|Photo Credit: angelswin.com|
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B is for Balotelli. The Polarizing Mario Balotelli scored twice for Italy against Germany on Thursday to lead the Italians into the Euro 2012 Final. The 21 year old striker who recently helped lead Manchester City to an English Premier League title, struck once with his head and once with his feet in the first half against the favored Germans, and goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon the Italian defense took care of the rest limiting the Germans to a stoppage time penalty kick in the second half and nothing more. Balotelli is tied with Mario Gomez (Germany), Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal), Mario Mandzukic (Croatia) and Alan Dzagoev (Russia) for the tournament scoring lead with 3 goals. Italian coach Cesare Prandelli summed up Balotelli's performance against Germany best when asked if this was the best match of Balotelli's career: "Balotelli's career has just started."
|Photo Credit: thefa.com|
C is for Casillas. Spain's starting goalkeeper Iker Casillas was at the center of the action on Wednesday as Spain outlasted Portugal 4-2 on penalties to advance to their second straight Euro Cup Final. The Real Madrid keeper denied Joao Moutinho and Bruno Alves drilled a shot off the crossbar during the shootout setting up Cesc Fàbregas's clincher.
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D is for Derek Jeter. The Yankee Captain doubled off Chicago's Jose Quintana in the first inning of Friday night's contest moving him ahead of Cal Ripken and into 13th place on the all-time hits list with 3185. Jeter, who has 97 hits on the season, needs 67 more to tie Nap Lajoie for 12th. Lajoie, in case you aren't familiar with him, played second base for the Phillies, Philadelphia A's and Cleveland Naps between 1896 and 1916. He won the American League Triple Crown way back in 1901.
|Photo Credit: andaplayertobenamedlater.com|
E is for Euro 2012 Final. It all comes down to Sunday. The 2006 World Cup Champions Italy, who actually considered withdrawing from this year's tournament due to match-fixing scandals in the Serie A, will take on the 2010 World Cup and reigning Euro Cup Champions Spain for all the marbles. I'll be the first to admit that I didn't see this coming. I didn't even have Italy getting out of their group, let alone into the Finals. But here they are. Taking on a banged up Spanish team that's playing without their leading scorer from the World Cup (David Villa) and without their defensive leader (Carles Puyol). But hey, that's why they play the game. I don't see a lot of scoring taking place on Sunday, but you can be assured that you'll see some pretty good soccer if you tune in. Spain and Italy already played each other during the Group phase and played to a 1-1 draw. Antonio Di Natale gave Italy a 1-0 lead in that one only to have Cesc Fábregas equalize just moments later.
|Photo Credit: telegraph.co.uk|
F is for Festus Ezeli. Or Furkan Aldemir. Pick one. The 6'11" Nigerian-born Ezeli was taken with the 30th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft by the Golden State Warriors after 5 years at Vanderbilt. The Turkish-born Aldemir stands 6'9" and has been playing professionally in Turkey since 2007, and impressive feat considering he doesn't turn 21 until August. The Clippers selected Aldemir with the 53rd pick in the draft. The real question though isn't which player will have a better NBA career, it's which player has a better NBA name.
|Photo Credits: swishscout.com / eurohopes.com|
G is for Great Britain. David Beckham won't be representing Britain at the 2012 London Olympics as coach Stuart Pearce has opted to go a different direction using his three overage (older than 23) player slots on Welshmen Ryan Giggs and Craig Bellamy and 24 year old Englishman Micah Richards. Beckham had appeared in 115 games for England, a record for a field player, but hasn't represented his country since 2009. Beckham has 2 goals and a team high 5 assists for the surging Galaxy who have won 3 straight in June following their elimination from the U.S. Open Cup.
