Speed Read: Lance Follows Watson Into Sunset

Sigh. Just 24 hours ago, the idea of Tom Watson winning the British Open and Lance Armstrong winning the Tour de France didn’t seem all that far-fetched. In fact, we were all starting to believe that it all had to happen. Why would they come this far just to fail in the end?

Tom Watson

Much has been written about Watson’s inability to hang on to a one-shot lead on the 18th at Turnberry, but lost in that shuffle was the news that Armstrong has basically conceded the Tour to his teammate Alberto Contador after falling behind in yesterday’s climb in the Alps. While Lance is still second overall, he finished ninth in yesterday’s stage and looks like he’s not going to be able to keep up as the Tour continues through the mountains over the next week.

Armstrong is trying to take the high road in pledging that he will do whatever he can to help Contador keep the yellow jersey until the end, but Contador couldn’t resist smacking Lance with a rather large verbal backhand:

“Lance Armstrong was my idol, but dropping him today wasn’t important — he was just like any other rider … It’s an honor for me to have him working for me,” Contador said.

In other words, this is my sport now.  Armstrong, who is rumored to be starting his own team for next year, acknowledged that Contador was the best rider and that his goal now is to do what’s best for his team.

Alberto Contador

Wins by Watson and/or Armstrong would have probably ended up being the biggest sports stories of the year, if not among the best of the decade. These examples of the triumph of the spirit over the limitations of the body as we age are a shot in the arm of a lot of us could use. For the most part, we are faced every day with some reminder that we aren’t all we could be, and we accept it because we’re getting older. It’s the most convenient excuse, and perhaps the fact that they came up just short is enough evidence for us to keep using it. Golf and cycling are about as far apart in terms of their physical demands as you can get in the sports world. But the fact that a 59-year-old and a 37-year-old cancer survivor could come so close to reaching the pinnacle of their respective sports one last time has to be some sort of wake up call for the rest of us, right?

lance armstrong tour de france

Speaking of wake up calls (and I hate to keep bringing this up), but it looks as if the nails are just about to be driven in the coffin of David Beckham’s MLS career. In his first home game since his return to the Galaxy, he was roundly booed and got into an angry confrontation with a fan during L.A.’s friendly with AC Milan (Beckham’s other team).

beckham signs

Though he claimed afteward that he expected some negativity, it was clear through his behavior that he didn’t expect it to be quite as overwhelming as it was. The main culprits were the Riot Squad, the Galaxy’s version of a wannabe European fan section. As you can see, they aren’t too happy that Becks backed out on the first half of the MLS season to play in Italy:

beckham signs

After hearing boos and coordinated chants and jeers throughout the first half, Beckham finally had enough and confronted the section of fans as he headed off the field for halftime. He says he went to ask them to calm down, but soon security was getting involved and escorting away a fan who appeared as if he wanted to engage Becks in some sort of physical altercation. The L.A. TIMES has all the particulars of a strange evening at the Home Depot Center.

Lost in all of the tension was the fact that Beckham actually played well, and was instrumental in both of L.A.’s goals in a 2-2 draw with Milan. After he delivered a perfect corner kick in the second half that Bryan Jordan headed into the net, he turned to the Riot Squad and stared them down as he raised his arms in celebration. I imagine that this battle isn’t quite over yet, even though Beckham tried to downplay it in his remarks afterward:

By the way, Los Angeles, way to treat your sports stars. You welcome Manny Ramirez, a proven cheater, back from his suspension as if he was returning from chemotherapy or something, but you get all over this guy. Nice.

Roy Halladay dominated the Red Sox yesterday, throwing a complete-game in a 3-1 victory in what could be his last start in Toronto. So where’s he going? Philly? Milwaukee? The South Side? The North Side? Anaheim? Mannywood? St. Louis? Minnesota? Texas? Seattle is apparently bucking the trend by admitting they aren’t interested.

• From the world of minor league baseball promotions, here’s footage of Chewbacca riding around in the Mystery Machine at a single-A game in Lowell, Massachusetts:

• More from the world of minor league baseball promotions: The Brooklyn Cyclones dedicated last night’s game to preganancy, complete with a pregame Lamaze class, and the promise of free tickets for life to anyone who names their kid “Brooklyn” or “Cy.”

