Articles By Athlon Sports

Path: /nfl/super-bowl-xlvii-one-one-baltimore-ravens-linebacker-dannell-ellerbe

Unless a nagging ankle injury sidelines him, Baltimore linebacker Dannell Ellerbe should line up next to Ray Lewis when the Ravens’ defense takes the field in Super Bowl XLVII on Sunday. An undrafted free agent out of Georgia who signed with the Ravens following the 2009 NFL Draft, Ellerbe has asserted and established himself in his fourth pro season.

Besides working his way into the starting lineup, Ellerbe posted a career-high 92 tackles during the regular season, finishing second on the team in that category, to go along with 4.5 sacks (tied for third). Even though Ellerbe’s been dealing with an ankle injury and a back issue, he hasn’t let either malady take him off of the field during the playoffs. He collected nine tackles in Baltimore’s wins over Indianapolis and Denver, and picked up his first interception of the season against New England quarterback Tom Brady in the AFC Championship game.

With the biggest game of his NFL career set to kick off on Sunday, Ellerbe sat down with Athlon Sports earlier this week to talk about the Ravens’ remarkable postseason run, playing alongside a Hall of Fame linebacker, his impressions of his own quarterback, the Super Bowl matchup with San Francisco and more.

What has the past week been like for you and your teammates?
“It’s crazy man, at the beginning of the week you have to put in for rooms and get tickets in line for everyone. It’s a headache getting all of that in line, but this is my first Super Bowl so I want my family to come, and I want them to come and want to get them down there. As far as practice goes, I haven’t been practicing this week because of injuries, but you want to get most of your work done here, before you get down there and give away what you are practicing, and getting most of our work in now so when we get down there we can polish up what we have don. Going forward, this week I’m gonna be in my playbook studying up, but now I’ve just been getting my family straight and all the tickets and rooms in line and rehabbing a lot. It’s busy.”

Is the preparation for this game any different?
“It hasn’t been really different, I wanna treat this like a regular game, I don’t want to be like ‘Oh man, it’s the Super Bowl’ and freak out. I’m just staying lighthearted about it and going about it like a regular season game, and don’t wanna get caught up in the superstitions, and just go out there and have fun like I have been doing all year.”

What has the atmosphere been like in Baltimore this past month on the path to the Super Bowl?
“Oh man, I saw a picture after we beat Denver and there were so many people downtown, it was crazy. At the radio show the fans come out and fans are calling in and the fans are outstanding. It’s just a great time to be in Baltimore right now.”

How much of a challenge will it be facing a guy like Colin Kaepernick, and his unique skill set on Sunday?
“It’s always difficult when you face a dual-threat quarterback. Not only do you have to worry about him throwing the ball, you have to worry about him taking off and running it, or vice versa. I would rather face a pocket passer, because that’s a headache in itself. When you have everyone covered a pocket passer will throw it out of bounds, but a guy that is fast and can take off and run makes it hard. You can’t run too much man defense and you have to spy. It’s tough, but we faced some guys this year like RGIII and Andrew Luck, and Mike Vick, so we know about them.”

Your quarterback isn't mentioned with the Peyton Mannings and Tom Bradys of the world, but Joe Flacco has an impressive resume in his time in the league. What makes him so good under pressure?
“The more experience he has been getting the better he has been doing, and the offensive line is doing a hell of a job blocking for him. You can tell he is comfortable in the pocket right now and he’s not looking to scramble. You can tell when the timer goes off in his head. I mean its just ‘Joe Cool.’ That’s his nickname around here, because you can never tell if he is flustered or not, he just has that nonchalant attitude, but is cool under pressure.”

You've played with Ray Lewis now for four years. Has his approach changed since coming back from injury and announcing his retirement?
“His approach has been a little more intense, if that’s possible, but I mean he has pretty much stayed the same. I feel like he is upping it a little bit more, because this is his last ride, so you know this is it for him. But he is staying true to his self and bringing the same work ethic. He always puts his all into it, but he is definitely putting everything he has into it now.”

What has he taught you about being an NFL linebacker? And how is it playing alongside a Hall of Famer like Ray?
“I just want to start off saying that it’s a blessing to play beside a guy like Ray Lewis, arguably the best inside linebacker to ever play the game. A guy that’s gonna be a Hall of Famer no doubt about it, great character, Christian guy. As far as what I have learned from him, I have just learned how to watch film a certain way and look for certain things when watching film. The first thing he told me when I got here was treat football like a business, come to work do your job, go home and just do your job, because it is a business, and keep my body fresh and how to take care of my body. There’s just so much I have learned from him, always take notes and learn all the little tools, so you can be a step ahead of everyone else.”

Has it sunk in that you are a part of the defense that beat Peyton Manning and Tom Brady on the road to get to the Super Bowl?
“I’m not sure, because of everything I’m going through with these tickets and rehab. I am definitely aware that these two quarterbacks are going to be Hall of Famers, and with how our defense played earlier in the year and with all the scrutiny our defense we went through a lot. So for us to come back at the end when it really mattered and play great, and to hold them [Patriots] to 13 points is just crazy. It’s awesome.”

Is there one specific play or moment that you will forever remember from this run through the playoffs?
“Definitely my interception against the Broncos, it basically sealed the game. You know what I’m saying, they were driving to get some points, and I will always remember because I had the cast on my hand and the ball got tipped at the line and it looked like a punt and I felt like I was in a movie. The ball was coming down so slow man, it was crazy, it was a play I will never forget, plus I will never forget any of my picks. I remember all of them like it was yesterday. I’m gonna try and get me one in this Super Bowl hopefully.”

—by Blake Southerland

Check out Athlon Sports' special Super Bowl section for more coverage on the Ravens vs. 49ers and the history of the big game.

<p> Super Bowl XLVII: One on One With Ravens Linebacker Dannell Ellerbe</p>
Post date: Wednesday, January 30, 2013 - 12:00
All taxonomy terms: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, MLB, Monthly
Path: /mlb/should-steroids-forever-keep-barry-bonds-and-roger-clemens-out-baseballs-hall-fame

Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, the greatest hitter and pitcher of the “Steroid Era,” headlined a group of 37 players eligible for the Class of 2013 in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. But for the first time since 1996, zero players were immortalized by baseball writers in the museum at Cooperstown, N.Y.

The Baseball Writers’ Association of America made a collective statement. Needing 75 percent of the BBWAA vote for enshrinement, Clemens (37.6) and Bonds (36.2) — undeniably the faces of the PED generation — finished eighth and ninth, despite being two of the most dominant players in history.
Both men have gone to trial for obstruction of justice and perjury charges stemming from testimony regarding alleged steroid use. Using the established legal timelines, we attempt to break down the career numbers of Bonds and Clemens — from the clean years to the potentially juiced seasons.
Reportedly jealous of the attention received by both Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa during the home run race that “saved baseball” in 1998, Bonds allegedly turned to PEDs. Evidence points to 1999 as his first tainted season; he posted the lowest AB-per-HR total of his career (10.4 in 1999, 16.1 from 1986-98) and played a career-low 102 games due to an elbow injury that is speculated to have been a result of steroid overuse.

From there, Bonds’ hat size and stat size grew to otherworldly levels — as he hit 73 HRs in 2001 and batted .370 in 2002. It’s hard to deny Bonds’ résumé prior to 1999. The son former All-Star Bobby Bonds and godson of Hall of Famer Willie Mays was already a one-man member of the 400-400 HR-SB club.
After posting a 4.00 ERA or higher in two of his last four seasons in Boston, “Rocket” found new fuel after going to Toronto in 1997 — with back-to-back Cy Young seasons. He then went on to post two more Cy Young years, as a 38-year-old 20-game winner with the Yankees in 2001 and a 41-year-old 18-game winner with the Astros in 2004.
­But prior to going north of the border, Clemens was one of only five three-time Cy Young winners — along with Steve Carlton, Greg Maddux, Sandy Koufax, Jim Palmer and Tom Seaver. Of those, only Koufax could match Clemens with one MVP Award to go along with his three Cy Youngs.
<p> Should steroids Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens out of Baseball's Hall of Fame?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, January 29, 2013 - 14:00
All taxonomy terms: Atlanta Braves, Chipper Jones, MLB, Monthly
Path: /mlb/baseball-great-chipper-jones-finds-sanctuary-hunting

Hunting is a way of life for future baseball Hall of Famer Chipper Jones. He’s as comfortable sitting with his bow 25 feet up an oak tree as he was standing in a batter’s box fighting off 95-mph fastballs with a piece of white ash wood.
Jones, the recently retired Atlanta Brave who gets his given name (Larry Wayne Jr.) from his dad, bagged his first buck on his own about the same time be began switch-hitting in youth baseball — when he was 12 years old. Catching his father in the midst of a Sunday afternoon nap following a morning hunt, young Chipper asked his dad if he could take the truck down to the hunting camp just a mile or so from their Pierson, Fla., home. Dad, in obvious deep sleep, gave his approval.
A short time later, Chipper returned with the first buck he ever harvested on his own. 
“It was kind of weird, a little scary, being out there for the first time (on my own), and I just remember pulling up to the house with that deer in the back of the truck, and knowing how proud — and shocked — that dad was going to be,” Chipper recalls with a smile some 28 years later.

Baseball wasn’t the only bond between Chipper and his dad, Larry Wayne Sr. (pictured right). Hunting had such a grip on the father and son that they always dreamed of operating a hunting business together.
Chipper’s success in baseball, and the wealth that came along with it, allowed that dream to become reality more than a decade ago with the founding of Double Dime Ranch, a 10,000-plus acre property where trophy whitetail can be found along with bobcat, javelina, Rio Grande turkey and an array of birds native to Southwest Texas. The property is about 14 miles long and 11 miles wide.
“That’s probably my favorite place on the planet,” says Jones, who is spending more time there now after retiring from baseball. “It’s the most therapeutic place for me because nobody can get in, and we’re out in the middle of God’s nowhere.”
Athletes like Jones, an eight-time all-star third baseman and former National League MVP, find hunting offers a refuge from the public spotlight.
“It gets my mind off things. It relaxes me. It excites me,” says one of the best switch-hitters in baseball history. “I love nothing more than climbing a tree and getting most of my tough thinking done. A lot of decisions have been made 20, 25 feet up an oak tree.
“The actual harvesting of an animal is secondary. I’ve spent so much of my life in or around a spotlight that being up a tree is my one sanctuary.”
While hunting brings this self-described country boy back to his roots, he’s just as competitive in this sport as he was in his baseball career. Jones uses video taken at his ranch to determine which deer can be hunted and which deer to leave alone.
Visiting hunters will get a detailed scouting report from Jones or his father. The trophies he has mounted in his hunting lodge are proof of the big bucks at Double Dime.
“My first bow buck out here was a 182-inch deer,’’ says Jones, who is strictly a bow hunter now. “He was just a stud. I hunted him for the better part of two years before I got a chance to take him with a bow, and I finally did.”
Jones also hunts in Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and other parts of the Midwest. Some of it is recorded for “Major League Bowhunter,” a TV show on the Sportsman Channel that features Matt Duff, a former pitcher who reached the big leagues with the St. Louis Cardinals, and Jeff Danker. While viewers see a 30-minute edited version of various hunts, Jones says folks don’t really know what goes on behind-the-scenes.
“My cameraman and I sat for 12 hours in a tree from daylight to dark (in Nebraska),” he says with a laugh. “It was 17 degrees when we got in the tree, and the wind blew 15 to 20 miles per hour all day. It was one of the coldest days I ever spent in the woods.”
That leads to the one piece of advice Jones offers for hunters.
“You have to put your time in and log those hours in the tree, because they’re not going to fall into your lap sitting on the couch,” he said.
—by Sean Kernan
<p> Baseball Great Chipper Jones Finds Sanctuary in Hunting</p>
Post date: Monday, January 28, 2013 - 15:00
Path: /nfl/20-things-every-fan-should-know-about-super-bowl
They say knowledge is power. And we believe that. That's why we're going to make you the most powerful person at this year's Super Bowl XLVII party. Here is everything you need to know about the Big Game (and probably some stuff you don't) to wow your friends and random strangers as they destroy your living room. 

