Saturday, March 31, 2012

Niners fans: Don't vote for Willis for 'Madden' cover

Daily 49ers blog for NBC Bay Area website: 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis has made the second round of voting to be on the cover of the next edition of the "Madden" video game, which means one thing to fnas of Willis and the team: it's time to access the voting page and vote AGAINST him. All that talk about a curse may be nonsense, but why take a chance?

Friday, March 30, 2012

SDSU's big, cuddly cat loses all nine of its lives (at once)

He was called Zuma, and he was supposed to be a kid-friendly, cuddly sidekick to the Aztecs Warrior mascot at San Diego State. But some fans didn't like him, and others were confused by him. This week, the school pulled his plug and sent him to mascot heaven. My story for's Page 2:

Niners are well-positioned for NFL Draft

Daily 49ers blog for NBC Bay Area website: With a deep roster and few holes, the 49ers aren't compelled to take a certain type of player with their first-round pick in the draft next month. They can afford to scan the board and take the best player available, no matter the position.

'The Education of Bear'

For 14 years, I had the pleasure of a wonderful friend named Brooks, an energetic and happy golden retriever who loved hikes, car rides and his human sisters. About 3 1/2 years after losing my good friend, I took the plunge to adopt another golden, a rescued 2-year-old named Bear. Neither one of us really knew what we were getting into ... a steep learning curve that -- at times -- seemed almost too steep. But after several months, both of us have learned a lot. My story on "The Education of Bear" for UT San Diego:

Jeopardy for March 30 for

What kind of animal picked up the nickname "Callaway" for eating golf balls? My Jeopardy for's Page 2:

Thursday, March 29, 2012

U.S. cyclists will soon have replica of London BMX track at Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista

Four years ago, U.S. cyclists won three medals in BMX at Beijing, thanks in part to being able to train on a replica track of the Beijing layout at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista. Now, with London on the horizon, BMX riders await a new layout in April that will replicate the supercross course to be used for the 2012 Summer Games. My story for the U.S. Olympic site:

Big back Jacobs could give big boost to 49ers in red zone

Daily 49ers blog for NBC Bay Area website: Last year, the 49ers were the worst team in the league scoring touchdowns in the red zone. Big-back Brandon Jacobs, who has a history of success in short-yardage opportunities, should help the 49ers and add depth to the corps of ballcarriers on the team.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Harbaugh giving Moss a clean slate

Daily 49ers blog for NBC Bay Area website: Forget the past and move forward, says 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh about the newly signed Randy Moss. That's Harbaugh's message going forward. He says he'll judge Moss by what he says and does, not by his reputation.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Josh Johnson adds spice to backup-QB competition for 49ers

Daily 49ers blog for NBC Bay Area website: Josh Johnson, who played for Jim Harbaugh in college, now joins the 49ers and will compete for the job to back up Alex Smith. The addition of Johnson gives the 49ers four QBs.

Raiders GM excited by extra draft picks

Daily Raiders blog for NBC Bay Area website: Three compensatory picks awarded to the Oakland Raiders have new GM Reggie McKenzie excited ... especially since he only had two picks to work with before.

Monday, March 26, 2012

49ers' defense gets an assist for 49ers' offense

Daily 49ers blog for NBC Bay Area website: Wide receiver Mario Manningham says the Niners' dominating defense was a big factor in his decision to sign with San Francisco as a free agent.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Sweet success was produced by recipe of hard work, new ideas

Since buying the Carlsbad Danish Bakery, Joyce Harris has managed to turn around the longtime village favorite by changing the menu, changing the decor and bringing her background in business to run the operation ... well, more like a business. She now works seven days a week, but enjoys the challenge of owning her own store for the first time. Her profile for the "On the Job" series for the Union-Tribune's North County section.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Jeopardy for March 23 on

She's written a tell-all (or mostly all) book about being the NFL's oldest cheerleader, at age 43. What team does she cheer for? My Jeopardy for's Page 2:

Raiders' McKenzie satisfied with progress

Daily Raiders blog for NBC Bay Area website: New GM Reggie McKenzie has basically been tasked with trimming payroll this offseason, but despite his slashing and burning, he says he's happy with the progress he's made in restructuring the roster.

