Friday, April 29, 2016

2012 Summer Olympics: Breeds Inspirational Athletes

Watching the Olympics is a favorite pastime that I hold. I do not necessarily have a favorite sport. I am more attracted to the overall history of the Olympics, the excitement of the events, and the perseverance of the competitors. I live for admirable stories. All of the athletes dedicate themselves to their sport, practicing almost daily giving it their all. It is their dream and aspiration to reach the Olympics and they allow us to experience their joy in accomplishing such a wonderful goal. I am proud of each and every athlete regardless of the medal that they receive. Just being able to compete in the Olympics is a celebratory achievement. Gratification is evident in their expressions. The exhilaration of the audience is contagious.

While all have special stories, some have struggled more than others to get where they are today. Someone or something gave them the motivation and inspiration to keep on going. One woman stands out to me today. Imagine not being able to afford running shoes? Gladys Tejada did not have running shoes, however, she kept running. Gladys Tejada is making history this year as the first Peruvian to qualify for the Olympics. Ms. Tejada was raised in an extremely poor family in Peru. Her mother inspired her to keep moving forward. When she realized that her country was not well represented, she knew what she had to do. Click here for her story.

Despite setbacks that Gladys experienced she kept moving forward to where she is today, the 2012 London Summer Olympics. Herein lies proof that while struggle is evident, anything is possible when you believe in your abilities.

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2012 NFL Playoff TV Schedule

From the NFC’s No. 1 seed Green Bay Packers (15-1) to the AFC’s No. 1 seed New England Patriots (13-3), the 2011-12 NFL playoffs will feature 12 of the best teams of the regular season. With four teams (Packers, Patriots, San Francisco 49ers, Baltimore Ravens) receiving first round byes and 10 playoff games in total before Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis, Indiana, the 2012 NFL playoffs should be an exciting series of postseason games.

2012 NFL Playoff TV Schedule

Saturday, Jan. 7

AFC Wild-Card Round: No. 6 Cincinnati Bengals (9-7) at No. 3 Houston Texans (10-6), 4:30 p.m. ET (NBC)

NFL Wild-Card Round: No. 6 Detroit Lions (10-6) at No. 3 New Orleans Saints (13-3), 8 p.m. ET (NBC)

Sunday, Jan. 8

NFC Wild-Card Round: No. 5 Atlanta Falcons (10-6) at No. 4 New York Giants (9-7), 1 p.m. ET (FOX)

AFC Wild-Card Round: No. 5 Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4) at No. 4 Denver Broncos (8-8), 4:30 p.m. ET (CBS)

Saturday, Jan. 14

NFC Divisional Round: Highest remaining seed at No. 2 San Francisco 49ers (13-3), 4:30 p.m. ET (FOX)

AFC Divisional Round: Lowest remaining seed at No. 1 New England Patriots (13-3), 8 p.m. ET (CBS)

Sunday, Jan. 15

AFC Divisional Round: Highest remaining seed at No. 2 Baltimore Ravens (12-4), 1 p.m. ET (CBS)

NFC Divisional Round: Lowest remaining seed at No. 1 Green Bay Packers (15-1), 4:30 p.m. ET (FOX)

Sunday, Jan. 22

AFC Championship Game: Winners of two AFC Divisional Round games playing at the site of the higher remaining seed, TBD (CBS)

NFC Championship Game: Winners of two NFC Divisional Round games playing at the site of the higher remaining seed, TBD (FOX)

Sunday, Feb. 5

Super Bowl XLVI: AFC Champion vs. NFC Championship at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, IN, 6:30 p.m. ET (NBC)


2012 NFL playoff schedule, ESPN

More from this contributor:

2012 NFL Wild-Card Round Playoff TV Schedule

2011-12 College Football Bowl TV Schedule

2011 NFL Week 16 Regional TV Schedule for December 24

Golden State Warriors 2011-2012 National TV Schedule

San Francisco Giants 2012 Spring Training Schedule

Follow this contributor on Twitter @_austinchang.

Tags:2012 NFL Playoff TV Schedule

2012 Outback Bowl: Michigan State Vs Georgia - Preview, Prediction, and Pick Against the Spread

Michigan State and Georgia go head-to-head in the 2012 Outback Bowl. The Outback Bowl is one of three bowl games to feature a matchup of the SEC and Big Ten. Georgia and Michigan State both played in their conference championship games with the Bulldogs losing to LSU and the Spartans taking a loss against Wisconsin.

Michigan State went 7-1 in Big Ten Conference play this season and finished 10-3 overall. The Spartans losses came to Notre Dame, Nebraska, and Wisconsin. The Spartans are currently ranked #17 in the country. The Georgia Bulldogs started 0-2 with losses to Bosie State and South Carolina, but then they reeled of 10 straight wins and earned a spot in the SEC title game. Georgia lost the title game to #1 LSU 42-10. The Bulldogs are ranked #16 in college football heading into the 2012 Outback Bowl

When Georgia is on Offense

The Bulldogs’ offense ranked 34th in the nation scoring 32.2 points per game this season. The key to the Georgia offense is balance. The Bulldogs average 172 yards on the ground and 241 yards passing per game. Sophomore quarterback Aaron Murray threw for 2861 yards and 33 touchdowns this season. There is still plenty of room for improvement for Murray who only completed 58% of his passes and threw 12 interceptions while taking 28 sacks. There were high expectations for freshman running back Isaiah Crowell, but he had a roller coaster type season. Crowell showed flashes of brilliance but was inconsistent. Freshman wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell led the team in receiving yards with 614 yards.

