Speed Read: Lakers Crush Magic, TV Execs Hearts

That sound you heard in New York last night were league officials and ABC executives quietly weeping into their gin and tonics while watching Game 1 of the NBA Finals. Because what they were watching was the one thing they didn’t need: a Los Angeles Lakers blowout. For the casual fan, the 100-75 drubbing of the Orlando Magic just confirmed what they already knew, that this series is a letdown after the hype of Kobe Bryant vs. LeBron James, and the Lakers are going to crush the upstart Magic.

Kobe Bryant

Sure, it was close…for a little over a quarter. The Magic did have a five-point lead early in the second quarter, and then the roof collapsed. This is what happens when a team that relies on three-point shooting has a sub-par shooting game (going 8-for-23 from beyond the arc). Without having to fear the Magic from the outside, the Lakers could double and triple-team Dwight Howard, a form of kryptonite that even Superman couldn’t overcome, going 1-for-6 and scoring just 12 points.

Dwight Howard

So while Howard struggled, Kobe was superb, scoring 40 points while coming close to a triple-double. He had 12 points in the second quarter as the Lakers established their dominance, and was able to create opportunities for Pau Gasol and the rest of his supporting cast. And with Phil Jackson being 43-0 in series where his team wins the opening game, Magic coach Stan Van Gundy has to be sweating through his Men’s Wearhouse coat.

But if the Magic need any inspiration, they only need to look to the Stanley Cup (assuming they get Versus in central Florida). Facing a 2-0 deficit against the defending champion Detroit Red Wings, the Pittsburgh Penguins have rallied to tie the series after a 4-2 win in Game 4. Which is especially impressive since they managed to turn an early lead into a 2-1 hole in the second period, which could have easily crippled a lesser team.

Pittsburgh Penguins

And in what can only be seen as a good sign for the Penguins, Sidney Crosby had his first goal of the series, while Evgeni Malkin added a goal and an assist. So now we basically have a best-of-three series starting tomorrow night in Detroit. While the Red Wings are still probably going to win the series, at least the Penguins have made it interesting.

Randy Johnson

Finally, let’s tip our hat to Randy Johnson, who became the first pitcher since Tom Seaver in 1985 to get his 300th victory in his first attempt thanks to the Giants’ 5-1 victory over the Nationals. Thank you for sparing us of the daily update on the ESPN crawl and live game updates ruining our PBA Tour broadcasts on Wednesday nights on ESPN2. The Giants are planning a pregame celebration before their next home game to congratulate Johnson on his 300 career wins - all four of them with San Francisco.

  • The French Open women’s singles final is set, with Dinara Safina and Svetlana Kuznetsova taking each other on in an all-Russian final. In terms of eye candy, this isn’t exactly the Maria Sharapova vs. Ana Ivanovic Australian Open final from last year.
  • Dinara Safina and Svetlana Kuznetsova

  • Calvin Borel isn’t just confident that he’s going to win the Belmont Stakes on Mine That Bird to win the jockey Triple Crown, he’s guaranteeing it. (At least that’s what we think he said with molasses-thick drawl.) If he does pull this off, does this mean he gets put out to stud?
  • LeBron, here’s your slap on the wrist: the NBA fines King James $25,000 for bailing on the post-game press conference after the Cavs’ Game 6 loss to the Magic in the Eastern Conference finals. Plus, you made David Stern cry. How does that feel, LeBron.
  • You want Dontrelle Willis to succeed in his comeback with the Tigers, but then something like this happens: in 2-1/3 innings against the Red Sox yesterday, Willis gave up five runs without allowing a hit, walking five and hitting a batter.
  • Just when you thought that it couldn’t get worse for the New York Mets than getting swept by the Pirates, it also turns out that Jose Reyes has a torn hamstring.
  • John Raines, a substitute teacher and athletic trainer at Sussex Central High in Delaware, has been arrested and charged with “inappropriately touching a student-athlete while treating her injury and threatening to prevent her from playing her sport when she tried to stop his advances.” Which is bad enough, but even worse when considering he’s the second faculty member arrested on sex crimes in the past two days and the third within a year.
  • Spencer Cruise, an all-state high school football player in Iowa, allegedly bodyslammed a cop who was busting up a party and then Tasered him with his own weapon.
  • Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson has selected ESPN’s Chris Berman to introduce him before his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and PRO FOOTBALL TALK wonders if that’s such a great idea. (Seriously, was Jim Kelly busy?)
  • Former Tulsa football player Neal Sweeney apparently got into a business dispute with the wrong person, as it ended up with him being shot dead at his fuel sales company. Police have arrested the person they believe is the triggerman, and hope this leads to further breaks in the case.
  • Maurice Neal, a linebacker for the Utah Utes, has been arrested in connection with a bar fight where he took out two men. Shouldn’t Utah be the last place that a bar fight should be happening?

