Top Link Of The Day: NHL Suspensions Flowchart

Confused about the seemingly capricious nature of suspensions in the NHL? Thinking justice is subject to the whims and vagaries of Gary Bettman’s drug-addled* conscience? The Maple Leafs-centric DOWN GOES BROWN disagrees, and has put together a foolproof flowchart that explains all the NHL’s disciplinary decisions. It’s funny but frighteningly accurate, one of those “hahaha–hey wait, this is all fitting together a little too well…” things.

Truncated Flowchart

We’d post the whole version here, but it’s too large for our format and really must be experienced in all its glory at the original site here. Also, as a bonus, there’s a playoff version. That’s small enough for our format, so it’s after the break.

Read more…

Speed Read: Another Ivanovic Bust At U.S. Open

Back in January 2008, the Australian Open finals featured Ana Ivanovic and Maria Sharapova in one of the most eagerly-anticipated women’s tennis matches ever. Sharapova won the match, but it seemed like the sport was set for one of the hottest - in every sense of the world - rivalries in recent memories.

Ana Ivanovic

Now flash forward to last night. While a Bedazzled Sharapova (more on that in a minute) started her comeback from shoulder surgery with an easy straight set win over Tsvetana Pironkova, Ivanovic continued her freefall into oblivion by getting bounced by unheralded Kateryna Bondarenko. That makes a tidy zero titles for Ivanovic this year and no appearances past the fourth round in any major - and another early round exit from the U.S. Open after last year’s shocking loss to Julie Coin in the second round.

Ana Ivanovic Topless Photo

(Ana Ivanovic in happier times…for everyone)

It’s not just that Ivanovic lost - at times, she looked absolutely lost, seemingly unable to do something as simple as throw the ball into the air correctly during her serves. Call it the tennis equivalent of Rick Ankiel’s pitching yips, although more attractive to watch if just as awkward. Ivanovic took to burying her head in a towel during changeovers, which is probably what a lot of fans wanted to do after watching her stumble to defeat.

Maria Sharapova

Meanwhile, Sharapova was confident and poised in her easy victory. Her tennis game looked great, while her outfit … let’s just say it looked like something you might have seen in a teen dance competition in Sioux City, Iowa, in 1987. And not to go Mr. Blackwell on your here, but honey, Cher called from 1975 and she wants her beaded headband back. Unless you are planning on belting out a rousing version of “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves” after winning your next match - in that case, it’s all yours.

Sharapova said that her outfit was “inspired by the architecture of New York.” Which is a perfect transition to talk about one of the other great metropolises of the Americans: Saskatoon. Because FACEOFF.COM says that one of the bidders for the Phoenix Coyotes has already booked five dates at the Credit Union Centre (the Madison Square Garden of Saskatchewan) to hold games there if they get the team next season.

Downtown Saskatoon

(There really is nothing quite like Saskatoon in December…)

Which leads to the question: what other events would possibly be happening in Saskatoon so you would need to save the date? A quick look at the Credit Union Centre event schedule shows a lot of minor league hockey…and not much else. Somehow I think that the arena would be willing to postpone the Saskatoon Blades vs. Moose Jaw Warriors showdown for an NHL game.

A partner for Ice Edge Holdings said that the team would be playing most of its games in Phoenix and not moving to Saskatoon permanently, which is too bad: it would be great to see NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman get an involuntary eye twitch every time he tries to explain how having a team in Saskatoon is good for the league.

Finally, Adrian Beltre returned to the Seattle Mariners last night after learning a valuable lesson about wearing a cup while playing third base on August 14 - as in “for the love of all things good and holy, wear one!” You might remember that Beltre thought his testicle had “exploded” after taking a scorching drive to the crotch.

Adrian Beltre nutcracker

After sitting out a few weeks (and probably getting some counseling for his lingering trauma issues), Beltre was back, and the Mariners decided to have a little fun at his expense. Ken Griffey Jr. had said he had the “perfect” music for Beltre’s first at-bat, and the person in charge of the songs being played over the PA delivered. Our own Scott Sepich was at the game, so I’ll pass along what he relayed to me:

“I was at the Mariners-Angels game tonight, and in Adrian Beltre’s first at-bat since coming off the DL, the music they played for him when he came to the plate was the “Nutcracker Suite.” A few of us in the press box caught on, but I’m not sure that the crowd got it. I thought it was pretty brilliant.”