The Spartans’ defense ranked 9th in the country allowing only 17.5 points per game. Michigan State is coming off a game against Wisconsin in which they gave up a season high 42 points. The Spartans were successful rushing the passer this season and finished 4th in the nation with 41 sacks. They should be able to get to Aaron Murray and force the sophomore quarterback into mistakes.

When Michigan State is on Offense

Michigan State averaged 30.8 points per game this season. Senior quarterback Kirk Cousins was solid this year completing 65% of his passes for 3016 yards and 24 touchdowns. Cousins has two reliable senior receivers in B.J Cunningham and Keshawn Martin. Cunningham caught 72 passes for 1240 yards and Martin hauled in 62 passes for 742 yards. Le’Von Bell and Edwin Baker split carries at running back this season and combined for 1555 yards and 16 touchdowns.

Georgia’s defense was 16th in the nation allowing 19.6 points per game. Like Michigan State, the Bulldogs allowed 42 points to their opponents (LSU) in the conference title game. Linebacker Jarvis Jones is second in the nation with 13.5 sacks, and safety Bacarri Rambo was second in college football with 7 interceptions. As a team Georgia had 34 sacks and 17 interceptions this season.

2012 Outback Bowl Pick Against the Spread

Georgia is currently favored by 3.5 points over Michigan State. Both teams had great seasons this year and would love to cap it off with a bowl win. This will be a hard fought game with two very talented defenses going up against good offensive teams. I like Georgia to win the game, but I will take the Spartans with the 3.5 points.

2012 Outback Bowl Prediction

Georgia – 24
Michigan State – 21


Tags:2012 Outback Bowl: Michigan State Vs Georgia - Preview, Prediction, and Pick Against the Spread

2012 NASCAR Season Review – Penske Racing

As many motorsports championships and awards as “The Captain,” Roger Penske has on his bookshelves, one trophy that was missing was NASCAR’s Sprint Cup – missing until now, that is. Brad Keselowski gave Penske his first Cup Series title to follow up the Nationwide Series title Keselowski won back in 2010. The 2012 season for Penske Racing in NASCAR had its ups and downs, but in the end, the “Blue Deuce” put everyone involved on a post-season high.

Brad Keselowski – In just his third full-time season in the Cup Series, Keselowski won his first Chase for the Sprint Cup, backed up by 23 top 10 finishes, including five wins, and an impressive Chase: he won twice, had six additional top 10 finishes, and had a worst finish of 15th in the final race at Homestead-Miami – exactly where he needed to finish to win the title no matter where Jimmie Johnson finished. Keselowski and crew chief Paul Wolfe may be the most in-tune driver/crew chief combination since Tony Stewart and Greg Zipadelli were with Joe Gibbs Racing.

A.J. Allmendinger – Allmendinger had a rough start to the season, and it just got rougher as the season wore on. In the first 17 races of the season, Allmendinger had just three top 10 finishes, including a runner-up finish at Martinsville. Then the train came off the tracks: Allmendinger was suspended by NASCAR after testing positive for a banned substance. The California native, who turns 31 on December 16 th , maintained his innocence, but went through the mandated substance abuse program and regained NASCAR eligibility before the end of the season. He did come back to compete in four of the final six races for James Finch’s Phoenix Racing.

Sam Hornish Jr. – Hornish Jr. became super-sub for Penske, filling in for the rest of the season in the #22 vacated by Allmendinger. After a one-off effort at Kansas in the #12 where he finished 19th, Hornish Jr. completed the schedule in the #22 Dodge, with a season-best finish of fifth at Watkins Glen International. Hornish Jr. also raced full-time for Penske Racing in the Nationwide Series.

Nationwide Series – Hornish Jr. looked much more at home in the #12 Dodge for Penske in the Nationwide Series, earning 22 top 10 finishes on his way to a fourth-place finish in points. The #22 car was split between four drivers during the season: Keselowski, who won three times in 21 races; 18-year-old Ryan Blaney, who competed in seven races and finished second at Texas Motor Speedway in November; Parker Kligerman, who finished in the top 10 twice in three races; and Jacques Villeneuve, who finished sixth and third at Road America and Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, respectively.

Paula is a long-time NASCAR fan who also covers the sport at Skirts & Scuffs and

Tags:2012 NASCAR Season Review – Penske Racing

2012 R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl Preview and Pick Against the Spread: East Carolina Vs. Louisiana-Lafayette

The 2012 R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl will feature East Carolina and Louisiana-Lafayette. East Carolina represents Conference USA after going 7-1 in conference play and 8-4 overall. Louisiana-Lafayette was 6-2 in Sun Belt Conference play and 8-4 overall. The Ragin’ Cajuns and Pirates played one common opponent this season. East Carolina beat Tulane 28-23 and Louisiana-Lafayette beat Tulane 41-13.

When East Carolina is on Offense

The Pirates rank 46th in the nation in scoring at 31.3 points per game. Quarterback Shane Carden completed 66.8% of his passes for 2838 yards, 21 touchdowns, and 9 interceptions. Running back Vintavious Cooper had a solid season averaging 5.4 yards per carry on his way to 1030 yards rushing. Sophomore Justin Hardy was the Pirates top receiver this season catching 83 passes for 1046 yards and 10 touchdowns.

