Wow, what a slow week in sports. Its kind of the calm before the sporting storm though—pitchers and catchers are reporting, March Madness is in the on deck circle and the NFL Combine (for those that care) is around the corner which leaves us with a sporting pulse which is below the normal heart rate. It got so bad this week with the remote control that I had to settle for the Westminster Dog Show and at my lowest moment—reruns of the Battle of the Network Stars on ESPN Classic. My personal highlight —how about Willie Aames and Greg Harrison going mano a mano on the obstacle course with Billy Crystal and Howard Cosell on the call—gotta kick it ole school every once in a while?!
With that said this week got me thinking on how much has happened the past year. Its amazing how many stars can rise, fall and come out of nowhere in the span of 365 days. Its what makes following the games and the stars so intriguing and at times puzzling and perplexing. With that said, let’s use this subpar week in sports to spotlight the risers and fallers from the past year—-among other topics….
JOE FLACCO: A year ago the Ravens QB was tagged an average Joe. A QB who was good enough to get you to the playoffs and maybe one win but never the Elite QB who would take you to the Super Bowl and win it. A year later Average Joe turned into Joe Cool tying the Ultimate Joe, Joe Montana for being the most efficient NFL QB of any postseason. Flacco is clutch and quite bold turning down a mega extension before the season to roll the dice with the hopes he would have a great season and create more leverage—Mission Accomplished.
JOHNNY FOOTBALL: Raise your hand if last February you heard of this guy? Don’t worry you are hardly alone. The Heisman Trophy winner became the 1st Freshman to bring home the award and he did it in the SEC with a signature win against eventual National Champion Alabama. I saw his Exclamation Point performance in the Cotton Bowl against Oklahoma—its scary how good he will be in the coming years where Archie Griffin’s claim to be the only two time Heisman winner is in jeopardy.
WILL MUSCHAMP: A year ago most Florida fans I talked to were concerned about the future of the program and its football coach who couldn’t seem to keep it together on the sidelines.Who would have predicted this time last year that the Gators would be coming off a season where they beat LSU and South Carolina at home and dominated FSU on the road to finish 11-2 and 7-1 in the SEC. Sure they had a Sugar stinker against Louisville but Muschamp continues to be the best recruiter in the state of Florida the past two years and one of the best in the country. His QB Jeff Driskel should only get better and his program is not only more tougher than a year ago but much more stable than the Urban Meyer years.
NOTRE DAME: Like Florida, they didnt finish strong and I’m not talking about Manti Te’0’s tweets. Its amazing how far this program has come in only a year where they turned in its best season since 1988. Brian Kelly certainly did what nobody since Lou Holtz has done–make the Irish relevant again. Notre Dame was overhyped and overexposed for decades and while they are clearly behind when it comes to big boy SEC football—they made quite a jump in a year.
LEBRON JAMES: A year ago he was the whipping boy for every media outlet, a year later he’s a champion and dare we say back in the conversation of being as good or better than Jordan. A year ago he was chastised for not wanting to take the big shots, not being a leader and for not living up to his potential. No athlete has flipped the switch in a year’s span more so than King James who is playing on a level this season like no one has seen since His Airness—the scary thing he still only 28 years old.
KATHERINE WEBB: A year ago she was hoping to be Miss America but then in one sentence Brent Musberger threw her life a change up. The girlfriend of Alabama QB A.J. McCarron was singled out by Musberger in the BCS National Championship game for her looks and was lampooned–Webb subsequently was then larger than life. Since then Webb has acquired over 200,00 Twitter followers, an appearance on the Today show and pictures in the SI Swimsuit issue. Folks–only in America!
TIM TEBOW: A year ago Tebow Mania and Tebowing were the rage. A year later…..crickets. You have to wonder at this point is his NFL career over unless he wants to play Tight End or Fullback? I still don’t understand the free fall. He led the Broncos as far as Peyton Manning did this season and wasn’t given a chance by the Jets. But the league seems disinterested, even the hometown Jaguars who were interested a year ago, now are turning the other cheek. From a playoff victory against the Pittsburgh Steelers to a possible football future North of the Border??? The last 12 months have not been kind.
