04.13.10

O-Dog Accuses Kenny Williams Of Raciscm

Posted in Baseball, Racism Corner at 8:22 pm by

Ok, that’s not exactly what Twins 2B Orlando Hudson told Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan, but it was hard not to exaggerate under the circumstances.

œYou see guys like Jermaine Dye (above) without a job, Minnesota Twins second baseman Orlando Hudson said Monday. œGuy with [27 home runs and 81 RBIs] and can™t get a job. Pretty much sums it up right there, no? You™ve got some guys who miss a year who can come back and get $5, $6 million, and a guy like Jermaine Dye can™t get a job. A guy like Gary Sheffield, a first-ballot Hall of Famer, can™t get a job. ¦

œWe both know what it is. You™ll get it right. You™ll figure it out. I™m not gonna say it because then I™ll be in [trouble].

œCall it what you want to, Hudson said. œI ain™t fit to say it. After I retire I™ll say it. I™ve got a whole bunch of stuff to say after I retire.

Hudson™s words spoke enough that Dye and his agent, Bob Bry, declined to comment Monday night. Hudson going public was unique, too, as other players worry it will have a negative effect on the issue. While some will accuse Hudson of race baiting and paranoia, the reality is quite the opposite: He is taking public a concern that promotes discussion and forces MLB to be honest with itself about the precipitous drop in African-American players over the last two decades.

As Passan himself points out, Dye wasn’t without a job offer this past off-season, but he declined to sign with Washington rather than accept a severe pay cut. A new era of austerity for vets doesn’t seem to fully extend to the likes of say, new Cubs addition Xavier Nady, but the X-Man seems content with a part-time role at Wrigley. Considering the Mets are paying $2 million of Gary Matthews Jr.’s salary, Dye would probably represent a bargain at twice as much —- especially if he could play first. And while Hudson might have a point about the relative ease with which white journeymen find gigs compared to their black counterparts, Gary Sheffield has already worn out his welcome with 8 big league teams. Racism in Major League Baseball? Probably. Age discrimination, most assuredly. There’s guys in the Hall Of Fame right now who can’t crack the White Sox 40 man roster (in some cases because they are dead).

Rodriguez’ Parting Gift To WVU : Probation?

Posted in College Spurts, Gridiron at 6:25 pm by

(image swiped from The Wizard Of Odds)

Such is the tolerance of sleaze in Morgantown, WV that Bob Huggins’ presence on campus is considered a marked improvement over the toxic environment presided over by former football coach Rich Rodriguez. Having already led Michigan down a path toward possible sanctions after just 2 years in charge, Rodriguez’ prior tenure at West Virginia is now under investigation the school confirmed earlier today. From the Charleston Gazzette :

“The NCAA has met with individuals involved with the West Virginia football program to identify any potential rules violations,” WVU officials said in a statement. “The university has fully cooperated with the NCAA during this process.

“West Virginia University and its department of intercollegiate athletics is committed to operating its athletics department in conformance with the legislation and policies of the NCAA and the Big East Conference.”

The statement said WVU would have “no additional comments … at this time.”

The Associated Press said a reporter attempted to ask Rodriguez for comment on the report Tuesday at his weekly news conference, and was cut off by director of media relations Dave Ablauf before the question was finished.

“We’re going to pass on that,” Ablauf said.

Heroes of Marketing: How A French Soccer Impostor (Almost) Made the Big Time

Posted in Football, mistaken I.D., The Marketplace at 1:34 pm by

The nightmare of the New Jersey Nets — a subject about which I’ve written a great deal, and which I’ll be writing about again later today (albeit for another site) — has led regular season NBA action into the same “oh, right, that’s happening” intellectual limbo as college football and non-World Cup soccer. There is no room in my mind or life for this stuff, now. At least that is what I tell myself, before I go back to fretting. That’s my new pursuit of choice. It’s going great.

Anyway, while I would have to dramatically expand the list of sports I follow for small-time European soccer to make the list, I will admit to being fascinated by it. I sense it’s something I’d much rather read about than actually watch, but the match-fixing scandal that roiled European soccer last year revealed a fascinatingly byzantine underworld of minor league and small-time pro leagues in which players are barely paid, and fixed (hundreds of) games out of a combination of economic desperation and vulnerability to another byzantine underworld of small-time match fixers. Katrin Bennhold wrote two amazing articles about it in the New York Times — this one, about the leagues; and this one, about one match-fixing player — and then the story more or less disappeared. There may be new reporting out there about match-fixing and soccer’s bush leagues, but I’m not seeing it. My world is telescoping inward, still. This is something that happens when you get older, I guess, and fretting is time-consuming.

