Speed Read: What’s Rick Pitino Going To Do Now?

As Brooks mentioned late last night, the LOUISVILLE COURIER-JOURNAL is reporting that Rick Pitino admitted to police that he had sex with Karen Sypher, the woman he has accused of extortion, then paid her $3,000 to get an abortion when she became pregnant. All of this happened back in 2003, and the reasons behind his case against her have become much clearer: she demanded $10 million, among other things, to keep quiet about all of it. He wasn’t having any of that, and went to the FBI about it.

Rick Pitino

Sypher fired back with a rape charge against Pitino, saying that the liaison that led to her pregnancy was an assault, and not a consensual incident. Pitino was never charged with anything because Sypher’s story is full of holes and she could offer no evidence of such an assault (in fact, she went on to marry Louisville’s equipment manager, Tim Sypher, ensuring that she would be spending more time around Pitino).

So now what for Pitino? His lawyer says he’s not making any public statements until the trial, but this is a pretty large matzo ball just hanging out there now. There’s not much else going in Louisville other than this, so it’s just going to keep building and building. How can the guy be an effective coach at this point?

I won’t try and recount the entire COURIER-JOURNAL story here (however, it’s well worth your time to read it), but I will mention a few things that have stood out for me since taking some time to digest everything:

1. Brooks noted months ago that it was curious that ESPN used Pat Forde to report on the situation originally, considering the fact that Forde is a Louisville resident who co-authored a book with Pitino last year. Well, the WWL obviously hasn’t reconsidered that decision, as they trotted him back out last night to comment on the situation on ESPNEWS. Forde was presented simply as an “ESPN.COM senior writer,” and no mention was made on the air of his personal ties to Pitino. Predictably, Forde tried to downplay the latest revelations and focused mostly on emphasizing Sypher’s legal troubles. He admitted that Pitino was in an uncomfortable spot now, but stopped well short of saying anything critical of the coach.

Pat Forde

(Where’s Cossack or Munson?)

1A. If Sypher filed a civil suit against Pitino for allegedly raping her, would ESPN find that worthy of coverage?

2. We don’t know for sure that this was Pitino’s kid, right? Pitino says he would request a paternity test if she decided to have the kid, but she opted for an abortion instead. She then accepted $3,000 from him for the procedure. She clearly had the abortion, but isn’t it possible that she went to Pitino for the money because she knew he would pay up? He says she told him that she hadn’t had sex with anyone else in months, but she hasn’t appeared to be entirely trustworthy here.

3. Pitino says that he and Karen Sypher met at Tim Sypher’s condo (she and Tim didn’t know each other at the time) to talk about the pregnancy and figure out what to do. Now, knowing what was going on, what on earth would make Tim go “you know what, I think I need to get aboard the Karen train”? Shockingly, the Syphers are now estranged.

Karen Sypher

4. UL president Tom Jurich is quoted as saying that Pitino “has been truthful about this matter with us all along.” Does that mean the school has known all of these details for six years? If not, when did they find out? Was there any sort of off-the-record punishment for this? Some coaches have gotten canned for drinking beer at a frat party, so I can’t imagine that UL would’ve taken too kindly to their married coach impregnating a woman at a restaurant.

5. Pitino isn’t in any sort of trouble legally, but as this drags on in court it’s going to be a huge distraction. Was that a consideration in bringing Ralph Willard over from Holy Cross to be his new lead assistant? Willard’s exactly the kind of guy who could step in on an interim basis if Pitino decides to either take time off or step down altogether. Pitino actually had a possible way out of Louisville a few months ago when the Sacramento Kings were looking for a new coach, but he decided to stick around.

Ralph Willard

(UL’s next coach?)

Is Rick Pitino going to be Louisville’s coach in 2009-10?

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It may not be the biggest soccer game the U.S. has ever played, but today’s showdown with Mexico in a World Cup qualifier sure seems like a big deal. That’s probably because ESPN has spent an inordinate amount of time hyping the game. Having just acquired English Premier League rights, and coming off a summer of showing a number of games involving European clubs touring the U.S., the network is clearly committed to promoting the sport like never before. And they finally seem to have realized that they way to make the game more popular in this country is to give us less MLS and more actual good soccer.

US soccer fans

(USA! USA! USA!)

That recent commitment has resulted in a first — ESPN has sent Bob Ley and Alexi Lalas down to Mexico City to put on a 30-minute pre-game show for today’s match. This despite the fact that the game isn’t being shown on ESPN (it’s on some channel called mun2 if you’re wondering).

U.S. Mexico soccer

Despite all the attention, the game is much less crucial to the U.S. than it may seem. The Americans are comfortable in second place in the qualifying group, and while a loss to Mexico wouldn’t be ideal, the U.S. would still have the edge in the standings. The expectations aren’t exactly high, either — the U.S. is 0-22-1 in Mexico.

