Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Patrice Bergeron’s injury toll: broken rib, torn cartilage, separated shoulder

Boston Bruins' Rich Peverley stands with teammates after they were defeated by the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 6 of their NHL Stanley Cup Finals hockey series in Boston, Massachusetts, June 24, 2013. REUTERS/Winslow Townson (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT ICE HOCKEY)

By Sean Leahy | Puck Daddy

BOSTON -- Now that the playoffs are over, the injury information will finally be revealed and we'll know exactly what kind of bumps and bruises the Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins were dealing with.

When Patrice Bergeron left Game 5 after playing just 6 minutes and 6 seconds, the rumors about what happened to him ranged from a back injury to a ruptured spleen. Neither were correct as Bergeron told the media after the Game 6 loss in the Stanley Cup Final.

The Bruins forward said he was dealing with a broken rib, torn cartilage and muscles and a separated shoulder, which Bergeron said he suffered Monday night.

"It’s Stanley Cup Final, everyone’s banged up, everyone wants to help the team," he said. "Obviously I couldn't do that in Game 5. It was mostly because they were worried about my spleen being hurt, so that's why we had to go to the hospital. But everything was fine so it was just the ribs, and the muscles, and the soft tissue. So obviously I would’ve liked to stay in it but I was going through a lot of pain."

Bergeron played 17:45 in Game 6 and was 5-for-11 on faceoffs. It was noticeable during pre-game warmups how gingerly he was skating around. Now we know just what kind of pain he was dealing with, and the kind of injuries these players fight through in order to help their team win a Stanley Cup.

Eight minutes away from forcing a Game 7 only to have the Blackhawks make a dramatic comeback to win the Cup will be a hard memory to forget for Bergeron and the Bruins.

"You work so hard just to get to this point and give yourself a chance to get the Cup," he said. "And you feel like you’re right there, and you have a chance to force Game 7, and definitely it hurts. It doesn't work your way. Have to give credit to Chicago. They played a great series. But at the same time, it's the last thing you want to say.

"It hurts to see them hoisting the cup."

Friday, June 7, 2013

LeBron James Says Paul Pierce is His Biggest Rival

By Mark Evans | Yahoo! Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | Throughout his time in the NBA, people have been looking for the perfect rival for LeBron James. At first, it appeared that Kobe Bryant would fit this mold. Then, the media was quick to build up a potential rivalry with Kevin Durant as Durant was developing into one of the league's best players. Of course, the matchup between the two in last year's NBA Finals played into this.

With this being said, a clear cut rival hasn't quite emerged for LeBron. This is fine, and part of this is certainly the media trying to create hype.

When asked who his biggest rival is, LeBron James had an interesting answer: Paul Pierce.

This makes sense, as the Boston Celtics for a little while were the team that LeBron could never seem to get by, particularly while he was a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Also, James and Pierce had an epic battle in the Eastern Conference Semifinals the year the Celtics won the championship. James is clearly the better player, but Pierce has always found a way to step up his game when the two square off.

Is LeBron right here?

Obviously, players such as Durant and Bryant are closer to being on LeBron's level. However, LeBron has never faced Kobe's Los Angeles Lakers in the playoffs, thus making it hard for them to be true rivals. Prior to last year, the same could be said with LeBron and Durant. The Miami Heat clearly dominated Durant's Oklahoma City Thunder in the process of winning a championship, making it hard to call Durant a true rival.

It's probably safer to say that the Boston Celtics as a whole were LeBron's greatest rival in the earlier parts of his career, including Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, and Rajon Rondo along with Pierce. Even as recently as last year, it took LeBron's Heat a full seven games to knock Boston out of the playoffs. With Pierce being the leader of most of these teams, it's not too much of a stretch to indirectly call him LeBron's closest rival.

Looking forward, one would have to believe that Kevin Durant is the most likely candidate to become LeBron's rival. The Thunder and Heat look fit to arrive in the NBA Finals multiple times over the next few seasons, possibly setting up some more battles between the two. Additionally, it appears that James and Durant will be the top two players in the league for the foreseeable future.

For now, this is a huge compliment for Paul Pierce. When the best player in the world talks about you like this, you must be doing something right.

Mark lives in the Boston area and has been covering the Celtics for 3 years. He has been featured on Fox Sports Yardbarker, Fox Sports, and Sports Illustrated "Hot Clicks", and has been published on Celtics 24/7, Bleacher Report, and Sports-Kings .


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Robbie Rogers makes U.S. sports history as first openly gay male athlete to play in pro league

By Martin Rogers | Yahoo! Sports

CARSON, Calif. – It was the first time it happened and hopefully the last time it will matter.

Late into Sunday night, Robbie Rogers stood on the sideline at the Home Depot Center, took a deep breath, gave the slightest of smiles and stepped into United States sporting and social history by becoming the first openly gay male athlete to play in an American pro sports league.

