30 September 2007

Galaxy Doing Just Fine Without Beckham

Hey guys, remember MLS? Yep, it still exists, and so do the LA Galaxy. Their season hasn't gone the way they expected, as their star Englishman was nothing more than a mirage. But believe it or not, they're doing just fine without David Beckham.

After their win over the Columbus Crew on Sunday, the Galaxy have now won as many games in the last three weeks (four) as they had in the previous five months. And in the MLS, that qualifies you as a playoff contender.

"Here we are, if we beat Columbus, we have a great chance of making the playoffs," Galaxy coach Frank Yallop said in a phone interview before Sunday's game. "If you said that three or four weeks ago, I'm not sure I'd have believed you."
Yet here they are, with four games to go, battling for the final playoff spot. With a record of 6-13-6. And perhaps you could say the Galaxy are better off without David Beckham.

Would the Galaxy be a better team with Beckham healthy and playing? Without a doubt. Nobody would aruge that. Buth with him, they were an international circus - David Beckham and his 20 nameless new friends. The actual games were almost an after-thought. Without him, they're a team. Just a regular-old MLS squad, but nonetheless, still a team. And perhaps that's what really matters. Without Beckham the Galaxy have been able to put the season-long distraction behind them, and just play soccer. And more than anything, perhaps that's why they're winning.

The Best Day Of Baseball Nobody Ever Saw

"Childrens do learn," but network programmers apparently do not. Today was the best scenario a baseball fan could ask for. The last day of the season. Three teams vying for two spots. Three games. None of them on National TV.

Mets v. Marlins? Nope. Phillies v. Nationals? Nope. Diamondbacks v. Rockies? Same thing. All three games mattered, two of three were exciting. Yet unless you lived in one of those markets, you were relegated to watching the scores change on your computer screen.

What was ESPN thinking? TBS? Fox Sports? All three have a stake in MLB and the postseason, yet none of them showed these crucial games. ESPN had horse racing, TBS showed the Braves' meaningless game against the Astros, and Fox sports kept their games regional. Why wasn't there someone to step up and show these games? ESPN, broadcasting "Baseball Tonight" failed even further, waiting 15-minutes to let its viewers know that Colorado had beaten Arizona. Couldn't they cut into the Mets highlights that had happened 6 hours ago?

I know the NFL is king, and nobody would ever want to preempt that. But there's room for both. Today was a day that failed the sports fans of America.

28 September 2007

Forget A Fine, Patriots and Belichick Now Face Class-Action Suit

Just when you thought the whole Patriots videotaping scandal was blowing over, think again. Jets season ticket holder Carl Mayer filed a class-action lawsuit on Friday against the Patriots and coach Bill Belichick for "deceiving customers." The price-tag? $184 million.

"They violated the integrity of the game," Mayer's attorney, Bruce Afran, told The Associated Press. "This is a way of punishing Belichick and the Patriots."
Sure, Belichick and the team were each fined a substantial amount by the league. But Mayer wants real punishment. He suffered pain in the week one loss, and they'll have to get some too.
"They were deceiving customers," said the 48-year-old Mayer. "You can't deceive customers."
Fine I get it. You want your money back. But here's where it starts to get fishy. The lawsuit contends that since the Patriots were caught videotaping other teams, the punishment should not be limited to the game on September 9th. Instead, Mayer wants to be compensated for all games played between the two teams at Giants Stadium since Belichick became head coach in 2000.
The two calculated that because customers paid $61.6 million to watch eight "fraudulent" games, they're entitled to triple that amount -- or $184.8 million -- in compensation under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act and the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act.
"How many times have the Patriots done this? We find it hard to believe they did it just once," Mayer said. "We just want to get to the truth of the matter of what the Patriots did to the Jets. I think the ticket holders are genuinely concerned about it. This is a type of misrepresentation."
Mayer and Afran may be outraged over the videotaping scandal, but their lawsuit doesn't seem to be genuine. They're known in the state of New Jersey for filing lawsuits and demanding investigations into their grievances. The duo consider themselves public interest lawyers, and it seems that they're well practiced at filing frivolous lawsuits and groveling for attention. This lawsuit won't fly, and any good attention getters know that you won't get much attention filing a suit on a Friday.

27 September 2007

Hilary Clinton Needs To Pick A Team Already

Democratic Presidential candidate Hilary Clinton looks to be the current front-runner to win her party's nomination for next year's election, and her performance in Wednesday's New Hampshire debate didn't do anything to diminish her lead. But there's one issue where she slipped up - just which sports team does she root for. In her exchange with Tim Russert she opted for the centrist approach.

RUSSERT: Senator Clinton, what a bout a World Series -- Yankees and Cubs?
CLINTON: Well, you know, I've worried about that because I think, given the Cubs' record, which of course, I hope it happens, but it could very well be a sign of the coming apocalypse, were that to ever occur.

(LAUGHTER)
It would be so out of history that you would have the Cubs versus the Yanks. Then I'd be really in trouble.
RUSSERT: But who would you be for?
CLINTON: Well, I would probably have to alternate sides.
(LAUGHTER)
RUSSERT: Spoken like a true sports fan.
(Emphasis added)
Actually Tim, you're wrong. And so is Hilary. True sports fans don't "alternate sides." She'd better pick a team soon, or a John Kerry-esque will be facing her pretty soon.

HT: TNR

Seven Months Later, Tim Hardaway Now Likes Gay People

Remember Tim Hardaway? The former point guard who suffered from foot in mouth disease in February? Having done tremendous damage to his post-basketball career with those very public comments, Hardaway is trying to make amends.

Hardaway found and enrolled in the YES Institute, which offers programs and classes designed to raise awareness on the issues facing "gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and all youth."

"I was scared out of my ... mind," Hardaway said of his first visit. "I didn't know how they were going to act toward me. But you know what? They welcomed me with open arms. That eased a lot of my nervousness."
Hardaway has returned again and again, and has now become a friend of the institute. His picture is even featured on their website.
"Thanks to his honest albeit misguided reaction, Tim did find his way to YES Institute and the education he got was not just about others, but about himself," YES Institute director Martha Fugate wrote. "Because he is a role model, perhaps other people will also learn -- hopefully before bad consequences happen to them."
It will be hard for Hardaway to regain the standing he once had, and his hopes to attain a position in an NBA front-office took a major hit when he said his fateful words. Nobody wants to employ a gay-basher, but how about a former one who has renounced his views? Only time will tell.
"I have taken steps and I'm happy that I did," Hardaway said. "If I didn't, I'd still be naive about it, ignorant about the whole thing. But I can talk about it now. I'm a polite person. That's how I am."

