Saturday, October 31, 2009

SEC Overreacts to Official Bashing

Instead of recognizing the inferior quality of its officiating, the Southeastern Conference adopts a bunker mentality.

Earlier this week, SEC commissioner Mike Slive played the role of bully, warning that any coach who criticizes the referees will now be subject to a fine and/or suspension. He must have been so proud of himself.

We're constantly amazed how sports leagues can get away with squashing the first amendment rights of its employees, how they can exist in a vacuum above the law.

(Continue to Bob Birge's Irish Eyes Are Smiling)

Sticking with Todd Dooms Auburn

Auburn backup quarterback Neil Caudle (pictured left) has spent all week saying all the right things about how he supports starter Chris Todd, about waiting his turn, about how there’s no
quarterback controvery on the Plains.

Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

Head coach Gene Chizik defended Todd somewhat, saying he isn't solely responsible for the Tigers’ suddenly moribund offense. So, that’s why Chizik is sticking with the ineffective Todd (8-of-14 for 47 yards last week in a 31-10 loss at LSU).

“Let me tell you something, Chris Todd is a quarterback, that when it is third-and-7 and he has five guys in his lap, that's not Chris Todd, that's different people.” Chizik said in his weekly news conference. “It’s just like when in the first five games and we were throwing for this many yards, yeah he threw a nice ball, but last time we checked there were guys protecting for him or a receiver went up and caught a great ball.”

Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

(Continue to Rue's Rant)

Mike Gundy: Who's Your Daddy?

Mike Gundy may be a man now (at least he thinks so), but part of his everyday challenge is very much the burden foisted upon every boy the world over - making his daddy proud.

Gundy's daddy, metaphorically speaking, of course, is T. Boone Pickens, a Texas oil man. A man who's given over a quarter of a billion bucks to the Oklahoma State athletic program. A man whose name graces the Cowboys' brand-spanking new stadium.

And Gundy has no better opportunity to please his (sugar) daddy than this week.

(Continue to BCS Guru)

Favre Returns, Jury Waits

Even though Brett Favre's return to Green Bay Sunday mercifully puts an end to what seems like 107 weeks of uber-hype, aren't you at least a little curious to see how it all plays out?

Don't you wonder how the salt-of-the-earth folks in Wisconsin will treat the man they once crowned their prince and savior? Because for all the good Favre did in Green Bay during his 16-year reign, is it possible he undid all of it, with his embarrassing, stuttering departure two years ago?

Understand that Green Bay was an NFL wasteland after the glory days of Vince Lombardi in the '60s. Between 1969 and 1991 the Packers had exactly five winning seasons, and appeared in the playoffs only twice.

Really, growing up and watching the once-great team's demise was a crime -- even if you weren't an ardent Packer-backer. Green Bay was the iconic team during the NFL's sonic rise in the 1960s.

(Continue to The Grill Room)

Dolphins-Jets: The Sequel

In a strange scheduling quirk, the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets face off for the second time in three weeks, this time in the Meadowlands. Kickoff is at 1 p.m.

The last time the two teams played, of course, was on Monday night. And in one of the best games in the rivalry in recent years, Ronnie Brown's 2-yard TD run with six seconds left lifted Miami to a 31-27 win.

The next week, the Jets continued their skid with a 16-13 overitme loss at home to Buffalo, their third loss in a row. Quarterback Mark Sanchez single-handedly lost the game with his worst day as a pro, tossing five interceptions.

(Continue to Dolphins Watch)

Foundering Cavs in Need of West

It is early in the NBA season, a point LeBron James and Shaquille O’Neal have been stressing. So a loss here or there won’t turn what should be a promising season for the Cavaliers into a shipwreck.

The Cavs have foundered, though.

Their play has been spotty, their defense leaky -- a reflection of a team in transition, a team trying to figure out what it can do. The Cavs are also a team absent one of its important pieces: Delonte West. One player can make a difference.

For those you think otherwise, find a TV replay of the Lakers-Mavericks game Friday night. Ask any of the NBA analysts, and most of them will tell you the Lakers are the cream of the National Basketball League.

(Continue to Justice Is Served)

This Week's Top NBA Stories

Here’s a look at five headlining NBA stories from the week of Oct. 25:

5). Donaghy’s botched book deal could help NBA (FOX, Oct. 30).

The stars are still aligned for a thrilling 2009-2010 NBA season. Disgraced former referee Tim Donaghy had hoped to rain on the league’s parade this season with his tell-all book titled “Blowing the Whistle: The Culture of Fraud in the NBA.” However, the book's publisher appropriately pulled the plug because of “concerns over liability.”

(Continue to All Net)

Friday, October 30, 2009

Rumble in the Jungle Turns 35

"Beyond the stucco villa, the Congo River flowed swiftly," Dave Anderson wrote in The New York Times. "On the law several dozen Africans, men in their slacks and bright shires and women in their long dresses had come for a glimpse of the famous man now that he was the world heavyweight champion again."

Anderson's words are of no recent vintage, but they remain as vivid and as lucid as the day he crafted them 35 years ago.

His words are remembered today because this is the anniversary of the title fight Anderson wrote about. Now as then, you can hardly forget it, not if you consider yourself a Muhammad Ali fan.

Even if you didn't watch the bout live or weren't born until after that autumn day in 1974, you have seen film of it or have read about Ali's "Rumble in the Jungle."