Brilliant, indeed. In case you need further proof, the SEATTLE TIMES game blog not only mentions the musical cue but has audio of it as well. While I find it ironic that Ken Griffey Jr. - a man who once suffered a season-ending groin injury while fielding a fly ball - thinks that Beltre’s situation is hilarious. But it was a good choice of music, certainly more subtle than what I would have selected.

  • SPORTS HERNIA seems to think that David Wright’s new mega-helmet makes him look like Dark Helmet or The Great Gazoo. Personally, I think that he should be paying royalty money to Mark Kelso for infringing on his “dorky guy in a giant helmet” trademark.
  • David Wright

  • If there was one team in the NFL that had to be screwing the fans over by selling tickets directly to scalpers, it had to be the Washington Redskins, right? Too bad they can’t do the same thing with Six Flags tickets to prop up sales numbers.
  • Your nightly NFLPA train wreck update: the Department of Justice is confirming that they are investigating collusion claims by the union’s former HR director. She says that former player representative Troy Vincent had illegal meetings with Roger Goodell and Texas owner Robert McNair where he divulged classified information. Troy Vincent had a trouble keeping information private? That sounds strangely familiar.
  • Ladies, Rafael Nadal is playing at the U.S. Open in see-through shorts. Why can’t we get this technology in the women’s side of things (except for Serena Williams)?
  • Sometimes being a”football hero” takes on a different connotation: Kaleb Eulls, a star player at Yazoo High in Mississippi who has committed to Mississippi State, is being praised after disarming a 14-year-old girl who pulled out a loaded semi-automatic weapon on a full school bus.
  • Former Kentucky basketball star Edward Davender has been arrested as part of a ticket scalping scam involving Wildcats basketball tickets. If convicted, he could be sentenced to work for the Washington Redskins.
  • Adam “Pac-Man” Jones and Charles Rogers on the same CFL football team? Can someone please tell me how I can get Winnipeg Blue Bombers games on TV here in the lower 48?
  • Andy Roddick is less than thrilled with the U.S. Open trying to clamp down on players Twittering because they are concerned about players giving up “inside information.” Roddick’s retort (via Twitter): “you would seriously have to be a moron to send ‘inside info’ through a tweet.”
  • Anheuser-Busch plans to switch sports advertising tactics, targeting specific beer brands with demographics based on major sports. Bud Light to be linked to the NFL, while Budweiser will feature heavily in MLB advertising. No word on if Natural Ice will now be the Official Beer of Competitive Binge Drinking.
  • If they are going to start sending people to jail for 30 days for socking an opposing coach at a baseball game for 8-year-olds and then swinging a bat at people trying to break it up, then I just don’t know what baseball is anymore.

Best song for a player returning from a “bruised testicle”:

View Results

Just Move The Coyotes Out Of Phoenix, Already!

The ongoing Phoenix Coyotes custody soap opera, with Gary Bettman & the NHL in one corner and Jim Balsillie & Hamilton, Ontario, in the other, has reached untold levels of absurdity at this point. It’s a sure signal to any sane observer that the NHL’s efforts to keep a hockey team in the hottest metropolis in the nation are destructive to the team and the league as a whole.

Jobing.com Arena Phoenix Coyotes
(We can’t let this dream die, guys! This is magical!)

The latest development is that Balsillie, after having the NHL effectively price him out of negotiations with new and inventive fees to levy - to the point that they claimed they’d need $100 million just for the hassle of relocation - is now asking for more depositions from league officials to figure out, basically, what the hell they’re talking about.

Read more…

Speed Read: Donte’ Stallworth Reaches DUI Deal

Sometimes, all you can ask for is closure. Not revenge or punishment or the eye for the proverbial eye; just enough to begin the healing process.

Donte Stallworth

And so, according to the MIAMI HERALD, the family of Mario Reyes, the man Donte’ Stallworth stands accused of killing in a March DUI accident, have been described by prosecutors as “the primary force” in a plea deal that is expected to be accepted today. And rather than spending years and years in prison, Stallworth may only have a short jail stay:

Cleveland Browns wide receiver Donte’ Stallworth is expected to plead guilty Tuesday to driving drunk when he struck and killed a pedestrian on the MacArthur Causeway in March, The Miami Herald has learned.

Stallworth’s attorney, Christopher Lyons, confirmed that the case was expected to be resolved Tuesday in court. Lyons declined to detail terms of the plea, which are not yet public.

While this is good news for Stallworth and his family, it doesn’t mean his NFL career is back in play; even after the jail stay imposed by the judge, Stallworth will still have to be reinstated by the notoriously unsympathetic Roger Goodell.  This will be a remarkably tough decision for the commissioner; no matter what length of suspension he decides on, it’s still going to be met by (not entirely unreasonable) protests of “Oh, so that’s how many games a human life is worth?”