26 September 2007

FSU Shows How To Conduct Mass Cheating

Often you may ask yourself why there isn't more instances of academic fraud in college sports, and it does seem to be well-hidden. But then it comes out, and it's a big time problem.

Two Florida State athletic department employees have resigned, and 23 athletes have been implicated of cheating on tests given over the internet, school officials announced on Wednesday. The accused athletes represent nine sports and 17 are on scholarships. Sadly, due to federal confidentiality restrictions the players and their sports could not be identified. So they're saying athletes playing sports other than basketball and football cheat? Rowers? Here are the goods:

University President T.K. Wetherell ordered an investigation by the university's Office of Audit Services in May after receiving information an athletics department learning specialist had directed one athlete to take an online quiz for another and then provided the answers.

The student who took the test was not enrolled in the class and reported what happened to his athletics academic advisor. Neither he nor the other athlete, who had been unaware someone else took the test for him, were disciplined, the report said.

The investigation then found the learning specialist also typed papers for five students who apparently didn't qualify for that service and a tutor provided answers or other unethical assistance to 23 students for online tests. The testing involved a single course, which was not identified.
What's interesting is that this problem isn't limited to one team or sport, and indicates a much larger problem at hand. While the learning specialist and tutor who were accomplices have resigned, the cheating will linger, and this may just be the beginning of a slew of problems for FSU.

25 September 2007

Austrians Petition For Austria-Less Euro 2008

Having the opportunity to host a soccer tournament as big as Euro 2008 should be a moment of pride for all of Austria come next summer. And it may be. But some Austrians have decided that they might have a better time without their own team.

Dismayed at their national team's poor performance, fans have started a petition to have their team withdrawn from the tournament. Talk about national pride! Started by four fans aged 33-40, the petition has been signed by more than 4,000 Austrian fans since it launched less than a week ago.

Yes, the Austrian team is pretty bad - they've lost 8 in a row. And they've got no real shot at winning the tournament. But isn't there some benefit to having the host country play in the tournament? The writers of the petition, who claim that the Austrian team shows true skill "about as frequently as meteorite[s]" hitting the earth, would disagree.

It cannot be denied: the performance of the Austrian team is an insult to your sense of aesthetics as well as to what you expect from this sport. Their participating in the EURO 2008 is to you a contradiction in itself. We understand.
These fans don't care about their team. They just want some good soccer!
By signing this Petitionyou urge the Austrian Football Association (Österreichischer Fußballbund; OEFB) to voluntarily resign from participating in the EURO 2008.

Austria was once a country with a keen sense for aesthetics. „...a people gifted for beauty“, as a verse of our national anthem states – an anthem our players barely manage to stammer along to, as they palefacedly contemplate yet another grueling encounter with the ball and the opponent.
These fans may not care about their country (or at least their team), but they care about the sport. Nonetheless, shouldn't they show some resiliency and stick by their team? You wouldn't see Cubs fans jumping ship and starting a petition for them not to play. Heck, you wouldn't even see most of them root for the White Sox. These fans aren't likely to get their wish, but at least they're having a good time trying.

Welcome To Rocawear Arena?

Continental Airlines Arena needs a new naming rights partner, and it's got some fashionable choices. Continental Airlines recently backed out of its naming deal after the facility lost its main tenants, the Nets and Devils, but there are suitors waiting in the wing.

Southpole, Izod, and Jay-Z's Rocawear are all vying for the naming rights, which will last two years, or until the Nets depart for Brooklyn.

Rocawear would seem to have the advantage, as the company is a sponsor of the Nets, and Jay-Z is an owner of the team. But it's believed that Southpole has made the highest bid, believed to be at $2 million per year.

No matter who wins, the arena should be a far more stylish place that it was before.

NHL's New Unis Cause For Concern?

There seems to be a general agreement that the NHL's new Rbk EDGE jerseys are pretty good. The players say they're lighter and more comfortable than the old ones. And as planned, the new jerseys are succeeding at repelling moisture. Despite how great these jerseys may be, they may bring about the equivalent of last year's NBA ball situation.

The trouble is that the new jerseys are too good at repelling moisture. The water and sweat that used to get soaked in the sweater has to go somewhere, and therein lies the problem.

"They do what they were designed to do, as far as repelling the water," Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Mark Eaton said. "But we've found, the last three or four days of wearing them, that, when the water's repelled, it has nowhere to go but into your skates and gloves.
The issue seems to be gaining speed across the league, as more and more players are speaking out.
"Everything is soaked," Minnesota Wild enforcer Derek Boogaard said after practice Monday. "Yeah, the jersey looks great, and it's not wet, but everything else..."
"At least the other jerseys absorbed some of that sweat and kept the equipment dry."
Worse than having an issue with sweat and moisture, the jerseys are getting in the way of the NHL's favorite pastime - fighting. It seems that the new sweaters make that more difficult as well. Some NHL fighters have complained that the slicker jerseys are hard to grab hold of during a scuffle, making it harder to actually end a fight by dragging a player to the ice. Instead, they say, the jersey is liable to rip, making it easy to pull over an opponent's head.

So the jerseys will prolong fights? And this is a bad thing? The real concern is about injuries, and that's where the tipping point came last year for the NBA. Once the ball started causing injuries, it went from spoiled athletes complaining to a legitimate cause for concern. Should the NHL's new unis cause players to hurt themselves due to the excess moisture or a prolonged fight, it will be out with the new, and back to the same old.

24 September 2007

The Revival Of Dennis Dixon

Sometimes a player does something that makes you shake your head and ask why. Case in point would be Oregon Ducks QB Dennis Dixon. He didn't get arrested, or commit a crime. Dixon decided to spend the summer before his senior season not working with his teammates in Eugene, but instead playing minor league baseball.

