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.

Is Chase Utley the Next Big Superstar? Is Anyone?

Heaven knows it’s a battle to fill the gaping maw of a newspaper sports section (or, heck, an Internet site).  It’s eternally ravenous, utterly unforgiving, and preternaturally cruel.  Lots of writers have to resort to the occasional trick (like comedy bullet points) to keep the beast at bay for another day.

Carl Fredricksen from Up

(ARIZONA REPUBLIC writer, considering his next opus)

However, it takes a special effort to knock out 1200 words bemoaning the loss of the baseball superstar.  It takes interviews with other old men as they pass through town to hopefully buttress your case.  It takes calling up your friends and/or other similarly-minded sports fans in town.  It takes quoting Simon and Garfunkel.  And, of course, it takes bullet points.  (These are also funny, but it’s less intentional this time.)

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Speed Read: Hey, Does Anyone Want To Be #1?

This year’s NCAA basketball tournament is apparently going to be the first one played without any #1 seeds, because nobody seems to want to claim any of them. This week, Pitt decided to be the latest top-ranked team to tank it, trailing by as many as 20 points in the second half in an 81-73 loss to Providence. The Friars are suddenly looking pretty good for an NCAA bid, with 9 Big East wins and 17 overall. This was their first win over a #1 team in nearly 33 years. Luckily for all involved, Jonathan Xavier was not at the game.

Providence upsets Pittsburgh

Professional golf, which ceased to exist last June when Tiger Woods got hurt, will finally resume today. Nobody’s happier for this development than the other golfers who Tiger will be competing against, whoever they are. Tiger’s first round match at the Accenture World Match Play Championships tees off at 2:02 Eastern time this afternoon. His opponent is someone named Brendan Jones, who just learned how to play golf last week. How confident is NBC that Tiger will make it to Saturday’s semifinals? They’re airing ads promoting Tiger’s appearance on the NBC broadcast this weekend.

Tiger Woods

(He didn’t win anything. This is just the trophy he gets to carry around every day for being Tiger Woods)

Do you have World Baseball Classic fever yet? Does anyone? This WBC seemed like a good idea a couple of years ago, but this year’s rosters are devoid of many of the sport’s biggest stars. Your U.S. roster features such giants of the game like Chris Ianetta, Jeremy Guthrie, and Matt Thornton. The Dominican team is without Albert Pujols and Manny Ramirez (who’s from New York City, mind you), but now gets to deal with the distraction that is A-Roid. It’s all moot, of course, since the powerhouse Italians are winning the whole thing. Who can stop Val Pascucci and Nick Punto?

As a reward for winning the title last year, the Celtics get to have 29 players on their roster. Case in point: the C’s have signed the recently waived Mikki Moore, who was playing for the Kings. And now the long-rumored acquisition of Stephon Marbury is about to happen, since Steph was finally bought out by the Knicks. Shockingly, New York was not successful in swinging a trade for a guy whose salary is $21 million and has spent his season hanging out at bus stops and buying tickets to see his own team play.

Stephon Marbury attends Knicks-Lakers game

 • TMZ says that Charles Barkley might have to don a pink prison uniform during his five-day stay in the same jail that houses rapper DMX. Although, it appears as if Chuck has been given “work release” and only has to be in jail from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. So, basically he’s staying in a crappy hotel for five nights and wearing a pink snuggie.

Charles Goldberg of the Auburn blog THE GOLD MINE writes that highly-regarded high school running back David Oku has moved from Oklahoma to Lincoln, Nebraska to be closer to some girl he met while on an official visit to Nebraska. And his parents are OK with their kid taking off to go live on his own and date a college girl. This seems like a great idea.

• Speaking of Stephon Marbury, the poor guy had to accept a buyout of around $2-3 million less than his salary for “playing” this season for the Knicks. But Darren Rovell of CNBC says that Marbury earned enough that he could’ve bought a pair of his Starbury sneakers every nine seconds.

The CFL isn’t recognizing there’s a recession, according to the VANCOUVER SUN. Four CFL cities (all of which are home to teams called the Roughriders) are in the process of securing funds for new stadiums or improvements to their current facilities.

