The Super Bowl is in the books. Though it might have seemed like it was the only thing going on in sports, here’s some stuff that happened this weekend that deserves to be talked about.
1. Derrick Thomas Gets Elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame: Bruce Smith and Rod Woodson will get more attention, but the biggest name (for me) that got elected to Canton this week was former Chiefs Linebacker Derrick Thomas. He is most definitely deserving of the honor, but those that liked the way he played feared he’d never get in because of all the time that had passed since his death.
He only played eleven years, but he made a huge impact. In his first two years alone he rolled up thirty sacks. In his career, he had double digit sacks seven times (in an eleven year career). He might not have been the most complete player in the game (his weakness was definitely against the run, but he was one of the most feared pass rushers of his time.
Though he should have gotten in to the Hall a long time ago, maybe it’s only fitting that he goes in with Bruce Smith and Rod Woodson. Smith might have been the best defensive end of his time. Woodson might have been the best defensive back of his time. And Thomas deserves to be in the discussion when you talk about the best linebackers of his time.
2. The Clock is Ticking For These MLB Free Agents: With the Super Bowl in the books, some fans will concentrate on collge hoops (more on that in just a bit). Some will start getting ready for the 2009 baseball season. If you’re like me, you’ve been looking forward to picking up your baseball preview magazines. Why? Because pitchers and catchers report on Valentine’s Day – less than two weeks away!
But, those preview magazines might need to be updates before it’s all said and done. Take a look at some of the names that are still out there in terms of free agents: Manny Ramirez, Ken Griffey Jr., Adam Dunn, Orlando Hudson, Bobby Abreu, Ben Sheets, Randy Wolf, Pedro Martinez. I’m sure I’m leaving some names out. The point is there are still quality free agents to be had, but no one’s biting. Why?
It’s real simple – it’s the economy. The creme de la creme got theirs, but the second tier of free agents are still out there for two reasons. One – teams don’t want to pay top dollar for players who are a level below ‘elite’ for one reason or another. Two – most of the players still on the market think they can get the big money deals they thought they were going to get when they filed for free agency. They have yet to adjust their demands. Until they do, they are likely to remain unsigned.
The bet here is that the players will lower their demands (whether those demands are monetary or contract length). Once one does, expect a domino effect to take place.
3. Marquette Serves Notice: Why the Marquette-Georgetown game wasn’t on national television (ESPN 360 doesn’t count) is beyond me. Despite their recent struggles, there were a lot of people who thought the Hoyas would have enough to at least slow down the high flying Golden Eagles.
Instead, Marquette’s three guards – Jerel McNeal, Dominic James, and Wes Matthews – stepped their games up. Lazar Hayward, one of the smallest ‘power’ players I’ve ever seen (he’s only 6-4, not the 6-6 he is listed at) - came up with big rebounds when Marquette needed them. A game that was tight in the first half turned into a major rout in the second half.
The Golden Eagles are now 19-2 and have yet to lose a game in the Big East (the best conference in all the land with apologies to any ACC fans reading this). Sure, Marquette has yet to face UCONN, Louisville, Pitt, or Syracuse. But the Golden Eagles did hold off a good Hoya team Saturday, and went to South Bend a week ago and beat a Notre Dame team that (until recently) had been dominating at home.
Keep an eye on this Golden Eagles basketball team. They have what it takes to make a deep run in March. if they do, don’t be caught off guard.
4. Rafa v. Roger: It’s too bad that the match started at 3:30 in the morning. It’s too bad most of us slept through it. Because the latest installment of Nadal v. Federer was a 4-hour, 23-minute classic – a match won by Nadal in five sets. In the process, Nadal stopped Federer from tyring Pete Sampras’ record of 14 Grand Slam wins.
The rivalry used to be one that Federer owned. But the last three times they have faced each other at a major, Federer has come out on the short end of the stick. Federer’s once dominant record against Nadal has gone from 13-3 to 13-6, and he’s lost to the Spanish star on three different surfaces now (including grass which was once considered Federer’s domain).
Federer needs one more Slam win to tie Sampras, two more to surpass him. If he’s going to do it, he’s going to have to go through Nadal. No one else in men’s tennis is even close to these two.
What we have in Nadal-Federer is the greatest rivalry going in individual sports. You can’t compare this rivalry to team rivalries like Red Sox-Yankees or Ohio State-Michigan. But you can compare it to rivalries that have taken place in individual sports.
Both players know they have to get through the other to get to where they want to go (immortality). It reminds me of the way the sport used to be in the late 70′s and early 80′s, when John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg used to beat each other up. it reminds me of McEnroe vs. Jimmy Connors.
And let’s face it, with not one player standing up to Tiger Woods on the PGA Tour, the Federer-Nadal rivalry has become the best individual rivalry we have going today in sports.
It’s just too bad no one’s paying attention. But those that are are watching something special.