A S26S Look Ahead to 2010

December 29, 2009

New Year’s Day is right around the corner, which means we must all turn our calendars to 2010.

The 2009 sports year was an exciting one, full of surprises and intrigue.  Sports fans witnessed the dominance of traditional powers in the NBA and MLB, the true solidification of a NASCAR superstar, and the fall of the greatest athlete in the world, Tiger Woods.

While 2009 gave the fans numerous memories to hold on to for years to come, we at Section 26 Sports would like to take a look at the biggest events to come in 2010.  Here are five of the more exciting and captivating events to prepare yourselves for.

  1. Tiger Woods’ Return – By now, everyone has heard the Tiger Woods story.  From the car accident to the affair, to the unbelievable amount of women coming out claiming an affair with the golfer.  We are only concerned with the action on the golf course, however.  These events originally forced Woods to cancel his participation in his own tournament.  He is now in the midst of an “indefinite break” from golf.  This can hurt his reputation, as well as that of the PGA Tour.  If Woods does not participate, the PGA would likely lose many viewers.  Golf will not be the same until he returns.  Look and hope for that day to be in 2010, my guess would be closer to the Summer.  Sports media will explode that day, so begin preparing now.
  2. Urban Meyer and Florida Football – On December 26th, Urban Meyer announced he has resigned as Florida’s head football coach due to health reasons.  On December 27th, after a “spirited practice” he changed his resignation to an “indefinite leave of absence.”  The point is, at this point, he is expected to not be the head coach for the 2010 season.  Instead, current offensive coordinator Steve Addazio will take over as interim head coach.  From my personal opinion, expect to hear Urban Meyer’s input all season and an announcement of his return after the annual clash with Florida State.  But do not be surprised to hear something else happen, for example Meyer becoming the head coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars as they draft Tim Tebow in the 2010 NFL Draft.  Again, that is just a hunch.
  3. The 2010 Heisman Race – What makes this race more intriguing than most years is that the 2009 winner, Alabama running back Mark Ingram will only be a junior.  He has the potential to not only repeat, but “three-peat.”  Fans saw this with Florida quarterback Tim Tebow in 2007, but he could not repeat in 2008 or 2009.  Ingram will be on an Alabama team that is not expected to drop far from their current status of SEC Champions.  The team success and personal achievement of Ingram could lead to a historical Heisman race in 2010.  Other names to watch for:  Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, Washington quarterback Jack Locker, Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor, West Virginia running back Noel Devine.
  4. The American League East Race – The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox seem to always come down to the wire in the race for the AL East Pennant.  This race epitomizes the excitement in Major League Baseball.  Both teams spend more money than many fans think was even possible to do what is necessary to win such a difficult division and league.  So far in the offseason, the Yankess have signed outfielder Curtis Granderson and first basemen Nick Johnson, and traded for starting pitcher Javier Vazquez.  In the midst of these moves, they will no longer have designated hitter Hideki Matsui or outfielder Melky Cabrera.  The Red Sox made big noise signing starting pitcher John Lackey and outfield Mike Cameron in mid-December.  And earlier in the month they signed shortstop Marco Scutaro.  Expect both of these teams to be two of the top teams in all of MLB and make the playoffs next season.  This hated rivalry should become a battle for the top seed in the playoffs and go to September before it is decided.
  5. The World Cup – The World Cup begins play June 11th as the host South Africa faces Mexico.  The big match for Americans will be the nation’s first as they play one of the world’s elite teams, England on June 12th.  The good news for the USA is that even with a loss to England, the round of sixteen seems a likely achievement.  The group to keep your eye on however is Group G, which has been dubbed the “Group of Death” for 2010.  This group is headlined by another of the world’s elite, Brazil, and also fields two of the stronger teams, Portugal and North Korea.  As if that was not difficult enough, the World Cup sleeper team, the Ivory Coast also plays in this group.  Who escapes this group with hopes for the title is anyone’s guess.

The 2010 sports year looks promising for fans of all sports all over the world.  Keep your eyes out for these storylines, as well as the many others that are sure to pop up throughout the year.

