Marcus Lattimore Long Road to Recovery: Let Willis McGahee be your guide #impossibleisnothing

There only a few times that I have cringed when watching sports: the first time was when I saw the crash at Daytona 500 that took Dale Earnhardt’s life; second, was Steve Nash’s swollen shut black-eye and bloody nose in the 2010 NBA Playoffs; and the third time happened this weekend when star running back Marcus Lattimore of the South Carolina Gamecocks hyper-extended his knee and damaged several ligaments after a legal hit by a Tennessee Volunteer defender.

Lattimore missed six games last season while recovering from a torn ACL and was slowly regaining his burst. He had been projected by many pro scouts to the top running back in April’s NFL Draft and was considered a definite lock to be a first round pick in the upcoming NFL Draft. However, as he laid in pain surrounded by his brothers of the gridiron from both teams the promises of a NFL career appeared to be in serious doubt. Coach Spurrier who is rarely at a lost for words appeared to still be in a state of shock as he seemed to have a hard time believing the words coming out of his own mouth.

However, I truly believe the most encouraging words that Lattimore could have ever received were not the tweets from Lebron James and Tim Tebow but was the remarkable performance put on by running back Willis McGahee of the Denver Broncos on Sunday Night Football against Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints. Although Peyton Manning got most of the praise for last night’s dominant performance in the Broncos win, the contributions of Willis McGahee 122 yards rushing and 1-TD should have certainly piqued the interest of the Lattimore family and Gamecock Nation.

Why you might ask? Well ten years ago Willis McGahee suffered a similar catastrophic knee injury, tearing his ACL, PCL, and MCL in the 2002 BCS National Championship game against the Ohio State Buckeyes. Before the injury Willis was projected to be a top ten pick in the upcoming NFL Draft, but many feared that he may drop significantly in the draft due to the injury.

Defying the skeptics and so-called experts five months after the injury Willis McGahee was drafted in the first round by the Buffalo Bills and during his ten-year career the 2-time Pro-Bowler has rushed for nearly 8,000 yards and 69 touchdowns and a NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award in 2004.

The road to success is never an easy one but the bread crumbs of success left by Willis McGahee serve as a reminder that with heart, determination, and a will that won’t be deterred impossible is nothing.

Marcus Lattimore’s road to recovery promises to be a long one but his character and drive will empower him to overcome. Although Marcus Lattimore’s time in Columbia may be near its end, the time to fight for a promising professional career in the NFL begins now. Stay tuned and Happy Birthday Marcus Lattimore.. I know I will – A. Denmark

College Basketball: Although the nets are cut down in April the road to the Final 4 in Atlanta begins now

We are halfway through the college football season and several fans have turned their attention to their basketball programs accepting the harsh reality that a bowl game is not in their school’s future. Traditional basketball powers like Indiana, Kentucky, Kansas, and North Carolina opened Midnight Madness and the start of their first official practices with a big bang. The fan bases from these four programs and many others from across the nation believe that this will be their year to cut down the nets and win a National Championship.

Last season we were treated to memorable buzzer beaters at Duke and Indiana; NCAA investigations and scandals at Syracuse and Louisville; the ending of an era in Connecticut with the retirement of Coach Jim Calhoun; and Anthony ‘uni-brow’ Davis leading Kentucky and a band of future pros to the school’s eighth national title.

Although last year’s season ended with a bang this upcoming season promises to be one that will be nothing short of exciting. Out west once proud programs UNLV and UCLA have assembled their fair share of diaper dandies and college transfers in an attempt to reclaim their dominant ways out west. Despite the potential of both of these programs they both enter the off-season with a ton of question marks.  At UNLV chemistry and the pressure of heightened expectations will be two factors to watch as Coach Rice attempts to build a solid rotation and find minutes for a deep frontcourt.

