January 26, Week in Sports
:: STEELERS AND CARDINALS PREPARE FOR SUPER BOWL (Pro. Football)
:: AUSTRALIAN OPEN KICKS OFF TENNIS SEASON (Pro. Tennis)
:: EAST BEATS WEST IN NHL ALL-STAR GAME (Pro. Hockey)
SUPER BOWL PREVIEW
The biggest story in sports this week will be the lead up to Super Bowl Sunday. The Super Bowl is the most highly-watched sporting event in the country, and this year it will be played between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals.
The Steelers and Cardinals are two very different teams. While the Steelers are one of the most successful franchises in the NFL and won a Super Bowl as recently as 2005, the Cardinals have been one of the worst teams in the league, and this is their first Super Bowl appearance. The Steelers have the best defense in the country, and Cardinals have one of the most explosive offenses. The Steelers also have one of the biggest fanbases in the country, dubbed “Steeler Nation,” while the Cardinals fanbase is small and regional. However, since the Cardinals are a longshot to win this year’s Super Bowl, expect them to have plenty of people rooting for them on Sunday, since this country loves an underdog.
Of the many storylines going into this game, two of the biggest will be centered around Cardinals players Kurt Warner and Anquan Boldin. Warner is an aging veteran who has been underestimated by people his whole career–while football fans love him, nobody expected him to lead this Cardinals team to a Super Bowl victory. If the Cardinals win, Warner will almost surely be the hero. Boldin, on the other hand, is in the Cardinals’ doghouse right now, after he pouted over his lack of playing time in the team’s last win over the Philadelphia Eagles. Boldin’s surly behavior was one of the big talking points last week, and it is sure to be brought up during Sunday’s game.
Quote of the Week: “The Super Bowl XLIII storylines are pretty much set. The Arizona Cardinals’ high-flying offense and the Pittsburgh Steelers’ top-ranked defense are rightfully commanding significant attention.” — Mike Sando, ESPN.com
Further Reading: “UnCommon Ground” — Don Banks, SI.com
TROUBLE DOWN UNDER
The Australian Open is currently underway, and it runs through Sunday, February 1. The Australian Open is the first of four “Grand Slam” tennis tournaments–the most important tennis events of the year.
The competitors will be facing each other in the quarterfinals early this week, and the championship matches will be played next weekend. Almost all of the big names are still in the competition at this point. On the men’s side, the most prominent three players are Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, and Novak Djokovic, who won the men’s singles championship last year. On the woman’s side, Jelena Jankovic, the top-seeded player, has been eliminated from competition, but the second seed, Serena Williams, is still going strong.
The Australian Open has drawn plenty of negative attention this week because of the violent behavior among spectators. On Friday, 30 fans were ejected after Bosnian and Serbian fans clashed. This is the third straight year of such behavior at the Australian Open.
Quote of the Week: ”The world comes to Melbourne Park for the Australian Open and, increasingly, brings its troubles along.” — Kamakshi Tandon, ESPN
Further Reading: ”Australian Open Ejects Fans as Ethnic Clashes Return” — Grant Clark, Bloomberg.com
STARS ALIGN IN MONTREAL
On Sunday night, the city of Montreal hosted this year’s All-Star Game. The game was a high-scoring affair, with the Eastern Conference defeating the Western Conference by a score of 12-11.
Unlike the All-Star game for the NBA or MLB, the All-Star hockey game draws considerably less interest and arrives with much less fanfare. Part of the reason is that the NHL All-Star game is far less intense than an actual hockey game, since the players refuse to risk injury in an exhibition game. As a result, the combined score of this year’s game was over 20, whereas in a typical hockey game, only a handful of goals are scored. The excess number of goals and lack of physical play contributed to a relatively uninteresting game for devoted hockey fans.
However, the game did come to an exciting finish. After three periods, the East and West were tied, which brought the game to a shootout. This was the first time that an All-Star game had ever been decided by penalty shots. Alex Ovechkin, last year’s MVP, scored the winning goal.
Quote of the Week: “The NHL All-Star game was settled in the newest of ways in hockey’s oldest city.” — Associated Press
Further Reading: “Stars Go the Distance” — Associated Press, via ESPN
WHAT TO WATCH THIS WEEK
:: PRO. FOOTBALL: The Super Bowl will be played on February 1 in Tampa Bay, between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals. The game is the most highly-watched sporting event of the year in the U.S.
NBA (Pro. Basketball): The 2008-09 season is currently underway. It runs from late October to April of 2009, when the playoffs commence. [Official NBA Website]
NCAA MEN’S BASKETBALL (College): The college basketball season is currently underway and runs through “the Tournament,” which takes place in March. [CBS Sports]
NFL (Pro. Football): The Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals will face off in the Super Bowl on February 1. [Official NFL Website]
NCAA FOOTBALL (College): The college football season is now over, with Florida defeating Oklahoma in the national championship game. [NCAA Football, ESPN]
MEN’S GOLF: While there are professional tournaments throughout the year, the most important tournaments are the four Major Championships: The Masters, U.S. Open, The Open (The British Open), and the PGA Championship. [Official PGA Website]
NOTABLE PLAYERS: Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson
NHL (Pro. Hockey): The hockey season is currently under way and runs through April of 2009. [Official NHL Website]
MEN’S AND WOMEN’S TENNIS: While there are professional tournaments throughout the year, the most important tournaments are the four Grand Slam tournaments: the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, and US Open. The Australian Open is taking place this week, and will be completed on February 1. [USTA Website]
NOTABLE PLAYERS: Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Maria Sharapova, Ana Ivanovic
MLB (Pro. Baseball): The Philadelphia Phillies defeated the Tampa Bay Rays in this year’s World Series. During the off-season, baseball news will focus on major trades and player signings. [Official MLB Website]