Thursday, January 31, 2013

For Olympic volleyball star Kerri Walsh Jennings, 2013 is a time to pause, re-energize and re-focus

Kerri Walsh Jennings is coming off another gold medal in beach volleyball with her longtime partner, Misty May-Treanor. But with May-Treanor's retirement, she's looking for a new partner and a fresh start in a year when she's also expecting her third child, a little girl, in April. By the end of this year, however, she expects to have a new teammate and be working her way toward a fourth gold medal in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. That, at least, is her game plan. My story on her for the U.S. Olympic website,

According to stat trends, 49ers are a heavy favorite

Daily 49ers blog for NBC Bay Area website: While most predict a close game Sunday, and NFL observers are split on picking the 49ers or Ravens, one analytical website says the choice is clear: the Niners are overwhelming favorites, and no team with a statistical edge similar to SF's has lost a Super Bowl in 43 years (since the Vikes lost to the Chiefs in 1970).

Roman no doubt will come up with new wrinkle for Ravens

Daily 49ers blog for NBC Bay Area website: Offensive coordinator Greg Roman is the brain behind the 49ers' brawny running game, a man eager and willing to change, adapt, evolve and be creative in coming up with new formations, schemes and blocking angles. In all likelihood, he'll come up with something new to show the Ravens in Sunday's Super Bowl.

Before 'wardrobe malfunctions' and superstars took over Super Bowl halftime, Up With People was a four-time starring act

Even in the late 1970s and '80s when Up With People was starring as the main act of four Super Bowl halftime shows, the group was ridiculed my many who saw the smiling, dancing performers as the uncoolest kids on the block. Decades later, Up With People is still taking shots from those who say their act was one of the worst ever to show up at a Super Bowl. For Up With People -- which still exists -- the abuse just bounces away. Performing in the Super Bowl is something the group is proud of, but it's not their main mission. My story for's Playbook section:

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Arielle Gold may be next big thing in snowboarding

With a World Cup victory in January and a bronze in the Winter X Games, 16-year-old Arielle Gold of Steamboat Springs, Colo., is serving notice that she may be the rising star in halfpipe, and perhaps a medal hopeful in the next Olympics in Sochi. Gold, however, isn't worrying about medals, victories or the future; her goal is to just do the best she can in every run and let everything take care of itself. My story on Gold for

In postseason, 49ers have gone to 'Pistol' much more often

Daily 49ers blog for NBC Bay Area website: Since the playoffs began, the 49ers offense has evolved, and not subtly. In wins over the Packers and Falcons, the Niners have gone to the Pistol offense almost 50 percent of the time, a huge change from the regular season. If the Ravens want to stop the 49ers in in Sunday's Super Bowl, they'll have to figure out how to stop it.

North Dakota's Monique Lamoureux puts team first

Monique Lamoureux could be playing forward this season for North Dakota, on the same line with her twin sister, Jocelyne, and scoring goals in bunches. Yet when the team lost some key players early this season, Monique happily switched to defenseman for the sake of the team. Still, she's a dangerous offensive players and one of the best in the nation. My story on her for the Kaz Watch series on USA Hockey, a look at the best college players in the nation leading up to the Patty Kazmaeir Award in March, given to the country's No. 1 player:

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Harbaugh's gamble on Randy Moss paid off in a big way

Daily 49ers blog for NBC Bay Area website: In hindsight, all the angst about the 49ers signing Randy Moss last March was off target. As the 49ers prepare to play the Super Bowl Sunday, Moss not only has been a good, complementary wideout, but he's been a leader on and off the field.

Lamarr Houston could be building block for Raiders' D

Daily Raiders blog for NBC Bay Area website: The Raiders allowed the fifth-most points in the NFL in 2012, and the defensive lapses were a key factor in a 4-12 season. But defensive end Lamarr Houston is probably a building block for a revamped unit in 2013.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Niners arrive in New Orleans with a focus on Ravens

Daily 49ers blog for NBC Bay Area website: San Francisco head coach Jim Harbaugh and his players are excited to be in New Orleans for Sunday's Super Bowl, and want to enjoy the experience. But they say the hoopla and hype is a just a sideshow to the real purpose of their trip to the Crescent City.

