Speed Read: Punting Momentarily Controversial

With baseball not quite into the stretch run and the NFL and college football not quite ready to get underway, sports news has been a bit slow this week. So perhaps that’s why Punting-Into-The-Giant-HD-Screen-Gate just isn’t going away. Peter King spent an inordinate amount of time talking about it in his Monday Morning QB column yesterday, and he insinuates that the NFL might have as much to do with the mistake as Jerry Jones.

Cowboys Stadium

(Can’t the Geek Squad come and pick it up and put a new one in next week?)

It’s strange that the Cowboys had everything about the new stadium approved by the league, but Colts President Bill Polian — who is on the league’s competition committee — is quoted by King as saying this:

“The irony is that our stadium architect [at new Lucas Oil Stadium] wanted to hang the videoboards the same way in our stadium,” Polian said. “So we put a metal beam about 90 feet above the ground and had our punter at the time, Hunter Smith, punt the ball up there trying to hit it. He hit it the majority of the time. That’s why we put our replay boards on the wall.”

facepalm

Seriously, nobody from the NFL or the Colts, realizing that another team was building a new stadium, said anything to anyone else at the NFL or with the Cowboys about this possible issue? A guy on the competition committee didn’t see where the screens were going to be and say “uhhh, that’s not gonna work?” Or did Jerry Jones just not want to listen to anything because his punters don’t do silly things like kick the ball high and hard? Jones, for what it’s worth, installed the screens five feet higher than is required by the NFL. So why, if 90 feet wasn’t high enough for Indianapolis, does the NFL still only require 85 feet of clearance?

Cowboys punter Mat McBriar said yesterday that he plans on kicking to the sidelines, and isn’t worried about the boards. That’s great for Mat and all, but the problem is that you don’t want to get in a position of the screen being in play at all. It’s entirely possible that it could be hit two or three times in a row, and then you’re stuck with do-overs that exhaust players and open more opportunities for injuries.

The NEW YORK TIMES’ Richard Sandomir says that a screen like this is a completely new animal, and was specifically designed to hang at its current height. It is also designed to be able to be lowered, but not raised. One imagines that permanently raising it up would certainly be possible, but quite costly. And who foots the bill in that case? Jones (because it’s his stadium), or the NFL (because they approved it to begin with)? A Cowboys spokesman tells the DALLAS MORNING NEWS that the team doesn’t believe the height of the board will be a factor “in a competitive-game situation.” I guess they just think that A.J. Trapasso was screwing around when he plunked it.

But hey, I we’re just splitting hairs here. It’s a minor miracle that the thing still has a roof.

Cowboys Practice Dome

Don’t look now, but baseball’s 2007 darlings are well on their way to becoming baseball’s 2009 darlings. After a stunning walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the 14th inning from Ryan Spilborghs last night to crush the Giants 6-4, the Colorado Rockies are now four games up in the wild card race and just three games out of first place in the NL West heading into a huge showdown with the Dodgers at Coors.

Colorado Rockies

The Giants looked poised to pull within two games of the Rox, scoring three times in the top of the 14th to take a seemingly insurmountable 4-1 lead. But then Merkin Valdez completely blew up in the bottom of the ninth, walking pitcher Adam Eaton with the bases loaded to make it 4-2, then serving up the game-ending meatball to Spilborghs two pitches later.

Let’s be honest, here. The Giants are extremely fortunate to be anywhere near a playoff spot. It’s a testament to guys like Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain that they’re able to overcome an offense that features Bengie Molina’s .280 on-base percentage batting fourth every night. They’ve always seemed a bat or two away from being a real threat, and Freddy Sanchez wasn’t exactly the answer.

The Rockies are cruising now, and could potentially tie the Dodgers if they could pull off a sweep. Things are certainly much different this time around. The last times the Dodgers visited Denver, they swept the series and the Rockies fired Clint Hurdle the next day. Since Jim Tracy took over, Colorado is 53-26 and has cut L.A.’s lead over them from 14 games to three.

