Speed Read: A Handy LeBron Coronation Program

The 82-game NBA season ended with a gentle thud last night as the Bulls failed to secure the sixth spot in the East while the Spurs latched onto #3 in the West.  The Great Bennydini will be angered by this turn of events.

The Great Bennydini (Benny the Bull)

However, you can now express your joy in the NBA’s second season with your own SPORTSbyBROOKS NBA playoff matchups in convenient chart form:

Eastern Conference

  • #1 Cleveland We’ll Be Shouting ‘BOOBIE!’ as Much as Possibles vs. #8 Detroit Ballast Jettisoners
  • #2 Boston Can We Borrow a Dead Guy’s Knee for KG Like We Did for Curt Schillings vs. #7 Chicago Sixteen Guards and Whaddya Gets
  • #3 Orlando Dwight Hasn’t Figured Out a Costume Change to Make Him a Point Guard, Toos vs. #6 Philadelphia So Glad We’re Paying Elton Brand $18 Million in 2012-2013s
  • #4 Atlanta Name Three Players vs. #5 Miami Name Twos

Western Conference

  • #1 Los Angeles Kobe Clubs Baby Seals with Portuguese Water Dogs Wrapped in Veals vs. #8 Utah Deron Williams Falls Asleep Every Night Clutching a Copy of His Tear-Stained Contract After Failing to Find an Out Clauses
  • #2 Denver You’ve Got to Be Kiddings vs. #7 New Orleans Seriously, Aren’t These in the Wrong Orders
  • #3 San Antonio Flashbacks vs. #6 Dallas Hey, At Least We Haven’t Traded for Shaq Yets (Note: the above series has been moved to CBS and the Hallmark Channel as per FCC regulations around programming for the elderly.)
  • #4 Portland Maybe Next Years (But Don’t Tell Joel Przybilla’s Grandma We Said So) vs. #5 Houston There’s Also a Regression Analysis to Prove Shane Battier Makes the Best Damned Mojitos in Texas

As always, it’s the gift you didn’t even have to ask for.  Or didn’t want to.

Major League Baseball tried yet again yesterday to provide another round of gifts to Jackie Robinson, who has been feted nearly as often as Frank Sinatra since his death. Yesterday, every player in baseball wore number 42 in his honor to avoid the embarrassment of 42 wearer infighting last year.

Jackie Robinson

However, since MLB continues to be a bit short in providing affection through monetary donations, at least a couple players did their best to pursue great achievements on Robinson’s day.  Tim Wakefield took a no-hit bid into the eighth inning in Oakland before noted hater Kurt Suzuki ended the fun with a base hit.

Ian Kinsler followed up on this attempt with his own success: 6-6 at the plate with a cycle attached.  If the opposing team last night (the Orioles) happened to be your sleeper team this year, you may want to check just how deep that sleep is.

Speaking of deep sleep, former Illinois governor (and current Illinois chew toy) Rod Blagojevich apparently didn’t feel it necessary to stop at meddling with the affairs of Tribune Co. when he didn’t get his way.  He also sent a note to Cubs manager Lou Piniella to recommend a lineup change in 2007.

Rod Blagojevich

S’funny; we don’t remember Blago being so receptive to a lineup change at the state level earlier this year.  Perhaps he isn’t a big fan of having his moves micromanaged by impotent whiners who never held the position dictating his actions from afar when they’ve never been in the trenches, y’know?

Speaking of, what say we peek around the Internet with a gentle tap-tap-tapping of bullets on your window pane while you consider the effects of an on-campus bar in Redmond, WA, on Windows 7 development

  • Congratulations on playing all 82 games this season, Grant Hill.  Also, congratulations on getting your wife, Tamia, a spot at All-Star Weekend and various local charity events in Arizona.  Strong season all ’round.
  • Now that the WALL STREET JOURNAL has a sports section, expect to see sabermetric notions exposed to a larger audience.  That might explain why the guy in the cubicle next to you suddenly wants to talk about batting the pitcher eighth.
  • Best of luck with the dissertation, PhDribble.
  • Presumptive #1 NFL draft pick Matthew Stafford will be on Jimmy Fallon’s show Thursday, but Fallon won’t bring him out until three other picks have been introduced.
  • We suspect the last time an angry bear was used to sell hockey tickets involved Bruce Vilanch and the Los Angeles Kings, but this isn’t so bad, either:

Now that the non-playoff teams have been determined in the NBA, who will end up the winner in the Blake Griffin sweepstakes?