Allen adds plenty of experience to now-filled staff

Daily Raiders blog for NBC Bay Area website: The hiring of Bob Sanders as linebackers coach now completes Dennis Allen's quest for remaking his coaching staff after firing four assistants at the end of a 4-12 season. The new quartet is an experienced group.

For fans in Cleveland, Detroit, Houston and Jacksonville, Super Sunday has never been very super

In some cities, such as Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Dallas, fans have had plenty of Super Bowl memories. Multiple trips to the big game have given fans a chance to wake up on Super Sunday morning, get together with family and friends and spend the entire day celebrating their team's participation in the nation's biggest sports event. But in four NFL cities, fans are 0-for-47. In Detroit, Cleveland, Houston and Jacksonville, fans are still waiting for that first, sweet trip to a Super Bowl. At this point, some wonder if it will ever happen in their lifetimes. My story for's Playbook section:

Friday, January 25, 2013

Ravens' Leach on collision course with 49ers linebackers

Daily 49ers blog for NBC Bay Area website: Something will have to give when Ravens All-Pro fullback Vonta Leach meets 49ers' All-Pro inside linebackers Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman. It's Leach's job to blast linebackers and open holes for Ray Rice; Willis and Bowman are charged with plugging those holes.

Wishful thinking? Some see Miami's Long as a Raider

Daily Raiders blog for NBC Bay Area website: There is speculation that the Miami Dolphins might elect not to re-sign left tackle Jake Long, who could be an unrestricted free agent in March. Would he be a good fit in Oakland? Yes. Would the Raiders pursue him? That's the question.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Justin Smith is braced to stop Ravens' run game

Daily 49ers blog for NBC Bay Area website: Niners defensive lineman Justin Smith believes if San Francisco can stop the Ravens running game with its front seven, then safeties can play back against the pass and provide the coverage necessary to stop Joe Flacco.

Sparano hiring could fire up Raiders' offensive line

Daily Raiders blog for NBC Bay Area website: Tony Sparano is a fiery sort, reportedly always ready to speak his mind; now he'll get a chance to help the Raiders as the team's new assistant head coach/offensive line coach.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

McKenzie says Pryor will compete for No. 1 QB job

Daily Raiders blog for NBC Bay Area website. Just a few weeks ago, Terrelle Pryor was a forgotten man. Now, GM Reggie McKenzie says Pryor will get a chance to win the starting quarterback job in training camp this summer.

Kaepernick's generating buzz, but Flacco has been hot, too

Daily 49ers blog for NBC Bay Area website: Almost lost among the national buzz over emerging 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has been the performance of Ravens QB Joe Flacco. The 49ers will have to stop the fifth-year Baltimore passer who is right now at the top of his game.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Gophers' goalie is more golden than ever before

Noora Raty of Finland has an Olympic bronze medal and an NCAA women's hockey championship, won with the University of Minnesota last season. As one of college hockey's finest goaltenders ever, she's helped the Gophers to a No. 1 ranking this season and thinks she's playing better than ever. That's saying something, because Ratty always has been excellent. Her story, for the Kazmaier Award Watch feature on USA Hockey:

After latest miss, can 49ers count on Akers in Super Bowl?

Daily 49ers blog for NBC Bay Area website: David Akers did everything right in Sunday's NFC Championship Game victory over the Falcons with one exception: His only field-goal attempt hit the upright and bounced away, yet another miss. Jim Harbaugh says Akers is his kicker for the Super Bowl, but if the game comes down to Akers, will he be able to deliver in the clutch? That's the question.

Raiders' Marcel Reece gets deserved Pro Bowl spot

Daily Raiders blog for NBC Bay Area website: Marcel Reece has found a home at fullback and with the Raiders. After his best season, the versatile fifth-year pro is going to the Pro Bowl for the first time.

Monday, January 21, 2013

49ers-Ravens rematch unlikely to look like 2011 debacle

Daily 49ers blog for NBC Bay Area website: A year ago, Alex Smith was sacked nine times by Baltimore on a 16-6 Thanksgiving night loss to the Ravens. Much has changed since then, so the Super Bowl rematch for the teams should be much different.

