2:45 PM West Bromwich Albion soccer player Nicolas Anelka says he has "terminated" his contract with the team. The Football Association banned Anelka for five games & fined him 80,000 pounds (over $133,000) for making an anti-Semitic "quenelle" gesture during a game last December.
You! Yes, you, with the comically small amount of money! Would you like to attend an actual “sporting event” with “nationally recognized teams” and the possibility of seeing a “professional sports superstar”? Fret not! SbB@3 will put you in the cheapest seats imaginable, so you can have the privilege of squinting at millionaires who gave up on their season… often before it even began!
Our first special sporting event comes from sunny Los Angeles, the city where even the ugly people are beautiful. There resides sporting’s pre-eminent international man of intrigue, David Beckham. What would you pay to watch the superstar reinvent the sport of soccer for this great country? $500? $1,000? $55,000? Nay, nay, and nay!
After the first two games in Boston resulted in a 1-1 series tie, the Celtics-Bulls series felt like a truly 50-50 proposition. That’s definitely no longer the case, thanks to a 107-86 Celtics blowout that often wasn’t even that close. If there were any questions whether the reigning NBA champions would mount a credible defense after they lost game one, those concerns were answered last night, starting with a handful of Paul Pierce connections as the game tipped off, and continuing with another monstrous playoff performance from point guard Rajon Rondo.
Look, there’s no debating that rookie of the year Derrick Rose is going to be one of the league’s great players. And while he’s shown flashes of an ability to control the series at times, he’s never really been able to keep up with Rondo, who is taking the “third-year leap” concept to new heights. If Denver star Chauncey Billups is the MVP of the playoffs’ first two games, Rondo has the early lead after Game 3. Playing on a sprained ankle that was bad enough to need help from two teammates to get back to the lockerroom, Rondo still scored 20 points, hitting 8 of 15 shots and dishing out six assists while corralling 11 rebounds and finishing with five steals.
It was an impressive performance, one that was only truly outdone by Pierce, who finally decided to stamp his authority on the series as a whole. The Celtics captain scored 24 points, hitting his first six shots as Boston took firm control of a series that truly seemed to be slipping away from them. Now, instead of doubts about whether they should have trailed 2-0 heading back to Chicago, the only question is why they weren’t up 2-0 themselves, considering the fact that Pierce had a chance to win Game 1 at the free throw line himself.
Dallas may not be known for defense, but the Mavs held a San Antonio team that looked positively incapable of creating its own offense to 32 percent shooting after it hit half of its shots in the first two games. The Spurs look old, they look tired and they look as if Manu Ginobili really may have been the key to all the team’s past playoff success. Without the slashing Argentine, San Antonio looks headed for an early exit, which isn’t the kind of thing that anyone is used to in South Texas, or anywhere else for that matter.
An early exit is more than Tony Gonzalez has been able to get in Kansas City in recent years, which is precisely why he wanted to be done with the Chiefs. After months of lobbying behind the scenes, the All-Pro tight end finally got his wish yesterday afternoon, landing with the Atlanta Falcons on an offense that may be evolving into one of the league’s most dynamic.
Rather than draft Oklahoma State’s Brandon Pettigrew, the Falcons somehow found a way to land one of the greatest tight ends of all time. The real story is how they landed him for only a second round pick in next year’s draft. Yes, the 2010 draft class should be significantly deeper than this year’s, but conventional wisdom still holds that a second round draft pick in the hand is worth a third round draft pick in next year’s bush. So, the Falcons essentially just landed Tony freaking Gonzalez for a third round pick.
How could Atlanta have pulled off something no one else in the league could? It’s not hard to come up with conspiracy theories, particualrly since Atlanta GM Thomas Dimitroff worked for Kansas City’s Scott Pioli in New England. Sure, familiarity doesn’t necessarily breed bargain basement deals, but if Pioli felt he had to trade Gonzalez — and if he insisted on sending him to the NFC (which he surely did) — then why not cut a little slack on a former protege?
It’s not the first time that former New England colleagues have been accused of being in cahoots with one another, and given the spread of front office talent from the league’s most successful franchise, it almost certainly won’t be the last either. The real question is whether there were actual shennanigans involved … and whether anyone can find enough proof to make those accusations stick.
Speaking of hockey, you saw how Martin Brodeur lost his head as soon as he let a shot slip past him with just 0.2 seconds left? Well, he had it back, firmly in place for Game 5, notching an amazing 23rd career playoff shutout with 44 saves in helping the Devils take control of their series with Carolina.
No sooner did the Wizards officially hire Flip Saunders than the Kings made their coaching position available, too. Really, how long should we have expected a guy named Kenny Natt to last. So, who wants to coach a really awful team? Possibly former Wizards head man Eddie Jordan. After all, he’s got that crappy team experience.
You think that baseball umpires have it easy? Talk to Kerwin Danley. Actually, don’t talk to him today - he’s probably nursing one heck of a headache. Unlike me this morning, it was not as the result of a night of heavy drinking, but from a baseball bat to the back of the head. The DALLAS MORNING NEWS says that Danley was whacked by Hank Blaylock’s broken bat while working the Rangers vs. Blue Jays game, and had to go to the hospital with a possible concussion.
Please ignore the Zapruder film quality (get some video conversion software, people) and prepare to wince at footage of the incident:
Unfortunately for Danley, winding up in the hospital is getting to be a regular occurrence for him. You might remember last year when he took a 96 mph fastball to the jaw courtesy of Brad Penny.
If I were Danley, I’d avoid any home plate assignments for the rest of my career if possible. Or I’d only work from a perch about ten rows in back of home, or wearing more padding than The Michelin Man.