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H is for Harper. Have any doubts about 19 year old Bryce Harper's maturity as a player? On June 16th, Harper went 0 for 7 with 5 strikeouts against the New York Yankees. A lesser man might delve into a prolonged slump, but Harper's right back to tearing up opposing pitcher tallying three multi-hit games in the past week. On the year, Harper's hitting .274 with 8 homers and 6 steals and who has him as a keeper in his fantasy league? This guy.
|Photo Credit: blogs.bettor.com|
I is for Injuries. NBA Champions Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade will both be sitting out the 2012 Summer Olympics as they tend to injuries sustained during the Miami Heat's title run. Both Bosh and Wade were part of the 'Redeem Team' back in 2008 that went 8-0 en route to a Gold Medal. Bet you couldn't name the other 10 members of that squad: Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Jason Kidd, Carmelo Anthony, Carlos Boozer, Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, Tayshaun Prince, Michael Redd and Deron Williams. James, Williams, Bryant, Paul and Anthony are all expected to return this summer. And yeah, that's Chris Bosh hiding in the background as usual like a Bosh.
|Photo Credit: viennagardners.wordpress.com|
J is for James. Ok, so LeBron James has finally won his NBA Championship meaning he'll no longer be in the same category as Karl Malone and Charles Barkley and Patrick Ewing and all the other great players who never won an NBA Title. Now a lot of the media has started changing their tones about LeBron saying how great he is and how the fans should appreciate him more, and I've got to be honest with you. I don't think they get it. Nobody disliked LeBron because of anything he did on the basketball court. He is an unreal talent, I don't think anyone can dispute that. People don't like LeBron because of 'The Decision', because he took the easy way out by joining forces in Miami with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, and because of how he handles himself during interviews. I don't care if he wins eight titles or however many he promised he'd win. I don't like LeBron James, and I don't have to. How you like them apples?
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K is for Kentucky. The reigning NCAA Men's Basketball Champion Wildcats just had six players drafted in the 2012 NBA Draft: Anthony Davis (Hornets #1), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Bobcats #2), Terrence Jones (Rockets #18), Marquis Teague (Bulls #29), Doron Lamb (Bucks #42) and Darius Miller (Hornets #46). And yeah, that ties an NBA record for players drafted in a single draft in case you were wondering. More on that next week.
|Photo Credit: ukathletics.com|
L is for Lukas Rosol. When you think tennis, Rosol probably isn't the first name that comes to mind. Well, you can bet that's changed for Rafael Nadal. The 11 time Grand Slam winner was shocked in the second round at Wimbledon by the 26 year old Czech 6-7, 6-4, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4. This was the earliest Nadal was eliminated in a major since 2005 when Luxembourg's Gilles Müller ousted him at Wimbledon. Rosol's joy was short-lived though as 27th seeded Philipp Kohlschreiber beat him in straight sets 6-2, 6-3, 7-6 in his next match.
|Photo Credit: worldtennismagazine.com|
M is for MLS. MLS reasserted its dominance at the U.S. Open Cup this week as the last of the lower tier teams were eliminated from the competition setting up an All-MLS semifinals. The Philadelphia Union knocked off the Harrisburg City Islanders 5-2, Sporting Kansas City eliminated the Dayton Dutch Lions 3-0, Chivas USA got a goal 4 minutes into second half stoppage time to upend the Charlotte Eagles 2-1, and in the only quarterfinal match between 2 MLS squads, the 3-time defending champion Seattle Sounders defeated the San Jose Earthquakes 1-0. Seattle will now take on Chivas USA on July 10th in one semifinal while Sporting and the Philadelphia Union will face off in the other semifinal on July 11th.
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N is for New Orleans Hornets. It figures that as soon as I leave Louisiana the Hornets would become interesting again. With two picks in the top ten, the Hornets got a legitimate big man in Kentucky's Anthony Davis and a possible point guard of the future in Duke's Austin Rivers. Throw in Kentucky's Darius Miller who was selected in the second round and the draft was especially kind to the Bees. I don't know that these additions make New Orleans a contender, but at the very least it should make them relevant.