But all the same, the person who’s really going to be haunted by the specter of death here is Stallworth, not Goodell. That he, even accidentally, killed a fellow man is a fact that will saddle him long after he’s gone from the league.

*UPDATE*: Stallworth gets sentenced to 30 days in jail & two years of house arrest.

Okay, we need a fun story after all that. So, as we warned you earlier, Joe Buck’s talk show career just started last night. And, judging by what AWFUL ANNOUNCING found, it may have ended last night too.

Joe Buck

The milquetoast play-by-play announcer for FOX had put together a decent, meh-but-not-terrible first episode, with appearances by Brett Favre (more on him later), Michael Irvin, Chad Ochocinco, and other famous members of the sports world. And then to close it out, he had on longtime friend Paul Rudd, a practically non-existent Jason Sudeikis, and, inexplicably, Artie Lange.

The audio is ludicrously NSFW, but if you’ve got earphones and/or a door to your office, you’ll want to check out Lange single-handedly derailing the show:

And then yes, Favre. Favre Favre Favre. He was the first guest on the show, and allowed make unironic claims like he’s not looking for attention. While he’s on, y’know, a nationally televised talk show. And to his credit, the fact that this is his first public appearance while ESPN has hammered coverage of his dalliance with Vikings management into viewers’ brains (we think Ed Werder’s been tasked with rifling through the trash down at Favre’s ranch in Mississippi) should be noted. That said, this happens every damn year, and it’s so tiresome. Here we are in June, with training camps underway. Teams want to have their summer rosters in place. So is Favre going to play this year? “Maybe.”

Brett Favre Vikings
(Here we go again.)

Also, the fact that Favre’s first public comments aren’t to ESPN should be noted as well. So rather than think of Favre as a caricature of an attention whore or drama queen or whatever, perhaps it’s best to - yes, we know this is neither fun nor easy - recognize the shades of gray and think that while he knows how easy it is to attract attention after spending two decades in the spotlight,  part of him actually is a country-bred bumpkin from Mississippi who would play football forever if he could.

But then again, we don’t know where the annual retirement charade fits into either side. And how many years in a row is this? Eight? C’mon, man.

Here are more stories to consider as you mourn Shawn Johnson’s euthanization

  • Look, this is clearly not the appropriate forum to discuss the ongoing turmoil in Iran. We’re not nearly qualified enough to comment on it, and that’s not what you’re here to read anyway. That said, if you’re wanting to find out more about watching the seeds of revolution occur in real-time, Andrew Sullivan’s blog is a good place to start. So why even bring it up? Only for the most epic picture in tOSU history, via 11W (click here for higher res, pops):

Tehran Buckeye
(Your move, Michigan.)

What else is Joe Morgan lying about?

View Results

NHL Insanely Claims Coyotes Worth $400 Million

It’s hard to fathom now, but there was once a major professional sport in North America called, if memory serves us right, “iced-hockey.” This sport had its games broadcast on real actual networks like FOX and ESPN, and expanded its reach all over the nation with teams in exotic non-icy locales like Tampa, Florida and Phoenix, Arizona. New arenas were built, new revenue streams were found, and the sky was the limit. “Move over basketball, football, and baseball”, said the “iced-hockey” executives, “we’re here to stay.” Yeah, well, they weren’t.

smirnoff coyotes promo

(How metaphorical of you, ‘Yotes.)

In 2004, the entire damn sport collapsed into a pile of rubble, never to be heard from again as a major threat to the existing players in the North American sports market. Obviously, the NHL came back, but it had been reduced to a niche sport, mostly ignored by the general populace and major networks. The bubble on hockey had burst, and both salaries and revenue reflected this sad fact. So why, then, is the NHL claiming that the purchase price of the moribund, bankrupt Phoenix Coyotes could reach the astronomical figure of $400 million freaking dollars? Because if there’s one thing commissioner Gary Bettman knows nothing about, it’s proper accounting.

Read more…

NHL Getting Its “Dr. Evil” On In Bankruptcy Court

Hockey in Phoenix has failed. It has failed so spectacularly that sports historians will speak of the experiment for decades to come as one of the worst franchising decisions of all time. The Coyotes aren’t the only NHL team in bad financial shape, but they’re the only team in bankruptcy court. Either they get bought out before next season or they contract. It’s that simple.

Dr Evil
(This man approves of your tactics, NHL.)