That's a lengthy description for a seminal moment that perhaps shouldn't matter anymore, but it still does because decades of intolerance are not undone overnight and because acts of human courage like those of Rogers and Jason Collins deserve recognition.

It mattered to the crowd of 24,811 in this suburb just south of Los Angeles, mattered just enough to give Rogers a rousing welcome and a standing ovation, yet not too much to totally overshadow a resounding 4-0 trouncing of the Seattle Sounders.

Which, of course, is exactly what Rogers wanted.

"I just want to be treated like anyone else," he said. "And the guys made it real easy. Being four goals up made my experience very enjoyable. There was no pressure at all. I could just take it all in."

Rogers had many friends and family in the crowd but, quite correctly, there was no great fanfare. His name was not even announced immediately before kickoff as he was one of the substitutes and not a starter.

Major League Soccer is not perfect and its highest-profile club, the Galaxy, has its share of detractors. But both parties handled the acquisition of Rogers and the process leading up to his entrance in the 77th minute on Sunday with class and common sense that other American leagues may borrow when they face the same situation in the future.

In reality, the 26-year-old could not have wished for a more comfortable L.A. debut, coming on for the final rites of a game the Galaxy effectively won in the first half thanks to a hat trick from Robbie Keane.

Rogers announced his retirement from soccer along with his sexuality in a blog post written with the help of a few glasses of wine on February 15, and he would not have undone that decision for another club other than the Galaxy – who are situated a mere 15 miles from his childhood home of Rancho Palos Verdes.

There was a wish to be close to his family – to allow their support to assist him through his return to the game and to be on a team with established stars who naturally command most of the attention. To make that happen, some moves needed to be made as the Chicago Fire owned his rights were he ever to return from a spell in England with Leeds United and Stevenage Borough.

But the deal got done and here he was, entering the field, stooping to pick a blade of grass and getting a slap on the back from Landon Donovan. The game had petered out by the time he arrived and nothing of value could be learned by 14 meaningless minutes of playing time, a fact not lost on head coach Bruce Arena.

"Robbie did well, did well with the lead up to all this," Arena said. "He won't be judged on tonight or the next couple of weeks."

Rogers wants to be judged on his ability alone and in that sense he has tough shoes to fill. The Galaxy acquired Rogers' rights in a trade with the Fire and was forced to give up Mike Magee, one of their most productive and popular contributors, as part of the bargain.

To effectively replace Magee, Rogers will need to show the kind of talent that has earned him 18 appearances for the United States men's national team. The wide spaces of the Home Depot Center should suit his explosive speed and all-action style.

"Robbie is a good player and I said to him, 'Don't retire because you are coming out,' " said Seattle coach Sigi Schmid, who has known Rogers since the player was seven years old and with whom he won an MLS Cup with the Columbus Crew in 2008. "It was a good moment. Fortunately our society is more cognizant of people's personal choices now."

Sadly, other parts of the world may not be, at least in a soccer sense, which is why Rogers felt there was no way he could continue in England after coming out. Some of the worst elements of society lamentably still populate European soccer stadiums, where sickened minds concoct unrepeatable chants against opposition players, including homophobic jargon regardless of the player's true sexuality.

But one of the most likeable things about MLS is that its relative newness means it is untarnished by some of the beautiful game's ugliest traits. That is why Robbie Rogers is here, as himself, comfortable in his own skin and feeling at home.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Maria Sharapova Dishes About 'Refreshing' Relationship With Grigor Dimitrov

Written by: ThePostGame Staff

Maria Sharapova hasn't been too keen on letting the press into her relationship with fellow pro Grigor Dimitrov, but in a surprisingly open interview with USA Today, she uncharacteristically gushes about Dimitrov -- and says dating a younger man (Dimitrov is 22 years old) is "refreshing."

"Maybe it makes me really young, too, inside, which is good," Sharapova, 26, told the newspaper.

As for what she's looking for in a man, she says: "It's about finding the person where you can be yourself all the time, where you're comfortable with being younger girl, the older girl, the mature girl, and the person that understands you and look at you and say you're completely off your rocker!

"I have so many things going on in my life and I really love them. Of course I want someone to be by my side to enjoy them. You know, I can jump on a plane tomorrow and go somewhere because I want to do it. And it's really important that that person respects me for the decisions that I make and the things that I do in my life."

She did not, however, offer any of her tips about outrunning the paparazzi.

The two were first spotted cozying up on a Madrid street earlier this month. Sharapova ended her engagement to basketball player Sasha Vujacic last year.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Utah referee Ricardo Portillo dies days after being punched in head by rec league soccer player

By Cameron Smith | Prep Rally

Prep Rally previously brought you a deeply disturbing story from Utah, where a teen soccer player had punched a recreational soccer referee in the head, landing him in critical condition at an area hospital. Now that tale has taken an even more tragic turn after the referee in question died from complications related to injuries suffered in the attack.

