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June 29, 2016

Simone Biles is the Must Watch U.S. Star in Rio

By bryanflynn

Four years ago in London, gymnast Gabby Douglas became a household name when she became the first African American woman to win the gold medal in the individual all-around competition. She won a gold medal in the team competition when the United States won the women’s artistic all-around.

Flash forward to 2016, and Douglas isn’t the top women’s gymnast for the U.S. At the recently held 2016 U.S. Championships, Douglas finished in fourth place overall.

No, Douglas isn’t the top woman to watch in U.S. gymnastics anymore. Simone Biles has taken over that role.

If there is one Olympian you should take time out of your schedule to watch, it is Biles. She is the winner of the 2016 U.S. Championship with a personal best score of 125.000 points. It was the fourth-straight win in the U.S. Championships.

Second place belonged to Aly Raisman, who scored 121.100 points. Raisman won two gold medals and three overall in London.

Without question, Biles was the star of the show as she won the vault, floor and balance beam, in addition to the overall title. She is the first woman in 42 years to win four straight U.S. Championships since Joan Moore Grant accomplished the feat from 1971 to 1974.

Biles isn’t just the best American women's gymnast; she is the best gymnast in the world. She has won the last three World Championship All-Around titles.

The 19-year-old has a tear-jerker story NBC will promote until everyone knows it by heart. Her grandparents adopted her after her mother gave her up.

Finishing third was Lauren Hernandez with a score of 120.500, and Douglas was a distant fourth with a score of 117.800 for the two-time gold medal winner. Madison Kocian finished in fifth with a 116.450 score.

Biles is a lock to head to Rio, but the other four spots on the U.S. team are up grabs. If the same score from the U.S. Championship holds up, the team will be Raisman, Hernandez, Douglas and Kocian.

The U.S. Trials will be held from July 8 to July 10 in San Jose, Calif. to name the official team. Besides just the top five finishers, also in San Jose will be Amelia Hundley, Alyssa Baumann and Ragan Smith earned automatic berths to the trails.

USA Gymnastics added Christina Desiderio, Brenna Dowell, Rachel Gowey, Ashton Locklear, Maggie Nichols, Emily Schild and MyKayla Skinner to compete at the trails. The U.S. looks to defend its all-around medal from London.

June 29, 2016

Summitt And Ryan Pass on the Same Day

By bryanflynn

The sports world suffered two losses early on June 28 with the passing of legendary basketball coach Pat Summitt and defensive mastermind Buddy Ryan. Summitt was the major factor in the growth of women’s basketball and Ryan built, arguably, the greatest defense in NFL history.

After suddenly being thrust into the head coaching position at the University of Tennessee in 1974, Summitt built one of the greatest basketball programs in American men's or women's basketball history. Her starting salary at UT was just $8,900, but that changed before her time with the Volunteers was finished.

Before becoming the winningest coach between both men and women at the Division I level, Summitt starred on the court at the University of Tennessee-Martin. By the time she left UT-Martin, she was the school’s all-time leading scorer with 1,045 points and two appearances in the national championship tournament.

She played for her country in the Pan American Games and the Olympics. While doing that, Summitt had already begun her coaching career.

Summitt built Tennessee in to a national power in basketball by the early 1980s and guided the school to its first Final Four in the 1981-1982 season and finished as runner up during the 1983-1984 season.

Finally, in the 1986-1987 season, Summitt broke through for her first national championship. She won seven more national championships, include three straight from 1996 to 1998.

Tennessee won 16 SEC Championships and 16 SEC Tournament Championships under her coaching. The Volunteers reached 31 NCAA Tournaments and 18 Final Fours with Summitt.

In 38 years with Tennessee, Summitt won 1,098 games, had a .841 winning percentage, coached 21 All-Americans and 12 Olympians, won two Olympic gold medals as a coach, got 112 NCAA Tournament wins, eight SEC Coach of the Year Awards and seven NCAA Coach of the Year awards.

Summitt broke the million-dollar salary ceiling for women’s coaches in 2006 when she signed a contract for $2.125 million a year. After winning her 1,000th game in 2009, Tennessee awarded her with a $200,000 bonus and a contract that ran until the 2014 season.

Before she could finish her final contract at Tennessee, Summitt revealed she was suffering from early onset dementia and stepped away from coaching after leading her team to the Elite Eight in the 2011-12 season.

She was named Sports Illustrated Sportswoman of the Year in 2011 and was honored with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award in 2012, the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012 and was put in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2000.

Summitt never had a losing season at Tennessee, and every player who finished their eligibility under her when on to earn a degree. She only lost 208 games during her time as a college basketball coach.

At the age of 64, Summitt passed away due to early onset dementia.

While she was breaking glass ceilings and busting down barriers, Buddy Ryan was perfecting defensive ...

June 27, 2016

Saints Secondary Hit With Injuries Before Training Camp

By bryanflynn

If the New Orleans Saints are going to fix a historically bad defense, they will need to stay healthy. That was one of the many reasons the Saints struggled in pass defense last season.

New Orleans saw safety Jairus Byrd, cornerback Damian Swann, cornerback Keenan Lewis, cornerback P.J. Williams and others miss time because of injuries. Add the injuries to lack of a pass rushing, and it is easy to see why the Saints were so dreadful on defense.

How dreadful was the 2015 New Orleans defense?

The unit ranked 31st in pass defense and total defense, and tied for 25th in sacks. New Orleans was also tied for 26th in interceptions with just nine.

No matter what the issues were with the Saints defense, former defensive coordinator Rob Ryan got the ax during the season. New Orleans promoted Dennis Allen as the new defensive coordinator for the final six games.

Allen is now the full-time defensive coordinator, and it will be his job to get this defense off the bottom of the statistical categories. It would be easier for him to do that if his secondary can stay healthy this season.

That already looks like a challenge.

Byrd is going to be limited until training camp as he recovers from a torn meniscus that has plagued him since his first season in New Orleans. Swann is back on the field but suffered three concussions during his rookie season.