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Speed Read: Newspaper Carnage Only Beginning

The meltdown of the American newspaper industry is in full effect. The past six weeks have seen the closures of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and the Rocky Mountain News, marking two of the largest newspaper closures in recent memory. And yesterday came news that might be a sign of disaster for one of the nation’s leading newspapers: the SAN FRANCISCO BUSINESS TIMES reports that roughly 120 employees of the San Francisco Chronicle have accepted voluntary buyouts as the paper struggles to avoid sale or shutdown.

San Francisco Chronicle

According to a list from the SAN FRANCISCO PENINSULA PRESS CLUB, those leaving the paper include NFL writer Nancy Gay, college sports writer Jake Curtis, deputy sports editor Larry Yant and a host of other writers, editors and photographers. This should be taken as a giant red flag if these people are getting out now, especially someone as respected as Gay; trust me, people just don’t leave NFL reporting positions at major newspapers unless something is going terribly, horribly wrong.

Leaving the Chronicle

But even the voluntary exits might not be enough - parent company Hearst Corporation (which also owns the now-online only Post-Intelligencer) has said that it needed to cut “at least” 150 jobs to avoid a shutdown or sale, with the paper currently bleeding money at a rate of $1 million a week. And with the chances of a corporation wanting to buy a failing newspaper next to zero in this climate, it seems as though the only two options are to slash the staff to ribbons or close shop.

As bad as the first option sounds, the alternative is even more daunting. Especially when you consider that the San Jose Mercury News recently announced that it was essentially abandoning the San Francisco market by stopping all weekday deliveries to the city.  Which leaves a very real possibility that the nation’s 12th-largest metropolitan area could be without a major daily newspaper (the San Francisco Examiner, currently having been reduced to a free handout resembling The Pennysaver, doesn’t count).

It seems like Mark Cuban might be prescient when he blogged about the slow death of the newspaper sports section; let’s hope that his idea of teams and leagues banding together to provide beat reporters to cover the same teams and leagues doesn’t pan out, but if the San Francisco Chronicle can fold, is any idea that outlandish?

And don’t think that it will just stop with the Chronicle: the paper was only sixth in TIME’s recent list of “The 10 Most Endangered Newspapers in America”. Ahead of it on the list are papers such as the Boston Globe, Minneapolis Star-Tribune and the Miami Herald. That’s a lot of major sports teams that are suddenly going to be underserviced by local media, if at all.

Tim Floyd

Also possibly endangered: the continued success of the USC men’s basketball program. After making the NCAA Tournament for the third straight season for the first time in school history, the Trojans might be going back to square one as ESPN has word that an Arizona radio station is reporting that Tim Floyd has agreed to become the Arizona Wildcats’ new head coach, with an announcement as early as today.

This is all speculation, and as the LOS ANGELES DAILY NEWS notes, this radio station has recently also had Rick Pitino and Jeff Capel as taking over at Arizona, so take everything with a grain of salt. But the LOS ANGELES TIMES reports that there may be smoke to this fire: Floyd apparently flew out yesterday to Tucson and was given 24 hours to decide on accepting the position by Arizona AD Jim Livengood.

Which is all very interesting, since Floyd rejected an overture by LSU last year, saying that USC was “his last job.” Then there’s the matter of the “impassioned speech” he gave at the team banquet Wednesday night, imploring players such as Taj Gibson and DeMar DeRozan to not jump to the NBA and come back next season to help the Trojans make a run at a national title. And then he got on a plane the next morning to interview for the Arizona job. That’s venturing into Bobby Petrino level of sleaziness.

Diego Maradona

Finally, a busy night of World Cup soccer qualifying has also brought us two people to add to the endangered list. The first is Argentine legend Diego Maradona, whose own near-death experiences with drugs and weight made him frequently endangered in the past. But this time, it’s not his life that’s in danger but his managing career, after his Argentina squad was demolished 6-1 by lowly Bolivia.

How embarrassing is this? It’s the first time they’ve given up six goals in a game since the World Cup…in 1958. Bolivia is 50 places behind Argentina in the FIFA world rankings, and their hat trick hero was Joaquin Botero, who plays for a second-division team in Mexico. This is Chaminade beating Virginia type stuff, where you glance at the box score over and over to make sure you didn’t read it wrong, before convincing yourself it’s just a typo.

And speaking of Mexico…if I were embattled manager Sven-Goren Eriksson, I wouldn’t even bother making the team flight back from Honduras, where his team suffered a humiliating 3-1 defeat, unless he wants his severed head to be placed on a pike outside of Atzeca Stadium as a warning to future managers.

