EXCLUSIVE BLOG: How to celebrate a Mosconi Cup victory by 2013 Team Europe winner Darren Appleton

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When Europe strolled to an imperious 11-2 victory against fierce rivals USA in the 2013 Mosconi Cup, history had been written.

Never before had a European side cruised to such a win in the history of the competition, yet Johan Ruijsink’s men had done it – and on American turf too.

The fact that it was Europe’s fourth title in a row – and in the 20th year of the tournament – meant one thing: the players needed to celebrate.

But just how did the European squad come to terms with such a win? And how did they decide to toast their victory?

2013 winner Darren Appleton exclusively tells www.vaishalibhardwaj.com what he did – and how he felt – in the days following the team’s momentous Mosconi Cup triumph.

Mar 22

Nelson broke into the league in 2008 as a second-round pick of the Packers, but needed time to develop into one of the NFL’s most proficient deep threats.

He eclipsed the 1,200-yard mark in four seasons between 2011 and 2016 to help establish Green Bay as an offensive powerhouse. That earned him a four-year, $39 million contract extension in 2014 — a deal he ultimately couldn’t live up to as age and injury eroded his impact on the game.

Nelson has been an integral piece of the Packers’ offense since emerging as a starter in 2011. He headed up a receiving corps that included playmakers like Randall Cobb, Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, and Jermichael Finley as Green Bay stretched its postseason streak to eight seasons from 2009 to 2016. He even earned NFL Comeback Player of the Year honors after returning from a torn ACL to lead the league with 14 touchdown catches in 2016.

But Nelson’s 2017 was a marked decline from his typically lofty standards. Despite playing in 15 games, he managed just 53 receptions and 483 yards. His 9.1 yards per catch were the lowest of his career by a significant margin. The deep threat who had burned defenses in the past was reduced to a role as a possession receiver.

The Packers made an unofficial torch passing by signing Davante Adams to a four-year, $58 million extension back in December. That made Nelson’s $12.5 million cap hit for 2018 untenable — especially given his recent production. Cutting Nelson, despite his decade of loyal service, saves the franchise more than $10 million in cap room.

As a result, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Minnesota had to let one or two of those difference-makers leave in free agency.

Given that the Vikings had no quarterbacks on the roster and should be locking in above-average play at the game’s most important position for years to come, though, it’s a trade-off general manager Rick Spielman simply had to make.

OLB Devon Kennard, Lions Grade: C It was a bit of a surprise to see Kennard come off the board before free agency began — at a meaningful price — but the former Giants linebacker agreed to a three-year, $18.8 million deal to join the Lions.

It’s possible that Detroit sees more projection in Kennard than the rest of the league, and this might end up as a one-year deal after we see the salary structure, but it’s difficult to believe that there was a huge market for the 26-year-old at the rate of more than $6 million per season.

Given the emphasis the Patriots put on versatility, it should be no surprise that a team run by former New Englanders Matt Patricia and Bob Quinn would want a player who at least has the range in his skill set Kennard exhibited during stretches with the Giants.packers_109

Mar 20

Baker Mayfield relishing opportunity to prove himself again this time, in NFL

With the exception of the Senior Bowl and the NFL Scouting Combine, Mayfield has prepared for his impending NFL career mostly in California. He has changed that up a bit, with his home training base in Norman for the next two weeks. After that, he’ll spend another week training back in California before beginning the process of visiting NFL teams.

“I still haven’t played a down in the NFL, and I want to be the greatest ever to play the game. So for me, it’s starting back over and I love that.”

Minnesota’s new quarterback might have attempted to set a new precedent for top-tier players by planning to sign a three-year, $84 million deal that is fully guaranteed, the first top-tier, multiyear contract to be fully guaranteed in recent memory.

If the league ends up moving to a structure in which players get smaller, more lucrative deals, we’ll look back on Cousins as a trailblazer.

It’s certainly a surprise given that Cousins’ issue in Washington was that the organization never wanted to commit to him on a long-term contract.