Ginn and 49ers will continue special relationship

Daily 49ers blog for NBC Bay Area website: Ted Ginn Jr. tested the waters of NFL free agency, but decided to return to San Francisco, thus giving the Niners one of the best special-teams weapons in the league.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Olympic hockey star Julie Chu isn't done yet

When Julie Chu was growing up, she never dreamed of playing hockey in the Olympics -- because there was no women's hockey back then. But Chu, a standout who's been on three U.S. Olympic teams -- and was just inducted into Connecticut's Hockey Hall of Fame -- isn't done yet, as she gears up for making the U.S. team for Sochi in 2014, while getting a taste of hockey life on the other side of the glass, now as a college coach. My story on Chu for USA Hockey:

Olympic archer ate up "Hunger Games" assignment

Khatuna Lorig, an Olympic bronze medalist who trains at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, haa a role in the new movie "The Hunger Games," but you'll never see her onscreen. She was the one who taught actress Jennifer Lawrence, who plays the lead role in the movie, how to use a bow and look like an archer. Over a series of 10 lessons, Lorig says Lawrence did well and from what she's seen in the trailers, the actress does a nice job. My story on Lorig for the U.S. Olympic website:

Coming soon: Will Claye, possible Olympic medalist

Will Claye, a triple jumper and long jumper, once was described by his coach at Florida as perhaps the best athlete that anyone knows about. But with the Olympics coming this summer in London, that may not be the case for long. Claye, who just won the gold medal in the triple jump at the World Indoor Championships in Istanbul, may have just scratched the surface of his potential. His story, for the U.S. Olympic website:

With Smith back, can 49ers expect him to improve?

Daily 49ers blog for NBC Bay Area website: Alex Smith and the 49ers have come to terms, so the QB is back where he wanted to be all along. Looking ahead, there are reasons to believe Smith might even be better next season than he was in 2011.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

With Smith back, it's like Manning affair never happened

Daily 49ers blog for NBC Bay Area website: Was it just a dream? After a week of flirtation with Peyton Manning and no doubt the bruising of Alex Smith's feelings, the 49ers are back to normal now. Smith is back, Manning is somewhere else and the 49ers are intent on a positive offseason.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Time for Alex Smith to regroup and re-sign

Daily 49ers blog for NBC Bay Area website: Now that Alex Smith has had a bit of time to think, perhaps it's time he gets on with things, buries the hatchet and re-signs with the 49ers. There's no better option for him, or the team.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Paralympic skiing star Muffy Davis recalls her triple silver experience at the 2002 Salt Lake Games

Muffy Davis won three silver medals at the Salt Lake City Paralympics in 2002, an experience she recounts as amazing for a number of reasons -- including the fact the owner of the Sun Valley ski resort in near her childhood home in Idaho decided to rename a run in her honor, now called Muffy's Medals. Now the former skiing standout appears ready to go to London this summer in handcycling, at the age of 40. My story on Davis for the U.S. Olympic website:

Raiders diving into the NFL's bargain bin

Daily Raiders blog for NBC Bay Area website: Now that new GM Reggie McKenzie has ousted many high-salaried players because of salary-cap issues, how does he fill the holes that are left? The answer: With the available non-marquee spare players left in free agency.

49ers' gamble on Manning may have a down side

Daily 49ers blog for NBC Bay Area website: Now that it appears Peyton Manning has rejected the 49ers and likely is headed to Denver, the Niners' gambling ways may have negative consequences. Will Alex Smith leave? And if he stays, will he be permanently bruised?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Paralympic sailor living a blessed life

Bradley Johnson lost both of his legs in a horrible traffic accident in 1993. Yet he says the incident led to wonderful things in his life he never would have experienced if he hadn't gone through the ordeal. Now Johnson, an attorney, is getting ready to sail at London this summer in his third Paralympics. My story, for the U.S. Olympic website:

Friday, March 16, 2012

After grabbing Moss, 49ers want more

Daily 49ers blog for NBC Bay Area website: After signing Randy Moss, and with only Michael Crabtree and Kyle Williams returning, the Niners know they need to sign another free-agent pass catcher. Who's left on the market?