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For A Sports Fan, The Holidays Are an Easy Trap

December 26, 2009

Every holiday season, I am often reminded of how easy sports can act as a trap. Each sports acts as a trap to prevent you from doing the things you should be doing.

Now, let me say right now, this is not going to be some religious propaganda column saying how sports are bad. This is just a way to get you thinking about what the holidays are truly about.

On Thanksgiving, the NFL offers three games. While this has become somewhat of a tradition for families to gather in front of the television to watch football before the Thanksgiving feast, it takes away from the idea of the holiday.

Look at Christmas. This year, ESPN offered five NBA games starting at noon across their family of networks. This idea of the NBA on Christmas has not grabbed on like the NFL, it acts as the same purpose, a distraction.

Let’s not even start about the amount of college sports that occur over the holidays. College football bowl games begin to ramp up, usually one appearing each day. In college basketball, there is a day or two in which there is non-stop action.

So what is it exactly that I am trying to say. Well it is important to remember during this holiday season the true meaning of getting time off from work, school, or play. I have often been one to struggle with balancing sports on television against developing relationships with friends and family.

The heavy offering of sports on television is a nice option for when it is a rainy day or even a dull moment in the holiday festivities. It is not a good option when you could be giving the person you have not seen in a while a big hug.

In this holiday season, my wish for you is to value what is important in your life. Maybe instead of watching that third straight bowl game on television, spend a little time with your family or friends, and show how much you cherish every moment and every opportunity you get to spend with them.

Adam’s Side – Note: So I know this isn’t the normal sports opinion column you get from us, but I just think of this as a little reminder that some sports fanatics, like myself, to remember not only during the holidays, but throughout the entire year. Let’s face it, how do you develop relationships with people by sitting in front of the television.

Anyways, just a programming note, “Section 26 Sports” will return to WUSC on Tuesday from 3-6 pm for a full preview of the PapaJohns.com Bowl between South Carolina and Connecticut.


The Top 5 Stories of 2009

December 21, 2009

In continuing with my Top 5 lists, next up is the top 5 stories that were the most influential in the sports world this year.

Some of these have personal reasons, other are somewhat no-brainers, all of them though shaped the way people thought about sports in the world for 2009.

#5 – Shaquille O’Neal to the Cavaliers.

After another disappointing end to the Cleveland Cavaliers NBA playoff run, the team looked for a way to improve. With the strong possibility that superstar Lebron James might leave when he becomes a free agent at the end of the season, the front office wanted to show James that they were making an effort to win a NBA Title.

The answer, Shaquille O’Neal. Acquired in a deal with the Phoenix Suns, the Cavaliers were hoping to rekindle some of the magic that Shaq had. The Cavaliers were hoping that the four NBA titles that O’Neal won with the Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat would come true for the Cavaliers. They were hoping that the way O’Neal partnered with Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade would work the same way with Cleveland.

While it is still too early to tell O’Neal’s impact, the Cavaliers are 20-8 this season, leading the Central Division and 4th in the Eastern Conference.

#4 – The New York Yankees are World Series Champions once again

It had been quite some time sense the New York Yankees had been the best baseball team in the world. The last time the Yankees won the World Series was against the New York Mets in 2000. In that time, they had lost two World Series against the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2001 and the Florida Marlins in 2004.

Up until this year, the Yankees were trying to rebuild their farm system, and in the process lower payroll. They also made several mistakes, putting millions of dollars in players such as Gary Sheffield and Carl Pavano. At the end of the 2007 season, they let long-time manager Joe Torre go, and replaced him with former Yankees’ catcher Joe Girardi.

After several years of playing mediocre baseball and missing the playoffs, it was back to the old way of doing things in New York. They spent millions of dollars on C.C. Sabathia, Mark Teixiera, and A.J. Burnett. Once Alex Rodriguez returned from hip surgery, the Yankees were well on their way.

Led by their big named players, the Yankees beat the defending champion Philadelphia Phillies to win the World Series. Ironically, the Yankees won the World Series in the inaugural year of the new Yankee Stadium.