“Bottom line, the players are upset. No, they are outraged,” Van Wagenen wrote. “Players in the midst of long-term contracts are as frustrated as those still seeking employment. Their voices are getting louder and they are uniting in a way not seen since 1994.”

That year, of course, represents the last work stoppage in MLB, a players strike prompted by owners’ attempt to introduce a salary cap into the game. The strike began Aug. 12, 1994, and lasted until late in spring training the following year, wiping out the 1994 World Series.

While MLB and its players have enjoyed unprecedented prosperity in recent decades, thanks mostly to an explosion in media rights fees, some teams’ reluctance or refusal to spend on free agents this offseason has led to a market glut as the days count down toward spring training — which should only serve to reduce the leverage of the dozens of players without a team, unless the players take some sort of collective action to fight back.

That seems to be what Van Wagenen is suggesting might happen. The agent, who has represented the likes of Robinson Cano, Ryan Braun, Ryan Zimmerman and Yoenis Cespedes, says the players may be spoiling for a showdown.packers_134

Mar 17

The 49ers met with Sherman on Saturday and wanted to make sure he is healing well from a torn Achilles in his right foot and a bone spur in his left.

He said he’d be forever grateful to former coach Mike Shanahan for drafting him, three rounds after they selected quarterback Robert Griffin III with the second overall pick.

“At the time many people saw his selection as foolish,” Cousins said. “Time proved otherwise and taught me that there are no guarantees in this business — if you work hard and learn from your mistakes, good things can happen. For the first time in 11 years I will participate in choosing where I play. Having said this, I would not trade the past decade for anything.”

“A lot of young athletes were inspired by the level of work it takes to get to a certain point in your career. I think that’s been a great payoff for me. It was hard work; we spent a lot of time last offseason and this season, a little bit of time. But to me, it turned into a great series.”

Brady, who has said he hopes to play to his mid-40s, explained on “Good Morning America” how he is transitioning from losing Super Bowl LII to the 2018 season, which will be his 19th in the NFL.

On Friday, Sherman told Anderson that he will be back running on the treadmill next week.

Sherman and the 49ers both expect that he will be ready for training camp, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter, who first reported the agreement between the sides.

Keenum helped power the Vikings to the NFC Championship Game last season as Minnesota went 11-3 in his regular-season starts in place of an injured Sam Bradford.

Keenum finished the season with 3,547 yards passing to go with 22 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

Keenum threw for 318 yards and a touchdown in the Vikings’ divisional-round win over the New Orleans Saints, with his improbable heave to Stefon Diggs in the closing seconds clinching the win.buccaneers_083

Mar 15

MLB trade news: Pirates acquire Corey Dickerson from Rays

The Pirates acquired outfielder Corey Dickerson on Thursday from the Rays.

Dickerson had been designated for assignment by Tampa Bay earlier this month despite hitting 27 home runs with 62 RBIs last season. Dickerson also had a solid .282/.325/.490 slash line, which helped him become a 2017 AL All-Star.

This team is better than the Rays or Marlins by themselves. But would it win more than, say, 84 games? Probably not.

Unfortunately for baseball fans in Florida, the Marays aren’t coming to a ballpark near you. They’ll have to suffer through yet another season of incompetence and penny-pinching, and probably at least another year of it after that. There is nothing in the water in Florida that inspires bad baseball. There is nothing in the air, and nothing in the food, that causes the play and conduct of the teams to be so thoroughly uninspiring outside of the years 1997, 2003 and 2008. The state itself is not burdened with a curse that forces those who own the Rays and Marlins to be misers.

It’s the doing of the misers themselves, as well as the unholy mess that is Tropicana Field (although there’s plenty to be said for the meager percentage of revenue that the Rays have actually invested in their rosters). Until that changes, the Rays and Marlins will be stuck in this cycle. Until that changes, we’ll just have to dream of the Marays.

Angels catcher Martin Maldonado and Cubs backstop Willson Contreras say they don’t care.