But a recent piece by Jonathan Clegg in the Wall Street Journal about a 27-year-old event promoter and aspiring soccer player/con man named Greg Akcelrod reignited my interest in this subject. This is not just because Akcelrod’s story is interesting, either, although it is — Akcelrod spun a not terribly distinguished amateur soccer career into something much grander by using a little sketchy online marketing to create an online rep for himself. In a sport that still doesn’t have much of a global scouting infrastructure, it was nearly enough to get this enthusiastic hanger-on into the big time:

Last summer, CSKA Sofia, the winningest soccer club in the history of Bulgaria, invited an intriguing prospect to train with the team. The player, a Frenchman named Greg Akcelrod, had been climbing the ranks of European soccer, signing with a top-flight Paris club and training with a team in Argentina. He had an agent and a Web site that showed him scoring a goal for the English club Swindon Town. He’d even been chosen as an ambassador for Lance Armstrong’s charity.

But after a few days of watching Mr. Akcelrod flail about on the pitch, the team started to fear that his credentials had been faked. A spokesman says it became clear that the Frenchman was “not a real footballer.”

…That this could happen says a lot about the sprawling and decentralized nature of European soccer. Unlike leagues in the U.S., where there are minor leagues, college teams and drafts, soccer is a mix of national leagues and divisions with no central governing authority. The Professional Football Players’ Observatory in Switzerland catalogs characteristics of about 10,000 pro soccer players in more than 450 clubs and 30 countries in Europe. Keeping track of them is beyond the capabilities of all but the richest clubs.

Again, a cool story, but what interested me more is the stuff that would’ve been the focus had Akcelrod’s story been written about in, say, The New Yorker instead of a newspaper: the weird exhibition games and pseudo-minor-leagues and random pro-affiliated amateur teams — Akcelrod’s place on Paris-Saint Germain’s amateur enabled him to make it look as if he’d actually played for PSG — that enabled Akcelrod to fake his way to almost-making-it.

In other words, the human haystack on display is more interesting to me than the needle, as is usually the case. But Akcelrod is an interesting needle, and Clegg’s story is good in its own right. I don’t have the time or energy to look into the wild west of small-time Euro soccer — and I wouldn’t know where to look in the first place, honestly — but I can at least see through the fretfulness enough to find this a bracing reminder of just how big and weird and raggedly human the world of globalized sports actually is.

Feigen : Evans’ Statistical Achievement “A Farce”

Posted in Basketball at 1:24 pm by

The Kings’ Tyreke Evans scored 24 points last night in a home loss to Houston, making the Sacramento G just the 4th player in NBA history to average 20 points, 5 assists and 5 rebounds in his rookie campaign. The other 3? Just a trio of scrubs named Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan and LeBron James. Of the hosts efforts to make the night all about Evans’ quest for said individual mark, the Houston Chronicle’s Jonathan Feigen declares, “they should be ashamed.”

Evans kept driving to impossible shots, missing one after another. With Kings fans on their feet and the volume on the beat cranked up, he ended the first half missing three straight as the Rockets cut the lead to five.

With the crowd again choosing the Kings offense, he missed five more and charged into Trevor Ariza as the Rockets took the lead. He finally made two free throws to get his 24 points and received a standing ovation, followed by another when the announcement, that was by then unnecessary was made. Even Arnold Schwarzenegger joined the long ovation.

“I didn’t even know what was going on,” Rockets coach Rick Adelman said. “Finally, they put the 20, 5, 5 up there (on the scoreboard.) I’m more than happy to let him take that. We’ll take the win and go home.”

Evans probably would have secured the achievement whether he was permitted to chase it or not. With a player that talented and that crucial to a franchise’s future, the game should have been about winning the game and nothing else. Instead, the Kings demonstrated that individual achievement sometimes matters more than winning. Naturally then, the Kings lost the game and maybe more.

04.12.10

Man Utd’s Most Recent Champions League Failing, Immortalized In Lego Form

Posted in Football at 6:49 pm by

Video link culled from Bild. Almost as bad as watching the real thing, Alex Ferguson might figure.

