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.

Apr 30

Giants’ Josh Mauro suspended 4 games for PED violation

The Giants signed defensive end Josh Mauro earlier this week, but he won’t be able to play the first month of the regular season.

The team announced Friday that the league has suspended Mauro for the first four games of the 2018 season for violating the NFL policy on performance enhancing substances. He is eligible to participate in all offseason and preseason practices and games.

“While I take responsibility for this suspension, I want to clarify that my test showed traces of banned stimulant from a preworkout supplement bought over the counter,” Mauro said in a statement (via NFL Network). “While I didn’t and would never intentionally put anything in my body that was a banned substance, I wholeheartedly honor and respect the NFL’s drug testing policy and I take full accountability.”

Cubs: 1B Anthony Rizzo missed his second consecutive game with back tightness and is day to day. Maddon said Rizzo was feeling better but he didn’t want to rush it.

Brewers: LF Christian Yelich (oblique tightness) is progressing but is doubtful to return Sunday, Counsell said. “I think we can get through the weekend and then I think we might be in good shape on Monday,” he said. … Needing a fresh arm in the bullpen, the team selected the contract of RHP J.J. Hoover from Triple-A Colorado Springs and optioned RHP Brandon Woodruff to its top farm club. LHP Tyler Webb was designated for assignment. Hoover got the last out of the ninth.

Cubs: LHP Jose Quintana (0-1) is set to make his second start after allowing six runs in six innings in his season debut on April 1 in Miami.

Brewers: RHP Chase Anderson (0-0) will make his third start, trying to rebound from a no-decision Tuesday when he allowed four runs in four innings against St. Louis.

“Well, Philadelphia had been trying to win a Super Bowl the 30 years I’d been in the NFL and got it this year. Not two [years],” Jones said, via ESPN. “So, they’ve been trying a long time to win a Super Bowl and other teams have, too. So, it wasn’t just a two-year run for them to go to the Super Bowl.”

After being prompted about closing the gap in the NFC East, Jones further expressed his bitterness by saying he sees many similarities between the Cowboys and Eagles.cardinals_045

Apr 27

Michael Bennett indicted for allegedly injuring paraplegic woman at Super Bowl 51

Newly acquired Eagles defensive end Michael Bennett has been indicted by a grand jury in Harris County, Texas, for allegedly injuring a 66-year-old paraplegic woman after Super Bowl 51 in February 2017, according to the Harris County District Attorney’s office.

The Eagles released a statement saying the team is aware of the situation and is gathering more information, but they will not further comment at this time.

Eagles Statement on Michael Bennett: We are aware of the situation involving Michael Bennett and are in the process of gathering more information. Because this is an ongoing legal matter, we will have no further comment at this time.

While performing in The Spring League in Austin, Texas, the controversial quarterback looked like his old self when he threw a touchdown pass in the first quarter of the matchup.

Manziel finished 9 of 15 for 83 yards and a score, but also took three sacks in the team’s 11-7 loss. Despite finding the developmental league game frustrating at times, he was just happy to be back on the field.

It’s disappointing, some of the things that happened, Manziel said, via ESPN, but nevertheless, it’s a huge step for me. I put pads back on. A lot of people wrote me off just to even get to this point. I’m definitely emotional about it. I’m definitely happy about it. This isn’t the end goal for me, but I’m having fun again. I have a smile on my face.

Let’s take a look at Andrew McCutchen of the San Francisco Giants. He started the season 2-for-24 (.083) with six strikeouts — and negative fantasy points as a result. But on April 7, he went off with a 6-for-7 night including three extra-base hits — one of which was a walk-off three-run blast in the 14th inning. Suddenly, he’s batting .258 on the season and has 16 total fantasy points for the week and he’s in no danger of being on the most-dropped list.

Conversely, how much louder would the boos be for Giancarlo Stanton if not for his 2-HR, 16 fantasy point Opening Day? Since then, he’s managed to go just 4-for-37 (.108) with 19 strikeouts, and his overall fantasy point total remains at 16. Yet, if Stanton goes 2-for-4 with a few balls either slamming into or sailing over the outfield wall in his next outing, all is likely to be sunshine and rainbows.cardinals_089

Apr 25

NFL trade news: Buccaneers acquire DE Jason Pierre-Paul from Giants

The Buccaneers added to their defensive line Thursday, sending a third- and fourth-round pick in the 2018 draft to the Giants for Jason Pierre-Paul and a 2018 fourth-round pick.

Tampa Bay needed help on the defensive edge, but at pick No. 7 in the draft the Bucs had virtually no shot at landing Chubb.

Jason is an elite-level edge rusher who will make an immediate impact on our defense, Bucs general manager Jason Licht told the team’s website. We are adding a two-time Pro Bowler who is passionate about the game and has established himself as one of the league’s premier defensive ends. Jason is an incredibly hard-working playmaker on the defensive front with a unique skill set that allows him to stay on the field in both rushing and passing situations.