Williams is coming back from a hamstring tear that ended his 2015 season. Lewis spent most of last season injured before a sports hernia shut him down completely late in the season.

The injuries to Swann and Williams ended their rookie seasons early.

New Orleans added safeties Erik Harris and Roman Harper, and drafted Von Bell. Those players, along with Kenny Vaccaro and a hopefully healthy Byrd, will make the Saints deep at safety.

Some of that depth was lost when Jamarca Sanford went on the injured reserve. Sanford has been with the Saints since 2014 and recently re-signed with the club.

Cornerback depth took a hit after the Saints put Kyle Wilson on injured reserve due to a torn labrum in his shoulder. New Orleans now has to hope that Lewis, Williams and Swan will stay healthy and that Delvin Breaux will continue his rise as a top cornerback.

New Orleans signed defensive tackle Lawrence Virgil after the injury to Sanford and defensive tackle C.J. Wilson to take over Kyle Wilson’s spot.

The Saints might also be looking for a new training camp spot. New Orleans was set to return to the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia until flooding closed it down.

The PGA has already cancelled the Greenbrier Classic because of the flooding. The Saints are set to start training camp on July 27, and the team is monitoring the situation.

This team can’t afford to have injuries in training camp this offseason or ...

June 24, 2016

Plenty of Underdogs to Root for in Euro’s Knockout stage

By bryanflynn

It is a tale of two vastly different brackets in the UEFA Euro 2016 knockout stage. One side is stacked with historic European soccer powers, and the other side has a mix of powers who haven’t broken through and upstart teams.

The bottom half of the bracket features teams that have won 21 major titles. It features nations with 11 World Cups and 10 European Championships. The other half of the bracket features teams with zero major titles.

That would be like the Pittsburgh Steelers, Dallas Cowboys, San Francisco 49ers and New England Patriots being on one side of the playoffs and the Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars and Houston Texans being on the other side.

If you are a neutral fan, there are plenty of underdogs to root for left in the tournament.

The biggest underdog will be Iceland against England. The smallest nation to ever qualify for this tournament is the feel-good story.

Iceland’s last-second goal against Austria has thus far been one of memorable moments of the tournament. About 8 percent of the 330,000 population of Iceland has bought tickets for this event.

Just making the second round is a major accomplishment, but beating England would be even bigger. While England will be rooting for the Three Lions, the rest of them will be backing the Ice Men.

Host nation France also plays an underdog as it takes on Ireland in the next round. The Irish beat Italy on a late goal, sending them into the second round.

Italy also sat several important players, having advanced to the next stage. Ireland’s win over Italy reminded fans of their upset win over the Azzurri in the 1994 World Cup.

Last time these two teams played in a non-friendly saw France advance to the World Cup after a handball goal in Dublin from Thierry Henry gave Les Bleus a 2-1 in a playoff. Ireland would love revenge on French soil.

Slovakia was the top third-place team to advance, and for their accomplishment, they get Germany. It would be a great win for Slovakia to beat World Champion Germany. Both teams have struggled at times, but the Germans are the stronger side.

The last matchup in the bottom of the bracket is between two soccer heavyweights. Italy against Spain will be like getting a championship game-caliber match in the second round. These two teams have met 34 previous times with both sides earning 10 wins and 14 draws. One team will get the upper hand after this match.

One underdog is going to advance. That is because Northern Ireland plays Wales in the second round.

Gareth Bale provides Wales with the star power, but Northern Ireland has defended well and advanced as a third-place team with 1-0 losses to Poland and Germany. Wales won a group that also included England, Russia and Slovakia.

Croatia against Portugal is an interesting match in the second round. Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo has ...

June 23, 2016

Mississippi Players in the CFL

By bryanflynn

If you are missing football and wishing for NFL training camps to open, there is something you can do for your football fix. The Canadian Football League will be on ESPN networks the next three nights.

Two of those three games feature players with ties to Mississippi.

Tonight, June 23, at 6:30 p.m. on ESPN News, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats hit the road to take on the Toronto Argonauts. The Tiger-Cats have former University of Mississippi player Jeremiah Masoli as their starting quarterback. This is also the opening of the 2016 Canadian Football League season.

The Montreal Alouettes take on the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Friday, June 24, at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN2, but neither team features a player from Mississippi. The Blue Bombers have held a tryout in Jackson the last two years, though.

On Saturday night, the British Columbia Lions host the Calgary Stampeders at 9 p.m. on ESPN2. The Lions have former Alcorn State University wide receiver Emmanuel Arceneaux, and the Stampeders have former University of Southern Mississippi running back Tory Harrison.

Those aren’t the only players with Mississippi ties on CFL rosters.

The Tiger-Cats have former University of Mississippi defensive tackle Ted Laurent. Currently, Laurent is on the British Columbia one-game injury list. He is a national player since he was born in Montreal, Quebec. Players born outside of Canada are listed as international players.

Former Jackson State University defensive back Marcell Young is an Edmonton Eskimos defensive player. He also played at Hinds Community College before heading to JSU to finish his college career.

The Saskatchewan Roughriders signed former Mississippi State University defensive back Justin Cox this spring. He not only played at MSU but also at East Mississippi Community College.

Joining Cox on the Roughriders is former Pearl River Community College defensive back Johnnie Dixon. He also signed with Saskatchewan with spring.

The CFL offers a chance for players who don’t latch on with an NFL team to continue their football careers. Some players head north if they don’t sign an undrafted free agent contract with an NFL team.

However, playing in the CFL doesn’t mean an athlete won’t get a shot at the NFL. There have been several players who have made an impact on the league who NFL teams signed out of the CFL.

It would seem unlikely that any of the players on this list will sign with the NFL. Most are in their late 20s, except for former MSU player Cox who is 23 years old, and the NFL has trended in the direction of younger players in recent years.

June 22, 2016

Watermelon Classic Turns 20 Years Old

By bryanflynn

The Farm Bureau Watermelon Classic has become a Fourth of July tradition. For the last 20 years, Jacksonians have spent their mornings running the 5-kilometer (3.1-mile) race before setting off fireworks and lighting the grill.

