Review: Chronicle of ESPN Secrets a Page Turner

Ever thought of trafficking in the notoriety of an exclusive group of ESPN employees whose reputations precede them?

ESPN Montage

Me neither.

Though I’m pleased to report that all the dirty little, page-turning secrets about that uncommon club of sports commentators has been unbound for you and me to discover. Read more…

Simmons Slips Sly Reilly Rip Past ESPN Editors

Fun read by ESPN.com’s Bill Simmons about the Tiger Woods speech on Friday. There’s some good stuff in there, but one particular graf towered over the rest of the piece - at least for me.

Bill Simmons roasts Rick Reilly over Tiger speech reax

Three grafs down, Simmons writes:

But listening to talking heads praise that ludicrous speech pushed me over the edge. Someone actually said, “It came from the heart.” It did? Was it C3PO’s heart? I thought it seemed like an automated response from Microsoft’s new “Cheater’s Confession” program.

Either that passage is more coincidental than a Mark Geragos-led murder trial defense, or Simmons was referring to his ESPN colleague Rick Reilly.

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Did ESPN.com’s Bill Simmons Lift Blogger’s Idea?

Chris Mottram of SBNation.com points out an interesting coincidence between an ESPN.com Bill Simmons piece today and a post written by SBNation’s Andrew Sharp the previous day.

Bill Simmons

Sharp noted on Thursday that Titans’ running back Chris Johnson would probably be enjoying more celebrity if he had a more unconventional name. Simmons the next day? Same. Graf comparison after the jump.

Did Bill Simmons lift SBNation.com blogger’s idea about Chris Johnson?

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Simmons Mulls Own Site To Go Against ‘Big Guns’

As he makes the promotional rounds for his latest book, The Book of Basketball, Bill Simmons recently made an interesting statement to the HuffPo’s Jason Pinter - via THE ARENA BLOG:

Bill Simmons

(Jared, Bill invite us to eat fresh)

Part of me can’t shake the temptation of being the underdog again — like, launching my own sports site, hiring some talented writers and designers and trying to compete with the big guns. Like what Frank Deford did with the National. All right, the National lost $100 million. Bad example.

But I could see doing something crazy like that. I like taking chances, I am not afraid to fail, and beyond that, I am not afraid to fail violently and miserably. So anything is possible. A really good prediction would be, “Simmons is going to fail violently and miserably with a super-ambitious idea within the next five years.” Lock it down.

Two questions come out of this. Read more…

Miked-Up Mediasaurus Napalmed Into Stone Age

Apparently WFAN-AM’s Mike Francesa spent one of the 27 consecutive live hours of his daily show (live from Queens!) ripping into ESPN.com columnist Bill Simmons. Called him a “stooge” and a “fraud.”

Bill Simmons Mike Francesa

In the old days, if Simmons was a newspaper columnist, he’d have very little recourse. Back when Francesa mattered to under-54s outside the Tri-State, sports radio was the medium of immediacy.

Not anymore.

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Kornheiser “Would Quiver” With Fear On MNF Set

If you don’t already listen to Bill Simmons‘ podcast, we recommend doing so (if you’ve got the 50 minutes a day to spare, anyway). As chic as it is to hate Simmons, he’s one of the best sports podcasters in the business, and engages his (high-profile) guests as well as anybody. Credit where it’s due and all.

His latest guest yesterday was ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser, and as two neurotic writers are so often wont to do, they spoke frequently about their own fears. For Kornheiser, it’s flying. And while TK wouldn’t explicitly cite it as a reason for his departure from the show, it does sound like his departure was awfully good for his mental well-being.

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Blake Griffin Kicks Career Off With Shoulder Injury

Blake Griffin may or may not be a Hall of Famer by the time his career is over (believe it or not, we’re calling it “too early to tell” right now), but dude is just a horse of a ballplayer. Simply by the force of will, he should be able to be productive in the NBA for a while.

Blake Griffin Smiling
(Why are you smiling? You do know that jersey’s made of kryptonite, asbestos, and smallpox, right?)

