Top Olympic Storylines

Phelps-Lochte

On the track and in the pool, rivalries seem to be the overwhelming theme of this year’s Summer Olympics. Coming off a historic performance in Beijing, Michael Phelps look to add more to his Olympic resume. Only three medals shy of becoming history’s most decorated athlete, Phelps faces stiff competition from fellow American and six-time medalist Ryan Lochte beginning with Saturday’s 400-meter individual medley.

Blazing Jamaicans

Defending Olympic champion Usain Bolt has long been hailed as the world’s fastest man, but recent competition from training partner and fellow countryman Yohan Blake is putting Bolt’s legacy in jeopardy. At the Jamaican Olympic Trials, Blake edged Bolt in both the 100-meter and 200-meter dash, setting up a showdown for the ages in London.

Backing up the Dream Team Claims

American basketball has long dominated international play — this year has been no exception. Even with an injury-plagued frontcourt, the U.S. cruised though international play behind their veteran NBA talent, but with Lakers star and team leader Kobe Bryant comparing Coach K’s squad to 1992’s Jordan-led Dream Team, anything but gold will surely be deemed a bust.

Wieber’s Quest

Following an all-around victory at the 2011 World Gymnastics Championships, 17-year-old American Jordyn Wieber spearheads an attempt to catapult the U.S. atop the women’s team podium for the first time since the 1996 Atlanta Games. With the help of Gabby Douglas and McKayla Maroney, America may rake in five plus medals en route to a historic medal haul.

What do you think? Anything we missed? Comment below and let the discussion begin.

* Photos Courtesy of Time, About.com

 

A Fate Worse Than Death

This morning, NCAA officials struck down Penn State University with “unprecedented sanctions” as the Freeh Report’s gruesome findings still weigh heavily in mind. In order to avoid logistical nightmares throughout the Big 10, officials opted against the well-known “death penalty” that afflicted Southern Methodist University in the ’80s. Instead, Penn State was hit with a barrage of punishments that will effectively cripple their football program for years to come.

First and foremost, the NCAA levied a $60 million fine, equivalent to roughly one year in football revenue. According to the NCAA, the penalty must be “paid into an endowment for external programs preventing child sexual abuse or assisting victims and may not be used to fund such programs at the university.”

In addition, the program had to forfeit all victories since 1998, the year allegations against Jerry Sandusky first arose. Consequently, the decision posthumously drops former head football coach Joe Paterno from atop the all-time wins list to fifth overall.

Penn State also faces a five-year probation, a four-year bowl game ban, and a scholarship reduction that will reduce the Nittany Lions’ total to twenty below the FBS limit.

As the Jerry Sandusky scandal begins to near an end, NCAA president Mark Emmert publicly stated that the committee still possesses the right to levy individual sanctions, but was quick remark “There’s nothing in this situation that anyone should feel good about. This is an awful place to be in. It’s not good for anyone.”

What do you think? Anything we missed? Comment below and let the discussion begin.

* Photos Courtesy of ESPN, Newsweek, Bleacher Report

British Open Preview

As the world’s best partake in their final practice rounds, THE SPORTS DISPENCER is ready to deliver who and what to watch for at Royal Lytham & St. Annes for this year’s Open Championship.

Odds

Tiger Woods 7.5 to 1 — After three wins this year, Woods has cemented frontrunner status.

Lee Westwood 14 to 1 — With countless top-five finishes, Great Britain’s own is still searching for his elusive first major.

Rory McIlroy 16 to 1 — After falling off the map at recent majors, can McIlroy return to championship form?

Luke Donald 14 to 1 — The world number one finds himself in the same boat as fellow Englishman Lee Westwood.

Padraig Harrington 16 to 1 — With two Open Championships under his belt, Harrington is always in the conversation.

Phil Mickelson 28 to 1 — Last year’s runner up hopes to improve upon his career best performance.

Justin Rose 30 to 1 — Grouped with perennial contenders Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia, Rose hopes to make some noise early.

Jim Furyk 50 to 1 — After a quality U.S. Open performance, Furyk hopes to carry his success to Royal Lytham

Bubba Watson 50 to 1 — Bubba has found little success across the pond, but this year’s Masters champ is hoping to turn it around.

The Field (Any Other Player) 2 to 1 — With fifteen different victors in the past fifteen major championships, “Lady Luck” sides with the field.