There have been as many as 1,800 runners in past events, and this year, race officials expect 1,500 runners to take part in the fundraiser for the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum.

While the 5K run is the main event this Independence Day, participants can also walk the 5K or enjoy a one-mile fitness/fun run for all ages or the Tot Trot for children under 3 years of age.

Registration for the event is now open, and there is a week to register before the prices go up on June 30. Currently, the cost is $25 to run or walk in the 5K race, and the mile run is $15.

After June 29, the price for the 5K run/walk goes up to $30, and the mile run goes up to $20 until registration ends on July 3 for individuals and July 2 for teams. The Tot Trot, which follows the 5K race, requires no registration and is free.

There is no registration on race day. Race packets will be available for pick up starting on June 29, and race officials encourage participants to pick the packets up before race day.

The race starts at the intersection of Lakeland Drive and the Interstate 55 Frontage Road to Eastover Drive and then moves on to Ridgewood Drive and Lakeland Drive before the finish line at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame. Strollers are allowed but must stay in the back of the pack. No pets or roller blades are allowed.

There are three water stations on the race route. The top three overall runners—Master, Grand Master and Senior Master—will receive cash prizes. Last year’s overall winners were Joseph Chebet and Kristi Hall.

The 5K race begins at 7:30 a.m., and the mile run begins at 8:50 a.m. Fresh watermelon will be awaiting all the runners at the finish line.

Runners can also wear costumes for the race, with race participants voting on who will receive the prize for best costume. To win, the runner must wear the costume during the race.

Former “world’s fastest man” and two-time Olympic medal winner Calvin Smith, will serve as the race’s official starter for the second year in a row.

For more information, call 601-982-8264 or visit the registration page.

June 21, 2016

ESPN Doc on O.J. Worth Watching

By bryanflynn

Anytime there is a new ESPN “30 for 30” documentary, it is normally worth taking time to watch. But the latest entry, a five-part, almost-eight-hour-long series called “O.J.: Made In America” from director Ezra Edelman, might be the best documentary the network has done. If you haven’t watched “O.J.: Made In America,” don’t read any further, as this post contains spoilers.

Even 22 years after the murders of Nicole Brown-Simpson and Ron Goldman, this case still lives in infamy. The O.J. Simpson murder trial also brought up issues that we continue to struggle with as a society today, such as race and domestic violence.

Race and racism are where Edelman begins in parts one and two. He does a great job of showing the treatment of black people in Los Angeles as Simpson began his journey to fame on the gridiron and the Rodney King beating and trial spurred riots on the streets.

This look back at the rise and fall of Simpson provides some interesting tidbits in all five parts.

Simpson’s friend Joe Bell says the now infamous football player’s father was gay and tells how Simpson stole best friend Al Cowlings’ girlfriend, Marguerite Whitley. Simpson later married Whitley at age 19, and as the two stayed friends, Cowlings later drove the white bronco in the famous slow-speed chase.

Most of us at a certain age remember Simpson as the bumbling Nordberg from “The Naked Gun” film series, but in parts one and two of the documentary, you see the moves on the football field that made Simpson a Heisman Trophy winner and NFL Hall of Fame player.

One of the most interesting things in part one is that Simpson wanted nothing to do with the Civil Rights Movement. At one point, he told activist Harry Edwards, when approached about boycotting the 1968 Olympics, “I’m not black; I’m O.J.”

The documentary’s first episode touches on Simpson’s early struggles in Buffalo, as well as his first meeting with an 18-year-old Nicole, who was working at private L.A. nightclub The Daisy, and telling a friend that he would marry her.

The former NFL running back began dating Nicole while still married to Whitley.

Part two devotes some time to Simpson’s cheating on the golf course and his daughter drowning, but mainly, the focus is on his treatment of women. The documentary shows him as a womanizer and delves into how he mentally abused a pregnant Nicole by telling her his affairs were a result of her getting “fat.”

Domestic violence plays a major part in the second episode, as Simpson gets away with abuse because of his charm and celebrity. Even ESPN had a hand in the way the public viewed him.

In an ESPN show called “Sports Look,”host Roy Firestone makes excuses for Simpson’s 1988 attack on Nicole, who needed medical treatment as a result. Firestone was just one of the many people who made excuses for Simpson’s domestic violence. After one ...

June 20, 2016

Cavs' Win Cements LeBron's Legacy

By bryanflynn

The city of Cleveland had endured 52 years of sport agony. Sports defeats so gut-punching that they were given names, so most sports fans could recognize the moment of disappointment.

Red Right 88 was the play call that ended the Cleveland Browns' 1980-'81 season with an interception from the Oakland Raiders. The Drive was the Denver Broncos' 98-yard march to a win over the Browns in the 1986 AFC Championship Game.

The Fumble was the costly turnover from Browns running back Earnest Byner as the Broncos won the 1987 AFC Championship Game. But it wasn’t just football that broke Cleveland hearts.

Baseball moments include The Catch by Willie Mays in game one of the 1954 World Series between the New York Giants and the Cleveland Indians and Off Nagy’s Glove, a blown save from Indians closer Charles Nagy that gave the Atlanta Braves their only World Series win of the 1990s.

Basketball in Cleveland saw The Shot by Michael Jordan, beating the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round of the 1989 Eastern Conference Playoffs. The Shot ushered in the era of Jordan, as he victimized the Cavaliers including the 1993 Eastern Conference Semifinals.

Cleveland sports also suffered through The Move that saw the Browns move the Baltimore, Md. by owner Art Modell. The former Browns would become the Ravens and win two Super Bowls as the last Browns' title came in 1964 in the NFL Championship before the invention of the Super Bowl.

Of course there was also The Decision, when native son LeBron James left Cleveland for the Miami Heat. James won two titles with the Heat, as the Cavaliers became the worst franchise in the NBA after he left.

There were other moments in Cleveland history that didn’t earn names but left a mark—events like the 1994 MLB strike that ended one of the best Indians seasons in team history.