At UCLA Ben Howland seat has truly begin to warm so the pressure to produce on the court could not be higher. However,the three freshmen one and doners Shabazz Muhammad, Tony Parker, and Kyle Anderson who were expected to return the Bruins to glory are all currently under investigation by the NCAA for improper benefits. To make matters talented but overweight Josh Smith continues to lose his fight with hamburgers leading to an ever-expanding waistline. Too make matters even worse in Westwood, Muhammad who is the same freshman under investigation also injured his shoulder and he may not be expected to return until mid-season.

In the Midwest Kansas promises to be a tough out despite the loses in the back court of Tyshawn Taylor. Ben McLemore has made raves during the summer camp circuits and is expected to team with center Jeff Withey to help Coach Bill Self contend for yet another Big XII Championship.

Although football may still be king in Big X country this year their best chance to capture a national title may lay in Bloomington, Indiana who have been voted preseason number one. Led by presumed number pick in next year’s draft Cody Zeller. Coach Tom Crean has finally assembled a team that can bring a national championship banner back to Hoosier nation, the land of Larry Bird and the infamous movie Hoosiers.  However winning the Big X certainly will not be a cakewalk with a resurgent Michigan team in Ann Arbor & the Hall-of-famer himself in East Lansing.

Reigning NCAA champ, Kentucky Wildcats lose six draft picks from last year’s team but expectations for another title has not be reduced. Coach Calipari has done a masterful job of recruiting replacing lottery picks with future lottery picks and the same is true this year: Nerlean Noel, Archie Goodwin, Alex Poythress, and NC State transfer Ryan Harrow promise to make their debut season a treat for both NBA scouts and Big Blue Nation.

In the ACC the most unlikeliest teams on Tobacco Road has been deemed the preseason favorite, and it’s not Duke or UNC. Led by Coach Mark Gottfried the NC State Wolf pack have had a quick turn around and with the addition of McDonald’s All-American Purvis who was just cleared by the NCAA Clearinghouse they promise to be a tough out during tournament time.

As the Maui Tournament and the Coaches v. Cancer Tournament quickly approaches and gives fans the non conference games fans dream of during the Thanksgiving Holiday know the March Madness and all the excitement that ensues is not too far behind. However, whose being fitted for their MARCH glass slipper? Which senior will arise from the smoke of oblivion? Which freshman will get ensnared in the NCAA’s grasp? This college basketball season promises to be a good one. Stay tuned… I know I will – A.Denmark

Age ain’t nothing but a number: Spurs, Lakers, and Celtics gear up for one last title run #nbatitle

The stars who I grew up rooting for and against like Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett are literally on their last legs and knees. Although the Miami Heat and the OKC Thunder are the prohibitive favorites to contend for an NBA title I truly believe that the San Antonio Spurs, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics are being foolishly overlooked. This season promises to be a  farewell tour of sort for many of these soon-to-be first ballot Hall-of-Famers but despite their age I assure you that they will not go quietly into the night.

The Lakers garnered most of the attention when they won the coupe of the summer by signing both Dwight Howard and Steve Nash. These additions along made the Lakers an immediate favorite to challenge for the NBA title but the play of their bench will be the true deciding factor. Although he did not get a press conference holding up his Laker Jersey or a team photo with the more popular acquisitions, Antawn Jamison will be relied on heavily to provide invaluable minutes off the bench. Laker nation are already envisioning a return of the showtime Lakers but when the two of the three stars are nearly 40 and their stars having a laundry list of injuries (ankle,knees, back, fingers) the need for significant contributions from their bench will be crucial.

Although the Boston Celtics are down one amigo with Ray Allen signing with the Heat their off-season acquisitions via the draft and free agency gave them more depth on the front court and quality defenders at both guard positions. To replace the NBA’s All-Time 3-pt leader the Celtics signed Courtney Lee and Jason Terry who are great defenders and serviceable three-point marksmen in their own right. Jared Sullinger has already earned the respect of veterans Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce,  and based of of his play in the preseason he will certainly be an invaluable contributor on the Celtics bench.