The Mets have lost yet another player to injury, and are dangerously close to having to go out and sign Jose Lima again, and nobody wants to see that. Unless his wife shows up for his starts:

Jose Lima Wife

• 5,000 people showed up to see the groundbreaking for the new Marlins stadium, and their view was blocked by the families of the dignitaries involved in the ceremony. Now, if they could only get 5,000 people to show up for an actual Marlins game…

• Hey, so how about that really thrilling PGA tournament that ended in a playoff yesterday? That was some pretty great stuff. Wait, who’s Bo Van Pelt? Milwaukee? What’s going on here?

• With Tom Watson coming so close to winning the British Open, even a guy who survived four surgeries on a brain tumor thinks he’s good enough to come back and play next year.

Henry Surtees, the 18-year-old son of former Formula 1 champion John Surtees, died yesterday from injuries suffered in a freak accident during a Formula 2 race in England. A tire from another racer’s car flew off and hit Surtees in the head, causing him to lose consciousness and drive his car straight into a barrier.

• First, Tony Romo lost Jessica Simpson. Now, he lost a celebrity golf tournament to Rick Rhoden, who won the tournament in Lake Tahoe for the eighth time. Charles Barkley finished last, falling behind Chuck Liddell and Kevin Nealon on the last day.

Charles Barkley golfing

Mike Mussina took the mound for the first time at the new Yankee Stadium yesterday. Of course, it was old-timers’ day, so I guess that means he’s retired. He is, by the way, the last Yankee pitcher to win a game against the Red Sox.

• Maybe the reason that the Pirates gave a bit of an insulting extension offer to Jack Wilson is because they realize that, despite his defensive brilliance, he’s an absolutely atrocious offensive player. Like, along the lines of Yuniesky Betancourt. But I’m not sure I give Neal Huntington that much credit.

Whose win would have been more stunning?

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Speed Read: NFL Teams Can Learn From Calgary

Give it up for our northern friends, the Calgary Stampeders, for capturing the Canadian Football League’s Grey Cup with a 22-14 win over the Montreal Alouettes. The pride of Temple University, Henry Burris, was named the MVP by totaling over 400 yards from the QB position, while Sandro DeAngelis was named the top Canadian after kicking five field goals. Yes, Canadians get their own award, and yes, it’s probably also in French.

Grey Cup champion Calgary Stampeders

(A typical Calgarian)

So while the Canadian championship may be but a footnote in American sports blurbs, briefs, whirlwinds, and newspaper agate pages, the NFL teams could certainly learn from the Stamps to help further their franchises.

• Tennessee Titans — So you lost your first game? You got whacked by the New York Jets at home 34-13? No worries. The Stamps lost 37-16 at home to the Edmonton Eskimos back on September 1.
• Arizona Cardinals — Don’t worry about the loss to the 37-29 loss to the New York Giants. Like the Stampeders’ Burris, Kurt Warner also played in the NFL Europe for a year. And if that’s not enough solace, then I don’t know what to tell you.
• Bears, Broncos, Dolphins, Bills, Broncos, and whoever wins the Packers/Saints game tonight: You all have five losses. Aw, poor babies. Calgary’s regular season record? 13-5. (Oh, yeah, and the Giants lost six last year. But that doesn’t apply here.)
• Browns, Jaguars, Chargers, Eagles, and whoever loses the Packers/Saints game tonight — you all had high hopes this year, but it’s just not looking like it’ll happen this year. No sweat. Last year the Stampeders went 7-10-1.
• Detroit Lions — You guys, much like many of the players on the Stampeders, still have your health.

Bill Snyder

Know how your co-worker got an iPhone, so everyone else got one? In a trend of reverse cutting edge technology, college teams are now embracing old solutions to new problems having seen what’s going on in Penn State. Rather than get a trendy receivers coach to lead a big-time program, Kansas State will announce this morning that Bill Snyder, 69 years young, will return as the Wildcats’ head coach. Joe Paterno will now have someone to discuss what it was like to listen to Harry Truman’s speech.