Dixon's decision was roundly questioned- this was a player who'd thrown 12 interceptions and 6 touchdowns over the last nine games of the 2006 season. Shouldn't a QB who ended last season on a four game losing streak be staying back, working on his game? Ducks coach Mike Belotti thought so:

"I think he'd be better served, in my situation, reading defenses rather than reading curveballs," Bellotti said.
But taken in the 5th round of June's major league draft by the Atlanta Braves, Dixon played this summer for their rookie league team, the Gulf Coast Braves. His summer showed something, and it was that perhaps he should have stayed a one-sport player. Despite playing for the Braves' lowest level team, he just wasn't that good. In 74 at-bats he batted .176, with more strikeouts (22) than hits (13). He hit zero home runs, and had 7 RBI.

Every so often the player that does something that goes against culture gets it right, and prevails. The conventional wisdom was that Dixon had made a mistake - he should have spent his summer practicing football. Should he fail this season, critics warned, the blame would be traced to his baseball ambitions.
So far though, things have gone in reverse. He didn't succeed in his baseball season, but has excelled so far with the Ducks. Oregon is 4-0 this season, largely due to Dixon, whose 14 interceptions and 12 touchdowns from a year ago have been replaced by zero interceptions and 15 total touchdowns this year. So what happened? Did Dixon's poor performance as a baseball player scare him straight, forcing him to focus on a football career he'd once taken for granted? Did things simply click in his senior season? Or is it just the latest evolution of a two-sport star?

Dixon and the Ducks face off against Cal this week, with the winner will find themselves in the driver's seat for a Rose Bowl berth. There are many games ahead, and people may remind themselves of a similar 4-0 start for the Ducks last season, and their subsequent downfall. But at least for now, Dixon can point to his season and say "told you so!"

23 September 2007

Rex - we're done

Goober!

Dear Sexy Rexy:

We’re through. That’s right. We’re done.

After defending you all of last year, even through the Super Bowl, I stuck with you. I stuck with your zero rating against Green Bay to end the season. Even over the summer, against all that is sane, I told people that you were going to come around. I even fired up lunch conversations with the notion I would rather have you than Tony Romo.

Boy – was I stupid.

This season you’ve been worse than last year – if that was possible – and really show everyone that you just aren’t going to cut the mustard. It’s time for someone else – anyone else. Basically – you suck.

Sincerely,

Bears fan who wants his Sunday Ticket refunded

21 September 2007

My Name Is Donald Brashear, And I'd Like To Talk To You About Hockey Tickets

Now this is a way to sell tickets! In an effort to boost attendance, close to half of the Washington Capitals' roster has been making calls to fans who might be interested in either buying or renewing their season tickets. It's easy to hang up on a telemarketer, but it's not as easy to do when an athlete calls you. Especially one asking you to come watch him play.

"Most of them were happy to hear from me," said left wing Donald Brashear, who spent Wednesday afternoon making calls. "When you hear from someone who's been inside the dressing room, it's a lot more convincing than a normal [sales] call."
Donald Brashear is an enforcer on the ice, and he must be on the phone as well. A team spokesman said that Wednesday's calling session led to more than a dozen season ticket holders renewing their packages on the spot.

It's a great move by the team, whose attendance last year ranked 27th out of 30 teams. But it's the kind of move that more NHL teams need to be making as well. No longer the sports giant they once were, they can't rely on osmosis to fill the stands and coffers. Hockey is built on loyalty, and having the players call fans directly is the best way to forge the idea of community. Getting a call from Donald Brashear or Chris Clark makes you want to root for the Caps, and it makes you want to buy tickets. It's no longer a foregone conclusion for the NHL that people will just come to games anymore, and this is the way to start fixing that.

20 September 2007

Just To Be Fair...

This was sent along by a reader, and I put it up just to balance things out a little bit. Have at it!

GoDaddy and Chad Johnson - Could There Be A Better Pair?

If ever there was a match made in heaven for athlete endorsements, this one would be it. Bengals WR Chad Johnson has signed on to become a spokesman for domain name registrar company GoDaddy.com. GoDaddy has been known for its risqué Super Bowl commercials (or at least their attempts to be risqué), and Johnson seems to be a great fit. The company sponsors college football on ESPN, and the first commercial is set to air September 29th.

GoDaddy signed only Johnson to the deal, and they don't have any marketing relationship with his team or league. As a result the sponsorship leaves a tad bit to be desired for. Says GoDaddy CEO Bob Parsons:

Because of our contract and the fact that we hired only Chad as our spokesman and not the football league he plays in or the team he plays for – I’m not allowed to mention either the league or the team. I can only say that the name of the football league is usually referred to by three letters that are not an abbreviation of the words “No Free Lunch” and that his team name sounds very close to the words “Since in natty bangles.”
But either way Johnson is in many ways the perfect person to represent GoDaddy:
We are excited about working with Chad Johnson. He’s everything that is Go Daddy. He’s outspoken, edgy, at the top of his game and memorable.
Go take a look at a rough-cut of the ad featuring Johnson. What's most surprising is that the product can only be described as tame. Where's the edge? There's no sense hiring Johnson to just talk on camera. It lacks the flamboyance that has made him famous. He's charismatic on the field with his celebrations, so why haven't they taken advantage of that? The partnership is good, but the product seems to be a waste.

Two Swings, Two Aces - What Are The Odds?

It may not be a blind woman hitting a hole in one, but it's just as unlikely. On Wednesday two golfers took two swings. Two swings in a row lead to two aces. In the same cup.

Moments after Thomas Brady scored a hole-in-one, Dennis Gerhart stepped to the tee and matched it at Forsgate Country Club in Monroe Township.

Neither Brady nor Gerhart had ever made a hole-in-one before. The odds of a golfer scoring an ace are about 5,000-to-1. But the odds of two players in a foursome doing it are 17 million to 1, according to a Golf Digest article in 2000.
It's an amazing feat no matter what, but especially when the twosome included a novice golfer. Dennis Gerhart only plays golf about 15 times a year, and well, he's not all that good at it.
"It was just utterly incredible," Gerhart said. "I'm just ecstatic when I stick the green and get a shot at par."

19 September 2007

Congress Would Like To Remind You That They Love Football Very Much

A hearing of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee doesn't usually make news, let alone on these here virtual pages of LIO. But Monday was a special day. It wasn't about a public-policy issue plaguing our fair nation. It wasn't about some Beltway scandal. It was about the NFL. And their pension and disability benefits system.