Zimbabwe Illegit: New Nets Owner Has Business Experience In Place Even More Corrupt Than Jersey

Posted in Basketball, Greedy Motherfuckers, The Law at 3:24 pm by

(coming to celeb row, Newark, 2010)

What exactly does it take to get disqualified as a NBA owner? Oklahoma City’s thumbheaded owner Clay Bennett bought his team with the intention of moving it from one city to another, while doing a sorry imitation of someone not trying to do just that, and cruised to owner-board approval with ease. True, Bennett is apparently good buddies with commissioner David Stern — they’re reading Cold Mountain in their book club, maybe? — but his crudity and dishonesty were written all over his giant boiled-ham face from the moment he came on the scene. Obviously crudity is not enough to disqualify someone as a sports team’s owner — there are limits to this, but generally — but surely there’s some outer boundary, right?

What or where this boundary might be we don’t really know, yet. You can be a nightmarishly vain, bigoted slumlord and own a NBA team, and crimes against music are obviously not a disqualifier, but presumably — just to take an example at random — violating United States trade sanctions against a nation accused of human rights abuses is over the line, right?

Yes, you’d presume that. Here’s Dave D’Alessandro in the Newark Star-Ledger:

Congressman Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-Passaic) has fired the first political torpedo aimed at Mikhail™s Prokhorov™s purchase of the Nets, and it is directed at the Russian™s business relationship with the corrupt and repressive government of Zimbabwe.

Pascrell, admittedly opposed to the Nets™ move to Brooklyn in two years, has asked the Treasury Department to investigate the ties between Prokhorov™s corporation, Onexim, with the African nation, which has been under U.S. sanctions for seven years for human-rights violations.

It is a violation of federal law for American citizens and companies or their subsidiaries to do business with Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe.

Of course, Prokhorov isn’t an American citizen. And double-of-course this sadly probably isn’t going to do anything to impact the creepy oligarch’s ownership of the Nets or the development of Bruce Ratner’s redevelopment of South Brooklyn — architecture critics have already dubbed the ambitious underhaul “Little Tampa,” at least in my mind. It’ll take a lot more than dealing with the monster who absolutely shredded the country he helped create to disqualify a very rich man from buying a franchise in the NBA. The difficult part is coming up with what that could possibly be, short of not having enough money.

Zicarelli On Bosh’s (Alleged) Operation (Mental) Shutdown

Posted in Basketball at 3:03 pm by

After Sunday’s home loss to Chicago, the Raptors are barely alive in their battle for the 8th and final playoff spot, and following the Toronto press’ recent evisceration of Hedo Turkoglu, The Sun’s Frank Zicarelli provides similar treatment of outta commission Chris Bosh.

Word around the league is that someone got into Chris Bosh™s ear, convincing the face of the Raptors to shut down mentally for fear of compromising this summer™s free-agent windfall.

Up until last week™s production, when Bosh returned to his high level and was named Eastern Conference player of the week, there was merit to the gossip.

At first, you want to dismiss the talk because Bosh never has been the kind of pro to take nights off.

He™ll disappear against opponents when properly scouted, but to not put in an honest effort never has been part of Bosh™s makeup.

But then comes a string of games when Bosh isn™t attacking the basket, not controlling the boards and not imposing his will, and all that conjecture becomes valid.

Depending on whom one listens to, whatever happened might have done considerable damage to Bosh™s relationship with the franchise, enough to the point where the team is no longer interested in giving Bosh a max deal.

How precisely does “shutting down mentally” (and getting a very public rep for having done so) do anything but compromise Bosh’s market value this summer? And what might other free agents make of Toronto as a future destination given the propensity for such whispering campaigns?

Ian O’Connor Wishes He Had More Interrogation Tools At His Disposal

Posted in Baseball, Sports Journalism at 11:42 am by

(in this file photo from 2008, former manager Willie Randolph confiscates a baseball from Johan Santana until the starter learns to lie to reporters more convincingly)

Having already played a part in ushering Willie Randolph out of town with a controversial 2008 interview, new ESPN NY addition Ian O’Connor has turned his attention to what he considers to be a lack of candor on the part of Mets lefty Johan Santana.

Santana, as you already know, allowed the Nats to put up 4 runs before he was even out of the first inning yesterday, and O’Connor takes the occasion to wonder if all things considered, Santana might not wish he’d signed elsewhere.

So two seasons and two starts later, after knee and elbow surgeries, after his new team choked in Year 1, collapsed in Year 2 and finished its sixth home game of Year 3 with a lost series to the unworthy Nationals and a 2-4 record, I asked Santana if he regretted doing business with the Mets.

Had his water been spiked with truth serum, his answer would’ve sounded like this: “What do you think?”

Dressing alone at his locker, refusing to darken the mood inside the losing Citi Field clubhouse, the serum-free Santana said, “No, it’s not my first time. I’ve been there before, man. I think we’re working on it, making some adjustments. We’ve got the right guys to do it, and we just have to make it happen, be more consistent, start doing the little things.”

