29 June 2007

Pitcher Indicted For Clubhouse Fracas

Similar to Vegas and the Mob, what happens in the locker room usually stays in the locker room. Clubhouse sanctity, especially in baseball is highly guarded and respected. Issues, arguments, and fights have traditionally been handled in-house. That is until now.

Detroit Tigers pitcher Roman Colon was indicted today by a Lucas, OH grand jury on one count of felony assault for a fight he had with a teammate earlier this month. The Tigers felt the incident was worthy of a seven game suspension. The justice system feels differently.

Colon was fighting with a teammate on June 12 before a game when Mud Hens pitcher Jason Karnuth tried to break it up, according to a police report. Colon hit Karnuth, breaking several bones in his face, the report said.
Colon said afterwards that he didn't realize he'd hit Karnuth, and apologized. But the damage was done. Karnuth went through four hours of reconstructive surgery on June 19th after suffering multiple facial fractures. OUCH. It's likely that Karnuth will miss the remainder of the season.

And what was the reason for the fight in the first place? A disagreement over the choice of music playing in the clubhouse.

True to form, it wasn't Karnuth himself that brought the charges. It was his wife. It's interesting to see the different standards that are used between actions that happen on the playing field and what happens in public (although the playing field is the most public of places). If that fight had happened on the street in front of a bar, the cops would have been called in, and the perps taken away. But the fight between Carlos Zambrano and Michael Barrett of the Cubs? No arrests. Instead it was showcased on SportsCenter. They worked it out in the clubhouse. And like mob justice, the lesser player of the two was dealt with, and traded away.

I don't blame Karnuth's wife for lodging the complaint. If I were hit that badly, I'd do it myself. Yet she still broke with baseball culture. She absolutely did no wrong, but it will be interesting to see if there will be any resentment towards Karnuth's way when he returns. Let's hope not.

28 June 2007

It's Time For A Win Before 'Danicamania' Fades

Danica Patrick has now been on the IndyCar Series for three years. She's been the most popular driver while boosting attendance and bringing publicity to the sport. But there's one thing she still hasn't done. She hasn't won a race yet.

Although she once led the Indy 500 for 19 laps and finished fourth, she has yet to go the distance. For Patrick it's only a matter of time though.

"It's going to be nice to do it. It's probably going to come when everyone least expects it, including myself, but it's time,'' she said. "It's time to just do it and get it over with, and I can't tell you that I'm going to be over-the-moon ecstatic."
Or to paraphrase, a Danica Patrick victory needs to happen. She needs it, but so does the IRL. A victory would lend legitimacy to her status on the circuit. It's one thing to drum up publicity and hype, but before long she's got to deliver the goods. Otherwise this valuable endorsement deals will dry up. The same goes for the IRL. They've piggybacked on the Patrick wagon, but they've also put a lot of energy and development into her. And to their credit they've both benefited from it. Patrick has brought attention to the IRL that in all honesty they wouldn't have gotten otherwise.

But how long can this go on without a victory? How far will fans and the media go along with this before they're calling her a sideshow not worthy of all that's been brought her way. A victory is the crucial next step in her development. Otherwise she's just another version of Manon Rheaume and Anna Kournikova.

"I'm going to be relieved,'' Patrick said about her inevitable first victory. And so will everyone else.

27 June 2007

Bush Tosses Up Softballs At White House

You can say a lot of things about President George W. Bush these days. But one thing we can agree on is that he's a lucky man. He's got a baseball field in his backyard. President Bush hosted a bunch of girls to the White House today for the first softball tee ball game.

"We're a big believer in Title IX programs," Bush said of the federal legislation that bars gender bias in athletics. "We think it's good for America that our women are playing sports. The best way to convince women to play sports is to start early."

The self appointed "Decider" also decided on the South Lawn rules: no outs, and no strikes. Each member of the Luray Little League Red Wings from Luray, Va., and the Allegany County Little League Bobcats from Cumberland, Md. Took their turn at the plate and "were encouraged" to run the bases. Why wouldn't a girl lucky enough to play at the White House want to run the bases? It's hogwash! With the Arizona Softball team on hand to cheer on the players, you can bet their fathers would have wanted to. I'm guessing they weren't dressed like this though.

Marat Safin Cannot Afford The Food At Wimbledon

Marat Safin has won two grand-slams and was the top ranking tennis player for nine weeks in 2000. But the outspoken Safin is clear about one thing: he does not like playing at Wimbledon.

"I try not to overstay my welcome here," the former world number one told the Sovietsky Sport newspaper, calling Wimbledon his least favorite tournament. Players complain about a lot of things in the locker room but when it comes to speaking their mind to the press they always say how nice everything is."
Before his match against 279th ranked Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi (who is the first Pakistani player to make it out of the first round in over thirty years), Safin came close to one of those US Weekly patented "They're Just Like Us" moments. Safin echoed the sentiments of many visitors to London by complaining about the price of things.
"But how can it be nice if you can't even buy a normal meal with our daily allowances here. A plate of spaghetti cost $25, where else do you see such outrageous prices," he asked.
While Safin claims he can hardly afford a meal at Wimbledon, he's hardly like us. His career earnings amount to $13 million. The average visitor's to England has to be less than that. I appreciate Safin's sentiments - England is a damn expensive place! The idea that he hasn't become so jaded as to not care about what he spends on things is also appealing and rare in star athletes. But perhaps Marat just needs to phrase things a bit differently. Maybe it's that you can afford the food, but you just believe that the prices in town are unreasonably high. Doesn't that sound better?

You'd think Safin would spend less time whining about food, and more time preparing for his upcoming match. Speaking of the match against Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi, Safin admitted he didn't even know what he looked like.
"I guess he's playing pretty good tennis if he qualified, he won a three-set match today. So I guess tough opponent second round. We'll see how it's going to be."
Yes, we'll see Marat.

26 June 2007

LIO Interviews ESPN's Keith Law

LIO had the pleasure of interviewing Keith Law, Senior Baseball Writer for ESPN’s Scouts Inc. Keith is one of ESPN's baseball gurus, and spearheaded the coverage of the recent MLB draft. Prior to coming to ESPN, Law spent 4 1/2 years as a Special Assistant to the General Manager with the Toronto Blue Jays.

Keith's baseball work can be found via his blog and chats. His chats and his personal site give a better picture of the true Keith Law - a lover of not only baseball, but literature and fine cuisine to boot.

I traded emails with Keith over the last few days, and the fruits of our writing is below:

LIO: How did you land at ESPN? How did the evolution go from special assistant to the GM in Toronto to working for the worldwide leader?

KL: That’s a long story, but here’s the short version. I had written a bunch of freelance columns for ESPN back in 2000 and 2001, before going to Toronto. By the end of 2005, I was looking to leave the Jays and was talking to a friend at the Four-Letter who mentioned that they were looking for someone to fill the position I’m in now. And I got the gig. Wasn’t a tough decision on my end.

