Sir Alex : Champions League Mismatches Are Your Best Entertainment Value

Posted in Football at 10:33 pm by

Prior to Manchester United’s 2-1 home defeat of Wolfsburg F.C. in the Champions League earlier today, paying customers at Old Trafford were greeted with programme notes from United manager Alex Ferguson (above), reassuring them they’d made a prudent investment. Portions of those notes were quoted and placed in proper context by the Guardian’s Fiver duo of Barry Glendenning and Rob Smythe, who helpfully characterize Fergie as “a traditionalist who has been in love with Europe’s premier club competition ever since he sneaked into Hampden for Real Madrid’s 7-3 win over Eintracht Frankfurt in 1960.”

“I do not agree the preliminaries are meaningless and simply a money-making exercise,” he said, as a group of hired heavies lifted his new 98-inch plasma on to the wall brackets in the Dave and Paramount Comedy Channel room of his humble 302-up, 302-down abode. “The group system is a league. All sports competitions have a starting point that includes the minnows, from the FA Cup to Wimbledon in tennis, or the Open in golf.

“You can’t start with the FA Cup final, or Wimbledon final and cut out the competitive build-up. When you put it like that, it is nonsense of course. But that has not prevented a spate of recent criticism and accusations of the game exploiting the fans,” he continued, pouring a bottle of Cristal down the sink because one of his team of butlers had served it at 3.141 degrees centigrade rather than the requested 3.142. None of Ferg’s comments, of course, explain why – if it’s not about money – the competitive build-up could not be the early rounds of an unseeded knockout.

Either Gregg Doyel Loves Tim Tebow More Than Jesus Urban Meyer…

Posted in Gridiron at 4:32 pm by

…or the CBS Sports.com columnist has money on LSU Saturday night. On the same day the NFL essentially ‘fessed up on the matter of blows to the head being bad for your health, Doyel says of the recently concussed Florida QB, “Tim Tebow will want to play, but we already know that. Tebow will need to be protected from himself.”

Don’t quote to me studies that say Tebow can play. Don’t waste your time, or mine. Every time an expert conducts a new study on concussions, it discovers that the old study and the previous experts were wrong — that the recovery time after a concussion is longer than anyone used to think. And right now, experts think it takes at least two weeks to recover well enough from a concussion to resume normal activity.

Do you think playing quarterback in two weeks against the enormous and fast LSU defense qualifies as “normal activity”?

Urban Meyer has the chance, the obligation, to be a good man. He needs to ignore Tebow when Tebow says he’s ready, because that’s what players say. They say they’re ready. And he needs to ignore the doctors when the doctors speculate Tebow is ready, because that’s all doctors can do on concussion recovery. They speculate. And you know what? The health of a human being is too important to be left to speculation and wishful thinking.

(The Other) Cowherd On The O’s Trembley – Sound Familiar, Mets Fans?

Posted in Baseball at 3:49 pm by

With Cleveland having announced the termination of Eric Wedge earlier today, the MLB Death Watch turns to Orioles skipper Dave Trembley, who’s compiled a brutal 20-49 mark in the O’s last 69 games. “Trembley,” writes the Baltimore Sun’s Kevin Cowherd, “reminds you of a guy in a knife fight and all he has to defend himself is a swizzle stick…he didn’t have the weapons to compete in the dock-brawl that is the American League East. And everyone knows it.” Change a few of the names and you might confuse Cowherd’s column for an autopsy on another hopelessly overmatched manager whose team gave up on him months ago.

This is a team that desperately needs to inject a winning attitude into its young players before they get beaten down and develop the same 1,000-yard stare as some of the veterans.

This is a team that needs to show its dwindling and dispirited fan base that it won’t settle for the kind of ugly baseball it has seen the past two months.

And that has to start with a fresh face in the manager’s office.

Let’s face it: The Orioles hit rock bottom with this collapse. It’s going to leave a bad enough taste in the players’ mouths in the offseason as it is.

To go into a new season with the same guy calling the shots would be unthinkable.

Study : Ex-NFL’ers 19 Times More Likely To Be Demented

Posted in Gridiron, Medical Science, Mental Health at 1:32 pm by

You don’t have to be Chris Harvard to know a brain-rattling career playing football might lead to significant quality-of-life issues further down the road. But when the NFL has steadfastly denied a correlation between their high-impact, contact sport and brain dysfunction, it’s an awfully big deal when a new study commissioned by the league reportedly shows former players are far more susceptible to Alzheimer’s than the rest of the population. All the more reason for John Kitna (above) to never retire, then.
From the New York Times’ Allan Schwartz, who’s been doggedly pursuing this story for the last few years.