Canada

• Former major league pitcher Rick Helling on steroids: “There is this problem with steroids. It’s happening. It’s real. And it’s so prevalent that guys who aren’t doing it are feeling pressure to do it because they’re falling behind. It’s not a level playing field. We’ve got to figure out a way to address it.” When did he say this? 1998. TIME has the story of a guy who went ignored way too long.

• The SPORTS HERNIA points out that the Mets’ Fernando Tatis missed Monday’s intrasquad game with a rather unusual injury:

Fernando Tatis palm injury

• PRO FOOTBALL TALK says that Eric Mangini and the rest of the new Browns staff is “lukewarm” on Brady Quinn. Which is rather insulting, considering Quinn won all those national championships in college.

• As if there aren’t enough Shulas running around, Dan Shula — son of David and grandson of Don — has been hired as an assistant coach at Illinois State.

• The Supreme Court may be hearing a case that results in a ban on public school coaches participating with members of their teams in prayer or other religious expression, according to the TENNESSEAN. Current precedent doesn’t allow coaches to initiate prayer, but doesn’t necessarily ban them from participating.

• The Oakland A’s have scrapped plans to build a new ballpark in the East Bay suburb of Fremont. San Jose has now apparently emerged as a new contender to rip the team away from the Mausoleum.

• WITH LEATHER says that Jason Giambi has aspirations to be a bouncer at a strip club after he retires from baseball. And Rick’s Cabaret in New York City is first in line with a job offer (link somewhat NSFW).

Every week, the #1 team in college basketball totally craps the bed. What new team should get a shot at #1?

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Speed Read: Celtics Fall Again; May Not Top East

Remember a couple of weeks ago when the Celtics were going to challenge the ‘96 Bulls for the best record ever? Yeah, you can pretty much put that possibility to rest. The C’s continued their strange descent on Tuesday night, dropping a game to the lowly Bobcats, 114-106 in overtime. Boston has lost five out of seven games following a 27-2 start, and now faces the real possibility of not winding up with the best record in the East at the end of the season. Orlando is 27-8 after beating Washington last night, and the idle Cavs sit at 27-6.

Bobcats Celtics

There was a huge bowl game last night too. I mean, all the best games happen after January 1st, right? Oh, it was just the GMAC Bowl. And what better company to be bringing us a bowl game this year?  It actually wasn’t a terrible matchup, as both Tulsa and Ball State took undefeated records deep into the season before faltering late. In wet, sloppy conditions in Mobile, the Golden Hurricane rocked the Cardinals 45-13. BSU was once ranked 12th, but will probably not end the season in the rankings. It’s a shame former Cards coach Brady Hoke, who left for San Diego State, couldn’t have stuck around for this one since he needs some experience in losing games by that margin for his new job.

In your New Yankees/Old Yankees news, Mark Teixeira was introduced in a press conference yesterday, Andy Pettite rejected the Yanks’ one-year, $10 million offer, and Jason Giambi is on the cusp of signing a one-year deal with the A’s.

Mark Teixeira

(ugh)

See this guy?:

Corky Simpson

His name is Corky Simpson, and he might be the only member of the Baseball Writers Association who didn’t vote for Rickey Henderson to be in the Hall of Fame. Henderson, who is among the all-time leaders in a number of categories and considered by many to be one of the 10 greatest players ever, is up for election for the first time this year. HOME RUN DERBY has tracked down the ballots of 31 writers so far, and all but Simpson’s contain Henderson’s name. And it’s not like Simpson was being stingy with his votes. He voted for eight players, including Tommy John, Tim Raines (the poor man’s Henderson), and — get this – Matt Williams! HOME RUN DERBY further analyzes Simpson’s insanity.

Today’s links are brought to you by Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp:

• The whole dating hockey players thing has worked out well for Elisha Cuthbert and Hilary Duff, so Carrie Underwood has apparently jumped on that train as well. REALITY TV MAGAZINE reports that Underwood is dating Ottawa’s Mike Fisher, as she was seen watching the game from a suite with Fisher’s parents this past weekend.

Carrie Underwood

• Somebody dressed as a security guard took a hockey stick from a teenage fan that was given to the kid by Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg during the New Year’s Day game at Wrigley Field. The “guard” said that the stick would be available to be picked up at the customer relations booth. There was no stick at customer relations. The kid is crushed, and nobody knows who the guy is that took the stick nor where the stick went. The CHICAGO TRIBUNE’s Jon Yates has the odd story.