That puts all of the pressure squarely on Mexico, which sits in fourth place in the group and needs to get into the top three to automatically qualify for the World Cup. A loss to the U.S. would be a complete disaster and might put them in too deep a hole to dig out of. In other words, the Americans don’t have a whole lot to lose out there, and if they can shock Azteca Stadium with an early goal, watch out. That won’t be easy, though, as this LA TIMES article contends. At 7,400 feet in the middle of a smoggy afternoon in a cavernous stadium that will be shaking with noise, it’s maybe the worst stadium atmosphere for visitors in the entire world.

Azteca Stadium

Let’s get on with the links:

• The BOSTON GLOBE has a great photo essay of Kevin Youkilis losing his s*** after getting plunked by Detroit’s Rick Porcello last night:

Kevin Youkilis charging mound

It was a poor effort by Youk, who had all the upper hand when he tossed his helmet at a stunned Porcello, and still ended up getting spun down to the ground by the 20-year-old. In other words, he only did marginally better than Zimmer.

Don Zimmer Pedro Martinez

A horse trainer in Arizona has been accused of sexual abuse with his students. People (young girls), if you’re wondering.

• Politicians in New Jersey are threatening to withhold state money from pro teams that play there but don’t mention the state on their uniforms. Which appears to be all of them except the Devils, now that the Nets have removed the “New Jersey” from their road unis.

new jersey nets dancers

(OK, so maybe these don’t technically say New Jersey, but we get the picture)

• Baseball and softball are out, but women’s boxing might be in for the 2012 Olympics. Also, it’s about time they fixed the debacle that is the modern pentathlon.

• All these years, I had no idea that Brooks was in a country music duo with Adam Dunn. Well, used to be in a country music duo.

• Coming soon to “The Ocho,” the world championships of catching laptops in your butt:

Adrian Gonzalez set a Padres franchise record with 6 hits in a 9-inning win over the Brewers last night. The last Padre with 6 hits was Tony Gwynn, who did it in an extra-inning game 16 years and 80 pounds ago.

• Australian Trent Oeltjen spent 9 years in the minors, but he’s 12-for-24 with 3 homers in his first 5 games in the majors with Arizona. He got a standing ovation from the Chase Field crowd during his 4-hit game last night against the Mets (it’s been a rough year there).

• We reported yesterday that the USFL is supposedly coming back, and wants to resurrect the teams from the old league. Not sure how they’re going to get a license for those names and logos, though, as this site has been selling USFL logo merchandise for a few years (I got a Portland Breakers shirt there).

New Jersey Generals

(Now here’s a team the fine folks of New Jersey can be proud of)

• One month later, Arturo Gatti’s death is just a big a mystery as ever.

• You think pro athletes in this country behave outrageously? Australia’s National Rugby League is in the midst of a crisis due to one ridiculous scandal after another. Sponsors are considering pulling their support from the league until things get under control. The latest incident involves Greg Inglis, said to be one of the best players in the world. He is charged with assaulting his girlfriend over the weekend. It’s kind of the equivalent of Kobe Bryant hypothetically getting accused of something like sexual assault…oh, wait.

Speed Read: MLB Ump Fist Bumps Marlin Catcher

This mustache belongs to the most hated man in Atlanta, MLB umpire Bill Hohn:

Bill Hohn

(”No, you listen to me, I’m telling a ‘you might be a redneck if…’ joke and there’s nothing you can do about it.”)

Hohn has been a bit suspect (to say the least) with his calls in games involving the Braves this year. As BLEACHER REPORT details, Hohn seems to operate with an entirely different strike zone when Atlanta is pitching, which resulted in a huge scene earlier in the year in Boston, in which Bobby Cox, Chipper Jones, and pitcher Eric O’Flaherty were ejected from the game on the same play for arguing balls and strikes.

On Wednesday night, the Braves and Hohn butted heads again over his strike zone, resulting in yet another ejection for Cox — one that he was baited into when Hohn told Cox he had to eject someone and then pulled out his lineup card to “decide” who to toss. Cox volunteered himself, and then threw up his arms in disbelief when Hohn did it. Moments later, Brian McCann was tossed for asking Hohn to admit he missed a call during his last at bat.

Even so, as egregious as Hohn’s mistakes may have been, it’s easy to dismiss Atlanta’s protests as just your average sour grapes. But then something happened on Wednesday night. When Marlins catcher John Baker caught the final strike in Florida’s 6-3 win over the Braves, he turned around and extended his fist toward Hohn, to which Hohn obliged with a response. Yeah, you heard it right, an umpire actually fist-bumped a player. Here’s the evidence, in animated GIF form. A screenshot of the bumping moment:

Bill Hohn fist bump John Baker

No word on whether or not Hohn “blew it up.”

