Category: Sports Written by Aubrey Bruce
Every year at the beginning of the season I rush into a phone booth, any phone booth and exit those cramped quarters as I leap skyward with the letters E.O. stamped proudly on my chest cape flapping in the wind as I fly through the sometimes cloud covered campaign better known as the Pittsburgh Pirates season.
This year I was not just whistling Dixie as I passed the bone orchard at midnight, no boys and girls there is really is, as the great rock n’ roll icon Jerry Lee Lewis might say, “some shakin’ going on.” When I traveled to Bradenton, Fla., to observe the Pirates wind down their “grapefruit league” campaign, I was silently optimistic about their chances even in light of their management and personnel teams’ decision to ship the Bucs’ young and talented reliever Josh Hanrahan off to “Beantown.” But uh, maybe just maybe they have found a new formula that “mad scientists” Clint Hurdle and Neil Huntington haven’t let us in on as of yet. Now don’t go getting all “giddy” because as of Pirates 9-0 thrashing of the Cardinals last Sunday at Busch Stadium. At that point the Pirates were only one game in front of the St. Louis Cardinals for first place in the National League Central Division. Oh, by the way, check and see how many World Series the Pirates have competed in or won in the last ten years, then check the record of the Cardinals during that same time period. I really don’t think that the “Cards” are losing a whole lot of sleep worrying about the Pirates, especially since the Pirates have over 135 games left to play in the 2013 season. But hold up. If the Pirates win 15 out of 25 games the remainder of the season they are poised to win over ninety six games for the season. In 2012 the Cincinnati Reds won the NL Central Division with a 97-65 record.
The team that finished second in the division was the St. Louis Cardinals with a 88-74 record. In 2011, the Milwaukee Brewers won the division with a 96-66 record with the Cardinals finishing second with a 90-72 record. In 2010, the Reds won the division with a 91-71 record, the “Cards finished 86-76. In 2009, Cardinals 91-71 the Cubs were 83-78. In 2008, the Cubs won the division 97-64 while the Brewers took home the consolation prize with a 90-72 record. 2007 was a bit closer as the Cubs again took won the NL Central “championship” with an 85-77 record with the Brewers breathing down their necks finishing the season 83-79. During that same period, the Pirates have hovered around or finished in last place in their division. I am not too concerned about the Pirates play during pre-All Star break competition. It is their post All Star game finishes that worry me. My point is until the Pirates convince themselves that they can win, the competition will certainly not be convinced, nor will their opponents become apprehensive at the thought of facing the Pirates. One of the elements that bodes well for the Bucs’ is the fact that players that dreaded coming here in the past now look forward to helping the team establish, restore and maintain a new baseball winning tradition in the “steel city.”
While I was in Bradenton, I spoke with Jeff Locke after a rough outing against the Baltimore Orioles and although on that day his performance was less than stellar he still had this to say: “I think after I came over here since the trade [from the Braves] everything has been better from my conditioning to my routines, to my work ethic. Maybe it was because I was younger over there. I definitely have matured more since I have been here. Everyone in this clubhouse expects the best from each other when we go out there.” It appears as if the Pirates might remain competitive during the 2013 campaign, but the jury is still out. Why?
Well because there are many unanswered questions regarding the long brutal haul of the baseball summer. How much will the Pirates miss the strong, steady, deadly fastball of Josh Hanrahan during the hellish days of August and during the final stretch of September? Will the Pittsburgh offense complement the Pirates pitching to provide enough balance for the team to win 95 plus games? Trust me boys and girls, it is going to take over 95 games for the Pirates or any of their Central Division foes to win the division comfortably and have enough steam to do some damage in the MLB playoffs. See, when a team, has to eke out victories day after day, week after week, month after month, that team will not, and should not be viewed as true victors. Most of the time that band of competitors will be looked upon as lucky scavengers with a penchant for relying on charms and spells Every individual athlete on the Pirates roster has to convince himself that he is a winner. See boys’ and girls’ we are not entitled to anything because “champions are made not born.”
Buc Bits: The Pirates took the NL Central lead for the first time since last July and reached 15 wins in April for the first time since 1992.
Winning is contagious and so is good pitching.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 01 May 2013 10:00
Category: Sports Written by Associated Press
Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury makes a glove save in the third period of Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series against the New York Islanders on Wednesday, May 1, 2013, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
by Will Graves
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Pascal Dupuis scored twice, Marc-Andre Fleury made 26 saves, and the top-seeded Pittsburgh Penguins opened the playoffs with a 5-0 romp over the New York Islanders on Wednesday night.