Santana has to be wondering what in the world he’s gotten himself into. He’s only human. That voice in the back of his head is growing louder, moving to the front, telling him he should’ve put his money on a different horse. He was a frequent playoff participant in Minnesota, and his friend and fellow recruit, Francisco Rodriguez, was another October regular who won a World Series with the Angels.

I’m sure there are other occasions where NY athletes — making their best efforts towards discretion and diplomacy, have been outright accused of lying, but it’s the kind of thing I’d normally associate with sports radio hyperbole rather than a journalistic effort.  In the same article, O’Connor quotes K-Rod as saying, “I don’t regret coming here, and [Santana] doesn’t either.”  Who knows what sort of fantastic revelations the Mets closer might spill were he compelled to do so via waterboarding?  Who knows what we’d learn about Ian O’Connor’s career frustrations were he put in the box with Frank Pembleton for 30 minutes?

There’s a number of persons at Citi Field you might wanna accuse of lying before you get to Johan Santana. None of ‘em are wearing uniforms.

04.11.10

Despite 16 Years In Pro Ball, Chan Ho Park Has Yet To Master The Art Of Predictable Sound Byte

Posted in Baseball at 9:52 pm by

The above footage was apparently shot after the Yankees’ defeat of Boston last Wednesday (April 7), a contest in which reliever Chan Ho Park rebounded from a pair of ineffective early outings with a scoreless 3 innings pitched against the Red Sox. Afterwards, Park proved to be no fan of the cliched postgame interview, providing the assembled press corps with much, much more than they ever needed to know.

Finally, A Moment More Damaging To Ahmad Rashad’s Cred Than All The Michael Jordan Backrubs Combined

Posted in Basketball, Fashion, Sports TV at 4:12 pm by

It’s a pretty busy day on the sporting calendar, what with just-relegated Portsmouth reaching the FA Cup final, the Rangers and Flyers battling it out for a playoff spot and some obscure golf tournament all competing for eyeballs.  So if you think I’m slightly out of my mind for even flipping to “NBA Access With Ahmad Rashad” for even a minute or two, I can’t really argue.

That said, I was amply rewarded. And full credit to Chris Andersen.  Who’d have thought you could fashion an entire hoops career out of being a shitty Jake Busey tribute act?

Mets Fans & Citi’s Home Field Disadvantage

Posted in Baseball at 3:22 pm by

(retrieve Jeff Wilpon’s dry cleaning?)

I witnessed a couple of knuckleheads trying to unsuccessfully start a wave at Citi Field last Monday afternoon, a curious bit of distraction given the home team was clinging to a narrow lead at the time, prior to the visiting Marlins klutzing it up big time.  Disillusionment amongst a large percent of Mets fans is to be expected given the successive collapses of 2007 and 2008, along with a thoroughly brutal inaugural campaign in the new ballpark. But it felt awfully early for the paying customers to look so thoroughly bored, and it’s the nature of said apathy that Greg Prince of Faith & Fear In Flushing questioned yesterday, suggesting “the oldest tradition in the Met books, that of proactively urging the players on, seems to be dangerously close to extinct.”

Don™t mistake this for Mets fans being polite. We™re not polite, as Ollie Perez could tell you every time he went to ball two, but we™re not properly engaged either. We™re not being the Mets fans we™ve always been. We™re not generating Let™s Go Mets! without a video nudge; we™re not seeking soft spots in the other team™s psyche; we™re not exuding anxiousness over the outcome like nothing else matters for those few minutes when the final score is definitively in doubt. The acoustics at Citi Field are such that I pick up on far more conversations than I care to, and I hear everything being talked about except baseball. It™s a free country, but it™s not a free ticket, so why would you come to a baseball game to be immersed in anything but?

Citi Field has never been a better place to visit, yet those who visit it aren™t living up to the ballpark™s early-season standard-setting. Get up and walk around and chat and do whatever the hell you want, but if you™re in your seats in the ninth inning and your team (as indicated by your garb) is loading the bases and attempting to tie, then how can you not be heart and soul into what™s going on?

Sadly, it was noise of a different sort heard loud and clear over SNY earlier today, when Johan Santana’s first inning meatball recipe to grand-slammer Josh Willingham resulted in the Mets lefty being roundly jeered upon leaving the field.  Keep in mind, this was Santana’s second start since returning from surgery, and the talismanic ace has routinely delivered, usually with little run support to show for it. Is the sense of entitlement so high, the level of sophistication amongst The Amazingly Impatient so very low, the likes of Santana are allowed no margin for error? We’re not talking about Gary Matthews Jr. or Mike Jacobs being booed, for fuck’s sake, nor can the abuse of Santana be passed off as dissatisfaction with ownership.  If you’re pissed at the Wilpons, stay home.  Don’t frequent the faux Hooters they’ve built on the premises. But booing a pitcher who has at times put this team on his back on the basis of one bad inning is nothing short of moronic.

