It would pretty well suck to be Rich Rodriguez these days. After all, the Detroit press seems to be on a witch hunt, except it’s not really a hunt, since RichRod’s already right there and they’re not looking for anyone else. At the same time, though they tut and moan about everything about the program, wins are the only thing that’ll shut them up, and they’ll come when they come.
(Not a man having a good time.)
So when some good news from off-the-field business comes along and can help Rodriguez manage the media horde, well, that’s just plain great. Nothing can possibly go wrong with a piece of news like “Michigan’s GPA is the highest it’s been in 25 years,” which Rodriguez says the Academic Success Program told him. Why, just a few months ago, he told reporters, his Wolverines “have recorded the highest GPA ever recorded.” Great news! Let’s just let the newspaper double-check on this and oh dear no, we’ve got a bit of a discrepancy. Juuuust a bit.
While Brooks and the rest of the SbB crew worked hard to get you the very latest on the Steve McNair murder, Sunday turned out to be a pretty big day for three of the world’s biggest athletes — who just happened to have co-starred in the “Citizen Kane” of awkward athlete endorsement campaigns.
That’s right, now that Thierry Henry has been booted from the Gillette posse (at least in America), all three razor-wielding superstars had pretty huge days.
First, Roger Federer made history by winning his 15th Grand Slam title in a crazy five-set win at Wimbledon over Andy Roddick. Pete Sampras was in the audience, taking in the match as only Sampras could — puking his guts out on the sideline looking bored out of his gourd. The 30-game fifth set was the longest in Slam history by a full 10 games. The final game was the only time Federer broke Roddick’s serve the entire match. Only Roddick’s inability to put away four set points in a second-set tiebreak kept him from pulling off the huge upset.
As Federer was accepting his trophy, Tiger Woods was getting ready to tee off in the final round at the AT&T National, which he hosts. I’m not sure I understand the “host” thing, is that like when Heidi and Spencer “host” a party at PURE? He started the day in a tie with defending champion Anthony Kim, but soon found himself needing to keep up with Hunter Mahan, who started well back but fired a 62 to zoom all the way to the top of the leaderboard. Tiger drained a 20-footer on the 16th hole to take the lead, and he got to the clubhouse with two easy pars to wrap up his 68th PGA Tour win. And he interviewed himself afterward. I have to give him credit, though, as it was the first time the questions in a Tiger interview were as boring as the answers.
Jeter got more votes than anyone else in the AL, but is joined in the starting lineup by just one other Yankee — first baseman Mark Teixeira. A-Rod is nowhere to be seen, with Evan Longoria getting the starting nod instead. Josh Hamilton was voted into the starting lineup despite missing all of June with an injury, and this year’s recipient of the Lance Carter Memorial “Who?” Award is Oakland reliever Andrew Bailey, who is a fine pitcher but a guy even baseball fans would be hard pressed to tell you anything about. And while it looks like manager Joe Maddon pulled some homerism by adding Jason Bartlett, Carl Crawford, and Ben Zobrist to the team, all three of those guys are having huge years. And yes, if you’re scoring at home, Zobrist is the last All-Star ever, alphabetically speaking. The other big story is that of 42-year-old Tim Wakefield, who surprisingly has never been an All-Star until now. And congrats to the Royals for producing an actual All-Star this year, rather than their usual token “we gotta put someone on the team” guy.
The NL team is headlined by Albert Pujols, who received the second-most votes ever (only Ken Griffey Jr. got more, in 1994). At age 37, Raul Ibanez is an All-Star for the first time, and has been voted in as a starter. Unfortunately, it looks like he’s probably not going to be able to play. Nor is fellow outfielder Carlos Beltran. That means that reserves Hunter Pence and Brad Hawpe are likely to be out there when the game starts. No true no-name on the roster, as even Pittsburgh’s representative — Freddy Sanchez — is fairly deserving of his spot.
• If you click on only one link today, read this story in the L.A. TIMES about Zac Sunderland, a 17-year-old kid who is nearing the end of a solo circumnavigation of the world on a sailboat. Pirates, broken sails on the open seas, armed police escorts in New Guinea. It’s safe to say he had a more eventful year than the rest of us.
• OK, there was something called the “Junior World Football Championships” going on for the last week, and you’re not going to believe this — but the USA won. Shocking, considering our boys had to take down the likes of France, Mexico, and Canada (which they did by a cumulative score of 174-3). Next time, in an effort to even the playing field and give other countries a fighting chance, the U.S. is just going to send Washington State’s football team instead (they might be able to beat Sweden).