The Ragin’ Cajuns struggled to keep their opponents off the scoreboard this season. Louisiana-Lafayette ranks 61st in the nation in scoring defense giving up an average of 27.6 points per game. They gave up 65 points in a game against Oklahoma State this year and 50 points against Arkansas State. As a team, the Ragin Cajuns had 26 sacks and 12 interceptions. Safety Rodney Gillis was a playmaker on defense and had 5 interceptions this season.

When Louisiana-Lafayette is on Offense

Louisiana-Lafayette’s offense made up for their poor defensive showings. The Ragin’ Cajuns rank 33rd in the country scoring an average of 34.8 points per game. Sophomore quarterback Terrance Broadway was the key to the offense this season. Broadway completed 65% of his passes for 2526 yards, and he ran for 661 yards and 8 scores. Alonzo Harris is a big running back (6’1″ 220 lbs) and picked up big yards (761) this season. When the Ragin’ Cajuns throw the football they like to spread it around with four different receivers going over 500 yards on the season.

East Carolina’s defense was even worse than Louisiana-Lafayette’s this season, and they rank 86th in the nation in scoring defense giving up an average of 30.7 points per game. They gave up 56 points to Navy, a team that only averaged 24.8 points per game. As a unit, the ECU defense had 25 sacks and only 9 interceptions.

2012 R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl Pick Against the Spread

Oddsmakers currently have Louisiana-Lafayette favored by 6 points over East Carolina. Both teams struggled defensively this season and this game could turn into a shoot out. Ragin’ Cajun quarterback Terrance Broadway is a talented playmaker and should have a big game against a poor Pirate defense. I’ll take Louisiana-Lafayette to win and cover the 6 points.

Prediction: Louisiana-Lafayette 42 – East Carolina 34

More From This Contributor

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Tags:2012 R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl Preview and Pick Against the Spread: East Carolina Vs. Louisiana-Lafayette

2012 Summer Concert Tours and Music Festivals Worth Traveling For

Summertime always brings cool concert tours and music festivals happening all across America. There’s a wide range of tours along with music festivals that bring together many artists in one place. Here’s are five of this summer’s must-see music tours and festivals.

Van Halen

To me, this is the biggest musical tour in years: the reunion of the original (almost) Van Halen! I can’t wait to see Diamond David Lee Roth himself, along with Eddie Van Halen shredding on the guitar. The new member is Eddie’s son Wolfgang, who replaced long-time member Michael Anthony on the bass guitar.

The band is on an epic tour of the U.S., and I would check them out in Oakland, California, at the Oracle Arena on June 3, 2012. This would allow me to stay in Marin County, just north of San Francisco and some of the most beautiful country in America. I would stay in the Napa Valley at the Hotel Yountville and do some wine tasting. It’s about an hour north of the arena.

Lady Antebellum

Country stars Lady Antebellum are out on tour this summer, and I really think they bring a great blend of country, rock, and even some rhythm and blues thrown in. I would wait and see them on June 30, 2012, at the Milwaukee Summerfest. It’s their last show before leaving for Europe, and there’s a lot of other cool bands at that festival to check out (like Chicago, ZZ Top, The Roots, Thievery Corporation, and more). This is a cheap one to attend – three-day passes are only $36, with single-day tickets priced at $14. if you stay at the Hilton Milwaukee with their Summerfest Special, you get two tickets to Summerfest, plus two free drinks, for $196 per night.

Lady Antebellum is very involved with their fans, and if you join their fan community, you can request access to meet and greets with the band in each city they play.

311 Cruise

I like 311; they combine punk, rock, ska, reggae, and a lot of other flavors to make some great music. While the band does have a summer tour, many shows with the band Slightly Stoopid, I think the best way to see them is on their own Caribbean cruise, the 311 Cruise. The cruise leaves Miami on May 10, 2012, and travels to a private island before returning four days later. It’s like a music festival at sea, with The Dirty Heads, Shwayze, and many other performers also on the ship. Inside cabins start at $699, double occupancy.

All Good Music Festival

This is another destination that would be great to travel to this summer, allowing music fans to see a whole group of similar artists. The All Good Music Festival and Campout happens just outside of Columbus, Ohio, and features jam bands like The Allman Brothers, G Love and Special Sauce, The Flaming Lips, and more. A four-day pass is $189 when purchased online in advance.


Yanni is back, and he’s touring the U.S. with a full orchestra. It’s a musical experience that combines new age with world music and also Yanni’s Greek heritage. I would check out the July 13, 2012, show at the spectacular Red Rocks Amphitheatre just outside Denver, Colorado. The venue is carved out of a natural canyon and would make a great setting to hear Yanni’s spiritual music. The Sheraton Denver West is a nice hotel near the venue.

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2012 Volkswagen Polo: It's Not About Raw Speed but Fuel Mileage

The fifth generation VW Polo is headed to the U.S. in 2011 as a 2012
model. Its size will be between the European Polo’s 156.3 inch overall
length and the 9 inch longer Golf.

The car will have an impressive amount of space inside given its
limited outside dimensions. It will seat four six-footers for a reasonable
length trip. It will have high quality materials and very good fit and finish
meaning that it will look and feel as if it is priced at thousands more than it

Likely engines for the U.S. Polo will include a 1.4-litr naturally aspired
4-cylider or a 1.2-liter turbo four making 84 hp or 103 hp. These engines will
return 39.8 mpg and 42.7 mpg respectively. Additionally, a 1.2-liter Blue
Tooth diesel will deliver 71.3 mpg.

On the move, the Polo is impressive as it drives like a much bigger car,
and it has the surefootedness and buttoned down structure of the Golf.