(Continue to Justice Is Served)

Redskins Not Getting the Signs

The Washington Redskins - who now have stooped to making up rules as they go along, like the ones stopping fans from bringing signs into FedEx Field - are doing the entire sports-loving world a favor. They’re teaching a long-overdue lesson about what it means to be a good “fan’’ (which is derived from “fanatic’’) and to be a good “customer’’ (derived from “gimme what I’m paying for, dammit’’).

Think about all the times organizations have put lousy products on the field, all the times fans have gotten fed up and stopped showing up – and all the times that someone has chided them for being “bad fans.’’ The times they’ve been called a “bad sports town.’’ The times they’ve been told they don’t “support their team,’’ and that heck, why not, just move them to another city that’ll appreciate that lousy product on the field.

(Continue to The Steele Drum)

Lions-Rams: That '70s Show

When the St. Louis Rams take their sorry, 0-7 act on the road to stumble up against the almost-as-sorry, 1-5 Lions on Sunday, nostalgia will run as thick as the soot in the Motor City air.

St. Louis and Detroit...playing a meaningless mid-season football game...Shout it from the rooftops, friends, the NFL as we used to know it is back! Parity is dead, and a rebirth of the '70s is upon us!

All this harks to a time when our kids weren't too fat and our celebrities too thin; back when we actually believed the sludge which is Coors was a premium brew, if only because their boss told us it had water from the Rockies in it; back when newspapers were king and blogs were...well, they weren't.

Light up a smoke, close your eyes, and try to take a deep breath. Now open 'em. Pro football never looked so good, eh?

Once again we can take great comfort in knowing that when the Rams (of St. Louis Cardinals vintage), and the Lions of dependable Detroit bump up against our squad, a win is in the offing!

(Continue to The Grill Room)

Rules Are Made to Be ... Followed

In Uniform: Baltimore Cross County Championships
(Photo: Baltimore Sun)

This is a story getting some legs – about the Baltimore area high school cross-country team that lost a championship because of a uniform rules violation involving Spandex undergarments.

In local and national newspaper sports and editorial pages, blogs and readers forums, debaters are asking when is a seemingly insignificant rule infraction worth distorting the outcome of the competition. A larger view is whether some rules should be overlooked to maintain the purity of competition.

On Oct. 26, a runner for Hereford High School's boys cross country team competing in the Baltimore County championships wore Spandex beneath his uniform shorts sporting a white pinstripe on the side instead of a solid color as a Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association uniform rule requires.

(Continue to DMA 7-22 Sports)

The Empire Strikes Back

With Halloween two days away, it looked like Pedro Martinez would bewitch the bats in the Bronx but AJ Burnett was able to do just a little bit better, tricking Phillie hitters all night long.

Phillies went down 1-2-3 in the top of the first after A.J. Burnett threw a first pitch strike to each batter. Pedro started off by striking out Derek Jeter and Johnny Damon while Yankee fans obnoxiously chanted, "Who's your daddy."

Let me comment on that chant by the way...Pedro came up with it and it does not bother him so please be quite. Come up with something original. The Wolf Pack, Duck Pond, Howard's Homers, Coste Guards, Padilla Floatia, Cole Miners, Burrell's Girls, RAAAAUUULLL, and the Philly Phanatic are all original ideas New York Yankee fans cannot possibly conceive by themselves.

(Continue to Philadelphia Sports Scene)

Schedule Gives Cardinals a Chance

Not sure if anyone would have thought of this three weeks ago, but the Arizona Cardinals, with 10 weeks remaining in the season, can think big.

After winning three straight games, and claiming sole possession of first place in the NFC West division, the Cardinals have a good chance of finishing the season strong and claiming a first-round bye or home field advantage.

In Week Seven, Arizona claimed a 24-17 victory over the New York Giants on the road. It may be the team's biggest win of the season. It has set the table for Arizona to make a run through the remaining games of its schedule.

Arizona's next 10 opponents have a combined record of 21-42.

It's that bad. And it's that good for the Cardinals.

(Continue to Arizona Sportspage)

Can Notre Dame Catch Michigan?

Here's something for Notre Dame fans to sink their teeth into:

On Wednesday, the NCAA officially began its investigation of the (sc)UM football team regarding allegations that coach Rich Rodriguez and his staff surpassed the allotted mandatory workout hours (Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis never will be accused of over-working his troops because that would mean pushing back his dinner reservation, which is why his getting fired would be the worst thing for the South Bend economy).

Let's suppose the violations are so egregious that Michigan has to forfeit all its win under Rodriguez, who is in his second season in Ann Arbor (three last season and five so far this year).

That means that Michigan would lose at least eight victories, and Notre Dame would jump back over the Wolverines into its rightful place as the winningest program in NCAA history, at least in terms of winning percentage.

(Continue to Bob Birge's Irish Eyes Are Smiling)

A Lot on the Line at Autzen Stadium

On Halloween night the #5 USC Trojans travel to #10 Oregon Ducks. Before the season began California and Oregon were expected to challenge USC for first place in the Pac-10. The Trojans defeated the Bears 30-3 and Oregon beat California 42-3.

The Ducks could be the only team remaining on the Trojans schedule that has a shot at beating them. Autzen Stadium is a very difficult place for visiting teams to win. A lot of highly ranked teams have lost at Oregon. In 2006 # 15 Oklahoma lost 34-33. In 2007 #6 Arizona State lost 35-23. The Ducks have beaten USC four out of the last six games at Autzen Stadium.

The Ducks need to play this game at a fast pace and make this game a shootout. Oregon has a better chance of winning this game 42-35. A low scoring game would favor the Trojans. The Trojans defense in a two-week span held Washington State to 6 points and California to 3 points. The last couple of defensive performances by USC might have Oregon believing that it’s possible for them to put a lot of points on the board this Saturday.