Notable Tee Times (All Times Eastern)

4:09 a.m.: Darren Clarke, Ernie Els, Zach Johnson

4:20 a.m.: Lee Westwood, Yoshinori Fujimoto, Bubba Watson

4:31 a.m.: Dustin Johnson, Graeme McDowell, Hiroyuki Fujita

4:42 a.m.: Tiger Woods, Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia

8:59 a.m.: Nicolas Colsaerts, Hunter Mahan, John Senden

9:21 a.m.: Rory McIlroy, Louis Oosthuizen, Keegan Bradley

9:32 a.m.: Rickie Fowler, Padraig Harrington, Manuel Trappel (A)

9:43 a.m.: Luke Donald, Phil Mickelson, Geoff Ogilvy

Prediction

Sand save ace Seve Ballesteros remains the only golfer to have walked away twice with the Claret Jug at Royal Lytham & St. Annes. This time around, Lee Westwood — ranked third on tour for sand save percentage — will survive the course’s 206 bunkers to earn his well-deserved first major win.

* Photos Courtesy of National Post, Bleacher Report, Washington Post

What do you think? Anything we missed? Who would you choose? Comment below and let the discussion begin.

Top 5 Tuesday: Most Polarizing Athletes

Athletes have long transcended sports. As cultural icons, they are loved and hated, idolized and vilified. Many fit this description, but we here at THE SPORTS DISPENCER scoured the records to compile five of sports history’s most polarizing figures.

5. Tim Tebow

As a college standout at Florida, Tebow was a member of two national title teams and became the first sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy. As a pro, he has proven his ability to win. Rooted in his strong evangelical faith, Tebow seems to do everything right.  However, many sports fans simply cannot stand him. Overexposure has led many spectators to detract from his accomplishments. His atypical throwing motion and exuberant personality may deter common sports fans, but until he falters, we are left to conclude that Tebow is indeed God’s quarterback.

4. Shoeless Joe Jackson

With a .356 career batting average, Shoeless Joe’s career accomplishments rank him among the best of the early twentieth century. His talented play puts him in the same conversation as Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, and the other greats of baseball’s infancy, yet one of history’s finest will never have his name read at Cooperstown. Because of his involvement in the 1919 Black Sox scandal, Shoeless Joe was banned from baseball. Jackson admits to early involvement but has refuted the idea that he helped throw the 1919 World Series. Many point to his twelve hits and .375 average as proof, but his poor fielding performance does not help his case. Even if he is acquitted by the MLB, it will be difficult for Jackson’s legacy to become disassociated with the scandal with which its long been intertwined.

3. Barry Bonds

With one swing of the bat, Barry Bonds launched a ball over the right-center field wall. The home run was his 756th, breaking Hank Aaron’s record for the most homers in baseball history. A fierce debate started soon thereafter. Many believed the Giants’ slugger had not broken the home record — he stole it. Bonds’ reported steroid use is up for heated discussion. He is a central figure in baseball’s steroid scandal, and his alleged involvement leaves many unwilling to recognize his accomplishments. In addition, his brash, insolent personality when dealing with both the media and his teammates leave few rooting for Bonds outside of the Bay area.

2. O.J. Simpson

At his peak, O.J. was a near unstoppable running back. At USC, Simpson won the Heisman by one of the largest margins in the award’s storied history. In the NFL, O.J. garnered six Pro Bowl selections and four NFL rushing titles, but perhaps his greatest feat was in 1983 when the Buffalo Bills back rushed for over 2,000 yards in a fourteen-game season. After he retired from football,  Simpson remained in the public eye. He delighted audiences with his appearances on The Naked Gun and Monday Night Football, but in the summer of 1994, public perception quickly changed. O.J. was charged with deaths of his Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman but was later acquitted in part due to his marquee defense counsel anchored by Robert Kardashian. Since his acquittal, many have questioned O.J.’s innocence until  2007 when he was sentenced up to thirty-three years for his involvement in a Las Vegas robbery case.

1. Muhammad Ali

Perhaps the greatest athlete of the twentieth century, Muhammad Ali is a true cultural icon. Long know for his unorthodox fighting style, Ali floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee en route to becoming the first and only three-time lineal World Heavyweight Champion. In 1967, however, the man formerly known as Cassius Clay made headlines with his refusal to be drafted into the United States military. His refusal to serve in Vietnam was well-documented. He notably remarked, “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong. No Viet Cong ever called me n*****.” His statement echoed the sentiment of many at the time but his remark came before widespread Vietnam protests had begun. Ali’s stance on Vietnam exemplified his willingness to voice his mind. As a boxer, Ali was known for his profuse trash talk and unwillingness to back down from a challenge.

Now in his seventies, “The Louisville Lip” has picked up a different fight. After being diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 1984, Ali turned to the role of activist, spreading awareness of the affliction while remaining one of America’s most notable public figures.

* Photos Courtesy of Red Clear Sports, ESPNInquistr

What do you think? Anything we missed? Who would you choose? Comment below and let the discussion begin.