Super Bowl XLVII Facts

Where? Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans
The NFC is the designated home team and will have choice of jersey.
The winning team receives the Lombardi Trophy, produced by Tiffany is 20.75 inches tall and weighs 107.3 ounces (6.7 pounds)
The Teams of Super Bowl XLVII
• Baltimore Ravens
How they got to Super Bowl XLVII: Champions of AFC North (10-6), defeated Indianapolis 24-9 in AFC Wild Card round, defeated Denver 38-35 in double OT in AFC Divisional round, defeated New England 28-13 in AFC Championship Game
Founded: In November 1995, Art Modell, then-owner of the Cleveland Browns announced his intentions to relocate his franchise to Baltimore. The NFL approved the move in February 1996. The relocated Baltimore franchise was named the Ravens after a Baltimore Sun telephone poll received a record number of calls supporting the name. The name was inspired by Edgar Allen Poe’s famous poem from 1845, “The Raven.”
Super Bowl Championships (1)
Conference Championships (7)
Division Championships (4)
Playoff appearances (9)
Head-to-head vs. San Francisco 49ers: 3-1 (.750), last meeting taking place Nov. 24, 2011 Baltimore 16, San Francisco 6 at Baltimore.  
• San Francisco 49ers
How they got to Super Bowl XLVII: Champions of NFC West (11-4-1), defeated Green Bay 45-31 in NFC Divisional round, defeated Atlanta 28-24 in NFC Championship Game
Founded: Originated in 1946 as a charter member of the All-American Football Conference (AAFC). Joined the NFL in December 1949 when the AAFC and NFL merged. The name “49ers” comes from the name given to the gold prospectors who arrived in Northern California around 1849 during the California Gold Rush. It is the only name the team has ever had. The 49ers are the oldest major professional sports team in California.
Super Bowl Championships (5)
Conference Championships (5)
Division Championships (19)
Playoff appearances (25)
Head-to-Head vs. Baltimore Ravens: 1-3 (.250), last meeting taking place Nov. 24, 2011 Baltimore 16, San Francisco 6 at Baltimore. 
Halftime Hottie
Beyonce will take the stage at halftime for a reunion with Destiny's Child and possibly even a duet with her husband, Jay-Z. This isn't Beyonce's first Super Bowl, however; she sang the national anthem prior to kickoff of Super Bowl XXXVIII in her hometown of Houston. 
Super Bonuses
How much extra money does a player in the Super Bowl get?
Super Bowl I
Winner’s Share: $15,000
Loser’s Share: $7,500
Super Bowl XLVII
Winner’s Share: $88,000
Loser’s Share: $44,000
Galloping Tosser
Prior to Super Bowl XII, Red Grange was the first celebrity coin tosser. For the first 11 games, officials flipped the coin.
Must-See TV
• The last four Super Bowls have topped 150,000,000 viewers, according to Nielson Ratings.
• During Super Bowl XLIII, NBC used 52 hi-def cameras, 450 crew members and 50 miles of camera and microphone cables needing 45 vehicles for the big production.
• Based on the average audience, according to Nielsen, Super Bowls account for eight of the top 15 most-watched television programs ever.
• First “Million-Dollar Minute” was during Super Bowl XIX when 30-second spots topped $500,000.
• On the Sunday of Super Bowl XL, traffic to increased 1,564% over the average of the four previous Sundays.
Price for 30-second commercial
I $42,000
V $72,000
X $110,000
XV $275,000
XX $550,000
XXX $1,085,000
XL $2,400,000
XLVII $3,800,000
Playing the Market
While there’s no reason to believe that a professional football game should have any connection to the stock market, few indicators are better known on Wall Street than the Super Bowl Theory. The Super Bowl indicator holds that a victory by an NFC team or an original (pre-1970 merger) NFL team—the Browns, Colts, and Steelers — point to a bullish market the following year. An AFC victory signals a bearish drop in the market. The Super Bowl Theory has been an accurate indicator 38 times in 46 seasons.
QB Numbers
Twenty-six of the 92 starting quarterbacks have worn No. 12. Three times two No. 12s have met in the game. Roger Staubach faced Bob Griese once and Terry Bradshaw twice.
W-L Records for QB numbers:
No. 12 is 14-12
No. 7 is 5-8
No. 16 is 7-2
No. 8 is 5-2
• No. 19 is the only undefeated QB jersey number at 1-0.
• No QB has ever worn No. 1, 2 or 6. Jay Cutler, Matt Ryan and Cam Newton could be the first.
Names and Numerals
Tickets for the matchup between the New York Jets of the AFL and the Baltimore Colts of the NFL in January 1969 referred to the event as the Third World Championship Game. But the Super Bowl name was beginning to stick and became official with Super Bowl III. Lamar Hunt, fascinated with the name and liveliness of a Super Ball that was a favorite toy of his children, was the original advocate of the name.
The Roman Numeral designation began with Super Bowl V. They were adopted to clarify confusion that could result because the game is actually played in the calendar year following the regular season. Numerals I through IV were added later.
Figures Don’t Lie 
• Super Bowl teams with fewer turnovers than their opponents are 34-3 (.919).
• Super Bowl teams with the time of possession advantage are 34-12 (.739).
• Super Bowl teams with the most time-consuming scoring drive during the game are 36-10 (.783).
By the Numbers
3,581,385: Fans have walked through the turnstiles to watch Super Bowl games. The largest crowd was 103,985 at Super Bowl XIV at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.
2: Networks (CBS and NBC) that televised Super Bowl I. The two networks alternated televising the game until ABC joined the fray for Super Bowl XIX. NBC and CBS have each televised 17, ABC seven and Fox six.
49.1: Highest rating from Nielsen for any Super Bowl (XVI).
15: Super Bowls in which Pat Summerall was behind the mic, both as an analyst and play-by-play voice. John Madden is second with 11, Al Michaels and Dick Enberg have eight, Curt Gowdy (7), Phil Simms and Frank Gifford (6).
14: Super Bowl winners that have failed to make the playoffs the following season. Eight have repeated as Super Bowl champs. The last was New England in Super Bowl XXXIX.
6: Super Bowl wins for the Pittsburgh Steelers, the most for any franchise. San Francisco and Dallas are tied with five.
6: Super Bowls in which Mike Lodish played, the most for any player. (Buffalo and Denver)
2: Players — Preston Pearson and Bill Romanowski — to have appeared in the Super Bowl with three different teams. 
5: Super Bowl wins for Charles Haley, the most by any player.
4: Super Bowls won by coach Chuck Noll of Pittsburgh, the most of any coach. 
54: Yards of the longest field goal in Super Bowl history. Steve Christie of Buffalo kicked a 54-yarder in XXVII.
414: Passing yards in Super Bowl XXXIV for Kurt Warner of the St. Louis Rams, the most in history. Warner also holds the second- and third-most yards in Super Bowl history with 377 in XLIII and 365 in XXXVI.
122: Passes attempted by Joe Montana in four Super Bowls without throwing an interception.
0: Punts returned for a touchdown in Super Bowl history.
8: Kickoffs returned for touchdowns in Super Bowl history.
0: Shutouts in Super Bowls history.
5: Safeties in Super Bowls history.
602: Yards gained by Washington in Super Bowl XXII vs. Denver, the most yards in history.
119: Yards gained by the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IX vs. Pittsburgh, the fewest yards gained in any Super Bowl.
18: Passes attempted by Miami total in its back-to-back Super Bowl wins in VII and VIII over Washington and Minnesota.
2: Games played without any turnovers. (Buffalo-New York Giants, XXV and Tennessee-St. Louis, XXXIV)
2: Times a team has punted just once in a Super Bowl. Ironically, both teams accomplished it in the same game (Atlanta-Denver, XXXIII)
1: Game in which both teams returned a kickoff for a touchdown. (Baltimore-New York Giants, XXXV)
4: Teams that have managed to get through a game without being flagged. (Miami VI, Pittsburgh X, Denver XXIV, Atlanta XXXIII)
-10: Largest deficit ever overcome to win a Super Bowl.
3: Griffin brothers (Archie, Ray and Keith) to appear in a Super Bowl.
$12: Most expensive ticket for Super Bowl I between Green Bay and Kansas City in Los Angeles. 
$600: Least expensive ticket for Super Bowl XLVI.
338: Media credentials issued for Super Bowl I in Los Angeles.
5,156: Media credentials issued for Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis.
10: Super Bowls held in NOLA, tied with South Florida for the most of any metropolitan area.
5Coaches to take two different teams to the Super Bowl. (Don Shula, Dick Vermeil, Dan Reeves, Bill Parcells and Mike Holmgren)
22-24: Record of the team that sins the coin toss.
Youngest QBs to Win a Super Bowl
1. Ben Roethlisberger, 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers (23 years, 340 days)
2. Tom Brady, 2001 New England Patriots (24 years, 184 days)
3. Joe Namath, 1968 New York Jets (25 years, 226 days)
4. Joe Montana, 1981 San Francisco 49ers (25 years, 227 days)
Super Logistics
• There were 15 buses used for special groups at Super Bowl I; 150 buses at Super Bowl VII; and 1,100 buses and 500 limousines at Super Bowl XXI.
• The Miami International Airport added 100 extra commercial flights to the schedule for Super Bowl XXIX. 
• There were 400 helicopter landings at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium for XXII.
Super Demographics
According to the Associated Press, 80 percent of Super Bowl ticket holders are in executive, management, professional, or sales positions; 35 percent attend the game on corporate expense accounts; 27 percent own their own companies; 25 percent are corporate officers; and 22 percent are on boards of directors.
Party On
• There are 7.5 million parties on Super Bowl Sunday, with 43.9 million party-goers (National Retail Federation)
• 1.5 million TV sets will be sold the week leading up to Super Bowl (National Retail Federation)
• Super Bowl is the top at-home party event of year, ahead of New Year’s Eve (Hallmark Cards, Inc.) 
• Super Bowl Sunday is the second-largest day of food consumption behind Thanksgiving (American Institute of Food Distribution) 
• Antacid sales increase 20 percent the day after Super Bowl (7-11 stores) 
• Super Bowl weekend is the slowest weekend for weddings (NFL)
Stop the World…I Want to Watch Football
• Long-distance telephone calls decrease 50 percent during a Super Bowl, but rise at halftime.
• San Francisco police reported arrests for minor crimes dropped from an average of 360 daily to 96 on the day of Super Bowl XVI between the 49ers and Cincinnati Bengals.
• Dallas water department officials reported water pressure dipped by five pounds during television commercials carried on the telecast of Super Bowl VI, in which the Cowboys defeated the Dolphins 24-3.
Roadies Take the Stage
• Time to set up the stage and sound and lighting for a rock concert at Qualcomm Stadium: 2-3 days
• Time to set up and break down the stage for the Super Bowl XXXVII halftime show, including the 12-minute show itself: 27 minutes
• Number of crew members needed to accomplish this: 2,500
No Vacancy?
For Super Bowl XXXIX, the city of Jacksonville docked five cruise ships along the St. John’s River, adding the equivalent of 3,667 hotel rooms, housing 6,400 people.—Florida Times-Union
New Year, New Party
Typically, on Super Bowl Sunday, Americans will eat 30 million pounds of snacks including:
• 11.2 million pounds of potato chips 
• 8.2 million pounds of tortilla chips 
• 4.3 million pounds of pretzels 
• 3.8 million pounds of popcorn
• 2.5 million pounds of nuts 
Potato chip intake alone will account for 27 billion calories and 4 million pounds of fat—the weight of 13,000 NFL offensive linemen.
—Calorie Control Council and Snack Food Association
Replace the chips with veggie trays and fruit bowls. Instead of soda and beer, serve natural fruit juices, tea and water. Your waist line will love you for it.
Chick Magnet
A 35-year-old man with two tickets to Super Bowl XXXVII posted an ad on a Bay Area website seeking a “gorgeous young date” to go to the game with him. Within two hours, the man received five offers.
—San Francisco Chronicle
All-Lost-Madden Team
When John Madden was coaching the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XI at the Rose Bowl, he was so wound up on game day he forgot something: a half-dozen of his players.
“I’d changed the itinerary, the time we were supposed to leave, and I just told the buses to leave,” Madden said. “I got so excited, I just got on the bus and said, ‘Take off.’ We got to the stadium, and I couldn’t find the players. They were afraid because they thought they were late and missed the bus. But I knew I lost them. As a head coach, you can’t go around and say, ‘Hey, I lost six players!’ One of them was John Matuszak, and he was like 6-8, 310 pounds. How the hell do you lose him? You can’t admit it if you’re the head coach. But here I am playing hide-and-go-seek before the damn Super Bowl.”
—New Orleans Times-Picayune
Super Bowl MVP Imports
Hines Ward, born in South Korea, and Mark Rypien (Canada) are the only Super Bowl MVPs born outside of the United States.

Check out Athlon Sports' special Super Bowl section for more coverage on the Ravens vs. 49ers and the history of the big game.

<p> See how much you know about the Big Game</p>
Post date: Monday, January 28, 2013 - 12:00
Path: /nfl/5-under-radar-players-who-could-help-their-team-win-super-bowl-xlvii

Super Bowl XLVIIThe stars of Super Bowl XLVII are easy to pick out. Joe Flacco, the Ravens quarterback, has been playing out of his mind. Colin Kaepernick, the 49ers quarterback, has played like he’s been around for a decade. Ray Lewis is the emotional center of the Ravens, just like Patrick Willis is for the 49ers. Frank Gore and Ray Rice, the running backs are the engines that make their offenses go.

It’s a good bet that one of those six will be the star of the Super Bowl when the Baltimore Ravens play the San Francisco 49ers next Sunday night. And it’s a good bet that all of them will make a big play somewhere in the game. But the harder bet is to find the unsung hero. Who will be the guy, like Mario Manningham a year ago, to step out of the shadows and make the play of the game?

The beauty of it is it could be anybody. But here are six guys – three for each team — that may be flying under your radar, but that should have the opportunity to make a big difference at some point in the game:

Anquan BoldinRavens receiver Anquan Boldin
Torrey Smith is the No. 1 receiver on this team, but Boldin hasn’t exactly faded into aging, possession receiver territory. He may be 32, but he’s taken advantage of some open space and single coverage in the playoffs by catching 16 passes in three games for 276 yards and three touchdowns. By far the team’s leading receiver, he had two touchdowns in the AFC championship game and he’s not likely to get any extra attention as long as Smith is on the other side.

Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta

He doesn’t fit into the Ravens’ offense the way Todd Heap used to fit, and his numbers are decent, but not great in an era of explosive tight ends. But he’s a sneaky weapon, way down the list behind Smith, Boldin, Rice and probably one or two others. Witness his 7 catches for 125 yards and two touchdowns in a Week 15 game against Denver for proof of what he can do. He also has two touchdowns in the playoffs. Lose track of him, and he can make a defense pay.

49ers running back LaMichael James
The emergence of Colin Kaepernick and his ability to run has really diminished the need for a second running back and LaMichael James is an extreme situational player. But he had five runs for 34 yards in the NFC championship game and his 15-yard touchdown run was an incredible combination of burst and speed. When he gets going, he’s like a cannonball, which makes him always one broken tackle away from a game-changing play.


49ers receiver Randy Moss
There was a time not that long ago that Moss was still the most dangerous player on most fields he was on. Now, he’s a bit player in the 49ers offense. The bigger threats are Michael Crabtree, Vernon Davis and Gore. But the Ravens will overlook Moss at their own peril. He has five catches for 71 yards in two playoff games, but he’s still got the size, skill and hands to make big plays. Maybe the consistent speed isn’t there, but all it takes is one big catch to change a game.

Ravens running back Bernard Pierce
This running game belongs to Rice, but the speed and shiftiness of the Ravens’ starter puts the defense on its heels and allows the 6-foot, 218-pound Pierce to come in and knock them over. A very effective 2 in the 1-2 punch, the rookie has only had 27 carries through three playoff games, but he’s rushed for 169 yards – or 6.3 yards per carry. He’s a threat to break a big run if the defense isn’t on its toes, and he can wear them down while Rice gets a breather on the sidelines.

49ers return man Ted Ginn Jr.
He has been solid but unspectacular in the playoffs, until a 20-yard return to the Atlanta 38 put the 49ers in position for the game-winning touchdown last week. He still has the skills and speed to break a big return and he needs to be contained by the Ravens. And if you doubt his importance, just remember what happened in the NFC championship game last season, when Ginn was injured and his replacement, Kyle Williams, literally fumbled away a trip to Super Bowl XLVI.