The win allowed Honduras to leapfrog Mexico into the third and final guaranteed CONCACAF berth in the 2010 World Cup. Although there’s a lot of games left in both North & Central American and South American qualifying, there’s a chance that Argentina and Mexico could wind up facing each other in a two-game playoff, with the winner getting a World Cup spot and the loser staying home.

Other sports stories you might have missed last night as you were going to the hospital ER in Texas again…and again…and again

  • This is not going to help Wisconsin out in recruiting at all: the DAILY CARDINAL reports that the Badgers have banned ESPN’s Erin Andrews from working as a sideline reporter during games in Madison because she’s too much of a “distraction.” Unless this is a particularly clever April Fool’s joke…which it is.
  • Erin Andrews

  • Remember when Pete Carroll acted petulant at Mark Sanchez’s press conference announcing he was turning pro? Scouts at USC’s Pro Day tell the LOS ANGELES TIMES that Carroll is now claiming he acted that way to “test” Sanchez’s resolve to turn pro. Because acting like a spoiled child is going to convince him to come back.
  • It’s not just American athletes who get into trouble at strip bars late at night: THE MIRROR has word that Sunderland and French international striker Djibril Cissé has been arrested after allegedly grabbing a woman by the throat at a late-night strip club. You might remember him for having the distinction of suffering horrific, Theisman-like leg breaks not once but twice in his career, which you can watch here and here. (Warning: not for the faint of heart.)
  • Give Sen. John McCain credit for doing something right: the DALLAS MORNING-NEWS says that the former Presidential candidate is lobbying for a posthumous pardon of old-timey boxing champ Jack Johnson for trumped up, racially-biased charges. It still won’t make me forget that McCain voted against Martin Luther King Day, but it’s a start.
  • A word of warning: don’t take a quick paycheck to record canned introductions to videos for a company you know nothing about. Greg Gumbel failed to heed this advice, and he wound up as the spokesperson for a time-share, which ONLINE SPORTS GUYS says has lead to a lawsuit. Here’s one video in question:

  • SI.COM says that the Hockey Hall of Fame has changed its rules, opening the door for the first female player to be voted in. Someone in Canada, Don Cherry is burning his plaid Depends adult diapers in protest.
  • Hey look, another lacrosse team has been forced to suspend their season because of alleged misconduct. But the story of the Curry College team is far different than Duke, according to the BOSTON HERALD. Team members allegedly hazed new players at a party, although even the freshmen “victims” seem to think it was no big deal. Remind me to bring a lawyer if I ever go to a college lacrosse party.
  • WSLS-TV says that Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer prepared for the upcoming season by doing some NASCAR racing. He didn’t do so hot, but his goiter was signed to a developmental deal with Joe Gibbs Racing.
  • Somehow former Cleveland Browns QB Bernie Kosar is being dragged into the Rod Blagojevich mess. RUMORS AND RANTS reports that Kosar was on some sort of fundraising “hit list” put together by the then-Illinois Governor with the Steve Garvey haircut just before he was arrested.
  • The Boston Celtics barely avoided another humiliating defeat to the Charlotte Bobcats, as the BOSTON GLOBE reports that Ray Allen’s three-pointer at the end of OT gave them a 114-106 victory.

What is your primary source of sports news and opinion?

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Speed Read: Has Twittering Gotten Out Of Hand?

We ask because, at this point, we could almost start a blog updating solely with news about Twittering athletes, coaches and GMs. Yesterday, we wrote about the infamous tweets of the Buffalo Bills and Brian Burke. Sunday, we wrote about Mark Cuban. And you know what? There are two more breaking Twitter stories this morning.

Mark Cuban

According to the ASSOCIATED PRESS, the inevitable fine against Cuban came down on Monday, and it landed with the resounding thud of $25,000. Considering the fact that Cuban’s rant was exactly 140 characters, Cuban was paying approximately $178.57 per letter for his screed against J.R. Smith. Not surprisingly, Cuban was none too happy about being lighter in the wallet, and he responded by questioning whether outlets - like, say, SPORTSbyBROOKS - has the right to re-publish his tweet, getting attention for it and, thus, earning him fines.

The answer, as pointed out by FANHOUSE, is a resounding “yes”. Because Cuban’s profile is set to public, we all get to read and re-publish his thoughts. That’s pretty much the definition of fair use. Yet the most interesting line of Cuban’s entire discussion with the FANHOUSE folks is his closing sentence:

@NBAFanHouse not close. I like to create discussion. makes things interesting

Yes, yes he does. At a cost of approximately $25G a pop.

