An ESPN The Magazine story out next week profiles young American tennis star Sloane Stephens and, in discussing her relationship with Serena Williams, reveals that both women are Blackberry users.
College football’s second week portended less excitement than its opening week, and yet there seemed to be more surprising results this week than last. In particular, two teams with a lot of preseason promise took big hits on Saturday. The Wisconsin Badgers fell out of the Top 25 and fired their offensive line coach after a loss to Oregon State in which the traditional running power generated only thirty-five yards on the ground. Arkansas’ drop from the rankings was even more precipitous, as the Razorbacks lost to Louisiana-Monroe. Michigan, fresh off a no-show against Alabama, nearly lost their home-opener to Air Force, while Clemson nearly doubled up Ball State to stay undefeated, a status they’re likely to carry into their meeting with #5 Florida State in two weeks after facing in-state lightweight Furman this weekend. Michigan State also stayed undefeated with an easy win over Central Michigan, while Vanderbilt fell to 0-2 at Northwestern in a game I attended and more about which I
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Robert Griffin III was the star of the NFL’s first Sunday of 2012, while Andrew Luck found himself grouped with more pedestrian rookie QB starters Brandon Weeden and Ryan Tannehill. The always-overhyped Jets turned in the surprise team performance of the day, a 48-28 win over Buffalo. The Lions, who have an official drum line, came from behind to beat the Rams in the last ten seconds of the game, and Peyton Manning returned to form in an ultimately convincing win over Pittsburgh.
Outside of the football world, Serena Williams gutted out a win at the U.S. Open, her fifteenth Grand Slam title, and Jeff Gordon announced that his “absurdly comical mustache” for the NASCAR Chase (i.e., playoffs), which begins this weekend in Chicago.
But it’s so fragile, tennis! I mean, it’s so silly, basically. I have been a completely inadequate Wimbledon correspondent, and even I noticed when the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club’s P.A. announcer came on to say, “Ladies and gentlemen, your attention, please. There is a 30 percent chance that it is now raining.” The kidnapped hawk, the Centre Court roof, and Roger Federer all have fake Twitter accounts that are only intermittently as funny as the actual Wimbledon Twitter account, @Wimbledon, which I suspect has a better sense of humor about Wimbledon than does Jeremy Piven. I’ve hardly understood a single thing that’s happened since I’ve been here. Why, the other night I wandered into the actual English pub next to my hotel for a burger and a drink, and there was some sort of American-themed costume party going on — all sorts of Marilyns and Duff Men and Top Gun jet aces, that sort of thing — and I was wearing a shirt with the name of an obscure Italian soccer club on it, and I got pitying looks for not being comically American enough! … Read More
Things have been pretty slow around here lately. There are plenty of reasons for that, and one of the biggest is that there just isn’t a heck of a lot happening right now. In fact, SB Nation says today is “the slowest sports day of the entire year.” Sometimes they’re jokers, so my initial reaction was a pretty un-Seth & Amy “really?”, but after popping over to ESPN.com, it looks like they’re right. Of course, we’re saturated enough that there won’t be a day without sports, but today comes pretty close. Here’s an overview of the day’s offerings:
The tennis matches are what look to be the opening rounds of three ATP (men’s professional tour) and two WTA (women’s professional tour) tournaments. Number one seeds in action include John Isner, Janko Tipsarevic (that’s a man), Serena Williams, and Sara Errani. In other words, something less than grand slam caliber competition on display.
The nine soccer matches break down as one MLS game (played between two Canadian teams), one Futebol Brasileiro game, one Fútbol Profesional Colombiano game, and six Primera Profesional de Perú games. I’ll let Brendan and Chris translate this paragraph for you, but I’m guessing you’ll be underwhelmed.
As for the three WNBA games, what’s there to say about early season WNBA that hasn’t already been said, except that by the time I actually post this, one of the three games already will be over?
At some point in the middle of the American night, Novak Djokovic beat Rafael Nadal to win the Australian Open in a five-set match that nearly ran six hours, the longest ever Grand Slam singles final. With the win, Djokovic became only the fifth man to win three consecutive Grand Slams (the others being Nadal, Sampras, Federer, and Rod Laver). Nadal, on the other hand, became the first to lose three consecutive Slam finals.