A high-profile hearing like this one isn't just about the issues. It also gives lawmakers an opportunity for face-time. And they used it. Not just to criticize the league on their policies, but also to certify their "good-ol-all-Americanness" by showing off just how much they love football.

Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) reminisced about growing up during the glory years of the Vikings' famed Purple People Eaters defensive line, which her father, Jim, covered as a sportswriter. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), who noted that she is a longtime Chiefs season-ticket holder, empathized with the injured players in the room: "I got a new knee this year and I'm limping all over the place, and I was just a cheerleader in high school, for gosh sakes!" Star-struck Cowboy fan Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.) enthusiastically introduced former Dallas fullback Daryl Johnston by his nickname, "Moose."
Then there was poor Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.). He's been suffering, because people like him live in a non-NFL state. And suffer he does.
"The NFL is an immensely popular league. Its teams, as we know, tend to be located in our nation's large metropolitan areas, so not all states get to share in the excitement. Certainly that's the case in my state."
Don't get me wrong. The issue at hand troubling. A league that has annual revenues of over $7 billion shouldn't have an average life expectancy of 55 for its players. If the NFL Alumni were a country their life expectancy would rank 182nd in the world, in between Eritrea and Madagascar. It can afford to do something, and they should. They owe it to the players who built the foundation that lead to these riches, as well as its active players now. The NFL expects its players to lay everything on the line each Sunday, and they owe it to their employees to take care of them afterwards.

As serious as the issue is, you might wonder what it's doing being debated in the halls of the Senate. The committee's true intent was likely to put public pressure and shame upon the NFL leadership in hoping for change, much like they did with MLB and steroids. But then there's John Kerry's take.
"Most Americans would look at this today and say, 'Wow, why is Congress doing this?'" noted Kerry keenly. His justification: "The game is part of the fabric of American society, and ... it seems to me the league is dropping the ball here, no pun intended."
Yeah, the "fabric of American society clause." That must be in the 28th Amendment.

Introducing the Seal Dribble

The Brazilian soccer player Kerlon might not be a household name yet, but if he keeps things up, that will change. Kerlon has come up with a new move that has confounded, and infuriated his opponents. He's been using the "seal dribble."

You know the move. Kerlon bobs the ball on his head like a seal as he runs up the field. With the ball up above, defenders have had a hard time stopping him without fouling him. And in soccer, when you can't stop someone, you get angry.

Some players say the move is disrespectful because it breaks soccer's unwritten code. They contend Kerlon uses the move to show off, not to score goals.

"It is a provocation. He may have to be sidelined for several years if he gets kicked in the face," said Emerson Leao, the former Brazil goalkeeper and current Atletico Mineiro coach. "I hope that never happens."
Kerlon is unapologetic, saying it will take a rule change for him to stop. His opponents are taking measures into their own hands though, and their anger resulted in a nationally televised brawl last Sunday.
Shortly after Cruzeiro took the lead for good, Kerlon decided to try the move. He bounced the ball on his head three times before Atletico defender Coelho leveled him with a hard tackle.

Atletico players charged Kerlon, screaming at him and accusing him of provoking them with the dribble. Kerlon's teammates came to his rescue, but the scuffle lasted several minutes. Coelho was ejected because of the foul.

"What Kerlon did was not right," Atletico striker Marinho said. "We know he is a skillful player, but I think it would be wrong even if he was playing for us."
Kerlon has the full support of his club, and Coelho is looking at a large suspension for his hit. Rather than get angry, why don't his opponents try the move themselves, or try out a new move. Has anyone tried the "otter dribble" yet? The "manatee move" could work too.

Most avenues to get ahead in sports often seem to rely on cheating and illegalities. Kerlon's tactics are legal, and ingenious. He's found a way to best the competition within the rules of the game. Rather than ending in a scandal, Kerlon's seal dribble just leaves you with a smile.

18 September 2007

USC Comes To Westwood, Sticks It To UCLA

USC Football has been running on all cylinders in recent years, and they're on top of their game in all facets - including those off the field. Simply put, they're sticking it to their cross-town rivals, the UCLA Bruins.

UCLA fans leaving campus on Gayley Avenue towards Wilshire have been forced to reckon with the constant reminder that they've played second fiddle in the city this decade. USC has put up a billboard smack-dab in the middle of Westwood, and they aren't mincing words. "You would have, if you could have," the copy says, and it's accompanied by a picture of golden boy Matt Leinart and their website. Whether or not UCLA students and alumni would have wanted to attend USC is a dubious question. Football envy may be in full bloom for Bruin fans, but UCLA is clearly a better academic school. It would be true though, UCLA would have beat Utah last week if they could have, and they all wish that had happened.

Before you slam USC for being unclassy, it should be noted that UCLA put up taunting billboards themselves during their semi-glory days of the 1990's, where they beat USC in their head-to-head match-up six years running. Either way it's a great application of the rivalry, and the next move belongs to UCLA. a "13-9" billboard, anyone?

Roger Federer - Terracotta Warrior!

Roger Federer's dominance over the tennis world has quickly turned him into one of the all-time greats. And his legend is about to grow into an indestructible force. He's being immortalized as a terracotta warrior.

The world number one's life-sized sculpture is among a collection of eight being made to mark the season-ending Masters Cup in Shanghai in November.

With a collection of the Terracotta Army on show at the British Museum in London, the ATP have commissioned French sculptor Laury Dizengremel to create similar models of the players who will appear in China.
Sculptures of Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Novak Djokovic have already been commissioned, and there are still five spots left. Players like Andy Roddick may be competing for money and trophies in the coming months, but they'll also have an extra incentive - the opportunity to be immortalized. And for athletes that can have it all...this is probably one thing they don't yet have.
"I think that being sculpted as a terracotta warrior is an honor, I think the idea is fun, bringing together culture and sport, and I'm looking forward to seeing the final result," said Federer.
Federer will join a group that's been around for a long, long time. The original Terracotta Army was created in order to be buried alongside the Emperor of Qin around 210-209 BCE. Qin's army was believed to have taken 700,000 people 38 years to complete. Now that's some company!

