Twining’s Take on the week in sports: Hot topics in the sports world for those too busy shopping.

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If you watched Saturday Night Live this past weekend, hosted by Jimmy Fallon, then you most likely saw the skit where Jimmy gets the band back together for a wonderful rendition of “I wish it was Christmas today.” Something about the sight of Horatio Sanz, Chris Kattan and Tracy Morgan joining Fallon onstage brought me great joy. Christmas is only a few days away and since it’s Wednesday and I haven’t written a column in a while, I wanted to bring you some Christmas cheer by offering my insights on the hot sports topics of the past week (or so).

My reasoning for kicking off this column with an SNL reference is two-fold. One, I wanted to illustrate how close Christmas is and also make reference to a wonderfully hilarious SNL skit poking fun at Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos. The sketch mocked Tebow’s in-your-face religious belief as Jesus, played by Jason Sudekis, makes an appearance in the Broncos locker room following their victory over the Chicago Bears. Jesus explains how he has been only helping in the fourth quarter, much to Tebow’s chagrin, and reveals he actually prays to Bronco kicker Matt Prater who made a 59-yard game-tying field goal and a 51-yard game-winner in overtime to beat the Bears. Unfortunately Jesus says he won’t be able to help Denver beat “God’s nephew” Tom Brady and “the Devil” Bill Belichick.

In real life, the Patriots halted Tebow and the Bronco’s six-game winning streak and slowed the accelerating Tebow bandwagon. Despite the loss, the Broncos still reside in first place in the AFC West, ahead of the surging San Diego Chargers, Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs. If they can bounce back to win at least one of their final two games, the Broncos should make the playoffs. Okay, that was my Tim Tebow update of the week and now onto the Holiday-edition of Twining’s Take on the week in sports.

Here come the the Clippers

Chris PaulOn Saturday night in Los Angeles, Clippers fans are going to be going to bed humming a special rendition to “Here comes Santa Claus.” In addition to Santa arriving in L.A., championship-starved Clippers fans will be singing “here comes Chris Paul” instead as the former New Orleans Hornet and one of the most exciting players in the NBA makes his official, regular season debut against the Golden State Warriors Christmas night. The game features a bevy of stars in the Clippers’ Paul, Blake Griffin and Chauncey Billups and the Warriors’ trio of sharpshooters Stephen Curry, Monte Ellis and Klay Thompson.

That Paul is starting the season in Los Angeles is no surprise as he was originally traded to the Los Angeles Lakers. However, NBA Commissioner David Stern vetoed the trade because it wasn’t in the best “basketball interests of the league.” Keep in mind that the Hornets are owned by the NBA and openly being shopped to potential buyers. The vetoing of the trade eventually led to the departure of Lamar Odom from the Lakers, which did not go over so well with Kobe Bryant, who recently tore a ligament in his wrist and is facing a divorce that could cost him at least $75 million.

Paul’s arrival in Los Angles, which cost the Clippers an unprotected first-round draft pick and budding superstar Eric Gordon among others, instantly makes them NBA title contenders – a championship the franchise has never won. With all the unrest in the Laker organization, including a new head coach and the Stephen A. Smith-reported rumors that Kobe wanted a trade, it looks like Clipper fans can finally come out from under the stairs as they are no longer the ugly-stepchild to the Lakers.

Ohio State banned from Bowling

Former Ohio State head coach Jim TressellIt was announced Tuesday that the NCAA Committee on Infractions had finished its investigation of the Ohio State University football program violations under former head coach Jim Tressell and levied it’s punishment. So what does five players selling merchandise for tattoos, knowingly playing ineligible players, and attempting to cover-up the whole thing get the Buckeyes? Well, apparently only a one-year bowl ban, a small reduction in scholarships (from 85 to 82) and probation through the 2014-2015 season. Considering USC received a two-year post-season ban and a major reduction in scholarships for Reggie Bush’s violations, the sentence for Ohio State is quite lenient considering the depth of the violations.

Last December, it was revealed that five players, including starting quarterback Terrell Pryor, had received free tattoos in exchange for nearly $14,000 total in OSU merchandise. The players were suspended for the first five games of the 2011 season but allowed to play in the big-money BCS Sugar Bowl. Looking back, all five of those players were ineligible yet not only did Ohio State allow them to play, but so did the NCAA. The investigation revealed that Tressell had known about the free tattoos as soon as April of 2010 and had done nothing about it, even going to lengths to prevent it from being discovered.

