[caption id="attachment_11109" align="alignleft"]Wes Johnson – Photo: customsportscovers.com/[/caption]Lost in another of Kevin Love’s huge milestone statistical performances was perhaps the birth of “What the Wolves really need”. Rookie Wesley Johnson kept the intent look on his face during a stretch of game-winning offensive and defensive plays against the Golden State Warriors recently. That evening seemed to put a stamp on Johnson’s increased role now that former defensive prodigy Corey Brewer has departed for the New York Knicks. While his peer Demarcus Cousins, whom many preferred the Wolves draft over Johnson, is fighting in the locker room in Sacramento, and occasionally ‘beasting’ on the court, Johnson just keeps his steady look of determined intent through the highs and lows of his early growth.
[caption id="attachment_11000" align="alignleft"]Miami Heat’s “Big Three”: Chris Bosh, Dwayne Wade, and Lebron James – Photo: sportnewsite.blogspot.com [/caption]Though many came into the NBA season thinking that it might be a runaway “3-Peat” championship for the Los Angeles Lakers, the first half of the season suggests that my favorite team is getting old.
Ron Artest obviously hit his pinnacle last year in the playoffs and has not come down mentally since then – or at least that’s what his jumpshot is saying. Kobe Bryant is his usual narcissistic self, and thus can’t will his team to whoop-up on lesser talented teams like Michael Jordan did in the 90s. Bryant wants to engineer games rather than just go out there and “ball ‘em up” and then sit on the bench in the fourth quarter and enjoy the show…like Jordan and Scottie Pippen used to do. Bryant gets the ball stolen from his grasp a little more often, and gets his shot blocked much more as well. These are symptoms of old age (in basketball years). So as I often say, “Kobe! Pass the ball!”
[caption id="attachment_10957" align="alignleft"]Bill Russell – Photo: Wikimedia Commons[/caption]It can be easily said that Bill Russell is the greatest basketball player in NBA history: 11 championships in 13 years is the proof. It’s worth celebrating Russell even more in light of his receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Obviously, one would imagine that it meant something beyond special for Russell to receive that honor from President Obama. In an interview with ESPN, Russell admitted that he drove cross-country to his fathers’ grave after learning of the honor. Russell said he simply had a conversation with his father there, and came to finally agree with his father that he had done “pretty good.” For those who watched or listened to Russell’s dignified, excellent path, in real time, of the 1950s and 1960s, I would imagine that they especially agree.
[caption id="attachment_10922" align="alignleft"]Aaron Rodgers – Photo: femalefan.com[/caption]You know I had to get in what very well may be my last mention of the Tarvaris Jackson Fan Club. Whether you feel that opportunities just haven’t gone right for Jackson, or that he “just can’t get right”, I believe most of us think that it’s the end of the line for Jackson with the Vikings. Though most of us could be wrong (most of us meaning me).
With 18 free agents to re-sign, the Vikings will likely be in “trim the fat” mode this off-season; and Jackson’s passes haven’t been too lean over the past few years. Jackson’s passes have often leaned about 3 to 5 feet above his intended receiver’s head. For Tarvaris it’s all about controlling that cannon that he has attached to his shoulder, as well as the quite nimble feet he has below the waist. And thus the most important thing Jackson needs to control is also above his shoulders. If Jackson can find a way to comfortably be himself, and use his own judicious, country boy intellect – like the Good Ol’ Country Boy football smarts of Brett Favre, who is now, sadly, in everybody’s rear view mirror – to affect his own sharp personality on the field.
[caption id="attachment_10875" align="alignleft"]Tony Dungy – File Photo[/caption]There are now seven Black head coaches in the NFL. Interestingly, four of the seven come from the Tony Dungy coaching tree (Mike Tomlin—Pittsburgh Steelers, Lovie Smith—Chicago Bears, Jim Caldwell—Indianapolis Colts, Leslie Frazier—Vikings). The bottom line for NFL coaches is judged by playoff victories and Superbowl wins. Taking a look at the current NFL playoff roster of coaches, the “bottom line” should suggest that there should be many more African-American head coaches, to lead this 65% African-American player based league.
[caption id="attachment_10855" align="alignleft"]Alan M. Powell – Courtesy of NNPA[/caption]This February a new dimension is being added to Black History Month. To celebrate Black History Month this year, Phoenix International Raceway, in conjunction with Talking Stick Resort and Casino and the Second II None Phoenix Motorcycle Club, are hosting a historic “Checkered Flag Run.”
