Speed Read: Moral Victory Leaves Magic Down 2-0

If Game 1 of the NBA Finals seemly confirmed the suspicion that the Orlando Magic didn’t belong on the same floor with the Los Angeles Lakers, at least the Magic put an end to that on Sunday night in Game 2. They remembered how to shoot (at least two of them did), played some (at times) stingy defense, and generally were a total pest in pushing the Lakers to overtime.

Kobe Bryant

Unfortunately for the Magic, what they didn’t prove is that they could beat the Lakers in the NBA Finals, as the home team held on for a 101-96 victory to take a 2-0 lead as the series shifts to Orlando for the next three (probably?) games. But they came tantalizingly close at the end of regulation. Hedu Turkoglu found Courtney Lee cutting to the basket behind Kobe Bryant on an inbounds play with 0.6 seconds left and tossed him a lob that reached Lee but forced a midair adjustment, causing his lay-in to be just off the mark, bouncing off the front of the rim as time expired.

Courtney Lee

While the Magic might not admit it, they seemed drained by the missed opportunity in overtime, although their inability to stop Pau Gasol in the extra period was just as crippling. The Spaniard scored seven of his 24 points in overtime, including a three-point play with 1:14 left that gave the Lakers an insurmountable six point lead.

As for the Magic’s shooting: Rashard Lewis and Turkoglu were outstanding, with Lewis hitting 6-of-12 three-pointers en route to 34 points, while Turkoglu added 22 points including three three-pointers. The rest of the team? Not so much, as the Magic weren’t helped by Rafer Alston and J.J. Redick combining to go 2-for-17 for the game, including a woeful 1-10 from behind the arc. Also not helping: that J.J. Redick was anywhere near the floor for any length of time, much less 27 minutes. For all the great coaching Stan Van Gundy might have done in Game 2, that can’t be considered his finest hour.

Right now, it will take an amazing comeback for the Orlando Magic to win the NBA Title. (Before the 2006 Miami Heat did it, who was the last team to go down 2-0 and win the NBA Title? The 1977 Portland Trail Blazers.) But perhaps they need to take a clue from famous local resident and occasional Magic fan Tiger Woods, who had some Magic of his own on Sunday, no overtime needed. Woods came from four shots back to win the Memorial Tournament in front of host Jack Nicklaus with one of his most impressive final round performances, shooting a 65 while hitting every fairway in regulation.

Tiger Woods

The performance was awe-inspiring enough to prompt Nicklaus to cave in Woods’ surgically repaired knee with a nine-iron after the match in an attempt to prevent Woods from reaching his record of 18 major championships, before standing over a fallen Woods and shouting a Ric Flair style “Woooooooo!” Actually, that’s a lie; in fact, Nicklaus remarked that it would “greatly surprise” him if Woods didn’t win major No. 15 in two weeks at the U.S. Open.

Finally, it’s kind of hard to fault the San Diego Padres’ Josh Wilson for giving up the go-ahead three-run homer to the Diamondbacks’ Mark Reynolds in the 18th inning of Arizona’s 9-6 win on Sunday. Sure, Wilson might have had extra motivation for pitching against the team that released him earlier this season, but he really shouldn’t have been out there anyway. Wilson is an infielder, and was only pitching after Padres manager Bud Black ran out of pitchers in bullpen. So he sent Wilson out there, who got fastballs up to 88 mph and mixed in a few change-ups as well.

David Eckstein

Also, when you are relying on David Eckstein to homer to take the game into extra innings, you really should consider yourself lucky to be there in the first place, which is what the Padres needed in the ninth inning to erase a three-run deficit. Then again, the Padres really didn’t do much after that against the Diamondbacks’ bullpen, getting no-hit for all nine innings of extra baseball.

