Sunday, August 25, 2013

US Open Prediction: Another disappointing year for the American Men

 British hero Andy Murray finally won Wimbledon this year, ending a 77 year drought of a British champion to not only please, but electrify the U.K this summer. Over 73% of the U.K, which included avid tennis fans, to the casual viewer watched and cheered for Murray as he made history.

Meanwhile on American soil, we are facing the same problem the Brits had …although much less severe.

Recently in men's tennis, the Americans have hit a wall. It’s been coming for a while. Andy Roddick, the last American to win the US Open in 2003, has recently retired, leaving no true heir to carry the load of being the US No. 1.

Roddick, who will forever be known for having his Grand Slam success hampered by Roger Federer, the greatest tennis player of all-time, carried the American banner as a top 10 player in the world for a decade. He retired rather prematurely, due to complaints from American fans who expected him to win another Grand Slam.

In the Golden Era of American tennis, we dominated on both the men and women’s side of tennis. In the men’s side, we had John McEnroe, Arthur Ashe, Michael Chang, Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, Jimmy Connors, and many more in a 20 year period of amazing tennis. On the women’s side we had Billie Jean King, Chris Evert, the Williams Sisters (still dominating today), and many more.

As of late, American tennis has been quite disappointing on the men’s side.

A few weeks ago, there were no American men in the top 20 of the world rankings for the first time in 40 years. Fortunately, that was quickly nullified by a good result at the Western and Southern Open by American number one John Isner who catapulted back into the top 15.

Meanwhile, the women have been on fire. There are currently ten women in the top 100 of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) rankings, including world number 1, Serena Williams, the outright favorite to win this year's open. Aside from her, the American women are mostly young guns, ready to burst into the top 20 of the world.

So with the women doing their thing for the next couple of years, why don’t our male players have a legitimate chance of winning the US Open?

It’s simple, they, and the rest of the world, stand no chance against the elite. Since 2005, male tennis has been dominated by the “Big Four” consisted of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, and Andy Murray. They’ve won the last 34 out of the last 35 majors, and continue to dominate tennis today on all surfaces throughout the calendar year.  

The one glimmer of hope for the US men is John Isner. When he is playing his game, the 6 foot 9 inch- giant has the ability to beat anyone, including the “Big Four”. Just two weeks ago he defeated World Number 1 Djokovic in an epic semifinal before narrowly losing to Rafael Nadal in the finals. His game consists of a huge serve and a bazooka-like forehand, and has seen him defeat Roger Federer and Djokovic multiple times in the past. His main problem has not been pulling off upsets, but his level of consistency at the Grand Slams. His best result at Flushing Meadows was a quarterfinal appearance in 2011.

So with the US Open commencing tomorrow at Flushing Meadows, New York, we ask ourselves, how long will it be until we have another men’s champion?

The answer: A while, maybe five to ten years, but we can certainly wait. The French haven’t had a Frenchman win their Grand Slam since 1983, and Australian Open has not been won an Aussie since 1976. It’s only been 10 years since Roddick won the US Open, so we definitely cannot complain. In the meantime, we shall just have to wait for our upcoming junior players to break out and shine when their time comes.

Note: Be sure to watch Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal play for the chance to win $3.6 million! The two superstars won this summer’s US Open Series Challenge, which will reward them with an additional $1 million should they win the last major of the year. 

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Steroid use in baseball…what’s new?

If you haven’t heard, another Major League Baseball (MLB) doping scandal has broken out.

What a surprise.

The anti-aging clinic in South Florida, Biogenesis has been linked with a handful of MLB players, supplying them with performing enhancing drugs over the past few years. The MLB has launched a full out investigation of the program and is currently in the process of suspending the players who have used the steroids. A new doping case shouldn't be unexpected news to the devoted MLB fan, since it has become a regular occurrence over the past several seasons.  

Just recently Ryan Braun, the National League’s most valuable player 2 years ago was banned for 65 games without pay for his use of drugs.  

It seems like baseball has taken the worst blows from legendary icons using performance enhancing drugs of any sort. From slugger Barry Bonds (who still denies his steroid-use to this day) to Roger Clemons and Manny Ramirez, the MLB has continued its battle with doping scandals over its history.    

Currently on the Biogenesis hot seat is Alex Rodriguez, one of the icons of the sport and poster-boy of the New York Yankees, the most valuable team in the league. A-Rod, who just turned 38, has been sidelined with a quad injury and has been working his way back to health. Now he is trying to maintain his innocence as he makes his return to the New York Yankees Monday night against the Chicago White Sox.