Check out Athlon Sports' special Super Bowl section for more coverage on the Ravens vs. 49ers and the history of the big game.

<p> Who will be the unsung heroes of the big game?</p>
Post date: Friday, January 25, 2013 - 11:31
All taxonomy terms: Media day, super bowl, NFL, Overtime
Path: /nfl/10-best-media-day-moments-super-bowl-history-0

Super Bowl media day is usually pretty boring. It's full of pat answers and tired cliches. But every once in a while, someone breaks the monotony and actually says or does something interesting. Here are ten of the best (or at least most notable) media day moments in Super Bowl history.

This one barely squeaks in, because there was no media day back then, and the game wasn't even called the Super Bowl yet. But Fred "The Hammer" Williamson set the bar for subsequent game-week trash talk, vowing to inflict harm on Packer receivers Boyd Dowler and Carroll Dale. "Two hammers to Dowler, one to Dale should be enough," he said. Sadly, Fred was on the business end of a hammer himself: He got knocked cold by the knee of Packers guard Gale Gillingham.

Cowboys running back Duane Thomas was a man of so few words that he was known as the Sphinx. Prior to Super Bowl VI, he sat silently through media day, never uttering a single word, part of a year-long media boycott. The previous year, though, Thomas had made a pertinent observation about the Super Bowl: "If it's the ultimate game, why are they playing it again next year?"

Dallas linebacker Thomas "Hollywood" Henderson offered up a memorable assessment of Terry Bradshaw's mental acuity, or lack thereof: "He couldn't spell cat if you spotted him the c and the a." Bradshaw proved he could spell TD, or at least toss them - four of them, in fact, in Pittsburgh's 35-31 win. "I didn't say he couldn't play," Henderson said afterwards. "Just that he couldn't spell."

Raiders quarterback Jim Plunkett grew up in a household with blind parents, one of whom died when Plunkett was at Stanford. On Media Day, one intrepid reporter wanted to make sure he had his facts straight. He shouted: "Jimmy, Jimmy, I want to make sure I have this right. Was it dead mother, blind father or blind mother, dead father?"

The Super Bowl media day that produced an urban legend — the Doug Williams "How long have you been a black quarterback" myth — did have an entertaining moment when notoriously under-educated Redskins defensive lineman Dexter Manley vowed to "catch the quarterback and hit him from behind, in between his two numbers, and cut his lights out." Reporters took the opportunity to remind him that John Elway wore No. 7.

The international nature of the Super Bowl, and the lack of football savvy among some of its international followers, was driven home at media day prior to the Niners-Bengals matchup when a Japanese reporter asked Joe Montana, "Why do they call you Boomer?"

Falcons cornerback Ray Buchanan was so intent on proving that his Falcons didn't mind being underdogs to the Broncos that he wore a dog collar to media day, where he ripped Broncos tight end Shannon Sharpe for being "an ugly dude" who looked like Mr. Ed (I think he was mixing him up with John Elway).

All this led to a hilarious back-and-forth between the two.

"Is he my friend? No," Sharpe said. "Did I ever view him as a friend? No. Did I ever view him as an acquaintance? No. Do I like him? No. If I see him in a snowstorm, his truck is broke down, mine is going perfectly, do I pick him up? No."

Buchanan's reply: "Shannon just runs his mouth saying anything, so we don't need to pay attention to him. He'd better watch out for himself, because he might get knocked out like he did that last game. We're not a team that's going to go out on the field and pull up our skirts and show our panties. I'm not saying we wear panties, but I'm saying we can't go out there and play like females and win the game."

Over to you, Shannon: "Tell Ray to put the eyeliner, the lipstick and the high heels away. I'm not saying he's a cross-dresser, but that's just what I heard."

Steelers safety Troy Polamalu took the opportunity of media day to thank "Entertainment Tonight" for giving him a "Best Hair" award, adding, "I'd like to thank Pantene Pro V, or anyone else who wants to send me free shampoo and conditioner."

TV Azteca's Ines Gomez Mont showed up at media day in a wedding gown and asked several players to marry her, including Tom Brady. During Brady's press conference, she shouted out, "I'm the real Miss Brady." Brady, who was busy juggling Gisele Bundchen and Bridget Moynihan, replied, "I've got a few Miss Bradys in my life."

A year after being involved in an incident at a Super Bowl party that resulted in two stabbing deaths, Ray Lewis showed up for Super Bowl XXXV and addressed the inevitable questions about the incident. "Yes I got money. Yes, I'm black and yes, I'm blessed," Lewis told the crowd. "But at the same time, let's find out the real truth. The real truth is [this] was never about those two kids that's dead in the street. This is about Ray Lewis." Okay then. 

Check out Athlon Sports' special Super Bowl section for more coverage on the Ravens vs. 49ers and the history of the big game.

<p> Sometimes someone says something that's not a cliche.</p>
Post date: Friday, January 25, 2013 - 06:03
All taxonomy terms: Monthly
Path: /monthly/what-major-league-pitcher-hit-most-home-runs

What major league pitcher hit the most home runs? 

— Larry Luttrell, Lubbock, Texas
Wes Farrell, who played primarily for the Cleveland Indians and Boston Red Sox during his 15-year career, which began in 1927, hit 38 career home runs, two of them as a pinch-hitter. Farrell clubbed walk-off home runs on consecutive days in 1935, one of which was a three-run bomb as a pinch-hitter that gave Lefy Grove a 7-6 win. Bob Lemon (37), Red Ruffing (36), and Earl Wilson and Warren Spahn with 35 apiece follow Farrell on the all-time list. You can tell from the decades-long span since those players played that pitchers don’t hit ’em like they used to. Bob Gibson of the Cardinals is the only pitcher who played past 1970 who had as many as 20 career clouts (he hit 24).
— Charlie Miller, Editorial Director
<p> What major league pitcher hit the most home runs?&nbsp;</p>
Post date: Thursday, January 24, 2013 - 17:00
All taxonomy terms: super bowl, NFL, Monthly
Path: /nfl/super-bowl-blowouts-era-best-forgotten

It wasn’t so long ago that the star of Super Bowl Sunday was a talking frog. Or a dancing monkey. Or Cindy Crawford enjoying a refreshing cola.

For a stretch of time that lasted more than a decade, the only suspense after kickoff of the Super Bowl came from anticipating the next clever commercial. More often than not, the actual game was over before it even started.

From 1984-97, in particular, the Super Bowl morphed into a near-annual blowout—anything but a battle between the NFL’s two best teams. During that period of time, the average margin of victory was an obscene 21.4 points and nine of the 14 games were decided by more than two touchdowns.

But a funny thing has happened this millennium. The focus has shifted back to football thanks to a series of tight contests, each more compelling than the next. Since 2000, only two Super Bowls have been decided by more than 14 points, while eight games have ended with a one-score differential. Three others—Super Bowl XL (Steelers-Seahawks), XLI (Colts-Bears) and XLIV (Saints-Colts)—also featured one-score margins at some point in the fourth quarter.

Clearly, it seems, something has changed in a drastic way to make the NFL’s title game far more competitive. Except that’s not actually the case.

A common refrain is that the tighter Super Bowl scores are a byproduct of the NFL’s salary cap. The timing makes sense—the cap came into place in 1994, which was the tail end of the blowout era. And the cap’s reason for existence is tied largely to ensuring competitive balance, so a closer Super Bowl would appear to be the perfect manifestation of that goal.

But that’s not consistent with the way the NFL has changed since ’94. Instead, according to Aaron Schatz, who runs Football Outsiders, a popular advanced metrics website, parity has actually declined in the salary cap era. “In general, the best teams have been coming in stronger each year, while the worst teams have been worse and worse, using our advanced stats,” Schatz says.

So how, then, do we explain the Super Bowl shift? It’s actually the product of two factors. First and foremost, time has allowed us to see the 1984-97 period as a statistical outlier. It’s abnormal for any team to beat another by 20-plus points in any game, let alone when two top teams spar in the Super Bowl. The string of blowouts, not the recent stretch of close games, is the real story, because Super Bowls prior to 1984 also tended to be more competitive. What happened in the ’80s and ’90s was unnatural. 

The blowouts weren’t all the product of random chance, though. “We all know the NFC was much better than the AFC throughout the ’80s,” Schatz says. Indeed, the dominant teams of that era were the 49ers, Giants and Redskins, with the Cowboys joining the mix in the ’90s. Facing the AFC champion (often the Broncos or Bills) often turned out to be a breeze compared to surviving the NFC gauntlet. But that still doesn’t mean the outcomes should have been so one-sided.

This year, though, appears headed in the other direction. According to Schatz, this season featured more close games than any in NFL history. Sure, in time we will probably see that as nothing more than a statistical outlier, too. But if you’re into omens, it bodes well for Feb. 3.

Check out Athlon Sports' special Super Bowl section for more coverage on the Ravens vs. 49ers and the history of the big game.

<p> Super Bowl Blowouts: An Era Best Forgotten</p>
Post date: Thursday, January 24, 2013 - 06:00
All taxonomy terms: Monthly
Path: /monthly/what-age-do-nfl-players-start-drawing-their-pensions

At what age do NFL players start drawing their pensions?

— Ed Johnson, Panama City Beach, Fla.
Players start collecting their pensions at age 55. To qualify, they must be credited for three full seasons (four for players before 1992). A full season is defined as being on the active roster (or on injured reserve or the physically unable to perform list) in three games.
— Rob Doster, Senior Editor
<p> At what age do NFL players start drawing their pensions?</p>
Post date: Wednesday, January 23, 2013 - 16:58
All taxonomy terms: Monthly
Path: /monthly/who-considered-best-athlete-turned-musician

Who is considered the best athlete-turned-musician? I think it is one of these three: Wayman Tisdale (jazz), Shaquille O’Neal (rap) or Bernie Williams (soft jazz). What do you say?

— Nelson Jimenez, Stamford, Conn.
I like your mention of late NBA star Tisdale and retired New York Yankee Williams, both of them accomplished musicians. But you’re being a tad generous by including the Big Aristotle, who’s not exactly renowned for busting rhymes. Other examples of athletes-turned-musicians include boxer Oscar de la Hoya, who recorded a pretty cheesy Latin pop album that, astonishingly, was nominated for a Grammy; tennis player John McEnroe, who wielded a rock-and-roll axe for The Johnny Smyth Band back in the 1990s; soccer star Alexi Lalas, who fronted a band called Gypsies that opened for Hootie and the Blowfish during their 1998 European tour; and Deion Sanders, who recorded a poorly received funk album called “Prime Time” that was released in 1995. I’ll go with Tisdale, who got his musical start playing bass guitar at his dad’s church and ultimately mastered the instrument and recorded eight jazz albums prior to his tragic death in 2009. One of those albums, “Face to Face,” reached No. 1 on the Billboard contemporary jazz chart.
I’ll tell you who it’s not: track star Carl Lewis, whose best-known musical foray was his legendary butchering of the National Anthem prior to a Bulls-Nets game in 1993 — proof that most athletes should stick to sports.
— Rob Doster, Senior Editor
<p> <strong>Who is considered the best athlete-turned-musician?&nbsp;</strong></p>
Post date: Wednesday, January 23, 2013 - 12:46
Path: /college-basketball/nc-state-player-rips-head-coach-mark-gottfried

Thomas De Thaey played 22 career games for the NC State Wolfpack. He averaged 1.7 points per game before transferring out of Raleigh in November of 2012.

He was obviously watching the Wolfpack get upset by a mediocre Wake Forest team on Tuesday night because this is what he thought of the performance by his former team and head coach Mark Gottfried the next morning:


<p> NC State Player Rips Head Coach Mark Gottfried</p>
Post date: Wednesday, January 23, 2013 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL, News
Path: /nfl/senior-bowl-2013-mike-glennon-jordan-poyer-and-marquise-goodwin-rise

NFL scouts, coaches, administrators and support staff have converged on Mobile for the Senior Bowl. The draft is still a few months away, but this week’s events in Mobile are a huge opportunity for teams to get acquainted with the prospects, along with evaluation of their skills against top competition.

Senior Bowl News and Notes

Roster Notes

The Senior Bowl is under new management this year. Phil Savage spoke to the crowd before weigh-ins began and pointed out several interesting roster-affecting items.

First, seven players flatly turned down a Senior Bowl invitation. Among them, Alabama’s Chance Warmack (OG), West Virginia’s Geno Smith (QB), Wisconsin’s Montee Ball (RB) and the now infamous Manti Te’o of Notre Dame (LB).

Twelve players were extended invitations but could not attend due to injuries which have not healed to the point that they could safely or effectively participate.

Of greater interest is the fact that five players had to pull out within the past 72 hours because of new injuries which occurred (ideally) because of preparatory workouts.  Included in this group is West Virginia’s Tavon Austin (RB/WR), Florida’s Jonathan Bostic (LB), Southern Cal’s Khaled Holmes (OC) and South Carolina’s DJ Swearinger (FS).

Of the players who reported, here is a list of the outliers:

Lightest player:  Onterio McCalebb (RB/RS), Auburn - 164 pounds (5’ 10 1/8” tall).

Shortest player: Robbie Rouse (RB), Fresno State – 5’5 7/8” (186 pounds)

Heaviest player: D.J. Fluker (OT), Alabama – 355 pounds (6’4 7/8” tall)

Tallest Player: Margus Hunt (DL), SMU – 6’8 1/4”  (277 pounds)

Dynamic Duo: Rutgers placed two linebackers on the North’s roster (Steve Beauharnais and Khaseem Greene) and they weighed exactly the same (236 pounds).

Harvard has not been a recent pipeline of talent into the NFL. However, it did register a player on this year’s roster. The Crimson supplied the North’s only fullback – Kyle Juszczyk (6’ 1 3/8” 248).

Crimson Tide Well Represented

The reigning National Champions have five players on this year’s South roster: D.J. Fluker, OT (6’ 4 7/8” 355); Nico Johnson, LB (6’ 1 7/8”, 249); Robert Lester, S (6’ 1 1/4” 212); Carson Tinker, LS (6’ 0 1/8”, 231); and Michael Williams, TE (6’ 5 3/4 “, 269).

