Another year, another list of compelling sports stories. Here is a quick review of some of the events from 2006 that make us love sports...
The Winter Olympics in Turin featured highs and lows for the U.S., which placed second to Germany in the medal count. Among the highlights was Shaun White, deemed the Flying Tomato by dominating the X Games over the years, delivering the same results on an international stage during the Winter Olympics. He twisted, turned, and flipped his way to a gold medal in the Men's Halfpipe competition, an event in which the U.S. had three of the top four highest scores.
The Final Four has been dominated by college basketball's big boys for more than a quarter of a century, with powerful teams and tournament-tested conferences gathering at the end of the season to sort out the champion. This year was a little different thanks to George Mason, a commuter school in suburban Virginia that never had won a single game in the NCAA tournament until two weeks prior to March Madness. What an inspirational run they had!
The world watched as the beautiful game took center stage this summer for the World Cup. We have video clips of the most beautiful goals in effort to forget the ugly image of Zidane's head butt heard 'round the world.
An autistic hoopster made headlines. During his first and only appearance for his high-school basketball team in Greece, N.Y., Jason McElwain, who is autistic, drains six three-pointers, adds another field goal and is carried off the court by his jubilant teammates.
It was a very exciting and entertaining year for Little League Baseball as well. What a series! The Southeast team became the new world champs winning the 60th Little League World Series in a 2-1 upset over Japan. Also, the USA softball team took gold in the World Softball Championships in Beijing with a little help from Jessica Mendoza.
Bob Knight could pass former North Carolina Coach Dean Smith for the most career wins in NCAA Division I men���s basketball in tonight's game when his Texas Tech Red Raiders play host to Nevada-Las Vegas in Lubbock, Texas. It will be the crowning achievement on a 41-year career filled with: five Final Four appearances, three national titles, an Olympic gold medal as the coach of the 1984 United States team and a spot in the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1991.
However, some worry that Knight���s coaching accomplishments have been overshadowed by his often profane and highly publicized tantrums, which include throwing a chair onto the court during a game against Purdue, a run in with a police officer in Puerto Rico, and especially his dismissal from Indiana in 2000 after 29 seasons in the wake of a confrontation with a student.
Knight hopes to remembered differently as reported by the New York Times, "I want them to know that I am a guy who watches more film than anyone, who cared if I could find a way to take advantage of a weakness in an opponent so I could beat them," he said. "I want them to know I���m a teacher."
I wonder when his career is over and everything is said and done, if he'll be remembered more for being one of the greatest coaches of all time or one of the most controversial and volatile coaches of all time. What do you think?
(Photo provided by Getty Images, taken by Matthew Stockman)
Last week in the Chicago Tribune's Redeye, I read that Tennessee basketball star Candace Parker dunked again--but this time she was whistled for a technical foul for showboating.
Parker had her fifth career dunk, and third this season, with 12:56 left in the first half of the Lady Vols game against West Virginia. She stole the ball at one end and jammed it with one hand at the end of a fast break. This time Parker's dunk was more emphatic with the rim making a louder thud, and she finished by popping her jersey. That led officials to confer with each other, and a technical was called.
I can't help but thinking how many male college basketball players dunk the ball and then showboat afterwards, playing to the cameras--not only not getting called for technicals, but being admired as superior athletes. I will admit, I appreciate athletes who put their head down and get their work done, hustling in a unflashy manner. Nonetheless, for those who dunk the ball and pop their jersey to represent their team or even themselves, shouldn't men and women get equal treatment?
Sepak Takraw, which literally translates to Kick Volleyball, is a cross between soccer and volleyball. This fast-growing and popular sport in Asia is called Takraw for short and is played on a badminton doubles-sized court. The Takraw ball is traditionally hand-woven and made of rattan stems or very hard plastic weighing approximately 250 grams.
Two teams compete for higher scores by spiking a ball into the opponent���s court. Each team gets three chances to kick, knee, shoulder or head the ball back to the opposing team. Like in volleyball, there are passes, sets and spikes���but the strokes must be made soccer-style: no hands or arms allowed.