Hohn likely didn’t realize how that would look, as Baker was probably just telling Hohn he did a good job (as players will sometimes do after games), but on a night when Hohn ejected the opposing manager for arguing about the strike zone, that was a pretty poor decision. One that probably should earn Hohn a game or two off.

The Braves were steaming when word got to them about the bump. Chipper says he’s never seen such a thing in his entire career, and all but accused Hohn and fellow ump Jerry Meals of having it out for his team. This a day after LaTroy Hawkins raised eyebrows for claiming the umps wanted the Cubs to beat his Houston team.

Still fuming, the Braves shook it off last night and beat the Marlins 6-3 on a 10th inning homer by McCann.

Bill Hohn

Your 2009  trade deadline is just hours away, ladies and gentlemen. J.P. Ricciardi continues to hold firm on a steep price for Roy Halladay, and we’ll see this afternoon just how serious he is about making a deal. Many teams have been in the hunt, but all seem to be unwilling to give up the one key prospect the Jays covet. And since Ricciardi can hold on to Halladay and do this all over again next year, he doesn’t feel that dealing him is a necessity.

Late last night, FOX’s Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi wrote that the Rangers might be the last team that will take a crack at Halladay, but seem reluctant to part with pitcher Derek Holland, who dominated the Mariners last night.

If Halladay doesn’t go anywhere, we might be headed for a dud of a deadline headlined by such blockbusters as Orlando Cabrera going to the Twins and/or Nick Johnson going to the Marlins.

Orlando Cabrera

(If Nick Punto was your shortstop, this guy would seem like a great option)

The Red Sox are going to to everything they can, though, to shake things up and land either Victor Martinez or Adrian Gonzalez. Gonzalez would be a huge coup for the Sox, as he’s signed through 2010 at about $2.5 million, and his option for 2011 is a very reasonable $5.5 million. I’m not sure, in fact, why the Padres would want to trade him unless they were getting a ton in return (something like Clay Buchholz, Jed Lowrie, and of Boston’s other top two or three prospects, and even that might not seem like enough). Not surprisingly, Jon Heyman has been told the Sox prefer Gonzalez over Martinez. Martinez has a team option for next year at $7 million, is four years older than Gonzalez, and doesn’t OPS anywhere near .929.

Either way, the Sox would have a huge jam with Mike Lowell and Kevin Youkilis competing for time at third base, while the new player would vie for time at first with Adam LaRoche.

Adrian Gonzalez

(Just like Big Papi, but a little less ‘roidy)

• A historic baseball stadium in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, is under water right now due to massive flooding. The COLLEGE BASEBALL BLOG has pictures of the mess.

• CNBC’s Darren Rovell says that one indication that our economy might be heading the right direction is that golf manufacturer Callaway’s stock price is on the rise on forecasts that club sales may be picking up.

• Alright, I’m pretty sure this is the final nail in coffin for the “grill” phenomenon:

Ryan Lochte grill

 • Tiger Woods has never missed consecutive cuts in his PGA career, so his 96th-place standing after day 1 of the Buick Open doesn’t bode very well.

• Eight year olds, dude: Dustin Pedroia’s brother sentenced to only one year in prison (and eight on probation) for sexual contact with a minor.

DeWayne Wise’s big week continues, as he singled in the winning run in the ninth inning of a 3-2 victory over the Yankees last night.

• Screw that whole east coast bias, the Pac-10 thinks it’s huuuuuuge in China. Good thing, since that’s where all the Harris Poll voters seem to live.

• Oh, Sarge (h/t AWFUL ANNOUNCING)

• I’m sure you’ve wanted to punch someone in the face during a game of Monopoly, but somebody finally went through with it. The victim’s crime? An apparent unwillingness to sell Park Place and Boardwalk.

• The Cubs beat the Astros 12-3 yesteray afternoon, and by early evening both starting pitchers from the game were no longer with their teams. Kevin Hart was among those traded by the Cubs to the Pirates for John Grabow and Tom Gorzelanny. Meanwhile, Houston put Russ Ortiz out of his misery.

• The guys at KISSING SUZY KOLBER think they’ve figured out who got in the way of the Reggie Bush-Kim Kardashian relationship. Shockingly, it’s a model, and her name is Carmen Ortega:

Carmen Ortega

Is today’s trade deadline going to deliver?

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Speed Read: NBC, NHL Screw Local Hockey Fans

One of the most jarring aspects of the Stanley Cup finals, other than the ease with which the Red Wings dispatched the Penguins on Sunday night to push the series to 3-2, has been NBC’s hardball with fans in Detroit and Pittsburgh. For the duration of the playoffs, both teams have been able to hold massive viewing parties in and outside their arenas. It was such a wonderful, organic expression of the communal nature of fandom that it was basically destined to be ruined by business in short order.