Small Schools

Every year, the Senior Bowl gives players from smaller schools a chance to shine against the best of the best from the BCS schools. This year’s small school participants include: Robert Alford (DB), Southeastern La. (5’ 9 7/8” 186); Garrett Gilkey (OL), Chadron State (6’ 5 7/8” 314); Montori Hughes (DL), Tennessee-Martin (late addition – did not attend weigh in); Aaron Mellette (WR), Elon (6’ 2 1/2 “ 216); Ty Powell (LB), Harding U. (late addition – did not attend weigh in); B.W. Webb (DB), William & Mary (5’ 10 1/4”, 183); and Brandon Williams (DL), Missouri Southern (6’ 1 7/8” 341).


North Carolina State’s Mike Glennon, Miami (Ohio)’s Zac Dysert and Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib are the signal-callers for the North. They have been taking equal reps at practice. Yesterday’s rotations in 11 on 11’s started with Nassib and ended with Dysert. Dysert’s last rep may have been the most impressive as he hit Kansas State’s Chris Harper on a deep route to end the session.

On Tuesday, Glennon was given the first reps in 11 on 11’s and, unfortunately, the very first snap was a dropped exchange under center. It is too early to read anything into the rotations but it is noteworthy that all of the quarterbacks pushed for routes downfield rather than settle with check-down receivers as was their cautious pattern on Monday.

Oregon State Representing!

Oregon State put unexpected stress on the outcome of the Pac 12 standings with a stout performance in 2012. Their success can be assigned, in part, to the mighty contributions of two players who occupy positions on the North squad – cornerback Jordan Poyer and wide receiver, Markus Wheaton.  The ability for them to battle each other in practice every snap sharpened their respective units into top-20 groups (OSU ranked #20, nationally, in both passing offense and pass-efficiency defense).

Wheaton has been one of the more impressive receivers the past two days for the North. He is slippery and has caught nearly every ball thrown to him. He has been able to slip behind coverage on several occasions. He catches the ball with his hands away from his body and soaks it in.

Poyer’s name was mentioned by colleague and adversary alike during media night. Texas’ Marquise Goodwin identified Poyer as someone with whom he was familiar from their bowl game and as somebody whose great skills was only raising Goodwin’s own game.

Poyer is sticky.  He is quick with his direction changes and neither flustered nor displaced with hand replacements and physical play from the receivers.

Keep an eye on the Oregon State guys.  They will impact not only this game but should leave a mark on the next level.

Goodwin Continues to Impress

Texas wide receiver Marquise Goodwin (two-time NCAA champion long-jumper) clearly demonstrated that he had an extra gear on the field yesterday. He caught the balls he should have caught and did it with his hands. He was quick to switch from catch to progressing upfield and he was not afraid to scrap with a very physical group of corners.

Goodwin continued to catch balls today and get past defenders in drills.

With his elite speed and explosiveness in a small package, he is one of the more intriguing players this week.

Random Notes

UConn has a pair of cornerbacks at the Senior Bowl and both are having a good week, so far. Dwayne Gratz was one of the stickier cornerbacks in one-on-one drills with the receivers yesterday and continued that trend today. Meanwhile, UConn teammate Blidi Wreh-Wilson has quietly put in a solid two practices.

Michigan’s Denard Robinson is being worked at receiver but is in a yellow jersey like the quarterbacks.  He showed some good moves on Tuesday and continues to get work as a punt returner.  He was kept out of Monday’s drills but was allowed to mix it up a little on Tuesday.  In his first contested snap, he caught the ball in a crossing pattern off of a good separation move but he was stripped of the ball.  He was not included in the more intense 7 on 7 and 11 on 11 drills. So, it is hard to tell whether and to what extent he can progress against actual opposition.

The North’s defensive backs are physical.  Very physical.  Perhaps the most physical is Washington’s cornerback, Desmond Trufant.  Having two brothers in the NFL does not hurt but, whatever the reason, he seems utterly at home in this environment. He is among the most physical of his unit and has even hammed it up with the NFL Network staff on the sidelines following a few plays.


Brock Murphy is a freelance sports writer and college football analyst. He can be reached at [email protected]

<p> Senior Bowl 2013: Mike Glennon, Jordan Poyer and Marquise Goodwin On the Rise</p>
Post date: Tuesday, January 22, 2013 - 12:36
All taxonomy terms: College Football, College Basketball, NFL, NBA, MLB, Golf
Path: /college-football/most-important-sports-confessions

A clear conscience is good for the soul. Or for some, it's good for the public reputation or book sales.

Lance Armstrong’s confession to Oprah Winfrey was not a first in the sports world, nor was it a surprise -- he told the host he indeed used performance-enhancing drugs on the way to Tour de France titles and building the Livestrong nonprofit empire.

Some confessions are foisted upon athletes by the media, mainstream or otherwise (hello, Deadspin!), or by the athletes' peers. Other times, these confessions, simply put, help move memoirs and autobiographies.

Here are a handful of the sports world’s top confessions, ranging from admitting to recreational or performance-enhancing drug use, discussing money problems or revealing close personal secrets.

Jan. 17, 2013: Lance Armstrong
In a Monday interview with Oprah Winfrey, cyclist Lance Armstrong admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs during his run of seven consecutive Tour de France titles. Armstrong had been stripped of his titles and had long been accused of doping, but his vociferous denials over the years made his confession itself a shock.

Jan. 16, 2013: Manti Te’o
In a statement in a response to a Deadspin article on the hoax of his deceased girlfriend, Notre Dame linebacker and Heisman finalist Manti Te’o states: “I developed an emotional relationship with a woman I met online. We maintained what I thought to be an authentic relationship by communicating frequently online and on the phone, and I grew to care deeply about her. To realize that I was the victim of what was apparently someone’s sick joke and constant lies was, and is, painful and humiliating.” As more news and nuggets trickle out of the Lennay Kekua hoax story, this may not be the final confession.

May 2010: Floyd Landis
Before Armstrong revealed his PED-use, Landis did. Like Armstrong, he fought the accusation of doping on the way to a Tour de France title in 2006. After he tested positive for multiple PEDs, Landis implicated Armstrong and others in communication with anti-doping officials.

February 2012: Tiger Woods
A 2009 car accident set off a series of revelations about Tiger Woods’ personal life including infidelity. Woods admitted to widespread extramarital affairs in a public apology less than three months later. As multiple women came forward with stories of affairs with Woods, the golf superstar lost many of his endorsement deals.

January 2010: Mark McGwire
McGwire, who broke Roger Maris’ single-season home run record in 1998, repeatedly said, “I’m not here to talk about the past,” during a Congressional hearing on steroids in 2005. By the time he wanted to re-enter baseball has a hitting coach in 2010 he talked about the past, admitting to taking performance enhancers at separate times throughout the 1990s, including during ’98 home run chase.

October 2009: Andre Agassi
In his autobiography Open, Agassi admitted to using crystal methamphetamine in 1997 and 1998. Originally, the tennis star claimed in a letter to the ATP that his failed drug test was due to accidentally taking the drug. Though another confession was less serious than using crystal meth, Agassi also admitted that for a time his legendary ‘do was actually a hairpiece.

October 2009: Theoren Fleury
A former star with the Calgary Flames, Fleury wrote in his autobiography he was sexually abused by a coach in junior hockey. The abuse, Fleury wrote, contributed to alcoholism.

August 2009: Rick Pitino
The Louisville basketball coach apologized in a press conference for “an indiscretion” that occurred six years prior. The indiscretion was an extramarital affair that led to extortion charges against the woman.

February 2009: Alex Rodriguez
After Sports Illustrated reported Alex Rodriguez tested positive for steroids in 2003, Rodriguez told ESPN he used steroids with the Texas Rangers first in 2001 after he signed his record-breaking $252 million contract. Rodriguez called the era “loosey-goosey” and claimed he did not know what specific steroids he had been taking. Rodriguez had denied as recently as 2007 that he had ever taken steroids.

October 2007: Marion Jones
Marion Jones, who earned three gold medals in the 2000 Olympics, tearfully admitted to using PEDs and lying about it as part of the BALCO scandal.

May 2006: John Daly
The golfer has had his share of personal demons, but among them was a gambling problem he admitted in his autobiography in 2006. Daly wrote he lost up to $60 million during 12 years of gambling.

February 2006: Jose Canseco
In his tell-all book Juiced, Canseco wrote he used human growth hormone and steroids from beginning to end in his career, but the bigger legacy of Canseco’s book was accusations of the rampant use of PEDs through baseball during the 1990s. As he is now, Canseco was not considered to be the most reliable source of information, but the names mentioned — Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Jason Giambi and more — were revealed to be PED-users themselves.

January 2004: Pete Rose
In advance of his book My Prison Without Bars, baseball’s all-time hit leader admitted to what had kept him out of the Hall of Fame and baseball altogether since 1989 when he confessed to gambling on baseball and gambling on his own team to win. After his banishment from baseball, Rose first denied betting on baseball, then admitted to that but denied betting on the Reds while Cincinnati’s manager, then he finally admitted to betting on the Reds but only to win.

June 2002: Ken Caminiti
The list of denials, investigative reports and eventually confessions regarding steroids in baseball could take up the bulk of this page, but one of the first belonged to All-Star third baseman Ken Caminiti in this Sports Illustrated article. He told SI he used steroids so heavily during his 2006 National League MVP season his body had all but stopped producing natural testosterone. Caminiti died in October 2004 at age 41 of a heart attack.

November 1991: Magic Johnson
At 32, Magic Johnson retired abruptly in 1991, revealing in a news conference he tested positive for HIV. At the time, he did not reveal how he acquired the disease, but he later explained he had unprotected sex with multiple women.

August 1987: Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson
Though he battled drug problems for most of his career, Henderson admitted to one episode in his autobiography that was especially troubling. The former Dallas Cowboys linebacker wrote he used a cocaine-laced inhaler during the second half the Super Bowl XIII loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

1981: Martina Navratilova
Tennis legend Martina Navratilova, at the height of her career, announced she is a lesbian. She is credited as the first major athlete — male or female — to come out while at the height of her fame. The same year, tennis star Billie Jean King was outed in a palimony suit by a female former partner.

<p> Lance Armstrong is only the latest in a long line of sports figures to confess a personal failing, joining Tiger Woods, Pete Rose, Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco and others who have broken their silence on controversies surrounding their careers.</p>
Post date: Friday, January 18, 2013 - 08:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, NFL
Path: /college-football/chip-kelly-named-new-coach-philadelphia-eagles

Chip Kelly, 49, has been named the new head football coach of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Kelly, who went 46-7 and led Oregon to a BCS bowl game in each of his four years at the school, will become the 21st head coach in the team's history, replacing Andy Reid.
According to the Eagles website, Kelly met with Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie, team president Don Smolenski and general manager Howie Roseman early in the head coach search in Arizona after the Fiesta Bowl for almost nine hours. The conversations continued until Kelly decided he wanted to remain at the University of Oregon.
To the likely surprise of Oregon fans, Kelly continued to evaluate the opportunity to work for the Eagles in the NFL and accepted the position.
“Chip Kelly will be an outstanding head coach for the Eagles,” said Lurie. “He has a brilliant football mind. He motivates his team with his actions as well as his words. He will be a great leader for us and will bring a fresh, energetic approach to our team.”
This is Kelly's first coaching job in the NFL.
Athlon Sports will bring you more on this story later this afternoon. 
<p> Chip Kelly Named New Coach of the Philadelphia Eagles</p>
Post date: Wednesday, January 16, 2013 - 11:45
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Legends Poll, News
Path: /college-football/legends-poll-top-25-final-year-end-rankings

For the second straight year and the third time in the past four years, the Alabama Crimson Tide has been voted No. 1 in the season's final Legends Poll.

After a dominating performance in the BCS championship game against Notre Dame, Alabama received all 17 first place votes. Most of the voting Legends Poll members would say they saw it coming, which is why the eight-year-old poll was the only human poll to have Alabama ranked ahead of Notre Dame entering bowl season.
"You look at the way the season has gone, and it's the same way every year," former Auburn coach Pat Dye said. "It's not who's the best team in November. It's who's the best team in January. And there's just no question Alabama is the best team in the country."
Oregon finished the season as the nation's No. 2 team and received good news this past week when Chip Kelly announced he would remain in Eugene to coach the Ducks next season.
Georgia finished at No. 3 followed by Texas A&M and Stanford. All three teams are expected to be contenders again next season. Heisman winner Johnny Manziel will attempt to continue breaking records after another spectacular performance against Oklahoma in the AT&T Cotton Bowl.
No. 6 South Carolina finished its season with a thrilling last-minute victory over Michigan in the Outback Bowl and moved up four spots in the rankings.
Notre Dame dropped five spots to No. 7 after suffering its first loss of the season against Alabama in the BCS title game. The Irish were followed by ACC foes Clemson and Florida State. LSU rounded out the top 10.
No. 11 Louisville jumped four spots after its surprise victory over Florida in the Sugar Bowl. No. 12 Kansas State fell six spots following its Fiesta Bowl loss to Oregon.
But no one fell further in the rankings than Florida, which dropped nine spots to No. 13. The Gators were followed by Oklahoma and Boise State.
No. 19 Baylor, No. 20 Oklahoma State, No. 22 Texas and No. 25 Tulsa were all newcomers to the final rankings. 
UCLA, Northern Illinois and Kent State fell out of the rankings.
To see the individual votes by coach, visit the Legends Poll.
1 AlabamaAlabama (17) 13-1 425 1
2 OregonOregon 12-1 400 3
3 GeorgiaGeorgia 12-2 385 5
4 Texas A&MTexas A&M 11-2 378 9
5 StanfordStanford 12-2 348 8
6 South CarolinaSouth Carolina 11-2 323 10
7 Notre DameNotre Dame 12-1 310 2
8 ClemsonClemson 11-2 305 13
9 Florida StateFlorida State 12-2 276 12
10 LSULSU 10-3 272 7
11 LouisvilleLouisville 11-2 259 15
12 Kansas StateKansas State 11-2 252 6
13 FloridaFlorida 11-2 239 4
14 OklahomaOklahoma 10-3 161 11
15 Boise StateBoise State 11-2 150 17
16 NorthwesternNorthwestern 10-3 148 22
17 Utah StateUtah State 11-2 142 21
18 VanderbiltVanderbilt 9-4 116 23
19 BaylorBaylor 8-5 112 -
20 Oklahoma StateOklahoma State 8-5 92 -
21 Oregon StateOregon State 9-4 88 14
22 TexasTexas 9-4 87 -
23 MichiganMichigan 8-5 81 20
24 NebraskaNebraska 10-4 57 24
25 TulsaTulsa 11-3 25 -

