You see in Brazil, they know how to scorn an opponent. You make your tiny, weak sign accusing Manny Ramirez of taking steroids, they unfurl a giant banner declaring Ronaldo “King of the Transvestites”. Nice teamwork and execution there. Plus, it’s a positive, upbeat message: They’re not saying that Ronaldo is a “dirty transvestite lover” or something like that. He is their king!
Fans of Brazilian soccer club Flamengo are obviously a little peeved at our chubby hero for forsaking their team at the last minute and signing with arch rival Corinthians a while back. Add to that Ronaldo’s infamous run-in with a couple of transvestite hookers last year, and you have the makings for comedy gold on Saturday at Maracanã stadium, when Corinthians came to town. But the banner was only the beginning. Read more…
So here’s today’s question to ponder while waiting in line at Starbucks: What would Pele, perhaps the greatest player ever in the world’s most popular sport, make today in endorsement deals? Is there a dump truck big enough to transport all that loot? As big as Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan are in the corporate world, as huge as Michael Phelps is and will become outside of the pool, if he played today, Pele would be bigger. Oh yeah, how quickly we forget.
It’s one of fate’s cruel ironies that David Beckham, who was practically booed off the field in his LA Galaxy closing act recently, made $45 million in endorsements last year, while the former Brazilian soccer great is struggling to make a living. All because he was born a couple of decades too early. Read more…
Back in April of 1996, Minnesota Twins manager Tom Kelly said of Mariano Rivera: “That guy, he should be in a higher league. Ban him from baseball. He should be illegal.” At the time, Rivera had zero Major League saves and the Mets and Yankees had never played each other in a game that counted. Last night, Mo earned his 500th career save in a 4-2 win over the Mets, and it will be just as memorable for what he did at the plate than what he did on the mound.
Rivera came in to pitch in the 8th inning last night with the Yankees clinging to a 3-2 lead and Met runner in scoring position. After striking out Omir Santos, the Yankee lineup ended up getting to Rivera’s spot in the order. And Mo did something he had never ever done in his Major League career — reach base. Not only that, he earned an RBI for his bases-loaded walk by Francisco Rodriguez.
Earlier in the inning, the Yankees had engaged in some shenangians, sending Francisco Cervelli to the on-deck circle for Rivera when Derek Jeter was up with runners on 2nd and 3rd with 2 outs. This led to maybe the only time in history in which Steve Phillips and Joe Morgan have made tons of sense. There’s no way Rivera’s coming out of the game, with the Yankees leading 3-2, yet Jerry Manuel initially chose to have K-Rod pitch to Jeter with a base open. Knowing, mind you, that there was a 0% chance that Joe Girardi would lift Rivera for a pinch-hitter. Morgan and Phillips stopped just short of calling Manuel a moron for throwing Jeter a strike on the first pitch. After two balls out of the zone, the Mets finally gave Jeter the free pass. Rivera, of course, strolled to the plate, and was promptly walked (after he fought off a tough 2-2 pitch).
Rivera is still #2 all-time in saves to Trevor Hoffman, but will go down in history as the best closer ever because of his ridiculous 0.77 ERA (in 117+ innings) and 34 saves in the postseason. Plus, he’s now the only closer in MLB history with 500 saves who has been walked by another pitcher (Hoffman has no walks in 35 plate appearances).
It’s only fitting that the Mets were instrumental in all of this, as they keep finding new and interesting ways to fail against their cross-town rivals.
1) Shortstop Stephen Drew lobbed a perfect strike to first baseman Mark Reynolds on a routine grounder. And Reynolds dropped the ball. Just dropped it. It was so bad, it actively looked like he was either trying to drop the ball or had never played baseball in his life.
2) Maicer Izturis lined a shot directly to right fielder Justin Upton. This ball also had the gall to hit Upton right in the glove, and he too made a complete mess out of it, as it bounded away from him and rolled to the wall.