The most prestigious tournament of this sport is the King's Cup World Championships, the most recent of which was held in Bangkok, Thailand. As of 2006, there have been 21 King's Cup tournaments.
(Photo provided by Getty Images, taken by Ian Walton)
I am home for the holidays and just watched a replay of the women's soccer Atlantic Coast Conference championship game. There is an extraordinary athlete from Florida State University who just completed her collegiate soccer career and who's story should be shared.
Sixth-year senior goalkeeper, Ali Mims, endured 20 surgical procedures on her leg during her college career. In the beginning of the 2002 she fractured her left leg in a scrimmage against Georgia and was forced to miss the entire season. Mims had a surgical procedure to correct the initial fracture, another because of acute compartment syndrome caused by an abnormal amount of swelling in the lower leg, 12 procedures to rid infection that had enveloped the area and even more surgeries to correct tendon problems caused by nerve damage and scar tissue suffered when her leg was broken. Just as she was set to return in 2003, the chronic infection in her leg became active once again forcing her to the sidelines for another year. More rehabilitation was needed to repair her body of the subsequent tendon problems and nerve damage.
The NCAACommittee on Women's Athletics released a position statement last week calling for a ban on the use of male practice players in women's intercollegiate athletics. The statement concludes months of debate about whether the practice should continue.
According to the CWA statement, the use of male practice players "violates the spirit of gender equity and Title IX." The committee believes that "any inclusion of male practice players results in diminished participation opportunities for female student-athletes, contrary to the association's principles of gender equity, nondiscrimination, competitive equity and student-athlete well-being."
The most common argument in favor of using male practice players is that it improves female players' skills. The CWA determined that this argument implied "an archaic notion of male preeminence that continues to impede progress toward gender equity and inclusion" and believe that using male practice players is a threat to the growth of female participation.
(Photo provided by Getty Images, taken by Jim McIsaac)
Five years ago, computer scientist Ryutaro Himeno was testing super-computers by modeling the fluid dynamics of airflow around baseballs. As detailed in the books he has helped write, a gyroball calls for a complex flip of the fingers during release, ending with the thumb pointed down. At its most effective, the pitch breaks horizontally as it nears the batter, as though shrugging off gravity.
It's one thing to hypothesize a new pitch. It's another to throw one. Japanese pitching phenomenon Daisuke, who led Japan to the World Baseball Classic championship in March, says he's thrown gyroballs. "I have done it in a game," Matsuzaka told Yahoo Sports. "But not too much. Sometimes accidentally." Fans may get a chance to decide for themselves, as Matsuzaka will finally join the major leagues next season.
Could this be the the first new pitch to be introduced to the sport of baseball in nearly four decades or is it just wishful thinking?
(Photo provided by Getty Images, taken by Jed Jacobsohn)
I love the Olympics. I love the spirit and pride that comes with international competition in such a wide range of sports. When I think of Olympic sports, track and field, swimming, skiing, and skating come to mind. Video games do not.
Ted Owen, head of the Global Gaming League, wants to see that changed. He���s pushing a campaign to get video games introduced as a demonstration during the 2008 Olympics. He's so serious about the idea that he has entered into talks with the Chinese government about having video games included during the Beijing Olympics.
Alright... it's all I've heard debated on ESPN for the last 24 hours. Some Dolphins players suggested that the team allegedly purchased tapes of the New England offense that provided audio of quarterback Tom Brady making audible and line-blocking calls.
Those players insinuated that the tapes were critical in preparing for the game and provided the Dolphins inside information about New England's offensive audible system. However, the NFL has ruled that the Miami Dolphins violated no league rules.
This is definitely approaching the line of what is moral and what is not in sports, if it doesn't cross it. I'm interested in what you think about this ordeal... Do you think this is cheating or just scouting? Are examples such as these leading children in athletics to play unfairly??
Check out the discussion on this and other topics in football at our message boards.
(Photo provided by Getty Images, taken by Gregory Shamus)
The Marshall Heights Bisons from Washington DC won the 50th Pop Warner Super Bowl this past weekend. This victory was especially meaningful, as the Bisons had come up short in the championship game four times prior to taking the 2006 title.