Others Receiving Votes: Wisconsin 25, UCLA 18, San Jose State 16, Northern Illinois 14, Cincinnati 7, Arkansas State 4, Rutgers 4, Kent State 3, Arizona State 2, Arizona 1

Teams Dropped Out from Last Week's Poll: UCLA, Northern Illinois, Wisconsin, Kent State
* The Legends Poll voting process is exactly what the BCS is trying to create and Athlon will bring it to you as the de facto Selection Committee for fans to follow over the next two seasons, allowing you to see how the Selection Committee will operate from 2014 onward. You can see the entire Poll at
<p> The Legends Poll Top 25: The Year-End Rankings</p>
Post date: Thursday, January 10, 2013 - 05:59
All taxonomy terms: MLB
Path: /mlb/baseball-hall-fame-shuts-out-bonds-clemens-and-rest

A winning candidate did not emerge from the Hall of Fame balloting conducted by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. There were 569 ballots cast, the third highest total in the history of the voting, yet none of the 37 candidates in the 2013 vote gained mention on the required 75 percent for election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Craig Biggio, who totaled 3,060 hits and was a seven-time All-Star while playing three positions (catcher, second base, outfield), topped the ballot with 388 votes – 39 shy of the 427 needed for election. His total reflected 68.2 percent of the electorate, which consists of BBWAA members with 10 or more consecutive years of Major League Baseball coverage. Five blank ballots were among those submitted. Other players named on more than half the ballots were pitcher Jack Morris with 385 (67.7 percent), first baseman Jeff Bagwell with 339 (59.6), catcher Mike Piazza with 329 (57.8) and outfielder Tim Raines with 297 (52.2).
Commenting on the election, Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson said, “The standards for earning election to the Hall of Fame have been very high ever since the rules were created in 1936. We realize the challenges voters are faced with in this era. The Hall of Fame has always entrusted the exclusive voting privilege to the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. We remain pleased with their role in evaluating candidates based on the criteria we provide.”

This is the eighth election by the BBWAA that did not produce a Hall of Famer and the first since 1996. That year, the top three vote getters were Phil Niekro (68.3), Tony Perez (65.7) and Don Sutton (63.8). All were subsequently elected; Niekro in 1997, Sutton in 1998 and Perez in 2000. The other BBWAA elections without a winner were in 1945, 1946, 1950, 1958, 1960 and 1971.
Biggio and Piazza were each on the ballot for the first time, Morris for the 14th year, Bagwell the third and Raines the sixth. Players remain on the ballot for up to 15 years provided they receive five percent of the vote in any year. There were 19 candidates who failed to make the cut this year (29 votes) – 18 of the 24 players who were on the ballot for the first time, plus outfielder Bernie Williams, who was on the ballot for the second time. First-year candidates who received sufficient support to remain in addition to Biggio and Piazza were pitchers Curt Schilling and Roger Clemens and outfielders Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa. Outfielder Dale Murphy, in his 15th and final year on the ballot, received 106 votes (18.6).
Other holdovers that will remain on the ballot in addition to Biggio, Morris, Bagwell, Piazza and Raines are first basemen Mark McGwire, Fred McGriff, Don Mattingly and Rafael Palmeiro; pitcher Lee Smith; shortstop Alan Trammell; designated hitter-third baseman Edgar Martinez and outfielder Larry Walker.
As part of the Induction Weekend ceremony Sunday, July 28, at the Clark Sports Center in Cooperstown, N.Y., in which three Pre-Integration Committee electees – umpire Hank O’Day, New York Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert and 19th-century player Deacon White – will be inducted, the Hall of Fame will recognize 12 individuals previously counted among its roster of members who never had a formal induction due to wartime restrictions. They are BBWAA electees Lou Gehrig (1939) and Rogers Hornsby (1942), along with the entire class of 1945 selected by the Committee on Old Timers: Roger Bresnahan, Dan Brouthers, Fred Clarke, Jimmy Collins, Ed Delahanty, Hugh Duffy, Hughie Jennings, King Kelly, Jim O’Rourke and Wilbert Robinson. Paul Hagen, the J.G. Taylor Spink Award winner for baseball writing, and the late Tom Cheek, the Ford C. Frick Award winner for broadcasting, will be honored during the Awards Presentation Saturday, July 27, at Doubleday Field in Cooperstown.
<p> No players were elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame this year&nbsp;</p>
Post date: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 - 14:21
Path: /nfl/5-great-nfl-players-whose-careers-were-cut-way-too-short-due-injuries

The news out of Washington was devastating this week, even without all the Beltway drama of what did Dr. James Andrews tell Mike Shanahan about Robert Griffin III’s knee injury and when did he know it? They’re still working on the full extent of the injuries to RGIII’s knee.

But just the hint of possible injuries to his ACL and LCL and the idea that he might need a reconstruction that would force him to miss much, if not all, of the 2014 season, was frightening enough. It’s not only a blow to the future of the Redskins, but it cast a shadow over RGIII’s future.

Would he become another great player whose career ended – or was inexorably changed – by a devastating injury? Would this knee deprive us all of the privilege of watching a great career?

Those are unanswerable questions, especially this early, but it’s something to ponder considering the brutal nature of the NFL. Many, many careers have been cut short, some before we even had a chance to know if a player could be a great one. Sometimes we were only able to get a hint of the greatness to come.

With that said, here is a sample of what injuries have done to great, and potentially great players. Here are five great (or potentially great) ones whose careers were cut too short due to devastating injuries:

1. Bo Jackson—Listen to people who watched Bo play – it’s never “Jackson,” it’s always “Bo” – and they are wistful about the “What might been” part of his story. If only he had concentrated on just one sport instead of trying to play baseball too … If only he hadn’t suffered a devastating hip injury at age 27 in just his fourth NFL season.

There is believe that Bo could’ve been the greatest running back ever, and possibly one of the greatest athletes ever – something some already consider him to be. He had only 2,782 yards in his four-year career and never even reached 1,000 in a single season. But he never played in more than 11 games in any season and he averaged 5.4 yards per carry. He also seemed to just be getting started when he got hurt.


2. Gale Sayers—The NFL hadn’t seen anything like the “Kansas Comet” when he broke into the NFL in 1965 with 2,272 all-purpose yards and 22 touchdowns. Then the next season, when opposing defenses were being designed to stop his triple-threat – runner, receiver, returner – he was even better, totaling 2,440 yards.

He was leading the league in rushing in 1968 when he tore several ligaments in his right knee, ending his season. He returned in 1969 to win the NFL rushing title with 1,032 yards. But he hurt his left knee in 1970 and that was it. He was forced to retire after an aborted comeback in 1971 at the age of 28 – already a four-time Pro Bowler. Five years after his last snap he became the youngest man ever inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.


3. Troy Aikman—The Cowboys quarterback won three Super Bowls, threw for 32,942 yards and played until he was 34, so it’s a little tough to argue his career ended “prematurely.” But two years before he was cut in 2001 – in large part due to the 10-plus concussions he suffered during his career — Aikman had signed a contract extension that was expected to keep him with the Cowboys into his 40s.

Imagine what Aikman could’ve accomplished with seven more seasons – at least another two or three good ones, too. He might have won a fourth Super Bowl. He probably would’ve thrown for 40,000 yards. And instead of just calling him a Hall of Famer, he might have ended up in the discussion of the Top 10 quarterbacks of all time.


4. Sterling Sharpe—In seven seasons in the NFL, the Packers wide receiver never missed a game. He had five 1,000-yard seasons (including his last three) and was a five-time all-pro. Here’s the catch, though: In his first four NFL seasons his coach was Lindy Infante and his quarterbacks were Mike Tomczak and Don Majkowski.

It was only in his final three NFL seasons he had the coaching of Mike Holmgren and the ability to catch passes from a young Brett Favre.

In three seasons with Holmgren’s plays and Favre’s passes, Sharpe caught 314 passes for 3,854 yards and 42 touchdowns. Clearly he was just getting started. But he was forced to retire at age 29 with a neck injury. He could’ve put up sick numbers if he had played with Favre for another 4-5 years.


5. Robert Edwards—By no means is Edwards in the “great” category, but he certainly suffered one of the most unfortunate injuries in NFL history. The former Georgia running back was a first-round draft pick of the New England Patriots in 1998 and his rookie season was a success, with him rushing for 1,115 yards.

Then, during a rookie flag football game on a beach as part of the Pro Bowl in Hawaii, Edwards – who had a long history of injuries in college – blew out his knee. The injury was so bad, he nearly had to have his leg amputated. He was told he’d never play again.

He did, four years later for the Miami Dolphins – an inspiring, if short-lived comeback in which he touched the ball just 38 times in 12 games. He did play two all-star seasons in the Canadian Football League, though, each time rushing for more than 1,000 yards.

He was in his 30s then, his knee had been ravaged by injuries and time, and the competition wasn’t great. But it gave a glimpse at what maybe could’ve been had his NFL career not been over, for all intents in purposes, at age 24.


<p> 5 Great NFL Players Whose Careers Were Cut Way Too Short Due to Injuries</p>
Post date: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 - 06:15
Path: /college-football/20-awesome-photos-bcs-national-championship-game

The BCS title game between Alabama and Notre Dame might not have looked pretty to Fighting Irish fans, but we argue that it was full of beautiful moments. Unfortunately for the Irish, none belonged to them. Still, we pulled together our 20 favorite photographic snapshots of the Crimson Tide winning 42-14 over the Fighting Irish. 

(Photos by Tom DiPace)

BCS Championship Game: Alabama vs Notre Dame


BCS Championship Game: Alabama vs Notre Dame



BCS Championship Game: Alabama vs Notre Dame


BCS Championship Game: Alabama vs Notre Dame
















<p> 20 Awesome Photos from the BCS National Championship Game&nbsp;</p>
Post date: Tuesday, January 8, 2013 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/top-15-bcs-national-championship-performances

With the 15th season of BCS bowl action about to take place, Athlon reviewed the tapes of the four (now five) biggest bowl games in college football. Since 1998, teams have been fighting to land a spot in the BCS and here are the players who made the most of their opportunities.

Here are the Top BCS National Championship Performances (year is the date of the game):

Also receiving votes: Ali Highsmith, LB, LSU (2008), Percy Harvin, WR, Florida (2009), Kellen Winslow, TE, Miami (2003), Javier Arenas, CB, Alabama (2010), Darron Thomas, QB, Oregon (2011), Cam Newton, QB, Auburn (2011), James Laurinaitis, LB, Ohio State (2008)

15. Maurice Clarett, RB, Ohio State, 2003 (Fiesta Bowl)
The true freshman didn't gash the Hurricanes defense, but he made his touches count. No one touched the ball on either team more than Clarett (23), including two touchdowns. His 5-yard scoring run in double overtime turned out to be the game-winning score. Clarett also played a key roll on "defense" as he forced and recovered a fumble following a Sean Taylor interception in the Miami redzone. (Of course, line judge Terry Porter might also get some votes for this list as well.) The 11.5-point underdog Buckeyes finished the year 14-0.

14. Reggie Bush/LenDale White, RBs, USC, 2006 (Rose Bowl)
Bush holds the BCS title game record for all-purpose yards with 279 in the 2006 Rose Bowl loss to Texas. He carried 13 times for 82 yards and a touchdown, caught six passes for 95 yards and returned five kicks for 102 yards. White's 124 yards are the fourth-best total in title game history and his 18 points (three touchdowns) rank third all-time. Unfortunately, Vince Young played for the other team in Texas' 41-38 win over USC.

13. Matt Leinart, QB, USC, 2006 (Rose Bowl)
If it weren't for Vince Young's heroics, this game by Leinart might have gone down as the best title game passing performance. He threw for a BCS championship game record 365 yards while his 29 completions and 72.5% completion rate would have been title game records if not for Young's numbers in the same game. His touchdown pass to Dwayne Jarrett came with just under seven minutes to play and gave USC a 12-point lead — before Young took his rightful place in history.

12. Derrick Harvey, DE, Florida, 2007 (BCS National Title)
In the dominating 41-14 win over No. 1 Ohio State, Harvey was a force off the edge. He finished with four solo tackles, a BCS championship game record three sacks and a forced fumble. Harvey and company held Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith to four completions, 35 yards and no touchdowns.

11. Peter Warrick, WR, Florida State, 2000 (Sugar Bowl)
The Sugar Bowl MVP caught six passes for 163 yards and two touchdowns to go with 57 punt return yards and another touchdown. He also scored a two-point conversion for a BCS title game record 20 points. His 220 all-purpose yards are fourth all-time in a title game. His specatular catch in the endzone is still one of the most electric plays in BCS title game history.

10. Michael Dyer, RB, Auburn, 2011 (BCS National Title)
Cam Newton was the unquestioned leader for the surprising Auburn Tigers, but true freshman tailback Michael Dyer was the star of the 22–19 win over Oregon in Glendale, Ariz. Dyer rushed carried the ball 22 times for 143 yards, including 57 on the final drive that set up the Tigers’ game-winning field goal. His 143 yards and 22 attempts are third all-time in a BCS title game history.

9. Ken Dorsey, QB, Miami, 2002 (Rose Bowl)
Dorsey led an offensive explosion with 362 yards passing and three touchdowns in Miami’s 37–14 win over Nebraska at the Rose Bowl. The victory capped a perfect 12–0 season for the Hurricanes, who delivered a national title to first-year coach Larry Coker. His 362 yards are third all-time in a BCS national title game.