LIO: Your chats and columns are always full of your personality and flair. It's more than just numbers to you. With ESPN so eager to pick out great personalities, what's it going to take to get you a regular column? You've got "intellectual Sports Guy" written all over you.

KL: Nah, Bill’s got a niche – can I call it a niche? it’s humongous – that no one else could fill. I like what I’m doing for the site now: serious baseball analysis and commentary, with the occasional Page 2 bit when I have an opinion to scream about, and the more-or-less weekly chats, which I really try to keep open-ended. The chats are the key for me. They’re unedited, so I’ve got more freedom to say what’s on my mind, and can use more humor than I’m allowed to put into regular columns. They’re quick, so I often get to put things out there that weren’t long enough to make it into a column or a blog entry. And they give me a feel for what readers want – more amateur stuff? More detail on the scouting reports? Should I go see certain teams or prospects? Not to mention all the book, movie, music, and food suggestions I get. I really look forward to the chats, and I seem to be building a nice, faithful audience for them, because I’m starting to recognize the names of some questioners from week to week.
LIO: What are you reading on a regular basis, both in the sports and non-sports world?

My RSS reader includes Gammons’ and Simmons’ feeds, BA’s main feed, BP Unfiltered, Carlos Gomez’ feed, D-Town Baseball (a Tigers blog run by a guy I’ve known for years), FJM, MLB Trade Rumors, Sabernomics, The Big Lead, Deadspin, Seth Mnookin’s blog, and of course LIO. I also read Baseball Think Factory’s news blog, and I’ve been a Rotowire user almost since Day One – even if you don’t play fantasy baseball (which I don’t), their updates are invaluable for keeping on top of things.

Non-sports I don’t read much online. I’m still a big Wall Street Journal fan, although I killed the print subscription when I got this job because I just don’t have the time any more. If I’m reading something that’s non-sports, it’s probably a book.

LIO: In your mind, what's the biggest issue going on in baseball aside from steroids?

I’ve never thought steroids were that big of an issue, and as a fan, I really don’t give a Juan Pierre whether or not these guys used steroids or HGH or horse tranquilizers or whatever. The steroid “scandal” is about 90% media sanctimony, and I guess the only good thing there is that it gives me another point on which to rail on the mainstream sports media.

The two biggest issues in baseball to me are the seemingly intractable problem of pitcher injuries, and the totally tractable problem of penurious owners. The first one is a serious issue, because we’re getting to the point where pitchers – particularly young ones – are almost treated like disposable assets, and we’re seeing ridiculous contracts handed out to pitchers who have mediocre but existing track records because of the shortage (perceived or real) of pitching.

The skinflint owners, on the other hand, represent an easily fixable problem. The revenue-sharing system, as it is, is asinine, because it penalizes teams that run their businesses properly and rewards teams that run them poorly or that run them on the cheap. Competitive balance is innate to baseball, in my opinion, as long as you don’t have owners who are draining the profits out of their teams each year rather than reinvesting in the product. This is their legal right as owners, but it’s bad for the game.

LIO: If I were Commissioner the one thing I would change aside from steroids is:

KL: Well, aside from the stuff I talked about above, I’d get rid of or weaken the territorial rules that govern franchise locations. Everyone knows New York could support a third team – hell, they did for fifty-plus years, and now the city is bigger and just as baseball-mad as ever – and the idea that, say, the Austin/San Antonio corridor will have to pay Drayton McLane and Tom Hicks just to get a team even though the economic impact on their clubs will be slight is just ridiculous.

LIO: When I wake up in the morning the first website I go to is?

KL: I fire up Google Reader, ESPN’s main baseball page, the BTF newsblog, and my Gmail inbox. And then I spend up to an hour reading, just so I’m up to speed for the day. With all the local radio stuff I do, I need to stay on top of everything.

LIO: The LIO guys all live in LA. What's your favorite place to eat when you're here? (don't say Spago - we can't afford that).

KL: Never been downtown, actually. I was out in Long Beach for the Area Code Games last year, and the best meal I had – the place I’m most looking forward to hitting again – was Kinokawa, a small sushi joint in a strip mall near the airport. Unbelievable. I always do sushi when I’m in California – tough to get anything close to that quality on the East Coast.

LIO: Let's say our readers are going on vacation. Is there one sports and one non-sports book you could recommend?

KL: Non-sports … well, since people typically want lighter stuff on vacations, I’ll go with Jasper Fforde. The Eyre Affair is unbelievable, clever and funny, but if you don’t know classic literature you may miss some of the jokes (in particular, you need to know the plot of Jane Eyre). But The Big Over Easy is a very similar work that relies on nursery rhymes for its humor, and everyone knows those.

I’ve read some decent baseball books recently that were written by friends (Management by Baseball, The Baseball Economist, and The Cheater’s Guide to Baseball), but if you’re looking for more of a mass-appeal type of sports book, I’m no help. I can’t stand that type of book. They’re usually nothing more than 200 pages of clichés, empty player quotes, and bad writing.

LIO: Looking at the MLB Draft process as a non-expert, it seems like the system is pretty archaic (only North American players, 50 rounds, etc.) If you could scrap the whole draft system and start over, would you and what changes would you make?

KL: There’s no easy answer here. Any draft will screw the players by limiting their signing bonuses; the vast majority would get more if there was no system and all amateurs were free agents. MLB has made this worse by trying to cut slot bonuses by 10% across the board, even though revenues at the big-league level are soaring. That said, pure free agency for amateurs is undesirable for MLB the industry for a few reasons beyond cost. The draft provides organization – a single date with a widely-understood system, one that allows teams to organize their scouting around where they select in the draft. It also steers talent to the worst teams, and while that’s another example of rewarding incompetence, it’s a good way to preserve some measure of long-term competitive balance, too.

I’d definitely cut the draft to about 25 rounds, maybe even 20. The expected return on a 32nd round pick is zero anyway. I’d absolutely allow the trading of draft picks, which I think would somewhat mitigate the artificial limitation placed on signing bonuses. And I’d eliminate compensation picks for free agents, which became a complete joke this winter – a pick for Ryan Klesko? Really? Are we just handing them out on street corners now?

LIO: With the explosion in fantasy sports, it seems like everyone thinks they could be a GM. Could you give us some insight into the things a GM has to do that the average fan might not know about?

KL: That’s a great question. I got an email a few months ago from a reader who said he thought he could do a much better job than (some GM I won’t name) if he could get the chance … and I didn’t respond, because I couldn’t think of a way of doing it without mincing him into tiny pieces. Seriously – give the average fan a GM job and by 5 pm of his first day, he’ll be crying for his mommy.

