Sunday Column

Sunday Column: LSU National Championship, MLB Scandal, NFL Playoffs & Much More

January 19, 2020

The News for the week January 13-18, 2020

FOOTBALL

Image result for Super Bowl LIV, which caps the NFL’s 100th

The road to Super Bowl LIV, which caps the NFL’s 100th season is upon us. The first game at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, will see the Kansas City Chiefs a 7.5 point favorite hosting the AFC championship game for the second consecutive season starting at 3:05 p.m. ET (CBS). The visiting Tennessee Titans have already knocked off two AFC powerhouses the New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens behind the running game from Derrick Henry. If the Chiefs can avoid the upset, they will make their first Super Bowl appearance in 50 years.

Later in the day starting 6:40 p.m. ET (FOX) at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., the San Francisco 49ers host the Green Bay Packers in a showdown that brings back memories of epic playoff clashes between these two historic NFL franchises. Packer QB Aaron Rodgers grew up in the Bay Area rooting for the 49ers. He will try to upset the 49ers and push the Packers into the Super Bowl for the first time in nearly a decade.

At 23 years old , Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes became the NFL’s youngest Most Valuable Player since Dan Marino in 1984. Since his first start in the final week of the 2017 season, Mahomes leads the NFL in touchdown passes (78) and total QBR (78.3). Depending on his playoff run Mahomes could be the first $40 million QB.

The “Rooney Rule” is broken will the NFL do anything to fix it? The latest coaching cycle paints a grim picture for coaching candidates of color.

Joe Judge, 39 years old and the new head coach of the New York Giants has chosen Jason Garrett as their new offensive coordinator. Garrett gives Judge some experienced head coaching background to fall back on in his first season. Judge, a special teams coordinator for the New England Patriots, was a gamble at head coach the Giants were willing to take after he blew them away in an interview. Judge’s selection for his defensive coordinator 40-year-old Patrick Graham.

Carolina Panthers all-pro middle linebacker Luke Kuechly retired this past week which continues the trend for NFL players leaving the game early. Andrew Luck and Rob Gronkowski are two player who have left the careers in their prime. Kuechly is the third elite-level player to retire from the NFL before the age of 30 in the past year.

Arizona Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald will return for his 17th season for the only team he’s played for. Fitzgerald has considered retirement for the past three-season. He said, “This season was among the most fun of my career. The future is so bright for this team & I relish the opportunity to build with this talented young nucleus. Arizona is where I started and where I will finish. 2020!”

A tape of Super Bowl I is sitting in a vault and a kickstarter can bring it out. Two filmmakers want to bring the lost footage to the masses and they say they will take the NFL to court to make it happen.

Former Penn State football player Isaiah Humphries filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday against the university, coach James Franklin and former teammate Damion Barber.

Vince Vaughn usually steals the show in any movie he is in. Monday night he stole the show again caught talking to President Donald Trump in a suite while attending the College Football Championship game.

Clemson Tigers running back Travis Etienne is returning for his senior season, he announced Friday afternoon. Etienne, a junior who has been a starter for three seasons, was widely expected to declare for the NFL draft. He wrote Friday on social media that he’s “not done dreaming here at Clemson.”

BASKETBALL

The Utah Jazz are off to a great start sitting in 3rd place in the Western Conference without Mike Conley Jr. who reaggravating his left hamstring injury and has missed multiple games. Conley has struggled in his first year with the Jazz, averaging 13.6 points per game on 36.5 percent shooting while adding 4.6 assists. Joe Ingles, a Happy Valley, Australia native has been on a torrid shooting streak since becoming a starter. Ingles started the season coming off the bench with newly acquired Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic getting their starting spots. Ingles coming off the bench wasn’t working for him shooting just 30% form three the first 22 games.

When Anthony Davis fell hard to the floor against the New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers head coach Frank Vogel and everyone in Los Angeles held their collective breath.