  • THE SPORTS HERNIA wonders if Pau Gasol might be missing Game 3 after some…explosive rectal issues?
  • Pau Gasol

  • Chicago Cubs broadcaster Bob Brenly has a message after watching the Cubs slog to a 4-3, 11-inning loss to the Cincinnati Reds on Sunday: “If there are any Little Leaguers watching, turn the TV off.”
  • Former Philadelphia Eagles defensive lineman Sam Rayburn tells the PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER that he was taking more than 100 painkillers a day before being caught forging prescriptions and getting clean. Or as Elizabeth Taylor would call that, lunch.
  • What could bring together Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and former head coach Jimmy Johnson? How about a concert headlined by George Strait and Reba McEntire to open the new Cowboys Stadium?
  • Just when things couldn’t get any worse for the Washington Nationals, DC SPORTS BOG checks in with this: they had a malfunction during their fireworks display, and the debris just happened to fall on the D.C. fire chief. Proving that the Nationals really have turned into a bad 1970s sitcom.
  • Mike Brown proved that his WEC featherweight title victory over Urijah Faber in November was no fluke in the rematch on Sunday, going into Faber’s hometown of Sacramento, CA and winning a unanimous decision that left Faber in the hospital after the match.
  • Among the “highlights” of the ongoing court battle over the fate of the Phoenix Coyotes: the Phoenix suburb of Glendale (where the Coyotes actually play) is suggesting that coach and minority owner Wayne Gretzky is “overpaid” and should have his salary cut by more than $6 million. Because going after The Great One is a winning legal strategy in Canadian courts.
  • David Wells says that Jose Canseco offered HGH to him when they were teammates on the Chicago White Sox, but he declined. Instead, he dropped 30 pounds by giving up beer in the offseason and actually working out. Also, is there anyone Jose Canseco hasn’t offered performance-enhancing drugs to in baseball at this point?
  • HOME RUN DERBY casts a discriminating eye at the reverse negative error baseball card, the bain of beleaguered Topps photo editors everywhere. (Well, specifically at the Topps offices, I guess.)
  • Long Island high school athlete Ryan Harrigan uses his abilities to chase down a would-be purse snatcher while working his after-school job as a grocery store employee. Would you like paper, plastic or handcuffs, Sir?

What was the most impressive performance yesterday?

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Speed Read: ESPN Pulls Its Punches With WWE

If you’ve watched ESPN for more than five minutes this week, you know that last night was the season premiere of “E:60″, ESPN’s version of “60 Minutes,” and the featured story was a “rare, behind-the-scenes” look at the WWE and a profile of Vince McMahon. Jeremy Schaap was sent out to watch as the organization prepared for Wrestlemania.

Vince McMahon at Chris Benoit special on Raw

The choice of reporters makes sense - McMahon is notoriously volatile with cable TV reporters and diminutive hosts alike, while Schaap is best known for not being as good as his Dad (in the opinion of Bobby Knight). And because of the controversy which always surrounds the WWE, there were a litany of hard-hitting questions that Schaap could have asked - questions that other reporters either didn’t know to ask or wouldn’t.

So what was the end result? If you guessed “a 13 minute long sloppy wet kiss to Vince McMahon from your friends at ESPN,” you win an autographed 8 x 10 of Mean Gene Okerlund. Because what Schaap and the E:60 crew put together was - at best - shockingly lax reporting bordering on the type of fawning, hands-off “journalism” you would expect from “Access Hollywood.”

Don’t believe me? Watch it for yourself, and pay attention to all the times Schaap completely whiffs on asking a tough question, or when he does, how it’s set up as the perfect softball for McMahon to nail over the fence. I would suggest making a drinking game of it, but this is a morning post and I don’t want people to get too plastered to go to work today.

Apparently in ESPN’s world, Owen Hart’s death never happened, and the XFL was just a figment of my imagination. And even the “tough issues” they touched on were either brushed over or poorly handled.

For example, let’s look at the segment on Chris Benoit. First off, Schaap mentions McMahon’s federal steroids trial and his own admission of steroid use, but never actually asks him a question about it. And he doesn’t follow up on the WWE’s “Wellness Policy” - which has been highly criticized in the industry - other than to say “why do you need one at all?” and give McMahon a perfect opportunity to play the role of the caring boss who only wants the best for his employees.

Of course, getting sidetracked into steroid talk overlooks significant issues in the Benoit case, like how much Benoit’s history of multiple concussions might have rattled his brain to the point of no return, or how the WWE’s insane travel schedules with almost no time off can crack anyone. (They did briefly mention the WWE’s treatment of wrestlers as “contractors”, but again they didn’t ask McMahon directly about it, or any of his current roster.)