Remarkable Foul Ball Catch

In the top of the first, a Blue Jays fan routinely returned to his seat with refreshments in hand when a foul ball came rocketing to left field. After evading a group of gloved spectators, the one-hopper found itself firmly planted right between the concession-clad fan’s legs.

(Click on Photo for Link)

Top 5 Tuesday: Most Unbreakable Records

The record books are constantly rewritten, but several marks have managed to stand the test of time. The sports world has provided us countless examples, but we here at THE SPORTS DISPENCER have scoured the records to compile five of history’s most unbreakable records.

5. MLB’s Most Career Steals

Long-regarded as the top baserunner in history, first-ballot hall of famer Rickey Henderson holds one of baseball’s most coveted records. On May 1, 1991, Henderson passed Lou Brock to become the all-time leader. Twelve years later, Rickey concluded his four-decade career with an unbelievable total of 1,406 stolen bases. Players may possess the skills and longevity to near a 1,000, but it would take over 70 seventy steals for 20 consecutive seasons in order to challenge Henderson’s untouchable mark.

4. MLB’s Most Complete Games

Since Cy Young threw his final pitch, baseball has drastically changed. Gone are the days of pitchers throwing 20-plus complete games a season, and present are the days of pitch counts, bullpens, and managers limiting innings. Few pitchers in the modern game bear the talent to make a run at Cy Young’s mark, but no manager would allow a season’s pitch count to rise that high. So for now, Young’s 749 complete games remain a testament to baseball’s rugged stars of the early twentieth century.

3. MLB’s Most Consecutive Starts

Durability is a valuable trait in sports. An athlete’s ability to perform day in and day out is crucial for a team’s short and long term success. In his 20-year career, Cal Ripken, Jr. embodied unrelenting durability. While garnering two MVPs and 19 All-Star nods, the Baltimore Orioles star passed Lou Gehrig en route to 2,632 consecutive games. His 17-year streak surpasses any in American professional sports and will keep Ripken in record books for years to come.

2. NBA’s Highest PPG Average in a Season

Scoring fifty points in an NBA game is difficult. Averaging 50 points for a week is very difficult. Averaging 50 points for a season is ridiculous. In the 1961-62 season, NBA great Wilt Chamberlain averaged a mind-boggling 50.4 points per game. Since his record-shattering season, many of basketball’s best have passed through the league, but between Magic, Bird and Jordan, a 37.1 average was the closest effort put forth. If MJ cannot match it, who can?

1. College Football’s Most Lopsided Victory

After Cumberland defeated Georgia Tech’s baseball team 22-0, legendary coach John Heisman wanted to make a statement. On October 7, 1916, Georgia Tech crushed Cumberland by the unbelievable score of 222-0. The Ramblin’ Wreck pounded the ragtag Bulldogs team with an unrelenting might. Many believe Heisman’s true reasoning for running up the score was to send a message to voters. At the time, teams were ranked by the number of points scored. Heisman vehemently disagreed with this process. He unleashed Georgia Tech’s full forces, who scored on every set of downs. Regardless of the reasoning, Georgia Tech’s unfathomable win has remained uncontested, earning it a place atop history’s finest.

What do you think? Anything we missed? What would you choose? Comment below and let the discussion begin.

* Photos Courtesy of Sportige, SouthernMemories.com

Weekend Review

Federer Takes Wimbledon

At the age of thirty, Roger Federer had taken a backseat to Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, but after a flurry of upsets and a masterful semifinal performance, the Swiss star found himself in the Wimbledon final yet again. Pitted against Britain’s own Andy Murray, Federer cruised to victory in four sets, notching his seventh Wimbledon and seventeenth Grand Slam victory while regaining his rank as number one in the world.

Rangers-Twins Thunderous Surprise 

In the top of the fourth inning, a close-hitting lightning strike and subsequent boom of thunder rattled Rangers ballpark, sending players of both teams scrambling for the dugout.  Said Rangers first baseman Michael Young, “That was the loudest thunder I’ve ever heard in my life.”

U.S. Men’s Basketball Team Announced

Over the weekend, the reigning gold medalist U.S. Men’s Basketball Team announced their 2012 roster. Injuries may have sidelined recent champs Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, but Coach K’s squad gladly welcomes the additions of Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, and others to FIBA’s number one ranked team.

Dwight Howard Trade Rumors

Developments continue in the seemingly endless Dwight Howard saga. Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski reports that Nets-Magic talks continue and are now covering 14 players, three teams and a possible fourth looking in to take MarShon Brooks. If the deal is completed, it may indeed grow to become the NBA’s all-time largest blockbuster.

What do you think? Anything we missed? Comment below and let the discussion begin.

* Photos Courtesy of CS Monitor, Bleacher Report