A lot to get to today after a very busy weekend in sports. The Stack is here with all of the big stories and headlines so let's get right to it and see what made "the stack" for today, Monday, January 28:
Super Bowl storyline #2
Super Bowl week is officially upon us and as we look at some more Super Bowl storylines, besides the battle of the Harbaughs, one storyline seems to rise above the rest. That is Ray Lewis and the end of his career. Lewis will be done on Sunday, win or lose. It was his announcement that he would retire at the end of the season during wild card week prior to the game against the Colts that has helped fuel this Ravens team to the Super Bowl. Few thought Lewis would actually be able to play in the Super Bowl following the torn triceps he suffered back in October against the Cowboys. Now here he is, ready to go out a champion.
Lewis is one of the most feared and respected players in the game today. He's also one of the most tenacious linebackers in NFL history. In fact he may be the best. He has 41.5 career sacks and 31 career interceptions while racking up over thirteen hundred tackles. He plays the game with such a fiery passion that it is impossible not to notice him and be in awe. He's still playing at a high level today, as evidenced by the fact that he has led the team in tackles this postseason.
For as much praise as Lewis gets both on and off the field (he does a lot with charities and speaks to many different organizations in and around Baltimore), it's easy to forget that Lewis was on trial in a murder case back in 2000 right after the Super Bowl in Atlanta. He was never charged, due in part to giving a sworn testimony against the other two guys involved in the murder case, but there are some people who still question as to whether or not Lewis was actively involved in the murder and should have been convicted. It's even come up a time or two during the postseason run and recently there was talk about maybe some new evidence in the over decade old case. Coincidence? I think not.
As many watch Lewis on Sunday and reflect over his amazing career, it will be easy for most to completely forget about the murder case, but it is still something that will cast a bit of a shadow over Lewis' legacy. He has done much good since that time though and win or lose Sunday, he is one of the best players ever to put on an NFL uniform and a good person off the field.
NFC beats AFC in Pro Bowl
The players said they would give more of an effort to keep the Pro Bowl from being canceled (a threat from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell that some are taking more serious than others), and the NFC showed way more effort Sunday night at the Pro Bowl, trouncing the AFC 62-35. Minnesota Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph caugh five passes for 122 yards and a touchdown and was named MVP. Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson threw three touchdowns for the NFC while Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green caught three touchdowns for the AFC. In terms of hustle, one play clearly stands above the rest as New Orleans Saints punter Thomas Morstead chased down Eric Berry of the Kansas City Chiefs after Berry picked off a pass and ran it back for a touchdown. Only problem was that on the field goal attempt, the AFC was so far offsides that Morstead had a free play. He could have just let it go, but he didn't. He ran all the way and nearly stopped Berry from crossing the endzone. If that is the hustle that Goodell was looking for, this game may have been saved. It is a little unbearable to watch though given how bad the defenses looked. This was the highest scoring pro bowl in history and the NFC's 62 points are the most in all-star game history. Who knows if we'll see it again. This may have been the last time. If it was, the NFC clearly gave us something to remember.
Rajon Rondo done for the year
What was thought to be just a hyper-extended knee proved far more serious for Boston Celtics guard Rajon Rondo. Rondo injured his knee Friday night at Atlanta. He participated in the Celtics walkthrough before doctors re-examined him after Rondo complained about pain in his knee. Tests came back with an ACL tear that will end Rondo's season. Everyone found out about the injury during the Celitcs game against the Miami Heat in Boston on ABC...everyone except his teammates. They found out after the game. Paul Pierce was stunned when he got the news in a postgame interview. It's really surprising that the Celtics were able to pull off a 100-98 double overtime victory over the Miami Heat without Rondo. The Celtics had lost six in a row prior to Sunday's win. With Rondo out now for the year and an aging roster, I don't see how the Celtics can hang on to make the playoffs. Even if they make the playoffs, they won't do anything this year. It's sad though as Rondo is one of the best players in the league at his position. We'll have to wait and see how fast he will be able to recover and if the Celtics can recover to make it to the playoffs.
Azarenka, Djokovic win Australian Open titles
The Australia Open saw repeat winners this year as Victoria Azarenka won the women's championship for the second straight year while Novak Djokovic defeated Andy Murray to win the men's title for the third straight year. Azarenka knocked off Li Na 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 even though much of the crowd seemed to be against her following her actions against the young up-and-comer Sloane Stephens in the semi-finals match. For those of you who don't know, Azarenka took an injury timeout when Stephens was gaining momentum in the match, even though Azarenka wasn't injured. Few took kindly to that. Azarenka still proved though that she is the number one player on the women's side.
For the men, Djokovic simply cruised. He knocked off Murray in four sets 6-7, 7-6, 6-3, 6-2 to caputre a three-peat Australian Open title. Djokovic is dominant right now, not that anyone should be surprised by that. With Rafael Nadal close to coming back from injury, but most likely not at one-hundred percent, and with Roger Federer declining, Djokovic seems to have a stranglehold on being the best player in men's tennis. It's either him or Nadal. Right now, Djokovic is on top.
NIU's bad day
Northern Illinois had a bad day Saturday against Eastern Michigan. A REAL bad day. As in four first half points bad. That's right. Northern Illinois managed to score only four points in the first half against Eastern Michigan. They shot one for thirty-one from the floor. For the game, they only scored 25 points on eight of sixty-one from the floor including one of thirty-three from deep. Ouch! That is all-time bad. They had previously set the mark for lowest scoring points in a half with five which they set back in December. This team comprised of mainly freshman and sophomores can't be feeling too good about themselves. The weird thing is though, they only lost 42-25. In fact, it was 18-4 at halftime. That is a game Northern Illinois could have won. They'll take this as a learning experience and move on. It's the only thing they can do. What a strange thing to see though Saturday night.
Coming up Tuesday: Super Bowl storyline #3, Tiger Woods and more.