Monthly Archives: December 2014

Harbaugh Set to Return to Michigan

By Savannah Malnar

University of Michigan has been a powerhouse in college football for ages, so when they fell to 5-7 this season it was a shock to everyone. The fans were upset. Both the Athletic Director, Dave Brandon, and head coach, Brady Hoke, were fired before the season even concluded. The situation interim AD, Kim Hackett, had to take over was abysmal. But what he reportedly managed to do has brought hope into the hearts of many Michigan fans.

According to reports on Monday, Hackett had successfully hired famed coach Jim Harbaugh to take over the head coaching job. Harbaugh boasts an impressive resume: he earned a record of 29-6 in the three years he spent at University of San Diego, he brought back the Stanford football program and coached Heisman candidates Andrew Luck and Toby Gerhart there, and then went on to take a pro coaching job in San Francisco and brought the 49ers to three NFC title games and one Super Bowl (loss), finishing his time with the team with a record of 44-19-1.

While Harbaugh’s numbers look impressive, he has a habit of almost burning out after a few seasons in whatever job he is occupied with. Most recently he ended the season with the 49ers 8-8. There is speculation as to whether he quit, or if he was fired; San Francisco’s management said it was “mutual.”

Whatever the case may be there, Harbaugh appears ready to return to the college game and hopefully revive the Michigan football program. The media is speculating he chose Michigan over other possible NFL jobs because it is his alma mater; he played quarterback there under the prominent coach Bo Schembechler.

Sport media members and Michigan fans in general are convinced Harbaugh is the key to turning their program into a threat once again. Eric Bakhtiari, who played for Harbaugh at both University of San Diego and the 49ers, said this about his coach: “He takes losers and makes them winners. It’s as simple as that.”

That’s something any fan would want to hear. According to the media and an anonymous source, Harbaugh is going to be introduced to the student body as head coach at the U of M basketball game on Tuesday. That game is now sold out and tickets for it have gone up six times the average price online.

I think Harbaugh will like being a Wolverine again.

Jones vs. Cormier: The fight is finally here

By Kaleb Page

Lost in the bowl mania, NFL playoffs and the new big hire by the University of Michigan is a fight that could be the biggest fight of the year for the UFC. This fight could be the biggest and it is only the beginning of their fight calendar.

Brewing for years now is the bad blood between UFC light heavyweight champion Jon “Bones” Jones and the rising challenger Daniel Cormier. Stemming as far back as 2010 these two started off on the wrong foot with Jones and Cormier having a backstage disagreement at UFC 121. Jones was meeting Cormier for the first time, and differing reports from both camps laid the interaction differently; Jones saying he was merely joking by telling Cormier (an Olympian wrestler) “I bet you that I could take you down,” while Cormier didn’t understand how insulting someone was a good way to break the ice.

As time moved along and Jones defended his title countless other times, the embers of that exchange cooled substantially until the opportunity presented itself to have these two face off. It also probably helped to stoke the fire back up when at UFC 173 on May 24, 2014 Cormier left a special message for Jones after Cormier won his first fight after moving down from heavyweight to light heavyweight.

Then the ultimate tipping point was reached when Jones and Cormier had a little “presser” before UFC 178 where they would answer some questions in the MGM Grand lobby and then have the stare down at the end. Well it went as planned until the stare down. Jones is 6’4″ and Cormier 5’11” so when they go for the stare down Jones looks down on Cormier. This is where things got interesting as Jones started to place his head on Cormier’s. At this point Cormier shoves at Jones throat and sparks what you will see in the video below.

From that point on the fight was official on to a whole different level, prompting many interesting interviews since then and some candid moments where the fighters didn’t know they were being recorded (since off the air), this video has been circled around the internet as more fuel for promoting that animosity in this match-up (click on this link to the video WARNING the video does contain strong language).

Coverage has been at a minimum for ESPN probably in part to the contract the UFC has with Fox Sports, but I think this fight does deserve to have all the publicity that it deserves. If you can somehow make it to a restaurant/bar showing it or even order the pay-per-view I highly advise it because when you have two world-class athletes that are some of the best in the sport and you add in legitimate hatred it will be an unbelievable main event.

Saturday January 3, 2015 Jon “Bones” Jones vs. Daniel Cormier will be an event I will have to watch and hopefully lives up to the billing. Who do you think will win? Is it Jones the defending champion who has been an unbelievable puzzle to solve or Cormier the former Olympic wrestler who has a lot to prove? Either way the mixed martial arts community wins with a great match-up like this.