The Polo does not focus on performance but rather has reasonable
performance in that the 1.2-liter turbo diesel gets to 60 in 9.7 seconds
and it has a top end of 118 miles per hour. The engine’s 129 lb ft. of
torque between 1500 and 3500 rpm is more than adequate.

The VW Polo, a smaller Volkswagen with the company’s same old
great qualities!

Kyle Busch is the author of “Drive the Best for the Price…” He
welcomes your comments or car questions at his auto web site:

Tags:2012 Volkswagen Polo: It’s Not About Raw Speed but Fuel Mileage

2012 Women's Office Wear Fashion Trends

Spring is a season full of new beginnings. As nature is refreshed by the intermittent showers of the early months, new life is ushered in by a great renewing energy and the future opens up to new promise.

Color sprouts up all around us as flowers bloom and express their delicate pinks, soft lavenders, and purest whites. In fact, an added bonus to the season of spring is the fresh color and the clean styles that seem to always make their way into topics; both about the nature of the time, and the fashion.

In fact, fashion seems to have a great deal to do with spring. It too ushers in rebirth and change. When spring comes along, it is always out with the old and in with the new when it comes to fashion. There is effort made with fashion every year in order to make it mingle with spring. Designers want fresh colors and clean, crisp styles. And sometimes that which has been done is refreshed during this time as well.

Take women’s career wear. The pantsuit, the skirt suit, the blazers, the heels; they have all been done and, each year, they are done again. The difference from the present year’s usual career wear for women and past year’s is the current color palette and the new flare of the now designers.

So, what is the 2012 spring agenda for women’s career wear fashion trends? What is the plan in order to maintain that grounded working mentality in women, the comfortable feel to the clothes themselves, and still keep it classy and sheik?

This year’s women’s career fashion trends will see the usual themes in pantsuits and skirt suits and black will be the foundation of the ensemble. The spark of genius will be with the splash of color in the shoes and/or the blouses. It is not about “office wear” this year, when a woman wears an all black skirt suit with a powder blue blouse underneath and powder blue shoes, a classy working woman is all anyone will see. The color of choice this season will be aqua and some examples can be found in Escada and Gian franco ferre.

Aside from the subtle color that will be found in this year’s women’s career wear, proper accessories are key. A good handbag, scarf, briefcase, and jewelry are a small token that adds so much taste to an outfit. Some good, inexpensive pieces can be found at or macys. Shoes can be found at zappos.

When it comes to women’s career wear fashion trends, a lasting impression comes from creating the whole package with subtle color, a good shoe, and classy accessories this spring.

Tags:2012 Women’s Office Wear Fashion Trends

2012 Saint Louis Earth Day Events

Earth Day, April 22, is right around the corner! It wasn’t that long ago that Earth Day was a small impact day celebrated by teachers and children at school and by environmentalists. However, today, it’s different. Environmental awareness has reached a point where most of us make a conscious effort to preserve our natural resources. So what can we do on Earth Day? Consider festivals, volunteering, or simply reducing your environmental impact to help increase awareness about the importance of preserving the Earth.

Family Fun! Make a day of it with your children: Earth Day is a great way to help educate children about protecting the Earth and to have fun, too! Drop-in to the Missouri Botanical Garden’s Great Green Adventures and explore the Chinese Garden with hands-on activities, games, and stories for kids ages 6-12: Saturday, April 21 – 10:30 am-1:30 pm –

Or get your Earth Day passport for the stations located throughout the zoo. Simply pick up a map at the zoo entrance locating the stations and get your passport stamped at each station to spell a mystery word and get a prize at the zoo exit! Make butterfly wings, learn about composting and trash-free lunches, learn to identify local frog calls, and make a wish to add to the giant birthday cake! Earth Day at the Zoo: Party for the Planet: Sunday, April 22 – 11 am – 3 pm, St. Louis Zoo

Let’s Make a Date! Earth Day makes for a good couples event! The Saint Louis Earth Day Festival provides live entertainment, food vendors, Schlafly products, art vendors and more! Its great for kids, too! Get your face painted and make musical instruments and masks out of recycled materials for the All Species Parade! Don’t forget to take the Earth Day Challenge on their website! Sunday, April 22 – 11 am- 6 pm, Forest Park, Muny Grounds

Strapped for Time? Try celebrating by turning your lights off for an evening! Earth Hour ( is over for the year, but do it yourself at home on Earth Day!

Want to Make a Difference? Plant flowers to decrease carbon dioxide in the air, set up composting in your yard, or recycle those hard to recycle items at the Recycling Extravaganza – 9 am-3 pm, St. Louis Community College Forest Park campus, off Oakland Avenue

What Else? There are many more Earth Day activities on and around Earth Day. Start with this calendar:

Tags:2012 Saint Louis Earth Day Events

2013-2014 NBA Western Conference Picks

Commentary| The 2013-2014 NBA season is upon us, the main focus for teams in the west, “Where do we fit in at”. The race for the eight playoffs spots in the west are always tight, this year will prove to be any different. Health is a concern for a few teams, can Kobe come back and dominate, will Russel be the same player after his surgery and will Doc Rivers bring a championship to LA LA land. Here are my Western Conference picks for the 2013-2014 NBA season:

