Friday, December 30, 2011

It's a brand new year, so let's hear it for 20s and 12s in 2012

The new year is 2012, which brings to mind all sorts of combinations of 20s and 12s, from Rocky Bleier (20) and Terry Bradshaw (12) to the number of points scored by an NBA All-Star one season (2,012) and a college star's milestone rushing season. A look at the 20s and 12s in honor of 2012, for's Page 2:

It's all on the line Sunday for Raiders

Daily Raiders blog for NBC BayArea website: It's come to this for the Oakland Raiders: They must beat the Chargers Sunday and hope for help elsewhere to win the AFC West or win a wild-card spot.

Rams don't appear to be much of a hurdle for 49ers

Daily 49ers blog for NBC Bay Area website: The Rams have lost six in a row, are 2-13 and will be missing their starting QB. So why is Jim Harbaugh worried about the season finale?

Jeopardy for Dec. 30 on

The Heimlich Maneuver can come in handy if you're at the Beef Bowl, eh? My Jeopardy for's Page 2:

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Don't count on Terrell Owens re-joining the 49ers

Daily 49ers blog for NBC Bay Area website: Though fans seem ready to embrace ex-49er Terrell Owens, San Francisco is more likely to activate rookie Joe Hastings as the replacement at wide receiver for the now-departed Braylon Edwards.

Chiefs appear motivated to help the Raiders win West

Daily Raiders blog for NBC Bay Area website: Kansas City appears motivated to beat the Broncos Sunday in the regular-season finale, which would help the Raiders win AFC West ... if they can beat the Chargers.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Raiders banking on the 'good' Carson Palmer Sunday

Daily Raiders blog for NBC Bay Area website: Carson Palmer at times has been brilliant. At others, he's been an interception machine. Oakland is hoping the "good" Palmer is at QB Sunday when the Raiders play the Chargers in the season finale with a playoff spot on the line.

In a surprise move, 49ers release Edwards

Daily 49ers blog for NBC Bay Area website: Braylon Edwards was acquired by the 49ers in August to be the big-time play-making wideout they needed to complement Michael Crabtree. However, it never worked out. Tuesday, the 49ers released Edwards in a surprising move.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Raiders need a win and some helping hands

Daily Raiders blog for NBC Bay Area website: The Raiders know they need to beat the Chargers Sunday to make the playoffs. But they also know they need some help to win the AFC West or earn a wild-card spot.

History shows a first-round bye is very important

Daily 49ers blog for NBC Bay Area website: How big is earning a No. 2 seed and a first-round playoff bye? Very important, according to one statistical analysis. The 49ers' chances of reaching the Super Bowl would almost double, he says.

Niners come back to beat Seahawks in Seattle

Daily 49ers blog for NBC Bay Area website: San Francisco comes back to win on David Akers' fourth field goal of the game in Seattle, keeping the team in the running for the NFC's No. 2 playoff seed.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Raiders stay alive with OT win in K.C.

Daily Raiders blog for NBC Bay Area website: The Raiders broke their three-game losing streak with a dramatic victory in Kanas City, blocking a Chiefs field-goal attempt at the end of regulation to give themselves a chance in overtime.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Will Niners have their special weapon vs. Seahawks?

Daily 49ers blog for NBC Bay Area website: Ted Ginn returned two kicks for TDs in the season opener vs. Seahawks, but he may not be full speed for Saturday's rematch in Seattle.

Raiders headed into hostile Arrowhead for must-win game

Daily Raiders blog for NBC Bay Area website: Though the Raiders have won four straight in Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City can be a hostile environment for a team in a must-win situation.

Jeopardy for Dec. 23 on

Who was this Scottish actor who had his kilt flipped in big-wave misadventure at Mavericks? My Jeopardy for's Page 2:

Thursday, December 22, 2011

First Winter Youth Games coming to Innsbruck

The little city of Innsbruck, Austria, has twice hosted the Winter Olympics, in 1964 and 1976. This January, the first Winter Youth Olympic Games will also take place in the city, where winter sports are a tradition and Olympic history has deep roots, from America's Billy Kidd to Austrian hero Franz Klammer. These Games, however, will be unlike any previous Winter Olympics. These will offer new sports and new formats for teens 14-18. My story for the U.S. Olympic website:

A loss to Chiefs Saturday could put a fork in Raiders

Daily Raiders blog for NBC Bay Area website: After losing three in a row, the Raiders are in a precarious position as they get ready to play the Chiefs in Kansas City Saturday.