Indians RHP Josh Tomlin (0-1, 24.00) had his turn in the rotation pushed back a day after experiencing back soreness in his start against the Angels when he allowed four home runs in three innings. Tigers LHP Matthew Boyd (0-1, 1.50 ERA), who has a 1.91 ERA in five career games at Progressive Field.

Insensitive comments from McNair are nothing new.

The vast majority of the Texans team knelt prior to their game against the Seahawks this past season in protest to McNair’s we can’t have the inmates running the prison comments at a recent meeting between NFL owners and executives.

According to ex-Texans offensive lineman Duane Brown, McNair has a history of questionable remarks.

In an interview with ProFootballTalk, Brown said McNair talked to the team in 2008 after Barak Obama was elected as president.

He was visibly upset about it, Brown said. He said, ‘I know a lot of y’all are happy right now, but it’s not the outcome that some of us were looking for.’ That was very shocking to me.

There’s more.cardinals_134

Apr 23

T.J. Jones signs tender with Lions

Wide receiver T.J. Jones signed his restricted free agent tender on the first day of the Lions’ offseason program.

The Lions made the announcement on Monday afternoon. Jones was tendered at the lowest of the three levels earlier this offseason and stands to make a little more than $1.9 million during the 2018 season.

Jones made the first six starts of his NFL career last season and set career-highs with 30 catches and 399 yards in his 14 overall appearances with the team. He’s played 27 games for Detroit over the last three seasons and will return to a complementary role alongside Golden Tate and Marvin Jones.

“I’m excited about it,” Davis said. “There’s a lot of momentum coming out of New York from people who have seen what we’ve done there, and there are people in New Orleans who are looking forward to using the platform to advocate on their behalf.”

Which means NFL players could be in the halls of another state house or university before long, with attentive audiences waiting.

“That was another playoff game. That was just tough, physical for 48 minutes,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said.

One more win Wednesday night at Minnesota and the Nuggets will end a five-year playoff drought.

The Trail Blazers have lost four straight but still harbor hopes of clinching the third seed in the Western Conference playoffs.

“At the end of the day this team is going to make a shot. I’m not worried about that,” said Jusuf Nurkic, who had 20 points and 19 rebounds. “We have one more at home (against Utah) and it’s probably going to be for the third spot. We’re going to fight for that.”

The Nuggets kept their season alive thanks to Nikola Jokic’s 10th triple-double of the season and a stifling defense on a night their starters made just 22 of 61 shots.

“I told them at halftime, I was honest, I said, `Fellas, if we lose, we’re out.’ I knew some of these other teams had won games. And I felt we played like our lives were on the line,” Malone said. “It wasn’t pretty, but I thought our defense was phenomenal.”texans_130

Apr 21

Raptors hold off Pistons 108-98

VanVleet was out with lower back tightness, and Ibaka had the night off to rest for Toronto.

The game didn’t mean much in terms of seeding in the East, but Toronto (59-22) now leads Golden State (58-23) by a game for home-court advantage in a possible NBA Finals matchup.

Manziel, 25, completed 13 of 32 passes for 136 yards and an interception in a 17-13 loss to the Chiefs in the last game he played. He has not played the past two seasons.

Brent Burns, Joe Pavelski and Timo Meier scored for San Jose. Martin Jones allowed five goals on 19 shots before being replaced by Aaron Dell to start the third period.

The Sharks started strong in the second period and held Minnesota without a shot for more than eight minutes. But the Wild then struck twice within less than a minute midway through the period to take control.

Granlund started it with a wrist shot for his 21st goal before Zucker took over with two goals of his own, giving him 33 on the season and the Wild coasted from there to the victory.

“We didn’t play too well,” Sharks forward Logan Couture said. “We should have played better. Disappointing. I think over 82 games in the season we had a pretty solid year to make the playoffs.”

The 49ers announced they have signed linebacker Korey Toomer to a one-year deal.

“We’re excited to add a talented player like Korey to our defensive unit,” 49ers General Manager John Lynch said, via quotes distributed by the team. “Korey is a good fit for the ‘stack linebacker’ position in our scheme, and he provides our team another good football player with plenty of NFL experience in similar systems.”

Toomer, 29, entered the NFL as a fifth-round pick of the Seahawks in 2012. He has spent time with the Seahawks (2012-13), Cowboys (2014), Rams (2014), Raiders (2015) and Chargers (2016-17).

In 46 career games, Toomer has 115 tackles, two sacks, one interception and five forced fumbles. He also has added 14 special teams tackles.