If Colorado can split the six games left with the Giants in San Francisco, they have a very favorable schedule, including 10 straight home games in September against the D-backs, Mets, and Reds. Then they get six games with San Diego down the stretch. It all leads up to a three-game showdown at Dodger Stadium to end the regular season. The Giants have nine games with Arizona and six with the Dodgers, but also have to go on the road to Philadelphia and Milwaukee while Colorado is in the midst of its long homestand.

Crazy to think that the NL West has become the best race in baseball, considering how well the Dodgers were going earlier in the year. And yes, a lot of that lead was built without Manny in the lineup.

Manny Ramirez Dodgers

 

NL West. Who ya got?

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Yeah, that’s really this kid’s name:

Mister Jones

His middle name is “Quincy,” and his entire name was devised by his grandmother, who filled out his birth certificate with his mother’s knowledge.

Mark Sanchez threw his first career touchdown pass…to the Ravens’ Haloti Ngata.

• A 13-year-old, 383-lb. football player from St. Louis collapsed and died of a heart condition last week during practice. Anthony Troupe, Jr.’s father dropped dead at the age of 45 in 2007. The AP asks if all student athletes should be tested for heart problems. I think the more reasonable question is why a 13-year-old kid was allowed to reach 383 lbs. Not to judge the kid himself, but someone around him should’ve taken some initiative to ensure that he was healthy enough to play football, considering the fate his father suffered.

• Hey, guess who just signed a $93 million extension?

Philip Rivers

• This whole Phoenix Coyotes business is just getting silly at this point. Jim Balsillie is offering $212 million to move the team to a place where it will become immediately successful, and the NHL is maintaining that they’d rather see Jerry Reinsdorf’s group buy the team for $60 million less and keep playing in a half-full building.

• SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY says that CBS and NBC are having trouble selling advertising for the Super Bowl and the Winter Olympics, respectively.

• Your ridiculously violent Bolivian soccer incident of the week, courtesy of WHO ATE ALL THE PIES:

Billy Wagner has shunned the Red Sox and will stay with the Mets, according to FOX SPORTS’ Ken Rosenthal. The Mets will get two draft picks for Wagner when he walks as a free agent following the season.

• …and, Johan Santana is probably going to miss the rest of the season. I’m surprised his arm just didn’t come flying off during his last start. Even Frenchy’s on the shelf now.

• Look, I know the WNBA isn’t very popular, but the NEW YORK TIMES might want to employ a copy editor the one time they actually put something about the league on the front page:

Leslie Leslie

(I’m suddenly reminded of former Wisconsin player Duany Duany)

Plaxico Burress went on ESPN last night and said that he didn’t even realize he shot himself until he saw blood dripping on his shoe. Well, that, and the really terrible pain coming from his leg. I guess he thought he just cramped up.

Speed Read: Punch McLean Is Tougher Than You

Remember when M. Night Shyamalan made good movies? And I’m not talking about the one with the kid seeing dead people. I’m talking about “Unbreakable”. That’s right, I’m the guy who liked that movie. I’ve stuck to my guns over the years on this on the off chance that the film enjoys a resurgence and I can take credit for being a fan all along.

Unbreakable

(”One hundred and thirty one die. One survivor. He is unharmed.”)

That’s all beside the point. The reason I bring it up is that there are occasionally people who show up in the news who defy all logic and survive in the most dire of circumstances. For instance, there was that 12-year-old girl who survived a plane crash in the ocean a couple of months ago.

But a new candidate for our generation’s David Dunn has emerged, and his name is “Punch”. At least, that’s the nickname former hockey coach Ernie McLean has gone by for most of his adult life. McLean coached at the major junior level for 16 years, and led the New Westminster Bruins to four Memorial Cup titles (that’s the biggest prize at that level of hockey).