Oh, wait, that’s right; Griffin is a Clipper now, and Clippers lose. It’s an immutable law of basketball. So scratch all of the first paragraph and replace it with “Blake Griffin is about to either die or wish he was dead.” To wit, the big man’s already injured, and it’s not just a hangnail.

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Speed Read: NL Weaker Than Obama’s First Pitch

If MLB and Fox executives are wondering why no one watches the All-Star Game anymore, here’s Exhibit A: the winning run for the AL in their 4-3 victory over the NL was driven in by an eighth-inning sacrifice fly from Adam Jones of the Baltimore Orioles, a name that resonates with a thud among all but the most die-hard baseball fans. And the person he scored was the Tigers’ Curtis Granderson, who can be politely called “slightly more well-known than Adam Jones.”

Adam Jones

To put it mildly, if the All-Star Game was a weekly series, it would be on the verge of cancellation by now. Especially after TV critics would have inevitably slammed it for its lack of imagination and formulaic structure. Yes, we get it - the AL is always going to win. Can’t we just have a twist on that every once in a while? (And not the shoddy “Who’s Going to Pitch?” cliffhanger that Bud Selig and company cooked up a few years ago.)

Barack Obama

After 13 years of not seeing the National League win, it’s not surprising that people just aren’t that interested anymore. But there was an attempt to spice things up this year by bringing in a big-game star for a special guest appearance: President Barack Obama. After warming up with Albert Pujols in the batting cages before the game, Obama took the mound and delivered a pitch that was about as effective as his pitch for the bank bailout.

I’ll leave it to WIDE WHITE to give a breakdown of Obama’s pitch as it relates to his policies, but suffice it to say that it was neither great nor awful. He should just be thankful that Pujols was there to make a great pick to keep the ball from hitting the dirt. (And that was Pujols’ best play of the night, since he went 0-for-3 before the hometown crowd.)

The game MVP was Tampa Bay’s Carl Crawford, not so much for what he did at the plate but for his actions in the field, most notably his catch that robbed Brad Hawpe of what would have been a go-ahead home run in the seventh. And the NL can’t blame the loss on the AL being fired up because of Ichiro Suzuki’s notoriously profanity-laden pregame pep talks - President Obama’s visit to the clubhouses took up so much time that he didn’t get to give one.

Speaking of Ichiro, he took some time out of his schedule on Monday to visit the grave of George Sisler, whose record for hits in a season he broke in 2004. It was a nice touch, except for the fact that instead of bringing flowers or a wreath, Ichiro just swore at Sisler’s grave for 15 minutes straight until being escorted away by cemetary workers. Oh well, I guess it’s the thought that counts.

While MLB was playing a game that no one really cares about, the NBA is knee-deep in something arguably more exciting and definitely more important: free-agency. The main story right now is what will happen to Lamar Odom, and the saga took another turn last night as the Lakers have pulled their three-year deal worth $9 million off the table. The reason? Owner Jerry Buss is upset that Odom’s people haven’t responded to the offer while continuing to negotiate with the Mavericks and Heat.

Lamar Odom

But there’s another free-agency drama going on that is a little more below the radar screen, but just as fascinating. The Portland Trailblazers have made a four-year, $32 million offer sheet to promising young Utah forward Paul Millsap, who is a restricted free agent. That means that the Jazz have until the end of the week to match the offer and keep Millsap on the team.

The problem is that Millsap’s offer from the Trailblazers includes an immediate cash payout of $10.3 million, which Utah would also have to do if they match the offer sheet. And apparently, the cash isn’t flowing through the streets of Salt Lake as readily as Mormon children, since the Jazz ownership would likely have to take out a short-term bank loan to get the deal approved. (Portland doesn’t have that problem, since $10.6 million is vending machine money to billionaire owner Paul Allen.)

Not only does this make me question the solvency of the Utah ownership group, but it also makes me wonder how the whole loan process would go down. Would they have to wait in line at the bank before getting seated at one of those tables out in the lobby. What would they have to put up as collateral - Jerry Sloan? It simply boggles the mind.

