Speed Read: Steelers Salvage Opening Night Win

If anyone wanted to know the difference between college football and the NFL, you just needed to watch the two games last night. (At least the two that anyone cared about - sorry, Florda A&M at Winston-Salem State on ESPNU.) If you like offense, crazy plays and wild comebacks, then the Clemson at Georgia Tech game was for you. But if you prefer low-scoring, hard-hitting football that’s kind of not very exciting until the final five minutes, then the NFL kickoff game between Pittsburgh and Tennessee was for you. (Sorry, is my bias showing?)

Steelers vs Titans

First let’s talk about the Steelers’ 13-10 overtime victory. Plainly put, Pittsburgh had no reason to win this game. They could not run the ball, gaining a whopping 33 yards. (Note to the guy in my fantasy league bragging about “stealing” Rashard Mendenhall: eat it.) And between Jeff Reed almost shanking the game-tying 32-yard field goal into the offensive line’s backsides and Hines Ward fumbling after a reception took him inside the Titans’ five with a minute to go, they were teetering on disaster. Read more…

Speed Read: How To Get A DUI At 5 Miles Per Hour

The NBA Finals are over. The Stanley Cup’s been handed out. The US Open is already forgotten. So now what? Baseball? There’s still four months of that. The NBA Draft? That’s going to dominate the headlines tomorrow. A drunk guy trying to drive 40 miles home in his golf cart because his family left him behind at the course? Now we’re talkin’!

golf cart

The MILWAUKEE JOURNAL-SENTINEL has the tale of a 47-year-old man (who for some reason has been unidentified) who was abandoned at the Kettle Hills Golf Course in suburban Milwaukee by a group of people he referred to as his “uncles.” And when you’re 10 beers into your day, taking the cart home seems like a great idea, even if would take you a week and a half to get there. Luckily the guy was run down by the cops in an extremely low speed chase about a mile from the course. Here’s a map of the 2009 “Tour de Beast Light”:

golf cart route

(In the guy’s defense, he thought he was playing “Tron”)

Originally, when the cop car blew his horn and flashed his lights at the guy, he just pulled over to the shoulder and kept right on driving, as if the only thing he was doing wrong was driving in a lane instead of the shoulder. He eventually pulled over and was charged with operating a vehicle under the influence and for blowing a stop sign on the corner of Route 167 and Route 175.

There’s no word on the whereabouts of the “uncles,” who clearly were not pleased with their nephew for some reason. It appears as if things might have gotten well out of hand before he decided to flee, as the police were called to the course before the crew even finished up their round.

Speaking of deluded men under the influence, it’s not exactly news that Sammy Sosa was juicing all those years, and still not news that Ryne Sandberg says he doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame. Personally, I think so many guys were ‘roiding it up that the now-sullied stars of the era were still the best players of their generation even if they were artificially enhanced (and pitchers were doing it too). So I’d probably be OK with guys like McGwire, Bonds, and Sosa getting into the Hall someday. But I might be changing my mind on Sosa now that Darren Rovell has discovered that Sammy had his jersey sleeves tapered so that his arms would look bigger:

Sammy Sosa jersey tapered sleeves

Courtesy of Rovell’s article:

CNBC confirmed through a source that Sosa did indeed ask for the elastic arm tapering for at least the 2002 season. The source said that he could not remember another player that asked for this specification.

“I don’t know why it would be tapered like that other than it being a purely cosmetic change so that people could see his muscles,” said David Hunt, president of Hunt Auctions. “There doesn’t seem to be any other reason why he’d do it.”

Oh man, that’s just kinda sad. At least Bonds and Big Mac had the courtesy to just take some drugs and mash. Who knows what all Sosa was doing. We now know that he was willing to not only shoot up, but also cork bats AND make his jersey tighter. I wouldn’t be shocked if he somehow found a way to sneak some sort of springy superball into play during his at-bats.

Which (alleged) roider has done himself the most PR damage over the past 5 years?

View Results

And now for some links for you to peruse while Ricky Rubio looks for someone in Sacramento to throw the ball to:

• Texas won Game 2 of the College World Series final to force a deciding game tonight.