Watch the promo below and you will be ready to go for this huge event in the world of mixed martial arts.

Acy Gets Antsy: Suspended 1 Game

By Ellen Chlumecky

Nothing says the holidays quite like fighting, right? However this fight was not over who got the last iPad or the last turkey leg. On Christmas Day, New York Knicks forward Quincy Acy and Washington Wizards guard John Wall participated in a shoving match with one another. Quincy Acy is the one who initiated the shove while John Wall had the ball when the Wizards were winning. While Wall retaliated with a shove of his own and a fight erupted from the shoving. There was talk about Acy throwing a punch but rumors have not been confirmed on whether or not that is true. Both players were separated by their respective teams.

Quincy Acy has been suspended one game while his sparing partner was fined $15,000 by the NBA for their roles in the fight. Both seem to be fitting punishments for the two athletes, correct? It didn’t seem like that big of a fight in comparison to certain fights over the past couple years that happened in the NBA or even in the NHL or NFL. However, any fighting in the NBA is frowned upon and needs to be handled with severity no matter how big or small the fight may be.

When so many more impressionable children are watching professional sports nowadays, the NBA needs to have a firmer grasp on keeping the violence to a minimum. While there is more and more attention being drawn to athletes participating in violent acts off the field, court, or ice, people seem to forget that players can be doing the exact same thing on the field, court, or ice. While this may seem to be a simple, almost juvenile, act of violence it is unacceptable none the less.

Acy not only claimed that he did not throw a punch but also expressed shock when he received word about being suspended. He claimed that he was just trying to foul John Wall saying that he was just trying to stop a fast break and was trying to stop the play. Even his coach, Derek Fisher chimed in saying that he shouldn’t be suspended for shoving because there was in fact no punch thrown. He also stated that he was not upset with Acy’s action because there was no intent behind them.

What these athletes and coaches still don’t seem to understand is that there is always consequences to your actions. Whether it is just a shove or a punch thrown, you are being shown on television for everyone to see. You have to take into account what these people will think about you and wonder what kind of organization lets athletes play like childish boys. Whether or not he had intent to hurt him is beyond the point. Quincy Acy wants to play as a professional then he needs to act like one as well.

Under Armour Slides into 2nd Place

By Ellen Chlumecky

Kevin Plank, Under Armour founder and CEO, started his company 18 years ago in his grandmother’s basement. Starting out with a stretchy undershirt that football players wore under their equipment to suck the sweat away from their bodies. Today, Under Armour is expected to see sales past $3 billion for 2014. This accomplishment has placed Under Armor at the second largest domestic sportswear company, behind powerhouse rival Nike.

A couple years ago, Under Armour was well known but was nowhere near the success rate it is today. It is now not only hip but has become a trend in the sports world to wear Under Armour. To the every day runner or the gym rat, Under Armour seems to be surging to the top of the charts. After passing Adidas, it’s true competition this year is Nike, while still far behind Plank’s goal this year is surpass them.

Everyone knows that long-lasting success does not come in one fell swoop. One must earn it with passion, honesty, quick thinking, and hard work. Kevin Plank did all that and more. Plank is all about pushing the envelope to as far as it can go.

One of the many reasons he has been able to make a name for himself is his desire to not just be a sporting goods brand. He thinks that he could go into bottled water to sports drinks to protein bars. Plank doesn’t want to contain his brand to one category.

Another reason he’s been so successful is because of the media attention Under Armor has been receiving. This summer they released a new women’s line featuring American Ballet Theatre star Misty Copeland. While she may just seem like an ordinary athlete, she has an amazing back story. She was rejected from ballet school at the age of 13 because she did not have “the body of a ballerina.” She ignored the criticism and worked day in and day out to achieve her dream. Under Armour continues this thought process by endorsing athletes who refuse to bend from criticism. Athletes like Gisele Bundchen, Lindsey Vonn, Tom Brady, and Georges St-Pierre are just a few of the superb athletes endorsed by Under Armour.

Under Armour does a great job of endorsing female athletes. Especially women who have overcome hardship to be successful today. Under Armour is providing a positive example to female athletes and even aspiring female athletes. Which might have to do with women’s sports apparel sales going up and women’s sports apparel being 30% of their overall sales.

Kevin Plank is truly never satisfied. They have 18 consecutive of 20% revenue growth, 4 consecutive quarters up to 30%, and international sales are up almost 86% this year. Yet Plank still believes it isn’t enough. Plank’s love of winning and his fear of losing drive him to compete with Nike, or as he likes to call them, “those guys in Oregon.”