“If I have to go [out there] again and pay the price for my team I will,” Contreras told reporters Tuesday, via ESPN. “What about a tight game or an extra-inning game and you have to go out there? They cannot say anything about that. That’s my team. If they are going to fine me for mound visit No. 7, I’ll pay the price.”

Maldonado, a 2017 Gold Glove Award winner who is entering his second season with the Angels after six years in Milwaukee, echoed that sentiment.

Let’s not get it twisted: The Mets benefited from a historically slow free-agent market. Mets fans should be celebrating their team signing the likes of Yu Darvish or Jake Arrieta, being that they’re a big-market team. But until the Mets spend, they are what they are, market or not.buccaneers_013

Mar 13

Red Sox finally announce J.D. Martinez signing

Some tricky language in the five-year, $110 million deal and a final physical held up the signing since it was first reported Feb. 19. Martinez arrived at Boston’s spring training facility last Wednesday, so the wait for an official announcement had Boston fans biting their fingernails hoping the exam came back clean.

That’s what Ohtani, now 23, wants to know, too. And that burning desire is part of what makes Ohtani’s arrival in North America so damn interesting. This Japanese superstar could have landed a contract north of $200 million if he had waited two years to come over as a full-fledged free agent — by MLB’s current CBA, all international players under the age of 25 are considered amateurs, which means they’re only eligible for that specific, very restricted, bonus pool available to teams — but he wants to measure himself against the best of the best right damn now.

So instead of waiting for a deal worth $200 million, he chose to play for the Angels for the $2.315 million signing bonus the club had left in their international pool. Think about that. The competitive spirit was so strong in this athlete that he essentially threw away a couple hundred million so he could test his skills against elite competition.

“It’s definitely one of the coolest things I’ve ever done,” Wilson said of putting on his No. 73 jersey before takings swings in the same group as big bats like Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and Greg Bird.

“Ever since I was a young kid I always dreamed to be a Yankee,” he said. “I always watched them. My favorite player was Derek Jeter growing up, watching him, his professionalism and how he played.”

While Yankees manager Aaron Boone said Wilson won’t be play in any games, Wilson insists his spring training participation is not a stunt.

“If you really know me, baseball’s been part of my blood,” Wilson said. “It’s been a part of who I am and where I’ve come from and what I’ve done. When you see me make plays on the football field, a lot of that’s a direct correlation to baseball.”seahawks_126_1df2d9054941221e-180x180

Mar 12

Richard Sherman ‘s free-agency tour began with the San Francisco 49ers , and it won’t extend beyond the Bay Area.

The veteran cornerback has agreed to a three-year deal with the 49ers worth $39 million (including a $5 million signing bonus), NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported. The team confirmed the move Sunday.

Sherman was released by the Seattle Seahawks earlier in the week after the team decided it wanted to give the veteran an early start on free agency. The defensive back has been among the league’s best for the last five years, becoming a lockdown defender and face of Seattle’s Legion of Boom secondary. He’s been as excellent as he’s been topical, boisterous on the field (backed up by his play) and outspoken off it.

Once Santana and Hughes return, a Berrios-Santana-Odorizzi-Hughes-Gibson rotation in midseason should be enough to contend for the playoffs, aided by a bullpen greatly strengthened by general manager Thad Levine’s offseason moves.

Minnesota’s offense will try to build upon breakout seasons from several of its young players. In addition to second baseman Brian Dozier’s 34-homer season, third baseman Miguel Sano — still just 24 years old — hit a career-high 28 home runs with 77 RBIs in just 484 plate appearances, but the beginning of his season is in doubt with an MLB assault investigation looming.

With the Giants clipping Wing, his release should generate some buzz among teams searching for a punter in free agency.

Here are some other free agency moves we’ve been monitoring:

1. Former Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson , fresh off visits with the Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints earlier this week, visited with the Kansas City Chiefs on Saturday, a source informed of the situation told NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport. He’s scheduled to visit with the Washington Redskins next.

2. The Atlanta Falconsre-signed cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson to a one-year contract extension. Selected in the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft , Wreh-Wilson has 91 combined tackles, 15 passes defense and an interception.