The Army was found in 1974, and to date 8.099 figures have been unearthed. The Emperor's tomb is a major tourist attraction in China, and the Masters Cup is hoping to capture that same attention and excitement.

Federer is worthy of this truly great promotion...as long as a swoosh doesn't end up on the statue.

17 September 2007

No Water? Big Problem! UCF's New Stadium Runs Out Of Water

Last Saturday's inaugural game at Bright House Networks Stadium should have been a banner day for University of Central Florida and its fans. The stadium ran out of water. Not on the field, but in the stands.

UCF is admitting it made a big mistake for its first game in its new home; not enough water. Concession stands ran out during Saturday's inaugural game and the stadium wasn't built with any water fountains.

Officials said next week's game would be different and that they would triple the amount of water available to fans. They said they never want to see the same situation happen again.
More than 45,000 fans braved the 97-degree heat to see UCF barely lose to Texas, and had to do so without water. "Security precautions," otherwise known as the desire to make more money prohibited fans from bringing in their own water, and those that were lucky enough were able to buy $3 bottles. What about water fountains, you say? That would be a no-brainer, right?

Bright House Networks Stadium was built with zero drinking fountains. The university took them out of the plan to keep the project under budget. The Citrus Bowl, UCF's former home, had 23 drinking fountains.

That didn't make the fans feel any better, though. Over a dozen people suffered heat exhaustion, and people were drinking from the bathroom faucets by the end of the game. It sounds more like a scene from Children Of Men than a college football game.

To apologize to the fans, UCF will hand out a bottle of water to each person attending this week's game against Memphis. But be warned, this charity will be limited to this game only. Then it's back to $3 water.

Is There Volunteer Hoops Love In The Air?

Bruce Pearl announced today that he filed for divorce from his wife of 25 years, Kim last week. But Pearl isn't the only high-profile Tennessee hoops coach to file for divorce in the last month. Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt filed for divorce on August 15th after 27 years of marriage. Both have an affinity for dressing up in bizarre fashion for each other's games. Both love hoops. Is it just strange timing, or is love in the air in Knoxville. Phil Fullmer, are you next?

16 September 2007

The Not So Glamorous Life Of A USC Walk-On

College Football at its best is a high profile sports, where the best teams and players are treated like superstars. But even at USC, the most glorified of programs, there are still players on the team just like you and me. Well, sort of. Meet USC walk-on kicker Brad Smith.

Smith is a senior transfer from Davidson, and is now a graduate student in USC's school of communications. He didn't make the traveling squad for Saturday's game against Nebraska. But he's a true teammate, and couldn't just watch the game on TV. So he booked a last minute flight at this own expense. The cost? Nearly $1,000. To Smith? Priceless.

"My goal from day one was to be as big a part of this as I can -- you have to be there," said Smith, a graduate student who was a Division I-AA Mid-Major All-American last season.

"Part of it is for the enjoyment, part of it is to demonstrate my commitment to the team and part of it is it's a life experience."
So Smith showed up in Lincoln in his USC warmup gear and strolled the streets waiting for his teammates to arrive. In a sea of Nebraska Red Smith surely stood out in his black and yellow. A stranger from a far-away land? Something like that.
Jess White, a Nebraska sophomore working behind the counter at a local eatery, said she thought Davis might be lost when he came in and placed an order.

"I saw him in his game stuff," she said, chuckling. "I saw him and I was thinking, 'Does he know where the stadium is?' "
Smith did, and joined this teammates on the sideline for the game. The sad part? He didn't even get to dress for the game. You'd think for that kind of dedication he'd at least get that. But don't look for any complaints from Smith. He was just happy to be there.

Noel Devine - Watch Where You're Standing

West Virginia's Noel Divine is a stud - he 136 yards on Thursday on just 5 carries. But at 5'8", there are some people he just shouldn't stand next to. 6'8" Teammate Wes Lyons is one of them. Lyons has the height, but look at Divine's legs!

14 September 2007

Gamecocks Take On Corso, Do Their Best Not To Host GameDay

A visit from the ESPN's GameDay crew should be a sought-after, much wished-for occurrence. But those amongst South Carolina's faithful might feel differently. The South Carolina athletics department has poked fun at everyone's favorite punching bag, Lee Corso. There's no merkin involved, but it's still pretty good.

ESPN's Chris Fowler expressed concern that USC has started a Web site called letsshowcorso.com, where fans can “throw” footballs at a likeness of Corso. Gamecock fans have been mad at Corso since the former coach declared Spurrier never would win an SEC title at South Carolina, “even if he coaches here 400 years.”
While it may be all in good fun, it's probably not a good marketing strategy for the Gamecocks. GameDay appearances equate to publicity for the school, which leads to increased stature and attention. It's hard enough to get a visit in the first place, and having a strike against you can only hurt.
“I don’t speak for what that would mean for the likelihood of ‘GameDay’ coming there. But I can tell you it doesn’t increase the chances,” Fowler said. “If South Carolina continues to win games, it will always be on the radar for game shows. But it would be a consideration, to go somewhere the show has been targeted.”
Maybe South Carolina thinks they don't need GameDay. Maybe they only need the site, which has had more than 300,000 visitors since it launched less than two weeks ago. 25,000 of those tossed a football at Corso. The Gamecocks will need a few more tosses made in the real world, and perhaps Spurrier's squad can prove Corso wrong.

12 September 2007

Digger Phelps...For President?

Digger Phelps came out with a new book last week, Undertaker's Son: Life Lessons From A Coach, and it's promising to be an inspirational story. But what really caught my eye was his bio:

Head basketball coach of Notre Dame at age 29, a position he held for more than two decades with a 100 percent graduation rate, an attention-getting figure in President George H. W. Bush’s anti-drug program, part-time ambassador, a nationally adored ESPN commentator, and a possible Presidential candidate, Richard “Digger” Phelps has done it all. [Emphasis added].
If you're as confused as I was, you must not know the real Digger Phelps. In-between his time at Notre Dame and ESPN, Digger entered the civil service. He served as a special assistant to the Executive Office of the President for National Drug Control Policy from 1992-1993. His assignment? Operation Weed and Seed. I guess that's how he gets all the street cred that he's got.

But Digger for President? The idea is confounding. What's his experience - 14 years sitting inside a Bristol, CT studio talking hoops? But Digger isn't alone in his ideas. The Digger For President campaign is real, and the grass-roots campaign has already begun.