The motorcycle run, a first-of-its-kind event that offers a weekend’s worth of activity for motorcycle enthusiasts. It culminates with an escorted motorcycle ride from Talking Stick Resort in Scottsdale to NASCAR’s SUBWAY Fresh Fit 500™ Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway on February 27.
“I didn’t write this book just to revisit The Blind Side… I want to help separate fact from fiction. After the movie came out, there were a lot of people asking me if my life was exactly how it was shown on screen. Obviously, the moviemakers have to make artistic choices to tell the story…but some of the details… just aren’t true. I hope that I can help to make a little more sense of it all. My second goal with this book, and the much more important one, is that I want to talk about—and to—the nearly 500,000 children in America… in foster care. Many people probably know my name from The Blind Side… What no one knows is exactly what happened to me during my years in the foster care system, the years before The Blind Side picked up my story. The ending of my story is unique, but the beginning of my story is, sadly, far too common…It is my goal with this book not only to tell my story in my own words, but to encourage anyone who is a part of the system or who wants to be a part of helping children out of it.” — Excerpted from the Introduction (pgs. xiii-xviii)
[caption id="attachment_10813" align="alignleft"] Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin is the consummate leader, and a great example for young men. – Photo: Flickr (SteelCityHobbies) [/caption]In this day and age, the sports media can be quite thirsty about even the simplest little issue, and it doesn’t help that every knucklehead on Earth gets to weigh-in with the likes of Twitter. But for the football purists who like to watch some real “rock’em sock’em head knock‘em football” (as my high school defensive coach Cunningham used to say…and which I loved to play), they could not have asked for a better match-up than the Green Bay Packers line up against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
I do believe that I suggested that the Steelers would be one of the teams lining up for this gridiron war, and I also believe that the other team doesn’t really have a chance no matter who it is – which is quite contrary to what the Las Vegas betting line suggests. Incredibly, the Vegas line-makers initially determined that the Packers were slight favorites, though the two-week waiting period before the game will certainly allow for some movement on that professional prediction. The Steelers are entering their third Super Bowl in six years. In my humble opinion, that means a whole lot.
[caption id="attachment_10770" align="alignleft"]Tubby Smith, Head Coach, Gophers Basketball – Photo: Minnesota Gophers[/caption]Though head coach Tubby Smith’s championship collegiate basketball development program takes greater foothold on success by the day, the Gopher men’s basketball team is still taking their lumps through the first half of the season’s schedule. A recent loss to #2 nationally ranked conference opponent Ohio State showed the Gopher’s ability to hang with the best that the country has to offer. The team has done this increasingly well over the last four years. Many may remember the Gophers big regular season victory over #9 ranked Louisville in 2008. The Gophers were well led that day in 2008 by then sophomore point guard Al Nolen Jr. That well developed leadership almost led to an even more shocking 18point comeback victory over Ohio State just recently. Nolen’s path over the last few years is indicative of the Gophers overall fortunes for the last couple years with both academic and injury related challenges. If breakthrough comes from the endurance of challenges, then it seems the Gopher’s should have a day in the sun sometime very soon…perhaps just in time for March Madness.
[caption id="attachment_10644" align="alignleft"]Leslie Frazier – Photo: Minnesota Vikings[/caption]“The Super Bowl Shuffle” by the 1985 Superbowl Champion Chicago Bears was one of the greatest off-the-field highlights in the history of the NFL. The NFC North Division of the NFL (Vikings, Bears, Packers, Lions) is perhaps the most historic of all the divisions. The teams and their fan bases know each other well, and thus they all know when they see a good thing within the division. Brett Favre may have been the greatest example of a good thing to come along in the NFC North – and with all the fanfare to go with him. Leslie Frazier was a much less celebrated member of the stellar ’85 Bears team, and he still garners much less fanfare as a coach. But as a people watcher, I’ll say that the quiet, steady, genuine, and watchful nature of Leslie Frazier, coupled with his front line Superbowl experience, seems to provide the elements for a success story in the making.
Viking fans benefited from the steady workings of their teams’ ownership, as they transitioned from the volatility of the end of coach Brad Childress’ reign. Though many desired rash actions, the Vikings ship remained steady. That steady hand continued all the way through to the end of the season, and resulted in smoothly taking the “interim” tag from Frazier’s name and installing him as the permanent head coach moving forward into the 2011 season.