The MLB are expected to make a statement on Monday which will suspend Rodriguez through the end of the 2014 season without pay.  A-Rod currently has $96 million left on his contract with the Yankees, but would lose $34 million should he be suspended. Rodriguez, however has said that he will appeal the ruling.   

And on the eve of the announcement by the MLB, I say good luck to A-Rod with his appeal, because it’s not going to get far.  Just look at other athletes who have fought allegations of their performance-enhancing drugs use.

Cyclists Lance Armstrong and Floyd Landis were recently stripped of all their Tour de France titles. Sprinters Marian Jones and Ben Johnson were both found to have doped during their careers and were forced to give up their accolades as well.  

MLB fans will have to see how this Biogenesis mess turns out, but in the meantime, let’s not focus on one player’s future, but the sport’s future in fighting drug abuse. 

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Cat's Meow: The First Ten

Ruchika Sharma covers the Florida Panthers for Teenlink.

10 games.

What does that mean?

Four wins. Five losses. One overtime loss.

Nine points. Tied for third in the Southeast Division with the Winnipeg Jets. Tied for tenth in the Eastern Conference with the New York Islanders and the Winnipeg Jets.

One win could propel them up to tenth place, just two spots shy of the eighth seed. But wait, isn't it only still the start of the season? It's too early to be talking about the playoffs, right? With a shortened schedule, every game really does count.

And what's been plaguing the Florida Panthers as of late has been injuries. A groin injury to Sean Bergenheim, a broken arm for Michael Caruso, a knee injury for Ed Jovanovksi, and an ankle injury to Scottie Upshall are some of the reasons for the Panthers latest woes. Huge returns from Kris Versteeg, and last night from Erik Gudbranson, who was playing in San Antonio, bolstered the Panthers last night, coming off a 3-2 shootout win.

Chemistry has also been another reason for the Panthers woes, as Head Coach Kevin Dineen declared just almost two weeks ago.

Slowly but surely, this team is starting to build a chemistry. It's not going to be easy heading into next week's three game homestand, it's going to take a lot of hard work and determination to get them out of this rut. But first is the Washington Capitals, who the Panthers are visiting tomorrow night. Alexander Ovechkin's recent struggles should remain a concern for the Panthers, as he just might find his stride tomorrow night.

They haven't quite hit rock bottom, but neither are they sitting on top of the Southeast Division, let alone Eastern Conference. More time is going to have to be spent at the rink, building chemistry, finding their stride. It's gonna take a lot of work to get back to Southeast Division Champion form.

Just remember: 38 games left to go.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Cat's Meow: Drop the Puck!

Ruchika Sharma covers the Florida Panthers for Teenlink. 

I've abandoned you for 104 days, but after 113 agonizing days, the NHL and the NHLPA have finally struck a tentative deal to end the lockout. With this tentative deal, the season is reported to begin on January 19th, with teams beginning training camp as early as this upcoming weekend. Some of you might be jumping for joy, I know I am, or some of you might not be, because you simply just don't care about hockey. But some of you might be scratching your head, not quite understand what this all means, and whether or not to trust it, given the case of a "tentative" deal. (Keep in mind, this was the third lockout under current Commissioner Gary Bettman).

Here are some key points of the newest CBA:

10 (Well, Really 8) More Years
  • This CBA should last for ten years, but if in any case, the players or the league want out, they have the option to opt out after the eighth year. 
Salary Cap
  • 2012-2013 is a transition year for the salary cap, as the upper level of this season's cap is set at $60 million, and teams are allowed to spend up to $70.2 million. In Year 2 of the CBA, the cap increases to $64.3 million. The salary floor for this season and next is set at $44 million.
Contract Length
  • The maximum length of a contract is now set at seven years, so no more crazy career-long deals to keep a player. It increases to eight years, only if a player is resigning with his own team. 
Draft Lottery
  • Instead of the bottom four teams now competing for the first overall pick, now all fourteen non-playoff teams will get a shot at it. This new format is in line with the one the NBA implemented. Surely with this new format, we can hope that Edmonton won't be getting the first overall pick for the fourth year in a row. 
Supplemental Discipline
  • Supplemental discipline will still be handled by Brendan Shanahan, as it was last season, but appeals will now go through NHL commissioner Gary Bettman first. If it is an appeal for a suspension of six games or more, a neutral third party will be involved in the appeals process.
  • Free Agency Frenzy will continue to occur on July 1st, instead of July 10th, as the NHL had hoped to push the date. So keep it circled on your calendars!
  • Revenue sharing among clubs will increase to $200 million.
  • Olympic participation will be dealt with outside of the new CBA, and it is reported a joint league-player committee will handle the decision.
  • Teams are reported to receive two amnesty-style buyouts, that can be used over the next two offseasons.
  • For the first eight years of the new CBA, minimum player salaries will remain at $525,000. But in Year 9 and 10, they will increase to $750,000. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Cat's Meow: Day Nine

The days are long. Strenuous. Agonizing.