Will you join the Digger movement?

(HT: TNR)

11 September 2007

Boulware To Sack Dems, Announces Plans To Run For Florida House

Former Florida State Seminole and Baltimore Ravens linebacker Peter Boulware lived in the public eye during his nine year NFL career. And now he's set to return to the public eye. He's running for office. Boulware announced his candidacy on behalf of the Republican Party for a seat in the Florida State House of Representatives on Monday.

Boulware said ''it's not about Democrat or Republican.'' He said he will spend much of the next 15 months talking with residents and learning the issues that concern them.
Boulware will be looking to replace Loranne Ausley, a democrat, in the Leon-Jefferson Country seat. Ausley is being forced out next year on account of term limits, and Boulware is facing a big challenge. The district had 52 percent Democratic and 34 percent Republican registration for the 2006 election cycle. It has also rarely supported Republicans in local or statewide races.

Boulware must have a strong sales pitch though, as he is a vice president of Legacy Toyota in Tallahassee. As he hits the campaign trail he'll have to stay on message, and be convincing. He'd better be more convincing than he was on Monday when explaining how he switched to the Republican Party in 2003.
''I grew up a Democrat and went through college and at the end of it I started just listing the things that were important to me,'' he said. ''As I listed those things and started comparing myself to the Democrat and Republican Party I found myself leaning more toward the Republican Party. That makes me a Republican, I guess.''
Saying I guess won't work. Absolutes are a must. Get ready to shake some hands, Boulware. And leave your grimace behind. It's all smiles now

10 September 2007

Rugby Reporter Attacked On Live TV

Australian Sports Reporter Ben Davis got more than he bargained for when he was covering the Brisbane/Melbourne Rugby match on Sunday night. He'd been harassed numerous times by several drunk fans, including one who tried to stick his tounge in Davis' ear.

"They had been hanging around during the commercial break and I had said to them 'if you want to carry on national television that is fine; just don't touch me on air'," Davis said last night.
Davis took a conciliatory tone, but history has shown that the appeasement method just doesn't work. The fruits of his kindness didn't pay off. Instead, he got beat up. Live. On the air. Check it out.

"There was about four or five of them, I confronted (one) off air, saying 'I don't come to your workplace and do this' and then his brother and a couple of others came in and hit me in the head a couple of times. We all ended up on the ground."
Luckily, despite being tackled, punched, and kicked, Davis managed to escape unharmed but for some injuries to his hands and wrists. The authorities claim that they're close to identifying the attackers, and hopefully justice will be served. In a wise move, and perhaps the only way to get someone to ever cover Rugby in the field again, Davis' network, Channel 7, has pledged to beef up security for its sports reporters from now on.

The only real question I have now about this is what would happen to Lee Corso if College Gameday went on with the lax, or lack of security that Davis had. Keep your pencil sharpened, Corso, you'll need it to defend yourself!

07 September 2007

Final Four To Adopt The BasketBowl Approach

With its latest move, the NCAA has decided that bigger is better. Having seen the success of the "BasketBowl," the 2003 match up between Kentucky and Michigan State at Ford Field, which drew a world-record 78,129, the NCAA's executive committee approved an expanded capacity for Final Fours starting with 2009's installment at the same stadium.

In previous dome-seating configurations at the Final Four, the court was set in a corner, with a curtain blocking off part of the stadium.

For "BasketBowl," the floor was placed near midfield with temporary seating installed in front of the permanent seats. It also featured a larger student section on the end lines, which the NCAA plans to continue.
Of course, the real reason behind the expansion is that it will bring more money into the NCAA. They predict that the larger capacity will create an added $4 million per year. 2007's championship game featuring Florida and Ohio State drew 61,458 to Atlanta's Georgia Dome. With the new plan, we're talking more tickets, more concessions, more revenue.

This may work at Ford Field, which is designed to have the rows more vertical than most domes, but how's it going to work at the more cavernous domes like the Alamo Dome? The worst seats already provided views of miniature players. So how's it going to be with the new setup?

The capacity expansion also brings some positives as well. It will also allow for the addition of low-cost seats adjacent to the court for 1,000 students from each Final Four school. The tickets, priced at about $15-20, will also come with a system that prevents them from being resold.
That, said NCAA vice president Greg Shaheen, will create a "much needed collegiate atmosphere."
"Students have not been this close to the court in 20 years," Shaheen said. "It's a big move for us."
It's a big move in all ways for the NCAA. Allowing the students into the stadium and closer to the court will bring a breath of fresh air, and also allow the passion that drives college basketball to come back into the Final Four.

Booties-4-Booty

Schools often run creative Heisman campaigns for their players, but it seems that grass roots efforts can work just as well. Witness the movement started by a USC superfan on behalf of Trojans Quarterback John David Booty: Booties-4-Booty.

Booties-4-Booty's concept is simple, yet elegant. It's a campaign that posts pictures of Booty's supporters showing off their booties. Just about all of the photos are faceless, and, well, that's probably ok. There are plenty of more photos just like this on this site. Check 'em out - you can even vote on the most Heisman-worthy booty. (HT: Thrillist)

06 September 2007

Ohio State's Kicker Has Had One Long, Strange Journey

Football kickers tend to veer towards the eccentric side, and Ohio State place-kicker Ryan Pretorius only follows suit. Growing up he always thought he'd be playing before large, boisterous crowds. Except he thought he'd be playing rugby, not football.

Pretorius, born in Durban, South Africa moved to England when he was 18 to pursue his rugby dream. American football? Forget about it! He didn't even become interested in the sport until he watched Rudy and Jerry Maguire. But once his rugby career stalled, he had to put his foot to use somehow, didn't he?

While in Denver on a vacation, he spoke with former NFL kicker Gary Anderson, who is also a native of Durban and a family friend. Anderson urged Pretorius to make a video of his kicking abilities.

"For me the toughest thing was kicking with shoulder pads and a helmet on," he said. "I had never done it and hardly knew anyone who had. And then just being able to trust someone holding a ball for you."