This season's road to the super bowl was different in another big way. The Fannie Mae Foundation placed a call to Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington and gave $30,000 to the Bisons, after hearing on a local television show that the undefeated team made up of youths aged 13 to 15 was in need of the funds to go to the Pop Warner Super Bowl in Orlando, Florida.
The Bisons' Head Coach, Jay Ford, told the Florida Trend, "We are so appreciative of the Fannie Mae Foundation for stepping up to the plate to help our kids get what they deserve. Going to the Pop Warner Super Bowl is a real honor for our kids. They have worked hard. Not only has the team practiced in 100-degree heat and played in mud up to their ankles, but each team member had to maintain at least a C average in school to play on the team. They deserve this opportunity to go."
(Photo provided by Getty Images, taken by Scott Halleran)
Part-motivational tome/part- memoir, this book from Duke Men's Basketball Coach Mike Krzyzewski is, as the title suggests, a blending of sport and life lessons learned during Krzyzewski's twenty-year coaching career. "I am a believer in the power of words," says the author and the book reflects this in its organization of the book through wordssuch as passion, excellence, and integrity that Krzyzewski often employs his players to visualize during a game.
Dr. Andrew Jacobs has been a sport psychologist for 25 years and has worked with all levels of competitive athletes from youth sports to the professional and Olympic level. He recently led a teleseminar with Fred Engh about "How to avoid and overcome the issues that can ruin your child's youth sports experience." Find out more information about this teleseminar or Dr. Jacob's other audio programs at winnersunlimited.com.
Coaches will have to have the knowledge and experience to know what to do in certain situations. However, if you ever listen to interviews with athletes on victorious teams, there will always be references to the importance of teamwork, trust and confidence.
Katie Hnida, the first woman to score in a Division I-A college football game, recently released her autobiography, "Still Kicking: My Journey as the First Woman to Play Division One College Football."
She shares her saga that began as a kicker at Chatfield High in Littleton, Colorado, where she was named one of the 20 Most Influential Teens in America by Teen People. She then walked-on as a kicker for Colorado where she says she was sexually abused by teammates, and among other childish pranks, had footballs thrown at her head. Not typical team-building behavior or college memories, for sure. However, what is most disconcerning, is that this behavior was perhaps deemed as acceptable and even celebrated among the rest of the team.
Despite all she endured, Hnida was able to continue playing college football. She found acceptance at New Mexico and on Aug. 30, 2003, she made history when she converted two PATs for the Lobos in a victory over Texas State.
Is there any hope for females who tryout and legitimately make a team comprised of all males to receive equal treatment? It seems as if the trend is to take it easy on the females or punish them and show them they do not belong on the same playing field.
Conversely, I recently read about a high school male in Wisconsin who was not allowed to train and compete on his school's girls' gymnastic team. His attorney, Jared Redfield, told the Chicago Tribune, "Why not treat the genders equally?...If women can go on our football team and they can wrestle in tournaments, why in the world if there's no access for a male to participate in gymnastics should they not be on the girls' team?" I think he has a good case. What do you think - how could this affect your sport?
(Photo provided by Getty Images, taken by Brian Bahr)
In Ottawa, Kansas there is a running back who has rushed for 1,000 yards on the football field this season. That's impressive. But wait, there's more -- he's also legally blind and has a debilitating disease known as sickle cell anemia.
Darius Johnson's uncle, Darnell, told The Kansas City Channel, "He can only see clearly two feet in front of his face. Everything else, he makes up for in some kind of way." Despite all that, Johnson has become a star football player for his Kansas high school team and was recently awarded a trophy and personalized jersey by the Derrick Johnson Third and Long Foundation.
Do you know of any special athletes who overcame great odds to excel? If so, in what way did they overcome their unique situation?
(Photo provided by Getty Images, taken by Andy Lyons)
This season is a perfect example, with the BCS taking heat again for the way the bowl series shaped up. A handful of teams with one loss had high hopes to play the Buckeyes in the title game. Is the BCS's system of polls and computers a fair way to decide whether Michigan, USC, Florida or someone else got a chance to play Ohio State for the national crown? Or would the best team in college football be found more accurately if the NCAA came up with a playoff system?
(Photograph provided by Getty Images, taken by
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