Niners can afford to let Willis heal on sidelines

Daily 49ers blog for NBC Bay Area website: Standout linebacker Patrick Willis, sidelined with a hamstring injury the past two weeks, says there's no timetable for his return. He's just trying to get 100 percent healthy so he can make an impact when he returns.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

She decks the halls at the Hotel del Coronado

Valerie Willis each year is in charge of the Christmas decorations at the Hotel del Coronado, a year-round assignment that begins each January with the choice of a theme for the coming holiday. More than 100,000 lights decorate the historic hotel, and Christmas trees and other festive decorations are everywhere, including the 21-foot pine in the hotel's lobby. Her profile for the On the Job series on Coronado Patch:

Christmas menus evolve and become more diverse with time

The traditional Christmas dinner may not be so traditional anymore for many families. As our families grow, and more people become part of them with different heritages and traditions, new dishes are added. And as more people have to go to a gluten-free or dairy-free diet -- or have chosen to become vegetarian or vegan -- cooks are changing the dishes they make. My story on changing Christmas meals for the Food Section of the San Diego Union-Tribune:

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Former gymnast fits in nicely at the YMCA

Debby Lenz was a gymnast and then a gymnastics coach when she went to work for the YMCA almost 30 years ago. For Lenz, who heads up the YMCA facility in Santee, the marriage has been a great one, allowing her to make a difference in individual lives while being able to develop relationships with members and staff ... and still coach. Her profile for the "On the Job in Santee" series for Santee Patch:

Niners finally come to life in the red zone

Daily 49ers blog for NBC Bay Area website: Alex Smith twice leads the 49ers to TDs in the red zone in the second half of San Francisco's 20-3 victory over the Steelers, a needed boost for a team that has consistently stalled and settled for field goals deep in opponents' territory.

Raiders coach is always a gambling man

Daily Raiders blog for NBC Bay Area website: Hue Jackson likes to gamble. Some times is pays off. On other days -- such as in Sunday's loss to the Lions -- it backfires.

Lights go out, but Niners shine vs. Steelers

Daily 49ers blog for NBC Bay Area website: The Niners flipped a switch and came alive vs. the Steelers on "Monday Night Football," taking a 20-3 win over one of the AFC's best teams, on a night Candlestick Park went dark twice because of power outages.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Raiders look anything but like a playoff team

Daily Raiders blog for NBC Bay Area website: Maybe the Raiders keep stumbling in their quest to make the playoffs because they don't belong in the playoffs? They've given up at least three wins with shoddy late-game defense, commit penalties by the bunch and have had many crucial injuries.

Raiders lose game; did they lose shot at playoffs, too?

Daily Raiders blog for NBC Bay Area website: Oakland lets a 13-point, fourth-quarter lead slip away in a 28-27 loss to the Detroit Lions. With three straight losses and a 7-7 record, the Raiders -- a game behind Denver with two games to play -- may have shot itself in the foot one too many times.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Fighting to keep her store alive

Deena White opened her children's bookstore, Readers Inc., three years ago in La Mesa's Village. But the uphill battle against changing reading habits and the recession has her worried that her beloved store may soon have to close its doors. That's why she hung up a banner outside, with a plea for support. Her story, for La Mesa Patch, part of a series on how people are coping with the changing American dream and economic realities:

Medical, courtroom illustrator makes injuries clear

John Alesi knew at an early age he had a gift for drawing. But what to do with it? When he discovered medical illustrating while going to Long Beach State, a lifetime career opened up to him. Today, he does illustrations for doctors and attorneys to use in courtrooms across the United States. His profile for the "On the Job" series in the North County edition of the San Diego Union-Tribune:

Friday, December 16, 2011

Steelers' blitzing defense is challenge for 49ers

Daily 49ers blog for NBC Bay Area: The Niners have had trouble protecting QB Alex Smith lately. Now comes a matchup with the Steelers, who go after opposing quarterbacks. Are 49ers up to the test?

Raiders hope to get a boost from big home crowd

Daily Raiders blog for NBC Bay Area website: The Raiders have lost several key playmakers, including Darren McFadden, Jacoby Ford and now, possibly, Michael Huff. But they're encouraged by getting to play again at home in front of a sold-out Coliseum, in Sunday's must-win game vs. the Lions.

Jeopardy for Dec. 16 on

As a tight end, apparently he was a great singer. My Jeopardy for's Page 2:

Thursday, December 15, 2011

What can 49ers do about red-zone woes?

Daily 49ers blog for NBC Bay Area website: What's the answer to 49ers' problems in the red zone? Is it Vernon Davis or Braylon Edwards? Neither seems to be a prime target these days for Alex Smith when the team gets inside an opponent's 20.