A GM’s job goes so much farther than just setting the major-league roster, but that’s the part the average fan thinks about. A GM also has to run the entire baseball operations department, with five or six direct reports including the manager (of course), assistant GM, scouting director, farm director, head trainer, and maybe some special assistants, and to do that job he has to constantly be on top of everything going on with the big-league club and all of his affiliate teams, which includes a lot of crap that you don’t hear about on the outside. A GM also has to deal with the media, which even in a soft media market like Toronto is still a big time sink. A GM also has to be the liaison between baseball ops and the rest of the company – marketing, sales, corporate sponsors (all of whom want his time), PR, the team’s charitable foundation, and so on. And he has to be accountable to his boss or bosses, which (if he’s any good) means managing upwards, regularly talking to or meeting the President or the owner or both.

To be good at the job, a GM also has to have a lot of characteristics other than the ability to make trades and write comments on message boards. He has to be a leader, has to be somewhat articulate (a rule I admit is often broken) to be able to deal with the press and to make a strong impression on people in finance or with corporate sponsors, has to have some financial sense, and should be able to evaluate players, whether it’s via stats or scouting or both. He has to be able to think strategically, to craft a long-term plan while dealing with short-term realities, and to ignore the media and fans who demand this move or that. And it doesn’t hurt to be just plain smart, because a good GM assimilates information from all kinds of sources, synthesizes it, and adjusts his long-term and short-term plans accordingly. Granted, not all GMs have all these traits, but they all have some of them, even the ones we all ridicule. What we see is when a GM doesn’t have good baseball skills, and ultimately that will get him fired because results on the field matter most, but there’s a lot more to the job than that.

Anyway, that’s just off the top of my head. It is a huge job, with lots of responsibilities and pressures and none of the boundaries of time that a typical office job has – if you’re a GM, your phone will sometimes ring at 11 pm, and you have to take it. You’re accountable to everyone.

25 June 2007

John Dingell Is The Fan's Congressman

While other politicians are off slipping pork barrel riders into legislation and being bought off by special interests, Congressman John Dingell is a man of the people. The Democrat from Michigan, and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman is focusing his own energy towards matters that truly affect the people. And to that end, Dingell did what any modern man would do: he wrote a letter. In a letter to Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delaney, Dingell said that he was concerned about the ability of fans to watch their favorite Big Ten sporting events on the new Big Ten Network, debuting this summer.

Dingell said that many constituents have expressed worries about being able to watch their beloved University of Michigan football games because none of the state's cable operators will be carrying the cable station.

But Dingell's constituents shouldn't worry. Michigan is a top team, and last season all 13 of its games were broadcast on either free TV, or widely available cable channels (read: ESPN). The real fans at risk to lose out are those die-hard fans for the lower rung teams like Indiana and Northwestern. Their games have long been broadcast on local channels through ESPN Plus, but now their broadcasts are up in the air. What will happen to them?
Dingell makes the point that with the exception of Northwestern, all Big Ten teams are public institutions, with every aspect of the games and programs being funded by the taxpayer. Yet its the same taxpayer that is set to lose out:

The free broadcasts of football and basketball games might not make the most money for the conference, but they enable the taxpayer the ability to enjoy what their money has provided. College sports provide a touchstone, not only for a school or alumni group, but also for an entire state and have become, over the years, a public good and part of our common culture.
The Big Ten Network is an integral example of the next evolution in sports revenue started by the likes of the Yankees and their YES Network. Why should teams just license out their broadcast rights and forfeit the lush advertising money that it brings in? And in the areas where there is a demand for it, it will succeed. And that's just what the Big Ten intends to do with their network.

But rather than take the hard-line approach that the NFL Network took and lose, the league might want to take a softer approach. Like the NFL Network, the best games aren't going to be shown on the Network anyway. They'll still be on ESPN and ABC. You just can't get top dollar for lower tiered games, and the Big Ten Network should be wary of offending the deep seated loyalties that runs through the Big Ten, and college football. Dingell's got a point here, and it will be interesting to see what happens when the Big Ten Network starts broadcasting this Fall.

24 June 2007

In The Big Inning, God Created Israeli Baseball

Professional baseball took its first steps today when the inaugural game of the Israel Baseball League was played. There weren't any Cracker Jacks, cotton candy, or peanuts, and there certainly wasn't any pork sausages. All food was strictly Kosher. The Israeli crowd of 3,000 cheered on as the Modiin Miracles defeated the Petah Tikvah Pioneers 9-1.

The games almost didn't happen due to some customs issues with their equipment. Customs you say?

“They don’t know baseball. Soccer balls come in the country. They know what soccer balls are. No one knows what bats are. No one knows what baseballs are. No one knows what batting helmets are. They weren’t familiar with them, they had never even seen them before, didn’t know how to value them, price them, count them or anything like that,” league President and COO Marty Berger said.
After days of negotiating, the gear was finally released from customs on Thursday. Once the game went on, the announcing team struggled converting the baseball lingo into Hebrew. Of course this could have been done beforehand, but after trying to translate the terms, the announcers gave up.
"How do you say 'home plate?"' asked one of the announcers on the cable sports channel, which carried the game live. No one came up with an answer.
The six teams in the league will play a 45-game season, and the league has been modeled after the minor leagues. Give the fans a good time, and the fans will come back. To that end the fans will be showered with a variety of American-style promotions — fireworks nights, singles nights, bobblehead dolls, "Israeli Idol" singing contests, kids running the bases after the game, fans stuffed into giant sumo costumes wrestling on the field between innings.

And, because Israelis are used to soccer and basketball contests that end in two hours, the league will limit games to seven innings, with ties settled by a home run derby.

Today was a moment that was many centuries overdue. Dan Duquette, former GM of the Red Sox and Expos said it best:
"It's a proud day for Israel because this is the first professional game in 5,000 years."

22 June 2007

Morneau Takes On Catcher, Bruises Lung

Fans in the Upper Midwest must have held their collective breaths when reigning AL MVP Justin Morneau took on Marlins catcher Miguel Olivo at homeplate on Friday night. Morneau won at first - he was safe. But he also suffered a bruised lung, which will keep him out of at least the rest of this weekend's games. He's a great player, and we hope to see him back on the diamond soon.

21 June 2007

'Lost Boy' Becomes American, Competes In First Race

Just two days after passing his citizenship test, Lopez Lomong advanced past the preliminary round of the 800 meters at the U.S. track and field championships. Lomong won't officially be sworn in as a citizen for another few weeks, but was allowed to participate because he'll be an American before he would represent his new country in international competition.

"I just wanted to have fun with my fellow Americans," the former "Lost Boy of Sudan" said with a big smile.
Lomong is a sophomore at Northern Arizona, and running is nothing new for him. In fact, it's how he's survived. Lomong came to America as part of the "Lost Boys of Sudan" program in 2001 after spending a decade in a Kenyan refugee camp. He was taken by Sudanese rebels when he was 6 and imprisoned in a Sudanese rebel camp. But Lomong has had luck on his side a number of times.
Three older boys escaped through a small hole in a fence and took him with them, Lomong said. According to Lomong, they ran for three days before encountering Kenyan border police, who took them to the refugee camp.