Ernie Punch McLean

(Punch once got lost in the pattern of this jacket for three days without food or shelter)

He’s also survived a number of incidents that would’ve killed most mere mortals. The latest came this week, when the 77-year-old endured five days and four nights lost in the wilderness in British Columbia when he fell into a crevice while prospecting for gold (they still do that?). With no food, and subsisting just on stream water, he spent entire days walking and eventually reached higher ground, where he was spotted by a helicopter search team.

Most 77-year-olds couldn’t last a full day without their heart pills and a “Diagnosis Murder” rerun. But this is no ordinary 77-year-old. Says CBC in a story about McLean’s latest heroics:

Reed credited McLean’s legendary toughness, and a bit of luck, for his survival, noting McLean previously survived a plane crash in Saskatchewan, and walked out of the woods alive a few days later despite losing an eye and breaking several bones.

He’s also survived car accidents, being run over by a bulldozer and being stranded on a frozen lake in freezing conditions for several days.

Yeah, I’m pretty sure if you’ve wandered around without an eye for a few days that being a little wet in the forest isn’t going to really phase you. Perhaps McLean should ditch the gold prospecting in the deep wilderness and do something a little more acceptable for an old guy, like going to the golf course with a big net and fishing out Titleists. See if you can turn that into a weeklong “Blair Witch” debacle, Punch. (h/t to the PUCK DOCTORS)

Dease Lake

(I guess being lost in nice scenery is better than being locked in a car trunk for a week)

Perhaps she should be more worried about her husband hanging out with teenagers, but it looks like Danica Patrick has made her decision about where she’ll be racing next year. And while jumping to NASCAR would provide unbelievable marketing opportunities and a much larger audience, both on TV and at the track, it appears that she’ll be hanging around with IndyCar for at least one more year. (I bet the new turbo button had something to do with it.)

Danica Patrick stretching

(Maybe if she stopped holding the steering wheel like this, she’d win a race or two)

MVN’s Christopher Estrada seems convinced from the tweets of the INDIANAPOLIS STAR’s Curt Cavin that Danica is about to sign a new deal with Andretti Green Racing. But all the L.A. TIMES would say on Sunday morning is that the chances of her staying were “more than 50%,” and an AP story from after Sunday’s race in Sonoma made it sound that while a deal was close, nothing was really finalized.

I suppose there’s not too much to be read into any of this. While Patrick visited several NASCAR teams during the year, it doesn’t sound like any real serious offers have been made for her services. Perhaps she’s using the news of her impending new deal with AGR as a last-ditch call for offers from the left-turn circuit. For now, her line of reasoning is, “The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know.” That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement.

Danica leaving IndyCar would be a huge blow for the series, to the point where viability would have to become a concern. There’s nothing wrong with Dario Franchitti, Scott Dixon, and Ryan Briscoe, but could you pick them out of a police lineup? Ratings are hockey-esque as it is, so removing the one bankable star would be a big problem. Would ABC even want to show races other than the Indy 500?

For now, that’s a question that doesn’t need to be asked.

Danica Patrick bikini beach on all fours

Is IndyCar doomed if Danica Patrick leaves?

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• BASEBALL DIGEST wonders why the Mets acknowledged every other living member of the 1969 World Series championship team during a ceremony on Saturday night (even those that didn’t attend), but completely ignored second baseman Ken Boswell. Boswell played 102 games that year and spent eight years with the Mets, but reportedly didn’t even get an invitation to the celebration.

• A golf course groundskeeper found a 10-pound mammoth tooth on one of the greens at the course he works at in Michigan. Does that count as an immovable obstruction, or do you have to putt around the tooth?

• Well, Michelle Wie has finally won something. Of course, she needed 11 other people to help her do it. The Americans wore some nice matching outfits and took down the Europeans to win something called the Solheim Cup.

Solheim Cup

Jason Giambi’s pulling a Dave Kingman and going to Colorado’s AAA affiliate to play for a week or so before the team plans to call him up for September. Am I dating myself with a Dave Kingman reference?