Even the NBA Finals last season saw the Cavaliers lose stars Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving before and during the finals. The Golden State Warriors ended up winning the NBA Championship.

Cleveland fans had to think that this finals would be just another moment of "almost," as the Cavaliers fell behind the Warriors 3-1 in the series. The Cavaliers got back in the series with Draymond Green being suspended in game five and a bit of a Warriors meltdown at the end of game six, as reigning MVP Steph Curry was ejected for the first time in his career.

Wins in game five and six allowed Cleveland to tie the series and force a game seven. Everything seemed in place for another sports moment that would rip the hearts out of Cleveland fans.

With the game tied 89-89 in the fourth quarter, every Cavaliers fan had to be thinking, "How would the sports gods gut-punch Cleveland?" But this time things were different, as what looked to be sure layup from Andre Iguodala turned into a game-changing block ...

June 17, 2016

Russian Track and Field Team Banned From Rio

By bryanflynn

The International Association of Athletics Federations announced today that the Russian track and field team will be banned from the Rio Olympics, which is a historic move from the organization and might finally turn the tide against doping.

The IAAF voted unanimously to ban the Russian team, but individual athletes will still have a way to reach Rio as neutral athletes. Russia was first suspended back in November when a report from the World Anti-Doping Agency alleged state-sponsored cheating.

Today’s move was to confirm that Russia hadn’t done enough to earn reinstatement. The country claimed to have cleaned up its testing program, but a report from WADA showed that Russia was still working to obstruct proper drug-testing and violations of drug-testing policies.

In the WADA report, it claimed that Russian athletes tried to evade testing from February and May. The report also claimed that one female athlete had a fake clean sample hidden “inside her body.”

Russia said it would appeal the decision to the International Olympic Committee. The IOC has scheduled a summit of sports leaders for Tuesday to look at the anti-doping responsibility of the Russian team as a whole but will still allow clean athletes to compete.

Legal challenges to the ban are on the way after the ruling. Two-time Olympic champion pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva told Russian news source TASS that she would file a suit in the Court of Human Rights on the grounds of discrimination.

Some of the cases from Russian athletes could be heard in the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

There are grounds for Russian athletes to compete in the games. Those who have helped lead the fight against doping and athletes like whistleblower Yuliya Stepanova would get strong consideration to enter the games.

Other athletes who can show a strong case that they have been subject to rigorous testing and haven't been tainted by the Russian testing system could also be reinstated for the games. Athletes who entered the games couldn’t compete as Russian but as neutral athletes.

Many sport officials and athletes outside of Russia urged the IAAF to take a strong stance against the Russian team. The USA track and field team supported its ban.

The suspension of the Russian team might finally start to get athletes and the team to strongly consider the cost of doping to win major competitions. This is the strongest rebuke of athletes doping in any sports history.

The 2016 Olympics, or the Games of the XXXI Olympiad, are scheduled to begin on Aug. 5 in Rio de Janeiro.

June 16, 2016

Deuce McAllister Joins Saints Radio Team

By bryanflynn

The New Orleans Saints have had several popular players through the years. You could name ones such as Drew Brees, Archie Manning, Rickey Jackson, Pat Swilling, Sam Mills and a few others.

But no Saints fan would forget about Dulymus McAllister, better known as Deuce, one of the Saints' all-time most popular players.

Even before coming to New Orleans, McAllister was already a legend at the University of Mississippi, where he won the 1999 Conerly Trophy as the best college football player in the state of Mississippi.

As a Rebel he is the school’s all-time leading rusher with 3,060 yards with 41 touchdowns and all-purpose yards with 4,889.

New Orleans drafted Deuce with the 23rd overall pick in the first round of the 2001 NFL Draft. McAllister went on to become the Saints' all-time career leader in rushing yards with 6,059 yards and rushing touchdowns with 49 before injuries forced him to call it quits.

As the Saints went on their lone Super Bowl run, McAllister was on the roster. When New Orleans defeated the Indianapolis Colts 31-17 in Super Bowl XLIV, Deuce got a Super Bowl ring.

McAllister is now joining the Saints Radio Network as the new color analyst for the team broadcast in announcement from WWL 870-AM. The former running back is replacing Howard “Hokie” Gajan, who passed away from cancer this April.

Gajan was a former Louisiana State University football player who the Saints drafted in the 10th round of the 1981 NFL Draft. He played for New Orleans until 1985 and spent the last 15 years as the color analyst for the Saints.

While Gajan received chemotherapy, McAllister filled in for him in the booth during the final four games last season. McAllister was widely praised for his work and knowledge of the game during his short stint on the job.

Deuce joins a long line of former Saints players who have taken the color analyst job over the years such as Manning, Jim Taylor, Stan Brock, Danny Abramowicz, Steve Stonebreaker and Gajan.

McAllister will work with long-time play-by-play announcer Jim Henderson and sideline reporter Kristian Garic. He will make his official debut on Aug. 11 during the Saints' preseason game against the New England Patriots.

The former running back will also make appearances for WWL’s coverage during the Saints' training camp in July and August. It seems likely that Deuce will be just as loved in the booth as he was on the field.

June 15, 2016

TNT, ESPN Bring Sager to NBA Finals

By bryanflynn

Draymond Green’s suspension from game five of the NBA Finals not only helped the Cleveland Cavaliers extend the series, but it will also bring some extreme color to game six. In a deal between Turner Sports and ESPN, TNT sideline reporter Craig Sager will work the sidelines on the NBA Finals for the first time.

Sager, known for his outrageously colorful suits while reporting, thought he was done with the NBA this season after the Western Conference Finals, which TNT broadcasts. But ESPN reached out to Turner Sports about bringing on Sager, who had never worked a NBA Finals game in his long distinguished career.

The 64-year-old reporter needed the finals to reach game six if he was going to be able to work the sidelines. Sager is currently undergoing treatment for leukemia, and after the Western Conference Finals ended he underwent eight days of chemotherapy.