  • 1. San Antonio Spurs: Why do we continue to bet against this team. They have to be foaming at the mouth right now due to their infamous choke in the finals last year. Tony parker, Tim Duncan and Ginobili are back, with help. Superstar in the making Kawhi Leonard has put the free throws misses behind him, Danny Green is ready to break the NBA single season record for threes. It all comes down to the decisions of Gregg Popovich, oh boy.
  • 2. Los Angeles Clippers: Can a coach really make a difference? Will Blake Griffins game ever mature beyond the lob, will Chris Paul stop being the best? This team loaded, they have the talent, signing JJ Redick, Jared Dudley, Darren Collision and a great pick up in Byron Mullens. If they fail now, they can no longer blame Vinnie, right.
  • 3. Houston Rockets: Dwight Howard has finally made a decision, was it right or wrong? Everyone o[in Rocket land is ecstatic over his decision , everyone except Omer Asik, who had a breakout year last year now he is coming off the bench. James Harden is ready to take his place as the best two guard in the league. Will Jeremy Lin have another disappointing season?
  • 4. Oklahoma City Thunder: For years, the critics have dogged Russell Westbrook, but when he went down in the playoffs last year, everyone saw that OKC could not win without him. Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka and Reggie Jackson have to realize there are still games to be played, keep things afloat for a while. This team is too good and experienced to fall out of the playoff picture.
  • 5. Golden State Warriors: Win by design, or by luck and you are expected to keep winning, can the warriors keep things moving in the right direction? Stephen Curry has placed his name among the best point guards today, Klay Thompson, if left open will rain threes down all game long. Harrison Barnes will contend for sixth man of the year, now that the talented Andre Iguodala is onboard. A healthy David Lee, a walking double- double and Andrew Bogut could have Golden State come close to the conference finals.
  • 6. Los Angeles Lakers: I am a fan. If you know anything about Kobe, you know he is not going out like this. Will he return from injury, of course, how will Pau Gasol react to having the post all alone. Can Nash beat father time and play with some passion. The bench went thru an overhaul during the off-season with the signings of, Nick Young, Wesley Johnson, Xavier Henry and Jordan Farmar. No more Dwight problems Mike D’Antoni, it is on you now.
  • 7. Minnesota Timberwolves: Health is the key to their season again. Kevin Love is back healthy, and Ricky Rubio is back healthy. Kevin Martin will stretch the floor for Kevin and the emerging star Nikola Pekovic. It is time to put together winning season, all the pieces are there, just have to wait and see how it all plays out.
  • 8. Memphis Grizzles: This team’s window is closing rapidly; players are getting older and not being replaced by younger ones. Zack Randolph and Marc Gasol are still one of the best frontcourt tandems there are in the league. Mike Conley is going to have to up his scoring more after a breakout campaign last year. The writing is on the wall for the Grizzles; do not be surprised if they slip out of the playoffs this year.
  • 9. Dallas Mavericks: Goodbye OJ Mayo, hello Monta Ellis, Mayo would play a little defensive, with Ellis it is all offense and wild shot selections. Dirk s career is winding down and his loyalty to Cuban is going to cost him another championship chance. Bench production should be a little belter this year with Vince Carter, Brandon Wright, Devin Harris and Dejuan Blair. Sorry to see Dirks great career end like this but the front office has to do better.
  • 10. Denver Nuuggets: Team turmoil, George Karl takes a team of over achievers to the playoffs and wins Coach of the year and is fired. Brian Shaw steps into the fire, installing the ever popular but difficult triangle offense. Ty Lawson returns with Danilo Gallinari and Kenneth Faried to form a fast trio. JaVel McGee is back In the middle, being an enigma, sixth man candidate JJ Hickson comes off the bench as an energizer bunny. Given the right bounces, Denver could make a run at the playoffs if they learn the triangle in time.
  • 11. Portland Trailblazers: Young and dangerous, for only half the season, they can never seem to put together a full season. LaMarcus Aldridge is a low block monster and Damian Lillard will soon join the conversation as one of the best point guard in the league. Robin Lopez comes in to man the middle, providing defense and rebounding. The second unit is headed by veteran point guard Mo Williams, and Thomas Robinson, shooters, Nicolas Batum, Dorell wright and rookie CJ McCollum.
  • 12. New Orleans Pelicans: Young and talented, but not quite ready. A year of experience and a true center away from contending. Anthony Davis should continue to put up solid numbers now that he has perimeter help in Eric Gordon, Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans and Ryan Anderson. I cannot wait for a year or two later, the Pelicans will be a force to reckon with.
  • 13. Utah Jazz: Talking about building a team through the draft, this is how you do it. Utah had a fire sale two years and built from the ground up, now it is time for the young players to make their marks on this team. Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward finally get their chance to shine. Rookie Trey Burke takes over the point guard duty with his crazy outside range, Marvin Williams leads the second unit along with Brandon Rush and Richard Jefferson.
  • 14. Sacramento Kings: Is it the coaching, front office or the players but the kings can never put together a solid season. DeMarcus Cousins, even with his mental breakdowns is a beast, worth the risk to keep. Isaiah Thomas has earned his starting position as the point guard, but with the signing of Greivis Vasquez, those days might be over. Rookie Ben McLemore will provide perimeter offense for a team desperately seeking it.
  • 15. Phoenix Suns: Can Eric Bledsoe be the cornerstone for a team? Can Goran Dragic up his level of play? Will Marcin Gortat rebound from a subpar year? The bottom line with the Suns, time for a lottery pick.

