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”:

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Negro League Museum Needs Former Stars’ Help?

The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City has struggled since its strongest proponent, Buck O’Neil, passed away in 2006.  Surely part of the museum’s woes are related to the omnipresent financial times, but the museum also misses the tireless O’Neil, whose mission to create a shrine to the young men that couldn’t play Major League Baseball inspired many.

Buck O'Neil

While the museum’s leaders try to find a place for themselves in the current world, the KANSAS CITY STAR’s Royals writer Sam Mellinger reached out to current and former great African-American ballplayers with a simple idea: what if 3-4 men took the place of the irreplaceable O’Neil and spoke on behalf of the museum?

What if those men played in the Negro Leagues and were in the Hall of Fame? Or perhaps simply destined to arrive there? So Mellinger called upon Willie Mays, Ernie Banks, Ken Griffey, Jr., and others and asked, “Would you be interested?”

Let there be no surprise how they answered: a thousand times, yes.

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Speed Read: Terrell Owens Released Into the Wild

The Worldwide Leader dropped the bomb around midnight that Terrell Owens, whose given name could be Mercurial T. Owens, has been let go by the Dallas Cowboys. Clearly, anticipated chemistry issues with Jon Kitna forced the move. Kitna is on the record as preferring Sweet’n'Low while Owens is all about the Equal.

Jerry Jones Terrell Owens

(”Ha ha ha ha… pack your stuff.”)

On SportsCenter last night, ESPN’s Michael Smith reported there would be significant financial penalties for the Cowboys to cut Owens as much of his 4-year, $34 million contract signed less than a year ago is guaranteed cash. We hope this means Owens will continue to have at least twenty million reasons to come back to camp this summer.

Terrell Owens and Candace Cabrera

(Note to ESPN: Neil Everett is monumentally awful at ad-libbing. Never tell us how cool it is to be the one on the dais when news breaks. When a big story hits, break the glass on Bob Ley.  Surprisingly good: Stuart Scott. Also, how did Ed Werder not break this story?)

(Note 2 to ESPN: Please remind Keyshawn Johnson that Charlie Manson comparisons may be a bit dated, not to mention a little racy.)

LeBron James

In brighter news, the Cleveland Cavaliers claimed the first musical chair in the Longines Symphonette that is the NBA playoffs with a 91-73 triumph at home against Milwaukee. The Cavaliers move to 48-12, which is exactly how LeBron James hopes his Knicks career starts in two years.  (We kid, Cleveland, we kid.)

LeBron posted a silent but deadly 23-8-4 on 7-of-11 shooting Wednesday night.  Unfortunately, his most offensive move isn’t necessarily the one he unleashes on the court:

On the other end of the spectrum, Shaquille O’Neal has been letting everyone know that his excrement does not emit a malignant odor. First, he somehow thought he could pull off the Divac Dive against DwightTime Warner Intellectual Property HereHoward.

 

Then, when the Van Gundy with the honest living fussed about the sad little move, there was a Shaqhissy, captured on Miami’s 790 THE TICKET by Jorge Sedano and reproduced below in the popular MP3 format:

None of this, of course, helped the Suns win in Orlando or Miami. The Suns dropped their second Florida game in the “He Hate Me” series of former O’Neal teams last night in Miami, 135-129. No defense in here anywhere.

Shaq with Renaissance Faire groupies

(Perhaps the only men left who will fight for Shaq’s honor)

We feel compelled to note again that Shaq’s a complicated fellow. We recently saw him encourage his kids post-game to say hello to a fragile 7′ 6″ teen that sat near courtside after being featured on the local news the previous night. This was done under the stands with little fanfare, maybe a few dozen witnesses and none from the media.

When his young son was too shy to do so and tried to hide under Dad’s massive jacket, Shaq gently insisted until his son shook the adolescent hand. Shaq could relate to the teen’s condition better than nearly anyone on the planet and made sure that young man felt welcome. Also, Shaq showed his own son the importance of graciousness.

Shaq makes that gesture damned near every day of his life, often without credit. He’s also the same man that made the comments to the media above. He may have been compared to a meteorite by this author yesterday, but not in the most important way: Shaquille O’Neal is a force of nature. Try to comprehend him at your own risk.

Same for Terrell Owens. Same for LeBron James. Maybe not so much for Jon Kitna.