Fortunately,  the co-CEO of the creators of Blackberry, Jim Balsillie, has stepped forward to help save the franchise. The Canadian billionaire has put forward a $212 million proposal to buy out the franchise, which you’d think the NHL would jump at. But then you realize Gary Bettman still runs the league and you just sit and wait for the monumental stupidity to wash your optimism away.

And here it comes. Balsillie wants to move the team to hockey-hungry Hamilton, Canada. Bettman and the NHL, unwilling to go along with the move, are expected to charge a relocation fee of $100 millionRead more…

Speed Read: Ryan Leaf Bad At Football, Drug Theft

Ryan Leaf is an instant sports blog punchline, suitable for use anytime you need a real-life example for the words “bust,” “loser” or “train wreck.” But at least he had some shred of dignity: sure, he had been one of the biggest disappointments in NFL history, a top draft pick turned into petulant baby whose lousy attitude with coaches, teammates and the media ensured he would be drummed out of the league; but at least he wasn’t Todd Marinovich. No matter what, at least his rap sheet was clean.

Ryan Leaf

Well, you can forget that. Remember when he took a “leave of absence” from his position as QB coach at West Texas A&M (and also as - for some reason - the golf coach), and it came out that he had “asked” a player for pain medicine for an old wrist injury? It turns out there was more to that story - a lot more. Leaf allegedly really, really needed that medicine - so much so that he allegedly broke into the apartment of an injured player he knew had been prescribed Vicodin and grabbed him a handful of pills.

Ryan Leaf Starting Lineup

And Leaf apparently was about as good of a thief as he was an NFL player, since the cops traced the theft back to him, and the AMARILLO GLOBE-NEWS says that he was indicted yesterday on nine different drug and burglary charges. The district attorney says that Leaf is currently in British Columbia getting drug treatment (socialized medicine!), but the DA “hopes” he returns to the country. I can’t say that sounds promising. (And there goes Leaf’s chance of an NFL comeback.)

Also in need of a comeback: the Los Angeles Lakers. Sure, last night’s 106-103 loss to the Denver Nuggets only tied their Western Conference finals at 1-1, but after almost giving away Game 1 as well, it feels like they are staring up at a mountain. For the first two games, they were outplayed, outhustled and physical dominated by the Nuggets, and are now completely out of sync and without home court advantage. (Seriously, how does Kobe Bryant not get a shot in one of those last two possessions?)

Carmelo Anthony

So the home court advantage in the two NBA conference finals belong to the Nuggets and the Magic. I’m sure that the NBA front office is thrilled about possibly having to market a Denver vs. Orlando series. If you are an NBA Conspiracy Theorist, then rest assured that David Stern is currently making some angry phone calls to some referees today to “fix the problem.”

Meanwhile, we moved one step closer to a Stanley Cup rematch as the Pittsburgh Penguins outscored the Carolina Panthers 7-4 to a take a 2-0 series lead. Sidney Crosby scored the opening goal - again - but it was Evgeni Malkin who was the real star, notching a hat trick including scoring one of the sickest goals you’ll ever see in your life:

You couldn’t even do that in NHL ‘94 for Sega Genesis without getting your head cracked open. So while the Hurricanes’ Eric Staal might be busy complaining about his brother Jordan “cheating” during face-offs for the Penguins, everyone else is getting ready for another tilt between Pittsburgh and Detroit (and we all know that’s happening, putting NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman in a much happier place than David Stern is right now).

  • Even with his team having been blasted out of the playoffs in the first-round, world class loudmouth Jeremy Roenick still won’t shut up, as the DETROIT NEWS says he told a Chicago radio show that Detroit Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock “doesn’t like” Chris Chelios and has “got a grudge against American players.”
  • Jeremy Roenick