Tags:2013-2014 NBA Western Conference Picks

2013 BMW M5: Bottom Line - It’s Barely Street Legal

In the mid 80’s all U.S. (with the exception of the 318i) BMWs were equipped with straight six-cylinder engines. The powerplants were well known for their smoothness and power. In the early 90’s the automaker’s M5 was equipped with a 3.6-liter straight six-cylinder delivering 310 horsepower. For the most part, it was the BMW’s race engine installed in a beefed up 5-Series four-door sedan for the road. It was the quickest four-door sedans on the road. And the result – it gained cult following!

So, what does the new fifth-generation 2013 BMW M5 have to offer?

Of the car, Car and Driver said, “To its $92,000 price, we say: How can BMW possibly sell so few M5s so cheaply?” Thus, if $92,000 seems inexpensive for the M5, it must be quite a road/race car indeed!

BMW’s M division has been moving their race spec engines and chassis closer and closer to the road. And this new M5 is the automaker’s closest version to come off the track and onto the street.

The last M5 had a V10 engine and the new model has two less cylinders but delivers 53 more horsepower as well as 30 percent more torque. Additionally, this M5 gets 30 percent better fuel economy than its predecessor.

The M5’s engine is a twin-turbo 4.4-liter intercooled V8 belting out 560 hp and 502 ft. lb. of torque. The transmission is a seven-speed M Double-Clutch (M-DCT) automatic with manual shifting mode (paddles located behind the steering wheel). It provides exceptionally quick and clean gear changes that are hard to match with a manual gear box. The car’s 0-60 mph time is in 3.7 seconds, and the quarter-mile is finished in 12 seconds flat at 122 mph. The car’s top speed is up to 190 mph. The M5’s wheelbase is now 116.7 inches.

Of note is that this BMW supercar has an auto start/stop feature and brake energy regeneration.

The stopping power is provided by cross-drilled discs at all four corners. They measure race car 15.7 inches at the front (including 6-piston calipers) and 15.6 inches at the rear. The car’s 70-0 mph stopping distance is in 165 feet. The brakes exhibit no fade even after numerous high-speed stops. The tires are Michelin Pilot Super Sports measuring 265 40 19 inch at the front and 295 35 19 inch at the rear, however, 20 inch units are also available.

The exterior of the new M5 is long, sleek and understated. The car’s windshield is highly raked and at the front it has the traditional BMW twin kidney grille plus an air dam with three massive air intakes. From the side the car has a cut line moving from the taillight through the rear and front door handles and into a M5 feeder vent located in the front fender. The car’s coupe like styling hides and deemphasizes the greenhouse glass. At the rear the car has a high trunk lid with a spoiler. The lines are crisp with distinctive taillights that move into the trunk. Dual exhaust pipes are located at the lower left and right.

The interior of the M5 is businesslike and consists of high grade materials including leather and brushed aluminum. The front M seats are supportive and provide extra bolstering. The dash displays clear easy to read gauges. There is a heads up display in the windshield that disappears when the driver wears Polaroid glasses. Buttons on the M steering wheel enable the driver to operate the cruise control, audio and telephone functions. Furthermore, there is the iDrive with a 10.2 inch display and a multifaceted Connected/Drive (as much computing power as you will need).

Standard features on the M5 include dual zone climate control, extended cabin heating, power seats, cruise control, power locks, windows and mirrors, tilt and telescoping steering wheel, front and rear reading lights, AM/FM in-dash single CD player capable of reading MP3s, 13 speakers, front and rear cup holders, and more.

Safety features on the M5 include ABS brakes, stability and traction control, electronic brake force distribution, front and rear air bags, dual front side-mounted air bags, and passenger air bag with sensing deactivation.

The suspension contains many aluminum components and the driver can choose from Comfort, Spot and Sport Plus. This enables comfortable street driving or enhanced responses for track performance. A the front the suspension setup includes upper and lower control arms, coil springs, electronically adjusted tube shocks, and anti-roll bar. At the rear the suspension includes multiple links, coil springs, electronically adjusted tube shocks, and anti-roll bar.

When driven moderately, this M5 is quiet and refined. However, when pushed this BMW is wickedly fast providing acceleration on demand at almost any speed. Regardless of the road, the car provides good ride quality that is buttoned down. It has very little roll in the corners and the weight distribution is just about perfect.

The car’s handling is aided by its Active M Differential that is an electronically controlled multiplate limited slip unit. The car’s differential’s is linked to the Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) system with FlexRay or high speed data transfer technology. If the driver goes into a corner to hard, the differential becomes completely open and it helps the car to point in the right direction to hit the corner’s apex. When the driver then gets back on the power, the system tightens the differential to put the power to the pavement. The steering is rack and pinion with hydraulic assist (rather than electric steering). Thus, the feedback from the wheel is highly rewarding and adds to the M5’s driving pleasure.

The fuel rating of the M5 is 16 city and 24 mpg highway.

The price of the 2013 BMW M5 starts at $92,000. Expensive, yes, but there is a reason this mid-size sport/luxury four-door is at the top on the road or the track.

If you have the resources, be sure to give the BMW M5 a run for your money. And remember to keep in mind as Road and Track puts it, “Make sure you brace your head and neck before stepping on the accelerator when launching the new M5 because as soon as the wide rear Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires grab the driving surface, the forward surge is violent.”

As a matter of fact, it’s barely street legal. And that’s what makes the BMW M5 so darn good!

View the slideshow to see the new 2013 BMW M5 inside and out!

Kyle Busch is the author of “Drive the Best for the Price: How to Buy a Used Automobile, Sport-Utility Vehicle, or Minivan and Save money.” He welcomes your comments or car questions at his auto web site: Follow Kyle on Facebook and Twitter.