And now the proverbial hail of bullet points while saving a parking spot with your life

Where will Terrell Owens go next?

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Speed Read: Penn St. & Illinois Stink Up The Joint

Basketball: it’s a beautiful game. Or fantastically ugly, depending on which game you watched last night. On one hand, you had the Phoenix Suns putting up 140 points for the second straight game in their 142-119 victory over the depleted Los Angeles Clippers. On the other, there was Penn State and Illinois, who combined scored exactly one-half as many points as the Suns did in the Nittany Lions’ 38-33 upset victory over the Fighting Illini.

Penn State vs Illinois

Let’s talk about the latter game first. It wasn’t the lowest scoring game since the 45-second shot clock was introduced in 1986, but it was close. (That distinction belongs to Monmouth’s 41-21 win over Princeton in 2006.) They also flirted with the record for fewest combined points in a half, with the two team’s output of 32 just eclipsing the record of 28 set by Mississippi and South Carolina back in 2003.

The box score tells you all you need to know about the debacle. Exactly one player scored in double digits: Penn State’s Talor Battle, who put up 11 points on 3-for-11 shooting. Heck, the Nittany Lions as a team shot 28.3 percent from the field, and they won.

At least the two teams didn’t let a little thing like not being able to hit the broadside of a barn stop them from shooting the deep ball: they combined to go 6-for-33 from the three-point line. And Illinois didn’t attempt a free throw. For the game. Way to be aggressive, guys. But I guess a win’s a win, even if it’s the most embarrassing and pathetic kind possible. Congratulations, Penn State, I guess.

Steve Nash and Al Thorton

And then there are the Suns. You’ll excuse me if I don’t get too excited by the sudden return of the high-scoring, fast-paced, exciting Suns with Alvin Gentry as head coach after putting a hurting on the Clippers on back-to-back nights. First off, it’s the Clippers to begin with, but if a team with Amare Stoudemire (for now) can’t murder a team that’s missing Chris Kaman, Marcus Camby, Brian Skinner and Zach Randolph, then something is seriously wrong.

Check back with me on Sunday after you guys visit Boston, and we’ll see how you’re doing.

But the Suns have a date with Oklahoma City before then on Friday, which will be without newly-acquired Tyson Chandler. Permanently. That’s because the Thunder rescinded their trade with New Orleans from Tuesday and sent Chandler back to the Hornets after he failed a physical with their team doctor.

Tyson Chandler

As TRUEHOOP notes, it’s probably going to be pretty awkward in New Orleans as Chandler has to return to the team that just unloaded him for Joe Smith and Chris Wilcox. (By the way, is Joe Smith involved with every strange trade or free agent signing in the NBA?) What makes things even more odd is that Chandler didn’t fail the physical because of his sprained left ankle - it was because of a big toe injury he suffered in 2007. And the Thunder’s doctor was the one who performed the surgery.

And speaking of injuries…Ken Griffey Jr. is back with the Mariners! All joking aside, I think most people of my generation will think it’s pretty neat to see Junior back in a Mariners uniform (presumably) for the rest of his career. And the story of his signing with the Mariners is unique; the SEATTLE TIMES says that apparently the No. 1 salesman for Seattle was Harold Reynolds, a close friend of Griffey’s. He had been working on Griffey to sell him on the move to Seattle when he played his trump card: hugging Willie Mays.

Ken Griffey Jr.

Reynolds set up a phone call between Griffey and the Say Hey Kid, who was Griffey’s idol and the reason he wears No. 24. And sure enough, soon after having the phone conversation with Mays, Griffey told the Mariners that he would sign with them. A great story, although I’m not sure I’d take advice from Willie Mays on how to end your career gracefully.

More sports stories to learn about as you ponder if anyone’s life could be stranger than Tracy Morgan’s

Which star athlete’s end of career death spiral was most painful to watch?

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Speed Read: Are Titans The Worst 8-0 Team Ever?

Sure, it’s like talking about the least attractive supermodel you’ve had sex with or the dumbest brain surgeon. But after years of promising starts by dominant teams like the Colts and Patriots, maybe it’s time to turn to the Tennessee Titans, halfway to perfection, and just ask, “Really? You guys are the best team in the NFL?” Because it sure seems like of all the 8-0 teams the NFL has seen throughout the years, they’re the least impressive and the most unlikely to win the Super Bowl.