That left only game six as an option for him to work his first finals game. He will join ESPN’s normal sideline reporter, Doris Burke, during the broadcast. Also working game six will be play-by-play commentator Mike Breen and analysts Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson.

Sager, diagnosed in 2014, missed 11 months of work while fighting leukemia and having a bone marrow transplant from his son before returning to TNT’s NBA coverage in March. He revealed in an interview with HBO in April that his cancer is no longer in remission.

In his 34-year career with Turner Sports, Sager has worked on NFL and college coverage for TNT and TBS, MLB Postseason coverage for TBS, Olympic coverage with NBC during the London Olympics, the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament, which CBS broadcasts and other sporting events during his career.

Sager just finished his 26th season as sideline reporter for TNT’s Thursday Night NBA double-headers. It is this role that Sager is probably best known for in his career, as he tried to glean any information out of NBA coaches while standing out in his colorful suits.

It is not unusual for networks to share on-air talent, as Sager has worked for NBC and done golf for CBS. ESPN is also honoring Sager during the 2016 ESPY Awards on July 13 with the Jimmy V Perseverance Award.

The award is named after former North Carolina State University basketball coach and ESPN analyst Jim Valvano, who is known for his “Don’t Give Up” speech. He gave the speech during in 1993, the first ESPY Awards, when he received the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. Valvano passed away eight weeks after giving his memorable speech.

Sager joins the likes of ESPN sportscaster Stuart Scott, NFL player Devon Still and his daughter Leah Still, NBA coach George Karl and former college football player Eric LeGrand among others.

Game six could also see the Golden State Warriors win the NBA Championship if they can defeat the Cleveland Cavaliers. If the Warriors can’t win in Cleveland, the series goes to ...

June 14, 2016

Mississippians in the 2016 MLB Draft

By bryanflynn

Major League Baseball held its annual draft last Thursday through Saturday. Teams can select players from high school after graduation or four-year colleges after they have completed their junior season or are 21 years old.

Teams can draft junior- and community-college players at anytime, so long as they’re residents of the United States or U.S. territories.

High-school players don’t have to sign with the team that drafted them and can attend college instead of going pro, but they must sign by July 15. Juniors can return to college as well instead of signing with an MLB club, but they have the same July 15 deadline to sign a contract.

The 2016 MLB Draft consisted of 40 rounds with a lottery round after round one and after round two. There were 1,216 picks in this year’s draft.

Below are the players who teams drafted. If we missed any players, feel free to add them in the comments section.

Mississippi State University Bulldogs

Dakota Hudson,pitcher, first round, 34th pick, St. Louis Cardinals

Reid Humphreys, pitcher, seventh round, 200th pick, Colorado Rockies

Daniel Brown, pitcher, seventh round, 201st pick, Milwaukee Brewers

Jacob Robinson, centerfielder, eighth round, 235th pick, Detroit Tigers

Zachary Houston, pitcher, 11th round, 325th pick, Detroit Tigers

Nathaniel Lowe, first base, 13th round, 390th pick, Tampa Bay Rays

Gavin Collins, catcher, 13th round, 392nd pick, Cleveland Indians

Vance Tatum, pitcher, 18th round, 553rd pick, Kansas City Royals

Austin Sexton, pitcher, 18th round, 556th pick, St. Louis Cardinals

Jack Kruger, catcher, 20th round, 606th pick, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Brent Rooker, rightfielder, 38th round, 1,143rd pick, Minnesota Twins

University of Mississippi Rebels

J.B. Woodman, outfielder, second round, 57th pick, Toronto Blue Jays

Errol Robinson, shortstop, sixth round, 191st pick, Los Angeles Dodgers

Henri Lartigue, catcher, seventh round, 197th pick, Philadelphia Phillies

Chad Smith, pitcher, 11th round, 323rd pick, Miami Marlins

Brady Bramlett, pitcher, 13th round, 388th pick, Boston Red Sox

Wyatt Short, pitcher, 13th round, 404th pick, Chicago Cubs

University of Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles

Tim Lynch, first base, ninth round, 278th pick, New York Yankees

Jake Winston, pitcher, 17th round, 509th pick, Arizona Diamondbacks

Chuckie Robinson, catcher, 21st round, 637th pick, Houston Astros

Delta State University Statesmen

Dalton Moats, pitcher, 15th round, 450th pick, Tampa Bay Rays

Jacob Howell, pitcher, 21st round, 634th pick, Washington Nationals

Pearl River Community College Wildcats

Zachary Clark, centerfielder, 19th round, 561st pick, Milwaukee Brewers

Itawamba Community College Indians

Delvin Zinn, shortstop, 23rd round, 704th pick, Chicago Cubs

High-school players

Walker Robbins, George County High School, outfielder, fifth round, 166th pick, St. Louis Cardinals

AJ Brown, Starkville High School, centerfielder, 19th round, 564th pick, San Diego Padres

Grae Kessinger, Oxford High School, shortstop, 26th round, 774th pick, San Diego Padres

Dustin Skelton, Magnolia Heights High School, catcher, 36th round, 1,092nd pick, Toronto Blue Jays

Mississippi ties

Nolan Blackwood, University of Memphis Tigers, Southaven High School (Miss.), pitcher, 14th round, 412th pick, Oakland ...

June 13, 2016

MSU Gets Swept in Super Regionals

By bryanflynn

Mississippi State University saw its historic baseball season come to a close on Saturday night in a 6-5 loss to the University of Arizona in 11 innings. The Bulldogs won the SEC regular season championship and was named a national seed for the first time in school history.

MSU had little trouble in the four-team regional, which the Bulldogs hosted last weekend. The team was a perfect 3-0 as it cruised to the Super Regionals. Arizona had to battle through the loser's bracket in the Lafayette Regional just to reach this Super Regional.

The Wildcats' pitching was the story in game one of the Super Regional. MSU could only muster five hits in a sensational performance by Arizona pitcher Bobby Dalbec. Arizona got eight and 2/3 innings out of Dolbec, who needed just a run in the sixth inning to secure the win.