Who is going to be the next 300 game winner in baseball?

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Speed Read: Mets Finding Creative Ways To Lose

Hey, it looks like Brett Favre is not going to have surgery anytime soon, and…you know what, I’m not even going to pretend to give a crap about any of this anymore. So let’s talk about something else, like the Mets going full-on Chico’s Bail Bonds last night at Dodger Stadium.

Bad News Bears

Luckily for the Mets, the game ended so late last night that their incredible ineptitude wasn’t able to make it onto the back page of the morning papers (although the DAILY NEWS already has a “Follywood” story up online). In one of the stranger endings to a game I’ve seen, the Dodgers were handed no fewer than three gifts in the 11th inning, allowing them to take a 3-2 win and move to an MLB-best 27-13 on the season. Let’s recap the fateful 11th:

1) With two out in the top of the inning and the score tied 2-2, Angel Pagan tripled into deep right-center with Ryan Church on first base. But Church missed third base on his way home, and after he scored the Dodgers appealed at the base. Church was called out, Pagan’s hit was reduced to a single, and the inning was over.

1a) Angel Pagan’s playing? I hope they didn’t let him drive to the game. Pagan might be the first player ever with a suspended license to have four hits in a major league game (I don’t know if BASEBALL REFERENCE keeps that stat).

2)  In the bottom of the inning, Pagan and Carlos Beltran has a communication breakdown on a routine fly ball to left center, resulting in Pagan diving out of the way at the last minute and Beltran dropping the ball.

3) After an intentional walk to Juan Pierre(!) to load the bases and a pop-out, and Beltran now playing as part of a five-man infield, Orlando Hudson hit a routine ground ball to Jeremy Reed. Reed went to home for the easy force out, but his throw was about 10 feet wide of Ramon Castro, who was already standing several feet away from home plate. Dodgers win. And, as if Reed needed anything else in his way, pitcher Brian Stokes decided it would be a great idea to run over and stand right in between Reed and Castro, ducking out of the way at the last minute to avoid being beaned in the head by Reed’s errant toss.

Angel Pagan

Seriously, the Mets have some defensive issues to work out. They made five errors last night, with two of them coming from Ramon Martinez, who was called up earlier in the day from AAA to play shortstop while Jose Reyes is sidelined. Reed, who is actually an outfielder, was only playing first because he pinch-hit for Fernando Tatis and somebody had to play the position. Carlos Delgado won’t be playing it for a while, as he’s having hip surgery tomorrow.

Speaking of the DL, Twins pitcher Glen Perkins is joining it after informing the team that he has tingling and discomfort in his pitching elbow. Of course, they probably would’ve rather he told them that before he gave up six runs in 2/3 of an inning at Yankee Stadium last night. Because then they might’ve been able to just start R.A. Dickey, who gave up no runs in the next 4 1/3. The Twins lost the game 7-6 — a totally fitting end to a four-game sweep that saw them lose the first three in walk-off fashion.

Glen Perkins

(”I gotta go on the DL, Gardy. I got a mean case of Chien-Ming Wang-itis.”)