• NESN is freaking out that Ken Rosenthal supposedly suggested that the Red Sox might acquire Billy Wagner to be their closer next year and then ship Jonathan Papelbon up to somewhere other than Boston. The theory being that they’re grooming Daniel Bard for the closer job and just need a guy like Wagner to bridge the gap. Perhaps this is why Paps isn’t too comfortable with the whole thing. And I’m NOT going to post the dance video again…oh, who am I kidding:

(”Nawt Paps! Who’ll do the rivahdance? Wagnah sucks!”)

• Ravens rookie linebacker Tony Fein was arrested last night after he allegedly shoved a police officer. A security guard at a restaurant that Fein was eating at thought that he saw Fein pass a gun to one of his friends. It was a cell phone. Police arrived and then things got testy. This is why I’ve always said that the Glock Blackberry was a bad idea.

• I thought John Smoltz refused a AAA assignment, so why was he pitching against the Padres yesterday?

• At least 27 Tulane football players have been struck by a rapidly spreading flu bug. It’s not yet known whether or not they have swine flu, but it’s not being ruled out at this point.

• BLEACHER REPORT wonders why the Oklahoma Sooners are playing the first football game that actually means something at the new Cowboys Stadium.

Cowboys Stadium

(I’m pretty sure I could punt a ball into that screen)

• The WIZ OF ODDS says Barrow, Alaska’s high school football team is off to an unfortunate 0-3 start after a 48-13 loss at home on the blue turf on Saturday afternoon. Barrow is the northernmost town in North America and is only accessible by plane. And yes, they start playing in mid-August to take advantage of “summer” temps that soar into the low 40s. For more on Barrow’s team, see this post we did last year.

• The man arrested for stabbing English soccer player Calum Davenport is the boyfriend of Davenport’s sister. Cara Davenport is pregnant, allegedly with the attempted-murderer dude’s child. And now her brother will likely never play soccer again, and her mother is also in the hospital for stab wounds. Yikes.

Speed Read: NCAA Tries To Erase History Again

I have always thought it’s weird when people bring up the idea of removing steroid-era numbers from baseball’s official record book, as if history can be fixed simply by ignoring it. Say what you want about Barry Bonds or Mark McGwire, but every single home run they hit counted in a real-life Major League Baseball game.

Derrick Rose John Calipari

(This never happened.)

Of course, the NCAA has been pulling these sort of shenanigans for years, “vacating” wins for schools that violate the rules. The latest to apparently earn this wrath is the University of Memphis basketball program, whose run to the 2008 title game is reportedly going to be vanishing from the NCAA’s memory today. As far as they’re concerned, the 38 wins accumulated that year never happened because Derrick Rose had someone else take the SAT for him in order to get into the school.

For those of you scoring at home, that’s twice now that John Calipari-helmed teams have seen Final Four runs erased from the books, although in 1996 UMass was only forced to give up its 4-1 NCAA tournament record, and not its entire season, due to Marcus Camby’s indiscretions with an agent. In this case, Memphis’ whole season is being invalidated and Calipari is about to find his coaching resume to be 38 wins lighter.

John Calipari UMass

(This didn’t happen either.)

I suppose it makes sense on some level. If Rose shouldn’t have been eligible to play, then how could any of the team’s wins be valid? But ultimately, this is just a big fat case of “who cares?” Michigan vacated its two runs to the title game with the Fab Five, but what did that accomplish (other than banning the team from the postseason in 2003 for things that happened a decade earlier)? It’s not like they’re giving up anything tangible. The memory of what happened will always be there. Chris Webber isn’t suddenly off the hook for that timeout thing.

In a FOX SPORTS article, Antonio Anderson says it simply doesn’t matter:

“Honestly, I don’t care,” former Memphis guard Antonio Anderson said. “We know what we did. We didn’t do anything wrong, but it is what it is.”

