The Sole Reason Ali’s Deified While Tiger’s Reviled

Before the Olbermann v. Simmons thing asploded recently, I was asked during an interview for an upcoming E! television special on Tiger Woods to compare the celebrity of Woods to Muhammad Ali.

Muhammad Ali and Tiger Woods

(’Champ, seen my waffle iron?)

I said Ali was the only enduring, authentic worldwide sports celebrity we’ll ever know1. His phenomena was just recent enough to benefit from technology-wrought global interconnectivity while missing sports as an end-all for hawking washing machines.

Today, the acknowledged reason Nike is in the golf business is its association with Tiger Woods. If Nike was around for Ali’s emergence, it’d be in the boxing biz.

With Woods (and Michael Jordan) as our guide, had Phil Knight fired up the waffle iron 20 years earlier, there’d be no Olbermann-Simmons debate.

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Speed Read: Cable Doesn’t KO Punch-Up Rumors

The Oakland Raiders: they put the “Holy crap, Coach just slugged an assistant!” in “dysfunction.” At least, we’ll have to assume that’s what happened, as Raiders head coach Tom Cable (who is not, by the way, in way over his head) didn’t do much to clarify reports that he broke the jaw of defensive assistant coach Randy Hanson with a sucker punch, with his only response being that “it’s an internal issue and we’re dealing with it, and that’s all I’m going to say.”

Tom Cable, Randy Hanson

That sure didn’t sound like a denial, and “dealing with it” sure seems like code for “I’m going to use a tire iron to cave in the head of the next pipsqueak who asks me about this.” The Raiders are becoming more like a sitcom every day. Sort of like “Coach“, but with less physical comedy and more physical assault.

Cast of Coach

 (Remember when Hayden Fox crushed Luther’s jaw with a punch? Me either.)

(Although I do love the episode where Coach smashed in Dauber’s face with a beer bottle after he lost the playbook right before the big game in a wacky mix-up.)

If Cable (who is totally qualified to be an NFL head coach and has the winning demeanor of a John Madden or Curly Lambeau) wasn’t admitting to anything on Monday, then at least his players were rolling over on him, starting a “Cable, Bumaye” chant during practice to mimic the cheers Muhammad Ali got from the African people before the “Rumble in the Jungle.”

And about Hanson: Raiders fans might remember, he’s the same coach that irritated Lane Kiffin so much that he “suspended him for one game, said he had medical issues and then tried to fire him” before Al Davis stepped in and backed Hanson, who apparently is one of his favorites. So Cable (who is not treading so much water that the band from “Titanic” is standing by) probably picked the worst person in the organization to slug except for Davis himself.

(Also, you have to wonder if one of those “medical conditions” that Kiffin tried to use to fire Hanson was a “permanent glass jaw”…)

Meanwhile, Beano Cook thinks that Syracuse should get a spot ready for another Heisman Trophy to go along with those representing Jim Brown and Ernie Davis. After all, if they found a way to get Ron Powlus back at QB, anything is possible. Of course, Beano Cook is a rambling old man, the kind who holds up the line at the supermarket so he can check every item on the receipt for errors.

greg paulus qb

So no, Syracuse didn’t get “Heisman” Powlus into their football program, but it’s close: they announced yesterday that former Duke point guard Greg Paulus will be the starting QB for their opening game against Minnesota. It’s either a testament to the athletic ability of Paulus - who hasn’t played football since high school but was once the Gatorade National Player of the Year - or the sorry state of Syracuse football that someone who has been out of the game for years is their best bet. I won’t say which one, but merely point out that Syracuse was 3-25 in the Big East the last four years.

Finally, let’s see…former WWE champion decides to become an MMA fighter. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. But this time we aren’t talking about a UFC heavyweight champion/Coors aficionado, but a new possible women’s MMA star. The DAYTON DAILY NEWS says that Lisa Marie Varon, who wrestled until recently in the WWE as Victoria, has been training for nearly a year and is ready to make her MMA debut soon.

Victoria

On the positive side, Varon is a former bodybuilding and fitness model who was one of the most physical women’s wrestlers, and she is working with former UFC champ Rich Franklin’s trainer. The downsides are that she is 38, and has almost no fighting experience.