The way Chiefs general manager Brett Veach sees it, why wait?texans_113

Apr 19

Saints hoping draft goes as well this year as last

No team had a better draft than the Saints in 2017. Alvin Kamara and Marshon Lattimore became the first teammates to sweep the AP Rookie of the Year awards since 1967.

Ryan Ramczyk, Marcus Williams, Alex Anzalone and Trey Hendrickson proved big contributors, too.

But the Saints don’t have as many picks — or draft as early — as they did in 2017. Their first pick this year is No. 27, and New Orleans’ next choice after that is No. 91. Six of the Saints’ eight choices are third-day picks.

A Beckham deal would go straight to the top of that star-studded marquee, and wide receiver is a need for the Rams after they failed to re-sign Sammy Watkins. But two factors make such a move undesirable and unreasonable for the Los Angeles.

Adding Beckham to an already volatile personality mix with Peters, Talib and Suh might be much too much to handle. The Rams also need to worry about paying Aaron Donald, the best defensive player in the NFL, what he wants beyond 2018. Taking on another contract concern from the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft, in which Beckham was selected one spot ahead of Donald, would put the Rams in a tough situation with running back Todd Gurley and quarterback Jared Goff needing big deals, too, in the near future.

But what begins now for San Antonio after Monday’s 98-85 win over the Sacramento Kings is one final push to improve playoff seeding Wednesday when the Spurs face the New Orleans Pelicans at Smoothie King Arena. As it stands, the Spurs can finish anywhere between fourth and eighth in the Western Conference standings with one game remaining in the regular season.

“It feels good,” said Rudy Gay, who came off the bench to record a team-high 18 points as one of five Spurs to score in double figures. “It feels great, actually.”

The Spurs currently sit at sixth in the standings, and with a victory over New Orleans, they’re assured at least the No. 5 seed but could move up to fourth depending on the outcomes of other games in the conference.

For a franchise that tied the Portland Trail Blazers on the NBA’s all-time list for the second-longest streak of consecutive postseason appearances — and had captured back-to-back 60-win seasons in the previous two years — the Spurs expressed sincere relief in finally clinching the latest berth. Typically, at this time of the season, the Spurs are resting players in preparation for the playoffs.texans_096

Apr 17

Who had the best sneakers of Week 25 in the NBA?

With his season-long #LeBronWatch campaign featuring two surprises this week, Cavaliers All-Star LeBron James once again continued his dominance both on the court and with his shoe game.

Nike has made more than 10 special editions of his latest signature model, the LeBron 15, highlighting everything from classic Nike brand stories to colorways and themes from past LeBron shoes, and even tributes to some of James’ favorite Swoosh sneakers from his childhood.

As the Cavs played host to the Washington Wizards earlier in the week, James caught everyone by surprise with a nod to his very first sneaker.

Last night, I had no choice but to go back to where it all started for me in 2003 with the Air Zoom Generation, James captioned on Instagram. Felt like I was actually back in the original while on the floor. Crazy!

Last but not least, Clippers center Montrezl Harrell has continued to have fun with his Kickstradomis-customized sneakers, donning a pair of red and blue Air Jordan 29s featuring none other than Homer Simpson in his classic WooHoo! pose along the side.

Check out all of the best sneakers spotted in the NBA this week, and vote for your favorite pair below.

Sometimes this talent distribution can change rapidly, reflecting a trend or a truth about what’s going on in baseball. For example, when home runs became a powerful point of differentiation among players after the end of the dead ball era, which had been mostly about batting average, the smaller players at second and shortstop didn’t add as many homers as the generally larger outfielders did. Same goes for third basemen, the hot corner being considered more of a defensive position than it is today.

Another trend is the decline in difference between players on the hard and easy side of the defensive spectrum. While the importance of talent up the middle to a team was always something you heard in baseball, it has been only since Moneyball that the WAR contribution from the middle positions (C, 2B, SS, CF) has finally caught up to the value from the corners.cardinals_014

Apr 14

Hitter or pitcher? Why Shohei Ohtani’s fantasy value is best on the mound

Hey hey, Shohei! You’re No. 1 on the Player Rater!

Through one week — OK, 11 days (or the length of the ESPN first “week”) — no star in fantasy baseball has shined brighter than Shohei Ohtani’s, the Los Angeles Angels’ hitter/pitcher. And he’s worthy of that dual label, having already provided sizable contributions on both sides of the ball: He’s tied for fifth in the majors in home runs (3) on the hitting side, and stands alone in third in strikeouts (18) on the pitching side.

