In case you were busy trying to prevent the refrain from Close Encounters of the Third Kind from morphing into the theme from The Sting in your mind, here's what you missed in sports on Monday:
The Bruins overcame a 4-1 third-period deficit before completing the comeback with a Patrice Bergeron overtime winner as Boston eliminated the Toronto Maple Leafs from the NHL playoffs in a heartbreaking Game 7. While congratulations are in order for Boston, it should also be noted that the devastating loss was taken well by the people of Toronto, who, luckily, are fairly agnostic toward the game of hockey and have a very limited history of suffering with the town's most popular team.
LeBron James and the Miami Heat dominated the Chicago Bulls on both ends of the court en route to an 88-65 win at United Center. Diminutive Bulls guard Nate Robinson, who had starred earlier in the series, was held without a field goal in the defeat, which he attributed after the game to being, "Yeah, shorter than everyone else. That's why. Guess after all these years that finally caught up to me. It wasn't at all because of Miami's defense combined with a little bit of fatigue. It's my genes. Thanks, Randy Newman."
In case you were out changing the world with the first-ever mass-produced backyard eagle coop (patent pending), here's what you missed in sports on Thursday:
On a day when men in the trenches were in demand, the Kansas City Chiefs selected OT Eric Fisher out of Central Michigan with the first overall pick in the NFL draft. "Oh, that's awesome, I love Eric Fisher," said casual Chiefs fan and Kansas City transplant Bill Franzen. "I remember watching him in college and thinking to myself, 'Man, I hope that guy ends up on my Chiefs.' What an exciting year to have the top pick in the draft. I remember last year; I was in the break room at the actuarial firm where I work, and I was like, 'This team is an Eric Fisher–type talent away from contending.' I just can't wait to watch him stop guys from hitting newly acquired quarterback Alex Smith next year." Franzen then paused, looked over his shoulders and asked in a whisper, "Right? Was that a good reaction to have? I have no idea what to think."
Manti Te'o was among the high-profile prospects to drop out of the first round of the NFL draft. Te'o's embarrassment was compounded by a phone call he received from someone purporting to be an NFL general manager. "He said his name was Trick Footballsworth of the Los Angeles Footballers and that I was for sure going to be his first-round pick," a sheepish Te'o explained after the first round was over. "All I had to do was give him my social security number, some bank passwords, and then mail my car keys to a P.O. Box in Simi Valley. Anyone could've fallen for that, though, so I'm not going to beat myself up too hard over this. Though I do need a ride."
The annual T-shirts-and-shorts craziness is under way in Indianapolis, and with all the stories flying around, we rounded up the biggest bits of news from this year's NFL combine.
Chip Kelly wasn’t the least bit shy in expressing his feelings about former Oregon defensive end and fast-rising prospect Dion Jordan to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Before the weekend, Jordan was considered a borderline top-10 pick, but he was expected to be a standout during workouts. The 6-foot-6, 248-pound Jordan was even better than anyone could have expected, and now it seems like he may be in range for the Eagles with the fourth overall pick. "Dion's just a special guy in my heart," Kelly told Zach Berman. "I had an opportunity to be with him for five years. He came into Oregon as a receiver, moved to tight end, we switched him over to defense the beginning of his sophomore year. He just had a huge impact, not only on the field but off the field." As the Eagles reconfigure their defense, it would seem that just about every position is one of need. Philadelphia has already released defensive tackles Mike Patterson and Cullen Jenkins this week, so it’s possible the team could also focus on that position with their first pick. Utah’s Star Lotulelei was originally considered a candidate to be the first overall pick, but that was before he was sent home from the combine after doctors found an abnormality during a heart exam (more about that below). Sharrif Floyd could also be another option. The former Florida defensive tackle is among the fastest-rising players in the draft, and he did plenty to help himself with his final numbers in Indy.
The annual T-shirts-and-shorts craziness is under way in Indianapolis, and with all the stories flying around, we rounded up the biggest bits of news from the first few days of this year's NFL combine.
A lot of early mock drafts had the first half of the first round going by without a wide receiver, but after this weekend, that seems like it just isn’t going to happen. Cordarrelle Patterson is generally considered the best receiver in the draft, and with all 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds of him coming in at 4.34 in the 40, there’s a good chance he sneaks up toward the top 10. Tavon Austin similarly helped himself with a sub-4.4 showing. The West Virginia wideout is on the smaller side (5-foot-8 and about 180), but when combined with the silly level of production he had last season, that speed should put him pretty firmly in the first round. Chris Johnson had to be sweating at least a little bit when the news came out that track star and former Texas wide receiver Marquise Goodwin had an unofficial time of 4.17. Goodwin’s official time ended up at 4.27, leaving Johnson’s 4.24 record intact for at least another year. This whole thing reminds me — we seem really terrible at timing 40-yard dashes.
Four years ago, Andre Smith got off a plane in Indianapolis as the best left tackle at that year’s NFL combine. The previous season, he was awarded the Outland Trophy, given to college football’s best interior lineman. He’d been named an All-American by every outlet with a printing press or an Internet presence. And come draft time, it was expected that Smith would be one of the first five players off the board.
Then he left.
Before completing any of his workouts, Smith was back on a plane to Alabama, without telling anyone. Later, his explanation was that in switching his representation, he’d lost some time to prepare for the drills. He didn’t feel ready.