•  The DELAWARE COUNTY DAILY TIMES’ Anthony Sanfilippo says that NBC has nixed the idea of putting Alex Ovechkin and the Caps in one of the Winter Classic games next year because the Caps-Rangers series drew poor ratings this year.

• The Red Sox beat the Nationals 11-3 last night in D.C. in front of the usual 5,000 or so Nats fans. And, oh yeah, about 36,000 Sox fans.

• This might be the classiest video you see all day — a Yankee fan getting in a fistfight with a Marlin fan in front of his young daughter, who is now scarred for life (thanks BBTF):

• The Bills are mired in a decade of futility, but the people of Buffalo are still snapping up season tickets in near-record numbers.

• ESPN doesn’t televise every Manny Ramirez at-bat when he’s playing for the Dodgers, so why are they doing it every time he hits for Albuquerque? Are they really going to do this every day?

• The 76ers have become the latest team to try and forget about the last few years by bringing back their old-school logo. If this is the first step toward the rebirth of the Bullets, I’m all for it.

76ers logo

• The Spurs’ deal for Richard Jefferson may seem like a steal, but BASKETBALL VALUE (courtesy of TRUE HOOP) notes that the Bucks were actually a better team when Jefferson wasn’t on the floor.

• Swimming’s governing body, FINA (where’s the “s”?), is alarmed that world records have been getting crushed lately by swimmers wearing polyurethane-covered suits. Their solution to the problem? Just keep allowing the suits at the world championships.

• Hey, if Tony La Russa’s “done a lot of research on it,” it’s good enough for the Royals’ Trey Hillman to try out. That would of course be batting your pitcher eighth, which Zack Greinke did last night. The problem is that #9 hitter Mitch Maier hit like a pitcher, going 0-for-3 with 3 Ks.

• YOU BEEN BLINDED has video of ESPN’s fantasy guy Matthew Berry f-bombing it up in a faux-interview with a sports comedy duo called 12 ANGRY MASCOTS. He tries waaaaay too hard, but delivers a few decent lines. Not sure how ESPN feels about Berry dropping the phrase “Kosher C***block” on YouTube.

• Did you think last August that Michael Phelps was going to be rendered mostly irrelevant already, while Shawn Johnson would be the one going to every big film premiere? Here’s Shawn at the Transformers premiere:

Shawn Johnson

Speed Read: It Looks Like The NHL Is Finally Back

Two Game 6 classics in one night? An OT winner from the Caps that guarantees an Ovie-Crosby grudge match on Wednesday night? A 12-goal outburst in front of an insane crowd at the United Center that cemented the Blackhawks’ return to relevance once and for all? Sorry NBA, Monday night was owned by the NHL.

Blackhawks celebrate

First, in Pittsburgh, Dave Steckel’s sweet tip-in of Brooks Laich’s wrister from the point 6:22 into OT saved the Capitals’ season and silenced an Igloo crowd that was ready to celebrate a return trip to the conference finals.

Sidney Crosby’s tying goal with just over four minutes left in regulation gave the Penguins the momentum back after blowing a lead earlier in the period. But in the end, Marc-Andre Fleury was just a little too shaky. He only stopped 19 of 24 shots on the night while his Washington counterpart Simeon Varlamov outplayed him yet again, turning aside 38 of 42. The NEW YORK TIMES sums it all up better than I can:

Five one-goal decisions in six games, three overtimes and 41 goals, with Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby striking for 13 and assisting on 10 others. The Capitals and the Penguins have played a marvelous Eastern Conference semifinal series, and after Washington’s 5-4 overtime victory Monday, it will continue, fittingly, to Game 7 at Verizon Center on Wednesday.

That just about says it all.

Caps celebrate

Meanwhile, in Chicago, Vancouver rallied from a 3-1 deficit to take leads of 4-3 and 5-4 in the third period.  The Canucks thought the last lead might be enough to force a Game 7, but the Blackhawks went nuts in the final seven minutes, scoring three times to take a 7-5 win and advance to the Western Conference finals for the first time since 1995. 21-year-old Chicago captain Jonathan Toews scored twice, and 20-year-old Patrick Kane’s rocket of a backhander with 3:43 left gave him a hat trick and sealed the deal for the Hawks (Kane actually overslept on Monday and missed the morning skate). Think this team has a bright future?