As usual the San Antonio Spurs registered little media attention as expected. After registering the best record in the NBA for two straight seasons the Spurs signed Tim Duncan to an extension and retained its core from the past two seasons turning a blind eye to free agency all together. Coach Popovich has done a masterful job of managing the minutes of his veterans (Duncan, Ginobili, and Parker) while also developing the talent of his younger stars (Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, and T-I-A-G-O Splitter)

These three teams certainly have the talent and the experience to not only contend for an NBA title, but also to win it as well. How their coaches manage the minutes of their veterans will play a huge factor in ensuring that they enter postseason play healthy and injury free. Although the young thoroughbreds in OKC and Miami may get off to a fast start, do not be surprised if you see these more veteran laden squads concede home court and in efforts to gear up for the REAL 16 GAME SEASON, known as the playoffs.

Will the Spurs register more  DNPs for their star players again this season? Will chemistry be an issue in Boston and Los Angeles? Will any of these three teams road to retirement include an NBA Championship in 2013? Stay tuned… I know I will – A. Denmark

Road2BCS: Week 8 was nothing short of exciting, thank you college football gods #bcscountdown

Wow what a Saturday, from overtime thrillers to unexpected blowouts college football certainly was far from a snoozer. We have reached the midpoint of the college football season and the second BCS rankings will be out pretty soon, and so far the unexpected has become the norm for six straight weeks. In only a short time both preseason title favorites LSU and USC have suffered early season losses and the prohibitive Heisman favorites Geno Smith and Matt Barkley are now on the outside looking in just hoping for invites to the ceremony in New York’s Big Apple.

At the start of the season so many teams had high hopes of breaking through but the harsh reality of a college football season has left its fair share of bruises and casualties. Despite two early season losses that football team in State College continues to surprise the masses after yet another convincing win over the Iowa Hawkeyes.

For yet another season it appears that the SEC is conducting its own version of a playoff elimination format which will determine who plays for the BCS National Championship. Not even the gator faithful would have predicted that Coach Muschamp would have his team ranked as the second best team in the country. However, after another convincing win over top ten foe South Carolina Gamecocks the Gators have survived the toughest part of their schedule. Led by Matt Elam on defense and with Jeff Driskel continued improvement a showdown between crosstown rival FSU stand in the way of Will Muschamp facing his mentor Nick Saban and his Alabama Crimson Tide for an opportunity to play for the BCS National Championship.

Not to be outdone, the Oregon Ducks out west have steam rolled the competition averaging nearly 40 points per game and resting most of its starters by halftime. Led by an explosive offense it appears that not even Matt Barkley and his USC Trojans will pose much of a threat to the Ducks as they appear destined to face an SEC foe in Miami for the BCS National Championship.

Although there are a number of other BCS title contenders it will be interesting to see how squads like the undefeated Kansas Stat Wildcats and the Oregon State Beavers respond with increased pressure to perform and produce on a consistent basis. Each of these teams face trap games and if they are not careful they may find themselves victims of their own success. The Washington Huskies and the Texas Tech Red Raiders have already upset two top ten teams already this season, if they are not careful each of these national championship long shots may be next.

As one Saturday ends college football fans will certainly have more weeks of upsets and overtime thrillers in store. Only at season’s end will we truly know who the best team in the country is, until then all we can continue to do is just guess and enjoy. To my true college football fans, stay tuned… I know I will – A. Denmark

What a week in the world of sports – Lance Armstrong + Alex Rodriguez + CFB + NFL = #sportsheaven

What a week in the world of sports, although my interest is  usually limited to football and the occasional basketball game, this week was certainly an exception. Oddly enough traditional yawners such as cycling and baseball became the talk of the town.