3. Defensive end Kerry Hyder , whose 2017 season was wiped out by a torn Achilles tendon in the preseason, has re-signed with the Detroit Lions , the team announced Saturday. Hyder was slated to become a exclusive rights free agent. Terms of the deal were not announced. In other Lions news, the team also re-signed long snapper Don Muhlbach .seahawks_096_4cb8a7c0acb4d396-180x180

Mar 08

Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, Lonzo Ball highlight NBA Rising Stars rosters

Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and Lonzo Ball headline the NBA Rising Stars rosters announced Wednesday night.

The game will feature the same format as the previous three years with 10 of the league’s best rookies or second-year players from the U.S. taking on 10 from across the globe. The Sixers and Lakers each have three selections, the most for any team.

With the likes of Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler and Cam Fowler at 100 percent, the Ducks have hit their stride in the season’s homestretch.

Goalie John Gibson (25-15-6, 2.46, .927) posted his second shutout Tuesday night and did yeoman’s work keeping the team competitive early in the season when it was short-handed.

“We know if we don’t win now, our season is over,” Gibson said of Anaheim’s urgency. “There is definitely more pressure, and we hold ourselves to a higher standard.”

This starts a crucial back-to-back set for the Ducks, who play in Dallas on Friday night against an equally desperate foe.

They played together as teammates on the Cavaliers’ 2016 NBA championship team, and Irving told reporters he will always be connected to James and Love.

“I think you’ve heard it if you’ve talked to championship winners before, but when you’re on a championship team, it’s just a bond that can’t be broken forever,” Irving said, per ESPN. “Just going through that, the way we created history — we’re the only team in history to come back from 3-1 (in the NBA Finals). And that’s something that will be etched in NBA history for life.

“And that’s always a connection, something that we can always reminisce about no matter what. It’s an incredible bond that we built as a team, individually being tested at the highest level, and doing something that you can remember for the rest of your life and tell your kids about.”lions_018

Mar 07

Brewers manager on Ryan Braun at first base: Still at start of process

AJ Mass: In a points league, I don’t think there’s as much urgency to grab most of these starters at this proposed point of the draft. In a vacuum, at least from a pure value standpoint, relative to hitters, the entirety of this SP sextet probably can wait a minimum of five more rounds before flying off the board. That said, if pitching is flying off the board in your league’s draft, I certainly wouldn’t be afraid to grab any of these arms when you feel the time is right.

Francona did not say when Salazar will pitch in a spring training game but said he could resume throwing from a mound in a few days.

Salazar’s injury provides an opportunity for Clevinger, who emerged as a reliable starter for Cleveland last season. Francona acknowledged that Clevinger is “going to be in the rotation” after the 6-foot-4 right-hander had six strikeouts over three scoreless innings in his spring start against the Dodgers.

“We’re looking for ‘Clev’ to have a big year,” Francona said. “He’s strong, and he should be able to be that innings-eater type pitcher.”

Clevinger, 27, went 12-6 with a 3.11 ERA in 27 games — 21 starts — for the Indians last season, recording 137 strikeouts in 121? innings.

Even if you know very little about baseball, you can play and have a great time. While winning a championship might be the ultimate goal, enjoying the camaraderie of your friends, family and coworkers is what draws everyone back each season.

De Leon made his big league debut with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2016 and was 2-0 with a 6.35 ERA in four starts. Acquired the following January by the Rays, he pitched in one game for Tampa Bay last season, winning at the Texas Rangers on May 29, when he allowed three runs in 2? innings and on 69 pitches — the most by a Rays reliever since Chris Archer in September 2012.

De Leon made 10 minor league appearances last season and spent three stints on the disabled list due to discomfort in the flexor mass muscle, a strained lat muscle and forearm tendinitis, and back tightness. He had a pair of one-inning appearances in spring training this year, on Feb. 26 and on Saturday.

