Portland Trailblazers lose golden child Greg Oden

What does Portland Trailblazers GM Kevin Pritchard regret the most? The fact that Greg Oden didn't pay attention to his recurrent knee pain earlier this summer, leading to his microfracture knee surgery and the news that he will miss his entire rookie season. Taking Oden ahead of the supremely talented wing player Kevin Durant. Or, trading away 20-10 guy Zach Randolph, which, given Oden's current state, leaves Portland with the worst front-line in the NBA -- one that's perhaps less deep than some college teams.

Whatever the case, microfracture surgery is no small matter. NBA players Kenyon Martin and Chris Webber both had the surgery and became a shell of their former selves post-surgery. On the other side of the spectrum, Amare Stoudemire of the Phoenix Suns seems to have made a full recovery, returning to his All-Star caliber performance levels last season. Oden is young, so all things being equal, he probably has a pretty decent shot at recovering fully. But, it's going to take a lot of drive and hard work from the young center.

One thing is for sure, the Seattle Sonics, who picked Kevin Durant with the second pick in last season's draft, must be feeling pretty good right about now.


McLaren planning a successor to the legendary F1?

Long-time collaborators McLaren and Mercedes recently parted ways, partially stemming from the relatively sup-par sales and performance of the joint Mercedes SLR McLaren supercar project. But apparently, that fall-out isn’t stopping either company from moving ahead on the development of two brand new supercars. According to rumors coming out of Europe, Mercedes will begin work on a successor to the SLR with new partner HWA (a company made up of former AMG division heads), while McLaren is pretty far along on the development of the successor to the legendary McLaren F1.

There are bits and pieces of news on the so-called McLaren F2 streaming out from a variety of sources, including a 7-page article in the latest issue of the UK-based CAR magazine. Apparently, the F2 can trace its origins back to the relatively cheaper, at least compared to the $1 million F1, P8 sports car that the company was building along with Mercedes – this project was separate from the development of the SLR. Given the current fall-out between the two companies and issues with the P8 car’s engineering, that specific project was scrapped.

But, from those origins came what is now being called the P11, which is the supposed code-name for the successor to the McLaren F1. The P11 will get its power from a highly sophisticated V-8, the development of which will rely heavily on McLaren’s current F1 technology, just as the original V-12 powered F1 was originally based on Formula One cars of its era. The McLaren F2, it is also rumored, will be mid-engine rear-wheel drive, two-seat coupe with a full carbon fiber monocoque body frame.

McLaren is planning to best the industry leading acceleration and top-speed numbers (0-62 in 2.5 seconds and top speed of 253 mph) established by the Bugatti Veyron, which would be truly astounding indeed. The McLaren F2 could arrive as early as 2010.


Chicago Bears defensive leader may be down for the count

This is a story about two talented young stars of the National Football League, Mike Brown and Brian Urlacher. Both play for the storied Chicago Bears franchise, under the shadow of legends like Dick Butkus, Walter Payton and George Halas. Brown plays strong safety, while Urlacher plays a few steps closer to the line at middle linebacker. Both epitomize the prototype player for their respective positions, and are hugely successful. And each plays with unrivaled passion, leaving every last ounce of energy, enthusiasm and love for the game on the football field. But, this is more than a story about football. It’s a story about life, triumph, loss, sadness and how fate can sometimes take parallel lives in completely unparallel directions.

It’s Sunday, September 9, 2007 and the Chicago Bears locker room is distraught, having just come off a tough-fought 14-3 loss to the powerhouse San Diego Chargers. But, not a single man in the locker room can feel the sadness Mike Brown must be felling. He limped off the field in the fourth quarter with an apparent knee injury, and can sense from experience that fate is about to throw yet another curveball his way.

"We're holding out a little hope, but right now it doesn't look too good," Brown tells reporters trying hard to maintain his tough-guy persona, fighting back tears. "It's a sprained knee right now, but it doesn't look too good. It's a shame. It hurts my feelings really bad"

His teammates can certainly sympathize, but can’t fully comprehend Brown’s agony.

