Sports Outside the Beltway

Are the 2007-08 Florida Panthers over the hump?

They won last night, marking for the fist time this season that the team has a winning record.

Thursday night’s Panthers-Hurricanes game might as well have been played on a roller coaster, it had so many ups and downs.

In the end, the final up went to Florida, which registered a 5-4 victory at the BankAtlantic Center, taking the lead for good on Brett McLean’s goal midway through the third period.

Back home after winning three of four games on the road and facing the Southeast Division leaders, the Panthers had nothing but opportunity in front of them. A win would cut into their five-point division deficit and set an energizing tone for a year-end schedule that features four of five games at the BankAtlantic Center.

It looked bleak when Carolina took a 3-1 lead after the first period, but the Panthers rallied for their third consecutive victory. They now trail the Hurricanes by just three points.

I have felt from Opening Night, that this Panther team is capable of taking the Southeast Division. That the team is right on Carolina’s back at the moment says something(Other than the SE division being mediocre) about how Florida has come this far. They’ve been plagued by injuries this year, particularly to defensemen(Three are out at this time, and its not known when any will be back) but all through this the team has pulled themselves over .500. Yes I still worry about the lack of punch the team has, their tendency to sit on a lead, and whether they give up when they fall behind. As to the last, maybe we’ve seen the end of it. For Florida was down 3-1 a little over 16 minutes into the game. The Panthers then stormed back.

The Eastern Conference playoff picture stands like this. Teams in italics are Southeast division teams

1- Ottawa 22-8-3 47 pts
2- Boston 18-12-4 40
T3- Montreal 17-12-5 39
T3- Carolina 18-15-3
T3- New Jersey 18-13-3 39
6 NY Rangers 17-14-3 37
T7 Florida 17-16-2 36
T7 Pittsburgh 17-15-2
T9 with 35 pts Buffalo and Philadelphia(32 games played each) and Toronto(35 games)
T12 with 33 pts Atlanta and Tampa Bay in 34 and 35 games respectively.

You can look at it one of two ways. Florida is four pts out of 2nd place in the conference or that the cats are just a game or two from being in 10th place because of the fewer games played by Buffalo and Philadelphia. As I see the conference, Florida can play as well as anyone with the exception of Ottawa, and arguably Carolina and New Jersey. The cats, who are notoriously bad as a road team, are 8-9-1. When you factor in injuries and the Panthers road record, this team could finish as high as 2nd in the conference, but more likely 4th or 5th. I think my preseason prediction of Florida making the playoffs for the first time since 2000, is looking better and better.


Michelle Wie won’t play at Sony Open

The 18-year-old is postponing her 2008 debut.

Michelle Wie might start her 2008 season in Hawaii, but not at the Sony Open. Wie, who has played the PGA Tour event every year since 2004, did not receive one of the four unrestricted sponsor exemptions, tournament director Ray Stosik said Thursday.

Swing coach David Leadbetter said the 18-year-old from Honolulu likely would ask for exemptions at one or both of the LPGA Tour events in Hawaii that kick off the women’s golf season in February. He also said competition against the men would probably be on hold until she gets her health and her game back together.

“She’s not ready to play in that yet,” Leadbetter said of the Sony Open, where Wie first rose to fame by shooting 68 at age 14 and missing the cut by one shot. “Her health is getting better, her game is getting better, the confidence is growing. The plan hasn’t been made totally for this year yet, but she’s looking to play one or two Hawaiian events against the women.

“The whole goal is to get back on track after the debacle last year.”

The debacle included Wie trying to play despite both wrists being injured. She made only three cuts in nine starts, withdrew twice and only broke par two times.

I’ve said from the first moment after hearing about Michelle’s wrist injuries, that she needed to take a thorough rest in order to let them heal. Something she didn’t do, probably because of pressure/bad advice from her parents and others in her camp.

The playing against the men gig got tiresome before Michelle’s injury problems. Even if Michelle becomes a LPGA superstar(and I think she can), at the very best she would be run of the mill against PGA pros. Fans will start seeing this, if they haven’t already, and the novelty will wear off.

I do hope 2008 is a better year for Michelle Wie.


Pittsburgh Steelers’ Willie Parker breaks leg

The NFL’s leading rusher is out for the rest of the 2007 season.

ST. LOUIS, MO. — Willie Parker, the NFL’s leading rusher, had a fractured right fibula and is done for the season.

Parker’s injury occurred on his first carry of the game and there were unconfirmed reports that his foot got caught in the artificial turf at the Edward Jones Dome.

The fibula runs from the knee to the ankle and is the smaller of the two bones in the lower leg.

The Pro Bowl halfback gained one yard after taking a pitch from Ben Roethlisberger and running around to the right.

After Parker was tackled, he took himself out of the game and was carted off the field into the Steelers locker room.