He expected to live his life in the camp but after writing an essay, he was chosen for the "Lost Boys" program and placed in the home of Robert and Barbara Rogers near Tully, N.Y.
Luck struck a third time when he found out four years ago that his entire family had escaped from Sudan and was living in Kenya. He now speaks to them and hopes to see them for the first time in 16 years.

The story of Lomong is an inspiring one. His travails and perseverance is nothing other than amazing. Lomong is not only someone who is thankful to be an American, but one who is thankful to just be alive. He's just another reminder that we shouldn't take anything for granted, and be appreciative for all that we have.

Want A Surefire Sign Ticket Prices Will Be Higher At The World Cup 2010?

In the sports world sponsorships are supposed to help teams make money, keeping ticket prices low and helping to defray the costs of high salaries. This is not what's supposed to happen. MasterCard today ended its legal dispute with FIFA, accepting a $90 million settlement from soccer's governing body. It will also discontinue its sponsorship of the 2010 and 2014 World Cup tournaments.

MasterCard and FIFA have been entangled in a suit over MasterCard's right to sponsor the tournament. An official sponsor since 1994, MasterCard felt that FIFA did not honor its agreements when it awarded sponsorship rights to VISA, MC's main rival.

MasterCard let CMO Larry Flanagan lay the smack down on FIFA:

Flanagan said the decision to end the relationship with FIFA was based on "irreparable damage" to the company's trust in the organization. He said MasterCard determined the sponsorship was "basically not worth it, based on the need to have an ongoing, collaborative relationship with the other party."
Having apparently signed VISA as a sponsor, I suppose FIFA can afford to lose MC. Yet this loss seems devastating on a number of different fronts. First, events like the World Cup depend on large corporate sponsors in order to help fill their coffers. FIFA's actions don't send a positive message to its other main sponsors. FIFA was willing to give up millions here, but it also lost a sponsor who had been with them for over a decade. To spurn that kind of loyalty is nuts.

The financial penalty for FIFA is also astounding. $90 million is a huge sum, even for a money-maker like FIFA. I went to Dortmund, Germany last summer to watch the semi-final game between Germany and Italy, and continually emptied out my pockets for WC related and operated things. Food, souvenirs, you name it. 5 Euro here, 5 Euro there. And next time, in South Africa, because if this, everything will just be higher. Except this time it's in Rand, not Euro.

20 June 2007

Dodgers Change Mind, Now Love Canadian Flags

It's easy to think of Terrence and Phillip and Mounties when Canadians come to mind. But some Canadians have taken on the mighty Los Angeles Dodgers, and seem to have won.

The Dodgers, caving in to a bunch of Canadian expats, have agreed to review their stadium policy that bans the waving of national flags after Dodger security attempted to confiscate a Canadian flag during the June 9th battle between the Blue Jays and Dodgers.

"I think they got slammed," Pembroke's Lee Fraser, the owner of the flag and president of Canadians Abroad, said of the aftermath of the controversy. The group's website was flooded with traffic and Fraser received hundreds of angry emails after the incident was reported in the Star.
The apologetic Dodgers have offered to redeem themselves by offering to treat the Canadian Abroad members who were affected by the flag confiscation to another future Dodgers game. Once they're they'll even have the opportunity to meet catcher Russell Martin, a Canadian.

Under the current policy, only hand-held flags are permitted inside Dodger Stadium. Large flags, banners and other lettered signs are prohibited in an effort to prevent visual distractions to other fans, team spokesman Josh Rawitch said.

But you know what, despite all of the commotion this incident has provided, the policy is a good one. First off, most fan-produced signs suck. Secondly, the Dodgers are right to say that signs and banners are distractions and can potentially keep many fans from enjoying the game. It's bad enough that there's so little legroom at Dodger Stadium that you have to stand up to let someone through an aisle. But imagine if fans were constantly standing up, shrieking, hoping to get their clever signs on the air. Would you want to be seated behind that person? I don't think so. It's for the same reason that beach balls are confiscated.

And more than anything else, the policy helps avoid signs that could help instigate fans to act aggressively towards one another. While you might question this, believe me, having been to many a Dodger game, I can tell you it doesn't take much to start a fight in the stands...

The Dodgers have agreed to review their policy, but more than anything their feet are to the fire because they took away a flag from someone who made too much noise afterwards. Maybe they were too rough, and perhaps the security guards could have had a little more tact with the situation. But like the Suns leaving the bench last month, the spirit of the rule is correct, and a rule is still a rule. When I go to games I want to watch the action, not be distracted by crazed fans holding up signs, or banners, or beach balls, or girls pouring beer on themselves. Ok, maybe that last one.

19 June 2007

BYU Track Star Mops Up Pedestrian

This isn't the type of stuff that usually shows up in the police blotter, but it's certainly true. BYU track star Kyle Perry was arrested last week after getting out of his car and striking a pedestrian. With a mop.

Perry's car apparently got too close to the man who was crossing the street with a bucket of mops. Words were exchanged, and before you know it Utah's version of "The Sopranos" came to life. Perry got out of our his car, grabbed a mop out of the pedestrian's bucket, and then began striking the pedestrian his the stolen mop.

"The pedestrian grabbed another mop and used it to defend himself," Provo police Capt. Cliff Argyle said. "Eventually the pedestrian was shoved over a planter box and fell onto his back."
Oh, I can see this being written into "Big Love" later this season! Look at them, they're mop dueling! I'd bet this was the biggest crime committed in Provo that night. The man suffered a bump on his head, and meted out a citizens arrest of sorts - he blocked Perry's car from leaving until the cops showed up. Perry was booked on aggravated assault, and charges are pending.

Perry's season was limited due to injuries this past year, and maybe that contributed to his mop rage. But everyone involved should be thankful that the weapons of choice were mops, and not something like brooms. The prickly ends of brooms could have poked out an eye, or done serious damage. Mops? They'll just make you soaped up and sopping wet. Oh yeah, and a bump in the head.

18 June 2007

Just Who Is Counseling Kobe Bryant?

The last month has brought out a new Kobe Bryant. This Kobe Bryant isn't smiling. He's angry. And vocal. And self destructive.

The pattern has gone something like this. Kobe is upset. Kobe wants to win. Kobe makes ill-advised comments in radio interviews. Kobe demands trade. Rinse and repeat. Over and over again.

The question that follows is this: just who is giving Kobe Bryant advice here? Is it agent Rob Pelinka? Is it his wife? His family? Friends? For everyone's sake, let's hope the answer is nobody. For if anyone was advising Kobe right now, it would have to be the worst advice that one could give.

Kobe had it all before the fateful summer of 2003, at which point he hit rock bottom. His golden-boy image was shattered by whatever actually happened in that Eagle, CO hotel room. But Kobe's tenacious. He's not one to lie down and take it. He's the same guy who mastered everything with his left hand when he had surgery on his right shoulder. Kobe quickly rebuilt his image back up to where it was before.