  • The MINNEAPOLIS STAR-TRIBUNE reports that the Minnesota Wild and Minnesota Timberwolves are set to announce their new GMs on the same day. Maybe they got a “Buy One, Get One Free” rental package on the hotel conference room?
  • Sammy Hasan, a girls’ track coach in Amherst, NY has been charged with forcible sexual conduct with a female high school student. The BUFFALO NEWS says that earlier this season, one of his runners thanked him for “helping her with her technique” after she won a sectional title. SBB PUNCHLINE CREATOR 3000 ERROR 4XQ587: TOO MANY INAPPROPRIATE JOKES.
  • WTAE-TV reports that former Tennessee basketball player Michael Brooks was arrested after being found in possession of cocaine and Vicodin. Someone check his trunk to see if Ryan Leaf is hiding in there!
  • Former Houston Texans lineman Fred Weary tried to help an ex-teammate out by hiring former Florida Gator Anthone Lott as a general contractor on four townhouses Weary was building in Gainesville. Judging by the fact that the ST. AUGUSTINE RECORD says Lott has been charged with defrauding a bank and Weary of more than $185,000, I’d say that didn’t end too well.
  • Florida high school football standout and South Carolina recruit Ben Axon was arrested and charged with marijuana possession with intent to sell, according to the BRADENTON HERALD. But at least he was honest when the cops asked him “if he had anything illegal on him” and handed them 23 small bags of wacky tobacky.
  • There’s never a great time to start drunkenly hurling swear words at the opposing team from the stands during a high school baseball game…but to do it during a stoppage for an injury is just wrong. But that’s exactly what the SCHENECTADY DAILY GAZETTE says that George “Mr. Class” Sperow did before getting into a fight and then being arrested.
  • Ferrari is threatening to leave Formula One if they institute a budget cap in 2010, so now the TELEGRAPH is saying that Formula One rightsholder Bernie Ecclestone will sue them if they do. Where else are they going to go - NASCAR? (Oh please, please let me see a Ferrari NASCAR team.)
  • Is there anything sadder than a kicker trying to hold out for more money? That’s what PRO FOOTBALL TALK says that Cleveland kicker Phil Dawson is doing as he skips the team’s “voluntary” minicamp. Isn’t there a Bahr brother somewhere who can still kick? Martin Mull? Stefan Fatsis?
  • HARDWOOD HOUDINI is concerned about the recent outbreak of VUS in the NBA: Visible Unnecessary Spandex.

Which ex-NFL QB is the biggest train wreck?

View Results

Speed Read: Mets Finding Creative Ways To Lose

Hey, it looks like Brett Favre is not going to have surgery anytime soon, and…you know what, I’m not even going to pretend to give a crap about any of this anymore. So let’s talk about something else, like the Mets going full-on Chico’s Bail Bonds last night at Dodger Stadium.

Bad News Bears

Luckily for the Mets, the game ended so late last night that their incredible ineptitude wasn’t able to make it onto the back page of the morning papers (although the DAILY NEWS already has a “Follywood” story up online). In one of the stranger endings to a game I’ve seen, the Dodgers were handed no fewer than three gifts in the 11th inning, allowing them to take a 3-2 win and move to an MLB-best 27-13 on the season. Let’s recap the fateful 11th:

1) With two out in the top of the inning and the score tied 2-2, Angel Pagan tripled into deep right-center with Ryan Church on first base. But Church missed third base on his way home, and after he scored the Dodgers appealed at the base. Church was called out, Pagan’s hit was reduced to a single, and the inning was over.

1a) Angel Pagan’s playing? I hope they didn’t let him drive to the game. Pagan might be the first player ever with a suspended license to have four hits in a major league game (I don’t know if BASEBALL REFERENCE keeps that stat).

2)  In the bottom of the inning, Pagan and Carlos Beltran has a communication breakdown on a routine fly ball to left center, resulting in Pagan diving out of the way at the last minute and Beltran dropping the ball.

3) After an intentional walk to Juan Pierre(!) to load the bases and a pop-out, and Beltran now playing as part of a five-man infield, Orlando Hudson hit a routine ground ball to Jeremy Reed. Reed went to home for the easy force out, but his throw was about 10 feet wide of Ramon Castro, who was already standing several feet away from home plate. Dodgers win. And, as if Reed needed anything else in his way, pitcher Brian Stokes decided it would be a great idea to run over and stand right in between Reed and Castro, ducking out of the way at the last minute to avoid being beaned in the head by Reed’s errant toss.

Angel Pagan

Seriously, the Mets have some defensive issues to work out. They made five errors last night, with two of them coming from Ramon Martinez, who was called up earlier in the day from AAA to play shortstop while Jose Reyes is sidelined. Reed, who is actually an outfielder, was only playing first because he pinch-hit for Fernando Tatis and somebody had to play the position. Carlos Delgado won’t be playing it for a while, as he’s having hip surgery tomorrow.

Speaking of the DL, Twins pitcher Glen Perkins is joining it after informing the team that he has tingling and discomfort in his pitching elbow. Of course, they probably would’ve rather he told them that before he gave up six runs in 2/3 of an inning at Yankee Stadium last night. Because then they might’ve been able to just start R.A. Dickey, who gave up no runs in the next 4 1/3. The Twins lost the game 7-6 — a totally fitting end to a four-game sweep that saw them lose the first three in walk-off fashion.