Leather Football

Time once again for a lesson on non-tie NFL rules: A team is allowed to attempt a field goal without an oncoming rush if the team just made a fair catch off a punt. The Arizona Cardinals knew this, and with five ticks left in the first half of their game against the Giants in such a position, Neil Rackers attempted a 68-yard field goal, which would’ve been the longest kick in NFL history by five yards. Let’s take a look-see:

Hmm. Too bad that attempt didn’t make his famous “hit the post four times” commercial.

Thanksgiving Dinner

Yum. Can you fit in ten more Thanksgiving metaphors this week? How about links instead?

  • It’s another NFL Network Thanksgiving miracle, thanks to Sen. Arlen Specter, apparently chairman on the Subcommittee to Fix Sports Things. The Philadelphia Eagles-Arizona Cardinals game will be shown on local Pennsylvania TV stations, although perhaps after Sunday’s loss, this is more of a curse than a blessing.
  • THE DUGOUT isn’t a fan of Mike Mussina, but likes him enough to transplant him in an intergalactic war.
  • Old hat: Japanese veteran baseball player. New fedora: Japanese phenom baseball player. Old hat again: the Red Sox sign him, NPB TRACKER reports (or translates SPONICHI ANNEX’s report, which is the same thing). Jinichi Tazawa will get $3 million over 3 years, but will have to develop his Japanese-taught mannerisms in an American-style pitching system. Baseball purists ought to keep an eye on this project.
  • JOE POSNANSKI can’t seem to stop thinking about MVP arguments and how fun they are. Hey, they are fun!
  • THE MIAMI HERALD wonders what Tony Sparano should do with Joey Porter after the Dolphins linebacker refused to leave the field after being yanked by his coach.
  • More from the Fins/Pats game: Matt Light and Channing Crowder could be BFFs for the rest of us know, but at the worst possible time they got in kind of a fight. BALLHYPE has video proof.
  • Contrary to previous optimism in which the Detroit Lions could win a game this year: the DETROIT NEWS’ John Niyo is reporting the Detroit Lions probably won’t win a game this year.
  • Cliff Lee isn’t just the Cy Young winner, he also won “Cleveland’s Man Of The Year” as voted on by the local chapter of the BBWAA. Also some guy named Luis Isaac, who was with the Indians for over 40 years, won an award for getting fired and not being a bitch about it. The award, unfortunately, is not a new job.
  • The TORONTO STAR’s Rosie DiManno isn’t at all fooled at the Maple Leafs honoring Wendel Clark in a ceremony last night, since the Leafs haven’t won the Stanley Cup in 41 years because Clark isn’t seven people.
  • And finally, it’s time for your Iranian sports news update. The Grizzlies’ Hamed Haddadi will be sent down to the Dakota Wizards of the NBA D-League. Hey, it beats getting flipped off by your GM. Almost.

So, the BCS got a bit complicated over the weekend. Assuming Alabama stays undefeated, who deserves to play them in the BCS Title Game?

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(Note: I left Florida out because if Alabama stays undefeated, they will have to beat the Gators in the SEC Championship, putting them at two losses.)

Speed Read: Ball State Still Perfect, Still Screwed

It’s official: Ball State is the real deal. At least, as real as a win against a team called the Chippewas can make a team, but still: going on the road to take out a tough opponent like Central Michigan is tough. But the Cardinals pulled it off, winning 31-24 behind 177 yards rushing from Quale Lewis, keeping them perfect at 11-0 and keeping them on track for…the Motor City Bowl.

Ball State after defeating Central Michigan

Because no matter if the Cardinals win out, they aren’t getting an automatic BCS berth ahead of Utah, Boise State and BYU. And even if, say, Boise State loses a game, and USC wins the PAC-10 outright, freeing up another at-large spot, the choice for a BCS bowl would likely come down to a non-BCS school or Ohio State, and guess who wins that battle? (Unless the Buckeyes get upset by Michigan this weekend. Please stop laughing now.)

So yeah, another reason to hate Ohio State - not only did they ruin the last two BCS Title games, but now they are ruining things for Ball State. I know that Hawaii totally tanked last year against Georgia, but come on - wouldn’t you rather see Ball State in the Sugar Bowl against, say, Alabama than Ohio State?

Speaking of Cardinals…just as Arizona fans were starting to enjoy their team’s prosperity and start thinking about home playoff games, here comes a giant mess down the I-10. In this case, the ARIZONA REPUBLIC reports that it’s disgruntled running back Edgerrin James, who apparently wants to be released but the team won’t let him go. His agent Drew Rosenhaus maintains that he won’t be a distraction.