But his actions the last few weeks regarding the Lakers have brought everything back to the bottom. Kobe has once again self-destructed. Enough has been written about his actions a few weeks ago, and those don't need to be rehashed. But today's posts on his website illustrate just how detached from reality and reason Kobe is.

In his quest to re-iterate his trade demands, Kobe thought it would be prudent to back up his argument with supporting voices. No, he didn't get Shaq to say Kobe deserved a trade. He simply posted friendly comments from his website's message board. They go something like this:

"As a long time Lakers fan, I am also a fan of the players. If the Lakers won't support Kobe's attempts to make the team better, then he should have the right to go elsewhere."- mlcgruhlke
"mlcgruhlke" has the right to say whatever he'd like, but it deserves to stay on the message boards. But what purpose does KB and crew think this will serve? Does he think Mitch Kupchack and Jerry Buss will come across these posts and then say to themselves, "oh shit, maybe we should trade Kobe now!' No! It makes no sense to put these up. The NBA doesn't operate with grass-roots campaigns. Kobe made his disastrous public play, and now it's time to take it where it should have gone all along - the back channels.

And that alleged Kobe videos, where he's spewing profanities into a cell phone video camera? The only ones more foolish than Kobe here are the ones who dish out any cash to actually pay for the video. If the video is real, then he's nothing more than a punk.

I've been a Laker fan my entire life. I've followed and rooted for them as much as any other loyal fan has. And it's tough to say what follows, but it's true. I'm done with Kobe Bryant. The Lakers are better off without him. The only words to describe his actions the last month is nothing other than selfish. After all the team has done for him, he's lost his memory. They stood by him ferociously during his Colorado mess, doing whatever he asked of them. They jettisoned Shaq out of town at his behest (I don't buy his revisionist history). Kobe has had his chance, and blown it twice. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. I won't be fooled again. If Kobe thinks he has a better shot winning elsewhere, I say good luck to him. And goodbye.

17 June 2007

Biggio Heads Towards 3000

The Houston Astros are coming to "Los Angeles of Anaheim" this week, and they'll be doing so with a giant conundrum on their hands. It's a future Hall of Famer. It's Craig Biggio.

Unfortunately for all involved, Biggio's march towards 3,000 hits has been painfully long. The team had developed Chris Burke as his heir at second base, but he's been waiting around for two years now. The Astros tried Biggio in center field for a while, but that experiment ended with him back at second. In the ultimate test of loyalty, the Astros and Biggio have stuck together through thick and thin. They even survived the Astrodome. But these days it's more thin than thick.

Biggio is only 11 hits from becoming the ninth player to amass all of his hits with one team, joining Cal Ripken, George Brett, Tony Gwynn, Robin Yount, Al Kaline, Stan Musial, Carl Yastrzemski and Roberto Clemente.But Biggio is limping towards 3,000. He's hitting .237 for the season with a .280 on-base percentage. Biggio is projected to get his historic hit by the end of the month, and you have to wonder if Burke will be getting his chance at second not long after that.

"It's a balancing act," Astros GM Tim Purpura said, "with what he's done for this team and this city and what is best for the future of this team."
Purpura and the Astros have been put in a tough situation both with Biggio and Jeff Bagwell the last few seasons. But for the most part they've seemed to balance the need to win as well as the loyalty that usually is just a memory from days past. You wouldn't want to see Biggio reach hit 3,000 in a Devil Rays uniform, would you? The Astros have done more than their part, earning the notion that they are an organization that treats their players right. Now its time to start thinking about themselves, and their 8 game deficit in the NL Central.

16 June 2007

Clemens and Franco Qualify For The Senior Discount

The twice-yearly inter-league series between the Yankees and Mets is always a big deal. But last night's game, and it's duel between Roger Clemens and Julio Franco became one for the ages. Ahem, the old ages.

When 48-year-old Julio Franco flied out against 44-year-old Roger Clemens ending the second, they became the oldest batter-pitcher matchup in the major leagues since Nick Altrock of the Washington Senators grounded out against the Philadelphia Athletics' Rube Walberg in the 11th inning on Oct. 1, 1933, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Clemens and Franco totaled 93 years 246 days, while Altrock and Walberg added up to 94 years 80 days.
Just for comparison' sake it should be noted if you were to take a closer look, last night's game has a more legitimate claim for the oldest matchup. The Senators-Athletics game was more of a stunt. Altrock was 57, and he hadn't played since 1919. It was the final game of his career, and it took place on the last day of the season.

The battle between Clemens and Franco, on the other hand, was a more serious game between teams with playoff aspirations. And while Franco can still carry his load, you still have to wonder of Mets manager Willy Randolph put him in just to get a rise out of everyone.

Julio Franco's career is a great story - one of endurance, determination, and grit. He'll never be as famous as Clemens, but his longevity and his durability is something to be admired. Especially for a guy whom everyone knows is not 48.

14 June 2007

Not Your Normal Tennis Injury

In the few weeks between the French Open and Wimbledon there are a few weeks in between when players tune up their grass court games. What happened at the Queen's tournament in England to Marc Gicquel should not be permitted under any circumstances. Here is the caption from Yahoo! Sports:

"Frenchman Marc Gicquel is dragged away by a doctor after he received a serve, travelling at 208 kilometres per hour, in the testicles during the fourth day of the Halle ATP tennis tournament, 14 June 2007 at the Gerry-Weber-Stadion in Halle, western Germany. Gicquel continued his second-round tie against German Benjamin Becker after treatment."
And just what was the treatment he received?

By the way, 208 km's is the same as 129 mph.

Photo Credit: PATRIK STOLLARZ/AFP/Getty Images

13 June 2007

How Do You Say "It's Lima Time" In Spanish?

Earlier in the week we examined Jeff Samardzija's season, one of a man who isn't doing all that well in the minor leagues. The folks here at LIO aren't negative people. We're optimists! Case in point: some of us root for the Cubs. Well how about we take a look at our old friend Jose Lima, someone who's doing well thus far.

Minor leaguer Jose Lima, formerly of the Dodgers, Royals, Astrols, Tigers, and Mets, is just tearing up the Mexican league. Playing for the Saraperos de Saltillo, he's tied for second in the league in victories , with a 9-3 record thus far, and has a 4.04 ERA. Interestingly he's still a workhorse, as he's leading the league in innings pitched, with 107.

All this from a man who, judging by the photo above (which is his official photo), could be confused for a madman. The amazing thing is, with the likes of Chan-Ho Park () signing a minor-league deal with the Astros on Wednesday, it's only a matter of time before Lima gets another shot at the Major League level. But prospective teams should be wary - Lima's recent past hasn't been pretty. After winning the Dodgers' only postseason win in the last 19 years in 2004, Lima's lost some of his mojo. His 6.99 ERA in 2005 was the highest single-season total in baseball history for a pitcher who started 30 or more games. His four games with the Mets last season were even worse, going 0-4 with an ERA of 9.87.

Hopefully Lima will make it back to the big leagues this season, as his "Lima Time" and infectious energy makes the game fun. He gets the crowd into it like few others do. So does his singing. And his wife. And his herpes.