Glen Perkins

(”I gotta go on the DL, Gardy. I got a mean case of Chien-Ming Wang-itis.”)

Much like Dante in Clerks, Philippe Boucher wasn’t even supposed to be there last night. But the Penguins’ seventh defenseman scored the winning goal in a 3-2 victory over the Hurricanes in Game 1 of the NHL’s East finals. The ‘Canes almost rallied to tie the game late, but Marc-Andre Fleury denied Eric Staal on the doorstep with 30 seconds left to preserve the win and bring us one step closer to the same exact Stanley Cup finals matchup as last year (except this time Marian Hossa will be playing for the winning team). While the NHL playoffs have been great thus far, there’s a sense of impending dread that it will all be downhill from here since the Pens-Caps series will be nearly impossible to top.

Penguins Hurricanes

• ESPN’s Ric Bucher wrote a great piece about ex-NBAer Brian Grant’s battle with Parkinson’s Disease. Grant found out in January that he has the disease, and has reached out to Michael J. Fox and Muhammad Ali, the two most famous victims of the degenerative condition.

• The Brewers got some bad news yesterday when they learned that Rickie Weeks is going to miss the rest of the season with a wrist injury. It did, however, allow them to recall top prospect Mat Gamel from AAA, who promptly homered in his first big-league start in an 8-4 win over the Cardinals. Gamel, however, might make Crew fans wish Ryan Braun was still playing third, as he made a mind-boggling 93 errors over the last 2+ seasons in the minors (and one last night, of course).

• PGA golfer Briny Baird and Padres GM Kevin Towers took turns bombing golf balls off the roof of a hotel in San Diego yesterday. It’s OK, P.F. Chang’s set it all up. In fact, because Baird was able to hit a target 268 yards away (and 340 feet below him) in Petco Park, America is now entitled to a free lettuce wrap at Chang’s. Go here to register for your free app.

Briny Baird tees off

• Why doesn’t anyone want to ride Mine That Bird? The horse than won the Kentucky Derby and would’ve won the Preakness if the race was about 20 feet longer is going to be on its third jockey in three races at the Belmont because the most recent rider has decided his time will be better spent riding a horse in a race that isn’t on national TV that day. Meanwhile, there is growing sentiment that Rachel Alexandra should skip the Belmont, considering she nearly ran out of gas in the shorter Preakness.

Terrell Owens was given the key to Buffalo yesterday. Which is kind of a waste, since Buffalo’s going to have to spend a bunch of money to change its locks when T.O. wears out his welcome in October.

Terrell Owens

(”Is it OK if I make a copy for Rosenhaus?”)

• The Nationals’ ground crew is about as good at putting a tarp on the field as the team is at playing baseball (thanks to BAREKNUCKS):

• The NHL says that Coyotes owner Jerry Moyes can’t declare bankruptcy and sell the team to Jim Balsillie because Moyes gave Gary Bettman ownership of the team a few months ago in exchange for a financial bailout and thus doesn’t have the authority to make any decisions concerning the team’s future. It’s nice to see that Bettman is hell-bent on keeping the team in a place where it will continue to suffer instead of letting it go somewhere that will go crazy supporting it because he doesn’t want to be known as the guy who failed at bringing hockey to Arizona.

• The news isn’t all bad for the NHL, though. Sunday’s broadcast of the Red Wings-Blackhawks game drew the highest ratings ever for a non-Stanley Cup final or Winter Classic game on NBC, according to FANHOUSE. This despite the game being aired opposite the Lakers-Rockets Game 7 on ABC.

• RACIN NATION says Jeremy Mayfield was told exactly what he tested positive for, and it’s not Claritin, as Mayfield has contended. Stop denying it Mayfield, we all know you were drinking ayahuasca with a shaman in Peru.

England kicked off a campaign to get the 2018 World Cup yesterday. And when they bring out the big guns like Lord Triesman for the launch party, no other country has a chance. Well, except that the TIMES is still convinced that the U.S. is going to end up with the Cup if Barack Obama decides he wants it here.

What is least likely to happen?

View Results

Speed Read: No One Is Shocked By Mannygate

It’s been said that either Manny Ramirez is incredibly dumb, or incredibly good at playing dumb, and his response to his 50-game suspension for violating MLB’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program gives proponents of either theory plenty of fuel for the fire. On one hand, claiming that a doctor gave him medicine for a “personal problem” seems like a flimsy attempt to use ignorance to cover up cheating, especially since the drug in question (hCG) is primarily used as a fertility treatment for women.