As recently as two seasons ago, the Hawks were a failing franchise that could barely fill half of the United Center. Now, there isn’t a tougher ticket in town and the team went over the million mark in attendance for the season last night. As if all this isn’t enough, they’re likely going to be facing the Detroit Red Wings in the next round (provided the Wings can win one of two against Anaheim). And, I’m just going to throw it out there now: if they do play the Wings, I’m saying there’s a 50% chance that at least one fan is going to die in an incident directly related to that series. I’ve been to regular season games between those teams at the UC that have seen near riots in the 300 level. I’ve heard Hawks fans start a rousing “De-troit sucks” chant during a game against the L.A. Kings. They’ve been waiting for this for years.

Oh yeah, the NBA playoffs were on the schedule last night, too. The LeBrons finally put the Atlanta Hawks out of their misery with a ho-hum 84-74 win to wrap up another sweep. It actually was a pretty close game, and guys like Delonte West and Mo Williams stepped up with big contributions down the stretch to hold off a scrappy Atlanta squad that just didn’t have enough healthy guys to compete. The Cavs are 8-0 in the playoffs, with all of the wins coming by double digits.

In Dallas, Dirk Nowitzki had 44 points (one for every alias used by his fianceé), including 19 in the fourth quarter, as the Mavs shook off a crapload of technical fouls and stayed alive with a 119-117 win over the Nuggets. Dallas trailed by 10 at halftime and for much of the second half as well, but finally took the lead on a Dirk jumper with less than three minutes left. Nowitzki’s heroics overshadowed Carmelo Anthony’s 41 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists, and 5 steals. Denver’s still up 3-1 and doesn’t look all that beatable at home against the Mavs, so don’t look for this one to be coming back to Dallas.

• At this point, I think the possibility of getting taunted on YouTube would be more of a deterrent than a yellow card for taking a ridiculous dive in soccer. West Ham’s David di Michele boned a breakaway against Liverpool on Saturday so bad that he had to act like someone tripped him, and nobody was buying it (he needs to attend the Drogba School of Diving). THE SPOILER has the video.

Randy Johnson gave up three homers in five innings but did enough to earn his 298th career win. If he can squeeze two more out of his arm before it falls off, he may just be the last pitcher to ever reach that mark. (Do you see CC Sabathia winning 15 games a year until 2022? Me neither)

• The duo of former Miami Dolphin cheerleaders came up just a bit short in their quest to win the Amazing Race. Jaime and Cara would’ve been the first all-female duo to win, but they finished second to the Asian brother-sister lawyers.

Dolphins cheerleaders Amazing Race

Chipper Jones loved Shea Stadium so much that he hyperextended his elbow on Sunday so he didn’t have to play at Citi Field last night. Larry even claimed last night that the two seats he purchased from Shea before it was a pile of rubble never made it to him in Atlanta, but the Mets countered that the chairs had indeed been delivered and signed for by a Mr. Jones, according to the NY DAILY NEWS.

• Giants closer Brian Wilson (not the guy who stayed in bed for two years) is a bit miffed at Casey Blake. Blake, who’s not a big fan of showmanship by other players, mockingly made the gesture that Wilson makes after a successful save after he took him deep on Sunday afternoon. Well, it turns out that Wilson’s seemingly brash gesture is a tribute to his Christian faith and to his late father. Not only does this make Blake a bit of an a-hole, but Aubrey Huff’s fists pumps after taking Joba Chamberlain out of the yard were way funnier.

• The silly scheme to keep Rachel Alexandra from running in the Preakness Stakes has been squashed, and the filly will run with the big boys on Saturday. Incidentally, Rachel Nichols‘ maiden name was Alexander, so expect Rachel Alexandra to start following around a horse named Brett Favra sometime next week.

• While John Calipari has trees exhumed from his new yard, the Kentucky Wildcat cheerleaders recently got back from spring break. And, by the looks of these photos (courtesy of UNCOACHED), they had a pretty good time:

Kentucky cheerleaders

• A New Jersey teenager has been suspended for hosting an NCAA Tournament-style bracket to pick his high school’s hottest girl. Must’ve been brutal to end up in the play-in game in that one.