And he’s got a point. The rest of the team didn’t do anything wrong. Even Calipari, it seems, didn’t do anything wrong here. Derrick Rose did allegedly do something wrong, but it’s unlikely that anything is going to happen to him. He, like Camby and Webber, will go on to make tons of money in the NBA while their former teammates are told that their dream college seasons didn’t even happen.

Of course, thus far, only teams that didn’t win the title have had such sanctions levied against them. It will be interesting to see if the NCAA is willing to strip a team of a title and hand it to the runner-up if something like this happens in the future.

Chris Webber timeout

(This…yeah, this happened.)

Should Memphis be forced to give up its 38 victories in 2007-08 if Derrick Rose cheated on his SAT?

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So, remember how (insert contending team here) was crazy not to give up half their team to get Roy Halladay a couple of weeks ago? Well, there are at least two teams that are feeling pretty good about their decision not to mortgage the farm for a short-sighted chance at success.

Roy Halladay

Last night in Toronto, Clay Buchholz — one of the players rumored to be headed to the Jays in a proposed Halladay deal — outpitched the man himself in a 6-1 beatdown at Skydome Rogers Centre. The win, coupled with a Texas loss, put the Sox back into the Wild Card lead by a full game.

Meanwhile, the Phillies’ “Plan B” when attempts to get Halladay failed, Cliff Lee, ran his record to 4-0 with a two-hit, 11 strikeout, complete game win over the Diamondbacks. Lee has pitched 33 of a possible 36 innings in his four starts with Philly and has a 0.82 ERA. Looks like he might be the 2009 version of CC Sabathia in Milwaukee, only for a much, much better team.

Cliff Lee

• Hey, everything I’m reading says that there’s still a lot of competition for the Vikings’ starting quarterback job. I am, of course, talking about D.H. Conley High School in Greenville, North Carolina. What, is there another team called the Vikings with some quarterback issues?

• Warner Robins, Georgia, won the Little League Softball World Series last night, crushing W’s favorite team from Crawford, Texas. Warner Robins is the first Little League to produce both a softball and baseball world champion (the boys won in 2007).

• English soccer team Burnley, playing its first Premier League home game ever (and first in the top division in 33 years), did the unthinkable last night, shocking Manchester United 1-0 on an awesome volley by veteran Robbie Blake:

• CNBC’s Darren Rovell says that ESPN THE MAGAZINE is allowing its subscribers to renew for a year AND get an ESPN.COM “Insider” subscription for a grand total of $1. The Mag’s GM claims that it’s a ploy to get more people to read Insider content, and not an admission that the mag is in trouble.

• ELEVEN WARRIORS says at least one witness says that Ohio State linebacker Tyler Moeller threatened a Florida man named Gray Decker, and that is why Decker flattened Moeller with a right hook at a bar and ended his season.

Here’s more details on the odd case of Caster Semenya, who won the women’s 800 meter run by a ridiculous 2 1/2 seconds at the World Championships. She is undergoing what is reportedly an “extremely complex, difficult” set of tests to determine whether or not she is actually a she. A gynecologist is involved, so I imagine that “extremely complex” is an understatement.

Caster Semenaya

• ONLINE SPORTS GUYS says an Albuquerque high school baseball coach has been fired for hiring strippers to “entertain” his team while they were on a road trip in Denver last year. Says one parent:

“We thank all our friends in the Albuquerque baseball community for their support and well wishes during this unfortunate circumstance where no one comes out a winner.”

Whoa, hold on there. I can think of at least nine people who probably think they came out a winner.

• How’s this for ridiculous? The entire Angels starting lineup on Tuesday night in Cleveland has a .300 batting average or better, and all have at least 225 plate appearances. An all-.300 lineup hasn’t been on a Major League field since 1930.

Angels all .300 lineup

 • After missing more than a year, Billy Wagner is set to come back from injury … and the Mets are trying desperately to trade him. Ladies and gentlemen, the inaugural season at Citi Field!