Dumb brain surgeon

(Without question, the dumbest brain surgeon alive. Sure hope you don’t have an appointment with him tomorrow.)

Seriously, who have they beaten? Divisional juggernauts Indianapolis and Jacksonville, yes, but they are both on down years. The only team they’ve played with a winning record is the 5-3 Baltimore Ravens, who they edged 13-10 in Week 5.

Look at this team. Just LOOK at them. Kerry freaking Collins is their quarterback. Collins’ passer rating rivals that of the Lions’ QBs and the leading receiver is tight end Bo Scaife with 344 yards. Maybe after all these inexplicable stats, this is just another Jeff Fisher-led team where the breaks are going their way. Remember that Fisher once led the Titans to the playoffs without a single player being named to the Pro Bowl. Even the corps that play amazing are still under the radar, like running back Chris “Who?” Johnson, who leads the AFC in rushing yards (with no lost fumbles). Or the defense, which gives up less than 13 points a game, almost a field goal less than the next best team, the Buccaneers. Quick, name two defenders off the top of your head. BZZT. Thanks for playing.

So they’re just a tough, small-market football team that always plays well and is just over-performing a little bit. Good for them, but it’s not like an 8-0 start from the Colts or the Patriots, because then we’d be talking about them.

Peyton Manning and Bob Sanders

So now let’s talk about them. After all, neither of those teams are far from perfect. In fact, they may not even be the second, or third, or even the fourth best teams in the AFC. New England notched their third loss with an 18-15 defeat to Indianapolis on Sunday Night Football, evening Indy’s record at 4-4. This is the definition of parity. The previous two champions are a combined 9-7 at the halfway point. And what kind of final score is 18-15 for two prominent teams? 18-15 is the final score for a couple of rural Wyoming high school football teams where the graduating class is about 50.

Pat Gillick

“Woo! World f%cking champions! Burn stuff and throw other stuff that isn’t burning!” Once the debris is swept off the streets and the Phillies faithful wake up from their happy drunken nap, they’ll soon notice their GM Pat Gillick got dressed, exited the bedroom, and left a “I’ll Always Love You” note on the nightstand. He was always a gentle lover. Ruben Amaro will be his replacement as general manager.

The Phillies would love to have him back, but really, it should just be a rule that if you’re the GM of a team that wins the World Series, you should just retire on the spot, because there’s not much else you can do. Nobody repeats anymore, and even if someone will, the Philharmonics are not the kind of team that will. So it’s probably best that Gillick, after giving a city a badly needed championship, ride into the sunset much like the mysterious gunman Shane.

Tom Amstutz

It’s also time to say farewell to another face, but not for the same joyous reason:

  • Goodbye, Tom Amstutz. The TOLEDO BLADE reports that the beloved rotund football coach for the Toledo Rockets will be stepping down from the position. After a great stretch of success in the early 2000s with four bowl games, Amstutz’s teams have underperformed as of late despite a seismic victory over Michigan a few weeks ago. With him gone, who else will be in Mark Mangino’s weight class?
  • Michael Rosenberg of the DETROIT FREE PRESS hikes up news that the winless Lions suddenly have a QB controversy between Dan Orlovsky and the newly-inked Daunte Culpepper. This should be fun, if not for Lions fans, then for the rest of the world. After all, Scott Mitchell is not walking through that door. (They changed the locks.)
  • Wrigley Field didn’t have any planned expansions this offseason, but something in their stadium expanded by exactly one blue tile. It appears the “Eamus Catuli” sign was updated to read “AC0063100.” That’s zero years since their last division title, 63 years since their last World Series, and 100 since their last championship. The “AC” is for former Lakers forward A.C. Green, but nobody knows why. So here’s a picture:

    Eamus Catuli AC0063100

    As spoken by HOME RUN DERBY, who I think we can credit with the photo, “00-63-100 might be the worst measurements in the history of measurements.”