œThis is a game-changer ” the whole debate, the ball™s now in the N.F.L.™s court, said Dr. Julian Bailes, the chairman of the department of neurosurgery at the West Virginia University School of Medicine, and a former team physician for the Pittsburgh Steelers whose research found similar links four years ago. œThey always say, ˜We™re going to do our own studies.™ And now they have.

Sean Morey, an Arizona Cardinals player who has been vocal in supporting research in this area, said: œThis is about more than us ” it™s about the high school kid in 2011 who might not die on the field because he ignored the risks of concussions.

All rates appear small. But if they are accurate, they would have arresting real-life effects when applied across a population as large as living N.F.L. retirees. A normal rate of cognitive disease among N.F.L. retirees age 50 and above (of whom there are about 4,000) would result in 48 of them having the condition; the rate in the Michigan study would lead to 244. Among retirees ages 30 through 49 (of whom there are about 3,000), the normal rate cited by the Michigan researchers would yield about 3 men experiencing problems; the rate reported among N.F.L. retirees leads to an estimate of 57.

So the Michigan findings suggest that although 50 N.F.L. retirees would be expected to have dementia or memory-related disease, the actual number could be more like 300. This would not prove causation in any individual case, but it would support a connection between pro football careers and heightened prevalence of later-life cognitive decline that the league has long disputed.

The Michigan researchers found that 6.1 percent of players age 50 and above reported that they had received a dementia-related diagnosis, five times higher than the cited national average, 1.2 percent. Players ages 30 through 49 showed a rate of 1.9 percent, or 19 times that of the national average, 0.1 percent.

Bob Cook’s Found A Potential Kiddie Coach Even Scarier Than Marv Marinovich

Posted in Cinema, Leave No Child Unbeaten, The Law at 1:09 am by

There’s considerable outcry around the globe over the United States’ attempts to extradite Roman Polanski, but Your Kid’s Not Going Pro’s Bob Cook refuses to join the chorus in support of the former Mr. Sharon Tate.  “if someone who committed a crime like Polanski™s was found to have slipped through the background-check cracks and was now coaching your child™s team, or your niece™s team, or was your local Catholic priest/soccer coach,” wonders Cook,  “would you say, ‘Eh, he™s brilliant, it was a long time ago ” let him coach.’ Or would you say, ‘How in the FUCKITY FUCK FUCK did this league let him near children?’”  Well, it depends.   Would he autograph my copy of “Knife In The Water”?

Bob, you say, Roman Polanski, one of the great directors of our time, is never going to waste his life teaching soccer to 6-year-olds in the suburbs. And, Bob, you say, Polanski has long proven himself no threat to society ” he doesn™t start romantic relationships with 15-year-old actresses anymore. And, Bob, you say, the man had a hard life, full of tragedy.

But the fact remains that if this were Roman Polanski, pipefitter, instead of Roman Polanski, filmmaker, legally speaking this would not be a guy who gets petitions on his behalf. He would be the kind of guy parents take up a petition against to get him to stop coaching the girls™ field hockey team. Are we parents overprotective about having this kind of person around? You bet. But I™m sure Martin Scorsese, one of the backers of the Free Roman Polanski petition, would shudder a little if he ever thought someone who plied a 13-year-old with champagne and Quaaludes, and forced himself upon her, was coaching his kids™ teams.


D-Steve’s New Ink: A) Unsightly, B) Gang-Related or C) All of the Above?

Posted in Basketball, Free Expression at 11:36 pm by

Even though I’ve more or less given up on what used to be my favorite NBA team — and have seen my alternate favorites announce that they’ll be bringing Blake Griffin off the bench in favor of a guy who looks like an extra from the recent remake of The Hills Have Eyes — I still get excited for this time of year, basketball-wise. There’s still a sense of hope in most clubhouses, Eddy Curry might be under three-bills, the professional curmudgeons haven’t had time to declare themselves “disgusted” yet (although the Lakers wearing Manny Ramirez wigs on media day will surely give Bill Plaschke something to mash his keypad about), and players patiently explain to the assembled media what they did in the offseason.

Usually, this means tattoos. Yeah, Matt Bonner became a Canadian citizen and Kevin Durant kicked his flaccid raps in that goofy Nike Hyperize commercial, but for the most part: tattoos. Last fall around this time, Stephen Jackson broke down his brilliant offseason ink, and it made me glad. It’s like the old back-to-school feeling, except there are no tests or grades (so it’s like Bob Huggins-era Cincinnati) and everyone’s really overstated and immature and on their own shit (so it’s like Oak Hill Academy). And so, of course, DeShawn Stevenson of the Wizards shows up at media day with a bunch of goofy tattoos. This post by John Taylor of the Washington Times — one of the very best Moonie-run papers on this coast — features photos of all three. They are, in order, a tattoo of Abraham Lincoln on Stevenson’s adam’s apple, a stylized fissure running down the top of his forehead (“because I don’t crack,” Stevenson, um, explained) and a backwards “P,” in the Pittsburgh Pirates font, on his cheekbone. Good times, right?