Let's let Lima take it away, talking about his release from the Tigers in 2002. But it could be used for his Mexican League adventures as well:

"If I can't pitch on this team--the worst or second-worst team in baseball--where am I going to pitch? If I can't start on this ballclub, I must be the worst pitcher on Earth."

郭泓志 Is A Baller

It may have been Hong-Chih Kuo's first career home run last night, but he's obviously been practicing in the mirror in his spare time. As Buster Olney said earlier today, he "added all the mustard appropriate for a season-ending blast drilled by someone with about 500 career homers." Kuo started the day with one career win and no homers. He ended the night with one of each. I'd say it was a memorable day for Kuo.

12 June 2007

Former MLB Player To Try Out Japanese Wrestling

Former Montreal Expos outfielder Warren Cromartie has put down his bat, and intends to take things to the mat. Cromartie, 53, will make his pro-wrestling debut on Sunday in Japan at "Hustle Aid." Cromartie became a fan favorite in Japan, and hopes his luck will continue into the ring this weekend.

Cromartie will be involved in a tag-team event, and is going to bring his A-game.

"I have to represent all baseball players," the 53-year-old Cromartie said Tuesday. "I've got a reputation here, I've got my fans in Japan so I'm taking this seriously and have been training real hard."
It complicates things that one of his opponents, Tiger Jeet Singh walks around with a sword in his mouth and says he wants to hurt Cromartie. Has it never occurred to Singh that carrying a sword in your mouth might actually be more dangerous to him than his opponent? Perhaps not.

"Pro wrestling is a vicious game, a dangerous game," Singh said. "He should stick to baseball. I'll teach him a lesson once and for all."
Cromartie doesn't seem fazed. As he says, he's been in brawls before - he's taken a punch, and he's thrown one. He's not scared. I would be. But he isn't.
"I'm going to take him out just like on a double play," Cromartie said. "I'm going to go from first to third and take him out with a home run chop." He is a little crazy walking around with a sword in his mouth but I'm not afraid of him."
This wrestling gig will be quite a change for the former Japanese MVP. After all he did retire from baseball over a decade ago. But he does follow in the footsteps of famous athlete wrestlers Karl Malone and Dennis Rodman. I suggest he try this move.

Bad Moon In Bankruptcy

It looks like former NFL star Andre Rison can now join the likes of Scottie Pippen in the category of "I wildly misspent all the millions I made during my successful career." Rison is now facing a court-ordered bankruptcy to pay back over $105,000 in back child support and other debts. Oops.

According to the court petition Rison owes the money for child support, court costs, and attorney fees.

Rison's ex-wife, Tonja Rison is listed as one of the creditors. Her claim is for more than $58,000 in child support. An Atlanta law office is claiming another $46,000 in unpaid legal fees for seeking child support from Rison for two children by a girlfriend.
Rison's NFL pension has already been liquidated, and they're still seeking more. Maybe if Lisa "Left Eye" Lopez hadn't burnt down his house all those years ago he might have more to offer. But as it stands now Rison owns very little that can even be liquidated. Here's guessing that Rison may star in a few more episodes of "Pros Vs. Joes" in order to pay off his debts. He and Kordell Stewart already had an epic battle Will Leitch and A.J. Daulerio earlier this year. Which blogger is next?

But listen Andre, it's child support. It's for your own kid. Find a way to make it happen.

HT: Will Leitch For the Photo

11 June 2007

Victoria Beckham: The Next Great Dodgers Fan?

Victoria Beckham, known to most of the world as "Posh Spice," isn't coming to America. She is already here. Beckham, whose husband plans on joining the LA Galaxy shortly after his current team Real Madrid ends the Spanish season this weekend, was at Dodger Stadium on Monday night preparing to throw the first pitch. Her and her 88-pound frame (or whatever it is, there have to be kids on Uganda that eat more than she does) were taping for a new six-episode reality series for NBC. According to the AP article on the subject, she actually threw most of her pitches on target, something the mayor of Cincinnati cannot.

But if you think the Beckhams are going away, all you have to know is that they are managed by Simon Fuller, the inventor of American Idol. So just plan on seeing them more in the near future.

Nomar's Carne Asada Sunday

Nomar Garciaparra wanted to reach out to the community and bond with his fans. On Sunday afternoon he was able to, when he, wife Mia Hamm, and twin daughters hosted the first ever "Carne Asada Sunday" after the Dodgers' loss to the Blue Jays. Nomar posed for photos, greeted fans, and sang along with a Mariachi band during the rollicking afternoon.

The event, which benefited the Dodgers Dream Foundation, was attended by 250 of Nomar's most loyal fans. The fans paid $50 for the ability to meet Nomar and Mia, as well as eat their hearts out. In all the event raised $10,000 for the cause. But for Nomar it was all something bigger.

"This is something I did, I remember as a family on Sundays. We would get together, have carne asada and listen to Mariachi music," Garciaparra. "I thought, you know, what a great thing. Come out to Dodger Stadium, have a chance to relax and hang out with the people"
With a longer term contract now in place, Garciaparra feels more entrenched in his hometown, and felt it was time to reach out to the community. And while he's been paid millions to play the game, Nomar views himself as an a normal guy - a middle-class product from Whittier who made good by working hard. And on Sunday he was just the normal guy he wanted to be.
"I'm no different than the people who come to Dodger games," he said. "People relate to me, I think, because they recognize that. They see that I go to work, I have a routine, I get there, have some coffee, give it my all, go home to my family and do it again the next day.

"I want people to know that's how I feel. I'm no better than anybody else."
Nomar's efforts, along with the Dodgers are to be saluted. You really get the impression that he's sincere about his actions, and cares about the fans. And for that it makes the Dodgers all that more easier to root for.

10 June 2007

ESPN Buries The Ombudsman

ESPN sure takes their ombudsman seriously. Or not. Here's a glaring example of what everyone already knew - the ESPN ombudsman is nothing more than a glorified dog and ponly show.

The website is constantly burying Le Anne Schreiber's critical pieces late in the week, and even later at night. Publishing an article at 11:53 PM? Classy. Each of of Schreiber's posts have been published late in the week, hoping to bury what she has to say about the network (click on the picture for a bigger view). And in the ultimate example of contextual advertising, take a look at the three ads on the page. Two of them are of note: singles dinners, and pheromones. What are you trying to say, ESPN???

Remember Jeff Samardzija? He's 0-The Season

Remember Jeff Samardzija? Last time you heard from him he was being glorified on national TV along with his pals Brady Quinn and Charlie Weis. And no longer being buoyed by NBC's self-interested promotion of the Irish, his luck seems to have dried up, at least for now.

The Cubs made him a baseball-only man earlier in the year when they guaranteed him $10 million, but so far it's been an investment that has not paid dividends.

Maybe it all started off poorly when Samardzija made his season debut in April.

