Much has happened since I last updated you on the world of sports. The NFL season ended and the playoffs begun, the NCAA crowned it's football champion, the NHL lives again, and the NBA trudges along. Fear not though, I'll get you all caught up so you too can enjoy the athletic battles of the coming week.
The regular season is done and now it is down to only the best, the teams that survived the deluge of the season and are now in a constant sudden death. Last weekend were the wild card games, seeing which teams of those that barely made it in would get the chance to challenge the big dogs. The Washington Redskins, a surprise of the season who were on a big winning streak to make it in the playoffs, lost to the defense heavy Seattle Seahawks who are almost a bigger surprise to some. Seattle now heads to Atlanta to face the Falcons who have had the last week off but some say shouldn't be in the playoffs but who constantly prove themselves when they need to.
Green Bay moved passed division rival the Vikings, who had beaten the Packers just the week before, to go to the west coast and face the San Francisco 49ers who almost silently had another great season and look to be back in the Super Bowl. They face a big test in the Packers whose offense is stacked with receivers who leave plenty of options open for quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Then we had Houston holding on against a good Cincinnati Bengals team and now face the biggest test of their season, facing the New England Patriots at home. The Texans already visited the Boston area and lost horribly to a Patriots team that just doesn't tend to lose after December of the season. The Texans will have to play at a new level to take out Tom Brady and the Patriots who, like the 49ers and Falcons, are coming off a bye week to rest, recover, and prepare. Finally we had Baltimore leaving the old home of Peyton Manning, Indianapolis, in shreds and now head to the new home of Peyton in Denver to face the Broncos. Manning has been churning up an MVP like season all year long in the mile high city and will see if he can prove it in the playoffs like he has so many times before against the Ravens.
I think at this point even die-hard fans had lost their hope. The standoff between owners and players seemed to wide and so many games had already been cancelled that at some point it wasn't worth even paying attention to. The on Sunday the the players and the NHL came to an agreement that, assuming the players approve the agreement, would start the season on the 19th of this month of about 48 games. It is far from a full season but for fans it's the best news you could hear after nearly losing the entire season.
On January 12th, the MMA promotion Strikeforce will put on it’s 63rd and final card, Strikeforce: Marquardt vs. Saffiedine at the Chesapeake Energy Arena City in Oklahoma City . The event will air on Showtime as part of a free weekend preview. The card was originally named “Champions” but that name lost value when two of the three title bouts fell off the card. The San Jose based promotion tried to go out in a blaze of glory, ala WEC 53, instead it is going out in a very Strikeforce like fashion. The headliner is a welterweight title fight between Nate Marquardt and Tarec Saffiedine, a good meaningful welterweight fight outside of the Ultimate Fighting Championship. A pair of heavyweight bouts Daniel Cormier vs. Dion Staring and Josh Barnett vs. Nandor Guelmino make up the squash matches of the card. It took them a long time but UFC vs Strikeforce fights will happen! Former middleweight champion Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza will face UFC veteran Ed Herman. At light heavyweight Gegard Mousasi will finally face Mike Kyle.
Strikeforce: Marquardt vs. Saffiedine isn't a blaze of glory, it’s typical Strikeforce. Which is what fans of the promotion loved about the it. Their brand of “cotton candy” matchmaking gave audiences cards with interesting catch weight fights and cards like Strikeforce: Henderson vs. Babalu II, where every main card fight but one (Benji Radach vs. Ovince St. Preux) ended in a (T)KO. Strikeforce was also the home for mainstream womens MMA, one of their most watched cards was Strikeforce: Carano vs. Cyborg. The headliner was a woman's 145lbs title fight between Gina Carano and Cristiane Santos. Current UFC Women's Bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey collecting arms in Strikeforce. The promotion also tried to bring back the Grand Prix with a heavyweight bracket, that was legitimately good. The execution of the Grand Prix was poor but you can’t say it didn't sound great. It was at Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Werdum where the Last Emperor legitimately lost for the first time in his career. Strikeforce provided a different brand of MMA compared to it’s future sister promotion UFC. Was it always the most competitive? Not by a long shot, but it was entertaining more often than not.
Every year sports writers from across the nation receive a ballot that contain the names of some of the baseball greats of years past. Normally, unless the player is among the greatest, a player will sit on this ballot for a few years and assuming he deserves a spot, will be elected into the baseball hall of fame. For the longest time baseball was a pure sport (kind of) and until the late 90s and early 2000s we knew little about steroid use. Then came along players like Sammy Sosa, Roger Clemons, and Barry Bonds who achieved some awe-inspiring feats within the game but all of whom are at least heavily suspected as users of steroids. This year their names were among the biggest on the ballot and some wondered if baseball writers would look at achievements of these men, or of their cheats off the field. Well the results are in, and the first time since 1996 not a single player was elected into the baseball hall of fame. A clear message that, for this year at least, steroid use will leave you on the outside looking in. Will years of waiting be punishment enough according to these reporters or is press imposed ban on player use of steroids uphold for forever?