Much like Dante in Clerks, Philippe Boucher wasn’t even supposed to be there last night. But the Penguins’ seventh defenseman scored the winning goal in a 3-2 victory over the Hurricanes in Game 1 of the NHL’s East finals. The ‘Canes almost rallied to tie the game late, but Marc-Andre Fleury denied Eric Staal on the doorstep with 30 seconds left to preserve the win and bring us one step closer to the same exact Stanley Cup finals matchup as last year (except this time Marian Hossa will be playing for the winning team). While the NHL playoffs have been great thus far, there’s a sense of impending dread that it will all be downhill from here since the Pens-Caps series will be nearly impossible to top.

Penguins Hurricanes

• ESPN’s Ric Bucher wrote a great piece about ex-NBAer Brian Grant’s battle with Parkinson’s Disease. Grant found out in January that he has the disease, and has reached out to Michael J. Fox and Muhammad Ali, the two most famous victims of the degenerative condition.

• The Brewers got some bad news yesterday when they learned that Rickie Weeks is going to miss the rest of the season with a wrist injury. It did, however, allow them to recall top prospect Mat Gamel from AAA, who promptly homered in his first big-league start in an 8-4 win over the Cardinals. Gamel, however, might make Crew fans wish Ryan Braun was still playing third, as he made a mind-boggling 93 errors over the last 2+ seasons in the minors (and one last night, of course).

• PGA golfer Briny Baird and Padres GM Kevin Towers took turns bombing golf balls off the roof of a hotel in San Diego yesterday. It’s OK, P.F. Chang’s set it all up. In fact, because Baird was able to hit a target 268 yards away (and 340 feet below him) in Petco Park, America is now entitled to a free lettuce wrap at Chang’s. Go here to register for your free app.

Briny Baird tees off

• Why doesn’t anyone want to ride Mine That Bird? The horse than won the Kentucky Derby and would’ve won the Preakness if the race was about 20 feet longer is going to be on its third jockey in three races at the Belmont because the most recent rider has decided his time will be better spent riding a horse in a race that isn’t on national TV that day. Meanwhile, there is growing sentiment that Rachel Alexandra should skip the Belmont, considering she nearly ran out of gas in the shorter Preakness.

Terrell Owens was given the key to Buffalo yesterday. Which is kind of a waste, since Buffalo’s going to have to spend a bunch of money to change its locks when T.O. wears out his welcome in October.

Terrell Owens

(”Is it OK if I make a copy for Rosenhaus?”)

• The Nationals’ ground crew is about as good at putting a tarp on the field as the team is at playing baseball (thanks to BAREKNUCKS):

• The NHL says that Coyotes owner Jerry Moyes can’t declare bankruptcy and sell the team to Jim Balsillie because Moyes gave Gary Bettman ownership of the team a few months ago in exchange for a financial bailout and thus doesn’t have the authority to make any decisions concerning the team’s future. It’s nice to see that Bettman is hell-bent on keeping the team in a place where it will continue to suffer instead of letting it go somewhere that will go crazy supporting it because he doesn’t want to be known as the guy who failed at bringing hockey to Arizona.

• The news isn’t all bad for the NHL, though. Sunday’s broadcast of the Red Wings-Blackhawks game drew the highest ratings ever for a non-Stanley Cup final or Winter Classic game on NBC, according to FANHOUSE. This despite the game being aired opposite the Lakers-Rockets Game 7 on ABC.

• RACIN NATION says Jeremy Mayfield was told exactly what he tested positive for, and it’s not Claritin, as Mayfield has contended. Stop denying it Mayfield, we all know you were drinking ayahuasca with a shaman in Peru.

England kicked off a campaign to get the 2018 World Cup yesterday. And when they bring out the big guns like Lord Triesman for the launch party, no other country has a chance. Well, except that the TIMES is still convinced that the U.S. is going to end up with the Cup if Barack Obama decides he wants it here.

What is least likely to happen?

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Mine That Bird Ditched By Jockey For Real Horse

How unbelievable was Mine That Bird’s Kentucky Derby win? So unbelievable that even his jockey doesn’t think he has a shot in the Preakness Stakes next week.