Well, the P being backwards is weird. But the P being there at all — especially given the Fresno-born Stevenson (above) explaining that it’s there in honor of the Pittsburgh Pirates, which he claims as his favorite baseball team — is kind of jarring. “There’s no reason the ‘P’ has to be backward,” Bethlehem Shoals writes at The Sporting News. “I call gang sign,” he adds. I’m not sure what else to call it, personally, and the gang-sign thing makes more sense than… well, how do you get a tattoo backwards, and what’s up with the giant 5′s around Abe Lincoln’s face? Pardon me while I get all esoteric on you:

Stevenson’s Lincoln tattoo is bordered on both sides by the number five, which — like the stylized Pittsburgh P — is pure, familiar Bloods gang semaphore. (I know this from wikipedia, obviously). There are explanations for all that on the other side of that link, but it all goes back to ultra-arcane, byzantinely corny secret-society street gang stylistics. Whether this is just Stevenson being a doofus and getting a bunch of tattoos because he can’t think of anything else to do and me being (a devastatingly handsome masculine version of) Tipper Gore or not, I don’t know. I mean, Abraham Lincoln is on the five-dollar bill, after all, and maybe that’s the only reason why D-Steve thought to put those huge fives on both sides of his neck.

But if Stevenson really did just get a bunch of gang tattoos on his face and neck, that would… really have been fucking stupid of him. At least J.R. Smith can just take down his Twitter page when it gets too five-poppin’ for the Nuggets. Stevenson’s going to have to walk around explaining that the thing on his cheek isn’t a stylized, over-angular “9,” but rather his un-erasable statement of for-lyfe fealty to one of the most deservedly loathed organizations in the world. Or a botched salute to the Andy Van Slyke/Barry Bonds Pirates of the early ’90s. Either way: even Stephen Jackson thinks this isn’t a good look. Thanks to Brendan Flynn and Sid Kapstenel for the links.

Miller : No Harm In The Halos Pouring One Out For Adenhart

Posted in Baseball, Beer at 9:32 pm by

But ain’t much that we can do
Except pour brew throughout the crew to make sure we all remember you
And believe me it hurts
To see the boy you broke bread with six feet in the dirt

Geto Boys, “Six Feet Deep”

“The increasingly ritualized practice of baseball teams spraying and/or consuming bubbly after every postseason achievement has gotten as stale as the carpeting in the Yankees’ plush new clubhouse after Sunday’s deluge,” opined Newsday’s Neil Best in the wake of the Yankees’ clinching the AL East title.  A morning later, after the Angels had captured the AL West crown with a boozy salute to drunk-driving victim Nick Adenhart (above), the O.C. Register’s Jeff Miller took a curious approach, both amplifying Best’s remarks (“these volume-10, mosh-pit, brain-cell holocausts have run their course. Baseball doesn™t need any more swim goggles, not this early in the achievement process”) while hailing the tribute to Adenhart as “an act of inclusion, a blind and unadulterated embrace of a lost teammate.”

If you thought they were disrespecting him in their revelry, you didn™t see any of the Angels who approached his locker late Monday night “ music still pounding and suds still exploding “ and bowed their heads in prayer.

You know, Adenhart even appears in some photos of the clinching party. When a group of Angels returned to the field after the game, they headed toward the warning track in center.

Once there, they pounded their fists on the No. 34 insignia and emptied even more beers over Adenhart™s likeness that has been on that wall since his death.

Then they did something really cool. They stopped, turned around and posed, arms wrapped around shoulders, championship ballcaps askew, untucked T-shirts dripping, hair mopping and smiled for the cameras.

Hovering just above the raucous group, visible, if just barely in some frames, was the face of Nick Adenhart, the forever Angel.

Now that™s a team picture.

The sentiment’s noble enough, I just hope all of those guys took cabs home.

NY’s Fitness Hoops Experts At Odds Over Curry’s Condition

Posted in Basketball at 5:39 pm by

After Newsday’s Alan Hahn had done his best to prepare us for a slim, trim, chisled Eddy Curry Supression Ring, Knicks Media Day resulted in what can safely be called varied reports about the fitness of New York’s lumbering underachiever.