Jeopardy for March 16 on

Did you see Ichiro's impression of an Oscar-winning actor? My Jeopardy for's Page 2:

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The horrible student became an admired educator

In high school, Steve Niemeyer admits he was an awful student. He didn't see the point of sitting in a classroom, and if he had to give a presentation, he preferred to take an "F" rather than get up in front of the class. But after knocking around New Mexico for a few years, a funny thing happened: he volunteered to help teach math to some students at a small church-run school, and found he loved teaching. It opened the door to a career as an educator and administrator, and he now runs the Health Occupations Center in Santee, an adult-education institution that helps students find careers in nursing, as EMTs and as dental or medical assistants. His profile for the "On the Job" series for Santee Patch:

Departure of Snyder leaves a gap in 49ers' line

Daily 49ers blog for NBC Bay Area website: Versatile offensive lineman Adam Snyder, whose insertion into the starting lineup fueled an offensive surge in 2011 for the 49ers, has now left for Arizona, leaving a hole in the team's offensive line.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

49ers re-sign Rogers, keep defense intact

Daily 49ers blog for NBC Bay Area website: Pro Bowl cornerback Carlos Rogers is retained by the 49ers, meaning the entire starting defense from 2011 remains intact for 2012.

Raiders release Boss, now have many holes to fill

Daily Raiders blog for NBC Bay Area: New GM Reggie McKenzie has been busy, cutting players and restructuring contracts to get salary-cap relief, but the release of TE Kevin Boss and two starting cornerbacks has created some huge voids.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

She's Northeastern's "rock" from Switzerland

Florence Schelling, one of the world's top goaltenders, has given Northeastern University a stonewall presence in the net for four seasons while the Huskies have climbed the ladder of college hockey. Now, with her college career now over -- but her international career far from completed -- Schelling awaits the announcement of the Patty Kazmaeir Award. The Swiss star is one of three finalists for the honor, given to the nation's top player. My profile of Schelling for the USA Hockey website as part of the Kaz Watch series on top candidates.

Niners gamble, sign Randy Moss

Daily 49ers blog for NBC Bay Area: Receiver Randy Moss, who sat out last season, has signed with the receiver-starved 49ers. Will the Niners get the good Randy Moss or the bad Randy Moss?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Alex Smith says new deal is imminent

Daily 49ers blog for NBC Bay Area website: Quarterback Alex Smith says he's confident a deal will be announced shortly that he will remain with the 49ers. He says it likely will be a three-year deal.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Length of Smith deal may be sticking point

Daily 49ers blog for NBC Bay Area website: The 49ers want Alex Smith and Alex Smith wants the 49ers. So what's the holdup on a new deal? Reports indicate it's the length of a new contract.

Jeopardy for March 9 on

So who's playing a hockey goon in the new movie "Goon"? My Jeopardy for's Page 2 this week:

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Minnesota's Kessel getting better and better

Amanda Kessel grew up playing against boys, and always held her own. As she got older, however, and the boys became bigger and stronger, she adapted, using her speed, vision and stick-handling skills to become a marvelous passer. Now, for the University of Minnesota, she's taken her game to another level. After starring as a freshman, she's been even better as a sophomore, helping the Gophers to a No. 2 ranking while compiling the second-most assists in the nation this season. Her profile for USA Hockey's Kaz Watch series, leading up to the Patty Kazmaeir Award, given each year to the best player in women's college hockey.