David Cone is now on the phone personally trying to sell the expensive seats at Yankee Stadium, according to CAN’T STOP THE BLEEDING. I suppose that means he can get his wife into the ballpark, unlike some Yankee legends/broadcasters.

• Guess who Peter King says is the best team in the NFL going into next year? It’s not the Steelers.

Who ya got in Game 7?

View Results

Pens Fans Know Only Death Can Stop Ovechkin

One of the big knocks on Penguins fans is that they’re bandwagon jumpers. That they couldn’t fill their arena until they tanked to get two top-2 picks in a row. Basically, that at one point, Kansas City was considered a better hockey market than Pittsburgh. Well, one fan took it upon himself to show the world just how much passion Pens backers have.

Sidney Crosby

(Pic semi-related…just looking for an excuse to post it again.)

A 17-year-old from Pennsylvania is under investigation for posting a death threat to Alexander Ovechkin on a message board. The threat read: “I’m killing Ovechkin. I’ll go to jail. I don’t care anymore.” Actually, it had less punctuation and capitalization than that, but we all accept the Internet is as much a cesspool as central PA.

Screenshot of the threat, after the jump.

Read more…

Speed Read: Caps-Penguins Series Can Save NHL

It’s Gary Bettman’s wet dream, we’re just living in it.

alexander ovechkin

While NBA Commissioner David Stern sits back and prays for a Cavaliers-Lakers final, a matchup that would deliver LeBron James vs. Kobe Bryant, his NHL counterpart (and former assistant) is soaking in exactly what can happen when a sports two transcendent stars face off in the playoffs … and both deliver on all the potential.

After Washington goalie Simeon Varlamov stole the show with a spectacular save in Game 1, Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby both delivered miraculous games, offering up dueling hat tricks in Washington’s 4-3 win at a raucous Verizon Center. How raucous was it? Well, after you factor in all the Russians on both rosters and an entire arena filled with red uniforms, you definitely could have confused the setting for Moscow circa 1972 (with much cooler scoreboards and free burritos falling from the ceiling, of course).

sidney crosby

As if things couldn’t get better for Bettman and Co., the two stars are even lining up as unlikely heroes/villains. Ovechkin, who plays with more physicality and isn’t afraid to take an occasional penalty, is emerging as a sideline cheerleader, particularly in exhorting on rookie goaltender Simeon Varlamov, a recent Russian import who speaks next to no English. The role — and his growing household profile throughout America outside of sports — has made Ovie an easy hero character, a role he elaborates with agreesive fan interaction, leaping into the boards after goals and tossing pucks, equipment, anything he can get his hands on at fans after games.

That’s a stark contrast to Crosby, who is trying to play a steely leader to the point of taking some of the traditional lighthearted fun out of the games themselves. When fans started throwing hats on the ice after his hat trick, Crosby got the game officials to ask fans to stop it. It might be the only time in hockey history when a player asked fans to support him less enthusiastically.

Add it all together, and hockey finally has a must-see series in the playoffs  between a hockey market that loves its team (Pittsburgh) and a city which suddenly has elevated its franchise to near-Redskins levels.  It’s the dream matchup Bettman wanted, which means he’ll be playing with house money for the rest of the postseason. How often can you say that about hockey?

On the other coast, the road team actually managed to steal a game, although the playoff was in another sport. The Lakers entered their series against the Rockets highly favored to pull out the series in either five or six games. That’s looking a lot harder after a Game 1 loss … at home.

Sure, Yao Ming looked a litle gimpy toward the end of the game, but his team held on.  More importantly, his team’s defense was even better than expected, with Ron Artest and Shane Battier frustrating Kobe Bryant, and the rest of the defense forcing the Lakers into a 2 of 18 performance from behind the 3-point arc.

kobe bryant

Will Houston be able to keep off the L.A. pressure? Who knows, but one thing is certain: the road for the Lakers just got a lot bumpier.

Meanwhile, in a city that could very well host either the Capitals or Penguins next, the Celtics finally showed the wear and tear of the longest seven-game series in NBA history. After finally outlasting the Bulls without extra periods, the team that played more overtime periods in a single series than any other team had in an entire playoffs was run roughshod by a talented and quick Orlando team. The Magic attacked the basket with Dwight Howard, it hit threes and it controlled the tempo of the game.