"Mike doesn't want us to feel sorry for him," says teammate Daniel Manning. "He can't get a break. Mike, he showed me a lot today…after he got injured, he still came back to the sideline and cheered us on. When you see Mike play, that's how you want to play football. When I go out there on the field, I want to play like him."

"I don't know exactly what happened to Mike, but to see him come off the field like that was terrible. Our guys felt awful for him," defensive coordinator Bob Babich chimes in.

Monday, September 10, 2007, Mike Brown hears the inevitable. He has suffered a ruptured arterior cruciate ligament in the left knee and will be out for the entire 2007-2008 season. And, at 28-years old, which can be ancient for NFL defensive backs, his career may also be in jeopardy. Lately, bad news seems to find Mike Brown at every turn.

Brown & Urlacher: A new hope for Chicago football

Mike Brown and Brian Urlacher were both selected by the Chicago Bears during the 2000 NFL draft. Urlacher played for the University of New Mexico, setting numerous school records, culminating in a selection to the AP National All-America Team. Brown was the safety on that college All-America team during the 1999-2000 college football season, and equaled, if not surpassed, Urlacher’s college achievements.

Brown was the only Bears rookie to start in the season opener in 2000, while fellow rookie Urlacher watched from the sidelines. Urlacher, of course, got his chance soon enough, replacing injured veteran Brian Minter early in the season and becoming an instant hit, recording 15 tackles in each of his first two games as a starter. Urlacher and Brown would go on to compete for the NFL Rookie of the Year award in 2000, with Urlacher taking home the hardware – Brown took home his share of media accolades.

Over the next four seasons Brown built a reputation as one of the toughest and most talented safeties in the league, changing games with his ball-hawking play. In 2001, the Chicago Bears finished with a 13-3 record and, with Brown and Urlacher as their anchor, the team fielded one of the best defenses in the league – Brown led the team with 4 interceptions that season. The following year, Brown finished with a whopping 111 tackles from the safety potion and 3 interceptions. As Brown saw success in his early years, so did Urlacher. The linebacker made the Pro-Bowl during his stunning rookie campaign and went on to make the “all-star” team 4 more times. Both players enjoyed individual and team success in those first few years, as the Bears changed coaches from Dick Juroan to Lovie Smith and became one of the elite teams in the NFL.

Unfortunately for Mike Brown, that is where the congruence between his and Brian Urlacher’s careers end. Late in the 2005 season, a promising one for the Bears as a team and Brown as a player, the former Nebraska star suffered an Achilles injury. He tried, unsuccessfully, to make a comeback in a playoff game against the Carolina Panthers, but in reality Brown’s season was done. During week 6 of the following season, after once again getting off to a great start, Brown fracture bones in his foot, again knocking him out for the entire season.

But of course, Brown had built his name, and his game, on perseverance. He wouldn’t be the player and, perhaps more importantly, the person that he is without his uncanny resolve. So, he went to work this past summer and came back from his foot injury earlier than expected, showing up in time for the Bears mini-camp, surprising his coaches and teammates in the process.

The end of a career?

But, for the third time in nearly as many years, Brown's dream of a productive NFL career came crashing down. Brown recorded an interception and a fumble recovery during the game on Sunday, September 9, 2007 against San Diego, and helped the Bears defense look impenetrable, before he once again had to limp off the field, face down in anger, frustration and sadness.

We’re not sure if this latest setback is too much to bear for Brown. We can’t predict if this latest twist of fate will bring the promising career of young Mike Brown to an end. But we do take this story as a lesson in life’s setbacks and the power of human perseverance.

''It's another sad day in the chapter of my football playing career, it looks like,'' said Brown on Sunday.


Soccer, Formula One and Golf shine in the NFL's shadow

Chances are if you were watching sports this weekend it was either the NFL or one of the major college football match-ups, like number 2 LSU versus number 9 Virginia Tech, for example. But, if football is all that cannibalized your sports viewing this weekend, you missed out on some really great, non-pigskin related, sporting events.

First up, the USA soccer team got their lunch handed to them by the Brazilian National Team, which is led by all-world stars Ronaldinho, Kaka and Robinho, among others. Team USA lost 4-2 in the friendly, billed interestingly enough as the “Clash of the Champions”. How does that work if only one of the teams has ever won any “championship" of note? But, we digress.