8. Peerless Price, WR, Tennessee, 1999 (Fiesta Bowl)
Price made the most of his four receptions, totaling 199 yards in Tennessee’s 23–16 win over Florida State in the first-ever BCS National Championship Game. Price set up one UT touchdown with a 76-yard catch and then scored the Vols’ final TD of the game on a 79-yard strike from quarterback Tee Martin in the fourth quarter. His BCS record 199 yards, combined with his 42 punt return yards, were the second highest all-purpose yardage total (242) in BCS championship game history (behind Reggie Bush's 279). His 49.8 yards per catch is still a BCS championship game record as well.

7. Andre Johnson, Miami (Fla.), 2002 (ROSE BOWL)
Johnson hooked up with quarterback Ken Dorsey seven times for 199 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Hurricanes past overmatched Nebraska, 37–14, in the first Rose Bowl that served as the BCS National Championship game. His 199 yards tied Price for the single-game BCS title game record and his 226 all-purpose yards are the third-best total in title game history.

6. Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson, RBs, Alabama, 2010 (BCS National Title)
Alabama’s two-headed monster at tailback combined for 215 yards and four touchdowns on 41 carries to lead the Crimson Tide to a 37–21 win over Texas. Ingram, the Heisman Trophy winner, rushed for 109 yards and two touchdowns while his understudy, Richardson, added 109 yards and two scores.

5. Chris Weinke, QB, Florida State, 2000 (SUGAR BOWL)
Weinke outdueled Virginia Tech redshirt freshman Michael Vick by passing for 329 yards and four touchdowns as the Seminoles topped the Hokies, 46–29, in the first Sugar Bowl of the new millennium. With the win Florida State completed the first perfect season of Bobby Bowden’s career as a head coach and secured the Noles’ second national championship.

4. Torrance Marshall, LB, Oklahoma, 2001 (ORANGE BOWL)
It was only fitting that a defensive player was named the MVP of the lowest-scoring Orange Bowl in 30 years. Marshall, a senior linebacker, recorded six tackles and intercepted a pass to lead Oklahoma to a 13–2 win over Florida State to secure the first national title for the Sooners since 1985.

3. Tim Tebow, QB, Florida, 2009 (BCS National Title)
Tebow capped off one of the greatest single seasons in college football history with a superb performance on the biggest stage. The junior quarterback threw for 231 yards and two touchdowns and added 109 yards rushing to lead the Gators to a 24–14 win over Oklahoma at Dolphin Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla.

2. Matt Leinart, QB, USC, 2006 (ORANGE BOWL)
The Trojans staked a claim to their second straight national title with a surprisingly easy 55–19 win over No. 2 Oklahoma. Leinart completed 18-of-35 passes for 332 yards and tossed an Orange Bowl record five touchdowns without throwing an interception. Steve Smith was on the receiving end of three of Leinart’s TDs. Leinart is still the only player in BCS history to throw five touchowns in one game.


1. Vince Young, Texas, 2006 (ROSE BOWL)
Young was brilliant in the final game of his career, setting a Rose Bowl record with 467 yards of total offense to lead Texas to a 41–38 victory over favored USC to claim the school’s first national title since 1970. Young completed 30 of 40 passes for 267 yards but is remembered more for his work on the ground. He carried the ball 19 times for 200 yards and three touchdowns, highlighted by a nine-yard run on 4th down to give Texas the lead with 19 seconds remaining. His 20 total points scored (three rushing touchdowns, 2-point conversion), 30 completions and 75% completion rate are both national championship game records.

<p> Athlon Sports ranks the best BCS National Championship performances.</p>
Post date: Friday, January 4, 2013 - 06:00
Path: /nfl/nfl-wild-card-teams-most-likely-win-super-bowl

The easiest path to the Super Bowl has always been through a division championship. That fact is indisputable. There have been 46 Super Bowls and 92 Super Bowl teams and through all that time only 10 wild-cards have ever played for a championship.

And only six have run the wild-card gauntlet to be crowned Super Bowl champions.

Maybe that’s gotten easier over time. In the last seven seasons, three teams – the 2005 Steelers, the 2007 Giants, the 2010 Packers – have won the title as wild-card teams. And in the last 15 years – including the 1997 Broncos, the 1999 Titans and 2000 Ravens – seven wild-card teams have gotten to the Super Bowl and six have won it all.

So there is, if nothing else, a decent chance for the four wild-card teams of 2012. Maybe the Cincinnati Bengals, Indianapolis Colts, Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks aren’t the favorite to win a title. But they can’t be counted out. So here, in order of their chances for making a run all the way to Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans, is a look at this postseason’s wild-card teams.

1. Seattle Seahawks If the Seahawks (11-5) had won one more game and finished as the 2 seed, people would be picking them to go the Super Bowl. Never mind their rookie quarterback (Russell Wilson), just look at what they’ve done the last five weeks. They’ve gone 5-0, averaged 38.6 points and given up an average of just 12 points.

And for all the attention Wilson gets, this team has a championship defense. They’ve given up 20 or more points just five times this season. They’ve given up more than 24 points once. Once.

Yes, they are buoyed by an 8-0 home record, which won’t help them in the playoffs. Their 3-5 road record is something to watch. But they play defense as well as anyone, have the third-best rushing attack in the NFL (161.2 yards per game), and a quarterback who has a hot hand.

What else do you need to make a run?


Andy Dalton2. Cincinnati Bengals Of the four wild-card teams, the best—and most trustworthy—quarterback resides in Cincinnati, where Andy Dalton has become a force for the Bengals (10-6) and he has an incredibly dangerous target in receiver A.J. Green (97 catches, 1,350 yards, 11 touchdowns). Dalton has just five interceptions in his last eight games.

And what’s happened in those games? Quietly, the Bengals have gone 7-1, with only a one-point loss to Dallas tarnishing their record. They’re not an overpowering offense and they’re more likely to win a slugfest. But they get a break going to the fading Houston Texans first, where Dalton could give them a chance to survive.


Andrew Luck3. Indianapolis Colts It’s kind of hard to figure the Colts (11-5) this season. They have a low-rated defense, a low-rated running game and they’ve given up 30 more points than they’ve scored this season. That’s not usually a formula that results in 11 wins, especially with a rookie quarterback at the helm.

But Andrew Luck has proven to be no ordinary rookie (4,374 passing yards, 23 touchdowns, 18 interceptions, despite being sacked 41 times), and the Colts have clearly been inspired by the heart-warming story of coach Chuck Pagano and his interim replacement, Bruce Arians. They play as hard as anyone, Luck has a magic touch, and they’ve got seven come-from-behind wins.

They head to Baltimore first, and that’s not exactly the hard landing spot it’s been in recent seasons. Their biggest problem is the top-heavy nature of the AFC. Luck is good, but beating Tom Brady or Peyton Manning in the second round of the playoffs isn’t easy for anyone – especially a rookie.


Adrian Peterson4. Minnesota Vikings The way Adrian Peterson has run the ball this season (2,097 yards), it’s hard to rule the Vikings (10-6) out of anything – especially after they ended the season with four straight wins, including back-to-back wins over Houston and Green Bay.

The problem is the quarterback. Christian Ponder is a game-manager and the Vikings’ passing offense is ranked 31st in the NFL. Worse, their top receiver (Percy Harvin) is on injured reserve. They don’t have a dominant defense either, so all their hopes rest on one player. And as good as Peterson is, you can’t win a Super Bowl by being a completely one-dimensional team.



<p> NFL Wild-Cards Most Likely to Win the Super Bowl&nbsp;</p>
Post date: Wednesday, January 2, 2013 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/top-50-individual-sports-performances-2012

Even in a year when records fell, athletes achieved famous firsts and the games changed, 2012 seemed to be a more eventful than usual year in sports. And thanks to an Olympics year, a portion of this occurred on a grand stage.

Usain Bolt furthered his claim as the World’s Fastest Man. LeBron James answered the question of if he’d be a world champion. And Pablo Sandoval etched his name in World Series history.

It was a year of great sports feats by the elite athletes of this generation, but also a year of monumental upsets and firsts.

Our 2012 Year in Review series already looked back at the top individual performances in a handful of sports. Now, here’s the complete picture.

From January to December, what were the most impressive and legendary performances by single athletes this year? Here is our look.

Top 50 Individual Performances of 2012:

1. Aug. 5: Usain Bolt makes history
Slow starts are relative when it comes to Usain Bolt, but the 6-foot-5 Jamaican didn’t start the 100-meter dash quite as well as he would have hoped. No matter. Bolt hit his top speed in short order and took the lead to catch up to countryman Yohan Blake, who had beaten Bolt in the Jamaican trials. Bolt set an Olympic record with a time of 9.63 seconds, only 0.05 short of his own world record. Three of the top five finishers in the race -- considered one of the best collections of world-class sprinters in Olympic history -- set personal bests, all to finish behind Bolt anyway. Bolt also provided the impetus for this graphic.

2. June 7: LeBron closes door on Boston
The win to send the Miami Heat to the NBA Finals would be a game away, but LeBron James turned in the signature performance of his playoff career with 45 points and 15 rebounds in a 98-79 win over Boston on the road to force a Game 7 in South Beach. In a playoff run that acted as a referendum on James’ ability to win the Big One, LeBron responded emphatically in the Eastern Conference finals.

3. Oct. 25: Panda becomes a World Series home run hero
Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson, Albert Pujols and Pablo Sandoval. Those are the four players who have hit three home runs in a World Series game. The Kung Fu Panda struck in Game 1 last October on his way to earning the World Series MVP award. The Giants' Sandoval performed large on the biggest stage of the season in an 8-3 win over Detroit.

Related: Top 10 Performances in Baseball

Bubba Watson

4. April 9: Bubba's Pine Straw Miracle
Bubba Watson trumped Louis Oosthuizen's double eagle with a miracle shot of his own, curving a wedge approach out of the trees and onto the green at No. 10 to set up a clinching two-putt par in his playoff with Oosthuizen, earning Bubba an emotional Masters win. Watson was spectacular down the stretch of his final-round 68, draining four birdies in a row from 13-16. His short birdie putt on the par-3 16th drew him even with Oosthuizen, who was unable to match Bubba's par on the second playoff hole. Fittingly for Watson and his famously home-made game, it was his heroic, creative recovery from the pine straw that they'll be talking about at the 2050 Champions Dinner. "I was there earlier today in regulation,” Watson said afterward. “I hooked it 40 yards. I’m pretty good at hooking it."

Related: Top Five Performances in Golf

5. Nov. 10: Johnny Manziel’s Heisman moment
Alabama wasn’t invincible after all. In a game that propelled Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel to the Heisman Trophy, Manziel stunned No. 1 Alabama in Tuscaloosa for the Tide’s first defeat since LSU during the 2011 regular season. Manziel broke off miracle runs and bobbled a snap only to turn it into a touchdown pass early in building a three-score lead in the first quarter. Alabama crawled back into the game, but Manziel finished 24 of 31 for 253 yards with two touchdowns in the 29-24 win. He also rushed for 92 yards on 18 carries.

Related: Top 10 Performances in College Football

6. Jan. 14: Tom Brady truly terrific against Denver in AFC playoffs
Denver came into this AFC Divisional playoff matchup with New England riding a bunch of momentum after shocking Pittsburgh at home in its overtime win the previous Sunday. Brady and the Patriots’ offense made sure the Broncos knew who the best team was in this one, however, as No. 12 tossed five touchdown passes in the first half and added one more in the third quarter to tie the postseason single-game record. Brady broke his own franchise record for most passing yards (363) in a playoff game and climbed up the all-time postseason passing charts with arguably his best playoff performance yet.

Related: Top 10 Performances in the NFL

7. March 31: Anthony Davis’ Big Blue dominance
With one of the best seasons in college basketball history, at least in terms of the trophy case he filled in one year, Anthony Davis may have trouble picking out his own best game of the year. The one Kentucky fans may remember most, though, is his major role in vanquishing rival Louisville in the Final Four. Davis had 18 points on 7-of-8 shooting with 14 rebounds and five blocks against the Cardinals. Kentucky would win the national championship two days later.

Related: Top Five Performances in College Basketball

8. Oct. 14: Aaron Rodgers torches undefeated Texans in primetime
Green Bay entered the Week 6 Sunday night showdown with Houston at just 2-3, having blown a 21-3 halftime lead to Indianapolis Colts the previous week. The Texans were undefeated, boasted one of the league’s best defenses, and seemingly ready to make a statement on national television by taking down the mighty Packers. The reigning NFL MVP had something else in mind, however, throwing two touchdown passes in the first quarter to help his team jump out to a 14-0 lead. He would add four more in the next three quarters, tying the Green Bay single-game record with six touchdown passes, as the Packers would cruise to a convincing 42-24 victory. Rodgers finished with 338 yards and no turnovers, becoming just the fourth quarterback in NFL history to throw for more than 300 yards with six touchdowns and no interceptions in a game.

9. June 14: LeBron again with a flair for the dramatic
James finished with 32 points in a 100-96 Game 2 win over Oklahoma City in the NBA Finals. The sheer numbers were important, but they key plays came late. With 1:26 remaining, James hit a jumper from with four seconds left on the shot clock to open a five-point lead. On a 12-for-12 day from free throw line, James hit two freebies in the final seven seconds to put the game out of reach and the NBA title in the Heat’s sights.

Josh Hamilton

10. May 8: Josh Hamilton punishes Baltimore pitching
Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton sandwiched a double between four home runs in his punishment on Baltimore pitching. Hamilton hit two homers and the double off Orioles starter Jake Arrieta. He then victimized Zach Phillips and Darren O’Day for a grand total of eight RBI. Hamilton raised his American League-leading batting average to .406 with his five hits and ended the day with 14 homers and 36 RBI, both tops in the American League at the time.

11. Aug. 2: Gabby Douglas becomes new gymnastics sweetheart
In addition to providing one of the most iconic photos of the London Olympics, the 16-year-old Douglas is on her way to being the next American sweetheart in gymnastics on par with Mary Lou Retton. Douglas became the first African-American to win the gold medal in the all-around event. Douglas took a narrow lead into the final event, but clinched her gold with a 15.033 score in the floor exercise.

