49er Patrick Willis Likes Cold Baths & Phil Collins

San Francisco 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis is a pretty good football player. We know this because even though he plays on a team that never makes an appearance on national television these days, and has won only 10 games in the last two seasons, Willis was named the Defensive Rookie of the Year last season, and was chosen for his second Pro Bowl in as many seasons earlier this week. If he were playing for the New York Giants or Dallas Cowboys, he would probably be talked about in the media as the next Ray Lewis.

Patrick Willis

So Patrick has been good enough at football in his first two seasons to start causing people to wonder what it is that he does before a game to get himself ready to dominate. After all, a lot of professional athletes have odd superstitions that they follow before every game. Patrick is no different, though I’m pretty sure he’s the only player in the NFL willing to admit that Phil Collins is a must-listen before each contest.

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“The Tommy Lasorda Story” - Starring Al Pacino

• Coming soon to a silver screen near you: Al Pacino as Tommy Lasorda.

Tommy Lasorda Al Pacino

• Oh, the football-playing kids these days, with their hijinks ‘n’ horseplay ‘n’ penchant for shoving broomsticks up each other’s butts.

• With one quick skip across The Pond, John Daly goes from white trash to Eurotrash.

George O’Leary wants his players to kill - er, make that George O’Leary wants to kill his players.

• Not learning the lessons from Vai Sikahema’s slaughtering, Jose Canseco wants to go a few more rounds in the ring.

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Speed Read: Pacino To Play Lasorda? Hoo-aaahh!

With the Dodgers enjoying their best season since 1988, Tommy Lasorda is enjoying a resurgence in attention. So much so, that VARIETY is reporting that a Lasorda biopic is on the “fast track for development” by Miramax. And who’s reportedly in line to play the pudgy Dodger legend? None other than the star of such critical favorites as 88 Minutes and Righteous Kill. Al Pacino has been phoning it in for the better part of a decade, so perhaps he’s looking forward to playing a part where he can just eat spaghetti all day for six months. As long as Josh Brolin plays Kirk Gibson, I’ll be happy.

Al Pacino and Tommy Lasorda

The Rays and Red Sox announced that James Shields and Daisuke Matsuzaka, respectively, will start in the first game of the ALCS on Friday night at the legendary Trop. It’s just not October without domed baseball in Florida. Speaking of the Trop — there’s finally a reason for fans to show up to games, and now they’ve gone and reduced the stadium’s capacity. Unlike other stadiums that block off sections of seats during the regular season, the Rays have elected not to take the tarp off the top third of the upper deck for the playoffs (like Florida and Oakland have done previously), and in fact now have fewer seats available because an area called the “party deck” is being used as an auxiliary media area. The park once sat more than 45,000 for baseball, but will hold only 35,041 during the ALCS.

Meanwhile, Philly is preparing to host its first LCS game since 1993. Cole Hamels will face Derek Lowe in Game 1. But people are still talking about a play from the 1977 NLCS, when the Dodgers’ Davy Lopes was called safe at first on a ground ball to the Phillies’ Larry Bowa. Bowa, who is now the third-base coach for the Dodgers, still claims Lopes was out. Lopes is now the first-base coach for the Phillies and says Bowa should get over it.

1977 NLCS

The Chris Duhon era got off to a rousing start last night for the Knicks, as he went 1-for-7 with seven turnovers in a New York loss to the Raptors.  His backup scored 10 points off the bench, though. They should totally give that guy a chance to play more.

The NHL season gets underway domestically this evening when the defending champion Red Wings take on the defending perennial disappointment Maple Leafs in Detroit. The pregame banner ceremony will be a little weird for the Wings’ Marian Hossa, who lost the in Cup finals as a member of the Penguins last year.

The Cubs began putting together next year’s soul-crushing club by picking up Rich Harden’s $7 million option. The option was exercised after a medical examination determined that Harden didn’t have any tears in his shoulder. Because, being that he’s both Rich Harden and a Cub, the exam was supposed to reveal that his shoulder is comprised solely of masking tape and dental floss.

rotator cuff

• There’s nothing like getting all fired up for your team’s big rugby match and then seeing them run out of the tunnel wearing these:

Ugly rugby uniform

And you thought the Oregon Ducks had hideous uniforms.

• PHILLY.COM says that Flyers owner Ed Snider is such a booster of the McCain campaign that he’s having Sarah Palin drop the puck at the team’s home opener on Saturday.

• What do you mean there’s no Flozell Adams living in Winemucca? According to the DALLAS MORNING NEWS, somebody attempted to fraudulently register the entire Cowboys starting lineup to vote in Nevada.

• Kansas is still trying to squash the “rip his f***ing head off” chant that students shout on every kickoff, with ESPN2 rolling into town this weekend. The WIZ OF ODDS says they might go as far as having Mark Mangino address the student body.

• Washington State is punting with underinflated balls and now has an architecture student on board as a backup quarterback, according to this notebook on OREGONLIVE.COM. Peter Roberts won the job in open tryouts, and coach Paul Wulff has already forgotten the kid’s name. Cougar fever is at an all-time high.

• It’s a good thing all those Olympians gave gallon-size urine samples, since WADA is now going to go back and test every sample for new-fangled drug (AP).

• WITH LEATHER alerts us to collector’s items everyone nobody is talking about: Penn State faculty trading cards!

• This article from Japan’s DAILY YOMIURI is written in English, and yet is completely unintelligible. Something about sumo cushions, and how we shouldn’t throw them. Great headline, though.

• To recap: Fort Wayne’s sports mascots are now the Mastadons, the Mad Ants, and the Tin Caps. The FORT WAYNE JOURNAL-GAZETTE informs us that the new nickname for the city’s baseball team has something to do with Johnny Appleseed. Naturally, the team’s logo is an angry apple wearing a tin can on its head.

• A guy who was skinny dipping at a University of Massachusetts football game kneed a police officer in the groin, so says the AP (via the SEATTLE P-I). Officer gets morphine, may miss two weeks. Yes, you read all that right.

What has been the biggest factor in the Rays’ success this season?

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