• Violent assaults at Alabama, Pistorius murder case among week’s most disheartening events

    It’s too bad we won’t see any more of Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel this year. The guy has one of the best names in college basketball, and who doesn’t like blurting out “Nerlens!” when he throws down a dunk in some dude’s face. You’ll be missed, Nerlens.

    Alabama may have won the last two BCS National Championships, but its football program’s image took a big hit this week after four freshmen were accused of assaulting and robbing a student on campus. It’s scary that even non-essential players at a school like Alabama can commit serious crimes and face fewer repercussions than if a regular student were to overtly beat someone, steal their belongings and drive off as if they were in some mob movie. One of the players is also facing a weapons charge, and I’d wager that this won’t be the last we hear about this incident. The best-case scenario would see the players involved kicked off the football team, perhaps even out of the university altogether and punished so that something similar never happens again. There’s plenty of violence on display during a normal football game, and there’s no excuse for a head coach at a major football school to allow these actions to transpire. I don’t think this is what Tupac Shakur envisioned when he coined the phrase “Thug Life.”

    South African Olympic and Paralympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius' girlfriend was found dead at his home this week, shot multiple times because, Pistorius says, he thought she was an intruder. He has since been arrested and charged with premeditated murder in Pretoria Magistrates' Court, with prosecutors citing previous domestic disturbances at Pistorius’ home. Nike has since pulled an ad featuring Pistorius that ran on his personal website. The text of the ad? “I am the bullet in the chamber.”

    I’ve got a question about cases similar to Pistorius and other athletes that find themselves in and out of court after achieving success in their sport of choice: If the trial of any athlete were to be televised on a regular basis, would you watch? I might just have to sneak a few minutes of the Pistorius trial if it was being aired.

    Michael Jordan turns 50 on Sunday and told LeBron James that he would take Kobe Bryant over James any day of the week. Classic basketball sentence. The greatest of all-time telling the guy who’s on pace to steal that very moniker that another all-time great player is good enough to beat him one-on-one. James must have realized it’s not too outlandish a statement. It just so happens James is on one of the hottest streaks in the history of basketball. Seven straight games with 30 or more points while shooting through the roof and LeBron is essentially offering an elongated shrug to Jordan’s comments. No one has ever played basketball on a professional level as well as LeBron James is playing in the month of February. His team is winning, too. He’ll get a chance to relax with everyone else over the All-Star break and pick up where he left off next week.

  • Redskins: Have we become too comfortable with the name?

    I find it interesting that there are some things in my life that I have accepted without much thought.

    When critics spoke out at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington D.C. against the use of the name “Redskins” for Washington’s NFL franchise, I didn’t give the argument much credibility. I closed my web page, dismissing the story as just another example of people becoming overly sensitive about something that wasn’t that big of a deal. After further thought, I have come to realize how sad it is that I had that initial thought.

    I was born in 1993. By 1994 I was walking. Through the following year I began to learn words. My parents first helped me learn their names, then my older brother’s, and then my vocabulary expanded to words of high intelligence, such as “duck” or “food.” As I grew up and learned the names for the things around me, I never questioned why they were named the way they were. “Table” was just the name for the thing that held up my mashed peas. As a toddler, I didn’t care what it was called so long as the so-called “table” didn’t collapse and ruin my dinner.

    The same learning process occurred as I was introduced to sports. Living in Houston, I learned our professional teams were named the Oilers, Astros, and Rockets. Again, I never really questioned why they were named those names, I just learned, recited, and accepted.

    I believe this is the premise of my initial reaction to the massive outcry to change the name of the Washington Redskins. For me, they have always been the Redskins. That was the name of the football team in burgundy and gold for as long as “table” had been a table. If IKEA came out and declared that they were no longer going to sell tables and that they were coming up with a new name for the piece of material that had multiple legs and a flat surface, I would perceive them as crazy and never shop there again.

    But it’s not as simple as that.

    Most of the football culture of America, like me, has come to accept and become comfortable with the name Redskins. This name was not created as a general noun to identify something and its use in one word. It was a nickname given in 1933 by then co-owner George Preston Marshall, renaming his Boston team after the ethnicity of their new football coach William “Lone Star” Dietz, who claimed to be a Lakota man.

    Marshall could have chosen “Indians,” or even kept “Braves”, but instead decided to use a word that described skin color. That in itself should raise some flags.

    A white person could make the statement, “I wouldn’t mind if some team decided to name themselves the ‘Pale-faces’ or some other Caucasian term. But unfortunately it runs even deeper than that.

    The group of people that the term “Redskins” refers to, are indigenous people to this land we call America. Before 1942, the Native American population is estimated to have been roughly five million. By 1900, the population diminished to about 250,000. The immigrants, who then became ‘Americans’, drove the indigenous people out of their land by force and pushed them onto reservations that are still intact today. Let us remember that first of all.

    The stereotype that comes along with the term “Redskin,” refers to the natives who were warriors, who rode bareback on horses into battle, and wore headdresses and embodied a sense of bravery. This is the Native American popular culture has presented to the current population. Previous owners of the Washington Redskins have made the statement that they were honoring Native Americans with this presentation. Many Native Americans have strongly disagreed. (link to http://espn.go.com/blog/playbook/fandom/post/_/id/18144/native-americans...) The portrayal of savagery is an unfair portrayal.