So how did Orlando only win by five points? Well, that came via a combination of Boston threes, suddenly awakened fierce defense and a sudden lack of shot making in the clutch by the Magic. Make no mistake, this was a full Orlando meltdown, with the Magic’s 28-point third quarter lead whittled down to three in the closing minute.

In the end, Orlando still had enough to win, thanks to some fine inbounding work that got the ball to J.J. Redick.  But if there was ever a win that felt like a loss, it was this one, with the T.D. Banknorth crowd energized by a fierce comeback.

That just moves the burden of the series’ balance squarely into Game 2. If Orlando finds a way to win it, the series is all but over. If Boston jumps out to an early lead and controls Game 2 like it did the fourth quarter of Game 1, well, then Orlando may find itself scrambling to stay in a series it’s already overachieved in out of the gate.

Meanwhile, that other team from the Celtics’ city spent its first game in the new Yankee Stadium a lot like it spent two weekends ago in Boston: beating the Yankees. It wasn’t consistently pretty, but Boston got enough from Jon Lester and its bats off a shaky Phil Hughes to take home a 6-4 victory, it’s fourth straight over the Yankees this year.

jason varitek johnny damon

That’s all fine and good for the Red Sox. After all, they’ll take wins over the Yankees anyway they can get them. Still, just as Boston will be settling in at the new Stadium, they’ll have to hit the road again, the result of a brief two-game stint in New York.

The length of the series just doesn’t feel right. How can Boston open its tenure against the Yankees with only a two-game set? Not only that, the Red Sox then bounce home to host Cleveland, for two games, before facing the Rays again next weekend. Seriously, which scheduling genius at MLB set up the first Boston cameo at Yankee Stadium for a Monday-Tuesday two game set in the middle of the NBA and NHL playoffs? Not only is the length of the series ludicrous, the timing is horrendous, too.

david ortiz

Some games are just more important than others. MLB always contends that’s not the case, but it clearly is. The NBA gets it. The NHL seems like it gets it. The NFL definitely gets it. So why doesn’t MLB get it?

Will Boston take the win? Sure. Will it take the incredibly inconvenient timing of Joba Chamberlain’s start a day after his mother was arrested for dealing meth? Absolutely. Will that make a two-game set at Yankee Stadium retrospectively more defensible for the schedule makers. Sorry Bud Selig, it just doesn’t.

  • Speaking of the Red Sox and Yankees, Ben Affleck swears he’ll burn any Yankees gear given to his daughters as gifts. And he’s serious.

ben afflect sox hat

  • Even after his amazing series against the Celtics, the Bulls have a tough decision with Ben Gordon this summer. So, will they re-sign him? Readers of the Tribune say yes … but only by a 60-40 margin.
  • This photo from EVERY DAY SHOULD BE SATURDAY proves it irrefutably: Terrelle Pryor is never going to transfer. It’s certain.

terrelle pryor ohio state

  • Missouri is likely to start a highly touted freshman quarterback next year. If it’s this one, he’ll already have a wrap sheet.

Which team is more likely to land the second round upset?

View Results

This Caps-Pens Series Looks Really, Really Good

Look, we know as well as anyone else that one game does not make a series. That doesn’t mean that one game can’t set a tone for a series. After all, just look at Bulls-Celtics. If memory serves, that Game 1 was pretty stinking good. Well, assuming the rest of the Capitals-Penguins series plays at least a little like the first offering between the teams, a 3-2 Capitals win, this could be a truly captivating series.

alexander ovechkin

(Advantage: Ovechkin)

Game 1 had a little of everything. It got started with a Sidney Crosby goal. That was countered with a goal from his rival, Alex Ovechkin. And then, when it looked like things were starting to swing toward the Pengiuns, who were putting on better pressure than the Rangers did in their entire series against the Caps, young goalie Simeon Varlamov came through with the save of the playoffs, which we’ve got on video after the break.

Read more…

Speed Read: Has Twittering Gotten Out Of Hand?

