I absolutely love sports, I really do.
I was lucky enough to be in attendance at Lucas Oil Stadium last Saturday night as Andrew Luck led the Indianapolis to a 45-44 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs after the Colts trailed 38-10 in the third quarter.
On Sunday I watched the playoff dreams of another young quarterback, Andy Dalton, come crashing down as he turned the ball over three times in what would be his team’s first home loss of the season.
On Monday night I watched a 13-point underdog Auburn team nearly shock the college football world by knocking off a top-ranked Florida State team. Instead the upset bid was denied by Jameis Winston, a redshirt freshman quarterback with the weight of the world on his back and facing more adversity than most 20-year old kids will ever know.
On Wednesday I watched as members of Baseball Writers Association of America put their names on the line by giving Cooperstown invites to three great players while ignoring the greatness of others. Click here to learn more about what your StaceyPageOnline men of sport think of this year’s balloting.
Finally, on Thursday night, I watched a passionate and fiery senior wrestler for Wawasee embrace one of his final moments on his home floor with a dramatic third period pin in the Warriors match against NorthWood. Congratulations, Michael Pena.
All of the events that I experienced over this past week sparked emphatic cheers from invested crowds or intense debates from devoted fans, sometimes both. While great moments happen all of the time, our society seems to be enthralled with the moments that sports give us. I do not want to write a soliloquy on my intense passion for all things sport, but I wanted to mention that great week that I, and sports fans alike, experienced. Sports bring us together, right or wrong, I cannot talk politics with most people, but I can talk sports with nearly everyone. I can have sport-based conversations with those of you who do not even find sports interesting in the least and would much rather watch an intense game of chess (That’s right, Mr. Slusser, I’m talking to you).
The weather we experienced over the past week was pretty bad and has kept most of us inside, cabin fever has to be kicking in soon. So, to break that stir-crazy feeling some of you have surely started to feel, head out to a local sporting event this weekend and make some memories watching young athletes embrace their time in the spotlight. Life’s too short to not fall in love with a sport.
Oh, before I forget, former ESPN employee, turned political pundit, turned back to ESPN employee, Keith Olbermann provided me with another fantastic moment this past week and I strongly encourage all of you (football and chess fans alike) to watch this tribute he made to a role model of his. I have even posted the video right in this story, to save you from having to click a boring link. It is certainly a presentation to hang a star on.
Okay, now onto my picks, with reduced blabbing and hardly any journalistic freedom (inside joke, don’t worry about it).
Last Week: 5-5
Boys’ High School Basketball 1/10-1/11
Warsaw (7-2, 1-0) at Northridge (8-1, 1-0), 1/10 7:30 p.m.
The Scoop: Warsaw takes its six-game winning streak up to enchanting Middlebury to take on the No. 13 team in class 4A. Yes, Middlebury, home of many wonderful attractions such as Das Dutchman Essenhaus, the Essenhaus gift shop, one of eleven Interra Credit Union branches and who could forget the Essenhaus Inn and Conference Center? So, okay, basically it is just the Essenhaus compound that brings people to Middlebury. I’ve been over this before and I will go over it once more. People do not just go to Middlebury unless it is for the Essenhaus or a sporting event. Don’t argue this, it is a fact.
Anyways, the only thing I love more than sports and hating on Middlebury is the way the Warsaw basketball team is playing right now. Rashaan Jackson has a new-found effort and drive on the court that is fueling this team. That combined with Nate Pearl and the ice water that flows through his veins late in games makes this squad a tough match-up for any team. But then you add in the “win or go home” stone-cold attitude of Jordan Stookey and the outstanding bench play from players like Tim Swanson and you suddenly have a serious threat in the NLC. Northridge is a very good team and on December 28, 2013 the Raiders suffered their only loss on the season. Penn, coached by Warsaw legend Al Rhodes, defeated Northridge in a tight game. Call me crazy, but tonight Rhodes’ successor, Doug Ogle, and the streaking Tigers will hand the Raiders their second loss of the season in what will be a fantastic mid-season game.
The Pick: Warsaw 59, Northridge 53.
NorthWood (7-0, 1-0) at Wawasee (1-7, 0-1), 1/10 7:30 p.m.
The Scoop: NorthWood is very, very good. The Panthers are undefeated for a reason and have beat some very good teams so far this season. Wawasee is not very, very good. The Warriors are much better than their 1-7 record but have not done well in some games that perhaps they should have. I truly believe that Wawasee is a much improved team since NorthWood and Zach Zurcher chased the Warriors out of Nappanee last season. But “better than last year” is simply not enough to hang with this NorthWood team for a half, let a lone an entire game. I’ll be at the game tonight and will gladly enjoy eating some crow if the Warriors serve it to me but I just don’t see it happening with the talent that the Panthers bring to the table.
The Pick: NorthWood 86, Wawasee 53.
Plymouth (4-3) at Tippecanoe Valley (5-2), 1/11 7:45 p.m.
The Scoop: The Plymouth Pilgrims have really disappointed me this season. I thought that the Pilgrims would be much better than 4-3 at this point in the season due to the fact that they are led by Mack Mercer. What I didn’t realize, however, was that Mack Mercer is all the Pilgrims have. That makes this pick short and sweet. Stop Mercer, win the game. Valley is loaded with shooters and hung with a good NorthWood team last weekend, they can beat this team. Let your shooters shoot and take the game out of Mercer’s hands. If Valley can accomplish that, then it is a Vikings victory party in Akron tomorrow night.
The Pick: Valley 69, Plymouth 67.