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O is for Oswalt. Who's the best team in baseball right now? If you guessed the Texas Rangers, you'd be correct. And now their rotation has gotten a boost with the addition of veteran Roy Oswalt. In two starts since his return, Oswalt has defeated the Rockies and the Tigers and is part of what has become a loaded rotation that includes Matt Harrison (11-3, 3.16 ERA), Colby Lewis (6-6, 3.51 ERA) and Yu Darvish (10-4, 3.57 ERA). Remember when the best pitcher the Rangers had was Roger Pavlik and all they did was hit? Those were simpler times.
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P is for Pettitte. New York's pitching staff took quite a hit this week (pun intended) when Andy Pettitte was struck by a ground ball against the Indians Wednesday and broke his left ankle. Pettitte is expected to miss at least two months and was placed on the 60-Day Disabled List. Pettitte joins fellow starting pitchers CC Sabathia and Michael Pineda on the DL. All together the Yankees have 9 pitchers on the DL right now but still sit atop to the American League East.
|Photo Credit: nydailynews.com|
Q is for Quick. It didn't take long for the Los Angeles Kings to show their appreciation for their starting goalie Jonathan Quick. Just a few weeks after clinching the franchise's first Stanley Cup title, Quick was rewarded with a 10 year extension worth a cool $58M. The 26 year old from Milford, CT led all goalies this past postseason with a 1.41 Goals Against Average and a .946 save percentage.
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R is for Rehab. Ryan Howard is on the comeback trail. After tearing his achilles tendon on the final play of last year's NLDS against St. Louis, Howard has finally returned to the diamond taking the field for the Lakewood BlueClaws of the South Atlantic League. Howard is 3 for 6 in two games with 3 runs batted in.
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S is for Scott Brooks. The Oklahoma City Thunder and coach Scott Brooks are closing in on a new contract after some tumultuous negotiations. Brooks has been at the helm for the Thunder for four seasons now and seen their winning percentage improve each season. The Thunder came within 3 wins of an NBA title this year before coming up short against the Heat denying Brooks the chance to join a select group of players to win NBA Championships as players and coaches. Brooks was a member of the '94 Rockets team that defeated the New York Knicks in 7 games.
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T is for Thome. The Phillies are willing to move their left-handed slugger to an AL club looking for a DH. After a slow start to the season, Thome has hit .295 in the month of June including a 12 for 36 stretch as a DH in interleague play against the Orioles, Twins and Blue Jays in which he homered four times. Now 41 years old, Thome has 609 homers in his Major League career dating way back to 1991.
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U is for Uncle Drew. If you haven't seen the commercial yet starring NBA Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving, you should definitely check it out.
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V is for Verlander. As we approach the half way point of the 2012 Major League Baseball season, Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander is quietly turning in another sensational season as he's on track to go 17-11 with 255 strikeouts and a 2.69 ERA. It's not quite the 24-5 250 strikeout 2.40 ERA season that won him a Cy Young a year ago, but it's nothing to sniffle at. Verlander has won at least 17 games in 5 of the last 6 seasons.
|Photo Credit: blogs.bettor.com|
W is for Wimbledon. No one from Great Britain has won Wimbledon since 1936 when Fred Perry defeated Gottfried von Cramm. Scottish born Andy Murray has been the semifinals in 3 straight years and is through to the fourth round this year following his win over Marcos Baghdatis. With Rafael Nadal's early exit, is it possible that this is the year?
|Photo Credit: bleacherreport.com|
X is for Xavier Hernández. If Spain captures the Euro 2012 title tomorrow he will have amassed the following hardware: 6 La Liga titles, 2 Copa del Reys, 5 Spanish Supercups, 3 UEFA Champions League titles, 2 UEFA Super Cups, 2 FIFA Club World Cups, a World Cup, two European Football Championships and a FIFA World Youth Championship. Yowzah.
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Y is for Youkilis. Does this look weird to anyone else?
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Z is for Zubčić. Tomislav Zubčić. Gotta love the NBA draft. The Croatian forward was taken with the 56th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft by the Toronto Raptors.
|Photo Credit: draftexpress.com|