Let The Dumping On ITV’s Peter Drury Commence

Posted in Football, Sports TV at 11:17 am by

As many of you are already aware, a 74th minute goal from Bayern Munich’s Arjen Robben knocked Manchester United out of the Champions League this past Wednesday, an event narrated with by dulcet tones of ITV’s Peter Drury.   Of Drury’s work that evening, Four Four Two’s Paul Simpson scolded, “you are a commentator, not forecaster, or Biblical prophet. So declaring that United are through to the semi-finals, as you did in the first half, was sheer folly, inviting the curse of the commentator to fall.”  When Saturday Comes’ James Calder offers further critique, concluding, “it is expecting too much for (Britain’s broadcasters) to ask their commentators to adopt a more nuanced, less jingoistic approach.”

Believing their role to be cheerleaders and prophets rather than mere painters of a picture, Drury and his ilk are oblivious to the extent to which armchair allegiances and preferences have shifted since the Big Four initiated their domination of the Premier League and, until this week at least, the Champions League.

European nights once provided an opportunity for fans of less successful clubs to get behind the nation™s representatives on the œcontinent. The successes of Nottingham Forest and Aston Villa in the European Cup were cheered by most supporters across the country, give or take the odd pocket of resistance in the Midlands, while Liverpool™s frequent triumphs were a source of if not of national pride, then of satisfaction. Drury™s predecessors in the commentary box largely reflected that mood, rightly assuming that the vast majority of those watching would want the English team to win.

The advent of the Premier League and the subsequent concentration of success within a select group of clubs has changed all that, however. As much as ITV and other broadcasters would like us to believe differently, Manchester United in the Champions League can no longer be packaged as œEngland versus Europe.

Resentment at the enduring superiority of the ruling quartet and their domination of the media has caused fans of other clubs to get behind the likes of Bayern and Inter, myself included. Eleven years ago I let out a cheer as United completed their comeback on œthat night in Barcelona. Yet when Arjen Robben™s superb volley struck the back of the net on Wednesday I clapped. I suspect I was not alone.

Nails : (Judge) Geraldine, I Need Money (For The Frivilous Things That I Do)

Posted in Baseball, The Law at 2:40 am by

With full apologies to the Classic Ruins’ Frank Rowe (above) for the headline, it should be stressed that some folks can’t merely sell a $7 million penthouse when they’re skint or close to it. Embattled ex-Mets/Phillies outfielder Lenny Dykstra learned this week that U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Geraldine Mund had rejected his bid to voluntarily dismiss his Chapter 7 case. From Friday’s Wall Street Journal and Patrick Fitzgerald of the Bankruptcy Beat :

In a strongly worded rebuke, Mund criticized Dykstra’s œlitigious attitude and unrealistic hopes and noted, “There are serious issues concerning the truthfulness of some of his statements. For instance, Mund doesn’t believe Dykstra, who is representing himself in his bankruptcy case, is actually writing his own legal papers.

“I write ‘em all, dude” , said Dykstra in an interview. “I had to correct her on that. I said Your Honor, people have been telling me all my life, ˜you can’t do this, you can’t do that.’ If I’m not writing them, who the [expletive] is? I AM writing them.”

“Mr. Dykstra has many dreams and high hopes, but these are not always based on reality,” the judge said. She also has her doubts about Dykstra’s repeated claims that he was “sleeping on the street.”

Dykstra admitted he’s not literally on the street and says he’s now living in a high rise on the Wilshire corridor in downtown L.A. He sidestepped questions about how he came by the apartment.

“I just happen to be one of those lucky kind of guys,” said Dykstra “I’m a [expletive] lightning rod for money OK? But that doesn’t change the fact that I was put on the street.”

(thanks to Sam Hunt for the link to the NY TImes’ Real Estate story)

04.10.10

At The 35 Minute Mark, Will Joakim Noah Self Destruct In 30 Seconds?