As reported by the Associated Press and a variety of Utah news outlets, 46-year-old Ricardo Portillo died Saturday at Intermountain Medical Center in Murray, Utah, just outside Salt Lake City. The referee had been hospitalized there since the attack on April 27, where Portillo issued a yellow card to a player in a recreational match and was attacked by the player with a strong punch to his head.

The AP has reported that the player in question was a goalie, competing in a game at Taylorsville (Utah) Eisenhower Junior High. The yellow card was connected with a play on a corner kick, where Portillo saw the goalkeeper in question push an opponent and decided the action was worthy of a formal caution. As he wrote down the goalie’s name in his notebook, the player reportedly snuck up alongside the ref and punched him directly in the head.

"When he was writing down his notes, he just came out of nowhere and punched him," Johanna Portillo, the victim’s daughter, told the AP.

Portillo’s reaction to the punch was not immediate, but was frightening. The 46-year-old reportedly said he felt fine in the immediate aftermath of the attack, but then asked to be held up because he felt dizzy. Portillo then sat down on the field and began vomiting blood, eliciting panicked calls for an emergency ambulance at the field.

The goalie in question has since been booked into juvenile detention on suspicion of aggravated assault, though he could face additional charges now that Portillo has died. There has also been an ongoing debate about whether to charge the teen as an adult, despite the fact that he is 17 and not 18-years-old.

The now-deadly attack is just the latest disturbing example of aggressive action against referees going far beyond the realm of what is even remotely acceptable. More often it has been parents attacking referees, though players have occasionally gone beyond the realm of the reasonable in their reactions as well.

Most recently, a parent of an athlete in a Nebraska 7th grade church basketball league was attacked and had his glasses snapped in half. Similarly, a March youth hockey game in Hamilton, Ontario was the site of a parental attack on a referee who had the temerity (in their eyes) to break up a potential fight between players of the teams in the game was was officiating.

Perhaps the most disturbing attack before the Taylorsville tragedy came in Florida in 2011, where a group of players and coaches violently attacked a referee at a Sarasota youth football game.

Youth and prep soccer hasn't been free of violence in the past, either. While former New Mexico women's soccer player Elizabeth Lambert remains the benchmark for aggressive and violent play, Lewisville (S.C.) High athlete Annette McCullough received an assault charge for aggressive attacking a foe in a 2012 game and, in Utah, Salt Lake City (Utah) East High senior Petiola Manu was notably caught violently kneeing a foe during a game as well.

One can only hope that the lessons from this attack -- and the subsequent jail time that the teen in question is likely to serve -- will provide ample deterrent for future athletes and parents who struggle to contain their emotions in the midst of what is just a game, even if similar incidents in the past haven't succeeded in doing so.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Messi's brilliance lifts Barcelona to improbable Champions League comeback

by Martin Rogers  

 Lionel Messi produced one of the most dazzling displays of his career to lead Barcelona to a stirring Champions League comeback against AC Milan on Tuesday and created a slice of tournament history along the way.

Picking a favorite from Messi's seemingly endless feats of brilliance, which seem to happen on a weekly basis, is a fool's errand, yet there is little doubt that the importance of this contest gives it extra weight.

Barca was facing elimination after a 2-0 defeat in the first leg of its round-of-16 clash against Italian giant AC Milan, a deficit from which no team had ever recovered in the Champions League's 21 seasons of existence. Yet, with a flick of his left cleat just five minutes into the contest, Messi sent his side on their way to an inspired 4-0 victory that kept alive the club's dream of adding to its modern dynasty of three European titles in the past six years.

Messi added a second goal just before halftime to suck the life out of Milan, and the one-way traffic continued after the break. David Villa put Barca ahead on aggregate after 56 minutes, before Jordi Alba added a fourth in the dying moments.

Messi has occasionally struggled for the Argentina national team, but his efforts for his club side have been virtually flawless. Yet, if there was one knock on him before it was that he had often struggled to produce his brilliant best against Italian teams and their steely defensive structure. In eight previous Champions League games against Italian opposition, Messi had only scored three times, all of them from penalty kicks, leading some over-confident Milan supporters to proclaim their team had his measure from open play.

But on this night, the little Argentinean with the magic feet showed the folly of that belief – and in the theory that there could be another player on the planet to match him, despite Cristiano Ronaldo’s superb season for Real Madrid.

Ronaldo rose to the top of one arbitrary media poll this week as the world's best player, but for all his explosive excellence he remains a shade behind Messi, no question about it, mainly because the Barcelona man does things that no other players would think of, let alone execute.