• Reminding us that there’s nothing more pressing going on in the world than the state of postseason college football, Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff is considering launching an investigation into the BCS and possibly bringing antitrust charges, according to the DESERET NEWS.

• Speaking of the Utes, their fans are currently spamming AP writers such as the RALEIGH NEWS & OBSERVER’s J.P. Giglio, who says he’s received more than 100 emails urging him to put Utah #1 on his final poll ballot.

• Your strange video of the day comes courtesy of the NHL, where Ottawa’s Jarko Ruutu thought it was a good idea to bite Buffalo’s Andrew Peters on the hand.

The best part? Peters is the one who got a penalty.

• In a time when the NCAA Division I ranks continue to swell, the University of New Orleans is considering eliminating its athletic program altogether, says the NEW ORLEANS TIMES-PICAYUNE. The school, which is a part of the LSU system, is a member of the Sun Belt Conference but doesn’t have a football team.

•  A San Francisco couple with too much time on their hands are in the process of suing the 49ers for patting them down before entering Candlestick Park, saying that it’s an invasion of privacy. The SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE has the arguments from both sides.

• The Orioles have signed 34-year-old Japanese pitcher Koji Uehara, according to the BALTIMORE SUN. I guess the O’s just feel left out of the Japanese pitcher phenomenon.

• In a stroke of genius roster management that would make Isiah Thomas proud, Tottenham Hotspur sold striker Jermain Defoe to Portsmouth last January for £9.0 million, and now have decided they want him back. The price? £15 million. Well played, Spurs.

• Finally, I have to include this story about the Indians signing Carl Pavano. Is it huge news? No. It’s just an excuse to run a link to an article penned by the incomparably-named Chris Assenheimer of the MEDINA COUNTY GAZETTE.

Who will end up with the best record in the NBA this year?

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Speed Read: Is FirePeteCarroll.com Available?

Maybe Pete Carroll was right when he called the Pac-10 schedule “ridiculously difficult” - or the Trojans just had another epic meltdown against a far lesser opponent. Either way, the end result was a shocking 27-21 loss to Oregon State.  Yes, those Beavers. The same Beavers who lost to Penn State and Stanford by a combined 39 points.

Oregon State fans

You could look for goats in the game: defensive back Kevin Thomas, who let an interception in the end zone slip through his hands at the end of the first half and into the hands of James Rodgers. Or quarterback Mark Sanchez, who despite three touchdowns also threw a fourth-quarter interception that set up the eventually winning touchdown for the Beavers.

Mark Sanchez

But ultimately, blame has to go to one person: Pete Carroll. Yet again, the Trojans fell flat on their face against teams with far less talent. It’s the second time Oregon State has done it to USC, along with Stanford, UCLA…basically, any team that’s beaten USC since 2002 other than Texas.

The team came out flat and uninspired - a content, cocky team expecting to win because they were USC. (and as the LA TIMES’ FABULOUS FORUM points out, maybe celebrating a touchdown to close to 21-7 isn’t such a great idea, Ronald Johnson.) And the coaching staff was incapable of adjusting until halftime, when they had dug themselves too deep of a hole. But really, who could have seen this being anything but a Trojans blowout. Except maybe for Brooks right before the game:

I like the Beavers and the points tonight, which means I’ll be laughing in about two hours, or waist-deep into my sixth Boilermaker* at Coach & Horses around 12 bells.

…or our own Jason K. in the USC/Ohio State Live Brog two weeks ago:

“And Mark will have plenty of time to recuperate, as USC doesn’t take the field again until Thursday, September 25, when they travel to Oregon State. But remember what happened the last time the Trojans took a trip to Corvallis - a 33-31 shocker.”

Far less of a shock is that the Los Angeles Dodgers finally clinched the NL West title, thanks to the Diamondbacks’ 12-3 thumping by the Cardinals. Now Los Angeles’ notoriously fickle sports fans can forget about USC’s collapse and focus on the Dodgers in the playoffs - until they lose in four games to some team like the Cubs. But by that point, hey, isn’t the Lakers’ season starting?