If you’ve been watching, you’ve seen what’s behind it: A splitter that has been positively filthy, one that he has thrown 32 percent of the time overall and 48 percent in two-strike counts, making it his put-away pitch. Ohtani’s splitter has been worth 3.7 runs above average per FanGraphs, making it the eighth most-valuable individual pitch thus far, behind only Sean Manaea’s four-seam fastball (6.7), Jameson Taillon’s four-seam fastball (5.4), Chris Rusin’s four-seam fastball (4.9), Ian Kennedy’s four-seam fastball (4.8), Luis Severino’s slider (4.2), David Price’s cutter (4.1) and Gerrit Cole’s four-seam fastball (3.8). Ohtani’s splitter also generated 16 swings and misses on Sunday, which is tied for the most by any pitcher’s splitter in a single game since 2009, which is the first season for which our internal pitch-tracking tool has data.

“Denver’s a punter’s paradise,” King (Marquette, not Peter) said. “The ball definitely travels a lot further. I’ve always enjoyed punting out here in the altitude just because the ball travels further.”

Of course, there’s more to special teams success than just being able to kick the tar out of the ball, and the Broncos coaches are going to have to work to get King used to the difference to keep him from just blasting everything through the end zone.

But getting King (Marquette, not Peter) for a three-year, $7 million deal seems like good business, since he was already one of the league’s strongest punters (and fun, which it’s important to remember the game is still allowed to be).

Gettleman might be looking to duplicate the formula he used to build Carolina into a Super Bowl team with Cam Newton and a powerhouse defense leading the way. Expensive wide receivers were never part of the Panthers way under Gettleman.texans_015

Apr 12

Towns helps T-wolves top Grizzlies 113-94, closer to clinch

The Minnesota Timberwolves picked up another important win to keep pace in this relentless Western Conference race.

Their quest to end the franchise’s 14-year absence from the playoffs still isn’t finished.

Teague missed six of his first eight shots, but he helped the Wolves pull away with a four-point play in the early portion of the third quarter. His lob found Andrew Wiggins for a soaring dunk about three minutes later. Gorgui Dieng sank his second 3-pointer of the night soon after for a 75-63 lead. Butler gave the Wolves a 98-83 lead midway through the fourth quarter with a hustle to finish a fast break with a layup.

The Wolves brought energy and crisp ball movement, but they clearly carried some pressure with them during an ugly start filled with turnovers and misfires. They made only four of their first 16 shots from the field, and boos circulated in the arena as Omari Johnson’s jumper put the Grizzles in front 24-14. Butler missed a short bank shot as he was fouled and bricked the first free throw, too, causing him to growl in disgust as he reached the bench early in the second quarter.

The Wolves, though, used a 20-4 run to lighten the mood a little in the arena. Derrick Rose (13 points), Dieng (11 points) and Tyus Jones (eight points) combined to produce a solid output from the second unit.

That approach has been working so far.

“I’m feeling great now,” Smith said, via the team’s website. “Actually, I feel like I’m in the best shape I’ve been in a while. I’ve taken this offseason to get back into it a little early and try to take care of my body a little more. I’m just doing the little small [rehab] things and I just feel awesome right now.”

There are several things that would aid the Cowboys offense in 2018, including having Ezekiel Elliott in the lineup for a full season. A healthy year for Smith is right at the top of the list as well, so people in Dallas will be hoping these early results foretell good things for the months to come.

Rest assured, the teams interested in drafting Jackson will make time to find out more about his special talents. The teams that are out on him won’t do their due diligence, anyway. Of course, the notion also could have been put out there by more than a few Jackson suitors in an effort to make him last longer on the board for their drafting purposes.patriots_115-223x223

Apr 10

Tony Romo lands nomination for Sports Emmy

After just one season as the top color man for CBS Sports’ NFL coverage in 2017, Tony Romo has been nominated for an Emmy award.

The broadcasting giant announced this news on Wednesday.

According to 247 Sports, Romo will be competing against Kirk Herbstreit, John Smoltz as well as fellow CBS peers Gary Danielson and Brad Nessler for the award.

Of course, one of the reasons Ballard might feel this way is that in the end the Colts came out smelling like roses. Instead of landing the offensive coordinator of the team that lost Super Bowl LII, they signed the offensive coordinator of the winning team, former Philadelphia Eagles coach Frank Reich. Still, it’s pretty interesting that the team that was most impacted by the situation that triggered this potential change didn’t want it to begin with.

Fast forward a couple months and Redskins head coach Jay Gruden had this to say when asked if the team is now better off with Smith.

Yeah, without a doubt, Gruden said, per John Keim of ESPN. I don’t want to compare two players, but we’re always trying to be better at every position. We got better. Alex’s experience is well-noted, and his record the last five years is what it is. You could argue that all day, but we feel very good.

These remarks must be a bit of a gut punch to Cousins, who did the team no wrong while patiently playing under franchise tender for the last two seasons.

But ultimately, Washington allowed Cousins to walk. Accordingly, the Redskins made a smart move in acquiring Smith who would have been snatched up quickly by any team in need should he have officially hit the trade block.broncos_023-500x500