Which makes me wonder: just how much did ESPN have to give up in order to get the “exclusive” access to the WWE? It sure seemed like there was a whole list of questions that were off-limits, or at least not fully explored. I think the level of “exclusive” access ESPN received is best summed up by the fact that they were kicked out of the weekly WWE production meeting midway through because they were hitting on something Vince McMahon didn’t want to share.

But I’m sure that Schaap would argue the point tooth and nail with me…except that I read this interview with him about his profile of the WWE, and he basically admits that this was a softball piece:

I think our interview is very different and it revealed a different side of him. I didn’t go into it and put him on the defensive. We asked him the tough questions - you have to ask him the tough questions and he addressed them but he didn’t get defensive or angry as you’ve seen him in previous interviews because he understood we were approaching it from a perspective of giving him a chance and treated him with the respect that you would treat Paul Tagliabue or Roger Goodell now or Gary Bettman or George Steinbrenner. I’ve seen George Steinbrenner interviewed over the years many times - not recently of course because he has not been well - but George Steinbrenner is a guy who, with all due respect, is a felon. A guy who was kicked twice out of major league baseball, once for committing federal felonies, once for hiring a known extortionist and ex-con to dig up dirt on his best player Dave Winfield and yet, have you ever hear anybody interview George Steinbrenner on TV or in a press conference or any situation as rudely as sometimes Vince McMahon has been treated?

Good lord…sounds to me like Schaap is angling for a spot as a guest ring announcer at next year’s Wrestlemania. Have fun with that. Simply embarrassing - someone wake the ESPN Ombudsperson from her slumber and have her try to explain this to me.

Knee injuries in girls

Also needing to do a better job of explaining things: sports medicine expert Dr. Robin West, who was interviewed by the NBC Nightly News for a look at the rise of knee injuries among young athletes (surprise - they are being pushed too hard too soon by overbearing parents). In a Web exclusive, Dr. West talks about why female athletes are especially at risk for ACL injuries, and why menstruation might be a factor. Or not.

This is about as confusing as Newt Gingrich trying to explain why women can’t serve on the front lines in the military because they get “infections” once a month. So having a period makes athletes more susceptible to knee injuries? Got it. And goes a long way to explain so much about Tom Brady. ZING!

(Also, I question giving anything the title “Knees: The Achilles Heel of Girls’ Sports.” Wouldn’t the Achilles heel be the Achilles heel of girls sports? Unless women don’t have an Achilles heel - let me check my copy of “Our Bodies, Ourselves” and get back to you.)

Lastly, the computer the NFL uses to create its schedules - which I suspect has a computing power somewhere between the evil machine from “War Games” and Hal from “2001″ - finally spit something out last night for the rest of us to ponder. Among the teams cursing the results, according to THE SPORTING NEWS, are the Bucs, Panthers and Dolphins, while somehow the Steelers wound up with a relatively pothole-free schedule. Go ahead and start the conspiracy theories now.

Other stories that happened last night as you tried to come up with a worse way to die than being crushed by a palm tree:

  • It looks like TBS has found its baseball version of Charles Barkley, as they have announced the signing of David Wells as studio analyst for their MLB coverage. Much like Barkley, he’s fat, frequently in trouble and has a loud mouth. I’m sure he’ll mesh well with Cal Ripken.
  • david wells dodgers