Beau Bennett, Kris Letang and Tanner Glass also scored for the Penguins, who had no trouble against the upstart Islanders even with star Sidney Crosby sidelined by a broken jaw. Pittsburgh hardly needed its captain to continue its mastery of the Islanders, who made their first playoff appearance since 2007.
Fleury earned his sixth career playoff shutout.
The Penguins, the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, beat Evgeni Nabokov four times in the game's first 22 minutes, including goals by Letang and Dupuis 32 seconds apart early in the second period to send Nabokov to the bench after he stopped just 11 shots.
Kevin Poulin came on in relief and surrendered a soft goal to Glass.
Game 2 is Friday in Pittsburgh.
The Penguins hoped to have Crosby back for the first time since he was struck in the face by a puck on March 30 in a game against the Islanders. Doctors, however, declined to clear the NHL's third-leading scorer, feeling his jaw wasn't healed enough for contact.
Considering the way his teammates picked up the slack on the first night of what the Penguins hope is a two-month march to the Stanley Cup, there is no need to rush Crosby back.
Pittsburgh rolled to the top of the East even though Crosby missed the final quarter of the season. The Penguins were bolstered by the arrival of trade deadline acquisitions Jarome Iginla, Brenden Morrow, Jussi Jokinen and Doug Murray.
All four players are searching for their first Cup title, and all four made an immediate impact in the series opener. Iginla and Jokinen both had two assists, and Morrow and Murray helped bottle up New York's quickly improving offense.
Islanders star John Tavares failed to find much room to maneuver and didn't muster a shot on goal all night. Those who did get pucks in on Fleury didn't fare any better.
The Penguins were eliminated last spring by rival Philadelphia in six chaotic games.
Pittsburgh was one of the NHL's best defensive teams toward the end of the season and kept it going on Wednesday, keeping the Islanders under wraps even after taking a big lead.
New York coach Jack Capuano insisted his roster — featuring 16 players making their postseason debuts — was ready based on the fact the Islanders had been fighting for a playoff spot for the better part of two months.
The rookie Bennett earned a start over veteran forward Tyler Kennedy due in part to his quick maturation during the season. Playing on one of the NHL's deepest rosters, the 21-year-old has shown a deft touch around the net and a penchant for avoiding mistakes.
He paid off coach Dan Bylsma's vote of confidence, needing only 25 seconds of ice time to score his first playoff goal.
The Islanders had nearly killed Brian Strait's penalty when a clearing attempt hit linesman Greg Devorski at center ice and stopped. Evgeni Malkin brought the puck into the zone and lost control, but Bennett chased it down and raced in on the right side before flipping a shot over Nabokov's shoulder from in close to give the Penguins the lead 3:30 in.
Dupuis made it 2-0 about 10 minutes later following a mad scramble in front. Craig Adams bullrushed Nabokov at the left post, setting off a chaotic sequence that ended with Dupuis smacking the puck out of the air from 10 feet out. It sailed by a badly out of position Nabokov and into the net.
The situation quickly got worse for New York after the first intermission. The 37-year-old goalie — making his 81st playoff start — had no chance on Letang's wrist shot from the left circle 1:19 into the second period. Dupuis followed by pouncing on a rebound off Mark Eaton's shot from the point to push Pittsburgh's edge to 4-0 and send Nabokov slowly skating to his bench in favor of Poulin.
Nabokov was struck by a shot directly in his mask and was briefly stunned before Bennett opened the scoring moments later.
NOTES: Bennett is the first Pittsburgh rookie to score the team's opening goal of the playoffs since Jordan Staal did it in 2007. ... Jokinen left with 2:20 to play after taking a hit to the knee from New York's Marty Reasoner. ... The Islanders went 0-for-4 on the power play. ... Pittsburgh D Brooks Orpik was scratched due to a lower body injury. ... New York's loss was its second in regulation since March 30.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 01 May 2013 23:20
Category: Sports Written by Associated Press
IN THE SPOTLIGHT--In this photo provided by ABC, NBA basketball veteran Jason Collins, left, poses for a photo with television journalist George Stephanopoulos, Monday, April 29, 2013, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/ABC, Eric McCandless)
by The Associated Press
Jason Collins said he has gotten "incredible" support since coming out as the first openly gay player in one of the four major U.S. pro sports leagues.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 30 April 2013 08:51
Category: Sports Written by CNN
by Donna Brazile
(CNN) -- My dad was an avid sports fan and a great athlete in his day. We used to watch basketball and football games together, and I know some of his proudest moments as a father were when I wore my sports uniforms in high school and college.