LINSANITY: He’s still in the NBA, he is still a starter but Jeremy Lin has now dribbled back to the status quo. A year ago he was the Biggest Star in the Big Apple, a year later he is in Houston where you hardly here a peep. The good news for Jeremy, he’s making much more money than a year ago but the headlines are history where the former Ivy Leaguer is a mere mortal these days. Interesting though–Lin is averaging 12.6 a game this year compared to 14.6 a year ago with the Knicks—not a big difference except for the hype.
LANE KIFFIN: The coach many love to hate has many of his haters all smiles these days. A year ago he had his QB Matt Barkley stiff arm the NFL Draft and return for his senior season. He had quite a complementary cast coming back on both sides of the football–so talented that his Trojans would be preseason Number One. A year later, Kiffin is coming off a 7-6 season where USC lost 5 of its last 6 games including an embarrassing yes, Sun Bowl loss to a Georgia Tech team that had no business being in a Bowl Game. These days Kiffin is losing recruits, his Dad Monte as Defensive Coordinator and getting the dreaded vote of confidence from his Athletic Director Pat Haden…..a year from now he could very well be out of work in not sooner.
JORDAN STILL RULES: Wanna feel old—Michael Jordan turns 50 this week? He’s been retired for 10 years and the man with the iconic shoes still hasn’t had anybody fill them yet. Lebron is a better athlete, Kobe may possess the same killer instincts but in crunch time I still want Air Jordan to take the last shot for my team. I dealt with Jordan a few times over the years and never had a problem with him. My favorite memory was when I was waiting to interview him after a game with the Birmingham Barons. While we were waiting his minor league teammates spilled beer in his seat and when he came back he loved it. His teammates loved him back then and it said a lot about the way he carried himself off and on the field–even with guys with a lot less money and prestige. Happy Birthday Mike—I still think you could give us double figures if you suited up this week.
GETTING GRONK?! He hasn’t been arrested and to my knowledge isn’t doing drugs or hurting anybody but himself. Patriots Tight End Rob Gronkowski sure makes plenty of noise off the playing field though. If I’m the Patriots I would prefer him not body slamming his buddies on stage in Vegas but overall I have no problem with it. I think a lot of media critics forget what day and age we live in. I can’t imagine being in my early twenties, single and having millions with TMZ and camera phones everywhere. Joe Namath and Mickey Mantle would have put on similar displays back in the day. I saw a kid at the Super Bowl ask Gronk to donate to his school’s charity and without hesitation gave him a 100 dollar bill—sure he’s a Meathead but a harmless one.
THE FIRST NOEL? You wonder the future of Kentucky ‘s forward Nerlens Noel as the Number One pick in this year’s NBA Draft. Tough to watch him get hurt against the Gators where he tore the ACL in his left knee. He is out of the season but is easily the best prospect in the 2013 class, so he still may go Number one. Adrian Peterson’s comeback puts pressure on every athlete and this whole situation makes you wonder how long the NBA’s one and done rule can last. It also makes you appreciate how long we get to enjoy college football stars like Jadeveon Clowney who would easily be the top pick in this year’s NFL draft but has another mandated year at South Carolina. I think two years is enough for both sports—enough time to prep to be a pro and enough time for school’s to have them contribute to the program.
NOBODY ASKED ME BUT…. OK admit it every one of us has a movie out there that they for some reason or other haven’t seen. Despite its overwhelming popularity, you either haven’t made it a priority, thought it might not be that good or just have procrastinated. My movie is Die Hard—it came out in 1988 and it took me 25 years to see it as I checked it out this week. I thought it was great and look forward to watching its sequels. Now my buddies can get off my back—I would be interested in hearing what movie you have avoided—we all have one? Next on my list the Bourne Identity series.
EXTRA POINT: Why do people ask me if they can take my grocery cart to the car? Am I getting that old??????
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