As Cubs prospect and former Notre Dame star receiver Jeff Samardzija warmed up for his season debut in April, the Brevard County (Fla.) Manatees blasted the USC fight song over the sound system. The Manatees' game program that night featured a full-page picture of USC Coach Pete Carroll, broadly smiling as he held aloft the crystal football symbolic of the Trojans' 2004 national championship.
The season hasn't fared much better for Samardzija since then. He's started 11 games thus far into the 2007 campaign, winning none. He's carrying 5.40 ERA, with a .333 opponents' batting average and 21 strikeouts through 55 innings.

Things had to change one way or the other, and they did. The team sent him to the bullpen. At least for now Samardzija has done a little better, with two scoreless relief appearances.

Samardzija went 0-4 against the Trojans, and he's 0-5 this season. Is it the Carroll curse or Cubs curse going on here? One way or the other Samardzija will get a win this season, and the memories of a curse may be forgotten. Until then, it's got to be eating at him. Either way I guess he's got $10 million coming his way.

09 June 2007

NBA Finals Or Sopranos Finale?

On Sunday night America will be faced with an interesting dilemma. Do we watch game 2 of the NBA Finals, or the series finale of The Sopranos? The two face off on television, and while the NBA may still win, they'll certainly be limping out of it thanks to the Sopranos. Game one already had NHL-esque ratings, and there's nothing to indicate that things will get any better. Much like the bungled hit on Phil Leotardo last week, David Stern and his crew made a huge mistake putting their game in primetime against the legendary behemoth that is The Sopranos.

It seems as if the players involved in tomorrow night's game would probably act just like the rest of us had they the opportunity. Brent Barry is hoping for some shared viewing:

"It's gonna be interesting, hopefully people will be switching back and forth. But there's a huge following for that show."

Lebron James wishes he could watch. But he'll have to catch up when he returns to Cleveland. Message to Lebron: good luck avoiding hearing what happened!
"I did have my girlfriend TiVo 'The Sopranos,' definitely, so when I get home I'll be able to watch it," James said. "But I think I'll be more focused on Tony Parker."

The NBA could have helped everyone out by playing the game during the day. In fact, if it was really interested in increasing the ratings, it would play its weekend games during the day. The games are already starting at 9:30 on the east coast, and most non-rabid fans will be turning off and going to bed. And it's understood that the league does this during the week, when the West Coast fans are still at work. But on the weekends its another story.

Game 1 of the NBA Finals was the highest rated show on television for the night, but it was also the lowest rated NBA Finals game in history. Something tells me Tony Soprano will help make some new records tomorrow night. Luckily for me, I live on the West Coast, and can watch both...if I wanted to...

07 June 2007

Panthers Try To Bond, Take To The Track

The Carolina Panthers had a disappointing season last year, going 8-8 after starting the season with Super Bowl hopes. In trying to turn this year around the team decided it needed to bond and get closer. Ropes course? No, that's what you did in junior high. This is the NFL. They raced cars.

The team took a trip to Lowe's Motor Speedway on Wednesday, taking turns riding stock cars in speeds of up to 180 mph. Whether or not it made the team congeal together is up for debate, but it's clear that all involved had a good time.

"I don't mean to call anybody out, but James Anderson told me he was about to cry before he got into the car," center Geoff Hangartner said of the 232-pound linebacker.

"We have video of you throwing up, Michael Gaines," QB David Carr told the tight end. "Want me to show it?"
Or maybe just a memorable time.

There was concern some of the linemen wouldn't be able to squeeze into the cars. Former Charlotte television sports anchor Chuck Howard, who helped with the event, told players if they couldn't fit, there were larger Mustangs they could ride in.

The Panthers and coach John Fox kept their trip to the track quiet - cameras and reporters weren't allowed. You won't see any footage up on YouTube, at least for now. Good move on their part. Better to let the public know about this afterwards, making sure that nobody was injured or killed. Now that would have been a disaster. The more you think about it, the more astonishing that the team bigwigs allowed this event to happen. I'm sure had the insurance folks known about this, they would have kyboshed it in a second. But at least in a season for the NFL full of bad press, this team sanctioned event went over fine, and there was even fun to be had.

06 June 2007

Don't Worry Spurs, God Is On Your Side!

The typical convent life for a nun is pretty plain and simple. But the 23 nuns of the Salesian Sisters of Mary Immaculate Province in San Antonio have something else in their lives to concentrate on: The San Antonio Spurs. The nuns have embraced the team, even pinning the players' names to white smocks. The sisters loyally and loudly gather together to watch each game

"We pray for them to win, but we also pray for them to continue their sportsmanship," said Sister Sandra Neaves, head of the order in the Western U.S.
"We make a lot of noise in that room," laughs Sister Angelina Gomez.
The Spurs have embraced the nuns as well. Hoping to get on God's good side, they've given four tickets to the nuns for tonight's opening game of the NBA Finals.
The sisters have been inspired by the Spurs, and the loss of one particular sister only brings them closer to the team. Sister Filomena Conte was the biggest Spurs fan of the bunch. She watched or listened to every game, and even had correspondence with coach Gregg Popovich.
Even as Conte suffered from a congestive heart condition and was ordered to bed
during the regular season, she lay listening to the games on the radio. When she
was ordered to a hospital, she had one question as she waited with another
sister: "Am I going to have a room before the game starts?"
While Conte died in March, the sisters are convinced that she'll be behind a Spurs championship.

And as for the big question - is God really rooting for the Spurs?
"Yeah!" Gomez said, laughing and clutching her hands in the dining room where a
giant Spurs blanket hangs like a banner. Neaves is more diplomatic: "I don't know if God has a favorite team ... but when people try to do it right, you really like them to succeed."
That's right Lebron. You may be "The King," but the Spurs are being propelled by a higher power.

Want To Skip Class At UGA? Pay $10

Like most major universities, the University of Georgia had a problem. Its student-athletes weren't attending class, and weren't faring well in school. Sounds familiar, right? Yes, but UGA wasn't content raking in the dough on the football field and nothing more. Student-athletes would never miss a practice, and the school wanted to find a way to make sure they feel the same way about attending class. So they came up with a novel new idea - student-athletes were fined $10 per unexcused absence.

Silly, you say? $10 may seem like a pittance to you and I (ok, maybe just you), but for a college student it's at least a meal. And you know what, UGA's plan worked.

More than 50 percent of UGA's student-athletes had a GPA of 3.0 or better for the first time this past spring semester. And while dropped classes went down, credits earned went up! 770 credit hours were earned last spring, while 954 were earned this time around. During a three week period in January, there student-athletes missed 46 classes, a 90 percent drop from the 421 over a like-period last September.

"It's exactly what we want," Evans said. "We want our individuals going to class and getting a quality education."

"For some students, it's the one thing though that stops them from missing more appointments."

