Sports Fodder: Countdown to football season
May 25, 2012
Sports fodder for a Friday morning . . .
There are just 99 days until the Nevada Wolf Pack opens its football season at Cal. The game against the Bears is critical for this Pack football season, just as it was in 2010. The win over Cal at Mackay Stadium in 2010 set the tone for the landmark 13-1 season. It made the victory over Boise State later in the year possible and gave the Pack confidence in big games that it didn’t have since the Division I-AA playoff years in 1990 and 1991. The Wolf Pack in 2012 is also a team in search of some confidence (and some ticket sales) after a flat and frustrating 7-6 season last year. A win at Cal would be the perfect catalyst for a very interesting debut season in the Mountain West Conference.
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Alex Smith might not know it but he is going to be under tremendous pressure this year as the San Francisco 49ers quarterback. Odds are if the 49ers don’t get to the Super Bowl this year it will be because of Smith. The 49ers know they need more from Smith this year than they received a year ago. Don’t forget they flirted with Peyton Manning this off-season. The Niners have given Smith plenty of weapons this year with the additions of wide receivers Randy Moss, Mario Manningham and A.J. Jenkins. So there will be no excuses for the ex-Utah quarterback. The passing game has to step up and Smith will be counted on to win games rather than just not lose them. Colin Kaepernick could be closer to serious playing time in San Francisco than it might appear on the surface.
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There are plenty of reasons to worry about Tim Lincecum right now. He hasn’t won a game since late April, he has just one quality start this year, he’s given up more hits (51) than innings pitched (47.2) and his 163-pound body seems to be wearing down. But there are also a lot of reasons not to believe that Lincecum’s sky is falling as rapidly as you might think. He hasn’t given up a homer since his first start, hasn’t allowed more than four earned runs in any of his last six starts and his strikeout rate per nine innings (10.01) is still at an elite level. So relax, San Francisco Giants fans.
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Does anybody care that Alex Rodriguez is almost a lock to break Barry Bonds’ major league career home run record? Rodriguez, who hit two homers Wednesday night, is now just 126 home runs away from Bonds’ record of 762. He should break the record sometime late in the 2016 season when he will be 41 years old. Albert Pujols, who claims to be just 32 years old, is 313 homers from the record so he also has an outside shot at surpassing Bonds, probably late in 2021, if A-Rod fails. Rodriguez could pass Willie May (660) later this year or early next year and Babe Ruth (714) in 2015.
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Steroid use, though, has robbed the home run record chase of all its romance and drama. Nobody outside of the Bay area got all that excited about Bonds breaking the record a decade ago. And A-Rod is also a proven steroid user. The difference, though, is that Rodriguez plays for the Yankees. And anything a Yankee does is cause for a national celebration. Me? I’m hoping that Bryce Harper breaks the record in about 2033.
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The Los Angeles Lakers need to gut their roster. They need to get rid of Ron Artest (or whatever he is calling himself these days), Andre Bynum, Pau Gasol and just about everyone on the roster not named Kobe. And that includes Ramon Sessions. The former Pack point guard showed his deficiencies in the playoffs against Oklahoma City point guard Russell Westbrook. He had three horrible games and two mediocre ones, including a 1-for-6, six-turnover, five-foul performance in the final game. Sessions, it seems, is a point guard that can help get you to the playoffs. The Lakers, though, expect to win championships.
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Shaquille O’Neal is talking to the Orland Magic about its general manager’s job. O’Neal could be instrumental in keeping Dwight Howard in Orlando and could coax Phil Jackson, Jerry Sloan or even Pat Riley out of coaching retirement. The Magic, though, should hire someone who actually has some general manager experience, trade Howard to the Lakers for Bynum, Sessions and a draft pick and get a young coach who didn’t play before the birth of the 3-point shot.