Manny Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez

But what the “personal problem” really was personal - like he was trying to get pregnant? Maybe he saw that Arnold Schwarzenegger movie “Junior” on a plane flight and thought that sounded like a great idea. I mean, come on: Manny’s so crazy, he doesn’t even know that men can’t conceive. That’s just Manny being Manny.

Junior

(The only thing inconceivable is Manny Ramirez’s story.)

Are you buying it? Me either. As the news spread throughout the baseball world, the most shocking aspect is just how not shocked anyone who wasn’t a Dodger fan was about it. His former teammates with the Boston Red Sox seemed to be more upset that they have to talk about Manny Ramirez again than anything else, with closer Jonathan Papelbon summing up most player’s thoughts:

“I just walked in the clubhouse today and found out about it. I haven’t really thought about it all. We’ve got more things to worry about on our club. Obviously, it’s a news story, blah, blah, blah. There’s so many more things we have to go get ready for. He’s not in our clubhouse anymore, so this is something that we’re not even worried about.”

Meanwhile, the debate seemed to come not about Manny Ramirez’s guilt or innocence, but about everything surrounding his presumed guilt. Such as Brooks’ question that if everyone is doing PEDs, then do we have to let Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Roger Clemens into the Hall of Fame? Or if the Dodgers are going to symbolically tear down “Mannywood,” the section devoted to the team’s Cult of Personality.

Dodgers fans celebrate Mannywood

So how did the Dodgers react on the field without their leader? In a word: shaky. Oh, it started out good, jumping out a 6-0 first inning lead on the dreadful Washington Nationals. But then it all fell apart, although this had nothing to do with Ramirez’s absence.

Blame this on the Dodgers’ increasingly leaky bullpen, which allowed nine runs in the seventh and eigth innings en route to an 11-9 Dodgers loss - which stopped the team’s record home winning streak to start the season at 13. You also couldn’t blame Ramirez’s replacement in left field, Juan Pierre, who went 2-for-4 but did make the inning-ending out in the eighth with the bases loaded.

Meanwhile, back to Ramirez’s former team again … actually, let’s look at both of them, since his original team (the Cleveland Indians) just happened to be visiting his most recent team (the Red Sox) on Thursday night. And while it might be tacky after the events of yesterday to says that Boston’s offense was on steroids, it’s safe to say that they were at least jacked up on a six-pack of Jolt colas.

Scoreboard of Red Sox vs Indians

The Red Sox matched a major league record by scoring 12 runs in the sixth inning while drubbing the Indians 13-3. At least we can be sure that Jason Bay isn’t juicing, unless he tests positive for having too much maple syrup in his blood.

And speaking of blowouts, let’s take a moment to congratulate the Atlanta Hawks for making it to the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs as they collect their parting gifts and head to the exits. Sure, they are only down 2-0 to the Cleveland Cavaliers, and they are returning home.

Cleveland Cavaliers bench

But anyone who saw just a few minutes of Cleveland’s 105-85 thrashing of the Hawks knows that this series has all the makings of a sweep. Cleveland lead by as many as 36 before calling off the dogs, and LeBron James was just toying with defenders. And oh yeah, Joe Johnson sprained his ankle and might be out for the series. Have fun at the golf course, Atlanta!

More news that you might have missed last night as you were slowly backing away from Kiefer Sutherland and avoiding eye contact as not to enrage the beast:

  • The Players Championship teed off in Florida yesterday, and of course Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson share the lead. Actually, that’s a lie: the FLORIDA TIMES-UNION says that while Ben Crane leads after an opening-round 65, Woods dealt with a balky putter while shooting a 71 and Mickelson was all over the place while putting up a 73.
  • Tiger Woods