Najeh Davenport had a good night in Parker’s place, but this is hardly good news for Pittsburgh. I don’t they’re as good as their record. I’m predicting an early exit from the playoffs in January.


The dangers of watching Montreal Canadiens hockey

The Florida Panthers played at the Bell Centre the other night. For a while I thought I was getting pummeled with subliminal advertising, but I was mistaken. Every time the cameras show play near center ice, there is this great big advertisment on the boards. What is it for? Viagra.

Yes, just what a NHL hockey fan needs. If you want the wife calling 911 after a game one cold evening. Most hospitals probably don’t offer NHL center ICE or even FSN. I think this advertising is counterproductive to say the least.(Cue the sarcastic laughter)


Minnesota Wild Marian Gaborik scores five goals vs. NY Rangers

This feat hadn’t been done by a NHL player in regulation play since 1996. From AP-

ST. PAUL, Minn. – Marian Gaborik posted the NHL’s first five-goal game in 11 years, lifting the Minnesota Wild to a 6-3 win over the New York Rangers on Thursday night.

Gaborik’s outburst was the biggest in the league since Sergei Fedorov scored five for Detroit on Dec. 26, 1996, in an overtime game against Washington. Pittsburgh’s Mario Lemieux was the last to net five in regulation, pulling off the feat on March 26, 1996, versus St. Louis.

Gaborik had a goal in the first period, two on power plays in the second, and found the net twice more in the third to set the team record for tallies in a game. No Wild player had ever had four goals in a game.

With an assist on Pierre-Marc Bouchard’s goal, Gaborik tied his career high with six points. That was established on Oct. 26, 2002, at Phoenix. It was his best offensive game since he scored three goals and helped set up another on April 9, 2006, at Colorado.

Gaborik now has 18 goals for the year or a little over 20% of all scores for Minnesota. The Wild score fewer goals per game than my hometown Florida Panthers, who also scored a rare five goals last night.(But by four different players.)


Jonathan Papelbon’s dog ate World Series ball

A bit of baseball history becomes a chew toy. From AP-

BOSTON – The World Series ball is gone, and Jonathan Papelbon has an excuse: My dog ate it. Farfetched or not, that’s what the Red Sox closer insists happened to the souvenir from the final out of Boston’s sweep this year.

Really, Papelbon blamed it on his bulldog, Boss.


After the game, Varitek said he planned to give the prize to the team. A few days later, he said he’d given it to Papelbon.

Instead, the relief pitcher said, Boss got hold of that doggone ball.

Papelbon told a similar tale to the New England Sports Network for a story that aired Nov. 30 — but with a slightly different ending. He told NESN he threw what was left of the ball in the trash.

“It’s in the garbage in Florida somewhere,” he said

Something tells me boss secretly works for a baseball owner with the same nickname. Any baseball conspiracists agree with me?


Bill Parcells to join the Miami Dolphins?

That has been the talk of South Florida newspapers since late yesterday afternoon. From the Sun-Sentinel-

According to sources, Dolphins owner H. Wayne Huizenga has convinced former coach Bill Parcells to lead his floundering franchise. Both sides have agreed in principle to a four-year deal that will make Parcells the team’s vice president of football operations, one source said.

Jimmy Sexton, Parcells’ agent, is working to finalize a deal that first began as exploratory talks, then picked up speed once the Atlanta Falcons pursued Parcells.

Huizenga visited the Dolphins facility for a little over an hour Wednesday evening, likely to provide a briefing on the latest turn of events to the team’s executives and coach.

On Wednesday morning, Parcells was set to become the Falcons vice president of football operations, but late in the afternoon Falcons owner Arthur Blank acknowledged Parcells’ change of heart, which has led him to South Florida, where he has a home in Jupiter and an existing relationship with Huizenga.

The state of disarray in Miami is so immense, I don’t think any one person can change it. The team has too many needs at present.(RB if Brown doesn’t come back, a rotten Defensive backfield, no depth at WR, no decent TE, an aging defensive line, an aging linebacker corps, an inconsistent offensive line. Not to mention QB, Lemon is a free agent at year’s end and its still unknown if Beck is going to be NFL quality. Is there any position Miami don’t need at? Oh punter and place kicker)

Like myself, Dan Le Batard at the Miami Herald, has doubts when it comes to Big Tuna being the Dolphins savior.

But Bill Parcells represents hope and star power and possible change, so he will be welcomed here with the same kind of fervent hero worship that usually results whenever starving followers are given a new leader. Never mind that what Parcells does best is coach and, um, he isn’t being hired to do that. The cheering and excitement around this kind of popular hire can make people swoon and forget that you’ve just hired Beyoncé as your entertainment but asked her to juggle.