This excuse was hardly enough for those involved. He was skewered — for a lack of maturity and a lack of attention to detail. Smith’s pro day in Tuscaloosa didn’t help much, either. The video of his jiggle during the 40-yard dash is still Internet legend. A tumble down hypothetical draft boards began. Smith went from the best tackle in the draft to the consensus no. 3. By March, Mel Kiper had him clear out of the top 10. In botching the “pre-draft process,” Smith had done himself in.
As a 32-year-old, 5-foot-6 Jewish guy from Philadelphia who has been rocking a buzzcut for the entire 21st century, I think it goes without saying that I relate to Kentucky’s flat-topped phenom Nerlens Noel in a multitude of ways. The most pertinent being that sometime around Valentine’s Day during our respective freshman years of college, we both ended up writhing on a hardwood floor, wondering whether we were going to die or whether our futures were just totally screwed.
There are minor differences, obviously: Noel was well on his way to becoming the no. 1 pick in the NBA draft before tearing his ACL and being shelved for the season. His road to recovery will involve brutal, demoralizing physical rehab and doubts about whether he can ever regain confidence in his body. Mine was likely some horrifying incident with Goldschläger as a fraternity pledge, and my salvation mostly entailed copious amounts of Gatorade and switching to alcohol that didn’t have floating pieces of metal as a selling point.
Every year, Forbes puts out a list of the 10 most disliked athletes in sports. Usually, that list is pretty much what you’d guess. A year ago, Michael Vick, Tiger Woods, and Plaxico Burress stood (or sulked) at the top. In this year’s version, released yesterday, the top three again didn’t provide much of a surprise: Lance Armstrong (cheater, Oprah interviewee, all-around dickhead), Manti Te’o (fake dead girlfriend embellisher), and Woods.
The surprise, at least to me, comes at no. 4. With an approval rating of just 21 percent, Jay Cutler is the most disliked athlete in America who’s never given a nationally televised mea culpa. Listen, I’ll be the first to admit that I can’t see anything regarding Cutler with clear eyes, and that the guy kind of seems like an asshole. But is he really more of an asshole now than he used to be?
Manti Te’o’s fraudulent online emotional affair is eerily similar to Chris Webber’s timeout in the 1993 NCAA championship game. Webber’s temporary lapse in judgment ultimately defined his career despite a 15-year NBA run. Similarly, the defining moment of Te’o’s collegiate life may cast an even longer, weirder shadow over his pro career. Never mind that both were college students at the time of the respective incidents — both made timely mistakes with cultural significance that overwhelmed the rest of their public identity.
Manti Te’o is no longer ‘a good locker room guy and emotional leader.’ He is that dude who got Catfished.
In case you were busy deleting everything interesting from your Facebook account before Graph Search goes live, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday.
LeBron James reached a major milestone Wednesday night, becoming the youngest NBA player to reach 20,000 points in a 92-75 Heat win over the Golden State Warriors. James broke Kobe Bryant's previous record scoring pace by over a year. "I'm just trying to secure my legacy," James said, "and I'm very fortunate that Kobe doesn't have a chance to put this record further out of reach."
Legends were made last night, in the same way they always are. At game’s end, with a third title in four years secured, a coach already cast in bronze was doused in Gatorade. A quarterback with the perfectly smeared eye black and the perfectly telegenic girl kissed a hunk of crystal. Everything about Alabama’s 42-14 win seemed the pristine image of college football lore — except, of course, that its best player spent all night with his gut spilling out of his shirt.
Last year, Alabama’s defense earned much of the credit for Nick Saban’s second title run. Six Tide defenders went in April’s draft — four in the first two rounds. It was touted as one of the best college defenses ever, and in Bama’s 21-0 rolling of LSU in the national championship game, AJ McCarron and friends hitched along for the ride. Against the Irish, the point total may have doubled, but the players of the game still didn't earn a single one of Bama’s 529 total yards. They won this one up front, and they wasted no time in showing how.
From the first drive, it was clear that the Alabama line was set to take it to Notre Dame all night. Irish star Louis Nix had an admirable showing against All-American Barrett Jones in the middle of the field, but to either side, the night belonged to the champs.
Manti Te'o finished the 2010 season, his second in South Bend, as already one of the most decorated linebackers in Notre Dame history. A former five-star recruit, Te'o finished his sophomore year with 133 tackles (good for 21st nationally), was a finalist for both the Butkus and Bednarik awards, was named a second-team All-American by CNN/SI, and, against Stanford, had managed 21 tackles. There was just one problem: He could've played a lot better.
"He had a lot of production he left on the table," Notre Dame defensive coordinator Bob Diaco, who is also Te'o's position coach, recently recalled. Fortunately for both the Irish and their star linebacker, Te'o, as Diaco puts it, "longs to be coached." That offseason, Diaco put together a DVD from the season — a lowlight reel of sorts — and gave it to Te'o with an accompanying message: "If you really want to take the next step in your game, here are the 83 plays you will be able to make next year.” The response was, in hindsight, predictable. "He studied that thing," Diaco said. "He broke the film studying that thing."
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Monday:
Robert Griffin III threw for 163 yards and ran for 72 more to lead the Redskins to a 17-16 win over the Giants. "At times like these, I really wish I knew some curse words," said Eli Manning. "So I could think them to myself and feel cruel for just a moment."