Rachel Alexandra and Calvin Borel

Calvin Borel is abandoning Mine That Bird for the nation’s top filly, Rachel Alexandra. He calls her a “once-in-a-lifetime horse,” but isn’t just having the chance for a triple crown a lot rarer for a jockey than once in a lifetime? It’s a curious decision, and maybe he knows something we don’t.

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Speed Read: Collapse Paralyzes Cowboy Staffer

Over the past week, the sports world has gone from a sadly predictable near-tragedy to a shockingly real one. While most NASCAR fans and drivers could have told you that a scene like Carl Edwards’ car almost flying into the packed stands at Talladega was almost inevitable, no one could have predicted what happened during a freak windstorm at the team’s practice facility on Saturday afternoon: the entire thing collapsed, trapping players, coaches, staff and media inside.

Cowboys Dome Collapse

When first reports came out about the accident on Saturday, it looked like any major injuries had been avoided. But Sunday brought additional news, and most of it not good: the FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAPH says that scouting assistant Rich Behm has been paralyzed from the waist down as a result of the accident. Among the 11 other people who received medical attention, special teams coach Joe DeCamillis suffered a broken vertebra but somehow was not paralyzed, while assistant athletic trainer Greg Gaither has a broken right leg.

Cowboys offensive coordinator Jason Garrett

And as horrific as the situation was, it apparently could have even been worse, if eyewitness reports from players and media members who were there for a rookie minicamp (welcome to the league, rooks). Such as former kicker and fifth-round draft pick David Buehler, who wound up with a concussion and various cuts and scrapes.

“My initial thought was, how many people are dead in this?” Buehler said tonight. “I thought I was the lucky one.”

(It should be noted that Buehler became the kicker at USC after incumbent Mario Danelo was killed in a drunken fall from a cliff after the 2007 Rose Bowl, so he’s seen enough football-related tragedies for his lifetime.)

Somehow Buehler suffered the most severe injuries of the players (I guess that armor does help), and many of the players acted as rescuers immediately after the collapse. Two players might have helped save DALLAS MORNING NEWS reporter Todd Archer from further injury after he was pinned down by falling debris:

Then I saw two pairs of cleats near me and two blue jerseys, so I knew they were defensive players. Later, I was told it was cornerback DeAngelo Smith and linebacker Brandon Williams. Eatman said Williams pushed him out of the way so he could help get me out.

With whatever was on me raised a few inches, I was able to turn on my back and inch my way out. I remember seeing players hurdle over pieces of the wreckage to make sure their teammates – strangers to most of them just a week ago – were all right.

I ran into the team’s Valley Ranch complex. Blood trickled down my right elbow. My right shin had some road rash. My left knee was sore, and as the time went by, my left shoulder and right ribs became sore.

It all took about 25 seconds, but it seemed much longer. 

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones cut his trip to the Kentucky Derby short and returned Sunday morning to grimly look at the resulting carnage. As you could expect, OSHA is investigating; but while you might question the safety of having a 85,000 square-foot inflatable tent in an area hit by occasional huge thunderstorms, chances are this will be just an incredibly fluky situation that had tragic consequences.

Ducks vs Red Wings

Getting back to more positive news: I know it’s a cliche that there’s “nothing like playoff hockey,” and that’s a lie: mint chip ice cream is better than playoff hockey; finding “Caddyshack” on HBO at 3:30 a.m. when you can’t go sleep is right up there as well. But yesterday’s three-OT thriller between the Ducks and the Red Wings was a reminder: the Celtics vs. Bulls series had some great games, but no one does extra time like the NHL.

Why? Because of getting a set amount of time to complete a period, the end of an OT playoff game could come at any second, on a power play, shorthanded or completely against the run of play. It’s that “lightning in a bottle” moment that makes it so unique, and often times the game-winner comes from an unusual source.

On Sunday, that unlikely hero was Todd Marchant. The ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER says the third-oldest player on the team came through when it was needed, putting away a shot from the top of the face-off circle (after breaking up a Detroit rush) to give Anaheim a dramatic 4-3 three-OT road victory to level the series at 1-1.