Victoria

Still, she apparently is quite serious about this, and wants to become a part of the Strikeforce women’s division. While she might not talented enough to rival Christiane “Cyborg” Santos, I think we can agree that seeing Varon take on Gina Carano would be a much more attractive match-up.

In other sports news that you might have missed while celebrating the fact that The Kids In The Hall are getting back together for a TV project:

  • No matter what, Scott Boras always wins. This time it was getting a last-minute deal done between the Washington Nationals and his client, No. 1 draft pick Stephen Strasburg. The price tag? Just a cool four years and $15 million - almost double what the Cubs signed Mark Prior for in 2001 in what had been the previous largest contract for a draft pick.
  • The NEW YORK TIMES wonders if Y.E. Yang’s shocking victory over Tiger Woods in the PGA Championship will start a golfing boom in Asia that could help the PGA Tour. Because that’s worked so well for the LPGA…
  • Speaking of which, CNBC’s Darren Rovell says that other than Yang, the biggest winner on Sunday might have been Le Coq Sportif, the clothing line whose red rooster logo got almost $2 million of free air time during final round coverage.
  • The Lingerie Football League has released its preseason “All Fantasy Team“, but BUSTED COVERAGE wants to know if you should be more insulted to be a third-team offensive lineman or first-team offensive lineman.
  • Stephen Good might be the starting right guard for the Oklahoma Sooners, but EVERY DAY SHOULD BE SATURDAY says there’s one thing that terrifies him more than losing to Texas: Clowns, especially Pennywise from “It”. No word on if he wet the bed when Bozo the Clown came on as a kid.
  • Sad news from the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER: former North Carolina State LB Edrick Smith was killed early Sunday morning when a hit-and-run drunk driver smashed into the Honda Accord he was in, splitting it in two.
  • NEWSOK.COM says that Oklahoma All-American TE Jermaine Gresham broke his vow of media silence last Friday … to give a “shout out” to Michael Vick for being signed by the Eagles. Also, he gave “mad props” to attempted Presidential assassin/Manson Family member Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme for being released from prison.
  • Great, another “Polish canoeist goes nuts on the way to World Championships and forces plane into emergency landing” story.
  • Two men from Honolulu were arrested in Las Vegas for having pot in their car after leading police on a short chase. Not much of a story, until you realize that the men were Honolulu cops in Nevada to play on a softball team in the Nevada Police & Fire Games. Needless to say, Dano has already booked them, and then beat them for being so stupid.
  • This might be a bit more than gamesmanship: a top British rugby team was having players use fake blood so they could substitute in better kickers during key stages of games.

What’s your favorite moment of coaching violence (real or threatened)?

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Speed Read: The End Of The Road For Smoltz?

One of the sadder sights in sports is watching a legend come to a realization that, despite still having the desire and the will, they just don’t have it anymore. You could see it in John Smoltz‘ eyes when he was staring blankly out of the Red Sox dugout last night, stewing in the crushing reality of getting battered by the Yankees for eight runs and nine hits in just 3 1/3 innings of a 13-6 loss.

John Smoltz

It was the first time the Yankees have beaten the Sox this year, and maybe the last time we’ll see Smoltz on the mound. He’s now 2-5 with an 8.33 ERA. He’s given up at least five runs in six of his eight starts. He has zero quality starts and hasn’t gone more than six innings in any game. More importantly, he’s pitching for a team that’s struggling to stay ahead in the wild card race and can’t afford to give the guy charity starts, even if he is a sure-fire Hall of Famer. In some ways, it’s probably better to be Tom Glavine — a guy who wanted to go out on different terms but might be better off that he didn’t have to go out this way.

As for the Sox, it can’t be good knowing that you’ve won eight of nine from your biggest rivals and you’re still 3 1/2 games out of first. The Yankees are 10 1/2 games better than the Sox in games in which they haven’t played each other. And with A-Rod back in the lineup, it’s hard to see the Sox winning eight of the next nine the teams play. In fact, the Yankees haven’t seemed so in control of the AL East since 2006. And any time you have Muhammad Ali wearing your cap in the stands, that can’t hurt:

Muhammad Ali Yankee hat

And now, I bring you what may turn out to be the lamest sports feud ever. Seems that former baseball commissioner Fay Vincent has drawn the ire of John McEnroe’s father (who also happens to be named John McEnroe). To the point where the elder McEnroe felt compelled to write a letter to the PALM BEACH POST about a column Vincent wrote that was supposed to be a tribute to Walter Cronkite. Yes, the combined age of the people involved in this dispute is about 341 years (and one of them’s dead!).