Is One Game Enough for Dominic Raiola?

By Kaleb Page

The game of football is a violent game. No matter what the rules are or advancements made in the name of player safety; the game will always be a violent one. Within the confines of this modern-day gladiator sport, there has to be the mindset to play hard nonstop but at the same time there should be no intent to hurt someone intentionally.

Dominic Raiola is one of the key pieces to the offensive line of the Detroit Lions. As the center and a veteran in the league, Raiola is key in getting the line in sync and making protection calls to protect star quarterback Matthew Stafford. This past Sunday in a key divisional match-up with the rival Chicago Bears Raiola made a play that will compromise that offensive line.

After a short run that was stuffed by the Bears, the pile was still on the ground and the play was just ending. For Raiola it was an opportunity to take a shot at a downed player. Bears defensive lineman Ego Ferguson was still on the ground when Raiola ran off to the side where Ferguson was on the ground. As Raiola went to pass Ferguson he took a hop and stomp down on Ferguson’s ankle. This action instantly got the Bears furious and words exchanged between Raiola and Bears players.

Monday Raiola’s actions were punished by the NFL at the tune of one game without pay for the final week battle between the Lions and Packers. A game that will decide the division winner for the NFC North. The thing about this one game suspension that is leaving those not only in the league surprised but national analysts as well is that this isn’t the first time Raiola has acted this way.

Watching ESPN First Take this morning, both Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith agreed that suspending Raiola only a game is not enough. Just months ago Raiola was seen throwing a punch to the back of a defensive lineman for the Patriots head and then as the final kneel down was made he went at that same players’ knees intentionally (he admitted it himself). Over the course of his career Raiola has had up to six run-ins with the NFL league office sending him some sort of fine for his actions on the field. That is why many are thinking just a one game suspension isn’t sending the message to Raiola.

Antonio Pierce was a guest on First Take and brought up an interesting discussion point. He brought up what would happen to a defensive player if this same scenario happened, say a defensive lineman stomped on Tom Brady’s or Peyton Manning’s ankle; then what? Would there still be a one game suspension? He highly doubted that and I would have to agree with him. If the league really wanted to punish Raiola it should have been at least this final game and the Lions first playoff game (possibly even the entire playoffs).

If you haven’t had the chance to see the stomp by Raiola here is a video to show that along with some further commentary (start at 36 seconds).

After reading this post, seeing the video and its commentary, what are your thoughts? Think it was intentional? Think more punishment should have been issued? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

Mumps Affecting Not Only the NHL

By Savannah Malnar

Flu outbreaks aren’t uncommon around this time of the year in professional sports leagues. What is uncommon is the appearance of the mumps in the NHL. Professional athletes are forced to spend an excessive amount of time together in close contact, between sharing rooms on road trips and water bottles in the locker rooms. So when a contagious illness hits one player, it’s likely to spread throughout the team. The interesting aspect about these illnesses is that in the NHL they can spread pretty easily to other teams as well, with all the hard hits and the fighting bringing rival players into physical contact.

The outbreak of the disease started in Anaheim with the defensemen Francois Beauchemin and Clayton Stoner, along with star forward Corey Perry. Other teams that have since reported cases include the Minnesota Wild, the New York Rangers, the New Jersey Devils, and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The NHL is doing everything in its power to bring awareness to the disease and ensure that the players have access to booster shots or the initial mumps immunization if they did not receive it as a child.

The media’s primary concern right now seems to be the quality of the game with a disease like this going around. What will the Penguins do without Sidney Crosby while he recovers? Did the Ducks lose games they could have won if Perry wasn’t ill?

One ESPN article brought attention to a less talked about side of the epidemic; the American Hockey League. The AHL is a development league for the NHL, and players move up and down between the leagues on daily basis. Two players and one head coach in the AHL have come down with this sickness. The total amount of hockey players affected is up to 18.

Dr. Gregory Poland, the director of the Mayo Vaccine Research Group, believes that this outbreak is not actually all that uncommon. “To be very frank with you, if 13 students at a junior college in rural Arizona had mumps, you and I wouldn’t be talking. It gets hyped because it’s in (professional athletes),” Poland said. Poland also stressed making sure all players receive the immunization they need; from there it’s just a waiting game. There are no cures or antibiotics available for the disease, so hockey players will just have to do what they do best: tough it out.