Raiders' new offensive coordinator could boost McFadden

Daily Raiders blog for NBC Bay Area website: The hire of Greg Olson as offensive coordinator could prove to be a plus for Oakland's dormant running attack.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

"Alone on the Ice," a tale of Antarctic exploration in the early 20th century, will give you the shivers

Author David Roberts examines the two-year trial of the Australasian exploration of the Antarctic in his new book, "Alone on the Ice." Roberts' tale is chilling, in its descriptions and detail, and a revelation of the character and determination of the men involved in the adventure. My book review for U-T San Diego:

Niners rally from 17-0 deficit to win NFC championship

Daily 49ers blog for NBC Bay Area website: After falling behind 17-0 early, San Francisco's defense shut out Atlanta in the second half and the Colin Kaepernick-led offense rallied for a 28-24 victory in the NFC Championship Game. The 49ers now play in their sixth Super Bowl and first since January of 1995.

Friday, January 18, 2013

NFC Championship Game preview: Colin Kaepernick is focal point of Sunday's 49ers-Falcons clash

Daily 49ers blog for NBC Bay Area website: Many things will go into determining who wins and who loses in Sunday's NFC Championship Game. But at the heart of it all is this: if the Falcons can't find a way to stop quarterback Colin Kaepernick from running, probably nothing else will matter.

Even after rocky first year, Allen is McKenzie's guy

Daily Raiders blog for NBC Bay Area website: Though Dennis Allen's Raiders finished 4-12 in his first season as an NFL head coach, it's obvious that GM Reggie McKenzie still believes Allen is the guy to turn the team around.

Finally, former environmental specialist has found her path

After working for large companies as an environmental compliance specialist, Deb Ferraro decided to pull up roots in Colorado and try something new. She's happier now in Carlsbad, running a co-op yoga and fitness studio, meeting new people and enjoying a Southern California lifestyle -- while also keeping the science half of her brain active as a consultant. My story on Ferraro for the "On the Job" series that runs in the North County section of U-T San Diego:

For many companies, allowing employees to bring their dogs (and other pets) into the workplace is a positive step that promotes happiness, communication

For many people who own pets, it's no secret that animals can help relieve stress just with their presence. So it's no wonder that more and more companies around the U.S. are becoming "pet friendly" and allowing employees to bring their animals to work (as long as they're well-behaved and meet certain other requirements). Nearly 1 in 5 business now allows pets in the workplace, and a trip around the San Diego area to visit some of these reveals a lot of happy people (and dogs) because of it. My story about pets in the workplace for U-T San Diego:

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Niners' strange, 1-2-3 pattern this season is hard to explain

Daily 49ers blog for NBC Bay Area website: The 49ers haven't had more than a two-game winning streak all season. In every third game they've lost or tied. Now, heading into the NFC title game after two straight wins, is there any pattern to discern? Or is it just a weird happenstance?

With 'cupboard bare,' Raiders' shopping list is long

Daily Raiders blog for NBC Bay Area website: Earlier this week, former Raiders coach John Madden said the team's 'cupboard is bare' in terms of talent. So mock drafters everywhere can throw a dart at any position on the team and likely find a need.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Falcons defense has had trouble containing running QBs

Daily 49ers blog for NBC Bay Area website: As the Falcons prepare to face the 49ers Sunday in the NFC Championship Game, it's apparent they need to fix a hole in their defense. Against quarterbacks who run the read-option, such as Cam Newton and Russell Wilson, the Falcons' D has graded out with an "F."

At 43 years of age (and nearly 25 years in the Navy), Brian Rice is now fulfilling a dream by playing college basketball

His coach and teammates at Geneva College call Brian Rice "Chief," a tribute to his final grade as chief petty officer in the Navy. Rice, now 43, is a freshman forward at the NCAA Div. III school in Pennsylvania who is playing with teammates who are younger than his daughter. Though he might be a step or two slower than he was as a standout 18-year-old high school senior, he still has game and his coach says Rice has the body of a 25-year-old. My story on Rice for's Playbook section:

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Wisconsin All-American and Kazmaeir Award winner Brianna Decker facing a new challenge in senior season

At Wisconsin, one of the nation's finest women's collegiate hockey programs, Brianna Decker always has played a complementary role to older, more established players. Now, however, the senior finds herself in the starring role. Decker, who won the Patty Kazmaeir Award as the nation's top female hockey player last season, now wants to be a leader as well as top performer. My story on Decker for USA Hockey, the first in a series on the top women's players in the nation leading up to the Kazmaeir Award later this season.

How will 49ers DBs handle Falcons big-play receivers?