Edgerrin James

Since this is Drew Rosenhaus saying this, let me translate for you, Cardinals fans: this is going to be a massive, season-crushing distraction. Glad I could help. I still don’t know what team would be interested in a running back who is an old, beat-up 30 but plays about 40. Unless the Detroit Lions are in the market.

Finally, let’s transition from the unethical oiliness of Drew Rosenhaus (when a character based on you is so loathsome and unlikable that they need Jay Mohr to play you, that’s not a good mark on your character) to someone on the moral high ground: golfer J.P. Hayes. You might have heard that he DQed himself from PGA Tour Qualifying School after realizing that he had accidentally used a prototype ball during a round.

That’s pretty impressive moral fiber - it’s better than how I felt when I found someone’s wallet and resisted the urge to use their Shell gas card to by smokes even though I was broke and totally need some.

ESPN.COM’s Jason Sobel speculates that Hayes’ good sportsmanship could bring some good karma, as tournament sponsors will likely be lining up to offer the two-time Tour winner exemptions into their tournaments.

Other sports miscellanea from overnight:

  • KTRK-TV passes along word that those Texas cheerleaders who are accused of using feces to haze the JV squad have been indicted and are facing trial. Looks like something’s really hit the fan for them.
  • Morton Ranch High School cheerleaders

  • Top Rank boxing promoter Todd duBoef rips the ending to the Randy Couture vs. Brock Lesnar UFC Heavyweight Title fight, telling the LOS ANGELES TIMES that it looked “nothing more than a tough man contest” and that there is “no way it’s safer than boxing.” UFC President Dana White responds by telling the MMA EXPERTS BLOG that Top Rank chief Bob Arum is “95 years old and senile.” Let’s give this round to White, 10-8.
  • How does Mike Mussina plan on celebrating his first-ever 20-win season? Ken Rosenthal of FOX says he’ll do so by retiring.
  • Want tickets to the big Utah vs. BYU game? How about coughing up $1,600 each, asks the DESERET NEWS? I guess when you don’t drink, your have to spend the beer money somewhere.
  • The HOUSTON CHRONICLE says that Donald Driver’s father is in critical condition, two days after he was allegedly beaten by cops arresting him on outstanding traffic warrants. A family spokesman says one of the cops may have gone to school with the Packers’ WR and held a grudge.
  • The U.S. breezes past Guatemala 2-0 to finish up the semifinal round of World Cup qualifying. But as GOAL.COM notes, the big story is that Freddy Adu (is he really still only 19?) scored his first goal for the National Team during the match on a rather impressive free kick:
  • Toronto probably aren’t getting the Bills any time soon - in fact, FOOD COURT LUNCH thinks the NFL is going to London before Toronto. So they’ve provided their Canadian brethren with a handy British lingo guide.
  • What do you have in common with the NFL? You both probably want 49ers coordinator Mike Martz to shut up: CBS SPORTSLINE says he was fined $20,000 by the league for whining about a “quick spot” of the ball on the team’s final play against the Cardinals a few weeks ago.
  • The CHARLESTON CITY PAPER notes that four Charleston Southern football players are charged with allegedly robbing a couple at gunpoint for a whopping $35.
  • The TENNESSEAN reports that eight players from a Knoxville high school football team were arrested in a shoplifting ring that involved $9,000 in stolen merchandise, putting their status for their playoff game this week in doubt. Do you think?

Which rivalry game are you most interested in watching this week?

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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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Another Yankees Loss; A-Rod Hits, Jeter Gets Hit

Tuesday evening held a lot of promise for the New York Yankees. A-Rod was back in the lineup, Mike Mussina was on the mound, and Joe Girardi has just preached about the Yanks restarting with a clean slate.

Derek Jeter hurt

(“Medic!”)

Well, Moose gave up 7 runs and didn’t even finish the first inning before getting pulled. Derek Jeter left the game after getting hit in the hand by a pitch. And a retaliatory throw by LaTroy Hawkins almost resulted in a bench clearing brawl. All this, and a 12-2 loss to the Orioles, too.

So much for promise. Read more…