JoeVision Detroit Red Wings
(Thousands of fans watching the game with each other? Nope, can’t have this!)

And lo, in stepped NBC, stopping the broadcasts. As HOCKEYBUZZ.COM reported, initially, they blamed the NHL, despite the NHL’s assertion that that was quite not the case. Then came the truth, that it was a business decisions (all the crappy ones are), and their “business is ratings driven.” CRAIN’S DETROIT BUSINESS has the, ahem, money quote:

A near-sellout of Joe Louis could shave a ratings point off the local television ratings measurement, and such ratings are used to establish advertising rates.

So to that, if the all-important ratings model can’t deal with 8-10 thousand people watching a show in one place on one screen, you know what? The ratings model is completely worthless.  Seriously. How can NBC or Nielsen not figure out what to do with a giant honking party of some of the most hardcore fans all watching one screen? Is that really a deal-breaker?

And if so, if they’re really curious as to what the ratings would look like if everyone stays home, away from the shared community aspect from which most of the value of a ticket to a game is derived, there’s a really easy answer to all of this. You ready? Dick Ebersol, you taking notes?

All NBC has to do is announce that in exchange for showing the game outside both arenas, attending fans have to fill out a simple, anonymous survey about where they would otherwise watch a game (their place or someone else’s), with how many people, and whatever other information the network needs to most closely approximate what ratings would look like. Use that and Nielsen data to extrapolate what the final ratings would be with that many eyes on a TV, and adjust. That’s it. Easy.

This is a rare, rare opportunity for the NHL and NBC. At no other point are they ever going to be able to get this kind of a free pool of television watchers from whom they can mine valuable demographic information. Forcing them back into their homes and away from a group of thousands of like-minded, passionate fans for the sake of moving a needle one or two points does the city, fanbase, and team a disservice. It’s so easy to work around. Figure it out.

Speaking of soccer [I thought we were talking about hockey. No, I’m dead certain of it.–ed.] [Shut up.–AJ] [You have problems.–ed.], UEFA just got a seismic news flash as Real Madrid, evidently furious at having seen FC Barca take the title, has bought the contract of Kaka from AC Milan. Too bad UEFA contract holder SETANTA SPORTS probably won’t survive to see him in the new kit.

Kaka Kiss
(This is where we mention Kaka’s wife and fine whatever you’re all perverts.)

Kaka, a sensational striker from the one-word-name factory that is Brazil, will reportedly command a 6-year, $94 million contract. That’s enough to make it the most expensive in soccer’s history, barely beating out Zinedine Zidane’s 6-year, $65 million deal with Juventus from eight years ago. Meanwhile, David Beckham is running around for a crappy MLS team in Los Angeles for 30 cents on the dollar and going home to a bag of antlers with oversized sunglasses and the “I’m married, but still vain” haircut straight from Jon & Kate + 8. Sic transit gloria mundi: Glory is fleeting.

We mentioned Andrew Thomas Gallo, the man accused of killing Angels rookie Nick Adenhart and two others in a drunk driving collision, yesterday. Gallo pled not guilty to murder, drunk driving, and fleeing the scene of an accident charges yesterday. Great.

Nick Adenhart Killed In Hit and Run Accident
(No, nothing criminal led to this. No way.)

But as we (rightfully) focus on the three people killed far before their time, we should point out that one passenger in Adenhart’s car, 24-year-old Jon Wilhite, has, in fact, survived the crash that left him in critical condition (via the RIVERSIDE PRESS-ENTERPRISE). Wait, that doesn’t appropriately convey the gravity of what happened. He survived internal decapitation.

As MANOLITH explains, internal decapitation, which is exactly as horrifying and life-threatening as it sounds, happens when the skull detaches from the spinal column. It’s usually fatal. Wilhite somehow survived without total paralysis, which is unbelievably rare, and he’s now in rehab with the help of several major leaguers. He’s got a long way to go, but he’s on the right track.

Since we need to get back on a higher note, here are some more links to consider while you’re riding in a cab with former Beach Boy Brian Wilson:

Nick Collison Red Afro
(Yes.)

What do the Raiders need the most on offense?

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Blog-O-Rama: Becks Has Trouble With The Bottle

• THE SPOILER discovers that David Beckham has a drinking problem:

David Beckham drinking problem

• DC SPORTS BOG takes in the sight & sounds of Santana Moss’ birthday extravaganza.

• DEADSPIN reports from the battlefront that Red China is facing a new invasion - by the Red Sox Nation.

• BIG LEAGUE STEW is sad to see the passing of Bo Diddley, co-star of one of the bestest sports commercials ever.

Read more…