Today would have been the third day of Panthers' Training Camp. The first day of the NHL preseason. The Florida Panthers would have played their infamous doubleheader against the Nashville Predators today.


I can barely remember the last NHL lockout. 2004-2005. Seems so long ago, really. I was seven, I think. I didn't care too much about hockey back then. I wasn't suffering as much as I am now. Turning on ESPN is such a stretch for NHL fans, we absolutely despise it. They give us no airtime, and when they do, it's only a minute or so.

I can now say to you that I've officially caved.

I turned on ESPN this morning. I watched the highlights of last night's Ravens-Patriots game. And you know what? I still felt empty. I listened to them go on and on about Saturday's college football. Emptiness.

I'm hollow inside.

Each day, I come home from school, thinking that "OH! Hockey's on tonight!" Sadly, I come home to a hockey-less TV. Sure, there are other teams. The Dolphins. The Marlins. And soon even the Heat. But there is nothing that can fill my void. There is nothing that can replace the pure glee I feel when I turn on the TV, waiting for puck drop.

It's only Day Nine. Imagine me on Day 100. That is if I can make it that long. Who knows?

Players are jetting off to Europe, signing deals that will last them until the end of the lockout. Dream teams are being creating, even with some league restrictions of only three NHL players. Highlights that we NHL fans can only dream of now are being made, in Russia, in Switzerland, in the Czech Republic.

Alas, we are left to wait it out. Unlike the players who have signed deals, we must find time to busy ourselves with other things. Trivial things. Things like...that English paper due Monday.

Speaking of which, now is probably the time to get on it. Seeing that I have so much time.

Too much time. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Cat's Meow: Possible Lockout?

Ruchika Sharma covers the Florida Panthers for Teenlink. 

School is back and the days of summer are coming to an end. Though it's still hot in South Florida, the NHL is beginning to gear up for another season....or are they?

Rumours of a possible lockout have been swirling as early as June of a possible NHL lockout. The League's current CBA is set to expire on September 15th, a time when most teams are preparing for their training camps. The Florida Panthers training camp is slated to begin on September 22nd, 

After a profitable year of more than $3.3 billion, the NHL has proposed cutting the players' share of hockey-related revenue from 57% to 46%, which in reality drops to 43% when taking into account the revenues that the NHL will not share with its players. Commissioner Gary Bettman has even stated that if no deal is made by the deadline, the League is prepared to lockout its players. The League also wants to restrict free agency, in terms of limiting the length of contracts to five years (no current limits exist), and increasing the amount of time a player must wait until becoming an unrestricted free agent, from seven to ten years. In addition, the League also wants to eliminate players' rights to arbitration. 

The NHLPA, on the other hand, has proposed a three-year deal with an option to revert back to the old CBA during the fourth year. Players' compensation would grow at fixed rates, resulting in compensation being possibly being reduced by more than $800 million over the next three years, all depending on the League's revenue. Clubs in need of assistance would gain from a significantly expanded and simplified revenue sharing system. Additionally, there would be flexibility for teams as the new deal would help GMs to put their teams together: including the reward of additional draft picks for struggling teams, the allowance of teams to trade dollars and players under certain circumstances, and the allowance of small teams to go under or over the salary cap. 

As of now, talks between the League and the NHLPA are recessed. Sitting around and waiting has exhausted me. A day doesn't go by without me praying that the season will start on time. With smaller market teams like Los Angeles and South Florida suddenly beginning to flourish, the last thing the NHL needs right now is a lockout. With a profit year, and a growing fanbase, a lockout would only stunt the NHL's progress in trying to become a household sport. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Keep Calm and Create On


The uniforms that Nike contributes to college football are over the top. False. The uniforms that Nike puts out are all unique. Wrong again. Before I explain that behind all the glitzy photo shoots and martial wording Nike uniforms are very much similar; lets all agree that the University of Oregon’s un-uniform costumes are not a fair representation of Nike’s touch in College Football aesthetics.

            Remember five years ago when your school hosted a black out and your team came running out in uncharacteristic black jerseys? You felt special right? Until the rest of the country was doing the same exact thing the next week. You should feel the same today, but since Nike has stepped up their game, you don’t.