Girls’ High School Basketball 1/11
Rochester (10-2, 2-0) at Whitko (8-4, 2-1), 7:45 p.m.
The Scoop: There are only two remaining undefeated teams in the TRC, Rochester and Wabash. In my not-so-expert opinion, the TRC champion will be Wabash. But that opinion can be slightly blurred by a Whitko victory this weekend. I expect Rochester to win and set up a showdown with Wabash down the road, but if Whitko can win, the Lady Wildcats suddenly catapult themselves to the top of the TRC discussion (that is a very boring discussion at times). Coach Brandon Bradley and his team have already put themselves at a disadvantage in the TRC with a loss to Valley but now would be a great chance at redemption. I just don’t see it happening. Rochester has played tougher teams and has looked better most of the season than Whitko.
The Pick: Rochester 56, Whitko 41.
Northridge (10-3, 2-0) at Warsaw (5-7, 0-2), 7:45 p.m.
The Scoop: If I had to pick this game several weeks ago, I would have had Northridge in a land slide. But over the past few weeks Warsaw has turned its season around with a three-game winning streak while Northridge has dropped two in a row. Michelle Harter obviously got the message across to her team that there needed to be improvements after the Lady Tigers dropped a game to Wawasee back in December. I like to see that Warsaw is playing better but I have still not bought into the idea of this team being legitimate contenders again. A win on Saturday would certainly change my mind but Northridge has played some very tough teams thus far and has only come up short to three elite programs.
The Pick: Northridge 54, Warsaw 36.
High School Gymnastics 1/14
Angola at Wawasee, 6 p.m.
The Scoop: Gymnastics, because, why not? I am truly stabbing in the dark on this one.
On Tuesday night the Lady Warriors will take part in their first dual meet of the 2014 season. This Wawasee team is relatively young, but not very inexperienced and should make a push to get to the regional later this season. One good measuring stick for Wawasee will be in this opening meet against 2013 Sectional champion Angola. The Hornets are led by a truly talented senior, Alex Nickel. Nickel won state in several events in 2012 and finished in the top 10 in every event at the state meet in 2013, including a second place finish in all-around scoring.
Emily Allen will be Wawasee’s biggest star this year and will be the one to keep an eye on in Tuesday’s match if Wawasee is to have a chance. Taylor Busse, Molly Smith and Taylor Heck are some other Warriors to watch for on Tuesday and this season.
The Pick: Angola 102, Wawasee 96. (I am not doing partial points, don’t even ask.)
NFL Second Round Playoffs 1/11-1/12
New Orleans at Seattle, 1/11 4:35 p.m.
The Scoop: I am not putting records in this or next week’s round because records really do not matter at this point. The Saints won a nail-biter last week in an upset over Philadelphia and will look to turn so more heads this weekend in Seattle. The Seahawks have the best home-field advantage in all of the NFL, hands down. As much as I like Drew Brees and want to see him win, I am picking against him yet again this week. The Seahawks have a very fundamentally sound offense, a tenacious defense and have I mentioned the home field advantage yet? The NFC is Seattle’s to lose and I just do not see them going one and done this year.
The Pick: Seahawks 20, Saints 10.
Indianapolis at New England, 1/11 8:15 p.m.
The Scoop: Okay, that game last weekend was the most exciting sporting event I think I have experienced first-hand. Seriously, what a great time. Down 38-10 and the Colts still win? Crazy. It was bedlam in that stadium. If the Colts can get the Patriots to agree to only playing the third and fourth quarters of Saturday’s game, then the Colts win big! But, I don’t think Tom Brady and Bill Belichick will go for that. Look, this kills me to say but I am going with the Patriots this weekend. I love my Colts more than any other team (Except for that streaking Tiger basketball team!) but it is just too hard to pick against Brady at home in the playoffs. I think the Colts have a much better shot at winning than most are giving them credit for, but my instinct says this is the Patriots game to lose. Lord, I hope I’m wrong.
The Pick: Patriots 34, Colts 24.
San Francisco at Carolina, 1/12 1:05 p.m.
The Scoop: I love this Carolina team. Not more than the Colts or Doug Ogle’s Tigers, but I still love the Panthers. I really think Carolina can make the Super Bowl this year. There is obviously a few obstacles for Cam Newton and company to hurdle before that time. First on the list is a very good, defending NFC champion 49ers team. The Niners are good, good enough to beat anyone left in the playoffs. Carolina has been very inconsistent at times this year but, as of late, the Panthers have just been consistently good. It is hard to pick against a hot team, and both of these teams are smoking at the moment. I won’t be surprised if Colin Kaepernick and the Niners win big, but I have more faith in Cam Newton and the Panthers defense this week.
The Pick: Panthers 38, 49ers 24.
San Diego at Denver, 1/12 4:40 p.m.
The Scoop: The last three Super Bowl champions had played the Eagles in Philadelphia’s home opener. The team that Philly opened its home schedule with this year? Your No. 6 seed San Diego Chargers. Is it really too much to ask of Philip Rivers to beat Denver in Denver again this season? He already did it once, why not again? I hate San Diego as a fan, but I love them as a sleeper pick for the Super Bowl. It is far fetched, yes, but I think the Chargers can win this weekend, I don’t know why but I think I might even pick them. Peyton Manning needs another Super Bowl and this will be his best chance to get it (or so the “experts” say). The Broncos cannot drop another playoff game at home after last year’s collapse and they certainly cannot lose to San Diego at home again. Rivers cannot best Manning once more in the playoffs. THIS IS THE BRONCOS YEAR. But, then again…
The Pick: Chargers 27, Denver 23.