Other sports news:

  • It turns out that with 22 points, WNBA star Diana Taurasi outscored her blood alcohol level the night she was arrested for a DUI - barely, as the AP reports that she’s been charged with an “Extreme DUI” after her blood alcohol level was shown to be 0.17 percent - twice the legal limit in Arizona.
  • Speaking of the WNBA, they announced their All-Star Game starters yesterday. No word on if Michelle Obama will be there for the traditional “First Fundamentally Sound Screen” of the game, or if they’ll get “stuck” with Hillary Clinton.
  • One thing you might not have seen at the All-Star Game (other than the National League hitting the ball) was a lot of black players. The PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER floats one reason why: the lack of strong black male role models in the inner cities makes it tough to find coaches for organized games.
  • The WALL STREET JOURNAL gives us an “Unofficial Guide to Life as a Ref” while wondering why NFL refs make so much for working one game a week.
  • With all the talk about Tiger Woods taking on Turnberry this week, there’s one thing that should be noted: Padraig Harrington is going after his third freakin’ straight British Open title. USA TODAY says it might be difficult since he’s completely changed his swing from last year.
  • The World Series of Poker Main Event is down to the final three tables, and poker celebrity/Norman Chad man crush Phil Ivey is still very much in the hunt, standing at fourth place with more than 11 million chips. Antonio “The Magician” Esfandiari is also alive as they play down to the final table tomorrow.
  • Bud Selig calls claims of collusion to drive down the price of free agentssome make-believe scenario that doesn’t exist.” Right, because MLB would never get involved in collusion.
  • ESPN goes a different route and hires former NBC President Don Ohlmeyer as their new ombudsman. His first call: hiring his good friend O.J. Simpson to replace Bill Simmons as “The Sports Guy.”
  • Anthony Randolph notched his name in Las Vegas NBA Summer League history by tying the single-game scoring record by putting up 42 in the Warriors’ victory over the Bulls. Something tells me you won’t find any pictures of him posing with a basketball with “42″ written on it.
  • While sports talk radio is struggling elsewhere, it seems to be alive and well in Boston, where legendary rock station WBCN in being pulled off the air and replaced by the city’s third all-sports station.

Which remaining free agent is worth the most money?

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Tyreke Evans Can Drive… But He Doesn’t Shoot

In the various American professional leagues’ amateur drafts, attention is paid to both physical and personal characteristics. The NFL is generally thought of as the most egregious offender in overanalysis of prospects, to the point where the 49ers reportedly ruled Matt Stafford out for not being open enough about his parents’ divorce or something.

Drive By Shooting
(Not the right way to get into the NBA, you’d think.)

The NBA’s got its horror stories too, like Arizona prospect Chase Budinger being questioned about whether he had some side action going on (seriously, even if Budinger had three different girls to get down with, would that really affect his draft status? Should it?). Curiously, Tyreke Evans, a medium-to-high lottery pick, doesn’t seem to have been hampered by what would seem to be a relatively major red flag: complicity in a drive-by shooting.

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Jose Canseco’s Girlfriend Wants In The Ring, Too

Ever since Jose Canseco stopped playing baseball he’s been known for two things: ratting out other baseball players who have done steroids, and getting the crap beat out of him in boxing rings or cages. Canseco started out getting into a bunch of “celebrity” fights but then decided that getting his butt kicked by D-listers wasn’t challenging enough, so he made the logical decision to move on to fighting real MMA fighters.

Heidi Northcott Jose Canseco

Well, Canseco got taken down by a 7-foot tall Korean named Hong Man Choi and apparently he’s realized that fighting other celebrities is probably the safer route. Which is why his next bout is scheduled for July 24 at Damon Feldman’s Celebrity Boxing 10.  Though it’s looking like Canseco may not have to fight this battle alone because it seems that his girlfriend, poker player Heidi Northcott, wants some time in the squared circle herself.

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