3) The next batter, Bobby Abreu hit a ground ball directly at second baseman Felipe Lopez, who fielded the ball and threw him out. Unfortunately, the ball Lopez fielded was imaginary and the actual ball was somewhere in right-center.
This disaster came just one day after Arizona played a bunt by Erick Aybar into a t-ball home run (courtesy of two throwing errors on the same play). Is it any wonder the D-Backs are 30-46? Weren’t they one of the rising teams in baseball a couple of years ago?
And everything was looking really great for the U.S., which came back from near-certain elimination in the group stage of the Confederations Cup to shock Spain in the semis and take a 2-0 halftime lead over Brazil in the final. And while the Americans deserved the early lead, the Brazilians were clearly the better team over the course of 90 minutes, outshooting the U.S. 31-9. It was only a matter of time before they found the back of the net, and they beat Tim Howard three times in the second half to take the title.
The NEW YORK TIMES says that U.S. soccer narrowly missed a “moment” it needed to gain the sport traction in this country again. While the run to the 2002 World Cup quarterfinals was gripping, the games were played in the middle of the night and the Americans came up short in the one game everyone finally tuned into (the quarterfinal loss to Germany). Likewise, most casual fans missed the huge win over Spain on Wednesday, but were glued to the screen as Brazil stormed back to crush our dreams once again on Sunday.
Still, the U.S. soccer program is in better shape now than it has ever been, but if the sport is really going to take the next step in this country (if that can actually ever happen), they can’t afford to have a weak showing on the return trip to South Africa next summer.
• The single-A California League is known as the place where pitchers’ ERAs go to die. This is especially true in the wind-blown desert of Victorville, where the High Desert Mavericks scored 18 runs last night in a home game against the Lake Elsinore Storm. Oh, and they lost by 15 runs.
You read that right. The Storm scored 22 runs in the first five innings, then added 11 more in the last two, and beat High Desert 33-18. The game lasted 4 hours and 10 minutes and was played in 100-degree heat. There were 10 home runs hit, and Lake Elsinore’s starting pitcher gave up 11 runs and would’ve earned the win if his manager hadn’t lifted him with 2 outs in the fifth inning and his team leading by 11 runs. Lake Elsinore picked up 32 hits while the Mavericks had 26. Two of those hits were by outfielder James McOwen, a lightly-regarded prospect who extended his hitting streak to a league-record 36 games.
• TNT’s play-by-play man for NASCAR was suspended from yesterday’s broadcast for a “loud and public confrontation” that took place at his hotel the other night. Nobody in the booth mentioned their missing colleague, Bill Weber.
• BLACK VOICES says Serena Williams is writing a TV pilot inspired by both “Sex and the City” and “Family Guy.” Just to warn you, Serena, the Sarah Jessica Parker-looks-like-a-horse joke is kind of a tired bit now.
• Scottish star Andy Murray is drawing record crowds to see him play at Wimbledon this year, and he’s up against Stanislas Wawrinka in the fourth round today. And if you tune in, you might want to keep your eyes peeled for Murray’s girlfriend, Kim Sears:
The Pittsburgh Penguins finally figured out what they hadn’t been doing very well the first two games of the Stanley Cup Finals — cheating! Give the Pens credit for taking it to the Red Wings in the the third period (outshooting them 10-3), but there’s no doubt that the home team benefited from a few calls that led to a 4-2 win and a manageable 2-1 series deficit. Max Talbot scored twice, including an empty-netter to put it away in the final minute.
The most egregious no-call of the night came when the Penguins played for 21 seconds with six skaters on the ice — which four on-ice officials somehow failed to notice. Or did they? According to this MLIVE blog entry, Wings analyst Mickey Redmond said that the officials actually saw the Pens with too many men, and then told them to get a guy off the ice instead of calling a penalty. That’s a pretty serious accusation by Redmond, and an inexcusable show of judgment by the officiating crew if true. I know that linesmen will sometimes say something to guy who’s slow to get off the ice during a line change instead of whistling a penalty, but if there are six guys hanging out in the attacking zone (as there were last night), that’s supposed to be called 100% of the time. Soon after, the Wings were whistled for a penalty and Kris Letang scored on the power play to tie the game at 2-2.