USC gave up 27 points to Notre Dame and 36 points to Oregon State. The Ducks are second in the conference in scoring at 34 PPG and USC is ranked #1 in the Pac-10 in scoring defense allowing only 15.1 PPG

(Continue to Inside the Pac-10)

Magic City Classic Takes Center Stage

Alabama A&M players celebrate their 2008 victory in the Magic City Classic (Photo by Joe Songer/Birmingham News)

Back in the day, the moniker “Football Capital of the South” was appropriate for Legion Field.

The stadium on the west side of Birmingham, just a few miles from downtown, was the site of the Iron Bowl, the annual in-state Civil War battle for braggin’ rights between Alabama and Auburn, for many years.

Alabama played all of its marquee home games, such as USC, Notre Dame, Penn State, and Tennessee at the Old Gray Lady on Graymont. Auburn and Tennessee regularly met each other there. In fact in 1968, there was a doubleheader featuring Auburn against Tennessee and Alabama against LSU that attracted more than 137,000 spectators to Legion Field.

In its infancy, the SEC Championship Game also was played at Legion Field.

(Continue to Rue's Rant)

Pujols' Words Sweet to Cardinals

Cardinal first baseman Albert Pujols told the St. Louis media he wants to remain a Redbird for life.

Okay, Cardinal fans you can breathe easier now. That a joke by the way.

Cardinal nation was abuzz about mixed messages Pujols apparently gave in a recent interview about a week ago. The key word there was apparently. I believed all along Albert would remain a Cardinal.

Basically what Albert said in the latest interview is that his contact status (two years) is not a concern and he wants lifetime Cardinal status.

(Continue to Paul's Redbird Report)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

No One Asked, Andre, So Why Tell?

Honesty can be cathartic, but certain things in an athlete's life are better left unsaid. Has the term "no comment" been lost on these men?

I understand the difficulty some of them face when writing their autobiography, because they want its content to reflect who they are. So they turn their book into a tell-all, revealing the foibles in their life and everything else.

But do readers need to know everything? Are they really longing for yet-another Dr. Phil moment?

(Continue to Justice Is Served)

Favre No. 5 ... Are You Kidding?

Remember the Sesame Street song, "One of these things is not like the other?"

OK, relax a little, eh? Yeah, we are using a Sesame Street song to make a point here. This is sports we're typing about, man, not astrophysics.

Anyway, Harris, the company behind all those polls, just released a list of the "Greatest Sports Stars of All Time."

Frankly, I have no real issues with nine out of the top 11. These things are subjective, but most of the important names are on there starting with Michael Jordan at No. 1.

His Airness is followed by Tiger Woods, Babe Ruth, Muhammad Ali, Brett Favre, Joe Montana, Wayne Gretzky, Peyton Manning, Ted Williams, and Hank Aaron and LeBron James, who tied for 10th.

Go ahead read over that again. -- Jordan, Woods, Ruth, Ali...Favre...

I know! Favre?! FAVRE?! Big Bird just passed out.

Again...Jordan, Woods, Ruth, Ali...Favre?! What are you frickin' kidding me?! This would be like rating the greatest presidents Washington, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Jefferson, W. Bush, Adams, Truman...

(Continue to The Grill Room)

Giants, Eagles Tangle for First Place

The question for the New York Giants (5-2) as they come into this week's NFC East showdown against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field is whether the offense and the defense are going to show up at the same stadium?

After the defense was shelled for 48 points by the New Orleans Saints the previous week, the offense couldn't get out of its own way in the Giants 24-17 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. The New York offense committed four turnovers—including three interceptions by quarterback Eli Manning.

Against the unbeaten Saints, the Giants defense gave up 493 yards of total offense while the offense piled up 325 yards of offense, but the Giants offense could only muster 84 yards on the ground with the tandom of Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw. But then again, the Saints put the Giants in such a big hole that the running game couldn't help the G-men.

(Continue to NFC 'Easter)

Is Ted Ginn a Bust?

Over the past few days, there has been a firestorm of criticism in Miami surrounding wide receiver Ted Ginn after another lackluster performance agaisnt the New Orleans Saints.

The numbers tell a grim story: Four receptions for 77 yards the past four games, with 53 of them coming on a TD catch against the New York Jets.

He has also dropped several passes, and seemingly shied away from contact.

Against the Saints, Ginn dropped two passes, with one of them a bobble that ended up in the hands of safety Darren Sharper for a 42-yard TD that aided the New Orleans comeback.

(Continue to Dolphins Watch)

Bucs Now Turn to Freeman

You knew it was coming, sure you knew, you had to know, everyone knew. Everyone knew that sooner, rather than later, we would see No. 1 pick Josh Freeman take over the helm as the starting quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Forget that preseason bunk from general manager Mark Dominik that "the plan" was NOT to play Freeman this season. "The Plan" for this franchise changes on a weekly basis. That is what happens when a team is winless at 0-7 and looks bad in the process, week after week after week.

The new starting quarterback for the Buccaneers is rookie Josh Freeman, tabbed the starter after Wednesday's practice in Tampa.

(Continue to Buccaneer Bow Shots)

World Series Nostalgia

I imagine there are children in New York City in the 8-10 years old range who are loving this World Series appearance by the Yankees. It's new for them - they've heard all about these world champion Yankees of the past (decade) and they're probably very excited about their team playing for a championship.

I remember when I was one of those kids.