12. Nov. 4: Rookie Doug Martin breaks out in Oakland
Martin, the No. 31 overall pick in April’s draft out of Boise State, entered the game in Oakland coming off of his best performance of his rookie season. He piled up 214 total yards and two touchdowns in Tampa Bay’s win in Minnesota the previous Thursday. Little did anyone know he would make that game seem minor, but that’s what happened as he piled up 251 yards on 25 rushing attempts in the Buccaneers’ Week 9 win against the Raiders. Besides posting the third-most rushing yards by a rookie in a game, Martin joined Mike Anderson as the only backs in NFL history with at least 250 rushing yards and four touchdowns in a single contest. Martin scored on runs of 70, 67, 45 and 1, making him the first back since 1940 to score on three runs of at least 45 yards in one game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

13. Aug. 12: Rory McIlroy at the PGA Championship
Call it the Snore by the Shore. Twenty-one years after the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island brought the world's greatest players to their knees at the 1991 Ryder Cup in the famed "War by the Shore," Rory McIlroy turned the tables on Pete Dye's seaside creation at the PGA Championship, subduing the Ocean Course and an elite field in winning his second major championship in two years. In posting 13-under and winning by eight strokes, McIlroy reprised his eight-shot win at the 2011 U.S. Open, becoming the first player in golf history to earn his first two major wins in such dominant fashion. Glory's Last Shot was Rory's personal showcase, as he destroyed the recent trend of late collapses with a textbook display of major championship golf — fairways, greens and made putts, with a few successful scrambles thrown in.

14. Oct. 10: Jarvis Jones’ party in Jacksonville
The Georgia linebacker took over a handful of games this season, but few were as impressive -- and important to the Bulldogs’ season -- as his effort against Florida. Jones finished with 13 tackles, three sacks and 4.5 tackles for a loss in the 17-9 win over the Gators, which ended up clinching the SEC East for the Bulldogs. One of his two forced fumbles poked the ball away from Gators tight end Jordan Reed in the red zone, ending Florida’s final scoring chance.

15. Sept. 22: Manti Te’o’s grief and joy
The same week Te’o’s grandmother and girlfriend died, the Notre Dame linebacker had his best game of the season against Michigan. Te’o finished with eight tackles and intercepted Michigan’s Denard Robinson twice.
Update: Deadspin reports Te'o's girlfriend was a hoax

16. May 18: Justin Verlander dominates the Pirates
Perhaps Verlander’s most notable start was his four-hit, one-walk shutout against the Oakland A’s in the deciding Game 5 of the ALDS. However, his most dominating effort came in May with a one-hit shutout of the Pirates. The no-hit effort wasn't broken up until Josh Harrison bounced a hit up the middle in the ninth inning. Verlander walked two and just two runners reached second base in the 6-0 Tigers win.

17. Oct. 10: Raul Ibanez takes over for A-Rod
It took guts for New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi to pinch-hit for star Alex Rodriguez in the ninth inning with the game on the line in Game 3 of the ALDS. But Raul Ibanez was called off the bench to hit for A-Rod with the Yankees down 2-1 with one out and facing Baltimore closer Jim Johnson, who had been lights out all season. Ibanez rewarded his manager not once but twice. He took Johnson deep to tie the game, sending it to extra innings. Ibanez struck again in the 12th inning with a bomb to win it, giving the Yankees an edge in the series.

18. Aug. 3: Missy Franklin takes spot in USA swimming
With Michael Phelps gone in the next Olympics, there’s room for a new star in among American swimmers. Missy Franklin entered the Olympics with fanfare and delivered. The 17-year-old demolished the world record by finishing the 200-meter backstroke in 2:04.06, giving Team USA its first gold in the event in 40 years.

19. June 2: King Quick
Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick had a playoff run for the ages, but the best performance may have been a 32-save effort to give the Kings a 2-1 win in  overtime in Game 2 on the road against the New Jersey Devils in the NHL Stanley Cup Finals.

20. Humber, Cain and Hernandez pitch perfect games

It seemed as if some pitcher flirted with a no-hitter every couple of nights. So, to honor the perfect games, three are presented as a three-way tie.
20a. The White Sox’ Phil Humber entered the season with a modest 11-10 lifetime record with just 214.1 innings in his six-year career. But in his second start of 2012, the journeyman righthander tossed a perfect game at Seattle, striking out nine in the White Sox 4-0 win.
20b. Matt Cain, the ace of the Giants, was at his best in a 10-0 whitewashing of the Astros. Cain struck out 14 in his perfect game. He had a three-ball count on just four hitters, striking out three of them in his masterpiece.
20c. Just 11 days after a masterful performance at Yankee Stadium in which Felix Hernandez needed just 101 pitches in a two-hit 1-0 win over the Yankees, he threw a perfect game at home against the Rays. Once again, there was little run support for King Felix as the Mariners won 1-0. Hernandez whiffed 12 Rays in the 113-pitch effort.

Matt Schaub

21. Nov. 18: Matt Schaub’s record-setting day helps Texans outlast Jaguars
Known for its running game, Houston relied on Schaub and the passing attack in Week 11 against AFC South rival Jacksonville. Thanks to Chad Henne’s impressive performance (354-4-0) off of the bench, the Texans found themselves in a closer-than-expected battle with the Jaguars. Schaub saved the day with his franchise-record 43 completions, 527 passing yards and career-high five touchdown passes. The yards tied Warren Moon for the second-most in a game in NFL history, second only to Norm Van Brocklin’s 554 (set back in 1951). Schaub threw two scoring strikes with less than six minutes left in the fourth quarter to tie the game, and finally won it with a 48-yarder to wide receiver Andre Johnson with just 2:10 left in overtime.

22. Dec. 16: Adrian Peterson continues run for history with season-best effort in St. Louis
At this rate, you could make one impressive list of performances just using Peterson’s 2012 season, but for our purposes, we’ll go with this gem. Less than a year removed from a devastating knee injury, Peterson is redefining the term Comeback Player of the Year, and that’s with all due respect to what Peyton Manning is doing in his first season in Denver. Look no further than the Dec. 16  212-yard effort in Minnesota’s win in St. Louis, highlighted by a 82-yard touchdown run. Not only was it All Day’s second 200-yard game of the season, it was the fourth of his career. Only O.J. Simpson (six) and Tiki Barber (five) have more such games in the Super Bowl era (since 1966).

23. June 7: Djokovic outlasts Nadal
Novak Djokovic outlasted Rafael Nadal in a grueling marathon of an Australian Open final with a 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7 (5), 7-5 victory that took five hours and 53 minutes and didn’t end until 1:37 a.m. Djokovic won the longest finals match in Grand Slam singles history, and the victory came against an opponent in Nadal who specializes in winning long, grinding matches.

24. March 16: O’Quinn stuns Missouri
Missouri was one of the surprise teams of the season in 2011-12, but the Tigers ended the season with a shock of their own. Kyle O’Quinn scored 26 points with 14 rebounds as 15th-seeded Norfolk State of the MEAC upset No. 2-seed Missouri 86-84 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Norfolk State became the fifth No. 15 seed to win an NCAA Tournament game and the first since Hampton in 2001. “We even messed up my bracket,” O’Quinn said.

25. March 16: Speaking of messing up brackets...
Lehigh’s C.J. McCollum has been one of the nation’s highest-scoring players for four seasons, but he’s hardly a household name playing in the Patriot League. A win over Duke in the NCAA Tournament. Lehigh became the second No. 15 seed to win a Tournament game that day and sixth all-time when McCollum scored 30 points in the 75-70 win over Duke. McCollum added six rebounds and six assists.

26. Jan. 9: McCarron manages Mathieu
Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron was derided as a “game manager” all too often in 2011-12, but he proved the skeptics wrong by turning in the most critical individual performance in a 21-0 handling of LSU in the BCS Championship Game. McCarron’s 23-of-34 showing for 234 yards came seemingly from nowhere as the Alabama quarterback picked on Heisman finalist Tyrann Mathieu and the Tigers secondary.

27. June 8: R.A. Dickey strikes out the Orioles
The National League Cy Young winner also had two stellar performances seriously considered for our greatest list. After winning three consecutive starts without allowing a run, R.A. Dickey won back-to-back one-hitters over Tampa Bay and Baltimore. In the one-hitter against the Orioles, Dickey walked just two and struck out 13 in the 5-0.

28. Nov. 18: Tavon Austin’s switcheroo
West Virginia struggled to run the ball all year, so against Oklahoma, Dana Holgorsen changed his approach: He asked his best athlete to start running the ball. Tavon Austin  responded to his first day at tailback with 344 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries. With 146 yards on kickoff returns and 82 receiving yards, Austin finished with 572 all-purpose yards, only six yards short of the FBS record in the 50-49 loss.

30. Jan. 1: Matt Flynn makes most of only start of 2011 season
With the top seed and home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs already secure, Green Bay decided to rest eventual MVP Aaron Rodgers in the season finale against Detroit on New Year’s Day. Enter Flynn, making his first start of the season and only second of his NFL career. Turns out Flynn can do a pretty decent Rodgers impression, as he torched the Lions for 480 yards and six touchdowns, both Packers’ single-game records, in the 45-41 win. Flynn teamed with Lions’ quarterback Matthew Stafford to set some NFL history of their own, as it was the first time opposing quarterbacks each threw for more than 400 yards and at least five touchdowns in a game. It also set the mark for most net passing yards (971) in a single game.

Brad Keselowski

31. May 15: Keselowski pulls away in Talladega
Brad Keselowski clinched the Sprint Cup thanks to late-season mishaps from Jimmie Johnson, the only other contender for the Cup. So Keselowski’s signature performance in a consistent season may have been his win in Talladega. With a nifty move on the final lap, Keselowski whipped ahead of Kyle Busch to win by a 0.304-second margin.

32. March 4: Rajon Rondo’s doubly impressive feat
Triple-doubles aren’t all that uncommon for Boston Celtics guard, but this one in March against the Knicks is up there. Rondo scored 18 points and dished out 20 assists in the 115-111 overtime win. He also grabbed an astounding 17 rebounds giving Rondo the first triple-double with at last 17 in each category since Magic Johnson did it in 1989.

32. Aug. 9: David Rudisha’s world record
Not even Usain Bolt set a world record in London. Kenyan David Rudisha did with his gold medal in the 800 meters. Rudisha finished in one minute, 40.91 seconds, beating his own record by a tenth of a second.

33. April 15: A Quick sign of things to come
The L.A. Kings would go on to win the Stanley Cup, but in Game 3 of the first round against Western Conference regular season champion Vancouver, they were just shocking underdogs. Quick had 41 saves in the 1-0 shutout in Game 3 to set the tone for the remainder of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

34. Jan. 1: Matthew Stafford caps breakout 2011 season with record-setting day
Prior to the 2011 season, Stafford, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2009 draft, had trouble simply staying on the field. In his first two seasons he missed more games (19) than he played in (13), raising all sorts of questions about his long-term future. He put many of these to rest after passing for more than 5,000 yards and 41 touchdowns last season, helping the Lions end a 12-year playoff drought in the process. Stafford saved his best for last, throwing for 520 yards and five touchdowns against Green Bay in a 45-41 loss on New Year’s Day to close out the ’11 regular season. Even though he shared the Lambeau Field spotlight that day with Packers backup quarterback Matt Flynn, it was Stafford who finished with the fifth-most yards passing in a single game and the most by a losing quarterback since Dan Marino had 521 back in 1988.

35. Feb. 4: Sure-handed Tony Parker
In a February game against would-be Western Conference champion Oklahoma City, San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker finished with 42 points and nine assists. In a game in which Parker took 29 shots from the field, he also finished with no turnovers in his matchup with Russell Westbrook.

36. April 30: Ryan Braun blows up San Diego
Ryan Braun, the reigning NL MVP, had four of the Brewers’ seven hits and drove home six of their eight runs in Milwaukee’s 8-5 win at San Diego. After hitting home runs in the fourth, fifth and seventh innings, Braun came to the plate in the ninth inning with an opportunity for a rare four-home run game. He tripled in a couple of runs with a shot to deep right-center. He finished 4 of 5 with six RBI and three runs.

37. Nov. 3: Kenjon Barner rips USC
Barner didn’t set a Pac-12 record (that would have been Ka’Deem Carey’s 366 yards against Colorado), but his 321 yards against USC was record-breaking nonetheless. Barner rushed for a school record and a record for a USC opponent with his 300-yard game against the Trojans which included five touchdowns in the 62-51 win. Being from Riverside, Calif., only added to Barner’s excitement (and USC’s misery).

38. July 22: Ernie Els Shocks Adam Scott at Royal Lytham

The agony and the ecstasy of golf were on full display at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, and when it was over, Ernie Els had his second Claret Jug and fourth major, and Adam Scott had first-hand knowledge of what it feels like to be Greg Norman. Or Jason Dufner. Els didn't back into it, though, posting a back-9 4-under 32 in the stiffening breezes of Royal Lytham and rolling in a clutch birdie on the 72nd hole before grabbing a sandwich and watching Scott implode with bogeys on the final four holes. It was an utterly shocking turn of events on a day that seemed like a Scott coronation until the heartbreaking conclusion. Els now has major championships in three different decades and four majors for his career, tying Phil Mickelson for second-most of the Woods era.

39. Sept. 29: West Virginia’s Big 12 welcome
Bash the Baylor defense if you must, but what Geno Smith did at the end of September would have been impressive in a summer 7-on-7. Smith threw more touchdown passes (eight) than he did incomplete passes (six) that day against the Bears in West Virginia’s first game as a Big 12 team. Smith completed 45 of 51 passes for a school-record 656 yards that day.

40. Aug. 13: Ambrose wins a thriller
In perhaps the most thrilling NASCAR race of the year, Marcos Ambrose came out on top in a wild final lap at Watkins Glen in which he battled with Kyle Busch and eventual Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski. Busch spun out in the final lap, leaving Ambrose and Keselowski dueling for the checkered flag.

41. Nov. 18: Andre Johnson first declaws Jacksonville’s secondary then breaks Jaguars’ hearts in overtime
While Matt Schaub rewrote the Houston passing records in the Texans’ Week 11 win over Jacksonville, he would not have done so without a huge assist from Johnson. Schaub found his favorite target 14 times for 273 yards against the Jaguars, including a 48-yard game-winning touchdown with just 2:01 remaining in overtime. It was a career day for Johnson, as the All-Pro wideout set a franchise record for receiving yards and posted the seventh-highest single-game total in NFL history.