#3 – Jeremy Mayfield’s banishment from NASCAR

It is rare that NASCAR would get talked about on top 5 stories list, but it has nothing to do with racing. Jeremy Mayfield was indefinitely suspended by NASCAR for failing a drug test, believed to be for methamphetamines. Mayfield, initially suspended on May 9 chose to be somewhat difficult over the suspension, decided to go the legal route to have his suspension overturned, rather than the general follow NASCAR’s guidelines.

NASCAR’s drug-testing policy quickly came under fire. The current system says that drivers or crew members are randomly tested throughout the season, and drivers are subject to additional testing if there is reasonable suspicion to test. A driver or crew member is suspended indefinitely from the sport for a positive test, and must follow strict guidelines to apply for reinstatement.

Mayfield filed a lawsuit against NASCAR, saying that he did not use methamphetamines and get his suspension overturned. A judge did overturn NASCAR’s suspension, allowing Mayfield to return to the track on July 1st.

However, not longer than two weeks later, Mayfield again tested positive for methamphetamines, with the judge reversing the intial order, placing Mayfield back on suspension. Mayfield continues to fight this in court, suing NASCAR, rather than following the rehabilitation guidelines.

Mayfield, who has been forced to sell most of his racing equipment to cover legal costs, has continued to deny the positive test, maintaining that it was the mix of Claritin and Adderall that sparked the positive. Mayfield has no intention of following NASCAR’s guidelines, and for all purposes, said that his career is over.

#2 – Concussions

Concussions have always been a major part of the game of football, but in 2009, it seemed that every week we were talking about some player suffering a concussion. Whether it is Ben Roethlisberger, Tim Tebow, or Brian Westbrook, concussions have been moved to the top of the list of things that must be fixed.

While it is seemingly a part of the game, the NFL has been trying to figure out ways to eliminate the frequency of concussions by creating rules and developing safety equipment to help lessen the effects. There might not be a way to eliminate them completely, the NFL and College Football are partnering with independent studies to try and figure out how to fix this problem.

#1 – Tiger Woods

Whether it is coming back from major knee surgery or everything that has happened in the last month, Tiger Woods was the #1 story in my book for the past year. Woods did not win a major tournament this year, but he won several tournaments in his return from his heroics at the 2008 U.S. Open. After every shot, Woods was in a lot of pain.

However, what puts Tiger at number one is the developments that all came to light in the last month. After his early morning accident the day after Thanksgiving, the media frenzy that has surrounded Woods was just beginning. Allegations of numerous extra-marital affairs were revealed, as one after another, women said they were one of Woods’ mistresses.

During this time, Woods has not been seen publicly, and is taking an indefinite leave from golf to save his family and marriage. His wife, Elin Nordegren, has said that she plans to move forward with a divorce. For the world’s number one golfer, the once poster-boy for every product on the market, is now spending his time fixing the image he has now tainted.


My Top 5 Games from 2009

December 17, 2009

With the end of the year upon us, it is always a good time to look back on the year that was 2009.

Over the final weeks of the year, I will be trying to post a couple top five lists, starting with the top five games I saw from 2009.

Now there are a few criteria I have. First, I had to have seen the event in its entirety. It doesn’t count if I saw the highlights the next day or heard about it later on.

Second, when I refer to ‘games,’ I mean any sporting event that took place, which also involves races, Olympics, and much much more.

Here is my Top 5 Games from 2009:

#5 – Clemson vs. South Carolina, Baseball, Carolina Stadium, April 7th, 2009

The Gamecocks were trailing hated rival Clemson by a run entering the bottom of the 9th after leading 4-2 at the end of the 1st. An Adam Matthews lead-off single, a Casey Rihn walk, a sacrifice bunt by Jackie Bradley Jr. and a intentional walk to Whit Merrifield set it all up for DeAngelo Mack. Mack pulls a single to right field, under the glove of Clemson Right Fielder Kyle Parker (name sounds familiar, doesn’t it?) to win the game 7-6. Definitely one of the most memorable games in the young history of the new Carolina Stadium.