Fay Vincent

(A fine baseball historian, but a total hack when it comes to tennis)

Vincent’s original column was a nod to a comment Cronkite supposedly made after the senior McEnroe was seen shouting at CBS president Tom Wyman because a network cameraman accidentally ran onto the court to capture the end of the 1985 US Open Final a point early:

Mr. Cronkite and I had sat silently through all this, but with Wyman’s explanation, the cultured and civil Cronkite whispered in my ear, “Fay, a real block off the old chip.” I laughed loudly and told him he had it just right.

For many years after, whenever I saw Cronkite at a gathering or in a restaurant I always made it a point to remind him of the event and to congratulate him for such a perfect and witty comment. Interestingly, he always admitted he remembered.

Somehow I recall Cronkite more fondly and respectfully than I do either of the two McEnroes. By the way, the father was a successful partner in a major New York law firm.

Old Mac isn’t having any of that noise.

John P. McEnroe

(”You cannot be serious, Fay!”)

Quoth Mac Sr.:

I write in response to Fay Vincent’s recent column, which centered on a comment from Walter Cronkite and involved my son and me. He recalls sitting next to Walter Cronkite and Tom Wyman, president of CBS, at an unidentified final match at the U.S. Tennis Open. I held Mr. Vincent’s tenure as the commissioner of Major League Baseball in high esteem, but must reconsider after reading his unflattering and virtually totally inaccurate account.

BOOM! Take that, Vincent. I bet you’ll think twice the next time you consider spinning a yarn about the 1985 US Open final like nobody’s gonna call you on your bullcrap. In McEnroe’s defense, it appears as if Vincent completely botched not only the most basic aspects of the match (for example, he contends that the younger McEnroe dispatched of Ivan Lendl easily when Lendl actually won in straight sets). But McEnroe’s real anger is directed at Vincent’s accusation that he directed a profane tirade at Wyman. He then goes on to essentially say that Vincent made up the “block off the old chip” quote and even gets in this weird comment about Cronkite:

Personally, I had two brief encounters with Walter Cronkite over the years. The first was in the men’s room at the Yale Bowl one year at halftime of the Yale-Harvard game where we briefly spoke (but did not shake hands). A similar incident happened in the men’s room at a Manhattan restaurant a few months later and I said something like “we have to stop meeting like this,” at which he chuckled and agreed.

It’s a shame Cronkite isn’t around anymore, if for no other reason than the inevitable “I’m pretty sure we shook hands” rebuttal that would’ve been in the paper on Monday.

grumpy old men

Andre Ethier hit his third walk-off homer of the season last night against the Braves. By comparison, Ichiro has one walk-off hit in nine years.

• The Patriots have acquired Raiders holdout Derrick Burgess, who led the NFL in sacks four years ago.

• Remember when Freddy Adu was a big deal? 19-year-old American soccer phenom Jozy Altidore has joined English Premier League team Hull City, and should be in their lineup for the opener against Chelsea next week.

Jozy Altidore

• YAHOO!’s Dan Wetzel has an interesting take on the Michael Crabtree situation (which we covered yesterday), specifically on the notion that Crabtree is trying to negotiate based on where he was going in mock drafts, and not the actual one.

• THE WIZ OF ODDS says sports betting is back on again in Delaware.

• Hockey season may seem far away now, but those Red Hot Flames will make the wait a little more palatable. I’m guessing that what happens at the 0:55 mark won’t be included in the montage at Brett Hull’s Hall of Fame induction:

Julio Castillo, the minor-league pitcher who was convicted of assault for throwing a ball into the stands last year, was sentenced to 30 days in jail and three years’ probation yesterday.

• As a huge Guided By Voices fan, I have to tip my cap to WALKOFF WALK for building a post around comparing Robert Pollard and Roger Clemens.

• Topps has signed an exclusive deal with MLB to become the sole licensed manufacturer of baseball cards starting next season. This comes as quite a shock to those of us who thought they stopped making baseball cards in 1991.

