Who’s on First? The Week in Sports

Summitt stepping down

Women’s college basketball is a sport frequently overshadowed by its male counterpart, but it’s also a sport that has its fair share of basketball legends. One of those legends is Pat Summitt, who has coached the women’s basketball team at the University of Tennessee for 38 years, racked up 1,098 career wins, and won eight national championships. Summitt is Tennessee women’s basketball, which makes Wednesday’s announcement all the more shocking: Summitt is stepping down from the position she’s held for almost four decades due to a debilitating medical condition, and instead will assume a “head coach emeritus” role that will be less “hands on” but will still allow her to mentor players.

Back in August, 59-year-old Summitt revealed that she had been diagnosed with early-onset dementia, a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease, and that condition deteriorated over the course of this past season, to the point where, according to The Tennessean, she had to be directed down the sideline to shake the hand of an opposing coach after a game, “an act she had done more than 1,300 times” over the course of her career. Longtime assistant Holly Warlick will assume head coaching duties, undoubtedly using what she learned under Summitt to continue to steer the Lady Volunteers in the right direction.

Ugly start to NHL playoffs

At their best, NHL playoff games are among the most exciting sporting events in the world: the speed is high, the battles are intense, and the thrill of sudden-death victory is immeasurable. However, this year’s playoffs, just a week old, have looked more like something out of Fight Club than the peak of the “coolest game on Earth.” The NHL has been rocked by dirty misdeeds, horrific hits, and dangerous stick play since the playoffs began last Wednesday, creating a stream of hard-to-watch highlights that has been pretty much non-stop.

The carnage started with Nashville’s Shea Weber slamming the face of Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg off the glass as time expired in Game 1 of their series, a WWE-style move that earned Weber a $2,500 fine. The shenanigans continued from there: the New York Rangers and Ottawa Senators got into a street fight; Carl Hagelin of the Rangers elbowed Ottawa’s Daniel Alfredsson in the head; Chicago’s Andrew Shaw ran over Phoenix goalie Mike Smith; Arron Asham of Pittsburgh tried to decapitate the Philadelphia Flyers’ Brayden Schenn; Washington’s Nicklas Backstrom crosschecked Boston’s Rich Peverley in the face; and, most recently, Raffi Torres of the Phoenix Coyotes, a chronic cheapshot artist, left his feet to hit Chicago’s Marian Hossa last night, knocking the Slovakian winger out and sending him off the ice on a stretcher.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, there have been 804 penalty minutes, eleven game misconducts, eight suspensions, and two fines in just 22 total games so far in these playoffs. All of these antics have some worrying that the NHL is earning itself a “Wild Wild West” reputation, garnering media attention of the wrong kind. So how does the NHL put a stop to these gruesome plays? Some fear it will take a player being killed or paralyzed for the NHL to wake up, while others feel harsher penalties and a stronger backbone from those in charge of the league will help clean up the dirty play.

NFL schedule released

Spring has sprung, the weather is getting warmer, and summer will be here soon. Obviously that means it’s time to start planning for…football? Pigskin fans rejoiced on Tuesday night as the NFL unveiled its full schedule for the 2012 season, some five months before the games will begin. The 2012 campaign will kick off with the Super Bowl Champion New York Giants hosting the Dallas Cowboys in a rematch of the last game of the 2011 regular season, one that saw the Giants eliminate the rival Cowboys from playoff contention. There are plenty of interesting match-ups to watch for in Week 1 as well: Peyton Manning will make his Denver debut when the Broncos host the Steelers at Mile High Stadium; Manning’s old team, the Indianapolis Colts, will (in all likelihood) kick off the “Andrew Luck era” with a visit to Chicago; and the San Francisco 49ers will travel to Lambeau Field to face the Green Bay Packers in a battle of NFC heavyweights.

Other games of note include a playoff rematch between the New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens in Week 3, a six-team showcase on Thanksgiving Day, and a rematch between the San Francisco 49ers and Detroit Lions in Week 2, the teams’ first meeting since the near-brawl between their respective coaches a few months back. According to the Hartford Courant, the Giants will have the toughest schedule in the league, while the Broncos will have the second-toughest (based on opponents’ records in 2011). The league will also hold two games outside of the United States again this year: the Patriots and St. Louis Rams will play in London on Oct. 28, while the Buffalo Bills and Seattle Seahawks will play in Toronto on Dec. 16.

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