With new head coach Urban Meyer joining the program in 2012, he will only suffer through one year of a post-season ban. It should give him time to lay the groundwork to bring the Buckeyes back to National Title contenders without the pressure of an expected BCS Bowl. Now all he has to do is convince a group of seniors to buy in for one final season with no hope for post-season play and recruit freshman and transfers under the premise of building a perennial winner.

Hurd you needed some drugs

I’m not sure that is exactly what Sam Hurd would tell NFL players to which he sold drugs, a list reportedly in the double digits, but it would be funny if Hurd used his name as a homonym in a drug business that reportedly netted him nearly $2 million per month dealing on the streets of Chicago. Last Wednesday, Chicago Bear wide receiver Sam Hurd was arrested in Chicago on federal drug charges.

This wasn’t just a normal sting operations, this was classified as a major drug bust as Hurd was allegedly attempting to set up repeatedly shipments in drugs to fuel an operation that had him as one of the biggest drug dealers in Chicago.

At a meeting with an undercover agent posing as a dealer, Hurd said he wanted to buy “five to 10 kilograms of cocaine and 1,000 pounds of marijuana per week for distribution in the Chicago area,” at a cost of $25,000 per kilo and $450 per pound of weed. With a client list of NFL players reportedly in the double digits, it seems Hurd’s NFL career, which included a stint with the Dallas Cowboys before joining the Bears, was his sidejob.

AL West will have last laugh

Albert Pujols courtesy Evanna Chung via FlickrAs a Seattle sports fan, I find myself often defending my favorite teams and the divisions in which they play. With the Seahawks, the NFC West is largely considered one of the weaker divisions in the NFL. In Major League Baseball, the American League West often garners the same distinction. Not only did the division add a fifth team in the Houston Astros, but the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels added major superstars to a rather boring division.

Texas hasn’t quite signed Japanese pitching sensation Yu Darvish, but they did win the rights to negotiate a contract with him after paying a $52 million posting fee to the Nippon Ham Fighters. Now comes the hard part of negotiating a contract within the 30-day limit, but rarely does a Japanese player go unsigned.

The biggest splash of the off season was the 10-year deal signed by free agent third baseman Albert Pujols to join the Angels. On the heels of the $250+ million contract, the Angels shelled out millions more to sign free agent pitcher C.J. Wilson away from the Rangers. At one point both Pujols and Wilson were rumored to have been on their way to the Miami Marlins, but they ended up on the left coast instead. Now all I need is for my Mariner to sign Prince Fielder and all will be right in the AL West.

Colt McCoy Rule

It will most likely be known from here on out at the “Colt McCoy Rule,” similar to the rule change on hitting quarterbacks low, dubbed the “Tom Brady Rule,” but the NFL announced it was putting independent trainers in the booths at NFL games to help detect and quickly diagnose concussions. It’s the next step in the NFL’s concerted attempt to minimize the long-term damage due to concussions and prevent occurrences similar to what took place last week when Colt McCoy suffered a concussion but wasn’t checked out by trainers prior to reentering the game.

As criticized as this may be, it shows that the NFL is serious about changing the way injuries are handled during games. With the added pressure of winning involved, often times players don’t get the necessary treatment for fear it will cost the team the game. After San Diego Charger lineman Kris Dielman suffered a concussion-related seizure on the team flight home from New York, it was evident the NFL needed to act quickly. Dielman suffered a consussion against the Jets but went back in and finished the game without receiving proper medical attention on the sideline. After the seizure, Dielman’s NFL career is in jeopardy.

It won’t be know just how much of an impact these independent trainers will have until they force Packer quarterback Aaron Rogers from the game in the playoffs. Remember, Rogers had concussion problems last year that almost cost the Packers a playoff berth. I guess as long as nobody is able to skirt around this policy and severe head-related injuries go down, I’m all for the sacrifice of a championship for the long-term health of my team’s star quarterback.

Photos courtesy Keith Allison, WDPG Share and Evanna Chung via Flickr.

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