The conventional wisdom is that the Pac-10 was having an exceedingly down year. In fact, that’s probably the main reason that USC was left out of the National Championship discussion: their one loss against a Pac-10 school was far worse than a loss to an SEC or Big 12 team.
So what do we make of Oregon’s 42-31 victory over Oklahoma State in last night’s Holiday Bowl? Yes, the Ducks featured an explosive offense, which you would expect from an Oregon team and is apparently mandatory to play in the Holiday Bowl. But the story was their defense in the second half, which put the clamps on the Cowboys’ star QB Zac Robinson.
It was just a big day all around for Oregon sports teams. Along with the Ducks winning the Holiday Bowl, the Portland Trail Blazers did the improbable on Tuesday night, taking out the defending champion Boston Celtics 91-86 without the services of injured All-Star guard Brandon Roy.
Keeping in mind it might be foolish for the Celtics to start panicking now - they are still 28-5 - but they have lost three of four. Oh hell, where the fun of having a sense of perspective: between this, the Patriots missing the playoffs and the Red Sox getting rejected by Mark Teixeira, let’s start wildly speculating about the end of the Boston sports dynasty.
Other sports news that happened as you prepare to get your drank on tonight:
LeBron James’ birthday wasn’t as successful as he would have liked, as he lost his showdown with Dwayne Wade’s Heat 104-95. Somehow you excuse me if I’m not too sympathetic. Still, the game was a lot of fun to watch - NESW SPORTS has highlights of some impressive blocks each superstar had during the game:
Most coaches are petrified of their players getting distracted by the glitz and parties that surround bowl games, especially if they are some place exciting like Miami. Which explains why the CINCINNATI ENQUIRER says Bearcats head coach Brian Kelly is debating moving his team from the hotel they are staying at ahead of the Orange Bowl because Sean “P. Diddy” Combs is having a New Year’s Eve party there.
DIME WARS has awesome video of the Pistons’ Rasheed Wallace doing what he does best: taunting and baiting NBA referees. What can you say? The man is the best of all time.
The LA TIMES reports that UCLA defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker, long considered to be a prime candidate for a head coaching job somewhere, is finally going to get his chance at New Mexico State. Of the seven African American head coaches in the FBS, two are in the state of New Mexico.
More from the Danny Villa mess: the BOSTON HERALD says that his wife has filed divorce papers against the disgraced former NFL player and HS football coach accused of raping an underage student. Hope he has a good divorce lawyer.
Oh, subprime mortgage crisis, why do you mock the rich and famous? Sure, the current dismal housing situation has hit the middle class the hardest, but that’s way too depressing to discuss on a sports blog. Instead, to take our mind off the drudgeries of the real world, we can point and gawk at those more fortunate than us. Misery loves company and whatnot.
NBAers Allen Iverson and Rasheed Wallace, who have combinedto earn more than $261 million in their careers, are having a tough time selling their homes. So tough, in fact, that they’re slashing prices (Everything must go! Priced to sell! … so on and so forth) — Iverson has dropped the price by 37 percent; Wallace by six percent.
And now we have an NBA Finals. It’s Boston vs. LA. The Celtics sat in the final musical chair before the NBA took the needle off the record with their 89-81 victory in Game 6 last night. (A second road win! How quaint.) The Pistons bowed out gracefully in three straight Eastern Conference finals in Buffalo Billsian fashion. Although I don’t know if the Bills had anyone throw a temper quite like Rasheed Wallace:
Wallace picked up his fifth foul with 9:04 left in the game, and rather than pick up his 7th technical, he decided to channel that frustration away from the refs and toward the camera man. If you can’t hear that audio too well — it was a little dampened — it sounded something like “get that stuck camera out of my face.” Well if it was stuck, Mr. Wallace, how can he really get it out of the way? If he does pull the camera out, does the camera man become King of England? Read more…
Occasionally, Brooks pulls a few strings for us writers around here. When he does, we get the privilege of “speaking” with a real live athlete. It’s nice because it gets us out of our mother’s basements for a little bit. On the docket for today, Rasheed Wallace:
Last night’s huge come-from-behind victory was keyed by an equally huge third quarter performance by Rasheed Wallace. In that decisive third, Sheed had 10 points and 3 rebounds as the Pistons turned a 10 point deficit in to an 8 point lead. I was lucky enough to imagine talking to him about the game.