The 2000 World Series came at a time that I didn't live in New York, but more importantly, during my first full year in the workforce. As such, I was transitioning from someone who cared only about sports to someone who had other things on his mind (a new relationship with the woman who would later become my wife, an entry job in what I thought would be my career). I worked nights, so I saw the games, but I don't have a distinct memory about that post-season.

It's 1986 that comes back to me whenever the World Series rolls around.

I remember being in the schoolyard after school and people from the Daily News were handing out scorecards (I still have them) for the NLCS. A very cool book - 7-10 newspaper pages with spots to keep score of every game. I remember taking them home and my parents being very suspicious about how I got them. I had to convince them they were free handouts. To this day, though, it's strange to me why they were handed out at an elementary school.

(Continue to 200 Miles From the Citi)

Isles Honor My Mom, Win Big

It was a perfect night at the Nassau Coliseum. I celebrated my birthday, the Islanders beat the Rangers and my mother was honored during a ceremony in the first period.

About six weeks ago, I submitted my mom Annmarie's cancer-survivor story to the Islanders for a program they were running. She beat leukemia better than the Islanders could ever beat the Rangers. The best stories were selected and the survivors were honored last night at the 14-minute mark of the first period.

It just so happened to be a game against the hated Rangers and fell on my birthday - making it a great time. There were about 10 guests, who stood where the zambonis enter and exit the ice, and waved at the camera as their names and hometowns were said over the loudspeaker. It was nice.

(Continue to Thin Ice)

Readers Pick Lakers to Repeat

Before the tip-off of the NBA preseason All Net asked its readers, "Who will be the NBA champions in 2010?"

The answer's in, and the winner's no surprise to hoist the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy (photo above) in June 2010.

Here's how it broke down:

Los Angeles Lakers: 39%
None of these teams: 27%
Cleveland Cavaliers: 15%
Orlando Magic: 10%
Boston Celtics: 7%

(Continue to All Net)

MLS Playoff Preview

Western Conference
Los Angeles Galaxy (W1) vs. Chivas USA (W4)

The Superclasico get taken to a whole new level as the two occupants of the Home Depot Center gear up for two matches that promises to be just as intense as their three regular season meetings.

The Galaxy not only went undefeated against Chivas this season, but didn't allow Chivas to find the back of the net. The three matches however were grinders for Los Angeles. The two teams played to a scoreless tie in the first meeting back on April 11, but LA took the last two matches by scores of 1-0. A first-half goal by Edson Buddle was the difference in the second meetig two months later and Beckham's 80th minute strike vaulted Los Angeles to the Superclasico trophy.

Prediction: Chivas USA finally finds the back net against Los Angeles, but the Galaxy pushes more goals across and takes the series 3-1.

(Continue to Soccer 24-7)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Shaq Era Opens with Disappointment

Shaquille O'Neal had waited since June for this day, a moment in this man's storied NBA career where he could begin helping LeBron James and his hometown fulfill a dream. For their dream is also Shaq's dream; he wants what they have long wanted: a championship.

No team wins an NBA championship in late October, not even if it does have Shaq and LeBron in its lineup. To dream overly much about one now might prove a distraction with a full season and a long, arduous postseason left to play.

But after seeing Shaq, LeBron and the Cavs play Tuesday night, people will need to mute their talk of an NBA championship. They ought not discuss the topic just yet, because not much the Cavs did against the Boston Celtics, another team with title aspirations, suggested such talk was anything but wishful thinking.

(Continue to Justice is Served)

Yanks Haven't Won Anything Yet

This has been one terrific postseason run by the Yankees so far.

They took care of the Twins with ease, and defeated the Angels, the team they have had the most difficulty beating over the past 10 years, in six games.

The Bronx Bombers have been led by a resurgent Alex Rodriguez, who has quieted the critics who said he can’t do it in the clutch, along with the usual suspects, such as Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera. There were questions about C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett and their lack of postseason credentials, but they have delivered as well.

All of which is great for Yankees fans. There is one other sobering thought, however, and that is this: the Yankees haven’t won any thing yet.

(Continue to New York Minute)

It's Like 1950 All Over Again

Here's the deal, so that you never have to read me go through it again - from now on, whenever I write about this, I'll just link back to this page (the day of Game 1 of the 2009 World Series) so that you can refresh your memory if need be.

The 2009 baseball season is dead to me.

If the Mets aren't in the World Series, I start rooting for matchups that have never happened before. So the Angels would have been a great fit in the 2009 World Series - they have only been to the World Series once before, and they didn't play the Phillies.

The Yankees? They've been, many times...and they've already played the Phillies.

So this season, in my crazy, muddled mind, becomes a waste. (Not like I didn't see that coming after watching the Mets play in April and May.)

(Continue to 200 Miles From the Citi)

Saints and Colts Sipping Success

As we head to the midpoint of the season, only two teams have proven themselves worthy of the Grill Room's best hooch.

But, my, aren't Indianapolis and New Orleans two very different customers!

The Saints? Well, they bust through the double-doors and act like they own the joint. Sure, this gregarious group takes some getting used to, and can get full-blown overbearing at times. Thing is, we notice nobody has the stones to throw down on 'em.

In fact, by night's end, people are actually buying THEM drinks! Did you see how generous those Dolphins were Sunday?!

(Continue to The Grill Room)

Slater Turns Tuskegee into Powerhouse

Willie Slater makes only a fraction of what Nick Saban makes ($4 million a year) to coach college football, but he’s proving Saban isn’t the only coach in the state of Alabama to turn a program into a national contender.