• Before the Mets’ game with the Phillies on Saturday, members of the ‘69 World Series champion Mets will help build the framework of a home for Habitat for Humanity. An hour later, the current Mets will help build the framework of another NL East title for the Phillies. Ladies and gentlemen, the inaugural season at Citi Field!

John Smoltz has sucked this year. So the Cardinals are going to see if he can magically turn into a good pitcher again.

• Now, it’s time for fun with Twitter. First, the BOSTON GLOBE’s Amalie Benjamin is a little, uh, overpowered by David Ortiz:

Amalie Benjamin David Ortiz Twitter

And, Nick Collison comes dangerously close to calling his wife an unfortunate name. Good thing you got that period there, Nick!

Nick Collison Twitter

 

Blog Jam: Ashley Russell Bounces To Big Ten TV

• BUSTED COVERAGE informs us that Ashley Russell, previously known as the ravishing reporter for Rivals.com, has found a network TV job.

Ashley Russell

Sure, it’s just the Big Ten Network, but everyone has to start somewhere.

• WITH LEATHER breaks down Billy Wagner breaking down at a press conference, as the Mets pitcher is asked about possible retirement.

• LARRY BROWN SPORTS realizes that Georgia RB Knowshon Moreno likes to get high during games - with big leaps over would-be tacklers.

• With Tom Brady on the shelf, FOOD COURT LUNCH suggests the Patriots give Drew Bledsoe a call - before he calls them.

Read more…

Schmidt To Phils: The Mets Know You’re Better

If the Philadelphia Phillies needed any extra motivation going into their three-game series against the New York Mets this weekend with the NL East lead on the line, they found it in Mike Schmidt. And it’s not just from the power of his luxurious mustache: he wrote the team an e-mail telling them that “the Mets know you’re better than they are.

Mike Schmidt

The results? So far, the Mets haven’t done anything to prove him wrong. They dropped the first game of the series 3-0 on Friday night, letting the Phillies pull to within two games of the division lead. Today’s game has been postponed because of Tropical Storm Hanna, leading to a huge doubleheader tomorrow.

Read more…

Blog-A-Roni: Titans QB The Young & The Shirtless

• THE SPORTS POINT uncovers photos of Tennessee Titans QB Vince Young partying with his pals sans a sensible shirt.

Vince Young drunk and shirtless

Maybe he should hook up with Jeff Reed.

• THE SPOILER passes along video of Diego Maradona back on the pitch & putting his butt on the line - or actually, on the ball.

• SPORTS CRACKLE POP! cycles up some perky pics proving that wearing a pink jersey does have its advantages.

• BROOKLYN MUTT swears that the Mets’ Billy Wagner doesn’t know why the *bleep* he’s being interviewed.

Read more…

Stewart’s A Soccer Stud; Cubs’ Zell Can Go To Hell

Someone better spread out some tarp for Scott Spiezio’s new jail cell.

Jon Stewart, comedic television star & collegiate soccer stud:

Jon Stewart soccer headshot

• Cubs owner Sam Zell chews on selling naming rights to Wrigley Field.

• The Atlantic City Surf is willing to take a big gamble on Cecil Fielder.

Tim Tebow is voting for none of the above.

Billy Wagner gets mad at Michigan players giving it the ol’ college try.

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Billy Wagner Resists Urge To Plunk College Player

NEWSDAY uncovers a fantastic quote from Billy Wagner regarding the Mets’4-4 tie with the Michigan Wolverines. Apparently the closer was thisclose to chuckin’ one high and hard at UM batter Kevin Cislo.

New York Mets/Michigan Wolverines

Cislo was attempting to bunt with one out and a runner at second base, and that was enough for Wagner to go into a tizzy. Later he told reporters “If he got that bunt down, I would have drilled the next guy […] Play to win against Villanova.” Read more…