We ask because, at this point, we could almost start a blog updating solely with news about Twittering athletes, coaches and GMs. Yesterday, we wrote about the infamous tweets of the Buffalo Bills and Brian Burke. Sunday, we wrote about Mark Cuban. And you know what? There are two more breaking Twitter stories this morning.

Mark Cuban

According to the ASSOCIATED PRESS, the inevitable fine against Cuban came down on Monday, and it landed with the resounding thud of $25,000. Considering the fact that Cuban’s rant was exactly 140 characters, Cuban was paying approximately $178.57 per letter for his screed against J.R. Smith. Not surprisingly, Cuban was none too happy about being lighter in the wallet, and he responded by questioning whether outlets - like, say, SPORTSbyBROOKS - has the right to re-publish his tweet, getting attention for it and, thus, earning him fines.

The answer, as pointed out by FANHOUSE, is a resounding “yes”. Because Cuban’s profile is set to public, we all get to read and re-publish his thoughts. That’s pretty much the definition of fair use. Yet the most interesting line of Cuban’s entire discussion with the FANHOUSE folks is his closing sentence:

@NBAFanHouse not close. I like to create discussion. makes things interesting

Yes, yes he does. At a cost of approximately $25G a pop.

Meanwhile, Celtics star Paul Pierce pulled off his best Shaquille O’Neal impersonation, giving away free tickets to Boston fans who showed up at his car and proffered up the pre-listed password (which, cornily enough, was “truth”). The first five jokers who have been stalking Twitter in their Paul Pierce 34 jerseys and jumped at the chance to meet him got the free seats, and web site BOSTONCS was there to chronicle the whole experience.

paul pierce twitter tickets

All of this got us thinking: Has Twitter officially jumped the shark? What started as a slightly clever way to send instant inside jokes became instantly cool when a few athletes re-discovered their inner dork, and it’s now gone so mainstream that mediocre stars need to imitate the big shots just to stay culturally relevant.

Add to that the mind screw that is Cuban doing anything — the eternal debate of whether he’s doing it because he thinks it’s cool, whether he’s doing it to manipulate the media and fans, whether he’s doing it for both reasons or whether we should even care because he’s such a tool — and maybe we’ve reached the point that we should all blow Twitter off indefinitely … or at least until Anna Kournikova shows up and starts describing what it’s like to get dressed in the morning.

Some news last night wasn’t quite fit to Tweet, because it hasn’t been completely wrapped up. As Jason first wrote last night, it sure looks like John Calipari is heading toward a long-distance commute from Memphis to Lexington, Ky.  Of course, we don’t know that’s true … yet, but there are plenty of reasons to believe the substantial rumors, one of which is this camera, which — as DEADSPIN first reported yesterday — is permanently trained on the door of Memphis’s Athletic Department.

John Calipari

In fact, the whole “Cal to Kentucky” bit is getting so much attention that, as Tuffy first coined in an email last night, you have believe the video alluded to in the ESPN.com screenshot below would lead to a camera trained directly on Calipari’s personal bedroom.

calipari espn.com screenshot

We’re betting it’s going to happen, and that it will happen sooner rather than later. And you know what? In the end, it’s a good thing for college basketball. After all, how great will it be to have Calipari and Rick Pitino facing off against each other in an annual turf war? And just think! This time it won’t just be about who can cheat to land recruits more effectively!

And just when you thought former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich’s pantomime villain routine couldn’t get any more obvious, it turns out he named a secret agreement to sell Wrigley Field to the state of Illinois — all in return for numerous tax breaks for former Cubs owner Sam Zellafter a throwaway joke in the Blues Brothers.

elwood blues license

Blagojevich referred to the Wrigley Field negotiations as “Operation Elwood”, named in honor of Elwood Blues (also known as Dan Aykroyd), whose listed address on his driver’s license was Wrigley Field.

It’s yet another ridiculous chapter from a brazenly agressive civil tyrant, but then again, what do you expect from a guy who, just months after being impeached from office, is already guest hosting talk radio shows and hand picking the callers.

