• Death, taxes, and professional baseball players cheating. Those are the three things we can assuredly count on in this life of ours. On Tuesday, a potential new list of performance enhancing drug users was revealed by a clinic in Miami, allegedly tying Alex Rodriguez, Melky Cabrera, Nelson Cruz and Gio Gonzalez to the use of human growth hormone and anabolic steroids.

    Shocked, aren’t you?

    All of the players tied to the report from Miami have claimed the accusations to be false, including Alex Rodriguez who hired a Miami attorney to defend him on the case. Gio Gonzalez, Washington Nationals pitcher who finished the season with 21 wins, most in the National League, stated Tuesday, “I’ve never used performance-enhancing drugs of any kind, and I never will.”

    While the public stands from a distance to hear the outcome of Major League Baseball’s newest steroid saga, the teams of the players in question haven’t. According to league sources, the Yankees are trying feverishly to find a way to void the contract of 37 year old Alex Rodriguez, who still has over 100 million dollars owed to him.

    While nobody has been proven guilty in this round of steroid finger pointing, yet, one thing is clear. The game is still not as clean as it needs to be, and they appear to have a way to go to get it as clean as they desire. Take Melky Cabrera for instance. Cabrera bounced around the league as a serviceable fourth outfielder for years with a number of different teams. All of a sudden in 2012, he breaks out in San Francisco, and was arguably the front runner for National League MVP before he was caught using PED’s. Even after he was caught cheating, he parlayed his huge season into a two-year, 16 million dollar deal from the Blue Jays.

    Cheat, get caught, make 16 million dollars to play baseball. Sounds simple enough, right?

    While Major League Baseball is leaps and bounds ahead of where they were on drug testing a decade ago, the punishments need to be more severe to deter the players from playing their own version Russian roulette. Anyone in their right mind would juice, produce at a high level, and take a 50 game suspension if it meant they would get paid eight million dollars over the next two years.

    With all the money to be made in Major League Baseball these days, players will do anything they can to stay on top of their game. What we do know is that until the consequences become more severe for players who are caught, they will keep spinning the wheel of fortune on PED’s. Hopefully that day comes in the near future, or baseball fans everywhere will continue to have doubt creep into their minds every time one of their own has a season to remember. Something that is all too unfortunate for the ones who do solely perform on God given ability, not scientist given.

  • As the NBA season approaches the All-Star break, the undefined half-way marker, we take a look at two teams in each conference that have been playing extremely well since the beginning of the season and could make some noise in the play-offs if all of the correct piece fall into place.

    With Derrick Rose sidelined late last year with an ACL injury, the Chicago Bulls were all but counted out of the elite teams in the Eastern conference. Analysts buzzed about the defending champions Miami Heat, the Brooklyn Nets, their cross-city counter-parts New York Knicks, the aged Boston Celtics, and, to a lesser degree, the Indiana Pacers. No Rose, no hope. But boy were they wrong. The Bulls are currently 3rd in the Eastern Conference behind the Miami Heat and New York Knicks, beating out three teams projected to do better than them this season. They have won seven of their last ten games, have the best road record in the NBA at 12-6, and have rallied behind the principle of team unity the entire season. Joakim Noah, who is averaging 12.1 points, 11.3 rebounds, and 4.2 assists to go along with 2.2 blocks and 1.3 steals per contest, has been the heart and soul that anchors a team of gritty, tireless players that hustle every minute of the game and never give up. Luol Deng has stepped up offensively to provide the primary scoring threat for the team. Carlos Boozer has played resurgently as of late, showing shades of his old self with a string of monster games earlier this month. Coach Tom Thibodeau has instilled a terrific mentality in this group of players who have really rallied together to play hard night-in and night-out. If the Bulls continue to play with the tenacity they’ve shown thus far when Derrick Rose returns to the line-up after the All-Star break they would look similar to the scary #1 seeded Bulls team of two years ago and could spell trouble for first and possibly second-round opponents.

    Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, David Lee, and Andrew Bogut. That’s the line-up that Golden State Warriors’ fans envisioned would carry them to the play-offs this year, and it is a scary one to imagine for opposing teams. But after playing just four games in the season, Bogut went down with an ankle injury, causing him to miss the next 38 games. The Warriors did not let Bogut’s injury hamper their whole season, though. Currently sitting at the No. 5 seed in the West, they are young, athletic, and fun-to-watch. Not only that – they get the job done. They boast an impressive 14-6 home record, and despite going 5-5 in their past ten games played, they have played well throughout the season. Curry is having an all-star caliber year (21 points, 6.4 assists, and 3.9 rebounds per game) and proves to be the glue that holds the team together. Last year fans got a glimpse of what Klay Thompson could be after the shooting guard spot opened up in the post-Monta Ellis era. He averaged over 20 points a game on 45% shooting last year after Ellis was dealt to the Bucks. Thompson started the year slowly shooting below 40% and not performing, but has since come into form and is shooting the ball well. Harrison Barnes also started the season rocky, and although his numbers aren’t spectacular, the Warriors are better as a unit when he is on the court. He is a terrific defender and does a lot of the dirty work and intangibles that do not go on the stat sheet. Supplement these young shooters with big men like David Lee and Andrew Bogut who are not afraid to get physical and bruise their way to rebounds and inside paint points and there is a legitimate inside-outside threat that teams will have to deal with. Head coach Mark Jackson has given these young players immense confidence to play the game their style and it has been working thus far (27-17). It may take a while for the chemistry to settle in with Bogut back in the line-up, but if they continue to play well the Warriors can hover around the 4th-6th seed in the West – and don’t be surprised if they pull off an upset or two in the playoffs.

