Who’s on First? The week in sports

Tebow heads to New York

The fallout from Peyton Manning signing with the Denver Broncos finally concluded last week, as the Broncos traded Tim Tebow, the former fan favorite quarterback rendered essentially useless by Manning’s arrival, to the New York Jets in exchange for a few draft picks. The deal picked up steam last Wednesday, but hit a snag over bonus payouts; the two teams were able to come to a revised agreement later that day, as the Jets agreed to send a fourth- and sixth-round pick to Denver in exchange for Tebow. Reaction to the trade was mixed, as figures from around the sports world expressed emotions ranging from excitement to disbelief over the deal. The Jets officially introduced Tebow to the media on Monday, where the quarterback said he is “excited to be a Jet.” One man who may not be as excited as Tebow: current Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez, the man who just received a contract extension a few weeks ago. Head coach Rex Ryan told the media that the team didn’t consult Sanchez in regard to the Tebow signing, quipping that Sanchez’ role is “to play quarterback, not be the general manager.” For his part, Sanchez insisted in a conference call that he’s “not worried about losing [his] spot.” Pundits expect the Jets to use Tebow in short yardage situations and to run their wildcat offense, not to challenge Sanchez for the starting gig. While some Jets players are “comfortable” with the move, other experts are fretting over Tebow’s comfort level amidst the glitz and lights of the Big Apple. In any case, it’s clear that Tebowmania isn’t over; instead, it has relocated a couple thousand miles east. Want proof? Tebow merchandise is already sweeping through New York stores, prompting a lawsuit between two major apparel companies. And to think, he hasn’t even thrown a pass for the Jets yet…

No London for US Soccer

In terms of worldwide fan passion, soccer is a game that has left the United States behind. Sure, there are pockets of soccer fanatics in the United States, and even casual sports fans were riveted by the US drama in the 2010 World Cup. But compared to the rabid followings the sport enjoys in Europe, Africa, and South America, soccer is a mere afterthought in the United States. It’s fitting, then, that the United States men’s soccer team will be an afterthought at the upcoming 2012 Olympic Games in London, as a 3-3 tie in a must-win match against El Salvador on Monday knocked the US out of Olympic qualifying and ensured that there won’t be any Yankees romping around the soccer pitches of England this summer. After losing to Canada earlier this month, the US team, comprised of players under the age of 23, needed to beat El Salvador to advance to the qualifying semifinals, where a win would have sent the squad to London. Instead, back-up goalkeeper Sean Johnson allowed a weak goal to El Salvador’s Jaime Alas during stoppage time, tying the game at 3 and turning euphoria into heartbreak for the Americans. The loss brought about a familiar refrain in American soccer circles: the sport is making strides in the United States, but clattering disappointments continue to befall the program. The loss has led some to criticize the US’ playing style, while others opined that this batch of young Americans simply wasn’t hungry enough. The qualifying semifinals will carry on without the Americans, as Canada will face Mexico and El Salvador will face Honduras; the winner of each game will earn a trip to London.

Dodgers get the Magic touch

Disneyland may be a few miles away in Anaheim, but Los Angeles is getting some magic of its own: an investment group fronted by former Los Angeles Lakers superstar Magic Johnson reached an agreement to buy the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday night, ending the erratic reign of former owner Frank McCourt. The price? A cool $2 billion. (Yes, that’s billion, with a “b”.) Johnson is the biggest name attached to the purchasing group, called Guggenheim Baseball Management. According to the Contra Costa Times, the group includes Johnson, Stan Kasten, Mark Walter, Peter Guber, Bobby Patton and Todd Boehly. Kasten was formerly the president of the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves, while Guber is a part-owner of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors. It is reported that Walter, the head of Guggenheim Partners, a global investment firm worth over $100 billion, will be the controlling owner for the group. The $2 billion paid by the group is over four times more than the $430 million McCourt paid for the team back in 2004. According to Fox Business, the $2 billion price tag is the highest ever for an American sports franchise, besting the $1.1 billion sale price of the NFL’s Miami Dolphins in 2009. It is also the most expensive deal in MLB history, nearly tripling the $845 million sale of the Chicago Cubs, also in 2009. With his role in the deal, Johnson joins the pantheon of star athletes-turned owners, as former NHL superstar Mario Lemieux, MLB Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan, and basketball legend Michael Jordan all have assumed ownership roles since their playing careers ended. The sale is a boon of sorts for the Dodgers and their fans, who have freed themselves from the McCourt cloud, and now have a beloved LA sports icon as their figurehead. The deal still needs to be approved in federal bankruptcy court, a move that should come before the end of April.

NCAA’s last four set

The field of 68 has been whittled down to four teams that will battle for roundball bragging rights: Louisville, Kentucky, Ohio State, and Kansas are headed to New Orleans to fight for the right to be crowned the NCAA Men’s Division I national champion. Both semifinals will be played on Saturday, with the championship game taking place on Monday night. The first semifinal features a fierce in-state rivalry, pitting head coach Rick Pitino and Louisville against head coach John Calipari and Kentucky. Calipari and Pitino are two of the biggest coaching names in the sport, and Calipari is seeking redemption from his squad after a disappointing end to last season. How intense is this rivalry? A fistfight broke out between opposing fans on Monday…at a Kentucky dialysis clinic. Oh, and it was discussed on the floor of the US Senate. So yeah, just a typical basketball game. The other semifinal, pitting Ohio State against Kansas, isn’t getting as much attention, but should be just as entertaining. The game will feature two of the nation’s best forwards battling in the low posts, as Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger and Kansas’ Thomas Robinson will each try to lead his team to victory. This group of four teams is being touted as being arguably one of the most talented in recent years, with NBA prospects dotting all four rosters. However, unlike recent years, there’s no room in the Big Easy for “Cinderella” teams: these are four college basketball powerhouses, with a combined ten national semifinal appearances (including this year) since 2000.

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