The Dodgers’ clinching the NL West leaves three playoff spots to be decided: the AL Central race between the Twins and the White Sox, and the Phillies/Mets/Brewers mess for the NL East and/or Wild Card.

The Mets and the Brewers remained tied for the Wild Card, both winning in dramatic fashion: New York using a ninth-inning single by Carlos Beltran for a 6-5 victory over the Cubs, while Milwaukee knocked off the Pirates 5-1 on Ryan Braun’s two-out grand slam in the tenth. The Phillies could only sit home idle and watch their lead in the NL East shrink to one game.

Minnesota Twins celebrate

Meanwhile, the Twins and the White Sox also went ten innings. In this case, Minnesota put together a five-run rally of their own to win 7-6 to complete a series sweep of Chicago and take the AL Central lead for the first time in a month. Even worse, the White Sox seem to be imploded, as the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES reports that Orlando Cabrera seems intent on destroying team chemistry as he heads out of town.

Other late-breaking news last night, straight from the sports desk of Tank McNamara:

Eva Longoria

What was the biggest upset so far in 2008?

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The Yankees Have Broken Roger Clemens’ Heart

If you tuned in to ESPN’s coverage of the final game at Yankee Stadium on Sunday, you saw a lot of tribute videos and interviews with famous New Yorkers who told you all about what the stadium meant to them.   Of course, it wasn’t just us regular folk who were watching, as there were even some former Yankees watching at home.

One of those players was Roger Clemens.   Clemens was at home in Houston watching on a battery powered television (like a lot of people in Houston, Clemens doesn’t have power), and when he saw one tribute video in particular, it broke his steroid-pumping heart.

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Blog-O-Rama: Dennis Raking In Green After Rant

Darren Rovell of CNBC shouts out word that Dennis Green’s “They were who we thought they were” rant has become quite the cash cow for the ex-Cardinals coach.

Dennis Green and Clifford

Maybe Mike Gundy can make the same kind of mad moolah.

• WALKOFF WALK isn’t buying Jason Giambi’s excuse for his bruised eye - “I walked into the bathroom door at the hotel and split it open.”

• THE SCORES REPORT sadly says to CC Sabathia, “No no-no for you!”

• DEADSPIN gets Hollywood on the phone, as former NBA big man Mark Eaton has a screenplay to sell.

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Blog It: Canseco-Sikahema Fight Via “Punch Out”

• Relive the classic Jose Canseco-Vai Sikahema fight through the magic of “Mike Tyson’s Punch Out“. (Thanks to SbBer Shane for the tip.)


• THE FIGHTINS’ know it ain’t nothing but a G thang between Ryan Howard & Snoop Dogg.

• DEADSPIN discovers that Jason Giambi enjoys his Jack Daniels straight from the bottle.

• THE BIG LEAD weighs in on NutriSystem’s next pitchman - Chris Berman?

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Todd Jones Wants His ‘Stache To Get Some Credit

In the wake of Jason Giambi’s facial follicle-aided resurgence this season and the resulting failed All-Star campaign the Yankees organized for him (at least it’s facial hair aiding him rather than a PED or two, I think), Detroit Tigers closer Todd Jones, writing in the SPORTING NEWS, wants to make sure no one forgets about that specimen of intimidation resting upon his lip.

Todd Jones baseball card

As Jones writes, it all started years ago when he wanted to get a look that screamed intimidation in opposing hitters.

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Blog-O-Rama: St. Louis Cardinals Wedding Garter

• STL SPORTS MAG has a leg up on the perfect item for all those St. Louis baseball brides-to-be: an officially licensed Cardinals wedding garter.

St. Louis Cardinals wedding garter

• BOOSH MAGAZINE invites readers to guess the ages (and thus the legality) of the U.S. Olympic gymnastics team.

• THE SLANCH REPORT poaches the periods, as new Brewer C.C. Sabathia actually prefers to go by “CC Sabathia“.

• UNPROFESSIONAL FOUL thinks it’s a blast that the Newcastle United soccer club may be sold to the Bin Laden family.

• POP CRUNCH finds Cynthia Rodriguez sticking it to soon-to-be ex-hubby A-Rod by using his credit card for a $100,000 weekend shopping spree.

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