He was a man's man --- a hard drinking, foul-mouthed veteran of the Korean War who came on to every voluptuous nurse who crossed his path. He passed away about this time last year.
I think about him often, and more during March Madness. I thought about him yesterday as I read about Jason Collins coming out as the first openly gay player in NBA history. I wondered, "If my dad were reading this, what would he say?"
And, clear as day, I heard his voice. "Yeah, but can the dude play?"
It made me laugh because isn't it just that simple? Can he play? Can he do his job?
At the same time that Jason Collins' announcement has caused a stir, there also has been noteworthy non-reaction among many. "Is this really still news?" we ask. The answer is yes. It is news because it's never happened before.
Pro sports, especially the ones where athletes get paid millions upon millions of dollars, are bastion of masculinity. Manhood, athleticism and heterosexuality are all woven together in our cultural paradigm. It's still news because the stereotype of gay men as being effete, weak, uncoordinated (except where it comes to Lady Gaga impersonations) and otherwise "girly" is still so strong.
It shouldn't be. Gay comes in all shapes, sizes, strengths and personalities. Just like straight does. It shouldn't be news that--- guess what --- some gay people don't fit your stereotype. But it is.
It shouldn't be news for that reason, but I'm grateful that it is news for an entirely different reason. Jason's coming out is a very, very public "it gets better" message to all the LGBTQ youth coming up, and out, right now. According to the Trevor Project, an organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ youth, suicide is the third leading cause of death for 10- to 24-year-olds, and its the second leading cause of death on college campuses. Lesbian, gay and bisexual youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers.
This is why an openly gay NBA player should be news, because it busts stereotypes, normalizes homosexuality and gives kids of all orientations a positive role model of self-love and professional excellence.
Until there are no more hate crimes, no more vicious bullying and ugly slurs, whenever a person comes out --- whether that person is a celebrity or a "nobody" --- it should be celebrated like the triumph of courage it is. That is why it should be news. Jason Collins is tremendously brave and deserves to be celebrated as such.
All that said, we aback to the question my dad would have asked. "Yeah, but can the dude play?" Yes, he can play. He's an aggressive, big man who holds his space on the court. At 34, he's probably aging out of the sport, but he's played consistently and well over the years and deserves to be remembered for what he has done on the court, not what he did while off.
I applaud his career and his bravery, and I look forward to the day that sexual orientation is a non-issue. We are all so much more than our sexuality. It is vital to the situations in which it's important --- namely, in looking for a mate --- but it has nothing to do with job performance, whether your job is as a secretary or a professional basketball player. Our sexuality is just one of a thousand pieces of our identity, not the sole determining factor.
Jason Collins is gay. That's not all he is, and it would be nice if we could keep this one piece of identity in context with the whole.
Finally, it's nice to see institutionalized homophobia crumbling. First it was the military, with the repeal of don't ask, don't tell. For decades, the argument had been that having openly gay people in the military would impair unit cohesion. Setting aside all the flawed assumptions that undergird those fears, you know what has happened to unit cohesion since the fall of don't ask, don't tell? It's stayed the same or gotten slightly better. This is probably because it's easier for people to bond when they're not forbidden from being themselves.
First, it was the military, now it's pro sports being forced to realize that there is no "us" and "them" when it comes to sexuality. We are all on the same team. I'll bet that Jason Collins will be the first in a string of professional athletes to openly acknowledge their homosexuality. You can also think of him as the next in a chain of civil rights pioneers. And I'll bet you'll start seeing them play a bit better. We're all at our best when we don't have to hide who we are, when we can bring it all to the court.
I'm proud to see Jason come out and encouraged to see the overwhelmingly positive reaction he's received. And yet, I can't wait for the day we greet it with "so what?" and a yawn. I think my dad would agree.
Donna Brazile, a CNN contributor and a Democratic strategist, is vice chairwoman for voter registration and participation at the Democratic National Committee. She is a nationally syndicated columnist, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and author of "Cooking with Grease: Stirring the Pot in America." She was manager for the Gore-Lieberman presidential campaign in 2000..
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Last Updated on Tuesday, 30 April 2013 16:12
Category: Sports Written by Smokin' Jim Frazier
FIRST ROUND PICK--Pittsburgh Steelers 2013 first-round draft pick, Jarvis Jones, left, is presented with a team jersey by team president Arthur J. Rooney II, April 26, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
by Smokin’ Jim Frazier
Football often has been described a “collision” sport, rather than a contact sport, the implication being that the contact players engage in upon the football field is considerably more violent than what they might face in other sports.
Last Updated on Monday, 29 April 2013 18:28
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