  • Brandon Belt, Drew Stubbs, Taylor Jungmann and Taylor Teagarden will be among the former Longhorns playing in Saturday's Alumni Game.

    Belt hit .257 with 56 RBIs as the starting first baseman for the World Series champion San Francisco Giants last season.  Stubbs, who was the starting center fielder on the Longhorns' 2005 national title squad, hit 14 home runs and stole 30 bases for the Cincinnati Reds last year. Teagarden, Texas' starting catcher on the 2005 championship team, backed up Matt Weiters for the Baltimore Orioles last season. Jungmann, the Brewers' first-round pick in the 2011 MLB Draft, is considered one of Milwaukee's top pitching prospects.

  • The Longhorns’ annual Orange-White spring football scrimmage, which marks the end of spring practices will be held on Easter Sunday, March 31. No time has been set for the game yet. Texas opens spring practice Feb. 21 and will not practice during the academic spring break March 11-15. 

    It will be the first opportunity for fans to see the four players who enrolled early this semester: quarterback Tyrone Swoopes, tight end Geoff Swaim, linebacker Deoundrei Davis and offensive tackle Jake Raulerson. Swoopes is the only quarterback currently committed to play for Texas next season while Swaim is a junior college transfer from Butte Community College in California. Raulerson, who can also play defensive tackle, was the first Class of 2013 prospect to pledge to play for Texas last February. 

  • At the mid-point of an NBA season, uncertainties tend to become certainties, questions tend to get answers, and teams tend to settle into a relative standard of playing level. In general, the identities of teams begin to coalesce. This traditional expectation applies fruitfully to the San Antonio Spurs. However, the Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks are still in a nebulous zone, far from forming their identity, realizing their potential, and meeting that baseline expectation for mid-season.

    At this point, the San Antonio Spurs embody the persona of a championship contender. Anything less than that would be to underestimate the potent Spurs offense and Popovich’s genius. The Spurs (36-11) currently stand at the apex of the Western Conference standings and scream contender status on a daily basis. The elite point guard play of Tony Parker, the resurgence of the greatest power forward Tim Duncan ever, and a top 5 supporting cast makes the Spurs seem invincible year in and year out. Currently boasting seven players averaging nine points or more ( Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobli, Gary Neal, Tiago Splitter, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard), the Spurs rarely depend on the same players to step up on a nightly basis. The sharing of responsibility, the culture instilled by the Spurs system, and the wealth of supporting talent explicates how the Spurs put up consistent wins despite the occasional absence of Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich. At this point during the season, the Spurs know who they are and what they want. They are a clear-cut contender.

    The Houston Rockets (24-22) currently stand at the eighth position in the Western Conference standings. The Rockets show flashes of brilliance and the potential their team holds. However, their playing style is often plagued by their inexperience and inconsistency. One thing is for sure though; the Rockets have their franchise foundation piece in James Harden. Harden is on his way to becoming the NBA’s best shooting guard, fortifying his relentless athleticism with his experiences as the number one option. The Rockets know they go as Harden goes. However, with the average age of the Houston Rockets roster around 24, they still have a long maturation process to undergo before realizing their true potential and identity.

    Although they have recently won six of last eight, the Dallas Mavericks (19-25) lack any sort of identity of consistency. With 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki still trying to find his Hall of Fame form and missing the All Star Game for the first time in over a decade, the Mavericks have been in a state of fluctuation and confusion. They lead the league with 17 different starting lineups. Over the past three games, they have had three different starting centers. Nevertheless, Rick Carlisle has mentioned that he is attempting to establish a more consistent lineup and rotation. Once Dirk Nowitzki encapsulates the superstar style of play he is capable of, Darren Collison and OJ Mayo begin to produce on a more consistent basis, and the team commits to defense, the Mavericks have a chance to make a late-season surge for the playoffs.

    When the Spurs step on to the court at this point of the season, you know what you’re going to get. However, the same cannot be stated for the Rockets and the Mavericks. As Forrest Gump once said, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” With the Mavericks and Rockets, you just never know.