For the first time in years, Curry will take the basketball court with a healthy, well-conditioned body and a relatively clear psyche.
- Howard Beck, New York Times

Curry, whose season was a complete waste last year, is also expected to make his preseason debut against New Jersey. He™s lost about 40 pounds but he still looks huge and his conditioning leaves a lot to be desired. Both Walsh and D™Antoni admitted that Curry needs to get in better shape.

If Curry plays well he would increase his trade value and thus the Knicks could clear additional cap space to sign a second superstar to join LeBron. (Until LeBron re-signs with Cleveland we™re assuming that he™s coming.) If Curry plays well he could also opt out of his contract and score a lucrative deal during the off-season. It™s a win-win for Curry and the Knicks¦but only if he™s stops overeating and improves his fitness. – Frank Isola, New York Daily News

In somewhat less controversial news, Curry’s tattoo artist has successfully battled a ban on the practice in  DeKalb, IL.  Let freedom ring!

“The Deer Hunter II” Or The Greatest Catch Of All Time (That Wasn’t A Catch)?

Posted in Baseball at 1:13 pm by

With Atlanta having won 15 of their 17, who can begrudge the Rockies from taking advantage of every possible break as they cling to their Wild Card berth? “”Greatest. Catch. Ever,” was how Colorado outfielder Carlos Gonzalez described a diving grab / game-ending double play pulled by off by Bambi-killer Clint Barmes to conclude Sunday’s 4-3 victory over St. Louis.  But you’ve got to hand it to those folks in Denver ; though they never found Jon Benet Ramsey’s killer, they have raised serious doubts about whether Barmes fielded the ball cleanly, as the Post’s Troy E. Renck explains.

(photo taken from Colorado Rockies Photos)

Photos taken by The Denver Post and a spectator in the right-field stands at Coors Field during Sunday’s dramatic 4-3 victory over the Cardinals reveal that second baseman Clint Barmes bobbled the final popup, with one picture showing the baseball on the outfield grass. Barmes rolled on the grass, jumped to his feet and fired to first to double off Albert Pujols to end the game.

But did he catch the ball?

“Only me and Barmes know the truth. It’s the same as (Matt) Holliday touching home plate,” outfielder Ryan Spilborghs said Monday of the controversial slide that clinched the Rockies’ 2007 playoff berth. “It’s better that. it’s (mysterious).”

Barmes could not be reached Monday, but said after Sunday’s game, “It all happened so fast. . . . I think as I was going down it hit my glove and then it went across my body or something. I don’t know. I know I came up with it in my bare hand.”

Quizzed about the play by Renck, SS/ethicist Troy Tulowitzki responded with “who cares now, we won.”  Bill McCartney couldn’t have put it any better.

Dowbiggin ID’s The Media Equivalents Of Dave Semenko

Posted in Hockey, Sports Journalism at 10:02 am by

Or more to the point, in the aftermath of Wayne Gretzky bailing on the Phoenix Coyotes last week — with the fiscally challenged franchise about to start the season — the Globe & Mail’s Bruce Dowbiggin points out the Great One received a smidgeon of criticism (most notably from G&M colleague Paul Blair and caring-sharing clotheshorse Don Cherry), no. 99′s iconic status remained secure in several spots.

Gretzky has traditionally received the benefit of the doubt from the media pack thanks to his marvellous career and pleasant demeanour with reporters. Even when he was snared in the Rick Tocchet gambling scandal heading into the 2006 Olympic competition, the NHL legend caught a large break from many in the fourth estate. (One overtaxed Gretzky loyalist called the gambling allegations a œcrucifixion.) Thursday was no exception as many leapt to Gretzky’s defence. Nick Kypreos on The Fan 590′s Hockey Central ripped the NHL for leaving Gretzky on an island while the Coyotes’ bankruptcy drama unfolded. Veteran broadcaster Darren Pang tried to soften Gretzky’s unexplained absence from training camp: œIt has bothered and hurt Wayne Gretzky that he has not been at camp.

Others said he deserved an exemption from criticism based on his contributions to the business in America. œThe pot-shots and the gratuitous illegal hits ¦ on Wayne Gretzky right now have been ridiculous, TSN’s Pierre McGuire said. œNo man has done more in terms of reaching out and trying to build the game in the NHL than Gretzky.

Yet, after the revelations of his huge compensation “ $8-million (U.S.) a year “ and then the absence from the Coyotes’ training camp, few in Phoenix shed tears as he headed off into the sunset. East Valley Tribune columnist Scott Bordow said Gretzky’s œassociation with the Phoenix Coyotes was a complete and utter disaster.