Game one saw a 37-minute delay due to a power outage all over the MSU campus. But the stoppage didn’t have any effect on Dolbec, who came out to pitch once power was restored.

The power outage seemed like an exact metaphor for the MSU bats, but maybe it was really just foreshadowing the end of the Bulldogs' season.

MSU had a chance in the ninth inning with two men on and two outs. The Bulldogs' superstar freshman Jake Mangum struck out on three straight pitches, giving the Wildcats a 1-0 win in game one.

In game two, both teams put up a run in the second inning after a scoreless first inning. MSU jumped out to a 2-1 lead in the third inning as the Bulldogs got a run off two errors.

The Bulldogs added to their lead in the top of the fourth when right fielder Brent Rooker hit a solo homerun, giving MSU a 3-1 lead. In the seventh inning, MSU was able to manufacture a run to up the lead to 4-1 over the Wildcats.

Rooker went deep once again in the top of the eighth inning, giving the Bulldogs a huge 5-1 lead and needing only six outs for the win. The bottom of the eighth inning is when things fell apart for MSU.

Arizona quickly got two men on first and second when first baseman Ryan Aguilar blasted a three-run home run, cutting the MSU lead to 5-4. The Bulldogs got out of the eight, but the damage was done, and the momentum had shifted to the Wildcats.

MSU went down in order at the top of the ninth inning. Arizona got a double by Cody Ramer to start off the inning. The Bulldogs got a strikeout by pitcher Reid Humphreys before Alfonso Rivas singled to score Ramer to tie the game at 5-5 to force extra innings.

Neither team was able to muster any offense in the 10th inning, as the score stayed 5-5 heading to the 11th inning. MSU went down in order at the top of the ...

June 10, 2016

Rebs and Dogs Win National Titles at 2016 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships

By bryanflynn

The field part of the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships has been good so far to Mississippi State University and the University of Mississippi. Both teams are bringing back at least one national championship.

Curtis Thompson of MSU won the men’s NCAA javelin title and Raven Saunders of UM won the women’s NCAA shot put title. Thompson and Saunders both won in impressive fashion in their respective events.

Saunders broke a 33-year-old NCAA record with her winning throw of 63 feet and five inches, or 19.33 meters. That throw broke the previous mark of 62 feet and 3.75 inches, or 18.99 meters, and Saunders made her historic throw in the rain.

Winning title in the shot put aren’t new for the Charleston, S.C. native. As a freshman at the University of Southern Illinois, she won both the indoor and outdoor titles.

She now holds the all-time NCAA shot put record for both indoor and outdoor events. Saunders' record-breaking throw ranks her fourth among all women in the world and seventh in U.S. women’s shot put history.

Suanders joins former Rebel great and Olympic gold medal winner Brittney Reese as the only woman in UM history to win an NCAA title. She will return to Eugene, Ore. later this summer to take part in the U.S. Olympic Trials.

Thompson finished third last season in the javelin as a freshman in these very same championships. This season, his throw of 254 feet and 9 inches was enough to take home the title.

The sophomore from Florence, N.J. had to fend off athletes from Texas A&M University, Middle Tennessee State University and the University of Southern Misissippi to win. His throw in the final bettered his 140-feet, 11-inch throw to reach the finals.

USM junior Emron Gibbs finished fourth in the javelin with a throw of 244 feet and 10 inches. The St. Andrews, Grenada native was edged out by the winners after he was able to leap into the second place going into the finals.

Currently, the Rebels women are tied for sixth place after six of 21 events in track and field championships with 10 points. The MSU men are tied for fifth place, and the UM men are tied for 39th place after seven of 21 events in the championships with 10 points and one point, respectively.

Sophomore Dempsey McGuigan from London, England finished eighth in the hammer throw, scoring the Rebels men a point.

Neither the Rebels or the Bulldogs teams are done. Both schools still have a chance to win more titles and climb up the leaderboard.

UM still hopes either sophomore Craig Engels or junior Robert Domanic break through in the men’s 1,500-meter final on Friday. Sophomore M.J. Erb is in the finals of the men’s 3,000-meter steeplechase, senior Branden Greene is in the finals of the men’s high jump, and senior Ryan Walling is in the finals of the men’s 5,000-meters, also on ...

June 10, 2016

NCAA Baseball Regionals by the Numbers

By bryanflynn

Before the Super Regionals begin in the NCAA Division I Baseball Tournament, let’s take a look back at the regionals played last weekend. Those were played out to trim the field down from 64 teams to the current 16 teams.

When the field was announced, the Atlantic Coast Conference and Southeastern Conference received a just over a quarter of the bids in this year’s tournament. Combined, both conferences placed 17 teams in the regionals.

Know this, it should come as no surprise that these two conferences placed just over half the field in the Super Regionals. Nine teams from the ACC and SEC reached the second round of the tournament.

The ACC placed 10 teams into the field. Four of those reached the Super Regionals and seven of the 10 reached regional finals. At the end of the first weekend the ACC had a 21-12 record.

Every ACC team, but Duke University, in the tournament won at least one game at the regional stage. All four teams, University of Louisville, Florida State University, Boston College and the University of Miami (Fla.), that advanced from the conference went undefeated in regional play.

Duke went 0-2 in regional play, joined by Wake Forest University (1-2) and the University of Virginia (1-2) with losing records in regional play. North Carolina State (3-2), Clemson University (2-2), and Georgia Institute of Technology (2-2) finished at or above .500 in the opening round.

The ACC was considered by many to be the best baseball conference in the nation. Duke, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech and Boston College all finished with losing records. All were bounced in regional play except for BC who won its regional after the host team (more on this later) flamed out.

NC State and Clemson finished just two games above .500 in conference play. Excluding BC, the other three teams that reached a Super Regional were three of the top four teams in the conference, with Virginia, which went 19-10 in the ACC missing the regional. Louisville (22-8), FSU (16-10) and Miami (21-7) were no brainers for getting into the tournament.

Clemson was the No. 7 national seed and was the only national seed not to advance to a Super Regional. At best, only three ACC teams reach the 2016 College World Series, since BC and Miami must face each other.