  • But if Tiger feels like he needs any help, he can call on Lee Trevino, as the DALLAS MORNING NEWS says that “Super Mex” has offered to teach him a power fade that will make sure that “he doesn’t lose any tournament.” At the least, he would like him to try an authentic salsa from Texas versus a competitor made in … NEW YORK CITY?!?
  • As usual, the Stanley Cup playoffs didn’t disappoint: the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES says that the Blackhawks relied on a late third-period goal to pull even and then scored early in OT to win 2-1 and level their series with Vancouver at 2-2.
  • Meanwhile, the DETROIT NEWS says the Red Wings also tied their series with Anaheim at 2-2 but were far less dramatic about it, playing some old time hockey on the way to a 6-2 blowout.
  • And as hockey attempts to shine on the ice, it continues to stumble elsewhere, as the TORONTO GLOBE AND MAIL says that a group of investors trying to buy the failing Phoenix Coyotes and move them to Hamilton, Ontario are accusing the NHL and Commissioner Gary Bettman of “operating like an illegal cartel” in blocking the sale and move. Kind of like a more stupid version of the Mafia.
  • As the baseball world was reacting to Manny Ramirez’s suspension, the EAST VALLEY TRIBUNE says the Arizona Diamondbacks took the opportunity to relieve manager Bob Melvin of his duties while no one was looking. He’s being replaced by former major league catcher A.J. Hinch, because that’s apparently the only people who can manage the Diamondbacks.
  • YAHOO! SPORTS claims that Louisville coach Rick Pitino has made himself a candidate for the Sacramento Kings coaching job. It probably won’t have as much impact when he tells the local media that “Vlade Divac is not walking through that door.”
  • The WASHINGTON POST says there was plenty of hot disciplinary action in the NBA, as the Magic’s Rafer Alston received a one-game suspension for his head-slap on the Celtics’ Eddie House, while the Lakers’ Derek Fisher received the game punishment for his cross-check of the Rockets’ Luis Scola. There were no suspensions given to Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest or any pieces of furniture.
  • It wasn’t just Didier Drogba who was upset with Norwegian referee Tom Henning Ovrebo for several calls that didn’t go Chelsea’s way in the 1-1 tie with Barcelona that knocked them out of the Champions League semifinals. EUROSPORT says the ref had to be “smuggled” out of the country under police escort.
  • A football player at Chico High in Texas has been arrested for assaulting a 13-year-old girl in what WFAA-TV is referring to as a “sex game” gone horribly wrong, involving freshman girls “sexting” the popular football players to gain popularity.

What was your initial reaction when you heard about Manny Ramirez’s suspension?

View Results

Speed Read: Another Violent Day in LA’s Paradise

The baseball day in Los Angeles started on a solemn note Monday when the Dodgers held two moments of silence for fallen comrades in arms during Chavez Ravine’s opening day Monday (before a third passed later in the day).

Dodger Stadium tributes to Nick Adenhart and Harry Kalas

(Pictures from 710 AM ESPN’s Beto Duran)

By the end of the game (an 11-1 pounderation of the San Francisco Giants, who could not devise a hacky time travel solution with the USS Enterprise despite the cross-promotional gold), the area around Dodger Stadium hosted numerous instances of disrespect to human life through stabbings, gun-waving, fights involving dozens of people, and the stray auto accident.

Of course, we would never draw a correlation between the drop in beer prices at Dodger Stadium and violence around the ballpark. After all, fan-on-fan violence is still seemingly less likely than vendor-on-vendor violence or security-on-fan violence. The relative safety of MLB.com’s At Bat iPhone app is looking better all the time, especially now that it works occasionally.

Another object d’mocktastery best safely seen from a distance that works only occasionally: Isiah Thomas. He’s apparently found a reason to leave the house as Florida International University has shown interest in hiring him as their basketball head coach.

Isiah Thomas suit

(”Look! Look up at that paragraph! It says that someone wants me!  Do you see that?”)

FIU has found a certain comfort level with losing (five straight seasons) and could certainly use the limelight brought by a famous coach. Perhaps Isiah’s excited because he thinks he can ply his trade in a different country unfamiliar with his sordid past. (That’s what the “International” stands for, right?)

Another gentleman of leisure being paid by an NBA team to go away but still looking for a new home will also have to find a new place of leisure as well. At least two of Detroit’s casinos (current count: 439280410) have reportedly tossed Allen Iverson out on his ear for “boorish behavior”, including bodyguard-related scuffling, pouting after a loss, and being generally churlish.

Allen Iverson golfs

(There’s always golf to ruin one’s forced retirement)

So kudos to the MGM Casino and the Greektown Casino for standing up to Allen Iverson’s shenanigans after he’s left town and will likely never return unless absolutely forced to by contract. Also, way to leak the information once the coast is clear.

We once spotted AI in the Omni Hotel in Atlanta, taking over a section of  the open-air lounge and bar to play cards in the late afternoon with his buddies. He did not order from the bar; instead, he had the bellboy bring his crew a beat-up old cooler filled with their own special reserve.

We did not get a chance to see his favorite drink, but we bet he could get it for 25% less this season at Dodger Stadium. Better bring the bodyguards to carry the overflow.

And now our riot police-approved hail of rubber bullets reinforced by the near-certainty there are relatively few industries interested in “boy whisperers”

Which team is the best in all baseball after one week?

View Results