Here’s what Parcells is: A champion. The guy for whom that clichéd sports celebration — the Gatorade bath — was invented. A bejeweled leader of men who hasn’t won a single playoff game in nearly a decade and hasn’t won a championship since Lawrence Taylor carried him nearly two decades ago.

And here’s what Parcells isn’t: 1-13.

So he’s an upgrade because, well, it can’t really get much worse — mathematically or historically. But we’ve been down this path before, unsuccessfully. You’d think the Dolphins would have learned their lesson in going after the biggest, most popular name available. It didn’t work with Jimmy Johnson or Nick Saban or even, for his three blissful weeks as vice president, with Dan Marino. But here Miami is again, producing yet more upheaval by giving a mountain of power and money for a weary Parcells to do a job at which he might not be exceptional.

Parcells didn’t pick the players who made him a champion in New York. George Young did that. Parcells left the Patriots who took him to a Super Bowl because Bob Kraft, who is pretty good at his job, overruled Parcells and made him share personnel powers with someone else after Parcells wanted to take Tony Brackens instead of Terry Glenn. Parcells had one great draft in New York with the Jets, but he had four first-round picks that year, which would be pretty hard for even Dave Wannstache and Rick Spielman to screw up. And in Dallas, Parcells didn’t even want his best player (Terrell Owens, who was foisted upon him by owner Jerry Jones) and waited too long to play Tony Romo. So there are valid reasons to question this if you aren’t blinded by all the flashbulbs.

I hope Parcells can turn Miami around but right now color me skeptical.

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Alonzo Mourning’s career may be at an end after knee injury

The Miami Heat Center was injured in a game last night against the Atlanta Hawks.

After tearing the patellar tendon in his right knee during Miami’s game in Atlanta last night, the 37-year-old Heat center was placed on the stretcher, but he refused the ride.


Mourning already has said there is “zero chance” of playing another season.


Mourning is in his 15th year in the NBA, including 11 with Miami.

Mourning was hurt when attempting to defend the basket on a layup by Atlanta’s Mario West. Replays showed Mourning’s knee buckling without contact from West as Mourning was about to jump.

Mourning is a seven-time all-star and two-time defensive player of the year.

His 15 years in the league do not include a full year he missed because of kidney problems that led to him getting a transplant in 2003.

Many professional athletes say they are going to retire, then change their minds. Should I remind everyone of Junior Seau? His former team the San Diego Chargers has him hold a press conference to announce his retirement, only to have Seau four days later sign a contract to play for the New England Patriots.

In Mourning’s case, I believe it when he says his career will end this year. Alonzo has always been a class act. I hope he gets a chance to play again before year’s end, but if he doesn’t, I wish Alonzo a happy retirement.


Steelers’ Heinz Ward brings Amerasians to US

If you don’t know it already, Ward’s mother is Korean. From Stars and Stripes-

SEOUL — Eight Amerasian children from South Korea spent a week in America at the invitation of Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward.

Ward paid for the children’s air fare and other expenses, said Bae Kyung-hee, an official from Pearl S. Buck International, an organization founded in the mid-1960s to help Asian children who were not eligible for adoption.

The organization assisted Ward in bringing the children to the United States, where they stayed with host families and watched the Steelers play the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday.

The children were slated to return early this week.

Ward, whose mother is Korean and whose father is a black American, was voted most valuable player of the Super Bowl in 2006, the first Korean-American to achieve that honor. The 31-year-old was born in Seoul and has been an advocate for the rights of biracial children in South Korea, according to an article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Ward hasn’t forgotten his roots and his generosity is to be commended. Unfortunately these children will have to go back to South Korea where they will often be treated in a second(or worse) class fashion. And there are some people who call the US racist? Look at how mixed race children are treated in most of Asia.

BTW- Where are these children’s American fathers today? Why aren’t they doing anything?

Hat tip- ROK Drop


11 Dallas Cowboys Make Pro Bowl

A record 11 Dallas Cowboys were selected to the Pro Bowl.

11 Dallas Cowboys Make Pro Bowl With the Cowboys aiming for a potential Super Bowl appearance, it’s only fitting the club has the most Pro Bowl players since the 1990s dynasty.

Through a list compiled by the players, Cowboys will send a franchise-record tying 11 players to Hawaii, including seven starters – offensive linemen Flozell Adams, Leonard Davis and Andre Gurode; tight end Jason Witten; wide receiver Terrell Owens; outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware; and kicker Nick Folk, the first Cowboys rookie since 1990 to make the NFC squad.

Other selections include quarterback Tony Romo, running back Marion Barber, safety Ken Hamlin and cornerback Terence Newman.

Safety Roy Williams did not make the NFC squad, snapping his four-year streak of Pro Bowl selections.

That’s simply phenomenal. It’s especially amusing that Barber, ostensibly the backup running back, made the roster while under-performing starter Julius Jones did not.

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