But also: THE KILLER BATS ARE BACK! I thought we stopped the maple bats’ raping and pillaging of the baseball world last season? Actually, I don’t know if that was a maple bat or not, but why not start the overly-heated, panicked reaction now?
Meanwhile, you might have missed this Washington Nationals bit of news because, well, they are the Nationals, but sluggers Adam Dunn and Ryan Zimmerman were forced to wear jerseys that said “Natinals” during a game last Friday. Which, as you can imagine, was a bit of an embarrassment … for Majestic Apparel, the company that makes all uniforms for MLB. (I can’t imagine the uniform gaffe caused Dunn or Zimmerman to lose their “Natinals Pride”.)
So MLB.COM says that Majestic has apologized for the mistake. They didn’t give an explanation for the error, but we can assume it’s because it was a Nationals jersey and no one cared. Apparently the Nationals’ clubhouse attendants didn’t care, since they just checked to make sure the names were spelled right on the back of the jerseys and didn’t look at the front when they opened the boxes before Opening Day. Honestly, you don’t wash those once to make it less itchy?
Finally, you have to wonder about La Salle University’s basketball recruiting process. After all, top recruit Karon Burton was supposed to be known for his speed, which led him to be named Delware County, PA’s Player of the Year this past season. But if that’s the case, how in the world did he, as the DELAWARE COUNTY DAILY TIMES says, get caught by a police officer when trying to flee on foot as cops were chasing him as part of a massive drug bust? Either someone’s scouting department sucks, or there’s a cop who should be receiving a recruiting visit.
But I’m guessing that Burton won’t be getting that scholarship anyway. He was one of 11 people arrested on Monday as part of a two-hour undercover drug sting. Police say Burton ran from a car that had tried to purchase heroin from a cop posing as a dealer, and he tried to ditch bags of pot before being chased down by the cops. But that’s better than the woman who was also arrested in the sting trying to buy heroin and cocaine - with her young daughter in the car seat in back.
Another day, another case of a South American soccer match turning into a giant brawl. SKY NEWS says this one in Argentina started after the captain of Guarani Antonio Franco (who I think was dictator of Argentina at one time) bumped into the ref. Here’s the wackiness that ensued:
Ole Miss DT Jerrell Powetold police that “he couldn’t read“ when they came over to his place about a noise complaint. The CLARION LEDGER says that Rebels head coach Houston Nutt is not pleased, especially since he’s had a history of eligibility issues with the NCAA.
Manny Pacquiao threw out the first pitch in San Francisco at the Giants’ home game against San Diego. The final verdict: more of a light jab than a knockout punch. Check it out for yourself (but don’t tell me you don’t want one of those T-shirts):
Even NASCAR is getting into the “helping the environment” business, with USA TODAY saying that for the first time, they will be using a hybrid as a pace car during the Coca-Cola 600 over Memorial Day weekend. This is what happens when the pinko leftists take over, people.
Congratulations, Blue Jackets fans: you got to see the first home playoff game in team history last night, as Columbus hosted Detroit. The bad news: THE HOCKEY NEWS reports that the Red Wings scored about one minute in and never looked back, coasting to a 4-1 win and a 3-0 series lead. But hey, you can show up tomorrow and be there to see the Blue Jackets get swept for the first time in franchise playoff history.
Finally, let’s give one last finger wag for Dikeme Mutombo, who the HOUSTON CHRONICLE says suffered a knee injury in the Rockets’ 107-103 loss to the Trail Blazers that Mutombo says is career-ending. And whom was he battling with when his knee exploded? Of course it was Greg Oden - he’s now made knee injuries viral. But let’s honor the defensive beast and great humanitarian by sexing someone tonight.
And here I thought no one really cared about the Columbus Blue Jackets. But someone in central Ohio apparently feels passionate about the NHL club - passionate enough to make numerous threatening phone calls to the team during the middle of a game.
Last night, the Jackets doused the visiting Calgary Flames, 5-0, thanks in part to 33 saves by goalie Steve Mason. And it must have too much to take for Peter Stenzel (pictured above in one of the greatest mug shots ever). So, Pete decided to reach out and touch someone - with a whacked-out verbal assault.
If you needed any more proof that the economic downturn is starting to seep into sports, here it is: The Columbus Blue Jackets, who happen to not be one of the professional hockey teams on the verge of bankruptcy (see under: Coyotes, Phoenix) are offering a payment “installment” plan to help fans pay for seats at upcoming games. As the unpronounceable yet terrific Greg Wyshynski writes in YAHOO’s PUCK DADDY blog — which may soon double as the “sad economic news in sports blog” — this just can’t be a good sign.
(Blue Jackets vs. Predators. Actual attendance: 2)
According to the team’s web site, the “payment plan” starts on Dec. 29th after paying the initial $10 when the seats are purchased. And what do you get for your 150 clams? Tickets to three weekend games … in the upper bowl. Lower bowl seats are twice the price. Ouch.
That’s right, it takes installments of $20 just to see a hockey game in Ohio in decent seats. Sure, the Blue Jackets may be paying steep rent for their downtown Nationwide Arena, but there has to be a better way to get people in the door to some of the most attractive games on the schedule (they can’t sell weekend tickets? Really?) than installment plans of $10-20, right? Evidently not.
The offseason gives hockey players much-needed rest, but it also builds up aggression in some that only the start of the season can release. Witness the Columbus Blue Jackets’ Jared Boll and the Dallas Stars’ Krys Barch going toe to toe last night, in a rematch of their brawl in January.