  • Enough with real news, lets try to manufacture some that involves incredibly attractive people. Like Alyonka Larionov, who may or may not be dating either Alexander Ovechkin or Pavel Datsyuk. She’s also a budding viral video star, so maybe she’ll be dating someone else to keep her in the news soon, too.

alyonka larionov

mma keith jardine

  • Just because we haven’t covered enough Twitter addiction today: USC Coach Pete Carroll’s ridiculous campaign to get buddy Will Farrell on Twitter reached new heights, including this self-produced video.

jensen button girlfriend

If you were a pro athlete, would you Twitter?

View Results

Speed Read: UConn’s Calhoun Near Escape Plan

There was a lot of attention surrounding UConn entering last night’s Sweet 16 matchup with Purdue, and it was all for the wrong reasons. In the midst of an ongoing investigation of the school’s recruitment of now-departed super-stud prospect Nate Miles, no one has received as much heat as UConn’s architect himself, Jim Calhoun.

jim calhoun

Some are even calling the early stages of the NCAA’s review, which follows an investigation launched by Yahoo! sports, a second-coming of the precursor to Kelvin Sampson’s ouster at Indiana. The logic runs that, once the NCAA actually starts digging deep into the UConn records, they’ll find that Miles was just the latest in a string of recruits who were wooed by illegal meals, gifts and contact.

So what is a Hall of Famer like Calhoun to do? That’s easy: Win the whole thing, then walk away. If Calhoun’s Huskies get out of the gate as well as they did against Purdue last night. Not only did UConn sprint to an 8-0 lead and never look back, the Huskies showed the balance and Hasheem Thabeet-led inside dominance that could lift them back to another national title.

Sure, they’re out West, but with the additional inspiration UConn has received since its exit from the Big East tournament — first Calhoun’s hospitalization, then the Yahoo! investigation — UConn suddenly looks like the biggest beast left in the dance.

Meanwhile, Missouri proved that John Calipari - a past subject of NCAA indiscretions & Calhoun’s scorn after he stole onetime UConn recruit Marcus Camby - still has some work to do if he’s ever going to deliver a national title to the C-USA program he’s taken under his wing. Mizzou did everything that Memphis tries to do — run, trap, press and run some more — except they did it more effectively and efficiently. Even a late heat-check from Tyreke Evans and near-collapse from Mizzou couldn’t resuscitate Memphis, which means that the one team standing between Calhoun and a return trip to the Final Four is Mike Anderson. At least we know what the game plan will be come Saturday: Everybody press! Ready, break!

That wasn’t the case back East, where UConn once assumed it would be, and where No. 1 seed Pittsburgh struggled through another lackluster tourney win. It’s certainly not what Pitt fans will want to hear, but the Panthers just don’t seem to be clicking on all cylinders. In fact, one could argue that Pitt hasn’t played on its top speed since knocking off UConn … again … near the end of the regular season. In fact, let’s run the gauntlet of recent Pitt performances: Lost to West Virginia in Big East tournament, underwhelmed in beating No. 16 seed, trailed No. 8 seed Oklahoma State throughout much of second-round win, then eked past a Xavier team that should have been completely overwhelmed.

If that sounds like Pitt has set the table for a suddenly hot Villanova team to swoop in a steal a ticket to the Final Four, well, maybe they have. The Wildcats smoked a Duke team that was finally exposed at the point, with streaky shooters and with no semblance of a legitimate interior game. Perhaps not surprisingly, Duke again rolled snake eyes in the tournament because it was over-reliant on outside shooting and couldn’t stop a deep set of athletic guards and swingmen. Let’s see, Virginia Commonwealth (Eric Maynor), West Virginia (Joe Alexander), anyone in the Villanova starting lineup. Hmmm, anyone else see a pattern?

But there were other sports outside of the tournament right? Well, we suppose.

  • We’ve seen plenty of big sports stars in bad movies in the past — Kazaam comes to mind, no? — but none may be worse than the upcoming flick Never Surrender, which features Quinton Rampage Jackson, Anderson Silva, Heath Herring, and Georges St. Pierre and B.J. Penn.

washington capitals champ t-shirt

darren rovell fifth third burger

If I were Jim Calhoun, I would try to

View Results

Speed Read: Running Up The Score On Venezuela

WOOOO! YEAH! AMERICA ROCKS! OUR FOREIGN POLICY HAS JUST BEEN VINDICATED BECAUSE WE KICKED SOME ASS ON THE DIAMOND! YEAH! The score was USA 15, Venezuela 6 in first-round World Baseball Classic action last night, and with a 2-0 record in pool play, the Americans are assured of advancing to the next round. Your heroes are Chris Ianetta (3-run double in 6th inning) and Mark DeRosa (4 RBI). Wait, those guys are actually on America’s roster? Seriously?