Tags:2013 BMW M5: Bottom Line - It’s Barely Street Legal

2012 Tottenham Hotspur Europa League Group Stage Review

Tottenham Hotspur manager Andre Villas-Boas made one thing very clear before the start of the 2012-13 season: Spurs were going to take Europa League seriously this time around. AVB’s Tottenham, unlike Harry Redknapp’s squad from last fall, earned a spot in the knockout stages of Europa League play on Thursday, which may or may not prove to be a positive thing for a Spurs side that has Champions League ambitions for the future. Villas-Boas has thus far done well in rotating players and putting out the best squads on both Spursdays Thursdays and Premier League Sundays.

He’ll have to continue to do just that if Spurs are to flirt with lifting a trophy and/or a top-four league finish.

2012 Tottenham Hotspur Europa League group stage review: The top story

Just as was the case for Tottenham throughout the month of November, the biggest story and most memorable tidbit from the team’s first six Europa League contests was the play of the team’s goalkeepers. French number one Hugo Lloris, acquired by Spurs in August, was unable to surpass American veteran Brad Friedel during Premier League weekends, and Lloris was left relegated to the less-desirable Europa League fixtures. Lloris didn’t let any feelings of disappointment affect his play on the pitch, though, as he surrendered just three goals in over 450 minutes of action. None of those goals could be blamed on Lloris, and at least one was the fault of some shoddy defending (Michael Dawson in the 1-1 draw at Panathinaikos).

Friedel, who has since been replaced by Lloris as AVB’s first choice ‘keeper, got the nod for the team’s last UEL group stage game on December 6. While he put up a serviceable performance in the team’s 3-1 victory, the ageless wonder was again slow to come off his line on multiple occasions, and some even argued that he was poorly positioned and not quick enough to react to the header that leveled the contest early on in the second half.

Regardless of your feelings of what critics often refer to as a “Mickey Mouse competition,” Spurs can take one meaningful thing from their most recent European tour: They have a new starting goalkeeper, one who absolutely has the goods to feature in a much more important European club tournament down the road.

2012 Tottenham Hotspur Europa League group stage review: Not that close

I’ll admit that finishing second in any Europa League group doesn’t reflect well on a club that’s supposed to compete for a Champions League spot, at least it doesn’t on paper. When you really look back at Tottenham’s play during the group stage portion of the competition, however, you see that they weren’t nearly as poor as some suggested. They were incorrectly robbed of (at least) three goals in their two contests against Lazio, and the Serie A team ultimately won the group.

It’s unfair to suggest that Spurs would have won both of those showdowns had justice been done on those days. Imagine, however, that Tottenham would have gotten the calls they earned in just one of those games. That’s a three-point swing in the table (+2 to Spurs and -1 to Lazio), meaning Tottenham, in such a scenario, would have won the group.

Should Spurs have played better at Panathinaikos and at Maribor? Sure. Still, it’s important to remember that the stats don’t tell the whole story about how Tottenham played during step one of this competition. Patience has always been key when dealing with the first several months of the AVB era. That also applies to this competition.

2012 Tottenham Hotspur Europa League group stage review: Is UEL worth it?

That’s the question some Spurs supporters and also some analysts are asking about Tottenham’s Europa League ambitions. By advancing to the knockout stages, Spurs have added at least two additional games to their winter schedule. It’s safe to assume that fatigue will become a serious issue for Spurs if they do make a serious Europa League run during the new year, yes?

I’ll say this regarding such logic: Harry Redknapp saw Europa League as a nuisance and not much more in 2011, playing second and third choice lineups throughout the tournament. Redknapp’s methods landed Spurs out of the tournament after the group stage. We all know how the second half of the Premier League season went for Tottenham. Fatigue and injuries crippled them, they became one of the coldest teams in the league, and they finished fourth in the league table and out of Champions League thanks to Chelsea.

Villas-Boas has a history of taking this competition seriously. Why shouldn’t he? There’s still a trophy on the line, and winning Europa League is a much more impressive feat than is hoisting the FA Cup at the completion of that tournament. Winning breeds winning, as they say, and I want to see my favorite club win each and every time they take the pitch.

2012 Tottenham Hotspur Europa League group stage review: Overall

The opening round of Europa League mimicked the first half of the Premier League season for Spurs. Tottenham started off slow and looked sluggish and out of sorts under their new manager, but they eventually figured things out and notched a couple of important wins. Cynical Spurs fans can say whatever they want about what they view to be a lackluster competition. You can be sure that they’ll be all-in if Tottenham have a chance to deny Chelsea of a trophy, and also if Spurs end up making a potentially historic trip to Amsterdam in May.

Tags:2012 Tottenham Hotspur Europa League Group Stage Review

2012 Week 15 NFL Power Rankings

Sports sure are funny sometimes, and the 2012 NFL regular season has offered plenty of examples to verify that statement. The AFC is, as a whole, so mediocre that 6-7 and 5-8 teams are technically still in the playoff picture, and that conference is also responsible for the very best and very worst teams in the league. There are new kings of NFL power rankings as we hit the midway point of December, and that side happens to feature who I see as the undisputed Comeback Player of the Year.

Week 15 NFL power rankings

32. Kansas City Chiefs (2-11): It’s not nice to say, but the emotionally spent Chiefs crashed down to earth in Cleveland. It could be bad times for KC fans between now and December 30.

31. Arizona Cardinals (4-9): Wow. At least you know you’ll be entertained when watching the Cards. Unfortunately for Arizona fans, it has nothing to do with their favorite team playing well.