Think about it: this game went three overtimes - and we’re not talking fake NBA five-minute OTs either, but honest-to-God 20-minute periods. Basically, the Ducks and the Red Wings played 2/3s of an extra game, but most casual fans are too jaded (and expect this every NHL playoff time) to appreciate it. Meanwhile, the Bulls and Celtics go three five-minute overtimes and everyone freaks out.

Tony Jackson

(Now-former Dodgers beat writer Tony Jackson, enjoying a power nap.)

Finally, in baseball news: for a fundamentally flawed team, the Dodgers sure do look pretty good. They beat San Diego 7-3 on Sunday, which the LOS ANGELES TIMES says is their franchise-record 10th straight home win to start the season. Not bad for a team that supposedly lacks the pitching depth to be a contender. Now if there was only more than one beat writer covering the team.

  • Take a deep breath, Red Sox fans: the BOSTON GLOBE say popular commentator and former second baseman Jerry Remy has Twittered (does everyone Twitter?) that he missed the four-game series with the Rays as a precaution, and should be back in the booth soon.
  • Jerry Remy

  • New York Islanders owner Charles Wang tells NEWSDAY that he “regrets” buying the team nine years later. I guess looking at putting $23 million a year into the team with no hope of a new arena in sight will do that to you. What’s the return policy on a broken NHL franchise, anyway?
  • Another week, another Tiger Woods final round falling flat. The NEW YORK TIMES says he shot a 72 on Sunday, finishing two shots back of winner Sean O’Hair at the Quail Hollow Championships in Charlotte, NC. Can we just revoke this bum’s Tour Card now?
  • The SOUTHTOWN STAR says that 19 players from the St. Rita baseball team in suburban Chicago were suspended from their game on Wednesday against De La Salle. Their crime? Stopping to get breakfast after a TV taping for WGN. It’s not their fault Waffle House is so deliciously tempting!
  • For anyone looking to get into the endless grind that is sports talk radio, JOURNALISM JOBS says the Jim Rome Show is looking for a writer. You’re telling me that his riffs aren’t all off the cuff? Rack him!!! Also valuable skills for the job: having a take, not sucking.
  • Former Arsenal and Barcelona soccer star Marc Overmars came out of retirement four years ago to help Go Ahead Eagles -  the club he started his career with and is currently director of - try to make the Dutch first division. After snapping his leg in a game this weekend, OFF THE POST says he probably wishes he had stayed in the boardroom:

  • Minnesota Vikings owner Zygi Wilf tells the ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS that he has “no comment” on rumors about Brett Favre coming to the team, but that “we’re always improving“. Translation: get ready for FavreWatch 2009 any day now.
  • No matter your personal political beliefs, we can all agree that anyone from Alaska is just too goofy to be near the Presidency. Case in point: the AP says that two people have won an annual betting contest and will split a jackpot of almost $284,000. What were they guessing? When the ice on the Tanana River would crack. Nope, no excess pork spending getting into the economy here.
  • While the Ducks and Red Wings were having a mini-marathon game yesterday afternoon, MLB.COM says the Mariners and A’s were doing the same thing, with Seattle gutting out an 8-7 win in 15 innings after having to rally from three runs down in the 13th to tie the score. These guys can’t possibly be for real, right?
  • The NEW YORK TIMES says that owners of Kentucky Derby-winner Mine That Bird will now “listen to the horse” to decide if it runs in the Preakness Stakes. Guys, I’m pretty sure the horse is going to answer no, or at least “neigh!” I’ll be here all week, folks!

Which “historic” sporting event is the most overhyped and overrated?

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Mine That Bird 2nd Biggest Upset In Derby History

Today was not a good day to be a front-runner. Even after morning-line favorite I Want Revenge scratched, there were a handful of horses with great odds; any one of them a potential Triple Crown Contender. Then, the rains came, and any hope of a normal race washed away.

Mine That Bird

Mine That Bird
, a 50-1 longshot, took the Kentucky Derby with one of the best stretch runs I’ve ever seen. And while a lot of people who thought they had sure things picked out in an underwhelming field are out a few bucks tonight, quite a few people are quite a bit richer.

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