Posted in Basketball at 8:04 pm by

That Chicago GM Gar Foreman might prioritize Joakim Noah’s long-term health versus the Bulls’ struggle to claim the Eastern Conference’s 8th playoff spot is entirely to the Chicago GM’s credit. If his instructions are unclear or contradictory, however, it only serves to increase public perception that head coach Vinny Del Negro (above) is ill-suited for his current position. After Noah played a grand total of 12 seconds in the two overtime stanzas of a loss to lowly New Jersey last night, Del Negro told the Chicago Tribune’s K.C. Johnson and other reporters his hands were essentially tied by Foreman.

“Jo’s minutes have been limited to 35 the last couple of games,” Del Negro said. “There’s been a lot of discussion about it. He was under a 35-minute mandate (Friday) night. I couldn’t get him out of the game at the end so we played him a little more. (35 minutes, 39 seconds in regulation).

“I felt we could stretch him out a little just because of the importance of the game. So I had (player development coach) Lindsey (Hunter) go talk to Gar about it to make sure it was OK. I wanted to put him in if there was 10 seconds to go or the 3.6 seconds (for the Nets’ final possession of regulation) but I hadn’t got the authority yet to do that. When I got the OK to put him back in, I put him back in during that first overtime to try to get that stop. So there was some miscommunication.”

Asked what impression he was under after receiving clearance from management through Hunter, Del Negro said: “Play him 35 minutes. And then when he went a little over, play him in last-possession situations. I didn’t get that answer until the overtime. Once I got it, we’re into the overtime. My interpretation of that was not to play him to 40-45 minutes. But if we needed a stop, put him back in. That was the understanding. And there was probably some miscommunication.”

Forman said late Friday management cleared Noah to play as much as needed during the two overtime sessions.

The Baseline’s Eric Freeman
advanced the argument the other day that the 8th spot duel between Chicago and Toronto is inextricably tied to both clubs’ pursuit of the Raptors’ free-agent-to-be Chris Bosh. It’s a reasonable enough conclusion, but none of June’s free agent crop can possibly be impressed with the dysfunctional relationship between Del Negro and his paymasters.

Dan Jenkins, Celebrating Diversity (Within Augusta, GA’s Restaurant Scene)

Posted in Golf, Racism Corner at 6:38 pm by

For better or worse, the traditional media embracing Twitter provides the likes of Jenkins with all sorts of opportunities to express their limited world view sans any editorial process. Even in Fort Worth, you’d think the “Semi-Tough” author would’ve run into enough persons from different backgrounds who have all sorts of demeaning jobs (eg. sportswriting), that a comment like the one above would be as confusing as it is deeply unfunny.

Perhaps You Didn’t Notice : The 50th Best Heavyweight (In Georgia) Returns To The Ring Tonight

Posted in Boxing at 3:00 pm by

During a week in which we’ve seen the NCAA Men’s & Women’s basketball championship, baseball’s Opening Day, the collegiate Frozen Four and the more than respectable comeback of the world’s most famous serial philanderer in Augusta, GA, you might be excused if you forgot Evander Holyfield and Francois Botha are scheduled to go 12 rounds tonight at Las Vegas’ Thomas & Mack Center.  The bout is supposedly box office poison, and the Review-Journal’s John L. Smith sneers, “forget the pre-fight physicals. Just have these two fossils carbon dated.”

For those who say I’m making too much of their 88 years of experience, we’re not talking about knuckleball pitchers. Professional boxers — especially the heavyweights who have experienced the kind of ring wars Holyfield and Botha have endured — don’t age like regular people. The brain can only take so much cannon fire.

Others will point to the entertaining comeback of former heavyweight champ George Foreman as a sign stranger things have happened in boxing.

Forget that Foreman was a far greater ring strategist than either of Saturday’s combatants.

Once a big swinger, Foreman changed his style to a chopping, defensive posture that maximized his undeniable weight advantage and minimized the risk to his head. Not so Holyfield and Botha. They figure to go at it like a couple of ‘roidheads in a biker bar.

Call it entertainment if you’d like. I call it inviting trouble.

Holyfield turned pro during the first half of the Reagan era. He has traded shots with some of the biggest names in the division — from the previous generation. He lost two bouts overseas in 2008 to guys named Ibragimov and Valuev, but was undefeated in 2009. (He didn’t fight.)

Botha’s career has been consistent: Always game, never gifted. The last great fighter he took on was Lennox Lewis, who won by technical knockout in two rounds. If you’ve forgotten the fight, it’s understandable. It was a decade ago.

I wish I could forget that fight, Mr. Smith.   I attended said farce at an AEG-owned hockey arena (seriously) in south London, and I’m very sorry to say it wasn’t the only time I’ve paid to watch The White Buffalo come out on the losing end of a horrific mismatch

Bradley To Rangers Fans : You’re No. 1

Posted in Baseball at 1:27 pm by

Many players returning to the scene of their greatest success would be far too self-absorbed to acknowledge the paying customers who previously cheered them on.  Seattle’s Milton Bradley, reportedly, is not one of those players, as the Dallas Morning News’ Evan Grant explains via the modern miracle of “internet chatter”.