            I won’t lie: many Nike collegiate football uniforms are sick. I will; however, point out that many of them are extremely similar. (Resist immediately shaking your head) Nike uniforms all exhibit numerous identical characteristics, but are covered up by few traits that are customized to fit the individual customer, in our case, the individual college football team. Years ago it was the 1)Nike fly-wirethreads that teams sporting on the jersey’s shoulders, now 2)Nike jerseys are secured by a particular collar of leather webbing. 3)When the players put theirtwo gloves together it makes an image? Get out! next you’ll claim Notre Dame isn’t relevant or some complete nonsense like that! 4)Matte helmets started out cool but will be a thing of the past within two seasons. 5)Nike uniforms incorporate undershirts as an extension of the jersey, a new element to the tradition uniform. Check the inside of your 6)team’s collar, I bet there’s a phrase stitched that’ll send shivers down your spine. I didn’t guess that because your alma mater is unique, I know that because Nike does the same for a majority of their squads. Lastly, don’t give the folks up in Eugene, OR credit for supplying a team with 7)two or more helmet choices, isn’t that the logical thing to do when you run out of ideas?

            Besides inserting intimidating, war-like words to each of their products, the area where Nike excels and its competitors fail is personalized identification. For example, Nike took Rutgers: a squad who donned the brand’s usual outputs (matte helmets, an alternate jersey, flywire etc.) and produced a look that is recognizable and personal to Scarlet Knight fans. The jersey and pants currently still follow the usual Swoosh template, but is tattered with random ‘battlescars’, a tribute to the team’s medieval mascot. It is the small details like this one, like the faint tiger stripes revealed for Mizzou’s new SEC-worthy garb, like the sand colored footwear the Army black Knights run around in to tribute their service in desert warfare. The list is endless, chances are if you claim your team’s look is different than all the rest, it’s because Nike does a marvelous job at taking a quality but basic uniform and making it inimitable…just like the school the team represents.

            Where Nike produces highly recognizable products for the gridiron, its competitors do the exact opposite. Under Armour, the company based in Baltimore and known for creating those groundbreaking costumes Maryland wore last season, made steps in the right direction with the new look it applied to Northwestern last month. Byemphasizing the Northwestern stripe, a design that originated with the Wildcats, a non-Nike brand had finally put together a look that is different from the rest. Not so fast my friends, before I could even catch my breath after celebrating this accomplishment, UA leaked Maryland’s new uniforms for theupcoming season. Not only did they revert to the same Maryland state flag pattern of last season’s debacle, but the new look completely does away with the terrapin-inspired garb worn by the players a year ago. Back to square one as far as non-Nike schools go. Stick with a look guys: Notre Dame is blue and gold, with occasional green. So why last week did I see the “traditional” dynasty reveal multi-colored helmets to complement an overall gaudy look for their game in Chicago? Nebraska wearing black, Michigan altering therecognizable winged helmet? “What the Hell’s Goin’ On Out There!?” You’re killin’ me, underdogs.

            Nike is Dr. Jeckell, the Oregon Ducks are Mr. Hyde. When Nike returns to it’s crib in Eugene after producing respectable get-ups for collegiate football squads, the Swoosh that we all know morphs itself into a circular shape. From there, all Hell breaks loose: mirrors are added to helmets, colors are renamed after weather occurrences and uniform combinations are thrown together without second guesses. The swoosh started experimenting with the O long before the Ducks blinded us with theirhelmets at last year’s Rose Bowl Game. In fact it was architect and right hand man to Nike chairman Phil Knight, Tinker Hatfield, who first played the role of Hyde in creating outlandish products, then staining them with the Nike swoosh of approval. Hatfield, who also constructed the most groundbreaking footwear of the late 20th century, the Nike Air Max, was asked in 1996 by Knight to help better attract athletes to the University. The O was born, and with it, the false identity of the world’s most dominant athletic brand.

            Since the turn of the century, the folks up at Nike have used the University of Oregon as their very own lab rat: not only can the Ducks sport over 300 different uniform combinations on any given gameday, but it has become a tradition for Nike products to be debut by the company’s gem. It is crucial to observe that no other Nike school (or any other school for that matter) is comparable to Oregon when it comes to uniforms, because no other school is backed in the way that Nike supports the Ducks. Most importantly, it is this relationship that has broadened the gap between the look of Nike teams and the rest of the NCAA aesthetically, not even Maryland’s bond with Nike-rival Under Armour is comparable. What’s to come? I believe the next big thing to be overused and poorly duplicated will be both shiny helmets and ‘color-changing’ jerseys or pants. Have no fear, fans whose team doesn’t look ‘unique’ on Saturdays, as long as the Ducks flaunt around in obnoxious fashion, they’ll be enough Nike sparkle to trickle down.