  • Ken Griffey, Jr. back with the Mariners? The SEATTLE TIMES says he’d be cool with that.
  • DAWG SPORTS tries to cope with Georgia’s 49-10 loss to Florida in many different ways…
  • …while Texas Tech, fresh off a dramatic win over No. 1 Texas, is the latest campus to fall victim to the cold, douchebaggardly, and illegal method of selling counterfeit tickets to unsuspecting marks. About 500 people bought fake tickets, many at about $200 each. Oh, and guess what? They have another home Top 10 showdown this Saturday against Oklahoma State. From now on, don’t buy any tickets that look like they were printed on the reverse side of AIG stock.
  • It really wasn’t a great day in Texas for everyone. Jimmie Johnson’s points lead was slashed dramatically in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Chase from 183 to 106 with a 15th place finish, and the FORT WORTH STAR TELEGRAM was there. Carl Edwards, who trails the defending champion Johnson by a still-huge margin, won the Dickies 500 at Texas Speedway. Maybe Edwards should start to try and twist in his flips.
  • Just so everyone’s clear, not everything reported in Russia is accurate. The Toronto Maple Leafs are good, but the TORONTO STAR explains they’re not trade-for-Ilya Kovalchuk good. Leafs GM Cliff Fletcher had to dispel a rumor started by the Russian newspaper SPORTS EXPRESS DAILY who said the Leafs were the front runners to acquire the disgruntled star. So much for Russian spies.
  • And finally, to prove how naughty the world has been, interim 49ers coach Mike Singletary says he’s going to scale back his rants from “amphetamine-induced” to “interim head coach intensity.” What did we do to have this taken away from us? Was it the jokes at the expense of a perfectly competent brain surgeon? Because I regret nothing.

Alabama, Penn State, and Texas Tech go undefeated. Who do you leave out of a BCS championship game?

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Blog-O-Ramirez: Remembering Manny In Boston

• THE SPORTS CLUTURE looks back on the best & brightest moments of Manny being Manny: The Red Sox Years.

Manny Ramirez hugs female Sox fan

• FANSIDED compares the ongoing Brett Favre saga with Brendan Fraser’s latest “Mummy” movie, and isn’t entertained by either.

• DEADSPIN feels as high as a 46-foot fall onto a skateboard ramp, as ESPN’s X-Games begin once again.

• BUGS & CRANKS believes the White Sox got Ken Griffey Jr. to make Paul Kornerko feel better about being demoted.

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We’d Gladly Take $20 Million Just To Stay At Home

• The Green Bay Packers are willing to part with $20 million just to keep Brett Favre back at home in Mississippi.

Brett Favre point

• Some S.O.B. steals a poor kid’s wheelchair during a Twins game.

Les Miles knows how to roll with Snoop Dogg. Geaux Tigers, fo’ shizzle!

• An Olympic journalist pleases his palate with a meal of animal penises.

• Oh, Pudge! Analyzing the Ivan Rodriguez-Kyle Farnsworth trade.

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Ken Griffey Jr. Gives Okay For Trade To White Sox

For Ken Griffey Jr., it’s so long, Skyline Chili - hello, Portillo’s!

Ken Griffey Jr

(Junior learns it’s no fun to play “Pull My Finger” by yourself)

Ken Rosenthal of FOX SPORTS reports that the Cincinnati Reds slugger has agreed to be traded to the Chicago White Sox. Reds management had proposed the trade earlier Thursday morning, but they needed to get Ken’s OK since Griffey had no-trade protection in his contract.

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Boston vs. Chicago in 2008 MLB All-Star Game

The Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs will each send seven men (theoretically) to defend the honor of their respective leagues in the 2008 MLB All-Star Game, including two-thirds of the starting NL outfield and the right side of the AL infield. (”Theoretically” means David Ortiz’s limp wrist is listed but shall not participate. Alfonso Soriano may be iffy as well.)

1918 World Series card

Speaking of iffy, it’s not Griffey. Ken Griffey, Jr., did not make the team by fan vote, barely being nudged out by Ryan Braun by muscular Milwaukee voters. We assume Cincinnati showed more patriotism by leaving for a longer holiday before voting closed.
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Blog Jam: Ivanovic, Sharapova Together in TV Ad

• The GUARDIAN dials up visions of Ana Ivanovic & Maria Sharapova facing off again - in a TV commercial for Sony Ericsson.

Maria Sharapova Ana Ivanovic glamor shots

• HUGGING HAROLD REYNOLDS loves a parade - especially one honoring the NBA champion Celtics.

• Meanwhile, the BOSTON GLOBE dribbles up a full page ad congratulating the Celts paid for by the Patriots.

• ESPN’s HASHMARKS shoots up news that the Packers took the day off from practice to go play paintball.

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