Zion Williamson will finally make his NBA debut next Wednesday, and the network is changing its broadcast schedule accordingly. ESPN is bumping its original scheduled game between the Denver Nuggets and Houston Rockets for Williamsons debut.

ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith would like to see upcoming free agent Giannis Antetokounmpo make his way to the Bay area next season. If Giannis would sign with the Golden State Warriors, he would team up with the “Splash Brothers” Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, along with Draymond Green and make the Warriors a superteam again.

The Miami Heat wants to maintain flexibility to offer a max deal to Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo in the summer of 2021, something that it should be in position to do if it doesn’t sign Derrick Jones Jr., Goran Dragic or Meyers Leonard past next season.

The San Antonio Spurs who need a much-needed rebuild, still have some attractive player’s in DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge. If they decide to move forward with a younger core, there’s no question they have pieces to get big returns for either former All-Star.

Tony Parker is not the only longtime San Antonio Spur without a losing record against any of the other teams. David Robinson, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili are part of that exclusive club.

LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers lead NBA jersey, merchandise sales rankings. Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, Boston’s Jayson Tatum and Dallas’ Luka Doncic jerseys are also selling better than ever.

The NBA continues to consider dramatic changes to the league calendar, but no longer plans to stage an owners vote in April on a formal plan. The NBA had hoped to have the two-thirds majority needed to make these changes for the 2021-22 season the league’s 75th anniversary and still hopes, despite no April vote, that might happen.

The Oregon Ducks (14-2, 4-1 Pac-12) are having a breakout season for the women’s program. Superstar and projected No. 1 WNBA pick Sabrina Ionescu had a career-high 37 points to become Oregon’s all-time leading scorer and the sixth-ranked Ducks handed No. 3 Stanford it’s first conference loss with an 87-55 victory.

For the first time in WNBA history, the average player salary will reach six figures at around $130,000 meaning both rookie and max contracts are set to increase. The new CBA also states that players who qualify as “core players” can earn up to $215,000 a year, which is nearly a $100,000 increase from the 2019 season.

HOCKEY

The Pittsburgh Penguins on Sidney Crosby return against the Minnesota Wild put him between Jared McCann and Dominik Simon, results were produced immediate. Crosby had a goal and four assists in the game.

Nashville Predators forward Viktor Arvidsson has been fined $2,000 by the NHL under the league’s rules regarding diving and embellishment. NHL Rule 64 was designed to penalize players who repeatedly dive and embellish to draw penalties. A player gets a warning for a first citation and a $2,000 fine for the second citation.

Matthew Tkachuk‘s trolling made a great impact, and not just by earning the Flames a power play. Thanks to enterprising Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers fans, a drive to put up a Tkachuk billboard in Edmonton morphed into something much more, raising a ton of money more than $50K overall, it seems for charitable causes. This all started with a dust-up between Tkachuk and Oilers  Zack Kassian this week.

Being in Raleigh, NC, has gifted the Carolina Hurricanes with a large fanbase of college students. With their “College Colors” campaign, the Hurricanes have partnered with 13 local colleges to feature a co-branded hat at select home games at PNC Arena.

BASEBALL

Former New York Mets manager Carlos Beltran will not receive any of the approximately $3MM owed to him over the course of his three-year deal with the Mets. Beltran was let go by the Mets amid the sign-stealing and leaves the club before he even suits up for a game.

The Houston Astros cheating scandal was helped along by the comments from Oakland Athletics whistleblower Mike Fiers. Fiers told Major League Baseball that he’d give up his ring and his World Series share if any of the Astros are suspended. He also confirms that they (the Astros) started this garbage banging in 2014 and it continued all last year.

Houston Astros owner Jim Crane expects to hire a manager by Feb. 3. Crane said Friday that he’s interviewed several candidates this week and has some more to talk to in the coming days. Crane refused to answer directly when asked if former Astros player and Hall of Famer Craig Biggio was a possibility for the job. But he did say that he had spoken to Biggio, fellow Hall of Famer Jeff Bagwell and former Astros star Lance Berkman in the days since the firings.