Return of Denarius Moore is good news for Raiders

Daily Raiders blog for NBC Bay Area website: Denarius Moore's return should help Raiders' cause vs. Lions Sunday, but Jacoby Ford is still doubtful and Darren McFadden is nowhere to be seen.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

He has "an affinity for the silly boxes"

Paul Adams loves to tinker with computers, and has a lifetime of experience with electronics. He put his good hands and keen knowledge of the "silly boxes" to good use by starting his own non-profit group that refurbishes used computers and puts them into the hands of low-income disabled men and women or seniors. His profile for the "On the Job in Santee" series:

Niners could get lucky and miss Harrison

Daily 49ers blog for NBC Bay Area website: Niners, who've had trouble protecting QB Alex Smith, could catch a break in their Monday Night Football game vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers if the Steelers' outside linebacker James Harrison can't play because of a suspension.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Q&A with Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim Brown

Jim Brown, perhaps the greatest running back in the history of the NFL, still doesn't sidestep issues or avoid taking on adversity head-on. Brown, who's dedicated the past 30 years to helping youth through his Amer-I-Can Program, talks about helping gang members, the changing rules of the NFL, Tim Tebow and showboating players in this Q&A for's Page 2:

Holes in Raiders defense may sink the ship

Daily Raiders blog for NBC Bay Area website: Oakland's leaky defense may be more troublesome these days than all the injuries to playmakers on offense.

49ers dealing with a banged-up Frank Gore

Daily 49ers blog for NBC Bay Area website: Frank Gore is "less than 100 percent" says coach Jim Harbaugh, which is having an impact on the 49ers offensive play-calling. What will the team do down the final three games of the stretch with Gore? Play him or rest him?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Raiders have stumbled, lost margin for error

Daily Raiders blog for NBC Bay Area website: Oakland has lost two straight, plus its place atop the AFC West standings. Now, with three games to play, the Raiders need to get their act together and hope for some help.

Niners, who lost their mojo vs. Cards, hope to get it back

Daily 49ers blog for NBC Bay Area website: San Francisco, a week after clinching NFC West title, went flat vs. the Cardinals in Arizona. Is this just a temporary blip, or a sign of trouble?

Alaska Fairbanks rifle team can shoot the Northern Lights out

The rifle team at Alaska Fairbanks may be one of the most dominant programs in NCAA sports, yet one few people below Juneau have ever heard of. How did this program become so dominant? Well, it's all those Alaskans who grow up in the deep woods, hunting moose, right? Well, no. Hunting and rifles are a big thing in the Last Frontier, but many of the program's best marksman come to the Far North from the lower 48, and even Europe. This program aims for success, and usually hits its bull's-eye. My story for's Page 2.

Niners squander early chances, lose to Cardinals

Daily 49ers blog for NBC Bay Area website: The 49ers can't convert deep in the red zone three times in the first half, and settle for field goals instead of TDs, a fatal mistake in 21-19 loss to the Cardinals in Arizona.

Raiders pulverized by Packers in Green Bay

Daily Raiders blog for NBC Bay Area website: Green Bay runs its record to 13-0 with a lopsided victory over Oakland, which falls behind 7-0 on Packers' first play from scrimmage and then suffers through four Carson Palmer interceptions.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Andrew Luck comes up short in Heisman voting

Blog for NBC Bay Area website: Andrew Luck decided to stay at Stanford an extra year. Even though he didn't win the Heisman Trophy, consider Luck's decision a good one for him, and the Cardinal.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Jeopardy for Dec. 9 on's Page 2

Hello, Dolly! Who was that Super Bowl halftime performer in 1970? My Jeopardy for's Page 2:

Niners begin Phase 2 of regular season vs. Cards

Daily 49ers blog for NBC Bay Area website: With a division title locked up, the Niners get ready to play the Cardinals Sunday knowing they need to make a strong push over the final four games if they want to be among the top two seeds in the NFC and earn a first-round bye in the playoffs.

Raiders will need a dynamic offense to beat Packers

Daily Raiders blog for NBC Bay Area website: Oakland can't hope to win a low-scoring duel with undefeated Green Bay. The Raiders will have to beat the Packers in a shootout, so they will need to pull out all the stops, says CBS Sports' Phil Simms.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

49ers still missing Willis, but get Edwards back

Daily 49ers blog for NBC Bay Area website: Linebacker Patrick Willis could be sidelined for a while with a hamstring strain, but wide receiver Braylon Edwards returns and is ready to play against Arizona this Sunday.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

She's the Flower Lady of Coronado

Debbie Otto had no intentions of becoming a florist. But one thing led to the next and now Otto every day can be found in a Coronado park, next to Orange Avenue, selling flowers as the Coronado Flower Lady. Her profile for the Coronado Patch website:

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Mark Johnson's hockey life has been golden

Mark Johnson has done almost everything there is to do in hockey. He was a college star at Wisconsin under his father and legendary coach, Bob Johnson. He was a star on the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" team that won the gold medal at Lake Placid. He played 11 years in the NHL and was an All-Star. And, since he retired as a player, he's built the Wisconsin women's program into a powerhouse and led the U.S. women to the silver medal in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. My story on Johnson for USA Hockey, as part of its 75th anniversary celebration series.