Does this mean the ACC was overrated? Perhaps slightly, but Virginia, NC State and Clemson all reached the regional final before bowing out of the tournament. The Wolfpack of NC State even forced a deciding game in their regional.

The SEC placed seven teams into regionals and went 16-6 in the opening round. Five of the seven went on to reach a Super Regional. Both SEC teams that failed to advance in the tournament lost their first two games, getting eliminated.

The University of Mississippi and Vanderbilt University both went 0-2 on their way out. It is kind of understandable that Vanderbilt ...

June 9, 2016

Former Saint Sues 'Biggest Loser'

By bryanflynn

A big man is suing NBC’s hit reality weight-loss show, "Biggest Loser." Former New Orleans Saints and Cleveland Brown player LeCharles Bentley is taking the show to court over alleged trademark infringement.

TMZ was the first to report on the lawsuit. Bentley alleges that the new logo for the Biggest Loser, which was adopted earlier this year, closely resembles the logo for his O-Line Performance Facility.

Bentley sent NBC and the show’s producers a cease-and-desist letter, which allegedly the show has ignored. Now, the former NFL offensive guard and center wants the show's logo to be changed and to get a slice of the revenue it made while using the new logo.

A spokesperson for NBC Universal told Pro Football Talk in an email that the company had no comment on the lawsuit.

The Saints drafted Bentley in the second round with the 44th overall pick of the 2002 NFL Draft out of Ohio State University. He played in New Orleans for four seasons and earned a Pro Bowl nod in 2002 and 2005.

While at Ohio State, Bentley earned First-Team All-Big Ten honors in 2000 and 2001. He also was named winner of the Rimington Trophy, which the nation’s best interior offensive lineman receives.

After his rookie season of 2002, Bentley was named Sports Illustrated’s Offensive Rookie of the Year and to Pro Football Weekly’s All-Rookie Team. He started 14 games as a rookie at guard and 13 at guard his second season. Bentley was moved to center for his final two seasons in New Orleans after starting a total of 30 games.

He signed with the Cleveland Browns during the 2006 offseason. Bentley injured his knee in training camp and ended up with a staph infection. His knee required four surgeries, with two needed to remove the staph infection.

Bentley spent the 2007 season on the Physically Unable to Perform list. He requested and received his release from the Browns in June 2008.

The injury ended Bentley’s career in the NFL. He spent the entire 2008 season out of football, and after that year, he retired. He later reached a settlement agreement with the Browns.

Bentley did some work in the media after his career ended. He started his O-Line Performance Facility in 2008 in a Cleveland, Ohio suburb and moved it Scottsdale, Ariz. in late 2013, after his work in media was over. His performance center has been recognized for its work in various sports media, including ESPN, Sports Illustrated and others.

June 9, 2016

College Football is Just Around the Corner

By bryanflynn

Can you believe that college football is less than three months away?

While there are still some great sporting events this summer, such as the Rio Olympics, it is never too early to begin your plan to consume the opening five days of college football.

Some great games will open the season, and all six major programs in our state could end up with some type of viewing availability. Opening weekend begins on Thursday, Sept. 1, and ends on Monday, Sept. 5, with a huge Labor Day showdown.

Jackson State University will kickoff the season on Thursday on the road against the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. The kickoff for that game hasn’t been set and neither has any type of TV channel. There is a good chance this game will be streamed by some source, like on the UNLV site.

The only other game to get really excited about on Thursday is the matchup between the University of South Carolina and Vanderbilt University at 6 p.m. on ESPN. If you want other options, other games, such as Indiana University Bloomington at Florida International University and Appalachian State University at the University of Tennessee, will be on TV.

SWACtion meets MACtion on Friday as Mississippi Valley State University travels to Eastern Michigan University. This game was moved from Saturday to Friday, and the kickoff has yet to be announced. It could end up streaming on ESPN3 or another source.

Other Friday games to sink your teeth into are Colorado State University at the University of Colorado Boulder on ESPN, Kansas State University at Stanford University on FS1 and the University of California at the University of Hawaii. Another game of note is Baylor University opening the season at home against Northwestern State University.

Mississippi State University opens the post-Dak Prescott era at home against the University of South Alabama at 11 a.m. on the SEC Network. The Jay Hopson era begins at the University of Southern Mississippi as the team faces the University of Kentucky at 6:30 p.m. on ESPNU.

Saturday will be a marathon of college football. The day starts at 6:30 a.m. with Georgia Institute of Technology battling Boston College in Dublin, Ireland on ESPN2. The day ends with Brigham Young University and the University of Arizona kicking off at 9:30 p.m. on FS1.

Games of interest throughout the day include the University of Oklahoma against the University of Houston at 11 a.m. on ABC, Texas A&M University hosting the University California Los Angeles at 2:30 p.m. on CBS, and University of Georgia against the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill at 4:30 p.m. on ESPN.

Saturday night features the University of Alabama against the University of Southern California at 7 p.m. on ABC and Auburn University against Clemson University at 8 p.m. on ESPN. Alabama and Clemson met for the college football title last season with the Crimson Tide coming out on top.

Alcorn State University begins ...

June 7, 2016

USA Faces Tough Test in Group Stage of Copa América Centenario

By bryanflynn

If you didn’t know, the Copa América Centenario started last week. Here is a brief history of the tournament and some background on why this Copa América is so special.

This is the first time in the history of the Copa América that it has taken place outside of South America. Normally, the tournament takes place on that continent and crowns a champion in CONMEBOL, which is the governing body of South American soccer.

The first Copa América was held in 1916, making this the oldest international continental soccer tournament. CONMEBOL has 10 members and has invited only two teams outside of it to take part in the competition since 1993.

The 10 CONMEBOL members are: Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Colombia, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela.

Most of the time, CONMEBOL invites teams from CONCACAF, the governing body of which the United States is a member, but has invited Japan to play in the tournament. The US has played in the 1993, 1997 and 2007 Copa América.