The Brazil game proved yet again, that Team USA and soccer as a sport in America has a long, long way to go. You probably know by now that soccer is the most popular youth sport in the US. But, unfortunately, once these soccer-playing kids hit puberty and eventually high-school, the most athletic of the bunch go into other sports, namely baseball and football. Until that trend changes, and until some of the strongest and fastest athletes in the US make soccer their sport of choice, the US will continue to lag behind on the world scene.

The king of the soccer world, Ronaldinho however, was only gracious in the win saying, “They are on the right path, and I believe in the future, it's a country that's going to have soccer with a very high level.”

Classy comments from a classy player.

Speaking of class, or lack thereof

As we mentioned in an earlier post, the Italian Grand Prix ran this weekend. McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso put some distance between themselves and Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa by finishing a respective 1-2 in the race at Monza – with Alonso finishing first and pulling within 5 points of Hamilton in the driver’s championship standings. With only four more races to go, Ferrari will need pull together a string of consecutive podium finishes, and hope that the McLaren duo falters, if they expect to have any chance of even sniffing the driver’s or constructor’s championships this season.

For the sake of “good guys” everywhere, let’s hope the Ferrari teammates are able to do just that. Because all the McLaren guys ever do is bicker among each other and with their team. Apparently, Alonso hasn’t heard that there is no “I” in TEAM. Following the race, Alonso made it very clear that he could care less about the constructor’s cup, as long as he’s able to catch Hamilton for the driver’s championship. At the same time he hinted at the issues that team McLaren has faced this year, including Alonso’s very public tiff with Hamilton.

"We are extremely lucky to have such a fast car and it means a lot to become world champion,” Alonso said after the race. “But, at least for me, it is not special if around the team there are problems. In the end it is good to be the drivers' world champion, but the constructors', from a driver's point of view, is not really a big factor."

Team McLaren must love hearing that from their star driver.

Jordan, Ali, Ruth…Woods?

This just in: Tiger Woods is really good! We’ve played golf from time to time, and generally hack our way around the course just like every other weekend golfer. So, we know how much skill and mental toughness it takes to be as consistently great as Tiger Woods has been over his 11-year career. Coming into Sunday, Woods found himself 1 shot down and very much in the thick of the competition in the third leg of the new FedEx Cup playoffs. By the end of the day Woods had shot an unbelievable low round of 63 and had blasted the competition on the way to his 60th career win (the youngest golfer ever, by far, to achieve that feat).

“I've exceeded my expectations and it's been a lot of fun to enjoy that whole road, that whole process to get to 60,” said Woods looking back. “It's been a lot of work, there has been some changes along the way, but I think that's all been great.”

Mark it down, Tiger Woods will not only go down as the greatest golfer of all time, but once he hangs up the clubs he will generally be regarded as one of the top 3 or 4 athletes ever, in any sport. And we’re not just talking about his skill on the course. Woods has had a huge social impact as well, in popularizing the sport outside of its traditional, sometimes non-inclusive boundaries, and getting new players excited about the game – us included. If they build a Mount Rushmore of sports 100 years from now, Woods should find himself on it joining the likes of Muhammad Ali, Babe Ruth and Michael Jordan.

NFL Watercooler: A recap of week 1

There are two Monday Night Football games still remaining, but the majority of week 1 of the National Football League season is in the books. As we tend to do during week 1 of every NFL season, we spent Thursday evening and most of Sunday plopped in front of a TV with a laptop in tow, keeping close tabs on all of the opening weekend games. There really weren’t any major surprises, in terms of team or player performances, and after watching all of the teams in action we’re okay with sticking to our pre-season predictions.

However, it was definitely a busy weekend and there were some significant happenings of note in week 1 of the NFL season, including:

Peyton Manning. If you drafted him in the first round of your fantasy football league, you must be feeling really good about yourself right about now. Manning looked great against the New Orleans Saints and looks poised to have a monster year. The emergence of Joseph Addai and the running game will open up the passing game again for Manning, as it did during Edgerrin James’ heyday with the Colts. Could he approach the record 49 TDs he threw during the 2004 season?