The Chicago Cubs want to make a big move and the front office is reportedly looking at former New York Yankees free-agent outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury. The Yankees released Ellsbury in November after he failed to live up to his original seven-year, $153 million contract. Ellsbury was a Boston Red Sox signed in 2013 with hopes he would remain a star in center field, Ellsbury’s body quickly broke down due to multiple injuries.

The Minnesota Twins agreed to a four-year, $92MM contract with free agent third baseman Josh Donaldson. The $92MM guarantee makes this the largest free-agent signing in team history and the second-largest contract the franchise has ever given out, trailing only Joe Mauer’s eight-year, $184MM mega-deal.

The Auburn Tigers baseball program added four-time All-Star Tim Hudson to its staff as the pitching coach.

GOLF

As even the lowest-stakes players know, a good golf game can only leave you feeling one of two ways: on top of the world or at the bottom of the barrel. A golf game named “Las Vegas” would reflect the very best (and worst) of the gambling experience.

Instagram star and Golf Channel host Blair O’Neal is playing for two at the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions this week, and at six months pregnant with her first child, a boy, the 38-year-old is holding her own against an all-male celebrity field.

Tour players are way more talented than you are, and they do things physically you can only dream about. And yes, the angles they show on television might not always provide the most technically relevant look at a swing.

NCAA

California lawmakers last year gave college athletes the right to profit from their names, images or likenesses. Nebraska joined the groundswell with a bill (LB962) from Omaha Sen. Megan Hunt that would remove the strictures on college athletes in the state from seeking financial compensation beyond their scholarships and stipends.

President Donald Trump paid tribute to the national champion LSU football team on Friday, saying it would long be remembered as one of the greatest in college history. Trump highlighted the work of several of the team’s players, including quarterback Joe Burrow, saying of Burrow “we call him young Tom Brady.”

MMA/BOXING

New Year’s Eve saw championship fight night at the Hulu Theater in Madison Square Garden for an upstart mixed martial arts entity, the Professional Fighters League. A half-dozen champions in different weight classes were crowned, with boxing great Mike Tyson delivering oversized checks in the ring to each winner.

ESPORTS

Twitch has become a haven for live ports iracy. As the platform gains more mainstream popularity, illicit livestreams of soccer, boxing, and MMA matches have become trivial to find.

The shooting at an EA Madden tournament in Jacksonville was the first time eSports broke into the public light. In reality, the world of competitive video gaming is a fast-growing international phenomenon with millions of fans and billions of dollars up for grabs. Streaming services and live events have turned casual gamers into serious stars who can sometimes rake in seven-figure earnings and massive brand endorsements.

SPORTS & MONEY

PepsiCo said it will give everyone in the U.S. a free Pepsi Zero Sugar soda if either Super Bowl team’s final score ends in zero. The company will reimburse customers the cost of the drink purchased from Feb. 2-4.

Fanatics has signed a 10-year licensing deal with the University of Notre Dame, making it the official gatekeeper for products bearing the school’s logo and mascot.

Publicly traded casino company Penn National Gaming is looking to acquire Barstool Sports. Penn National owns and operates casinos across the US, and is looking to become a more prominent player in the expanding US sports betting industry.

SOCIAL MEDIA

#NBA Twitter’s biggest influencers are chasing retweets and likes leaving NBA teams behind. The NBA was one of the first sports leagues to embrace Social Media. Tweets from Bleacher Report and ESPN had disproportionally mentioned the LA Lakers while in most cases omitting most playoff teams. This created a lot of issues feeling their team is left out of the conversation.

New Orleans Pelicans shooting guard JJ Redick joined the NBA in 2006, the same year Twitter was founded. Instagram was still four years away, and Snapchat wouldn’t be released until 2011. Redick has deleted all his social media, stating the differences between 2006 and now are much different with young NBA players have grow up with social media as an omnipresent part of their lives.

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