    This is problem that has occurred. If there is a misportrayal of the name that has been chosen, then there are grounds for the name to be changed. As a white male, I would be offended if a team decided to call themselves the Caucasians and had a mascot running around on away games beating up opponents fans and then painting
    them red, white, and blue.

    That’s the point that I am making. That’s why I believe Washington will change its name in the near future. There just needs to be more awareness of the situation to bring the football culture to the realization of what the name “Redskins” really represents. The discussion at the National Museum of the American Indian began that awareness.

    I understand now. But the ultimate decision will fall upon NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and the Washington organization. Perhaps they will understand.

  • King Felix retains humility despite signing mammoth deal, contract shows sign of the times

    February 13, 2013, will forever be enshrined in history as the day that King Felix finally took his place atop baseball’s pitching throne.

    When Felix Hernandez put pen to paper Wednesday, he made history by becoming the highest-paid pitcher in baseball history by agreeing to a seven-year, $175 million extension with the Seattle Mariners. But this deal was much more than a rich man getting richer.

    However outrageous the number might seem, this deal rewarded a humble, hard-working man who’s one of the greatest athletes the city of Seattle has ever seen. His humility was on full display when tears streamed down his face after witnessing the celebration the Mariners threw for him. Emotionally overcome, Hernandez merely uttered, “Wow,” and proceeded to hold his head in his hands. For not only was the Mariners organization celebrating a great player’s decision to re-sign with it, but also the decision to remain loyal to his team. His team has finished last in the AL West for the past three seasons, but it is also the team that gave him opportunity.

    "I'm doing this because I love Seattle," King Felix stated. "This has been my life. This has been my family."

    In sports today, that combination of talent, humility, and loyalty is hard to come by and should not go unnoticed.

    The ironic, almost alarming, part of this deal is that had Hernandez waited two more years for his previous contract to expire, he would have set himself up perfectly to watch MLB front offices fight to pay him over $200 million for his services. Now, Hernandez has most likely set up Clayton Kershaw, perhaps the best left-handed starting pitcher in the game, to sign a deal worth over $200 million as his current, two-year, $19.5 million contract with the Dodgers expires after this season. Also ironic is the fact that Kershaw is very quiet and humble in his own right, so after next season, the two highest-paid pitchers in the history of the league could also be two of the most humble the league has ever seen.

    Some could ask the Mariners to justify spending such a lavish amount of money on one player, especially during such a critical economic time period. In my opinion, sports contracts, especially
    baseball deals, began to get out of control in 1999 when Kevin Brown signed his seven-year, $105 million deal with the Dodgers. But, not even 15 years later, that price has more than doubled with Alex Rodriguez’s $252 and $275 million respective Ranger and Yankee deals. With Kershaw set to sign a deal that will most likely eclipse $200 million next season, instances of athletes signing eye-popping deals will soon develop into the norm. So, where does this rapid inflation stop?

  • NBA midseason outlook: the good, the bad, the ugly

    Before NBA fans get to see the matchup we’ve all been waiting for (Usain Bolt vs. Kevin Hart in the NBA Celebrity Game), and before fans get to see the least amount of defense ever played in a basketball game (excluding Harlem Globetrotters contests), the midway point of the NBA season, otherwise known as NBA All-Star Weekend, seems to be the perfect opportunity highlight a bit of what has gone on thus far in the 2013 season. So, to honor All-Star Weekend and the lightheartedness basketball fans will enjoy because of it, here is the good, the bad, and the ugly from the midway point of the NBA season.

    The Good: San Antonio Spurs

    The San Antonio Spurs are one of the oldest, if not the oldest, teams in any of the four major sports. For a few years now the Spurs have seemed to be teetering on the fence between contender and has been. Even though they’ve had some close calls, almost falling in to has-been territory, Gregg Poppovich has once again rallied his group of gritty veterans, and the San Antonio Spurs currently stand at the top of the Western Conference, with the best record in the NBA. Tim Duncan is having one of his most efficient seasons in years, and the continual emergence of 3rd year-player Kawhi Leonard has given the Spurs enough athleticism to stay relevant with the rest of the league. For the past few seasons NBA “experts” have asked each other if the Spurs are too old, or if they’re athletic enough. And for the past few seasons the Spurs have continued their excellence and proved the experts wrong. Father Time is an unbeatable opponent for everyone, but at the midpoint of the NBA season it appears as if the Spurs have temporarily defeated him. Again.