Snowboarding Prodigy at Age 14

By Ellen Chlumecky

In the sports world, snowboarding is almost synonymous with Shaun White, the two time- Olympic gold medalist for snowboarding. He currently holds the X-Games records for gold medals and highest overall medal count. He holds a long rap sheet of accomplishments in the snowboarding world. However, he might have some competition at the top of that 1st place podium. That person is a 14-year old girl named Chloe Kim.

To begin Chloe’s rap sheet: she threw her first back flip off a natural feature at age six. Five years later she was able to land a one and a half spins upside down, launched while riding backward. This led the elite Burton Snowboards to sponsor her. Last winter, she became the youngest World Snowboard Tour overall champion in the world. It was then people really started to notice her talent, showmanship, and her ability to go big or go home. Most recently, Chloe received a silver at this month’s X Games Aspen. She was not completely satisfied with this placement and is looking to improve.

So where has this girl been? She’s been snowboarding at a competitive level at the age of six. She has placed in the top three in the majority of her junior competitions in the last two years and has wins and podiums at Burton’s prestigious events and grass-roots USASA Nationals, but she has seemingly flew under the radar.

Her counterparts, Kelly Clark and Kaitlyn Farrington, also very rarely receive any media attention. All three of these ladies are phenomenal athletes. Where is their air time and their news stories? Most sports are heavily dominated by men. That is something that is no surprise. However, these young women are amazing athletes. They are also so young as well. The fact that they are doing tricks at the same level that men who are twice as old as them is pretty crazy.

Yet, these men are always receiving more media attention, more sponsorship offers, and more opportunities to grow in the sport. I hate to sound like a broken record, but where is the love for the women? Chloe Kim in particular is an athlete that has broken through so many different barriers as a young woman and should not be restricted from the same opportunities as Shaun White because she’s a girl.

I am not saying that anyone in particular is hindering her from snowboarding or signing a sponsorship with her but being a girl is a double-edged sword in the world of sports. Chloe Kim has a world of opportunities in front of her. I hope that she will receive the media attention she deserves because if she continues the way she’s going, she’s going to show Shaun White and the rest of the snowboarding world that girls can do anything.

Stats taken from:

The Warriors Standing Tall in the Wild Wild West

By Kaleb Page

In today’s NBA it cannot be denied that the Western Conference is the best conference. With teams that are contenders to win not only the West but an NBA title as well. The surprise of the year thus far is the historic start the Golden State Warriors have that sees them sitting a top the Western Conference and in most minds as the best team in the league.

With a team this successful it is also a surprise since the coach is just a first year man. Fresh out of the broadcasting realm, Steve Kerr was granted a great opportunity. After the Warriors let go of coach Mark Jackson they wanted to get a new basketball mind that seemed like the hot item at the time. This past summer when Steve Kerr and Derek Fisher were two of the big names on the market, teams needing a coach looked at them as must haves. With Fisher having a tough time in New York with the Knicks and Kerr finding success with the Warriors it seems that the Warriors got the better end of the deal. There is one caveat to this scenario however.

Is Kerr just the recipient of being handed the keys to an already tuned up machine? For years Golden State was the laughing-stock of the league with no relevance at all, until they hired Mark Jackson who took the role of giving the team an identity and some sense of discipline they had been lacking for years. With Jackson putting in a lot of the leg work it leaves me looking at this run the Warriors are having with some skepticism.

Mainly this is caused by the fact that Jackson was a good coach and for all the work he put in didn’t he deserve a longer leash? I guess sometimes a change is nice, but is there really any difference from this team to last years with Jackson? I don’t see much besides the emergence and progression of players like Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson (just to name a few). These progressions that more than likely were coming even if Kerr wasn’t the coach.

The Washington Post article on Kerr was interesting talking about how this coach could be seeing the Erik Spoelstra treatment in not getting enough credit for what he is doing with the team. While I do hold my reservations since a lot of the foundation was laid by coach Jackson, there is something to be said for what can be done once that foundation is laid down. For what its worth Kerr looks to be making a great foundation into a great project in the works.

Hopefully the work done thus far this year turns out and Kerr can fully show that his coaching is the reason for this success. If Kerr is the bright coveted disciple of the Phil Jackson coaching tree then this Warriors team full of talent could become an all-time great team poised for a great run for years to come with its core of young talent.

