If there’s one thing I hate about the Little League World Series … well, there are a lot of things. But if there’s one thing I love about it, it’s when old Major Leaguers show up and tell the youngsters grouchy yarns about how things were better in the old days. Kids love that! You go, Jim Rice.
Rice was a featured speaker on opening day of the Little League World Series today, and instead of the generic gladhanding that one would expect from someone who was recruited by the staid, conservative Little League organization, Rice proceeded to tell the kids what’s wrong with the game today. Read more…
Did you enjoy your Sunday night? Good, because it was the final eve before your inevitable onslaught of storylines involving the unlikely Arizona Cardinals and the storied Pittsburgh Steelers. Ken Whisenhunt meets his old employer. Larry Fitzgerald gets to show off his skills against his alma mater’s city. Um .. the Steelers punter played for the Cardinals last … year … zzzzzzzz. So while you stock up on hardtack and duct tape as you hunker in your bunker, just pretend how fun it would be had Sunday’s losers have actually won.
It’s a battle of redemption versus repetition. Donovan McNabb, having been benched earlier in the year, is now 2-1 in NFC Championship games and getting to start his second Super Bowl. Meanwhile, Joe Flacco became the first-ever rookie quarterback to even be in a Super Bowl. And John Harbaugh, the first-year head coach, can follow in the footsteps of Baltimore coaching icon Don McCafferty in trying to win a Super Bowl as a rookie head coach. Home teams are now a stunning 3-7 in the NFL playoffs, and the Super Bowl will finally see two Wild Card teams face off. And, of course, what are the odds? The last time the Ravens were in the Super Bowl, the site of the game was … Tampa.
And what of beleaguered head coach Andy Reid and his sudden stubble? We’ve only known of the portly Philly coach as having a clean chin and a scraggly mustache. Now his playoff beard, a trend among hockey players and some basketballers, could now catch on when it comes to the head of NFL teams. Especially if the Eagles can win their first Super Bowl in franchise history, giving the City of Brudderly Love two championships in as many pro sports finals. Does this mean the 76ers have a chance this year? (Spoiler: No, it does not.)
But the most gripping storyline is probably Ray Lewis. Yes, he was a Super Bowl MVP the year after being charged with murder stemming from being in the wrong place at the wrong time, but at the time he wasn’t wholly embraced as a household figure. All he’s done since being acquitted of murder is play tremendous football and be the face of an NFL team — as a linebacker. That’s no small feat, and maybe Brian Urlacher of the Bears can say the same thing, but quarterbacks are supposed to be synonymous with a franchise. Now he can play for the Super Bowl ring with the stigma of his checkered past mostly gone … and maybe this time, American can embrace him.
Er, anyways, back to reality.
Thanks, ST. PETE TIMES, for putting out all the story lines for the Cardinals and the Steelers in digestible, organized fashion. Now turn off your laptop and TV, go out, and jog off some extra pounds.
An astute FLICKR user (Flickerer?) caught one Steelers sign whose author knows the history of the NFL dating back to at least the mid-90s:
ESPN seems like it’s a little early for another contrived feature meant to generate useless discussions … but here it is. “Mt. Rushmore of Sports” has fans figure out who the best four sports figures from each state are. For once, the South Dakota version will look extremely boring.
Avalanche teammates Ryan Smyth and Milan Hejduk had a lot in common after Sunday’s game … “You scored your 300th goal today? OMG me too!“
Oh, hell. I knew I had January 17th marked on my calendar for a reason, but I forgot about Curtis Granderson’s charity basketball game featuring Kid Rock getting fazed by one of his hallucinations … oh, wait, that actually is a large fluffy tiger.
The unemployment rate in MLB is over 50 percent … well, if you only count the players that wanted to sign for another team.
The Clear. It sounds like the name of a rock band with a vaguely Christian background, but we all know what it really is: the steroid concoction that Barry Bonds and other elite athletes took as part of their training regiments through BALCO labs as a way to cheat the system and produce jaw-dropping, chemically-enhanced performances. Technically, the drug is called tetrahydrogestrinone, otherwise known as THG, but The Clear is clean name for it when used by dirty players.
But YAHOO! SPORTS did some poking around some recently unsealed grand jury testimony from expert witnesses, and found some very interesting facts. Like that THG wasn’t classified as an illegal steroid until 2005, well after the BALCO case broke and Bonds had admitted to using The Clear. Or that that lead BALCO investigator Jeff Novitzky testified in 2004 that ”there’s never been any studies to show whether or not THG does, in fact, enhance muscle growth.”
So yeah, the drug that has become a code word for a designer steroid at the heart of the government’s perjury case against Bonds? It wasn’t actually illegal when he was allegedly taking it. That’s more than a monkey wrench being thrown into the government’s case - that an entire 48 piece Craftsman tool set.