For his first goal on Tuesday he was surrounded, mobbed by a posse of five Milan defenders, but it mattered not. One perfect touch drew two men away, a nudge of the ball creating the tiniest fraction of space, and that was all he needed.

A split second later the ball was in the back of the net, all before goalkeeper Christian Abbiati had any idea what was going on.

The second was a different goal but a similar story. Messi's left foot was responsible again, firing home from the edge of the penalty area as the Milan defense was once more left powerless.

A few moments earlier, M'baye Niang had Milan's best chance of the night when he charged clear on goal but struck his effort against the post. However, even if the visitors had re-established their two-goal advantage, it would have been hard to imagine them staving off the Barca juggernaut.

On this evidence it would take either bravery or foolhardiness to bet against Barca regaining its Champions League crown, and its fiercest challenge may come in the form of hated Spanish rival Madrid, and their talisman Ronaldo.

Yet Barca seems to be in the mindset of quieting the doubters right now, just like Messi is himself.

The Spanish league title is pretty much in the books for Barca and another Champions League crown would surely lead to a fifth straight world player of the year award for Messi.

With each fresh display of excellence, it becomes harder to think of what Messi could possibly do for an encore, though Barcelona will happily settle for more of the same.

Monday, March 4, 2013

After another brutal fight, should Wanderlei Silva walk away from mixed martial arts?

After nine minutes and eight seconds of unmitigated violence Saturday, Wanderlei Silva was, once again, on top of the mixed martial arts worlds.

Silva isn't about titles or decision wins or game plans. He's as fierce a fighter who has ever stepped foot into a cage, a guy who cares more about bringing the fans from their seats than having his arm raised.

He managed to do both on Saturday, sending the crowd at the Saitama Super Arena in Tokyo into delirium with a brutal knockout of Brian Stann at 4:08 of the second round in one of the great slugfests in UFC history.

Returning to the arena where he made his reputation as one of the sport's most exciting fighters while starring in the PRIDE Fighting Championship, Silva survived a back-and-forth shootout with the ex-Marine hero by landing an overhand right and a left hook with about a minute left in the second.

Stann went down and Silva landed four punches from the top before referee Marc Godard stepped in to halt it.

[Also: UFC on Fuel 8 fighter bonuses: Silva tops list]

If Silva had lost, it likely would have been his final fight. He hasn't won two in a two since 2005-2006 and he's taken a brutal amount of punishment en route to becoming one of the sport's most beloved warriors.

Instead of going out on a loss, though, perhaps it's time for the 36-year-old to walk away on his own terms. He'd be leaving after one of his most memorable wins, won while standing and trading toe-to-toe with one of the sport's most heavy-handed punchers.

Silva loves to fight – and entertain – so much that he'll probably never go willingly. Retiring is likely the last thing on his mind.

It would be, however, a wonderful way to go out, winning in Japan in a typically brutal Silva style.

"I'm so happy," said an emotional Silva, who wrapped himself in the Brazilian flag and jumped into the stands to embrace several fans before heading back to the locker room. "Thanks to [UFC president] Dana White; thanks to the UFC for the wonderful opportunity to fight here."

It was a show from the minute the bell rang until the second that Godard jumped in to stop it. For the most part, it wasn't technique or strategy. It was guts, heart, power and courage, as they stood in front of each other and fired haymakers.

Stann seemed to badly hurt Silva twice in the first round, but Silva got in plenty of his shots and appeared to break Stann's nose. Blood was gushing from Stann's nose from the early moments of the fight.

The end came when, with both men standing square to the other, their feet wide apart, Silva fired a looping right that caught Stann on the cheek. He quickly followed with a left hook and Stann fell to the canvas.

Silva landed four shots on the ground to prompt the end.

The loss continued a disappointing trend for Stann, who has lost the majority of his most significant matches in the UFC. Stann has now lost three of his last four fights, with a knockout of Alessio Sakara his only win compared to losses to Chael Sonnen, Michael Bisping and Silva.

Stann, though, played a big role in the entertaining match and was classy as usual afterward.

"I knew what I had at risk when I signed on the dotted line to face Wanderlei, fighting here in Japan," Stann said. "Wanderlei is one of my favorite fighters ever. He inspired me to start in this sport. I'm proud to be a part of his career, as much as this hurts. My heart is broken, but I'm proud I fought him."

Stann landed hard, and hurt Silva several times. Silva has been hurt far too often in his career, knocked cold on many occasions. He's one of the classiest guys away from the cage and one of its grittiest competitors inside of it.

It would be great to see him walk away, his health intact, and go out on top.

Much like one-time rival Chuck Liddell, though, it's that love of the fight and the gunslinger's mentality that will bring him back.

It may not end pretty for Wanderlei Silva, but it was a wonderfully violent nine minutes on Saturday.
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