Alexi Lalas: Moving to Fox Sports

By Kaleb Page

Quality soccer commentary in the U.S. is at a premium. Especially for commentators that are from the U.S. and can actually articulate not only the names, but the chess match that is soccer. ESPN had this premium in more ways than one with commentators Taylor Twellman and Alexi Lalas. Recently both of these key American soccer analysts went their opposite ways.

In the world of soccer, America is looked at as a lackluster soccer playground. Especially when it comes to the knowledge of the game and the subtle nuances that lends itself to the phrase “the beautiful game.” This past summer with the success and valiant efforts put forth by the U.S. men’s national soccer team, it started to show the change here in the states. In Brazil the following by the U.S. could not be mistaken and those that could not make it showed tremendous support unlike most World Cup’s in years past.

Twellman and Lalas both brought a knowledgeable American voice to the forefront of soccer. Something that those not up to par on their soccer could look to and get their facts in order to really learn the game. I think over the years these two have built more of a soccer following here and allowed more people to actually know what they are talking about with soccer (possibly why Brazil had such a successful following). With Twellman and Lalas exclusively on ESPN, it provided a platform to reach the masses and it opened the eyes to the rest of the networks.

Recently the contract for Twellman and Lalas came up at ESPN which led to Fox Sports jumping in to sign them away. With a battle between the two networks it came down to the two analysts to make a decision. For Twellman it was to stay with ESPN, and for Lalas it was to move on to Fox Sports. In something he said was like them giving him the godfather treatment.

Fox Sports still has to officially announce that Lalas has made the move, but for Lalas it was a no-brainer move. Creatively Fox Sports is one of the best sports outlets for soccer coverage, and some would say even better than their counterpart ESPN. Fox has these key soccer fixtures under their rights: 2015 Women’s World Cup, 2018 Men’s World Cup, a new MLS package and their already great coverage of the Champions League, FA Cup and soon the German Bundesliga. For any soccer analyst, especially one as outspoken and knowledgeable as Lalas, this network is a dream come true. This move also allows Lalas to be closer to his kids. Lalas lives in Los Angeles and Fox Sports has its studio in LA, which for Lalas is a 20 minute trip instead of his ESPN 3,000 mile flight.

For myself I would say it is a blow to the ESPN soccer analysis to lose the likes of Lalas since he gives such an honest take on what is going on in soccer. To be honest in years past I would be in the group of Americans who had little knowledge of the game and the tactics. With the help of a friend like Seth Glover, countless soccer matches on TV, FIFA videogames and analysis by those like Lalas; I now have a better understanding. It will be interesting to see how Lalas is incorporated to Fox’s already vast array of soccer coverage, and is able to give more of the country knowledge on “the beautiful game.”

Chicago’s Quarterback Woes

By Savannah Malnar

As the NFL season winds down, teams are willing to make more chances with their starting lineups. This is the case for the Chicago Bears, who have decided to bench quarterback Jay Cutler who just signed on with the team for another seven years for a total of roughly $126 million after the end of last season.

The decision stems from a season of less than impressive performance from the Bears’ quarterback, leading the team to their current 5-9 record. Fans and media are questioning this choice, especially with the backup, Jimmy Clausen, who went 1-9 in his rookie season in Carolina and has only three career touchdowns.

Cutler was told Wednesday about the team’s decision and was obviously disappointed about being benched; already rumors are spreading that he has played his last game in Chicago. Many media outlets are publishing articles about the possible landing spots for Cutler along with analyzing the possibility of Bears’ coach Marc Trestman and general manager Phil Emery being fired after this season.

A more objective source, Sports Illustrated, published an article with the headline “By Benching Cutler, Bears Make Statement About Franchise’s Future.” It stated that Trestman’s fate as coach is “all but sealed,” but he could possibly make a strong argument for himself if he can pull off a win against the 10-4 Detroit Lions while starting Clausen.

Sports writer David Haugh for the Chicago Tribune is convinced that this move by the Bears definitely marks the end of Cutler’s reign as quarterback in Chicago. Haugh said, “Starting Clausen against the Lions accomplishes nothing other than make everyone wonder who decided after nine losses to hold Cutler accountable for leading the league in turnovers.”

Obviously there is a lot of pent-up frustration in Chicago about the quarterback and coaching situation. On one hand, the team does not want to put the waste the massive contract that they just entered in with the quarterback; on the other, they don’t want to be stuck with a “has-been” quarterback. The team will have to observe Clausen’s performance and make a decision on how they will end the season. If Clausen finishes the season against the Vikings, I thoroughly believe we won’t be seeing Cutler in Chicago next season.