While Saban’s exploits in three seasons at the University of Alabama have been well chronicled since the Crimson Tide lured him away from the Miami Dolphins at the end of the 2006 season, Slater’s accomplishments at Tuskegee University have flown under the radar.

In his first three seasons at the helm of the Golden Tigers, Slater, 53, compiled a 32-3 record, captured the 2007 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) national championship with a 12-0 record, won three consecutive SIAC championships and twice was named SIAC Coach of the Year.

(Continue to Rue's Rant)

Iowa Lacks Style ... And Substance?

After the 2001 season, the BCS forced the computers remaining in the BCS formula to remove margin of victory (MOV) as an element in their respective algorithms. The reason, ostensibly, is that it discourages teams from running up the score since they wouldn't benefit from it.

Well, they should've asked all the pollsters to remove their eyeballs so they can only check the scores in Braille.

We're more than halfway done in the 2009 season, and the BCS Standings provides a clear picture: Style points matter. Why else would Iowa be ranked fourth despite being the near-unanimous choice as the top team by the computers?

(Continue to BCS Guru)

Agassi Makes a Confession

Andre Agassi confessed, in his autobiography that he tested positive to anti-doping tests but lied to the ATP to escape ban. The first player to complete the career Grand Slam in the Open era assumed an higjly addictive drug, the crystal methamphetamine: it’s not an enhancing-performance substance, but it’s meant for personal use, considered as a recreational drug like the cocaine.

He took the meth (possession of which carries a maximum five-year jail sentence in the US) in 1997, a period signed by doubts, falling form, and the ending of his turbulent marriage with the actress Brooke Shields. In his book, he so recalls the episode:

(Continue to ATP Tennis 360)

The Secret About Enver Lisin

Oh no. Our little secret has been discovered.

That was among my first throughts when I heard that 23 year-old Enver Lisin was being bumped up to play on the Rangers top line alongside star forwards Marian Gaborik and Vinny Prospal.

Oh no. Our little secret has been discovered.

I had the same reaction when Lisin scored a big third-period goal against his former team, the Phoenix Coyotes, last night at Madison Square Garden.

Oh no. Our little secret has been discovered.

(Continue to Jim Cerny's Rink Rap)

UFC 106 Makes a Switch

Just days removed from his thoroughly dominating performance over Yoshiyuki Yoshida at UFC 104, Anthony Johnson has agreed to fight another Yoshida victor in Josh Koscheck as a fill in for the Lesnar/Carwin main event at UFC 106.

The news comes according to which has a source close to Koscheck's camp. Koscheck even twittered that he would be fighting in the 106 main event.

(Continue to Fighter's Corner)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

NBA's Back ... All's Right with World

There’s so much negativity out there that can feed a column topic today. After all, we’re less than 12 hours removed from the Redskins’ nationally-televised spanking by the Eagles, in front of a stadium where many of the seats not left empty by boycotting fans were filled by either Philly supporters or protesters against ownership.

As usual, the intersection between sports and society is the scene of a gruesome pile-up. Mark McGwire is being waved back into baseball by his ex-manager and his big heart and huge blinders. Officials in virtually every sport are being raked over the coals, deservedly so, especially in SEC football (again). Bob Griese is being suspended for a mid-game “joke’’ that turns the clock on the so-called conversation on race back another 50 years. Larry Johnson did the same, maybe double, with the conversation on sexual orientation. Steve Phillips has joined the non-exclusive club of successful middle-aged men tossing their careers and families into turmoil for a pointless “indiscretion’’ (to use Rick Pitino’s term). There’s much, much more.

(Continue to The Steele Drum)

Lights On for Shaq's Debut with Cavs

The Shaquille O’Neal era debuts tonight at The Q, but nobody, even Shaq, can be sure what it portends for the Cavaliers.

After a trade with the Suns, he arrived here in early summer with a big smile and big promises. Shaq said he was willing to play the enforcer’s role – to be the man whose task it was to ensure nobody messed with LeBron James.

Shaq would be LeBron's sidekick.

The Cavs had tried to find complements the past couple of seasons. They brought in Donyell Marshall and Larry Hughes a few years ago, and Lorenzen Wright came here last year.

(Continue to Justice Is Served)

What Does Obama's Golf Game Say?

Of all the witty things that have been said and written about golf over the years, there is one that is true above all:

Golf doesn't build character, it reveals it.

A colleague, but a better golfing partner, sent along this clip yesterday. It has to do with President Obama's fondest for the game, and the fact that in the first nine months of his new job, he has already played as many rounds of golf as the latest President Bush did during his first 34 months in office.

As this significant finding seeps across the Internet, expect it to spark the predictable nonsensical furor that has always been associated with presidents and golf. In this case, how could the man be playing this stupid game when the economy is in the toilet, we are fighting two wars, health care is broken beyond recognition, and to this day, there are STILL starving children in China?!

(Continue to The Grill Room)

Yankee Haters Raise Your Hands

Enough Already: The Yankees win the pennant again
Photo: Associated Press

It was the bottom of the eighth in Sunday night’s closeout game of the ALCS and the Yankees were tacking on some extra runs on the way to another World Series appearance.

With Mariano Rivera coming back out to shut down the Angels in the ninth and preserve the victory, I was coming to the realization that my dream would not come true – that the Angels would actually take Game 6 and I would be able to say, "The Yankees lose … The Yankees lose … Theeeeeeeeeeeeeeee Yankees lose." No such luck.

The great American pastime, the World Series, begins Wednesday night, and I’ll be watching every pitch like every year. And you guessed it, I’ll be rooting for the Phillies. Sorry.

