Sports Briefs: Dec. 21

December 21, 2012 

Awards

Phelps named Athlete of Year

Now that he's away from the pool, Michael Phelps can reflect — really reflect — on what he accomplished. Pretty amazing stuff.

"It's kind of nuts to think about everything I've gone through," Phelps said. "I've finally had time to myself, to sit back and say, '... That really happened?' It's kind of shocking at times."

Not that his career needed a capper, but Phelps added one more honor to his staggering list of accomplishments Thursday — The Associated Press male athlete of the year.

Phelps edged out LeBron James to win the award for the second time, not only a fitting payoff for another brilliant Olympics (four gold medals and two silvers in swimming at the London Games) but recognition for one of the greatest careers in any sport.

Phelps finished with 40 votes in balloting by U.S. editors and broadcasters, while James was next with 37. Track star Usain Bolt, who won three gold medals in London, was third with 23.

Carl Lewis is the only other Olympic-related star to be named AP male athlete of the year more than once, taking the award for his track and field exploits in 1983 and '84. The only men honored more than twice are golf's Tiger Woods and cyclist Lance Armstrong (four times each), and basketball's Michael Jordan (three times).


Running

NYC Marathon runners offered refund

New York City Marathon runners can receive a refund of their entry fee after this year's race was canceled because of Superstorm Sandy. When the event was called off last month, officials said they had a no-refund policy and hadn't decided whether to make an exception. The race organizer, New York Road Runners, informed entrants Thursday that they had three options to choose from — one of them a refund.

If runners do not reclaim their money, they can have a guaranteed spot in the 2013, 2014 or 2015 marathon. They would have to pay the entry fee again, but at the 2012 rate. Getting into the race is extremely competitive, making a guaranteed spot very valuable to runners.

Or they can accept a spot in March's NYC Half, paying the entry fee for the 13.1-mile race — though availability is limited.

NYRR President Mary Wittenberg said "nirvana" would have been to offer both a refund and free entry into a future marathon, but that wasn't affordable.


NFL

Packers seeking snow shovelers

The Green Bay Packers are looking for help.

The NFL's only publicly owned team is asking for as many as 600 people to clear snow from Lambeau Field on Friday. The first big storm of the winter has already dumped 6 inches of snow on northeastern Wisconsin, with up to a foot expected before it tapers off. The Packers host the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.

Shovelers need to be at least 15 years old, and the Packers will pay $10 per hour. The job comes with a shovel but, sorry, not a spot on the 53-man roster.

Robert Griffin III looks good to go. The Washington Redskins rookie had a full practice Thursday for the second straight day as the team prepares for this week's game against the Philadelphia Eagles. Griffin missed Sunday's win over the Cleveland Browns with a sprained right knee.


Harness Racing

Chapter Seven gets top honors

Chapter Seven was voted harness racing's Horse of the Year for 2012 after a campaign in which he tied a world record and won eight of 10 starts. Thursday's honor came two days after the 4-year-old was voted Trotter of the Year. Chapter Seven beat stablemate Market Share both times.

Chapter Seven received 84 of 146 votes in balloting by the U.S Harness Writers Association. Market Share had 41 points and Pacer of the Year Captaintreacherous was third with six votes.


Baseball

Polanco signs 1-year deal with Marlins

Former All-Star third baseman Placido Polanco agreed to a $2.75 million, one-year contract Thursday with the Miami Marlins, plugging the final hole in the team's projected lineup following a payroll purge. The 37-year-old, who can earn an additional $250,000 in performance bonuses, battled injuries this year and hit .257 with two home runs and 19 RBI in 90 games with the Philadelphia Phillies. The 15-year veteran is a career .299 hitter with 103 homers.


NBA

All-Stars to team up for charity

The NBA's All-Star Saturday night is adding a team component, with the Eastern and Western Conference competing for $500,000 in charity. The conferences will earn points based on the results of the night's four events: the Shooting Stars, the Skills Challenge, the three-point contest and the slam dunk contest.

The league said Thursday each conference will have a captain, who along with the NBA and sponsor State Farm, will designate the charities his team is playing for. The winning conference gets $350,000 for its charities and the runner-up gets $150,000. The money is being donated by NBA Cares and State Farm.

Timberwolves 99, Thunder 93: J.J. Barea scored 14 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter and host Minnesota ended Oklahoma City's 12-game winning streak on Thursday night. Kevin Love had 28 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists and Nikola Pekovic had 24 points and 10 rebounds for Minnesota.


College football

Florida State finds Stoops' replacement

Alabama secondary coach Jeremy Pruitt is Florida State's new defensive coordinator. Seminoles Coach Jimbo Fisher announced Thursday that Pruitt will replace Mark Stoops, who took the Kentucky job.

Pruitt has been on Nick Saban's Alabama staff for three years. Fisher was Saban's offensive coordinator at LSU. The 38-year-old Pruitt has built a reputation as an effective recruiter in addition to coaching a defensive backfield that's ranked in the top 15 in pass defense the last three seasons. He will be only the third defensive coordinator at Florida State in the last 28 years, following Stoops and Mickey Andrews.

 LSU Coach Les Miles says punter Brad Wing has been suspended for ninth-ranked LSU's game against No. 14 Clemson in the Chick-fil-A Bowl for an unspecified violation of team rules. Wing has averaged 44.8 yards on 59 punts for the Tigers this season.

 Attorneys for Harvey Updyke say the University of Alabama fan is mentally competent to stand trial on charges of poisoning Auburn University's landmark oak trees. But the lawyers said Thursday that Updyke still plans to use an insanity defense to fight the charges. Attorney Margaret Brown told a judge in Opelika that Updyke's mental condition at the time of the offense is an entirely different question than his competency now, about two years after the incident.


The last word

Winthrop Coach Pat Kelsey used his team's 65-55 loss to Ohio State as a chance to speak up for gun control in the wake of the Connecticut school shooting. Said Kelsey:

"I know this microphone is powerful right now because we're playing the (seventh)-best team in the country. I'm not going to have a microphone like this the rest of the year, maybe the rest of my life. And I'm going to be an agent of change with the 13 young men I get to coach every day and the two little girls that I get to raise. ... But we've got to change."

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