SPORTS AVENGER 2-23-12

by TOM WEPPEL
Daytona 500/NASCAR
This weekend NASCAR cranks up the Daytona 500, which essentially is one of the most prominent races of the season. It is rare for a sport to start their season in this fashion…with one of the top events of the year…but that is exactly what is going on here, and everyone connected in whatever way, shape, and/or form doesn’t seem to mind one bit.
After a couple of weeks of testing and practicing, it should be quite interesting to see how things will shake out for this race. Adjustments to cars have been made. There are a number of new crew chiefs (14 at least!) set and ready to work for and with the top drivers. In many ways, it makes for a situation where we have absolutely no idea who the favorites are going to be, for now, or the entire season.
If there is one way in which drivers are identified by racing fans, it is in the car they drive and the number that is on it. For so many years, we have been familiar with Mark Martin driving the #5 Chevrolet. But that will not be the case this year, as Martin will be moving to the #55 car…not driving the #5, as we are so used to.
Instead, we will see 31 year-old Kasey Kahne driving the #5 car, and it should be interesting to see how much of a difference in performance it will make for the season. That car is owned by Rick Hendrick, one of the prominent car owners in NASCAR. He has a stable of drivers, including Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr….all of which have a pretty decent shot at winning this race on Sunday.
The guy on the pole is Carl Edwards in the #99…another driver who has won a number of races, but not Daytona. It will be interesting to see how things shake out over the course of the race, to see who will end up taking the checkered flag after 500 miles.

National Basketball Association
The first half of the season has seemed to fly by rather quickly, as we head in to the NBA All-Star weekend in Orlando. And, for many reasons, it actually has…in some ways to a fault, without question.
Games have been piled on top of each other, with the idea of the NBA trying their best to fill in as many games in so short a time span. What it HAS done is:
Put teams in a state of disarray and poor play, especially when playing three games on consecutive nights!
Caused players to suffer more bodily injury, wear down, and pain…all due to so much action in a condensed period of time.
Allowed for teams to offer some bizarre playing, with some teams scoring as little as seven points in a single quarter! Players are being allowed to sit out periods of time, or even games, simply to give them rest in order to make it through the season!
Whether or not this has been a good thing or not is up and open for discussion and debate.
In the meantime, a lot of the talk in the last week or so easily has centered around Knicks G Jeremy Lin and his emergence on to the New York sports scene!
Because of the play of Lin, the Knicks have won some games and gotten themselves into a decent position, since they are now a .500 ball club.
Now with Carmelo Anthony back from injury, and J.R. Smith in the mix, it will be very interesting to see how New York handles the rest of the season. It will also be interesting to see if fans continue to covet the play and plight of Jeremy Lin…in New York, and the world over!
So far, we see the Miami Heat and the Chicago Bulls on top in the Eastern Conference, while the Oklahoma City Thunder have the best record in the Western Conference. Whether that means they will stay on top remains to be seen. All three teams have been playing good ball and winning games with their own style and brand of play, without question.
In the meantime, the All-Star game is almost being looked upon as a great chance for everyone to get a good amount of rest, after 30+ games of action in this first half of the season. Defense will be at a minimum, easily…and the contests during the weekend, before the game, will be laid-back, as well.

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