NetWorks Sports Two-Mintue Drill: Week of January 1, 2012

THE NETWORKS SPORTS TWO-MINUTE DRILL

Log on to the NetWorks Sports blog every Sunday as we succinctly recap our Top 5 list of events that caught our eye during the week in sports in The NetWorks Sports Two-Minute Drill.  Take two minutes out of your day to get our view on what’s going on both on the field (or court) and in the front-offices!

Top 5 Topics from the Week of January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!  As 2012 officially rolled in last Sunday, the world of sports remained the focus of many of our attention.  As I rang the new year in down in Scottsdale for the Fiesta Bowl, it was evident that 2012 would start off where 2011 left off…with several intriguing sports stories that promise to make this leap year another phenomenal year comprised of 366 magical days of sports.  Football fans were able to finally enjoy some competitive BCS Bowl games, the NFL playoff picture came into focus, and after a week of lockout affected NBA hoops, fans were enjoying (thanks to a free preview of NBA League Pass) the return of the best basketball players in the world to packed arenas around the country (except in a few markets, those poorly managed markets we speak of often). Here are the 5 topics in sports that topped our list this week:

5. Mike Tomlin proves that winning isn’t everything: While this is tough for Steelers fans to digest hours after a tough playoff loss to a lower-seeded Broncos team, in a culture & era where “winning is everything”, Coach Mike Tomlin continues to impress with his compassion for his players and view of the big picture. Defensive Back Ryan Clark, who has Sickle Cell trait, could have put his life in jeopardy if he opted to play in the high elevation of Denver.  In fact, unknowingly, doing so caused tremendous health issues for Clark a few years ago (in 2007), so Tomlin & the Steelers brass made the decision that Clark would have to sit this game out this week, despite it being a huge playoff battle on the road.  Clark stated this week that he wanted to play in such a huge game, but understands AND appreciates Coach Tomlin making his health a priority.  As witnessed late Sunday evening, Clark’s absence from the Steelers’ defensive backfield (along with solid play by Denver’s offensive and defensive units…and yes, 361 passing yards by Tim Tebow) may have cost the team dearly as his replacement struggled to make critical plays down the stretch.  There’s no doubt that Clark would have loved to have been on the field to impact the outcome of a huge playoff game, but in an age where many subscribe to the win at all costs method, it is refreshing to see why the Steelers organization and its leaders, such as Tomlin, are so well-respected across the sports industry.

4. Clippers continue to fight unwanted perceptions: This week, Blake Griffin (who actually coined the term Lob City when he initially heard about CP3 trade to Clippers being official) and Chris Paul attempted to distance themselves from the term by strongly stating that they are much more than just a team centered on lobs and dunks in transition.  Fearing that Lob City will imply that there is more style than substance (which arguably is a characteristic found in many Los Angeles based situations), the pair have taken to the media to further define what this new Clippers team is about…winning games & competing for Championships.  Seems like there is an identity crisis for LA’s newly appointed trendy team.  Based on the not-so-flattering nicknames fans of NBA hoops have used on the Clippers in the past, you’d think that they actually would be ok with embracing the fact that the Lob City moniker caught on so quickly and is a first step to changing the perception of a downtrodden franchise that had been the laughingstock of the league for years.  Personally, many fans find themselves tuning in to Clippers games because their Lob City exploits and charismatic players are exciting to watch.  More exciting than many of us can even remember!

3. A sports discussion falls back on a debate about race: Terrell Suggs (Ball So Hard University grad) vs. Skip Bayless on ESPN First Take this week!  Ding, Ding, Ding.  In what has previously been a rather mellow back and forth banter during Suggs’ occasional appearances on ESPN’s First Take, this week’s interviews took on an entirely new dynamic when Suggs brought up religious agendas involved in the current obsession with Tim Tebow when they debated Joe Flacco vs. Tim Tebow.  This debate, one of many, furthers the divide many feel in this complicated conversation based on the presence of a religious undertone.  Unfortunately, on the heels of this heated discussion, others began to allude to racial biases involved in the love/hate relationship many have with Tim Tebow.  We discussed it on a recent Game Changers Live radio show and undoubtedly will continue to discuss this very difficult topic.  Ultimately, at least we are having a dialogue about two very sensitive issues: race & religion.

2. She doesn’t “Love this Game”: Serena Williams divulged that she doesn’t love tennis or working out.  ”It’s not that I’ve fallen out of love; I’ve actually never liked sports, and I never understood how I became an athlete,” she said, according to the website. “I don’t like working out; I don’t like anything that has to do with working physically.”  We won’t see an NBA-like commercial where Serena says “I Love this Game!”, but don’t let this statement diminish her will & desire to be great and/or to win majors.  A lot has happened in Serena’s life, from the death of her sister to serious injuries, but through it all, when the lights & cameras of a major tennis tournament are on…she tends to bring out her passion for winning better than most.  Her display of honesty and candor should not have any impact on what we have come to expect when she laces up her Nike’s, puts on an outfit that will be critiqued, and stares across the net at her opponent.  If that ankle she injured last week heals properly, we should all tune in to the Australian Open to witness her greatness.

1.  “We Are Penn State” and we want to be heard: Amid the ongoing debate surrounding the Penn State scandal, proud alum of the PSU Football program took to the airwaves to air the utter frustration with the “new” direction the administration is taking.  LaVar Arrington, who has a unique platform to air his disdain on a DC-based radio show, was the loudest of many alum voicing their opinions on the hire.  At a time when every move made by the Penn State brains trust will be scrutinized, it was especially alarming when the pride and unity that this university has displayed for decades began to crumble over yet another decision that was perceived as disloyal.  Administration should certainly have appeased powerful alums by at least involving a committee of former players in the interview process (just based on the situation). Dallas Cowboys linebacker and Penn State alum, Sean Lee (a soft spoken leader), put out a statement on Sunday acknowledging that he (along with the others) had hoped for a member of the PSU family to have the opportunity to follow in Paterno’s footsteps, but ultimately encouraging his fellow alums to support the new regime.  That along with Bill O’Brien’s letter to the alum should help to calm down the madness and allow those who care the most about this program to start moving forward during a difficult time.

For a “New View from the Sidelines”, tune in to Game Changers Live Wednesday’s at 1:00pm ET/10:00am PT on BlogTalk Radio as the co-hosts cover important topics in the sports world.

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