Mark DeRosa slide
(DeRosa, proving that refs totally listen to you when you say you’re safe.)

As to whether we can glean too much joy from beating the tar out of a team from a country with a GDP that’s roughly the same as the state of Iowa? (By the way, you’ve got to click that link; I don’t know if Alabama’s or Texas’ corollary is funnier or more offensive to their residents.) Sure. For as meh a country as Venezuela is on the global stage, their lineup was filled with starting-caliber talent. The meat of the Venezuela order, consisting of Bobby Abreu, Miguel Cabrera, Magglio Ordonez, and Carlos Guillen, is downright All-Star quality. If only their pitching wasn’t garbage.

In college basketball, we now know five teams that’ll be losing in the first round of the tournament, plus North Carolina smacked Duke down for the ACC regular season title, 79-71. The men of the match were Tyler Hansborough, giving the Dean Dome 17 points in his last home game, and Ty Lawson, who was doubtful to play (oh, please) with a sprained toe but poured in 13, 9, and 8 in the win.

UNC Duke Scheyer Face
(Scheyer Face alert! Code red! This is not a drill!)

UNC’s now 6 for their last 7 against the Blue Devils, who were beaten for the second seed in the ACC tourney by Wake Forest. Suddenly, even a 2 seed in the NCAAs doesn’t seem so assured for Coach K’s charges. FIRE THE BUM!

As for hockey (or as they call it in Europe, “football”), we do need to commend Washington Capitals fans with a spirited, to say the least, attack on Sidney Crosby’s worth as a hockey player and as a man. The singular fatal flaw in their plan, however, was the fact that Crosby’s still one of the five best players in the NHL. As it turns out, Crosby made Washington pay dearly: one goal, one assist, and the clinching goal in the shootout to give Pittsburgh the 4-3 victory. But hey… nice work on the signs, fans.

Sidney Crosby Crybaby
(And you can’t spell “Penguin” without “P-U-N!” Wakka wakka wakka!)

As for Alex Ovechkin, the Caps’ superstar, he had a magnificent performance of his own. No, it won’t show up in the stat sheet… but it will show up on TV and YouTube, because it’s incredible. Courtesy of the DC SPORTS BOG:

Some links to consider while you recover from being run over by a bull

  • Did you ever watch that “Real Housewives of Atlanta” show? No? Us neither. But apparently the one who’s the ex-wife former Atlanta Falcon Bob Whitfield’s being sued by Whitfield for about $87,000. Honest mistake on her part, we’re sure.
  • The Toronto Maple Leafs GM, on whether the NHL will ban fighting: “I will personally challenge anyone who wants to get to rid of fighting to a fight.” Um, that’s a joke, right?
  • Fat Ronaldo’s back from that horrific injury, and his first goal is a game-winner in injury time. Naturally, it comes replete with fans going completely ballistic and fences being torn down. Because hey, it’s soccer, and that’s just, y’know, what you do.

Will Duke ever be better than UNC while Coach K and Roy Williams are around?

View Results

Alex Ovechkin Likes Tobacco, Girls, Driving Fast

Alexander Ovechkin is the best pure goal scorer the NHL has seen in quite a while (if he played 20 years ago, he might’ve scored 100 in a season), but the Capitals are a bit perturbed over a story in MAXIM that portrays Ovechkin as a Skoal chewin’, blond lovin’, fast drivin’ rebel.

Alexander Ovechkin Girlfriend Katja

An excerpt from the MAXIM story has made its way online, and it’s one of the more ridiculous things you’ll read this year. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think the writer was talking about a Russian version of Corey Feldman, circa 1987. He’s breaking all the rules. Yellow lights? Alex doesn’t slow down for those.

Excerpt after the jump:

Read more…