Kudos must be given to UGA for coming up with a proactive solution to this major problem in college athletics. Especially in the major sports, it really seem that nobody cares about academics. It's gotten to the point where it's become a running joke. No matter how many feel-good ads the NCAA runs, it won't change it. But measures like UGA's can. It instills an integrity to the process that is needed. $10 may be a drop in the bucket once the star WR turns pro, but until then, it still gets his attention.

05 June 2007

Shaun Livingston's Knee Good Enough For Celebrity Softball

I was perusing Dodgers.com this afternoon when I checked out the star-studded lineup for the team's annual Hollywood Stars game. And who is playing this year? The Clippers' Shaun Livingston. Sean was last seen busting his knee in one of the most gruesome sports injuries ever. Now he'll be gracing the Dodger Stadium field for a friendly game with the likes of James Van Der Beek and Carlos Mencia. This revelation must be both a great sign and a horrifying moment all at the same time. It's great that Livingston is well enough along in his comeback to play. But is this meaningless game with the risk?

So with his career in jeopardy, what makes Shaun think playing in the Hollywood Stars game is a good idea? Elgin Baylor and Mike Dunleavy will surely be holding their breaths during the festivities on Saturday. If I were Livingston I'd stay away from Mayor Villaraigosa. After the spanking he got from The New Yorker last month, you know he'll be looking to blow off some steam. Shaun, just watch out for Villaraigosa trying to break up a double-play.

Minor League Team Buys Famous Base

Every baseball fan knows you can't steal first base. Instead, the Lowell Spinners bought it.

The Spinners, the Class A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox have bought the famous first base bag from game 6 of the 2004 ALCS. You may remember that game, and its moment of infamy when Alex Rodriguez was called for interference on his way to first base after slapping the ball out of Bronson Arroyo's glove. ARod couldn't believe it, and neither could Red Sox fans, who saw their team extinguish their 86-year championship curse.

The team paid an undisclosed sum for the base, although they acknowledge that the investment was "significant." They also plan on using their investment during the upcoming New York-Penn league.

"The slap was a defining moment of the ALCS," Spinners general manager Tim Bawmann said Tuesday. "It's a privilege for the Lowell Spinners to present this piece of Red Sox history to our fans as an interactive exhibit during Spinners games."
The Spinners are not strangers to fun and games. The team has sold out every single game since August 2, 1999 largely due to fun and inventive promotions. Past promotions have included Jack Kerouac bobble head night, and the upcoming season will feature the David Eckstein World Series MVP stepstool giveaway. They've also donated equipment to local youth leagues that change their team names to the Spinners rather than the Yankees.

The Lowell Spinners - just another example of the great inventive nature of minor league baseball.

The NHL - NBC's "Biggest Loser"

Last week LIO reported the insanely low ratings for the opening game of the Stanley Cup Finals. Last week the victim was Versus, who brought in only 523,000 viewers for game 1. But now the NHL Finals are setting records, and not in a good way.

As predicted, ratings went up when the series shifted to NBC after game 2. But even being exposed to every single television household in the country didn't help the ratings that much. In fact, the NHL became NBC's newest version of "The Biggest Loser" on Saturday night. That night's game 3 brought in a 1.1 national rating, netting just over 1 million viewers. The rating was down 31% from last year's equivalent between Edmonton and Carolina.

Take a look at it in another context. NBC has been broadcasting television since 1938. It's been through highs and lows. And on Saturday, it hit rock bottom. The 1.1 game 3 rating equaled the lowest prime-time rating ever for a program on the network. Not just sports - any type of programming. The lowest. What did it tie with? A rerun of "The West Wing" in July 2005. Notice that both programs were in the graveyard of television - Saturday night.

To be fair, last night's game 4 did decline less sharply from last year's finals. Anaheim's 3-2 win netted a 1.9 rating, down from 2.0 last year. Even so, these embarrassing ratings are just another constant reminder of the NHL's fall from grace.

04 June 2007

And At Running Back, Dr. Samkon Gado!

Most NFL players enjoy living the good life, and pay no heed to developing their plans post football. Instead they focus their time on spending their money, getting arrested, and dog fighting. But not Samkon Gado. Gado has loftier goals than even the average man. He wants to become a doctor.

Gado is so serious about his medical future that he asked Texans coach Gary Kubiak for a few days off so that he could finish the MCAT prep course he was taking. Having taken the MCAT once before two years ago, he decided to enroll in a prep course to raise his score.

"It wasn't an easy class and that's why he let me stay and miss some of the off-season workouts," Gado said. "It was good. It was long and arduous, but I think it prepared me for the test."
For those who aren't familiar with the MCAT, or how rigorous it is, take a quick peek: it's 5.4 hours long, and features four sections - Physical Sciences, Verbal Reasoning, Biological Sciences, and a writing sample. This is serious business, as it should be.

No matter what happens with Gado's NFL career, he's got a sound plan for his second career. And with this in mind he should be saluted.
"Medicine has always been priority No. 1," Gado said. "Football has been a very welcome diversion and I'd like to entertain that as long as possible. But for as long as I can remember, the plan has always been med school. Everything I can do right now in the off-season is tailored toward that end."
One day, perhaps ten years from now or so you may find yourself being seen by a certain Dr. Gado. And as long as he doesn't sustain too many concussions before that happens, I'll be ok with that.

Danish Fan Oh So Sorry

Meet Denmark's version of Steve Bartman. Or the guy who is WAY worse than Steve Bartman.

An apology came today from the Danish fan who attacked referee Herbert Fandel during Saturday's qualifier between Denmark and Sweden. The referee abandoned the match, which in all likelihood will cause the Danish squad to miss next year's Euro 2008.

"I so want to say I'm sorry to everyone in Denmark. I spoiled a fantastic evening for so many," the 29-year-old Dane told Danish paper Ekstra Bladet in an interview.
Due to legal reasons the man can only be identified as "R" - maybe because he's now the most hated man in the country? Anyhow, "R'" was angered by Fandel's giving of a red card to Denmark's Chritian Poulsen, and felt like telling the ref that his decision was "nonsense."

Was it the good sense and reason telling "R" to do this? Nah, it was probably the 15 to 18 beers he'd drunk before the match. That's right, 15 to 18 beers. Wow. So it was the beers talking. It must have also been the beers that made him jump over the fence, strike the referee, and then run back to the stands. It seems like his actions could be turned into their own version of Dayeinu - it would have been enough!

The sad part is that Denmark had rallied from a 3-0 deficit to tie the match 3-3 at the time the ref abandoned the pitch. Had "R" not stormed the field, you never know what would have happened.

For his part, "R" is still having trouble believing he could have done such a thing.
"I haven't slept all night in my cell. The last thing I ever wanted was to hurt the national team and I hope someday I will have the chance to apologize in person for what I did to the referee," he said.
Maybe the reason he can't sleep is because he's sharing a cell with the Danish version of Brutus. Anyhow, UEFA will decide later this week whether to allow the match to stay at a tie, award a victory to Sweden, or replay the match. This drunken fan better be praying for this decision. He's already the most unpopular person in Denmark. And it can only get worse from here.