem the last few years has come to a fever pitch.  This recent season was a fantastic for the league — just amazing basketball all around, but the league also lost a lot of money.  The Thunder’s Kevin Durant said that the players will fight for what’s right and will not give in… no matter how long it takes.

But before the lockout began, there was one last free agent move.  Perhaps the last one we’ll see for a while.  The Cleveland Cavaliers sent their athletic young big-man J.J. Hickson (only 22) to the Sacramento Kings in exchange for Israeli Omri Casspi.  Hickson was once projected to be a serious powerhouse at power forward in this league, and the Cavs believed he could become a key franchise component.  But his inconsistent play and questionable conditioning drove the coaches crazy.  When the Cavs drafted Texas big man Tristan Thompson with the 4th pick, there was a major crowd at the power forward position, and someone would have to go.  They chose Hickson to leave town and received another promising player in Casspi plus a draft pick.  This now gives the Kings a very good prospect to go along with a bunch of other budding young stars (Tyreke Evans, DeMarcus Cousins, and now… Jimmer Fredette).

BASEBALL

Some interleague play for the New York Yankees, which featured a marvelous night from Yankees star pitcher C.C. Sabathia.  He struck out a career high 13 batters and looked nothing short of dominant on the mound.  Also, Mark Teixeira hit a home run blast to left field, giving him his 300th career home run.  The Yankees easily cruised to a victory, which makes it 5 straight for the boys in pin stripe.  The Yanks have some serious competition at the top of the AL East with the Boston Red Sox, but lately, New York has looked phenomenal.  It will be interesting to see which team wants it more post the all-star break.  NY Yankees 5, Milwaukee 0.

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