Pretorius had friends film him making field goals from 40 to 60 yards, and kicking off through the uprights from 75 yards away.
Pretorius sent out his tape to about 20 schools asking for a tryout and was turned down by all of them. But upon visiting family friends in Columbus he was able to finagle an opportunity to join the team with the ability to earn a scholarship. Pretorius took it, and began his new life. A rugby player at 18, Pretorius became a college student and football player at 25. It was a foreign game in a foreign land, and he had a lot to learn.
"I didn't even know how to put on my uniform," he said. "(Former fullback) Stan White's locker was two away from me and he said, 'You need some help there, buddy?' I was like, 'Yeah. Please.' I didn't have a clue. My first game I ran out for was Marshall here in Ohio Stadium. I was relieved I didn't have to kick in that game because I probably wouldn't know when to run on."
Now a 28 year-old Junior, he's earned a scholarship, and is the starting kicker for the Buckeyes. In his first start against Youngstown State he made five PATs and a 24-yard field goal. It's an amazing story - three continents, two sports, and lots of mileage in-between, this legendary team has a kicker with quite the story.

Rugby World Cup Creates Media Clash

The Rugby World Cup begins on Friday, but the world may not get as much coverage from the event as it may like. It turns out that three of the leading news agencies (AP, Reuters, and Agence-France Presse) have been in a dispute with the International Rugby Board over media credentials and terms of coverage. So in protest they have all decided not to cover the event.

The sticking points in the negotiations all have to do with proprietary content. The IRC wants to own and receive as much compensation from the event as they can (similar to what the NFL is now doing). The news agencies want freedom to cover the events as they please. Therein lies the conflict. Here's the nitty gritty:

-- A requirement that news organizations post no more than 40 images online from matches in progress, despite an agreement in principle with the IRB two weeks ago that would have allowed several hundred.

-- A limit of no more than three minutes of news conference or locker room video posted online per match.
The conflict puts everyone in a sticky position. The journalists and news agencies want the freedom of the press that they're used to, and wave the "integrity" banner as best they can. The IRL and its contemporaries across the world want more control over their content. The content battle is being fought in many industries and highlights the changing elements that have come about due to the convergence of new media, technology, and traditional content. NBC's leaving iTunes is just one example of many.
The dispute has caused deep confusion for journalists this week. Some were able to obtain credentials without signing any credential terms. Others signed terms but were able also to give written notice that they were not authorized to bind their companies to the IRB's conditions. Others were not able to obtain credentials, because they refused to sign the terms.
The Rugby World Cup will go on as scheduled, and if you're a fan you'll be able to get the news you want through other agencies. But this dispute is just endemic of the many battles to come. As always though, if you want the whole story, go watch the Rugby games in person.

05 September 2007

Playoffs Or Wedding? Ian Kennedy May Have To Decide

With Roger Clemens ailing and Mike Mussina pitching like a Devil Ray, Yankees rookie Ian Kennedy has been thrust into the spotlight. So far he's delivered, going seven innings in his first start and getting the win. Kennedy's continued success could provide to be a big problem for him. He may have to juggle the Yankees and his wedding.

Kennedy is scheduled to be married on October 6th at Westborough Country Club in Kirkwood, Missouri. The problem? Should the Yankees continue leading the Wild Card, they'd be in the midst of the ALDS during that time. The solution should be simple - push back the wedding. Therein lies the problem.

Delaying the wedding isn't quite as easy as you might think. Kennedy's fiancé is Allison Jaskowiak, a basketball player for USC. Her season begins in the middle of October. Two people, two different seasons. Talk about a scheduling nightmare! That, and the 200-250 people who have already received invitations.

Kennedy's success creates what can only be thought of as a good problem to have. Before scheduling the wedding Kennedy checked with Mark Newman, Yankees SVP of baseball operations, and got approval. And it made sense at the time. Kennedy started the year at Class-A Tampa. Who knew he would make such a rapid ascent to the majors?

At this point there's nothing to worry about...yet. But Kennedy and Jaskowiak already have their heads spinning.

"She doesn't want to think about it," Kennedy said. "I try not to think about it because she might get upset."
There is some hope out there for Kennedy and Jaskowiak. October 6th is an off day for both AL Series, lying between games 2 and 3. Would it be possible for Kennedy to rush back to Missouri for the wedding and then return for game 3?

October 6th is a long way off. There are 23 games remaining in the season, and so much could happen between now and then. It's possible the Yankees might not even make the playoffs. It's also very possible Kennedy could find himself left off the playoff roster. But it's always important to be prepared.

We'll leave the last words to Joe Torre, who was unaware of the potential conflict.
"I didn't get one of the invitations," he said. "We just hope his prospective wife is very understanding."

Playboy Posing Ref Has No Regrets, Yet Hasn't Worked Since

Posing in Playboy is a feat for many women, and probably a dream more for the men who wish that more women would do so. Usually posing in the magazine stirs things for a bit, and then it's forgotten (see: Amanda Beard). But sometimes there are repercussions. Brazilian soccer referee Ana Paula Oliveira posed for the July issue, and while she has no regrets, she also hasn't officiated a pro game since.

Oliveira has been suspended by the Brazilian Football Confederation's refereeing commission since her spread was published, and last month made a tearful plea to be allowed to officiate again. In the meantime, she's been relegated to officiating amateur matches, in which she seems to be the main attraction.

Television pictures showed a crowd of several thousand people -- more than some Brazilian first division games -- turned out to watch, many apparently more interested in Oliveira than the match itself.
Oliveira wants to come back, and perhaps she should be allowed to. What she really needs to do is start a grass roots campaign among her male fans and admirers.
"I want to make it clear that I have no regrets, on the contrary I have a strong personality," she told Brazilian television before taking charge of a game in the small town of Maracai, around 450 km west of Sao Paulo. "I will do the impossible to come back."

04 September 2007

What's Wrong With The Harrison And Wilson Suspensions

We all know that steroids are running rampant in sports, and the cheaters that are caught deserve the punishments that they receive. But the NFL's latest steroid suspension seems to defy logic. Dallas quarterbacks coach and former NFL head coach Wade Wilson was suspended for five games by the NFL for buying and using banned substances. The former QB was also fined $100,000 by the league.

You must be wondering - assistant coaches are doping now? Wilson wasn't using in order to attempt a comeback. Rather, he was using them to help combat his diabetes.