Marcus Denmon

42. Feb. 4: Denmon’s wild finish
Kansas and Missouri did their best to remind us what we’d miss with this rivalry going away as a casualty of realignment. Both games were classics, but Marcus Denmon’s wild finish in Columbia gets the nod. The Missouri guard playing out of position at small forward scored the final 11 points in the 74-71 win. Denmon converted a three-point play and hit two shots from beyond the arc in the final 2:05 for a thrilling finish. He finished with 29 points and nine rebounds.

43. June 28: Lukas Rosol’s Wimbledon upset
The second defeat of Rafael Nadal on our list, Rosol’s victory in five sets in Wimbledon was one of the biggest upsets of the year. Making his Wimbledon debut, Rosol defeated Nadal 6-7 (9-11), 6-4, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4. Nadal hadn’t lost before the third round of a Grand Slam since 2005.

44. Sept. 23: Old Dominion QB claims passing records
FCS football is often in the shadows of college sports, but not when one of its quarterbacks breaks NCAA all-division records. Old Dominion quarterback Taylor Heinicke set records for passing yards (730) and total offense (791) on 55-of-79 passing with five touchdowns against New Hampshire, which entered the game with the top defense in the FCS.
45. Jan. 14: Rob Gronkowski sets a new postseason standard for tight ends
Half of Tom Brady’s record-tying six touchdown passes (see No. 6) in last season’s AFC Divisional round victory over Denver went to Rob Gronkowski, his favorite tight end. Gronkowksi finished the game against the Broncos with 10 receptions for 145 yards and the three scores. Not only did the man affectionately known as “Gronk” tie the postseason single-game record for touchdown catches, he posted the most productive game by a tight end in the playoffs in 25 seasons. In fact, Jan. 14 was a big day for tight ends in general as New Orleans’ Jimmy Graham and San Francisco’s Vernon Davis also had more than 100 yards receiving and caught two touchdowns in their respective games.

46. Nov. 19: Aldon Smith dominates Bears on Monday Night Football
Week 11 was set up to finish with a bang, as San Francisco was hosting Chicago in a matchup of two of the top teams in the NFC and toughest defenses in the NFL. Alas, the Monday Night Football showdown never materialized as the 49ers’ defense manhandled the Bears’ offense from the opening snap, highlighted by Smith’s 5.5 sacks. Even though it was backup Jason Campbell under center for the Bears in place of a concussed Jay Cutler, it didn’t matter to Smith and the rest of the 49ers, as the linebacker also chipped in seven total tackles and two forced fumbles in the convincing 32-7 whitewashing. The Bears may be the Monsters of the Midway, but Smith was an absolute beast that night.

47. Feb. 8: Rivers’ dramatic game-winner
Austin Rivers made sure his one season at Duke left a lasting impression. Rivers hit a game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer in Duke’s 85-84 win over North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Rivers ended a furious 10-point rally in the final 2:30 in one of the wildest finishes in the the history of the rivalry. The final 3-pointer was his sixth of the game and capped a 29-point effort against North Carolina.

48. Nov. 21: Jack Taylor’s controversial outburst
At first, Jack Taylor’s NCAA-record 138 points was a jaw-dropping stat line. Then the performance against Faith Baptist Bible College by the guard at Division III Grinnell College became subject for debate. The game was engineered to give Taylor a gaudy stat line has he took 108 shots from the field (making 52) and 71 from 3-point range (making 27).

49. Sept. 30: Mike Napoli's 6 RBI against the Angels
With the Rangers struggling to stay on top of the AL West as the Oakland A’s surged, Texas fell behind the Angels 4-0 in the first inning. It was Mike Napoli to the rescue as he homered in the second and third innings before adding a double in the fifth. His six RBI helped the Rangers take an 8-4 lead in a game they would eventually win 8-7.

50. Feb. 2: Eight is great
Edmonton center Sam Gagner became the 13th person in NHL history to record at least eight points in a game when he had four goals and four assists as he played a hand in all of the Oilers goals in an 8-4 win over the Blackhawks.

-Rob Doster, David Fox, Charlie Miller and Mark Ross contributed to this report.

<p> Athlon takes a look at the top 50 individual performances in the sports world for the entire year.</p>
Post date: Friday, December 28, 2012 - 07:10
Path: /college-football/nicest-athletes-sports

With the holiday season upon us, we started thinking: If Santa can make a list, why can’t Athlon? So we asked dozens of athletes, agents, coaches, journalists and other experts to identify the nicest athletes in sports today. Here’s our roster:

Chris PaulChris Paul—Los Angeles Clippers
Chris Paul is more than just the player who turned the L.A. Clippers from punchline to powerhouse. Since being drafted by the New Orleans Hornets in 2005, Paul has tried to make everything around him better. Exhibit A: Paul celebrated turning pro by refurbishing a basketball court in his hometown of Winston-Salem, N.C. It was renamed for Nathaniel Jones, Paul’s late grandfather and ongoing inspiration. “He had the first African-American-owned service station in North Carolina,” Paul says. “People would say, ‘Mr. Jones, I don’t have the money. Can I still get some gas?’ And he would take care of them.”
Paul has continued this family tradition of good works. The All-Star known for on-court fierceness is renowned for off-court kindness. He regularly helps rookies adjust to NBA life and routinely attends the school plays and games of teammates’ kids. But his real focus is on the less fortunate. Example: Upon arriving in L.A., Paul promptly participated in a Feed the Children event that helped hundreds of local families, and he continues to make a difference in Southern California — focusing especially on kids health and education through his CP3 Foundation. But his heart remains in New Orleans, where in 2010 he helped launch an after-school program at KIPP Central City Primary School.
“He is so genuine about his commitment to the city of New Orleans,” says KIPP’s Korbin Johnson. “Even now that he’s gone.” Indeed, Paul’s CP3 AfterSchool Zone, which provides an enriching afternoon environment for kids in The Big Easy, is just one example of his ongoing efforts to stay involved in that city’s rebuilding. “I’m always gonna be there,” Paul says about New Orleans. “I love that city. I always will.”
Steven Jackson—St. Louis Rams
Nice guy cred: Steven Jackson Foundation provides various initiatives of community service. Received Key to the City of his hometown Las Vegas in 2007 for community work. Official spokesperson for NFL Play 60, which battles childhood obesity.
Larry Fitzgerald—Arizona Cardinals
Nice Guy cred: First Down Fund provides resources to 
various organizations nationwide. Visits the troops in the Middle East. Charitable trips to Africa.  
Torii Hunter—Detroit Tigers
Nice guy cred: Torii Hunter Project Education initiative helps youths across the country. Hunter’s Hundred provided scholarships for 1,000 students between 2009-12. Recipient of 2004 Carl R. Pohlad Award, 2007 Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award, 2009 Branch Rickey Award. 
Troy Polamalu—Pittsburgh Steelers
Nice guy cred: The Troy and Theodora Polamalu Foundation, 
Operation Once in a Lifetime, VA Hospital (Pittsburgh), various military-focused charities.
Teemu Selanne—Anaheim Ducks
Nice guy cred: Teemu Selanne Youth Sports Foundation. Recipient of 2007 Bill Masterston Memorial Trophy (honoring perseverance and sportsmanship).
CC Sabathia—New York Yankees
Nice guy cred: PitCCh In Foundation. Recipient of 2010 Bart Giamatti Award for compassion and community service. $100 contribution per strikeout towards “Strikeouts for Troops.” 
Pau Gasol—Los Angeles Lakers
Nice guy cred: Ambassador for Spain’s UNICEF committee. Partnership with Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Recipient of 2012 J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award.
Drew Brees —New Orleans Saints
Nice guy cred: The Brees Dream Foundation. Worked with Habitat for Humanity and Childrens Hospital in New Orleans. Part of USO Missions to Afghanistan, Kuwait and Okinawa. 
Hannah Teter—Two-time Olympic medalist snowboarder
Nice girl cred: Proceeds from maple syrup from her family farm help the needy in Kenya. Supports Boarding for Breast Cancer, Children International, Doctors Without Borders, PETA. 2006 USOC Sportswoman of the Year.
Phil Mickelson—PGA Tour golfer
Nice Guy Cred: Phil and Amy Mickelson Foundation, Birdies for the Brave, Special Operations Warrior Operation, Homes for Our Troops.
Jeff Gordon—NASCAR driver
Nice Guy Cred: Jeff Gordon Children’s Foundation. It supports children battling cancer by funding programs that improve patients’ quality of life, treatment programs that increase survival rates and pediatric medical research dedicated to finding a cure. A first of its kind in NASCAR, AARP Foundation’s Drive to End Hunger serves as Gordon’s primary sponsor while working to battle senior hunger.
Barrett Jones—Center, Alabama 
Nice guy cred: Named to the All-State AFCA Good Works Team (and received the award while speaking to kids ages 18-21 with disabilities). Nominated for Senior CLASS Award. Volunteer work includes tornado relief in Tuscaloosa, earthquake relief in Haiti, local hospital visits.
Manti Te’o—Linebacker, Notre Dame 
Nice guy cred: Nominated for Senior CLASS Award. Eagle scout. Visited homeless shelter in South Bend, prepared Thanksgiving dinner. Participated in Irish Experience League with South Bend youths. 
Collin Klein—Quarterback, Kansas State 
Nice guy cred: Named to the All-State AFCA Good Works Team. Nominated for Senior CLASS Award. Participated in Read to Achieve. Took part in 5th Annual Special Olympics Sports Clinic on KSU campus. 
Michael Clay—Linebacker, Oregon 
Nice guy cred: Volunteer work for Boys and Girls Club of the Emerald Valley. Pac-10/12 All-Academic honorable mention (2010, 2011).
<p> The Nicest Athletes In Sports</p>
Post date: Monday, December 24, 2012 - 08:35
All taxonomy terms: Golf, Monthly, Olympics
Path: /mlb/5-great-moments-sportsmanship

Too often these days, fans and athletes alike focus on the negative side of sports, whether it's a fight that breaks out on the field or trash talk off the field. Still, there are many instances of athletes taking the high road and doing the right thing. Here are five perfect examples of athletes showing us what sportsmanship is all about. 

1. Bobby Jones, 1925 U.S. Open  Assessed himself a one-stroke penalty on the par-4 11th hole for an infraction nobody saw. He’d eventually lose in a playoff. Praised for his honesty, Jones said, “You might as well praise a man for not robbing a bank.” 
2. Armando Galarraga, Detroit Tigers, 2010  With Galarraga one out away from a perfect game, umpire Jim Joyce blew a call at first base to spoil the achievement. Rather than lash out, Galarraga defended Joyce and accepted his apology. 
3. Shawn Crawford, 2008 Beijing Olympics  Finished fourth, but was awarded silver in the 200 meters after two runners were disqualified for lane violations. Feeling that Churandy Martin of the Netherlands Antilles had rightly earned the honor, Crawford sent him his medal. 
“I know the rules are the rules. You step on the line, you’re disqualified. But when you’re running clear in your position and aren’t impeding in someone’s race and you barely touch the line? I felt that Churandy was robbed. He worked four years just like I did, went to practice and trained — probably threw up at practice like I did — nights of breathlessness and days where you wanted to sleep. For four years... I felt like he ran a second-place race. He beat us by a considerable margin, from second to third. I know I put in the work, and I go out there and expect to earn my position. I felt like I was beat fair and square.
“When Churandy received my medal, he was surprised. He couldn’t believe that I was doing it. At first, he didn’t accept it. He understood my argument, but wanted to make sure that’s really what I wanted to do. But he has so much respect for me now. We’re really cool, and it’s a great relationship. To me, that’s more important. If I had kept the medal, I probably never would have known much about him. Just ‘hi’ and ‘bye,’ every time I saw him. I like the relationship we have built. It’s important to have good relationships and friendships in life. You only live once, and it’s a short life.” 
4. Mallory Holtman and Liz Wallace, Central Washington University women’s softball, 2008  After Sara Tucholsky of Western Oregon University hit her first career home run, she injured her knee rounding first base. Holtman and Wallace carried her around the bases, so she could receive credit for a four-bagger. 
5. San Francisco Giants, 2010 NLDS  After clinching victory in the series at Turner Field, the Giants broke off their victory celebration to join in a standing ovation for manager Bobby Cox, managing his last game of a 25-year run with the Braves. 
<p> 5 Great Moments in Sportsmanship</p>
Post date: Monday, December 24, 2012 - 05:40
All taxonomy terms: Monthly
Path: /monthly/why-isnt-world-series-trophy-named-after-person

Why isn’t the World Series trophy named after a person, like the Stanley Cup (NHL), Lombardi Trophy (NFL) and Larry O’Brien Trophy (NBA)? I think it should be named the Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson Memorial Cup. 

— John Daneluk, Beverly, Mass.


Each year, MLB hands out the rather blandly named Commissioner’s Trophy to its champion. Like you, we think the name could use a little more personality. Your suggestion, while featuring two worthy candidates, is a little too cumbersome, but limiting it to one player is difficult. There’s no executive as worthy as the NBA’s O’Brien; the first commissioner, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, would be a candidate if he hadn’t been a roadblock to integration. Here’s one thought: Casey Stengel, who managed the Yankees to 10 World Series appearances in his 12 years at the helm (1949-60). He’s baseball’s closest approximation to Lombardi. But we’re open to suggestions. 

— Charlie Miller, Editorial Director

<p> Why isn't the World Series trophy named after a person?&nbsp;</p>
Post date: Friday, December 21, 2012 - 13:58
All taxonomy terms: Monthly
Path: /monthly/why-doesnt-nfl-induct-officials-hall-fame

Why is it that the NFL is the only major sport that does not induct game officials into its Hall of Fame? 

— Dr. Norman Jones, Crystal Lake, Ill.


We kicked this one over to veteran NFL writer Gordon Forbes, who had this to say: “A number of officials have been nominated over the years, but none has made it to the final 25 cut. Dr. Jones should know that fans can nominate players, coaches, contributors, etc., by simply sending a letter to the Hall of Fame, which is why there are usually 100 or more individuals nominated each year. Among today’s officials, the best-known and one of the most respected is Ed Hochuli, but the first official I would name to the Hall of Fame would be former referee Jim Tunney.” 

<p> <b>Why is it that the NFL is the only major sport that does not induct game officials into its Hall of Fame?&nbsp;</b></p>
Post date: Friday, December 21, 2012 - 13:53