The moment in question happened in the fourth inning last night after Chris Davis flied out to left field, where Bradley was playing. Though TV replays showed no incident, broadcast officials did say it appeared Bradley offered the gesture towards the stands. He was booed after the play.

In the eighth inning, after he flied out to center, Bradley stopped at the top step of the Mariners’ dugout and glared into the stands for a moment.

Bradley was not approached after the game, but Seattle manager Don Wakamatsu gave a “no comment” when asked about any incidents involving the player and the fans.

04.09.10

Pedroia, Mo, Bonded In Their Outrage Over Joe West

Posted in Baseball at 8:31 pm by

“What does he want us to do,” asked Yankee reliever Marino Rivera, “swing at balls?”  Mo was responding to umpire Joe West’s pointed remarks about the excruciating pace of play between the Bombers and Red Sox during the two rivals’ opening series at Fenway Park, and Boston 2B Dustin Pedroia is equally vehement in his defense of….4 1/2 hour baseball games. From ESPN Boston’s Gordon Edes :

“To call the Yankees and Red Sox, two of the best teams in baseball, ‘pathetic’ and ‘embarrassing,’ that’s just ridiculous,” Pedroia said while sitting in the dugout before Friday night’s game against the Royals.

“If he doesn’t want to do Red Sox and Yankee games, he should tell the umpires’ union. Then when we’re in the World Series, he’ll be out of that assignment, too.”

“What he doesn’t understand is that when we don’t do well in these games against the Yankees, we get killed,” Pedroia said. “So if I’m going to take a deep breath and focus before I get in the box, I’m going to do it.”

Not to take either player’s side in this debate, but if pitchers were made to hit in the AL, you have to figure these Red Sox/Yanks marathons would be at least 30 minutes shorter.  But full credit to the arbiter for not blaming Steven Tyler or Neil Diamond…because that’s exactly what I’d have done.

Say It Ain’t So : The Sanctity Of Celebrity Boxing Sullied

Posted in Boxing, The Law at 8:00 pm by

The only thing surprising about the story below is that the names Mark Gastineau, Randall “Tex” Cobb and Jose Canseco appear to be thoroughly uninvolved.  From KYW’s Pat Loeb :

Damon Feldman of Broomall, Pa. used the term “celebrity” loosely in promoting matches featuring, among others, Lindsay Lohan’s father and WYSP morning man Danny Bonaduce.

But Nils Fredericksen, spokesman for the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office, says Feldman (right) used the term “boxing match” even more loosely:

“We allege that Mr. Feldman was actually involved in rigging the fights, in fixing who was going to win and who was going to lose.”

Fredericksen says Feldman also violated boxing rules about safety and that boxers were knocked out and didn’t receive proper medical care.

Ex-God Bullies Descend Upon Red River

Posted in Internal Affairs, Rock Und Roll at 7:43 pm by

Due to circumstances beyond our control, Dinos aren’t playing. But these folks most certainly are.

Overboard For Ovie : The Gray Lady Goes Gaga For The NHL’s Best Player

Posted in Hockey at 12:14 pm by

(even Ovie’s versatility has its limitations)

Perhaps the above headline is an unjust qualification, as Washington’s’ Alexander Ovechkin is arguably the most exciting performer in North American team sports.  I’ve sometimes thought if Gary Bettman hoped to leapfrog MMA and NASCAR in the hearts and minds of the lower 48, his best bet would be the cloning of Ovechkin, a sentiment the New York Times Magazine’s  Charles McGarth might not totally agree with, but he’s awfully impressed, just the same (“there are now so many celebrated Ovie goals on YouTube that connoisseurs can argue over them like stamp collectors comparing the 1840 British Penny Black, say, with the 1868 Franklin Z-Grill”), making the argument the Caps’ LW is a cross-cultural mashup of sorts.

Wayne Gretzky seldom checked anyone if he could help it. His game was artistic and almost cerebral at times. Ovechkin, on the other hand, is an artist who also plays with tremendous physicality. He sometimes seems to be a brand-new kind of hockey player entirely: a hybrid who combines European finesse with North American toughness. Vladislav Tretiak, the great Soviet goaltender of the ™70s and the general manager of the Russian Olympic team, remarked of him: œHe does not look like the Soviet hockey-school player. From a side it seems that he is half-Canadian.