#4 – NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway; April 26, 2009

Everybody loves the restrictor-plate racing which brings clusters of cars together and drivers bumping each other to advance their position. Drafting is the name of the game, but when racecars are allowed to touch each other, it could mean disaster. The idea was that you wanted to great timing and the right drafting partner on the last lap to win the race. Coming to the checkered flag, it was down to four cars, #09-Brad Keselowski, #88-Dale Earnhardt Jr., #39-Ryan Newman, and #99-Carl Edwards. However, unlike most race tracks, the start-finish line is located heading down a short straightaway into turn 1, not in the middle of the tri-oval. It was down to two cars after the final corner, when Edwards pulled down over Keselowski, who was holding his position at the bottom of the race track. Edwards was spun around, flew up into the air, landing on top of Newman’s car before flying into the catch fence. Keselowski won his first career Sprint Cup Race, and the actions of this race would change how the fall race at the track would be run. (Eight people were injured, the worst being a broken jaw.)

#3 – Super Bowl XLIII; Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Arizona Cardinals; Raymond James Stadium; February 1, 2009

Keeping with the past NFL championship deciding games, it was a matchup of David versus Goliath in Tampa, Florida. After Steelers LB James Harrison’s long return at the end of the first half, the Cardinals hopes were all but dashed, as the Steelers led 17-7. The Steelers extended their lead to 20-7 with a Jeff Reed field goal in the third quarter. Going into the 4th quarter, the Cardinals shifted to a no-huddle offense led by veteran QB Kurt Warner. Warner led the team on two scoring drives, and with a defensive safety, the Cardinals led 23-20 with only 2:37 to go. However, Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger led a scoring drive ending with a spectacular catch in the end zone by WR Santonio Holmes. It was the first time that back-to-back Super Bowls had game winning touchdowns in the final 1:30. The Steelers would hold onto win 27-23 for the team’s 6th Super Bowl victory.

#2 – 2009 Men’s Final at Wimbledon; Roger Federer vs. Andy Roddick; July 5, 2009

For me, tennis is a sport I only watch during the majors, of which most are overseas, meaning they air early on a Sunday morning. Defending champion Rafael Nadal withdrew from the tournament with knee problems, opening the door for Roger Federer to become the record holder in the number of major titles won in tennis. However, it would first mean he would have to get by a tough foe in American Andy Roddick. What happened was a back and forth affair last for over four hours. In the fifth set, Roddick and Federer were tied, sending the match into a tiebreaker situation. With the final set being 16-14, it cemented Federer place in history of the best men’s singles tennis player in history, surpassing Pete Sampras’ record with 15 grand slam titles.

#1 – #24 Florida vs. South Carolina; Men’s Basketball; Colonial Life Arena; January 21, 2009

The night started off with the unveiling of The Garnet Army, the newly formed student section for basketball. (Click Here for an earlier story on the creation of The Garnet Army.) First-year coach Darrin Horn had just lead the Gamecocks through the non-conference schedule and just getting into the heart of SEC play. On this night, the mighty Gators were supposed to show the Gamecocks where they really belong in the SEC race, but it was not meant to be. Trailing 67-60 with less than three minutes to go, it looked like the Gamecocks would be denied on their special night. With 4.7 seconds, Zam Frederick missed a game tying free throw. Florida’s Chandler Parsons quickly got the rebound and was fouled quickly and with 3.3 seconds, two free throws would certainly seal the deal. Parsons missed the first half of the one-and-one, with the shot rebounded by the Gamecocks’ Mike Holmes. Holmes threw a pass the length of the court to Zam Frederick whose lay-up won the game as time expired. It was pandemonium in the Colonial Life Arena. On a personal note, I was standing in the second row as a member of the Garnet Army as this unfolded, and the sights and sounds that occurred at the shot and afterward is something I will never forget.

Well there you have it, my top 5 games from 2009. Instead of choosing the ones that have sentimental value (South Carolina’s win over Clemson in football), I chose the ones that I saw and legitimately remember what happened in the moments leading up to the ending.

I’m sure some of you will disagree and wonder why I didn’t choose the 6 overtime game during the Big East Championship. The reason is I did not watch it all the way through and can not make that type of judgment.


Winter Break Show Schedule

December 15, 2009

With Winter Break taking hold of the University of South Carolina Columbia Campus, “Section 26 Sports” will also go on a bit of Winter Break.

Don’t get scared, that only means the regular airtime just will shift days and times.