    The Bad: Los Angeles Lakers

    Where does one even begin with the Lakers? Steve Nash, Dwight Howard, and Pau Gasol have all missed significant time with injuries. A spark off the bench, Jordan Hill, is out for the season (though his injury allowed for the emergence of Earl Clark), and the Lakers have even gone through a coaching change. Basically anything that could go wrong in LA has. Now rumors are circulating that Pau Gasol may ask for a trade at the end of the season, Dwight Howard may walk as a free agent, and stories of Nash and Howard feuding have emerged. The Lakers are on outside looking in on the playoff picture, and it actually isn’t completely far-fetched to say they won’t make the playoffs. After the most exciting offseason the Lakers have had since acquiring Shaq, not even the most avid of Laker haters would have predicted the free fall the Lakers have taken this year. Maybe they’ll make a rally in the second half of the season; it does seem inevitable with a team with so much talent, but as of now the Lakers are the clear-cut “ugly” of the midway point. Not even Dwight Howard’s blue headband, which doesn’t match any uniform he wears it with, can argue.

    The Ugly: Golden State's alternate digs

    Aside from Stephen Curry being snubbed from this year’s All-Star game, the Golden State Warriors have had a fairly positive season. That was until they released these jerseys a few days ago on Feb. 11.


    The NBA hasn’t been particularly shy about alternative uniforms. From Christmas Day gear, to the Bulls wearing green jerseys on St. Patrick’s Day, odd NBA jerseys have not been in short supply. But this new Warriors get up isn’t exactly top of the line fashion. The Warriors will be the first NBA team to adopt sleeves on their uniforms (while a few college teams are as well). The first problem lies with the color scheme being a bit off, (it doesn’t really make sense why the shorts would look like an entirely different uniform than the top), and that’s just the beginning. The uniforms don’t exactly look like basketball jerseys. They probably resemble Olympic men’s volleyball jerseys, and they won’t exactly be the most flattering jersey for most players in the league. It might look cool on athletic swingmen like the ones the Warriors had for the picture, but many players in the league just shouldn’t be wearing what is essentially a form fitting t-shirt. And besides the terrible color scheme, sleeves just aren’t a part of basketball culture. There’s a certain jersey look that embodies basketball, and what the Warriors have isn’t it. On a positive note: we’re provided with a new jersey to use in NBA2K13.

  • After a four-year absence, Texas’ lone NHL team will still be playing this May

    After a four-year drought, the Dallas Stars will be making a return to the playoffs this season. The kids and superior goaltending will be leading the charge.

    Of course, Stars fans have a plethora of reasons to be excited about the team’s chances to contend. It’s also well known that the Stars are no strangers to coughing up their playoff chances in the last week or two of the season. So it’s understandable why most hockey fans outside of Dallas are writing them off.

    But cast the doubts aside: This team is once again ready to represent Texas in the playoffs.

    It was a busy and productive offseason for the Stars. The new ownership group led by Tom Gaglardi as well as GM and former Dallas Stars center Joe Nieuwendyk have shown a commitment to improve this team from the ground up with an emphasis on youth development.

    Sure, through trades and free agency most teams acquire seasoned veterans for their knowledge of and experience with the game. The Stars certainly brought in their fair share of veterans this offseason (center Derek Roy, defenseman Aaron Rome) and even geezers in the form of a couple 40+ year-olds: center Ray Whitney and living legend right winger Jaromir Jagr, who turns 41 this week.

    But homegrown talent, originating from draft picks, is where many teams find their success on the ice. This is the Stars' single greatest strength. This year, that class of players is a major part of the team’s core. It is headlined by 23-year-old rising star center Jamie Benn and winger Loui Erikkson, 27, along with fleet-footed forward Cody Eakin, 21, and the mammoth defensemen Brendon Dillon, 22, and Jamie Oleksiak, 20.

    In a season where every team is playing 48 games in 99 days, physical and mental fatigue will certainly set in. The Stars will need the energetic legs of its younger players to compete the whole year. These kids are ready though, and they’ll provide that energy while leading the team into the playoffs.

    If the single most important aspect of successful hockey teams is the infusion of talented youth, then elite goaltending is an extremely close second.

    In hockey it is often said that the goaltender is the backbone of the team, and the “most important defenseman.” It is no secret that the Stars have a special one of their own.

    Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen has earned elite status as a goaltender. Over the last two seasons he has posted a combined goals allowed average (GAA) of 2.44 and a save percentage of .914. In those two seasons, he ranked in the top 10 in the league in number of opponent shots faced.

    He has improved every year he’s been in a Stars uniform. So far this season, Lehtonen is tied for second in the league in wins, and is boasting a GAA of 2.30 and a save percentage of .928. In a lockout-shortened schedule where the Stars play a gauntlet of exclusively western conference teams, those numbers are highly respectable.

    When he’s on his game, Lehtonen is easily a top 10 goalie in the NHL. He constantly keeps the Stars in game with his lightning-fast glove, and an ability to control the puck off rebounds in traffic. He possesses great net play and instincts, knowing when to cover up the puck or shoot it down the boards and out of the defensive zone.

    His only flaw is that he is somewhat prone to injury. During his tenure with Dallas he has dramatically cut down his time on the injured reserve list. The Stars will need Lehtonen healthy
    and consistently on his “A” game this season.

    It’s been almost 10 years since the Stars truly competed for the Stanley Cup. While the Stars are not yet a championship-caliber team, they are well on their way to re-establishing
    themselves as one. But for now, get ready, Texas and the rest of the hockey world – you’ll be seeing the green, black and gold on the ice in May, taking their next big step back to glory.