''I can't say that I regret trying to improve my health, my quality of life,'' Wilson said. ''I wasn't taking the product to enhance performance. I am way past that.''

Wilson said his intent was to help with his blood-sugar levels, among other symptoms, but that it wound up sending his blood sugars ''all over the map.''

''The research I did to alleviate these complications, well, I did it,'' he said. ''But it might not have been the best avenue. The fact that I'm lumped in with cheaters, I have to accept that I'm a cheater but unknowingly a cheater."

Wilson's actions, regardless of what he was using the drugs for, are illegal, and wrong. They also deserve punishment. The typical argument against steroids is that they are performance enhancing, and give an unfair advantage to those who take them. Wilson took them to enhance and perhaps even prolong his life. There's a big difference there.

So why did Wilson get a five game suspensions when active player Rodney Harrison received only four? Perhaps it's that Commissioner Roger Goodell ''holds people of authority in higher regard than the players on the field," as Wilson guessed. But surely the Commissioner can see the difference between the two. It's clear: Harrison was using HGH to cheat. Wilson wasn't. Goodell should have used some discretion in leveling the suspensions, and drawing some distinction between them. Both broke the law, and both deserve to face the crimes they committed. Both deserve to be suspended. But it shouldn't be like this.

Bill Cowher: Piano Man

The lasting image of former Steelers coach Bill Cowher may be of his goateed grimace, emblematic of his 15 years as head coach. Now that he's entered semi-retirement, Cowher's relaxed a little bit. He'll be a studio analyst for CBS this season, and you're likely to see a different Cowher than you're used to. But the intense Cowher still comes out from time to time, especially with his new hobby. He's taking piano lessons. And it seems that his teacher, Kim Russ, is the Cowher equivalent of piano teachers.

"You've got to practice three or four times a week. She can tell when I don't," Cowher said. "She doesn't make me run laps or anything, but she gets on me pretty good if I don't practice enough.

"I walk out of there, my back's hurting, my neck's knotted up, and my fingers are really sore. I told her I had a bad pinkie, she said she wanted to hear results -- she doesn't want excuses."
Cowher is only 50, but claims that he doesn't plan to coach again. He's got too much sheet music to learn and play! But in all seriousness, Cowher's semi-retirement seems to be driven by the desire to spend more time with his family. It doesn't seem like an excuse either - he seems truly genuine.
"You can always go back, to coaching. You can't go back to spending time with your family."
Cowher may be analyzing games for a living now, which requires on objectivity over all else. Remember when Magic Johnson first retired, and joined NBC's NBA team? He spoke of far too many "we's" than "they's." Cowher insists this wont happen.
"You don't work for people like the Rooneys and at a place like that for 15 years and not pull for them," he said. "A lot of the coaches and players I worked with are still there. I'll always pull for them, but objectively. I'm going to analyze them like anybody else."

Then, after a brief pause, Cowher said with a smile: "Like I was analyzed for the last 15 years."

03 September 2007

Zambrano Gets Booed, Then Rips Into Fans

Things should be pretty good for the Chicago Cubs right now. They've got a 1.5 gave lead in the Central Division after all. But we're talking about the Cubs here, so they're not. Since signing a five year, $91.5 million contract August 17th, Carlos Zambrano has been slumping. He's 0-3 since then, surrendering 18 runs in just 16 innings. He's 0-5 with a 8.29 ERA in his last six starts. Monday was no better, as Zambrano gave up 8 runs in 4 1/3 innings. He was even booed off the field. But after the game, Zambrano roared back.

"I don't accept that the fans were booing at me," a seething Zambrano said afterward. "I can't understand that. You know, I thought these were the greatest fans in baseball. But they showed me today that they just care about them, and that's not fair, because when you're struggling, you want to feel the support of the fans.

"No, I don't accept it. I just pointed to my head, and I will remember that because I don't want any bad outings. I know the great moments of my career will come."
Carlos, did you forget that you have to play in Chicago for the next five years? Zambrano continued, and in the process may have opened up a big old can of worms.
"[Fans] pay to see a good show," he said. "They pay to see a good pitcher. Right now, I'm not doing too well. I just call [out to] the fans, 'I want a little support.' That's all. When you're struggling, or you have a brother who's struggling, you show him love. You don't show him you want to kick him out. That's what I ask of the fans—a little support.

"And not only [for] me. I go out there and try to do my best, but not everybody is like Carlos Zambrano [and can] keep his head up and keep trying to do a good job. There are people on this team who are struggling and going down and down …

"When you're booing somebody, you're booing the 25 men on this ballclub, and that's not fair. That happened before to some of my teammates, and that's not right. I think we go out there to give Cubs fans a good show and to go to the playoffs, and that's what I want. No one wants to do a bad job. … Every single player in that clubhouse wants to do a great job for the city, believe me."
Listen Carlos, it sucks to get booed. But when you get paid the big bucks, and you're the ace of the staff, big things are expected of you. So go out and apologize to the fans tomorrow. You were frustrated, overheated, whatever. And then do all Cub fans a favor by winning your next start. That will solve everything.

Chinese Police, Garlic Told To Shape Up In Advance Of Olympics

With less than a year to go the Chinese government is doing everything they can to make Beijing the most hospitable place on earth. They've asked their citizens to stop spitting, and they're trying to make the city's air, well, breathable. Now they're on to reforming police behavior. Slack behavior is the target. Shooting the breeze and smoking while on shift are out. Proper monitoring and attentiveness is in.

Members of the public are being encouraged to report officers they see smoking, eating, or chatting on duty -- all of which are regarded as "harmful to the image of the police," the newspaper said.

Patrolmen will also be monitored on how they respond to requests for help from the public, along with the proper wearing of uniforms and badges, it said. The campaign will be focused on patrolmen in the six cities, including Beijing, that will host Olympic events.

All of the reforms are part of a large scale social re-engineering. The government feels that anything less than outstanding behavior by anybody will reflect poorly on the country as a whole. They're trying to change everyone, including the city's taxi drivers. They're being asked to learn English and stop sleeping in their cars. But more importantly, they're being asked to stop eating food with garlic. That's right - garlic is what will give China a bad name.

All of China's efforts will likely make for some reform, if for nothing else the 17 days that the world will be watching. But the garlic? That may be their biggest foe.