(an approximation of the scene in front of Chris Osgood on Tuesday)
More pivotal to the outcome, however, was the questionable call against Jonathan Ericsson in the third period that led to Sergei Gonchar’s game-winning goal, while Pittsburgh’s Hal Gill has been doing basically the same thing over and over again all series long without getting called for it (This Finnish guy will tell you all about it).
Conspiracy theories abound that the league has had enough of the Wings winning and want to get Sidney Crosby in the winner’s circle to further secure his status as the league’s golden boy. It was Gary Bettman’s birthday yesterday, and there’s no doubt he’d like for this series (the highest-rated thus far since 2002) to go the distance. The DETROIT FREE PRESS even noted that Tony Kornheiser suggested on PTI that this is what Bettman would like as a gift:
“And now as a birthday present to himself, Bettman will instruct the referees to make sure Pittsburgh wins the next two games at home and Sidney Crosby gets a hat trick in each.”
If the Penguins can get another win on Thursday, they’ll at least ensure that this guy can “perform” to “Crazy Train” one more time this year:
Referee disputes aside, the Penguins were up to the challenge last night and the Wings have to be kicking themselves for not being able to convert on a 14-4 shot advantage in the second period. That was Detroit’s chance to seize control of the game and get the crowd out of it. And I’m sure Osgood wants the Gonchar goal back, as even though he was screened, he made a lackluster attempt to catch the puck when he did finally get a look at it.
Now, let’s move on to more important things. Like which professional sports team is going to be the first to be decimated by the swine flu.
• The possible secret weapon in negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea? How about Michael Jordan. The NEW YORK TIMES says that the reported successor to Kim Jong-il is his youngest son Kim Jong-un (as opposed to one of the many other Kim Jong-suffixes running around out there), who is a big fan of His Airness. That’s mostly because they’ve just finally received VHS footage of the 1994-95 NBA season in North Korea.
(Kim Jong-un just heard about this new band called Silverchair too)
• Want to know more about the man who motivated Jordan to become the best ever? Check out Leroy Smith’s official website (thanks to the SMOKING SECTION for the tip):
Yeah, I thought it was Eddie Murphy at first too. But it’s way too funny for him to be involved with, which is why it makes much more sense that this is Charlie Murphy, Eddie’s brother and “Chapelle’s Show” stalwart. Murphy’s playing the alter ego to the hilt, even doing an interview in character with Scoop Jackson.
• Speaking of the Nats, FEDERAL BASEBALL says they’ve axed pitching coach Randy St. Claire, a holdover from the Montreal days. The Nats are 14-36, and manager Manny Acta is rumored to be next to go. You know it’s getting bad when local TV analyst Rob Dibble can’t resist calling the Nats a “beer league softball team.”
Viagra sponsors race cars. It sells ads across the airwaves faster than it can pop out little blue pills, and it’s allegedly helping resuscitate the sex lives of thousands of middle-aged American men. Well, add “athletic performance-enhancer” to the list of modern factoids about the little blue pill because, according to this story in the soccer blog THE OFFSIDE, a Brazilian doctor has determined that the pills can enhance athletic performance when competing at high altitudes. Really.
(Smiling Bob: the new Ronaldinho.)
According to the theory, cooked up by Gremio team doctor Alarico Endres, Viagra will improve performance because it increases blood circulation, which would essentially help it play the role of the common cycling blood booster EPO. If he’s right, the Gremio players could perform at a significant advantage; not only would they have better stamina over the course of the game, but the prospect of fielding a team of 11 players with full erections would certainly cause an opponent to play slacker defense. There would be room to shoot, for sure.
Gilvan of the Novo Horizonte club was hit during the 63rd minute of his team’s match against Atletico Goianiense on Wednesday. The bolt struck the midfielder at, um, midfield, where he immediately collapsed and was rushed to the hospital while unconscious. Read more…