Starting on December 22nd and through January 5th, “Section 26 Sports” will air on WUSC from 3-6 pm on Tuesday afternoons.

“Section 26 Sports” can be heard in the Columbia area (Lexington and Richland Counties) on 90.5 FM & HD-1. It is also streamed worldwide on wusc.sc.edu.

Finally, if you have any topic suggestions for what topics you want talked about, leave a comment below or check out “Section 26 Sports on Facebook.


Special Teams Key for Gamecocks vs. UConn

December 7, 2009

As all Gamecock fans know by now, South Carolina was selected to travel to Birmingham, Alabama for the Papajohns.com Bowl.  The opponent drawn for them was the Connecticut Huskies.

The Huskies played a good number of tough teams on the road to their 7-5 record, including North Carolina, Pittsburgh, West Virginia, and Cincinnati.

The key matchup to watch in the Papajohns.com Bowl is not between two individuals, but Connecticut running back and kickoff returner Jordan Todman versus the Gamecocks’ special teams.

Todman has totaled 1812 total yards this season, which is good enough for 23rd in the nation.  He has breakaway speed with an ability to burst into the hole, both from the backfield on in the return game.  During returns, he has the ability to break around to the outside, but has a knack for getting up-field in a hurry.  He is a smart returner that brings the toughness of a running back to the equation.  He could prove to be trouble for South Carolina’s players.

The special teams play for the Gamecocks has been the Achilles tendon all season.  The problems begin with the leg of kickoff specialist Adam Yates.  Yates has a problem getting the ball past the ten-yard line, which gives the returner a shorter field.  The next problem comes from the coverage team closing lanes.  South Carolina’s kickoff coverage gives up 24.57 yards per return, which puts them at 108th in the nation.  They have also given up three touchdowns, one to Brandon Boykin of Georgia, one to Warren Norman of Vanderbilt and the final to Clemson’s CJ Spiller.

If Jordan Todman is able to hit lanes quickly and break up field South Carolina could be in trouble.  If the Gamecocks’ special teams can contain him, they should win comfortably.

The Huskies offense is simply no match for the strength and speed of the Gamecocks defense.  South Carolina’s offense will also have the advantage over UConn’s defense that gives up over 380 yards and 25 points per game.  The Huskies will need to have a phenomenal game on special teams to be able to come away with a victory.


Final 2009 Bowl Projections – ACC

December 6, 2009

Had Georgia Tech not taken care of business in the ACC Championship Game against Clemson, the ACC bowl selections would have gotten very complicated.  Then again, thanks to the Gator Bowl, they already are.

The big story in the ACC postseason is not Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl.  Instead, it centers on the story of Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden’s retirement and legacy.

The Gator Bowl gets the second selection of ACC teams after the BCS has selected, and they seem to have already made their selection.  The Gator Bowl intends on inviting 6-6 Florida State to face Big East representative West Virginia.  That may not seem like a problem on the surface, but it gets deeper.

Should this selection become official, Florida State, with a 6-6 record will have been chosen over four ACC teams with better overall records:  Miami at 9-3, North Carolina and Boston College at 8-4, and Clemson at 8-5.

I personally am strongly against this selection.  The reasoning for this selection seems to be to honor Bobby Bowden’s legacy.  I agree that he deserves being honored.  But at 6-6, Florida State should just be grateful they are going to a bowl game.  Regardless of how I, or perhaps others may feel, the Gator Bowl is entitled to its selection, assuming the ACC allows it.

With all of said, here is how I see the ACC bowl selection happening, with potential opponents:

Orange Bowl – Georgia Tech (vs. TCU)

Chick-Fil-A Bowl – Virginia Tech (vs. Tennessee)

Gator Bowl – Florida State (vs. West Virginia)

Champs Sports Bowl – Miami (vs. Michigan State)

Meineke Car Car Bowl – North Carolina (vs. Rutgers)

Music City Bowl – Clemson (vs. Kentucky)

Emerald Bowl – Boston College (vs. USC)

*Note – The ACC does not have enough bowl eligible teams to fill their bowls.  The EagleBank Bowl and GMAC Bowl will feature teams from different conferences, likely a MAC team and a Sun Belt team.