The Sunday before the Super Bowl is reserved for the Pro Bowl, reviled as the worst all-star game of any professional sport. I heard that the AFC “won.” I also heard that this was the worst playing of the non-game yet, even drawing fan booing early on. In a related story, national commentators continued to praise the NHL all-star game apparently without realizing it too was played on Sunday.
Finally, the Winter X Games came to a close last night, and snowboarder Shaun White scored a perfect 100 on the superpipe to win his fifth-consecutive gold medal in that event.
On Friday night, the Minnesota Timberwolves hung around long enough and took advantage of a Los Angeles Clippers’ offense that, despite dominating most of the game even without Chris Paul, stagnated after Mo Williams, who couldn’t miss, got himself ejected. Minnesota won the game on a Kevin Love 3-pointer off an in-bounds play with 1.5 seconds remaining. The 101-98 game-winning margin was the T-Wolves only lead of the night after going up 2-0 to start the game.
In college action, Michigan State was all over Purdue in East Lansing, 83-58, the Boilermakers being a much better team in West Lafayette than on the road. Vanderbilt, meanwhile, hasn’t quite been able to right its ship, dropping a tough one in overtime to #15 Mississippi State, 78-77. Other notable games included Virginia Tech upsetting UVA in a low-scoring affair (47-45), Notre Dame upsetting previously undefeated #1 Syracuse, and Florida State salvaging its season with an upset of Duke in Durham just a week after it blew out free falling North Carolina. There also was this neat fact:
Sometime Saturday night or Sunday morning, former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno died after a battle with lung cancer. Beyond the longevity of his tenure, recent information about his handling of the Jerry Sandusky situation has obscured and clouded Paterno’s legacy. One has to wonder, though, whether Paterno would be alive today if he had been allowed to remain in his post. It isn’t a sensational suggestion: he and others addressed this very question in years past (in an article, probably in Sports Illustrated, for which I spent a good amount of time unsuccessfully searching on Sunday). The other footnote on this story right now is the mishandling of the death announcement by the media– particularly CBS Sports, which lifted a premature story without attribution from Onward State, a PSU student site, and then attempted to blame that site when the error was revealed.
Sunday featured the NFL playoffs’ final four and saw New England and New York advancing to the Super Bowl. In each game, the losing team appeared to be in control at the end, only to commit crippling special teams errors that delivered the victory to their opponent. When the teams meet in the Super Bowl, Eli Manning will have the opportunity to double his brother’s championship total, while Tom Brady could join Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana as the only quarterbacks to win four Super Bowls. Super Bowl XLVI will be a rematch of Super Bowl XLII, which the Giants won 17-14, thanks in large part to a fourth-quarter catch by WR David Tyree.
In the Australian Open, Serena Williams lost 6-2, 6-3 to Ekaterina Makarova. Williams was the last American alive in the tournament.
Because my schedule doesn’t allow me to watch tennis happening in any Australian timezone or even try to navigate ESPN’s website to figure out when it’s playing (it is remarkable how difficult it is to find TV listings on TV network websites), here are some previews and updates from the Grand Slam Down Under and new tennis in the new year:
Roundtable: Aussie Open preview - Sports Illustrated
2012 Australian Open: Player Previews – SB Nation
Traditionally, this tournament is thought of as the lesser of the four Slams, and in its early years, many pros skipped it. If you’re not paying attention because you think today’s players don’t care though, Marcos Baghdatis politely requests that you reconsider that position:
Was linking to those tournament previews late on day three of the event just an excuse to post that video and write Australian-related words? Koala dingo joey fosters wombat outback platypus melbourne dodo crocodile hunter opera house kangaroo.
Many athletes have been referred to as being bigger than their sport. Michael Jordan was larger than basketball because kids in every corner of the Earth wanted to be “Like Mike” and had the no. 23 Bulls jersey to prove it, even if it was one of their few pieces of clothing. Muhammad Ali transcended boxing because his mouth and his beliefs made him as much of a cultural icon as his powerful fists and quick feet. Ashe was a brilliant athlete, but he was so much more. For him, tennis seemed more like a means to an end, and that final end was the completion of Days of Grace. Ashe wanted to be great, but he was far more concerned with his true greatness coming off the court than between the chalk. … Read More