John Hughes hadn’t directed a movie in 18 years, but his death is still a shock to any of us who grew up in the ’80s. He had his hand in a few clunkers over the years, but where would any of us be today without Ferris Bueller or The Breakfast Club? How would we know how to properly chatter?

Should the Red Sox give John Smoltz another start?

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Sad Day As Harry Kalas, Mark Fidrych Pass Away

• Another sad day for MLB fans. Legendary Phillies announcer Harry Kalas dies after collapsing in the broadcast booth before a game vs. the Nats.

Harry Kalas Mark Fidrych

And former Tigers pitcher Mark “The Bird” Fidrych dies while working underneath his pickup truck at his Massachusetts home.

Brian Bosworth: From Hollywood Harley DUI laughingstock, to home state hero after saving man’s life by performing CPR.

• Another dead goat is found hanging outside Wrigley Field. If it didn’t work in 2007, why would it work now?

Smokin’ Joe Frazier says God gave Muhammad Ali Parkinson’s disease.

• Masters winner Angel Cabrera owes his success to chewing gum.

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Frazier: God Slugged Ali with Parkinson’s Disease

Joe Frazier never received American deification and failed to think of an indoor heating pad for cooking. Therefore, his voice has always been quieter among the boxing legends from the 1960s-1970s.

HBO’s “Thrilla in Manilla” documentary (first aired last weekend) provided Frazier an opportunity to speak for himself at center stage with a sympathetic ear on hand. Finally, Joe, the stage is yours. What say thee?

Joe Frazier and Don King

“I’m sorry that (Muhammad Ali) is the way he is, but I didn’t have too much to do with it. It was the good man above. Maybe I did have a little to do with it, but God judges, you know what I’m saying? We don’t have the power to judge that the man has above.”

… okay, that’s a wrap here, people.  Thanks for your time. The lightning strike will be here shortly and we’d like to get this expensive filming equipment out of the way.

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Did Pacquiao Pound De La Hoya Into Retirement?

It turns out that maybe the Manila police and Philippine Army knew something about Manny Pacquiao that the rest of us didn’t ahead of his “Super Fight” against Oscar De La Hoya. Like that there would be good reason for the people of the Philippines to be celebrating on Saturday night, because despite having a huge size and weight disadvantage, Pacquiao would be too fast, too smart and - yes - too strong for the aging Golden Boy.

Manny Pacquiao rearranges the beautiful face of Oscar De La Hoya

Whether they were prophets or just looking for a night off, their hero lived up to his end of the bargain, beating De La Hoya’s to a pulp before forcing his corner to throw in the towel before the start of the ninth round. (It was so bad that Jim Lampley was practically in tears at one point while describing how Pacquiao was “rearranging De La Hoya’s beautiful face.” Get a hold of yourself, man.)

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Tiger Woods Gets Sandy Koufax Autographed Ball

NEXT ON HIS XMAS LIST: THE SPACE SHUTTLE (LOW MILES!) The ASSOCIATED PRESS finds out what to get the man who has everything, Tiger Woods, for Christmas.

Sandy Koufax Bowling

Excerpt: “There aren’t many autographs he wants in return, but Woods recently got a prized possession — a baseball signed by Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax.“Woods on the landing a signed ball from the out-of-sight southpaw: “How about that? I’ve been a Dodger fan my entire life, and Koufax is the man.

Sandy Koufax Signed Baseball

Woods, who rarely signs autographs himself except under the auspicies of Upper Deck, “asked an official at Upper Deck that if he ever ran into Koufax, would he ask for an autograph. The next time Woods saw him, the Upper Deck rep handed him a baseball.”Woods only other autograph? Signed boxing trunks (circa 1977) from Muhammad Ali. Woods: “I had never asked for any autograph ever, and I said to him, ‘Could you please sign anything, a paper, anything, please?’ He was shaking (from Parkinson’s Disease) and said, ‘I’ll take care of it.’ All of a sudden, I had a a pair of trunks. He said, ‘I won’t be needing these anymore.’ I’ve got those hanging on my wall.

Phil Mickelson

And hanging right next to that? A Phil Mickelson game-worn brassiere (sadly, unsigned).