On Monday Lance Armstrong made headlines for yet another public break up and no it was not with longtime girlfriend Sheryl Crow. After 7 Tour de France titles, being the first couple of cycling, and raising hundreds of millions of dollars together for cancer research Nike had finally decided enough was enough and took its money and parted ways. Although they have both agreed to still be friends for the sake of the Livestrong Cancer Research Foundation it appears that neither party will neglect their shared love interest and will continue to work together as partners from a distance.

Not one to be outdone Alex ‘A-fraud’ Rodriguez also made headlines this week when he gave a fan his number and was benched after his dismal performance during the playoffs. Although a player being benched is a common course of action when the manager believes he is ineffective but when that player is earning nearly $30 million dollars a year it is a big problem. For years A-Rod has walked his own path and his out of this world talents led many to overlook his diva-likementality. However, after admitting his use of performance enhancers and steroids his talent has been on a major decline. The Yankees appear to be stuck with this $30 million aging has been for another four years due to his no trade clause, but with a long off-season ahead the New York media and our pal Donald Trump will certainly be an off-season the pinstripe faithful will remember.

After surviving the perils of hump Wednesday football fans were greeted with a good NFC West slug-fest between the Seattle Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers although this was not a game to watch with the wife including sprinkle of Tamar and Vince on WEtv or Greys Anatomy on ABC probably would have made this game more palatable.

This Saturday there is a chock full of games with national championship implications and premiere games with Heisman contenders vying for supremacy. Will Florida protect its house when Marcus Lattimore and the South Carolina Gamecocks come calling? How will Geno Smith respond when he faces the Kansas State Wildcats after being demolished last week by the Texas Tech Red Raiders?

The NFL slate on Sunday also will be one not to miss, there is speculation that Tim Tebow will take some snaps at running back. Terrell ‘t-sizzle’ Suggs of the Baltimore Ravens is rumored to be playing this week after tearing his Achilles six months ago. Will these play-makers make a difference on the gridiron, expectations could not be any higher..

This weekend promises to be one of excitement, and before kick-off of this weekend’s action get a head start on your honey do-list, briefs, and everything else the wife and kids may ask you to do. Stay tuned… I know I will – A. Denmark

The Resiliency of Penn State football in the eye of a storm: Led by Coach Bill O’Brien The Best is Yet to Come #wearepennstate

Move over Dallas Cowboys after nineteen disappointing seasons I believe the search for a new team most deserving of America’s support was found in the most unlikeliest of places: Happy Valley, Pennsylvania. A year ago Penn State’s tradition rich football program made national headlines when a decade long cover up of sexual molestation and abuse was finally made known. The stench of an administration who allowed such deplorable acts to occur have been wiped clean through the conviction of the perpetrator and his cohorts; the death of Joe Paterno, and the removal of a statue which reeked with a legacy of disgust and manipulation.

After the NCAA handed down their sanctions ($60 Million, 4-year bowl ban, and loss of 40 scholarship) it marked the beginning of a new era, a fresh start. A number of players who were expected to be solid contributors this season quickly transferred to other programs and expectations for fielding a competitive team did not appear to be likely. Several pundits believed that the sanctions handed down on July 24th would serve as the day that football in Happy Valley died.

However, embodying the resiliency of America, this once proud program which had been left for dead has embodied the toughness of their head coach and continues to be fueled by the encouragement and support of a loyal fan base and community who is also healing from the tragedy of times past.

Although the Nittany Lions are not ranked in the top 25 or a contender for the national championship, each time they win we receive a reminder that the storms of yesterday will not last always and the possibilities for great promise will come in time.

The Nittany Lions are currently on a four game winning streak which is largely due to a tremendous group of senior leaders. On offense the Nittany Lions have made significant strides since losing the first two games of the season and under the advisement of Coach O’Brien it appears that senior quarterback Matt McGloin is finally getting it,so far he has already accounted for 17 touchdowns in only six games.