(Continue to DMA 7-22 Sports)

Yanks' First Series Without Scooter

The Yankees will play in a World Series for the first time since his passing. He has been gone a little more than two years now, but I can still hear his voice calling from the past, from some time in the late 1960s.

I hear the sound of so many of my baseball summers over the crackling static coming through a transistor radio in the back yard on a lazy July or August afternoon that seemed to last forever. No cares; just a boy, a radio and a baseball game.

I began listening to Phil Rizzuto when I was eight years old and he became a huge part of my life for the next 30 years. But even Scooter couldn’t live forever, though I actually thought he might.

The voice finally was silenced on August 13, 2007, a few weeks shy of his 90th birthday and 11 years after he retired. His 40th and final season as a Yankees’ broadcaster in 1996 coincided with the rookie season of a fellow shortstop named Derek Jeter.

(Continue to Bob Birge's Irish Eyes Are Smiling)

Kiss & Tell: The Magic-Isiah Fallout

The opposite of love is indifference, somebody with keener insights into human emotions than I have once said.

I disagree.

I would counter that the opposite of love is hate, because hate hurts a man a lot more than indifference ever could. To look at it otherwise is to disregard what hate might force a man to do to a person he once loved.

I’m not talking about love in the romantic, Romeo and Juliet sense. I guess the MTV word for what I mean is “bromance”: the brotherly love between two male friends. When that love sours, indifference isn't what remains. Hate, though, does.

(Continue to Justice Is Served)

Cowboys' Miles Is Getting There

Maybe it's way too early to start breaking out the annointing oil for Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Miles Austin—who is beginning to emerge as Tony Romo's favorite go-to receiver.

He may not be on the same level as a Terrell Owens just yet, but the numbers that he's put up in the last two weeks for the Cowboys says a lot about his potential as that game-breaking receiver that the team was hoping to find in Roy Williams.

In the Cowboys 37-21 victory over the Atlanta Falcons last Sunday, Austin caught six passes for 171 yards and two touchdowns. The Falcons could do nothing to stop the speedy, 6-foot-3, 214-pound receiver out of Monmouth. Whether it was a comeback pattern or a crossing route, Austin had a penchant for turning big gains into big plays.

(Continue to NFC 'Easter)

Jets Victory Not All Good News

There was some bad news to come out of the Jets' 38-0 blasting of the Oakland Raiders - Leon Washington was lost for the season with a broken leg.

Apparently this was one of those gruesome football injuries. You can go elsewhere to read the bloody descriptions - I'm a bit squeamish. But it's not your run-of-the-mill broken leg. There are whispers that this could be a career-threatening injury.

The injury comes a week after a season-ending knee injury to Kris Jenkins, who has been a monster up front on defense for the Jets. That's two pretty significant injuries in two weeks suffered by the on offense, one on defense.

(Continue to 200 Miles From the Citi)

OKC Thunder: Getting Our Bearings

The NBA season is less than 24 hours away, and the Thunder have their first game on Wednesday night. With everything that has gone on, let's get an idea of where we are, and where we are going.

Where we are:

We finished a dismal 23 - 59. Even with the end of the season 20 - 30 record, it doesn't look good. We were a top 10 rebounding team last season, but our Point Guard of the future committed the most turnovers of anyone in the league. The Thunder are lead by one of the league's best scorers in Kevin Durant, but we were in the bottom of the league in scoring.

This season, we are one of the youngest teams in the league. Oklahoma City has an average age of 25. If our young bench doesn't get better, don't expect much improvement this season.

(Continue to This Is Thunder Basketball)

Are These Suspendable Hits or Not?

Frightening scene in Philly on Saturday where David Booth of the Panthers was laid out on a hit by Flyers captain Mike Richards.

Any time you see a player motionless on the ice and then being taken off, immobilized on a stretcher, it give you pause for how dangerous a game this great sport can be.

Fortunately Booth is already out of the hospital, being released yesterday after sustaining a concussion on the play. But it was still extremely scary to watch Booth absorb the hard hit after dropping a pass to his left, and then hit the ice head-first, and remain motionless thereafter.

If you have yet to do so, check out the hit here.

(Continue to Jim Cerny's Rink Rap)

European Soccer Recap

English Premier League

The teams currently occupying the top two spots in the Premiership swited spots over the weekend, as Chelsea regained the top spot in the league.

Chelsea did its part on Saturday, as a brace by Frank Lampard helped the blues to a 5-0 rout of Blackburn Rovers at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea also got help from Liverpool, as they defeated Manchester United 2-0 at Anfield on Sunday.

The win not only stalled Manchester United, but brought a sigh of relief to Liverpool, whish was sliding down the standigs prior to Sunday'a match. Manchester United found itself behind the eight ball towards halftime, as Nemanja Vidic recieved two yellow cards in the first half, and Liverpool finally capitalized with a Fernando Torres goal in the 64th minute. David Ngog sealed the match with a stoppage time strike.

(Continue to Soccer 24-7)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Black Mark Still on McGwire's Silence

He's supposedly coming back from his self-imposed hell, a place far removed from the limelight, the TV commercials and the public adulation he enjoyed during most of his baseball career.

He went there to get away from his final seasons, but he couldn't shake free of those years or the rumors that trailed him there. Whoever figured Mark McGwire would return?

He is coming back, though. He's coming back to baseball as manager Tony La Russa's hitting coach with the Cardinals, which causes hell for Major League Baseball. Its officials know what McGwire's return will mean: more talk about steroids.