  • You might remember a few weeks ago when members of the Oregon basketball team were accused of some Duck-on-duck crimes. The EUGENE REGISTER-GUARD reports that as punishment for shooting at ducks at a local park, head coach Ernie Kent has ordered the players to work at a local humane society.
  • The SPOKESMAN-REVIEW says that Washington State might be done with football players Romeo Pellum and Micheal Willis, after they were arrested early Saturday morning on separate driving charges (suspended license and DUI, respectively). At least they were able to save head coach Paul Wulff having to drive over to the jail twice to pick them up - how thoughtful.
  • According to the AP, Asian Football Confederation president Mohamed bin Hammam threatened to “cut off the head” of the leader of the Korean Football Association in a recent interview, which sort of irritated the Koreans. I can’t imagine why.
  • Speaking of soccer, Chelsea and Liverpool had one of the craziest games in recent memory yesterday during the second leg of their UEFA Champions League quarterfinal, with the game ending in a 4-4 draw and Chelsea advancing on a 7-5 aggregate. The LOS ANGELES TIMES has the blow-by-blow.
  • Don’t really know much about Masters champion and now two-time major winner Angel Cabrera? This piece in the SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE will change that, and give you a new appreciation of just where he’s come from - he’s no silver spoon, well-bred golfer.
  • New Jersey has just built a new state-of-the-art arena for the Devils and also upgrading the Meadowland’s Izod Center, the home of the Nets which is just eight miles away. As the NEWARK STAR-LEDGER notes, some people are wondering if this money could be put to slightly better use.
  • Apparently in Wisconsin, you can’t have junior hockey without booze, which is why the JANESVILLE GAZETTE says that Janesville City Council had to vote to allow the local ice rink to sell alcohol. The City Council did need to look up wine coolers online as part of their debate, making me wonder what self-respecting drunk hockey dad would be caught dead with a wine cooler?
  • The Mets opened Citi Field in ignomious fashion, with a 6-5 loss to the Padres. So it’s probably for the best that, as NEWSDAY reports, many fans weren’t able to see the game thanks to “obstructed view” seats.
  • Least surprising story of the baseball season so far: MLB.COM says Nomar Garciaparra left the Oakland A’s game against the Red Sox after one inning with soreness in his calf muscle.

What is the greatest prop in the history of wrestling?

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Speed Read: Seymour’s Wife Arrested In Lynching

I cringe when I hear the words “lynching” and “South Carolina” in the same sentence. But this is about as bizarre as it gets. THE STATE is reporting that Tanya Seymour, the wife of New England Patriots defensive lineman Richard Seymour, was arrested on Thursday and charged with second-degree lynching stemming from an incident at a New Year’s Eve party. (This is what happens when you change the channel from “Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve” to MTV without asking.)

Tanya Seymour mug shot

I’m sure your initial reaction is the same as mine: lynching? Turns out that no ropes were used: PRO FOOTBALL TALK breaks down the South Carolina Code of Laws, which defines second-degree lynching as “any act of violence inflicted by a mob upon the body of another person and from which death does not result.” So maybe not quite as horrific as you would first think, but still not good.

Richard Seymour

Police allege that Tanya Seymour was among a group of people who “jumped” two women at a New Year’s Eve party after they had got into an argument and were asked to leave. The arrest affidavit claims that Tanya Seymour was part of the mob, and punched the two women several times in the face and body. Oddly enough, the affidavit also claims that she had use of illegally obtained scouting videos to prepare for the beatdown.

The injuries were fairly minor, including bruises, a busted lip and a sprained wrist. One of the women also claimed that her scalp was sore from having it pulled during the fight. And in one of the most obvious statements I’ve ever seen in a news story:

“The victims left after the attack, the incident report says.”

Really? Because I heard some people were making a run for another keg.

If convicted, Tanya Seymour faces up to 20 years in prison. The incident adds to the list of problems her husband has had to deal with in recent years, including his father killing his former girlfriend before killing himself. And if San Diego Chargers center Nick Hardwick thought Seymour was a dirty player, he really wouldn’t want to face his wife.

And speaking of beatdowns: Joe Torre might want to be leery if David Wells invites him to watch the Super Bowl with some of his buddies at his place this weekend.  The NEW YORK DAILY NEWS says that Wells has vowed to “knock him out” if he ever sees Torre on the street after his former skipper ripped him in his new book. Specifically, Torre compared Wells to Kevin Brown, except that “both make your life miserable, but David Wells meant to.

Joe Torre and David Wells

And of course Wells has a great response to those allegations: sure, he was a total pain, but not on purpose. Like when he would yell at Torre in the locker room because the manager had the temerity to turn down his boombox when he was blasting it before the games. Or get in drunken fistfights at diners at all hours of the night.  Based on Wells’ health issues and Type 2 Diabetes, Torre might want to carry around some concealed Pixy Stix in case he needs a weapon to defend himself against an attack.