The government is expected to claim that regardless of the legality of THG, they have proof that Bonds took other banned substances. But if that’s the case, why is it that the only thing we heard about was The Clear for the past five years?
So it’s time to be honest with ourselves: Barry Bonds is not going to jail. This case is teetering close to a total meltdown, and at some point the government either has to cut its losses or risk a series of headaches in court. There will be no Schadenfreude moment of him doing a “perp walk” to a federal prison somewhere in Kansas, no teary interviews from jail with ESPN. It’s not happening.
But now what? It’s an amazing coincidence that this news comes out the same week that Hall of Fame voting results were released, which showed that voters are apparently willing to make at least Mark McGwire a scapegoat for the “Steroid Era” in baseball even if he’s been convicted (or charged) with no crimes, a fact that didn’t bode well at all for Bonds.
So do voters do with Barry Bonds? It’s easy to keep him out if he’s convicted, or has the cloud of the BALCO case hanging over his head. But if it turns out that The Clear - the drug that people thought might doom his chances - wasn’t illegal when he was taking it, and perhaps didn’t give him any edge, how do you justify keeping him out?
Meanwhile, back in the world where we actually talk about sports - as in what happened on the field - the LOS ANGELES TIMES reports that the Lakers had themselves a little bit of a Texas Train Wreck against the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night. First, with the Lakers clinging to a 111-109 lead with 10 seconds to go, the Spurs’ Roger Mason was fouled by Derek Fisher while scoring, setting up a three-point play to give San Antonio a one point lead.
That’s ugly, but what happened next was worse. With a chance to win the game, Kobe Bryant (who had drained a three pointer the previous possession to give the Lakers their lead) took the ball and confidently … passed off to Trevor Ariza, who got all tangled up with Manu Ginobili and was called for travelling with 0.8 seconds to go to end the game.
What? No offense to Ariza, who is a good role player. But why in the hell is Kobe Bryant passing up a game-winning shot? If you ask him, it’s because he wanted to motivate Ariza and the team:
“I could have rose up and shot it myself, but I felt like if one of my teammates, particularly Trevor, to get that opportunity just to drain a shot or something like that, he just takes his game to a whole ‘nother level,” Bryant said. “It just didn’t work out.”
Which is great if he makes it, Kobe. But since he blundered the chance, you’ve probably crushed the kid’s confidence. Way to go.
Crime doesn’t pay, especially if you’re photographed doing it in a major national magazine. MMA fighter and avowed anarchist Jeff Monson has learned this the hard way, as THE OLYMPIAN has details of his arrest on vandalism charges after being photographed spraying anarchy signs and other graffiti on the Washington state Capitol building for an ESPN THE MAGAZINE story.
USC Trojan fans, get ready for the Mitch Mustain era to begin. Or maybe Aaron Corp. Or possibly Matt Barkley. Somebody is likely going to need to step in and replace Mark Sanchez at QB next season, as the LOS ANGELES TIMES reports that the junior will likely enter the NFL Draft.
Speaking of Kobe…he has a new viral video for Nike that involves him riding a horse and selling “ankle insurance.” NESW SPORTS has the video, but I can promise you this: I’ve seen fake commercials for insurance, and this is no Old Glory Robot Insurance.
Yet another installment from The Classy World of Elijah Dukes: the TAMPA BAY TRIBUNE says that the Nationals slugger has been ordered to pay more than $40,000 in child support and alimony to his ex-wife or face 90 days in jail.This is the same ex-wife he once reportedly texted a picture of a gun to with the words “You dead, dawg.”
Newly-elected Baseball Hall of Fame members Jim Rice and Rickey Henderson appeared on David Letterman’s show last night to deliver the “Top Ten Highlights of My Hall of Fame Baseball Career.” My personal favorite is hearing Rickey utter the line “I invented the first vibrating jockstrap.” I think he believes he actually did.
Two Sydney FC soccer fans wanted to show longtime player Robbie Middleby just how upset they were he was leaving for a rival team. So the SYDNEY MORNING HERALD says they attacked him in the stadium parking lot. Well I guess he’ll stay now!
The VICTORIA TIMES COLONIST has the sad story of former major league pitcher Frank Williams, whose career was ended by a car crash in 1989 that sent him into a spiral of homelessness and alcoholism that led to his death last Friday at the age of 50.
TV10 NEWS in Columbus reports that Matt Sylvester, a former Ohio State basketball player who hit a late three-pointer to beat then-No. 1 Illinois in 2005, was arrested on Wednesday after he almost ran over a cop while leaving a Buckeyes game last week. Maurice Clarett thinks he could have done much, much better.
In the aftermath of Red Sox fans welcoming Bill Buckner back to Fenway Park only after they won two World Series, Bosox great Jim Rice recently weighed in on Torii Hunter’s recent charge that Fenway Park has racist fans.