(Continue to Justice Is Served)

Saints Don't Get AFC's Memo

The AFC spent most of Sunday sending a powerful statement to the NFC.

By about 5:45 p.m. EST, and well into the day's second offering of games, the AFC had taken all the toss-up tilts between the rival leagues, and turned them into their own.

The Bengals had demolished the Bears, 45-10. Houston had knocked back a suddenly reeling 49ers club. Pittsburgh had played with fire, and then set ablaze Minnesota's undefeated season. Why, Buffalo had even out-mediocre-d the Panthers in Carolina.

And now with its undefeated Saints being battered by middling Miami, 24-3, late in the first half, the NFC was preparing a message of surrender. But just before the white flag went up, Drew Brees' Saints put their league on their backs and picked themselves up off the Miami sod with a resounding leap.

(Continue to The Grill Room)

Dolphins Melt Down Against Saints

For most of the first half against New Orleans, the Dolphins played their finest football of the young season.

Miami held the high-powered Saints to just one first down through the first 22 minutes of play, harrassed Drew Brees into three interceptions, and dominated the clock with the Wildcat en route to a 24-3 lead.

Jason Taylor looked like the J.T. of old for the first time in 2009, sacking Brees twice and forcing two fumbles.

As a team, the Dolphins recorded five sacks on Brees, the second-best performance of the season.

(Continue to Dolphins Watch)

A Good Bounce Back for Jets

The Jets put a pretty emphatic end to their 3-game losing streak, shutting out the Raiders in Oakland 38-0.

I don't know about you, but I was pretty surprised.

Not so much that the Jets won....just the way they won. No matter how bad the Raiders have been throughout the years (especially recent years), the Jets have always had trouble out there. So I never expected them to hand the Raiders their most lopsided home loss ever.

The Jets' running game and defense helped out Mark Sanchez, coming off a 5-interception game last week, which was the direction Rex Ryan said he'd go. Shonn Green, he of the monster pre-season but only about one or two games so far in the regular season, had a big performance, going for 144 yards and 2 touchdowns.

(Continue to 200 Miles From the Citi)

UFC 104: Machida-Shogun Aftermath

In the wake of yet another solid, if not spectacular, night of fights provided by the UFC, every fan who watched the action is left talking about one thing -- the decision in the main event.

The decision that literally stole a win -- and thus the Light Heavyweight Championship -- from the challenger Mauricio "Shogun" Rua. There is no doubt that on a night when Rua returned to the form he showed on his way to winning the Pride Open Weight Grand Prix and being labeled as the best 205 lb fighter in the World, he should've walked away in glory rather than having to explain away a loss that he didn't rightfully deserve.

Make no mistake about it, this was highway robbery in a city that has seen more than its fair share. You can watch the fight yourself or just go to any MMA website like Sherdog, ESPN, Bloody Elbow, Yahoo, MMA Junkie, etc. that scores the fights and get the same opinion: Rua defeated Lyoto Machida by unanimous decision 49-46.

(Continue to Fighter's Corner)

Weekly Rankings, Iowa No. 1

Not too many changes this week. We've got two 8-0 teams, but Iowa is way ahead of Alabama right now. Why? It's not because the computer isn't factoring in their close calls - my program does contain margin of victory. So let's take a look at what they've each done, going from their best win to worse.

Iowa: @ Penn St (187.16) 21-10, vs Arizona (123.44) 27-17, @ Wisconsin (94.56) 20-10, vs Michigan (58.62) 30-28
Bama: v VA Tech (137.10) 34-24, vs S Carolina (126.39) 20-6, @ Ole Miss (82.29) 22-3, @ Kentucky (48.37) 38-20

Iowa: @ Iowa St (58.54) 35-3, @ Michigan St (12.30) 15-13, vs Arkansas St (-60.94) 24-21, vs N Iowa (I-AA) 17-16
Bama: vs Arkansas (-10.03) 35-7, vs Tennessee (-22.71) 12-10, vs Fla Intl (-154.44) 40-14, vs N Texas (-154.88) 53-7

(Continue to The National Championship Issue)

Another Blown Call Benefits Florida

Blown call

Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen is livid about a blown call in Saturday night's game against Florida, the second week in a row the Gators have benefited from errors by a Southeastern Conference officiating crew.

Florida linebacker Dustin Doe was ruled to have scored on a 23-yard interception return with 8:25 remaining in the fourth quarter, but replays showed that Doe was stripped of the ball before crossing the goal line by Mississippi State receiver Brandon McRae.

Doe's touchdown was upheld after being reviewed, giving Florida its second touchdown in 33 seconds and a 29-13 lead. The Gators won, 29-19.

(Continue to The Wiz of Odds)

Thoughts on Alabama's Quartet

With all four of Alabama’s Football Bowl Subdivision teams on television Saturday – plus some other games of interest – my remote got a workout. It was still smoking Sunday morning from all the channel surfing.

I want to share with you what I learned from my channel flipping.

* Alabama's massive nose tackle Terrence “Mount” Cody might not have great leaping ability, but when he gets penetration with a big push on a field goal attempt he doesn’t have to. That’s how he was able to block two field goal attempts in the fourth quarter to preserve the Crimson Tide’s narrow 12-10 victory against the Tennessee Volunteers and the Tide's perfect season.