Daily 49ers blog for NBC Bay Area website: Last week, the Niners held Aaron Rodgers and his receiving crew in check. Now comes another great pass-catch combo in Matt Ryan & Co. How will the 49ers match up with Atlanta?

More candidates emerge for Raiders offensive coordinator

Daily Raiders blog for NBC Bay Area website: Marc Trestman, Greg Olson and Al Saunders are all in the mix, aside from Mike Martz, for offensive coordinator job with Raiders.

"Mission Redefined" campaign hopes to help disabled veterans get into sports programs across the U.S.

Michael Johnston, a Navy veteran who lost his leg while in the service, is now a top Paralympic triathlete with his sights set on making the U.S. Paralympic team that will compete in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. Johnston is now a part of a joint project by U.S. Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Olympic Committee called "Mission Redefined" that hopes to steer disabled veterans into sports and competition. My story for the U.S. Olympic website,

Monday, January 14, 2013

Niners' big night was set up by offensive line

Daily 49ers blog for NBC Bay Area website: Colin Kaepernick and the rest of the 49ers ran wild on the Packers Saturday night, but there's no doubt the whole offensive explosion was set up by the blocking of the entire team, and the offensive line in particular.

Raiders interview Mike Martz for offensive coordinator job

Daily Raiders blog for NBC Bay Area website: Pass-happy offensive coordinator Mike Martz, the man behind the "Greatest Show on Turf" when the Rams went to the Super Bowl, has been interviewed for a job with the Raiders.

Kaepernick and 49ers overpower the Packers

Daily 49ers blog for NBC Bay Area website: Colin Kaepernick rushes for a record 181 yards and the 49ers beat Green Bay 45-31 to advance to the NFC Championship Game.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Smith, Kaepernick hold keys to a 49ers win over Packers

Daily 49ers blog for NBC Bay Area website: When the 49ers host the Packers Saturday night in an NFC playoff game, the performance of Justin Smith and Colin Kaepernick likely could be the most important factors for San Francisco.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Justin Smith will play, but how effective will he be?

Daily 49ers blog for NBC Bay Area website: Justin Smith will play with a brace on his left arm in the playoff game Saturday vs. Green Bay. How effective he will be is the big question.

In first year, Allen cut down Raiders penalties

Daily Raiders blog for NBC Bay Area website: Much went wrong for the Raiders in 2012, but one bright spot was head coach Dennis Allen's kept promise to reduce the team's number of penalties.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

49ers can't forget about Gore vs. Packers

Daily 49ers blog for NBC Bay Area website: The Niners might be smart to revert to their old playbook a bit and pound the football with Frank Gore against Green Bay in the playoffs Saturday night. After all, it's worked before.

Promising forward Lexie Laing gets first taste of playing for Team USA as U18 women win silver at World Championships

Lexie Laing has been playing hockey since she was 6, and comes from a hockey family. Her dad played pro hockey, and both of her older sisters have had success in college and playing for the U.S. But when Lexie, 16, pulled on her USA jersey for the first time and skated against the best in the world for the first time in an international event, she said it felt like a whole new game and experience. My story on her for USA Hockey:

Linebacker Burris can be a building block for Raiders

Daily Raiders blog for NBC Bay Area website: As a rookie, Miles Burris showed great promise at linebacker for the Raiders, who now view him as a player who can be a big part of their turnaround.

Kaepernick is 49ers' 'X Factor' vs. Packers

Daily 49ers blog for NBC Bay Area website: Quarterback Colin Kaepernick gives the 49ers offense a bit more explosiveness -- and unpredictability -- than it had when it beat Green Bay in the season opener.

Leinart's time may be up with Raiders

Daily Raiders blog for NBC Bay Area website: With Terrelle Pryor showing what he can do, No. 2 quarterback Matt Leinart may be out of Raiders' plans for 2013.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Packers know they must stop 49ers on the ground

Daily 49ers blog for NBC Bay Area website: The Packers lost their first matchup with the 49ers this season, 30-22. Now as they prepare for a playoff rematch, Green Bay's defenders know they need to elevate their play to deal with 49ers' physical front line and running game.

Raiders can't afford to let TE Myers get away

Daily Raiders blog for NBC Bay Area website: After a breakout season, tight end Brandon Myers is now set to become an unrestricted free agent. Though the Raiders are watching their pennies, can they really afford to let Myers walk away?