First off the board from this group, for me, is Godley. We’re looking at solid 200-K potential from a pitcher who may well reap the benefits of the Chase Field humidor, as his career ERA at home is 4.80, compared to 3.61 on the road. He still walks too many hitters for my tastes in a points league, but if he gets that under control be even a little bit, this is a top-25 SP.lions_095

Mar 03

In 2018, McCaffrey will try to end the Panthers’ drought without a 1,000-yard rusher.

Carolina hasn’t had one since 2009, when both Williams and Stewart broke 1,000 yards. That’s the longest active drought by a team in the NFL, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

The additional cap space could help the Panthers re-sign All-Pro left guard Andrew Norwell and defensive tackle Star Lotulelei.

While Hurney said it was too early to speculate on signing either, in describing his philosophy he immediately pointed to both interior line positions.

Sando: True. Bell is an elite talent and true difference-maker for the Steelers, which makes him too valuable to let walk while Roethlisberger is holding open the Steelers’ championship window. I tend to think the sides will find a way to continue this very productive marriage, perhaps against the odds, as long as Bell is healthy and an elite performer.

Seifert: False. The Steelers, smartly, will go year-to-year at a position where production drops dramatically in most cases after the age of 27. Bell turned 26 in February.

The fifth-round pick initially entered a not-guilty plea on Nov. 15 to operating a vehicle with a controlled substance in his system, speeding (24 mph over the posted speed limit of 55) and operating a vehicle without a valid license, according to Wisconsin Circuit Court records.

On Wednesday, he entered a no-contest plea to the citation for driving with a controlled substance in his system in exchange for dismissal of tickets for speeding and operating without a license.

Court records indicate Jones will be required to pay $1,047 in court costs and undergo an alcohol assessment. His license was also suspended for six months by Brown County judge Marc Hammer.

Of course, a big topic for fans is what the name of the potential NHL franchise will be.

“You have an owner in David that wants to make this about the fans and the community, you have one of the greatest minds ever on branding and entertainment in Jerry Bruckheimer, and we happen to have one of the best sports markets in North America,” Leiweke said. “I kind of like our odds as being able to figure out the brand and doing something extraordinary.”

Bruckheimer has been part of NHL ownership bids before. This time, he said, is different.

“Based off the responses we’re getting, there’s a lot of momentum working in our direction,” Bruckheimer said of the season-ticket drive.patriots_013

Feb 28

Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov will be looking to build on his lead in the race for the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL’s leading scorer.

He had two assists against the Senators and has 80 points, seven more than Calgary Flames forward Johnny Gaudreau.

He was the 26th pick in the 2015 NHL draft and had played this season with the Laval Rocket of the AHL after sustaining a foot injury at the beginning of the season.

“We probably would have had him up here earlier had he not been injured in training camp,” Canadiens coach Claude Julien said. “So that’s how highly we thought of this guy. Even if we were in the middle of a battle for a playoff spot, I don’t think we would have hesitated to bring this guy up.”

“I was obviously nervous going into the game, but the guys helped me through that,” Juulsen told montrealcanadiens.com. “I think it showed in my play.”

“I do believe there’s a competition (among them),” Penguins assistant coach Sergei Gonchar told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “It’s an honor to be the top goal-scorer in the league. But if it (were) an American or Canadian (they were competing against), they’re going to compete just as hard.”

Malkin, who continued his roll with one goal and two assists in Friday’s 6-1 Penguins win over the Carolina Hurricanes, will try to add to his total on Saturday night when the Penguins visit the Florida Panthers at the BB&T Center.

The Penguins continued their roll as well, winning their sixth straight on Friday while also acquiring

forward Derick Brassard in a three-team trade with the Ottawa Senators and Vegas Golden Knights. The Penguins also received a 2018 third-round draft pick and prospect forward Vincent Dunn from the Senators; and the Pens also received prospect forward Tobias Lindberg from the Golden Knights.

Pittsburgh traded defenseman Ian Cole, goalie Filip Gustavsson, a 2018 first-round draft pick and a 2019 third-round selection to the Senators, and forward Ryan Reaves and a 2018 fourth-round draft pick originally acquired from Vancouver to the Golden Knights.jays_360_99b921068c742c74-180x180