Who looked worse, the Browns or the Chiefs? Both teams looked absolutely pathetic, particularly offensively, but we’ll take the Chiefs by a nose. We expect Chief’s running back Larry Johnson to bounce back next week, so the Chiefs will at least have some semblance of a running game. Also, on the over/under, we are picking week 3 as the official start of the Brady Quinn era in Cleveland.

News flash: Adrian Peterson is talented

Adrian Peterson is in for a big rookie year and will challenge for ROY considerations, but the Vikings looked better than they actually are against a fatigued Falcons team – the Michael Vick saga must have had some significant effect on Atlanta, as they looked tired both mentally and physically. Although, we do expect Joey Harrington to bounce back and have a decent 2007 season.

Washington Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell seems to have an US Army certified cannon for an arm. But, his accuracy is about as consistent as former attorney general Roberto Gonzales’ testimony on wire tapping. Campbell threw above, behind and way ahead of his receivers several times during the Redskins game against Miami. We expect the accuracy to improve as the year progresses, but we also expect a ton of interceptions from Campbell (he threw 2 on Sunday). As pretty as some of his passes can be, we can’t see the Redskins making the playoffs this season with the inexperienced Campbell at the helm.

Randy Moss had a breakout game for the Patriots. But, he also had a breakout game in his first game for the Raiders, and we all know what eventually happened there. Those are of course two completely different situations and we’re not saying that Moss won’t be in for a big year with the Patriots, but beware of injuries and of conflict with Tom Brady and/or Bill Belichick at some point during the season.

The Cowboys and Giants (and NBC) puts on a show

The Cowboys/Giants Sunday night game was a lot of fun to watch. Dallas QB Tony Romo threw for 5 touchdowns and the Giants’ Eli Manning threw 4 TDs. Even the pre-game show on NBC, Football Night in America, was intelligent and entertaining, with Bob Costas, Keith Olbermann, Chris Collingsworth, Tiki Barber, and Jerome Bettis in the studio, and Al Michaels and John Madden calling the game. Good stuff.

When Chris Brown can stay healthy (he has missed a total of 12 games in the last 2 seasons), he’s a pretty good running back. Brown torched a very good Jacksonville run defense by racking up an astounding 175 yards on the ground – pretty damn impressive. If Brown can avoid the injury bug, he should claim the starting HB spot from LenDale White in Tennessee.

Please God, make the Bears bench Grossman...please!

We must say we underestimated the Chicago Bears defense, because we expected in our season predictions that they might be a little soft this year. But, in week 1 against a really good San Diego Chargers offense, the Bears D was about as soft as a brick wall. With anchors Tommie Harris and Mike Brown healthy to start the year, joined by names like Urlacher, Tillman, Briggs, Vasher, et al, the Bears mercilessly stifled the Chargers’ running game, holding NFL MVP LaDainian Tomlinson to a total of 25 yards on the ground on 17 attempts. But, as good as the defense looked on Sunday the Bears’ offense looked equally as bad. Backup Brian Griese may not be the answer either, but coach Lovie Smith’s Rex Grossman experiment needs to end now – never let him even touch a football again, please.

If you’re into fantasy football, think about adding the following players, who may still be sitting on your league’s waiver wire: Chris Brown (RB, Titans), Ronald Curry (WR, Raiders), Eric Johnson (TE, Saints), Brady Quinn (QB, Browns), Wes Welker (WR, Patriots), Matt Schaub (QB, Texans).

And finally, if you watched any of the games on Sunday, you probably saw the Nike ad titled “Leave Nothing” with Chargers LB Shawne Merriman and Rams RB Stephen Jackson. Although it debuted earlier, Nike bought a ton of Sunday air time to showcase the ad for the masses. Check it out here on YouTube. Great concept, great execution, very intense – one of the best football ads we’ve seen come out of the Nike marketing machine in some time. Michael Mann (yes, that Michael Mann of “Heat” and “Miami Vice” fame) directed the commercial, which features music from the film “The Last of the Mohicans”.