(Continue to Rue's Rant)

New Lights on Marcos Baghdatis

Marcos Baghdatis is back. The Cypriot won the Stockholm ATP 250 over Olivier Rochus 61 75. Baghdatis, who hadn’t such a joy since February 2007 (in Zagreb, w. over Ivan Ljubicic) is the 10th unseeded player to clinch a title this season. Is this enough to talk about a Renaissance of the ex Australian Open finalist? Is this a sufficiently bright signal to turn off the critics of who considers Marcos nothing more than a meteor who lived only a summer of unexpected glory?

Probably not, although a victory is always a victory and should mollify attacks and oppositions. Marcos won a decent tournament, but surely not an astonishing tournament. The only top-10 in the main draw, Robin Soderling, withdrawn in the semifinal for an elbow injury, and gave up the hope of improving his ranking points replacing the 115 points of the success at the Sunrise Challenger. The quality of the event is testified by the semifinal between Olivier Rochus (who was the 21st best player in the world, has two career titles and, although his one-handed backhand and smart strategies would deserve more, hasn’t reached the fourth round in a Grand Slam event since 2005) and the Gstaad champions, the 21 year-old Brazilian Thonas Bellucci.

(Continue to ATP Tennis 360)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Anything But Yankees-Phillies

I was really looking forward to a Game 6 of the ALCS Saturday night - the night I could actually stay up to watch a game. Now I need to either set myself back entirely for the week by staying up late for a Sunday night game, or miss the late innings.

I really have a lot riding on the outcome, too. There are a few reasons I want the Angels to pull this series out, none of which have anything to do with rooting against the Yankees just because.

One thing is, I'd like to see the Angels win Game 6 so that there's a Game 7. That would be exciting. Secondly, it has been a long haul for the Angels this season. As I've mentioned before, they have the best story this post-season - no one would have blamed them if they had mailed their season in after the early-season Nick Adenhart tragedy. But they've come this far, it would be a shame if they fell short of the World Series.

Finally, though, I don't want it to be a Phillies-Yankees World Series. There are two reasons for this. One is that this is a repeat World Series, and I would feel like we wasted the year if there wasn't a new matchup in the World Series. Secondly, this is the baseball equivalent of the Super Bowl a couple of years ago when the Giants beat the Patriots.

(Continue to 200 Miles From the Citi)

High Expectations for '09-'10 Season

NBA Commissioner David Stern’s no fool. He knows full well what’s in store for the 2009-2010 NBA season.

Over the last few weeks, Stern apparently must've worked behind the scenes and on Friday the NBA and regular refs finally ironed out a new two-year deal just in time for Tuesday night’s opening tipoff.

Apparently there was no way Stern was going to screw up the drama and action for the league or its fans this season.

Expectations are the highest in recent memory, so evidently Stern knew he needed his full-time guys on board to shore up things for this highly-anticipated 2009-2010 NBA season.

(Continue to All Net)

NFL's Separation Anxiety

Here we are in Week 7 and it is becoming more and more clear which teams are legitimate Super Bowl contenders and which ones are out and out pretenders.

So, let's see who is going to make a statement this time around and who's going to take a step backwards in the wrong direction, with a quick reminder that the Guru is now 46-25 after going 9-5 last week:

Green Bay at Cleveland -- This one should be an easy one to pick as the Browns can't seem to get out of their own way. So why do I get a strange feeling that we could be looking at a repeat of last week's Eagles-Raiders upset? Nah. Aaron Rodgers is coming into his own and with Ahman Green back in a Packers jersey to give Ryan Grant some help, Green Bay will keep pace in the NFC playoff race, although it will be closer than it should be.

Packers 23, Browns 21

(Continue to NFL Guru)

High-Scoring Saints March into Miami

The Miami Dolphins come out of their bye week and into the fire, as they host the undefeated New Orleans Saints at Land Shark Stadium. Kickoff is at 4:15.

To say the Saints are a high-scoring outfit is an understatement. Through five games, New Orleans is averaging 38.4 points and 430 yards of total ofense per game.

Last week, Drew Brees and Company eviscerated the then-No. 1 defense in the NFL, the New York Giants, for 493 total yards and 48 points in the Saints' 48-27 drubbing.

Brees was at his best, completing 23-of-30 passes for 369 yards and four touchdowns, and Marques Colston caught eight passes for 166 yards and a TD.

(Continue to Dolphins Watch)

Retooled Habs Look to Bounce Back

The Montreal Canadiens spent the better part of their summer retooling the coaching staff and roster following a second place finish in the Northeast Division, 8th place in the Eastern Conference, and getting swept by the Bruins in the opening round of the playoffs.

Now, nine games into the 2009-10 season, the question is: where exactly are the new-look Canadiens after all of the changes?

The answer from new head coach Jacques Martin is, "a work in progress."

"It takes a while, not only from the players standpoint, but from that of a coach," Martin told me this morning at the Bell Centre. "It takes me a while as a coach to really appreciate what a player brings to the table. And as for the team, I think we have progressed, but it will take some time."

(Continue to Jim Cerny's Rink Rap)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Canada Deserves More NHL Teams

Hard to argue with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who would like to see more NHL teams in the land of the maple leaf.

Canadian fans watched two franchises relocate to the U.S. -- Quebec to Denver and Winnipeg to Phoenix (now Glendale, Ariz.) -- in the mid 1990s, and BlackBerry mogul Jim Balsillie was thwarted in his attempts at bringing an American franchise to Hamilton, Ontario.

You probably could build a hockey rink in the middle of nowhere in Canada, and the team would sell out every game.

Of course, a fan base has never been the problem in Canada. The Quebec Nordiques and Winnipeg Jets did very well, thank you, drawing fans to their respective arenas.

(Continue to Through the 5 Hole)
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