Cornell's Jenner adding more power to game

Brianne Jenner of Cornell always has been a deft passer and scorer. She doesn't call herself a "finesse" player, but she admits she loves to play on the perimeter and use her speed to find open spaces. This year, the 5-foot-9 forward is trying to incorporate more of a physical aspect to her game, crashing the net, fighting for pucks and picking up more "garbage goals" for the Big Red. Her profile, for USA Hockey's Kaz Watch series, leading up to the Patty Kazmaier Award, given each year to the top player in women's college hockey.

Finnish goaltender has unfinished business

Noora Raty has been a hockey phenom since even before she became Finland's starting goaltender at the age of 15 at the 2006 Turin Olympics. Now the University of Minnesota tender, one of the most dominant players in college hockey, is hoping to lead the Gophers to an NCAA championship. Her profile for USA Hockey as part of the Kaz Watch series, on contenders for this year's Patty Kazmaier Award, given annually to the top women's player in the nation.

Raiders are busy clearing salary-cap space

Daily Raiders blog for NBC Bay Area website: New GM Reggie McKenzie is busy clearing salary cap space, giving players a choice to cut their own salaries or be cut, in many cases. Richard Seymour and Michael Huff are the latest Raiders to agree to restructure their deals for 2012.

49ers may gamble with cornerback Rogers

Daily 49ers blog for NBC Bay Area website: Carlos Rogers is coming off a Pro Bowl season at cornerback, and wants a long-term deal. As much as the Niners like him, they may let him test the free-agent market and then re-sign him -- if demand is low -- or let him go and replace him with a younger cornerback.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

North Dakota star makes magic on the ice

Jocelyne Lamoureaux grew up in a hockey-rich family in North Dakota and -- after going away to Minnesota for a season -- decided to return with her twin sister, Monique, to help her hometown Fighting Sioux reach the prominence with the women's hockey program. Jocelyne is a playmaker extraordinaire, creating highlight-reel goals and passes while also leading the nation in scoring this season. Her profile for USA Hockey's site, as part of the Kaz Watch series, leading up to the awarding of the Patty Kazmaier Award to the nation's best player.

Manning's available, but 49ers focused on Smith

Daily 49ers blog for NBC Bay Area website: With the Colts cutting ties to star QB Peyton Manning, there's a clamor in many NFL cities that their teams go after the Super Bowl-winning QB. But in San Francisco, the 49ers will likely pass, content with re-signing Alex Smith, who led them to a 13-3 season in 2011.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Pool of free-agent WRs now smaller for 49ers

Daily 49ers blog for NBC Bay Area website: With many teams deciding to put the franchise tag on wide receivers, the free-agent pool of wideouts available to San Francisco will be much shallower when free agency begins next week.

Monday, March 5, 2012

As 49ers look for WRs, they hope for Crabtree's improvement

Daily 49ers blog for NBC Bay Area website: Michael Crabtree still hasn't wowed anyone with his production in three years since being taken with the 10th overall pick in the 2009 draft. But the 49ers like his work ethic and his continued progress.

Some athletes are iconic to their teams and cities

As the Colts fan in Indianapolis get ready to say farewell to longtime star Peyton Manning, we take a look at some other superstars who are forever linked to their cities and teams. My story for's Page2:

Friday, March 2, 2012

Raiders apparently will let Michael Bush run free

Daily Raiders blog for NBC Bay Area website: With Oakland putting the franchise tag on safety Tyvon Branch, all signs point to the team letting running back Michael Bush test free agency.

Niners put the franchise tag of Goldson

Daily 49ers blog for NBC Bay Area website: Sources say 49ers will put the franchise tag on safety Dashon Goldson, keeping their tandem of top safeties together for another season.

Jeopardy for March 2 on

So, which NBA player texted Miss Universe ... who then became his girlfriend? My Jeopardy for's Page 2 for March 2:

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Sampling of mock drafts for 49ers reveals... what?

Daily 49ers blog for NBC Bay Area website: Well, it's settled. Weeks before the NFL draft, the 49ers will take a wide receiver with their first-round pick. Or a cornerback. Or a defensive tackle. Actually, it's anybody's guess.