Eight of the 10 CONMEBOL countries have won the tournament, with Ecuador and Venezuela being the only countries yet to win. Uruguay has the most titles with 15, but Chile is the reigning champion.

Since this is the 100th year of the tournament, this installment is a mega event with 16 teams instead of the normal 12 teams. The US is hosting the event for the first time, and five other CONCACAF teams—Mexico, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Haiti and Panama—have joined in.

The USA is in Group A with Colombia, Costa Rica and Paraguay. This might be the toughest group of the tournament with all four teams having strong squads.

Colombia, already the favorite to win the group, confirmed that thought after the team’s 2-0 win over USA. That leaves the US, Costa Rica and Paraguay fighting for the second spot to advance. Costa Rica and Paraguay played to a 0-0 draw in their first group game.

In the first game of the tournament, Colombia made a spectacular goal off a corner kick. The US keeper had no chance of making the save. The second Colombian goal was off a penalty kick for a USA player’s handball in the box. The call was iffy at best and didn’t look like the American athlete made the action deliberately, but it is a subjective call.

Even before the opening loss, many didn't expect much from USA after the team struggled in matches at the Gold Cup and in World Cup qualifying.

The best player in Group A is Colombia's James Rodriguez, who was the breakout star of the last World Cup. Rodriguez made the penalty but left the game with a shoulder injury, which could affect the group if he is going to be out of action.

Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones and 12 other 2014 World Cup players on this squad will need to show leadership after the loss. It seems ...

June 6, 2016

Bulldogs Advance, Rebels and Golden Eagles Fall

By bryanflynn

Three teams from our state made regionals in the NCAA Division I Baseball Tournament. Two of those teams, Mississippi State University and University of Mississippi, hosted regionals, and the University of Southern Mississippi traveled to the Tallahassee Regional.

By early Sunday afternoon, just one team was left standing. MSU lives to play this weekend while USM and UM saw their seasons end. In case you missed it, here is a quick recap of Mississippi’s regional action.

The Rebels might have had the two toughest losses in regional play last weekend. In its first game against the University of Utah, UM held a 5-2 lead after five innings.

At the top of the sixth inning, Utah scored three runs to tie the game at 5-5 after six full innings played. The score stayed tied as the game headed into extra innings.

Utah added a run at the top of the 10th inning to take a 6-5 lead. The Rebels got a base runner in their half of the 10th but failed to bring the runner home, giving Utah the 6-5 win.

That defeat sent UM to the losers’ bracket of the Oxford Regional. The Rebels would have needed a win against Tulane University to stay alive.

Things looked good for the Rebels against the Green Wave as they were up 5-4 heading into the top of ninth inning. All UM had to do was get three outs to keep its season going.

The Rebels got the first batter in the ninth to grounded out for the first out of the inning. Tulane earned a walk with its next batter to put the tying run on base.

The next Green Wave batter hit a two-run home run to left field, giving Tulane a 6-5 lead after the Rebels got two more outs. UM came to bat in the bottom of the ninth but could only manage one base runner before a fielder’s choice ended the game.

The loss ended the season for the Rebels. Boston College ended up winning the regional and will meet the University of Miami from Florida in the Super Regional.

Things started off well for Southern Miss in the Tallahassee Regional. The Golden Eagles began play against the University of South Alabama.

USM jumped to a 3-0 lead before exploding for 11 runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to take a 14-0 lead over the Jaguars. South Alabama scored two runs in the top of ninth, but the Golden Eagles won 14-2.

That set up a match against Florida State University in the winner's bracket. USM scored a 2-0 lead in the top of first inning, but FSU struck back with three runs in the bottom of the second inning.

The Seminoles tacked on four more runs to beat the Golden Eagles 7-2 and sent them to the loser’s bracket. USM would have needed to defeat South Alabama again to earn the right ...

June 2, 2016

LeBron James Legacy Will Nearly Be Made in These NBA Finals

By bryanflynn

Legacy. It is a word that is thrown around a ton these days. But most of the time, it is thrown around too much and at the wrong times.

LeBron James’ legacy has been discussed a lot over the years. But at age 31, we are finally getting to the point where we can really discuss his legacy as a great player.

James is one of the greatest players in NBA history, no question. Depending on how each person ranks their own personal list, he in the top 10 players, top 15 at worst.

Anyone who questions how great he is has to remember that he is playing in his sixth straight NBA Finals. Last season, he dragged an injured and talent-depleted Cleveland Cavaliers team to the finals.

This year, he returns with a healthy team to face the Golden State Warriors for a second straight year. And this years' finals could begin to set his legacy in stone.

James currently has a 2-4 NBA Finals record. People judge him because he went into the league behind Michael Jordan, who went 6-0 in final appearances. Kobe Bryant was 5-2 in final appearances and took the torch as the best NBA player from Jordan.

James took the torch from Bryant but hasn’t had the success that either Jordan or Bryant had on the biggest stage in the NBA. It didn’t help that James lost two of those finals to a great San Antonio Spurs team.

You can make the case that James, when he was with the Miami Heat, shouldn’t have lost to the Dallas Mavericks. On the other hand, you have to remember that he was lucky to win one of his titles against the Spurs after San Antonio fell apart in game six.

There are several reasons the public judges James harshly. His ESPN special, “The Decision,” which talks about him leaving Cleveland for Miami, hurt the public’s opinion of him.

It hasn’t helped that James has a habit of disappearing at times in the finals. He also has a bad habit of becoming a jump shooter, one of his weaknesses, during those times. People remember when he shrinks in the biggest moments.

No one remembers how great you were getting to the finals. They only remember how great you played on that stage.

Things have come around now that James is back in Cleveland. People have returned to the idea that they would like to see a native son bring back a title to city that is struggling and dreaming of one.

James winning for Cleveland would be like the Chicago Cubs winning a World Series. It would change the perception of his titles and his final appearances. Winning a title in Cleveland would mean more than winning a title, period.

With a win, James would up his record to 3-4 in NBA Finals. The win for Cleveland would make it seem like he has an even ...

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