30. Oakland Raiders (3-10): Perhaps the most missable team in all the league. They still should, in theory, be able to beat KC this coming Sunday.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-11): Remember when Jacksonville looked like a real football team for a couple of weeks? That was fun.

28. Tennessee Titans (4-9): A good team beats Indy by double digits last weekend considering how poorly the Colts played in the first half of that game. Shocking to nobody, the Titans reminded all that they aren’t a good team during the second half of that same contest.

27. Detroit Lions (4-9): The once thought to be mighty continue to fall. The Lions have been their own worst enemy throughout 2012, and that was again the case on Sunday night at Green Bay. They’ll have plenty to address this winter.

26. Philadelphia Eagles (4-9): Welcome to the Nick Foles era! It may not have been a statement win, but you have to learn to crawl before you can learn to run.

25. Miami Dolphins (5-8): The ‘Phins had a chance to show their quality in significant contests in the past few weeks. That they did, and their quality was that of a team that’s not good enough to make the playoffs.

24. Buffalo Bills (5-8): Not only did they lose at home to lowly St. Louis, but they also failed to even entertain me in the process. I should really drop them lower just for being boring.

23. Carolina Panthers (4-9): Good on the Panthers for holding on against Atlanta and earning their biggest win of the season. Don’t look now, but Cam Newton has been playing much better as of late.

22. New Orleans Saints (5-8): A not very good defense has caught up with the once resurgent Saints. It was a solid run after a disastrous start, but the postseason dream is over.

21. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-7): The Bucs aren’t a bad team. They’re also not a very good team. I’ve said that for weeks whenever discussing Tampa Bay, and they’ve thus far proved me right this holiday season.

20. San Diego Chargers (5-8): Who saw that big win from SD coming? The Super Chargers looked like a real playoff team at Pittsburgh. Too bad such a performance came weeks too late.

19. New York Jets (6-7): The New York Jets still have a real shot of making the playoffs. That’s tells you all you need to know about the AFC this December.

18. Cleveland Browns (5-8): Who would have thought that the 2012 Browns would ever get this high in NFL power rankings? They’re the hottest team in the AFC North right now. No, really.

17. Chicago Bears (8-5): Uh oh. The Bears continue to slip down the standings and NFL power rankings. Hosting the red hot Packers is not what this team needs right now.

16. St. Louis Rams (6-6-1): I cannot at all even pretend to be impressed with St. Louis winning an awful game against the Bills. Good for them for still being in the hunt for a postseason spot, but they just aren’t getting a bump this week.

15. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-6): Remember when the Steelers had a defense that was impenetrable when playing in Pittsburgh? That trend went on hiatus this past Sunday. Maybe the quarterback position isn’t the only concern for this team.

14. Minnesota Vikings (7-6): Breaking news: Adrian Peterson is awesome. All of a sudden, that upcoming Minnesota at St. Louis game is a lot more interesting.

13. Cincinnati Bengals (7-6): I understand that their home game against Dallas was played under special circumstances, but a real contender has to win that match-up. This could be another year in which the Bengals are nothing more than an average team.

12. Dallas Cowboys (7-6): That win in Cincy wasn’t just about emotions following a tragic event. Jerry’s Boys are also just one game out of first place in the NFC East.

11. Washington Redskins (7-6): Plus: The ‘Skins just keep on winning. Minus: RG3 is hurt, and his missing even one game would be a very big deal.

10. Seattle Seahawks (8-5): Arizona is absolutely terrible, I’ll admit, but 58-0 is nothing to ignore. If Seattle goes east and wins in Buffalo, they could quickly become one of those teams that no side in the league wants to play.

9. Baltimore Ravens (9-4): Every time I want to believe the Ravens are ready to take that next step, they give me a reason not to. Their home game against Denver could be a very important playoff preview for both squads.

8. New York Giants (8-5): Is ranking the Giants at eight in NFL power rankings a bit harsh? Maybe, but they really did flirt with disaster before ultimately blowing New Orleans out. That alone makes this Big Blue fan nervous about the future.

7. San Francisco 49ers (9-3-1): Unlike last year, San Fran will have to earn a division title this December. Maybe that pressure will be just what they need to turn them into a championship team.

6. Houston Texans (11-2): Losing in New England is nothing to be ashamed of, but I don’t think anybody expected the Texans to be bossed around as they were. Their defense has looked very beatable over the past month, and that’s not good at this stage of the season.

5. Indianapolis Colts (9-4): You know what’s the scariest thing about any advertised “Team of Destiny?” When it really appears to be just that. Indy’s refusal to lose will have them playing January football, and I sure wouldn’t want to face the Colts right now.

4. Atlanta Falcons (11-2): Don’t write off the Falcons after that loss at Carolina. Atlanta will still probably have home field advantage, and that makes them contenders.

3. Green Bay Packers (9-4): Aaron Rodgers and company have somewhat quietly risen to the top of the division standings. While other teams are stealing headlines, Green Bay is playing some solid football at the right time.

2. New England Patriots (10-3): If the New England defense can routinely play as well as it did against Houston on Monday night, the Pats will again be playing in the final game of the postseason tournament. That was one helluva performance.

1. Denver Broncos (10-3): Kings of NFL power rankings for the first time in my lists this season, the Broncos are as complete a team as is any in the league. Peyton Manning is showing no signs of slowing down, and Denver has now won eight straight.

Tags:2012 Week 15 NFL Power Rankings

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