  • …and No. 1 on David Letterman’s Top Ten Reasons He Likely Won’t Field an IndyCar Team This Year: no money. Not very funny, but then again, his partner Bobby Rahal isn’t laughing as he tells the INDIANAPOLIS STAR that while Rahal Letterman Racing will likely field a car at the Indianapolis 500, a lack of sponsorship will probably keep the team from the full IndyCar season.
  • Bobby Rahal and David Letterman

  • Meanwhile, the economic mess is also hitting north of the border, as THE CANADIAN PRESS reports that Toronto Blue Jays assistant general manager Bart Given was let go as a cost-cutting move. Or as part of a power play between the team’s interim CEO Paul Beeston and GM J.P. Ricciardi. Either way, Given gets to enjoy the Canadian unemployment system, which I believe includes 100 percent benefits and a free, stress-relieving massage.
  • MMA JUNKIE has the life story of Helio Gracie, the Gracie family patriarch and pioneer in the creation and growth of mixed martial arts, who tapped out to the chokehold in the sky on Thursday morning in Rio de Janiero at 95. Naturally, he’ll be laid to rest in a wooden octagon.
  • Congratulations to Tom Cable, as the SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE reports that the Oakland Raiders will be removing the “interim” label from his title and making him their permanent head coach. On the other hand, condolences to Tom Cable for becoming the Oakland Raiders’ permanent head coach.
  • More economic cutbacks in NASCAR, as the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER notes that new rules to cut back on costs have been instituted in the Truck Series for 2009. The most shocking? All trucks will be replaced by 1974 El Caminos.
  • Usually a 61-52 loss would be cause for concern, but it’s pretty understandable when the team on the losing end is North Carolina State and it’s their first game since the death of their legendary coach Kay Yow. The WINSTON-SALEM JOURNAL has details of their painful first game back.
  • Really, Bobby Estalella is the smoking gun in the Feds’ case against Barry Bonds? ESPN.COM has the latest information, although I’m shocked that Jeff Kent hasn’t volunteered to bury Barry yet.
  • How often is the marquee men’s college basketball game of the night in the West Coast Conference? Gonzaga stops St. Mary’s 15-game winning streak by handing the Gaels a 69-62 defeat.
  • More legal woes for Lenny Dykstra: TMZ reports that he’s being sued by four pilots who say Nails stiffed them for flying his private plane.
  • SOCCER AMERICA says that the San Jose Earthquakes are set to make millions from their latest sponsorship deal: they’ll be wearing the Amway logo on their jerseys. The downside is that their players will be going door-to-door selling household products.

What will be NASCAR’s next cost-saving move?

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Red Bull, Vodka and High Jumping Do Not Mix Well

If you look through the annals of sports history, you’ll find that alcohol has had a hand in many of our fondest sports memories: David Wells has “half drunk” (or maybe just hungover) during his perfect game in ‘98, Joe Namath became a hero to a new generation after drunkenly sexually harassing Suzy Kolber, and without alcohol we wouldn’t even care about Kyle Orton. And now, ladies and gents, we’d like to introduce a brand new entry in the Alcoholic Athlete Hall of Fame: Russian high jumper Ivan Ukhov.

Old timey high jumper

(Obviously not Ivan, but an awesome photo anyway)

At some track competition called the Lausanne Grand Prix, Ukhov tried to clear the high jump bar while he was completely smashed! And you better believe there’s video after the jump.

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Does No One Have A Use For An Old Fat Pitcher?

THE BOSTON GLOBE ponders why, with a few starting rotation vacancies on several teams, has David Wells not been offered a contract. Boomer, who last pitched with the Dodgers last season (doing pretty well, actually: going 4-1 in seven starts), would be entering his 22nd year in the bigs if an offer does come over the transom.

david wells dodgers

“With the Mets’ Pedro Martínez out for six weeks and Arizona lefty Doug Davis scheduled for cancer surgery, there seem to be openings for David Wells with at last those two teams. But so far neither has budged.

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