By the old-school, blue-collar mentality that is still fairly standard in the N.H.L., Russians were cliquish, or so it was said, selfish, unemotional, ill suited to the rigors of a bruising 82-game regular season. For every player like Sergei Federov, who became a mainstay of the great Detroit Red Wings dynasty of the late ™90s, critics and xenophobes could point to artistic head cases like Alexei Kovalev, who exasperated Rangers fans with his pirouettes, brilliant rushes and maddening giveaways in the early ™90s,.

In this context, Ovechkin is a new, superior kind of Russian. George McPhee, the Caps™ general manager, said of his star, measuring him against the player who until recently was the most talented Russian in the league, œHe™s Pavel Bure in Mark Messier™s body. In an era when most N.H.L. teams are composed of specialists ” scorers, bodyguards, defensive experts ” Ovie does everything. œI™m maximum ” a max guy, you know? he said when his English was a little less good than it is now. œI always want to be ” to do some maximums.

Bill Madden Quietly Suggests Mike Jacobs Has No Business Hitting Cleanup For A Big League Team

Posted in Baseball at 10:49 am by

Good thing he’s batting fourth for the Mets, then. But in all seriousness, the Amazingly Disabled have one HR in 3 games so far, and while it’s still early, the club is showing initial signs of being just as powerless as 2009′s edition. Re-acquired 1B Mike Jacobs was a spectator during Thursday’s loss to Nate Robertson and the Marlins, but that’s not enough to appease the New York Daily News’ Bill Madden, who suggests the benching indicates manager Jerry Manuel “has begun to rethink batting a player with a .312 career on-base percentage in the cleanup spot.”

For the first two games of the season, Jacobs, a nice enough fellow who on occasion has been known to hit some prodigious homers but otherwise has a hard time making contact and getting on base, was anointed by Mets manager Jerry Manuel to bat cleanup. It was a decision that drew quizzical looks from the small cordon of scouts covering this series, given that Jacobs had been released by the Kansas City Royals after last season and made the Mets’ Opening Day roster only because of the injury to Murphy and Manuel’s need for an experienced first baseman.

Manuel explained he wanted a lefty power bat between his preeminent righty hitters – David Wright and Bay – while implying he could live with Jacobs’ deficiencies in exchange for the pop in his bat. What he’s gotten so far is all of the former and none of the latter as Jacobs went 1-for-9 with no RBI, four strikeouts and four runners left on base in the first two games.

“(Jacobs) has mechanical things he needs to work on,” Manuel said. “He has to make some adjustments.”

04.08.10

Papi’s Struggles = An Easy Day’s Work For Shaughnessy

Posted in Baseball at 7:59 pm by

David Ortiz might argue the 2010 baseball campaign is only 3 games only, but the Boston Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy is clearly in mid-season form when it comes to roundly mocking one of the town’s icons, claiming “regional Toyota dealers took up a collection and sent Big Papi a thank-you note that read, ‘Thanks for taking us off the hook. People are finally complaining about something else.’”

Terry Francona ” loyal to his veterans the way Dick Cheney was to George W. Bush ” spoke at length about the decision to keep Ortiz in the lineup before the rubber match of the series with New York.

œTonight would have been a good night to play [Mike] Lowell,™™ the manager acknowledged. œBut it would have been a bad night not to play David. You can™t use two DHs.”

The third-inning single gets the Steinway off Papi™s back for a few hours, but we all know the issue isn™t going away ” not if he continues to struggle, not as long as Lowell sits on the bench, waiting to be traded.

In three games, Ortiz has come to the plate with eight runners in scoring position. He has delivered one. He has ended six innings.

The Sox front office is responsible for the Ortiz Problem. The Sox rolled the dice and committed to Big Papi as the DH/No. 5 hitter for the start of this season. It™s a commitment that won™t be abandoned after a handful of games. But it™s risky.

NBA Refs : Doing Their Best To Quash The Notion They’re All About Protecting Superstars

Posted in Basketball at 3:06 pm by

Who’d have thought Isiah Thomas would still have any loyalists officiating NBA games?

Malcom McLaren, Dead At 64

Posted in Fashion, Rock Und Roll at 2:24 pm by

Boutique owner, political candidate, occasional recording artist and most famously, former manager to the New York Dolls, Sex Pistols and Bow Wow Wow, Malcom McLaren passed away in New York City today following a battle with cancer.  History hasn’t been kind to McLaren’s svengali role in the Pistols’ formation and collapse, though it should be said future generations’ empresarios did a far worse job in assembling boy bands.