Although senior starting linebacker and captain Michael Mauti is unlikely to get a statute in front of the stadium for his comments after the Nittany Lions second loss of the season. His words to his teammates and the national media lit a fire that will shine brighter than any Heisman Trophy and have an impact that will continue long after he decides to be finish with this game or when the game decides to be finished with him.

Finishing the season 7-4 appears to be well within the realm of possibility. But if the Nittany Lions were to lose every game left on their schedule at the end of the day the season would still be considered a success. In America resiliency through tough times with the promise of better days is a characteristic that we all embody.

Only when adversity strikes do we find out the true character of an individual, and despite the shadows of a dismal past this 2012 Nittany Lion football team are laying the groundwork for a brighter tomorrow. With each win Coach O’Brien and his players build a new legacy in Happy Valley and its a future that we as individuals strive to achieve, success is not a privilege or a right, will you take it? What will the future hold? Only time will tell. Stay tuned… I know I will – A. Denmark (@eatdrnkslpsprtz)

 

Operation Stop the Flop: Will the new Anti-Flop Rule Stop Bad Acting in the NBA? #nbaflopping

During 66 NBA seasons several players have attempted to try to see if their immense talents on the basketball court would translate to the big screen. Poor showings by prominent stars and future Hall of Famers have discouraged many athletes from taking the leap to the big screen out of fear of embarrassment or risking being the next ongoing punchline i.e.. ‘Shazam with Shaquille O’Neal or the recently released Thunderstruck starring Kevin Durant.

Unable to get reputable acting gigs on television or the big screen several players have garnered premiere acting roles in the NBA, Oscar worthy. Past winners for NBA’s most prestigious award, Actor of the Year aka ‘flopper of the year’ has gone to Manu Ginobili, Derek Fisher, and Jame Harden has recently garnered acclaim for this prestigious award along with several other prominent NBA veterans.

However, the NBA has recently passed a new rule that will completely do away with NBA’s Actor of the Year award all together. Yesterday the NBA’s Board of Governors and the Competition Committee  have agreed to enforce an anti-flopping rule. Fed up with player’s exaggerated falls to the floor in efforts to trick fans and referees into calling fouls the NBA will now issue fines and enforce suspensions for players found guilty of this act.

Players will get a warning the first time, then be fined $5,000 for a second violation. The fines increase to $10,000 for a third offense, $15,000 for a fourth and $30,000 for the fifth. Six or more could lead to a suspension.

The amount of flopping has become so excessive the NBA Commissioner voiced his disgust stating that flopping was ruining the NBA brand and it had no place in the game of basketball. Flopping has not only decided the outcomes of games but also has impacted the NBA playoff picture and also determined which team hoisted NBA Finals Trophy at season’s end.

Just in last year’s playoffs we witnessed 6 ft 9 280 lb two-time MVP, Lebron James make a plumb fool of himself in the playoffs with his flops against player he outweighed by nearly a 100 lbs and who can forget his fake eye poking incident which led to the Heat ending a Bulls run and ultimately winning their first round playoff series.

The NBA certainly deserve kudos for trying to improve the quality of basketball that NBA fans around the world pay to see. The NBA Players Association has already filed an appeal to the new anti-flopping penalty calling the rule an unfair labor practice.

I will be deeply intrigued to see how this new penalty be enforced, will there be a board of referees who will use instant replay to determine the validity of the foul? What will the appeals process look like? Who will be the first player to be fined for flopping? Flopping has been a reoccurring problem since the days of Bill Laimbeer and Dennis Rodman of the Detroit ‘Bad Boy’ Pistons, and who can forget the Emperor of Flop ‘ Vlade Divac of the Sacramento Kings. How will this anti-flopping rule affect the game? Stay tuned… I know I will. – A Denmark (@eatdrnkslpsprtz)

Eatdrnkslpsprtz All-Time Flop Team

PG. Derek Fisher  SG. Reggie Miller  SF. Manu Ginobili  PF. Dennis Rodman  C. Bill Laimbeer