Meanwhile, Celtics star Paul Pierce pulled off his best Shaquille O’Neal impersonation, giving away free tickets to Boston fans who showed up at his car and proffered up the pre-listed password (which, cornily enough, was “truth”). The first five jokers who have been stalking Twitter in their Paul Pierce 34 jerseys and jumped at the chance to meet him got the free seats, and web site BOSTONCS was there to chronicle the whole experience.

paul pierce twitter tickets

All of this got us thinking: Has Twitter officially jumped the shark? What started as a slightly clever way to send instant inside jokes became instantly cool when a few athletes re-discovered their inner dork, and it’s now gone so mainstream that mediocre stars need to imitate the big shots just to stay culturally relevant.

Add to that the mind screw that is Cuban doing anything — the eternal debate of whether he’s doing it because he thinks it’s cool, whether he’s doing it to manipulate the media and fans, whether he’s doing it for both reasons or whether we should even care because he’s such a tool — and maybe we’ve reached the point that we should all blow Twitter off indefinitely … or at least until Anna Kournikova shows up and starts describing what it’s like to get dressed in the morning.

Some news last night wasn’t quite fit to Tweet, because it hasn’t been completely wrapped up. As Jason first wrote last night, it sure looks like John Calipari is heading toward a long-distance commute from Memphis to Lexington, Ky.  Of course, we don’t know that’s true … yet, but there are plenty of reasons to believe the substantial rumors, one of which is this camera, which — as DEADSPIN first reported yesterday — is permanently trained on the door of Memphis’s Athletic Department.

John Calipari

In fact, the whole “Cal to Kentucky” bit is getting so much attention that, as Tuffy first coined in an email last night, you have believe the video alluded to in the ESPN.com screenshot below would lead to a camera trained directly on Calipari’s personal bedroom.

calipari espn.com screenshot

We’re betting it’s going to happen, and that it will happen sooner rather than later. And you know what? In the end, it’s a good thing for college basketball. After all, how great will it be to have Calipari and Rick Pitino facing off against each other in an annual turf war? And just think! This time it won’t just be about who can cheat to land recruits more effectively!

And just when you thought former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich’s pantomime villain routine couldn’t get any more obvious, it turns out he named a secret agreement to sell Wrigley Field to the state of Illinois — all in return for numerous tax breaks for former Cubs owner Sam Zellafter a throwaway joke in the Blues Brothers.

elwood blues license

Blagojevich referred to the Wrigley Field negotiations as “Operation Elwood”, named in honor of Elwood Blues (also known as Dan Aykroyd), whose listed address on his driver’s license was Wrigley Field.

It’s yet another ridiculous chapter from a brazenly agressive civil tyrant, but then again, what do you expect from a guy who, just months after being impeached from office, is already guest hosting talk radio shows and hand picking the callers.

  • Enough with real news, lets try to manufacture some that involves incredibly attractive people. Like Alyonka Larionov, who may or may not be dating either Alexander Ovechkin or Pavel Datsyuk. She’s also a budding viral video star, so maybe she’ll be dating someone else to keep her in the news soon, too.

alyonka larionov

mma keith jardine

  • Just because we haven’t covered enough Twitter addiction today: USC Coach Pete Carroll’s ridiculous campaign to get buddy Will Farrell on Twitter reached new heights, including this self-produced video.

jensen button girlfriend

If you were a pro athlete, would you Twitter?

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NASCAR Owner Did Favors For Ex-N.C. Governor

Rick Hendrick is one of the most powerful men in NASCAR. As the owner of Hendricks Motorsports, his team has won eight Sprint Cup titles and currently includes Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. as some of the team’s drivers. Hendrick is also very close friends with former North Carolina Governor Mike Easley, and the friendship between the two could put both of them in some hot water.

Rick Hendrick and Mike Easley

(Rick Hendrick (left) with former governor Mike Easley)

It seems that while Easley was in office he did a few favors for Hendrick while Hendrick did a few favors for Easley as well. Easley gave Hendrick some tax breaks on his race team and car dealerships, and then Hendrick would give Easley’s wife a $30,000 car to ride around in for free, or trips to one of Hendrick’s homes on his personal jet.

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ECHL’s Blagojevich Night Means Prison Uniforms

Not to go all MSNBC on you, but did you see Rod Blagojevich’s press conference yesterday? Holy crap, that’s the early favorite for batsh*ttiest insane moment of 2009. The impeached Illinois Governor is honestly making Stephen Colbert’s job a little too easy. But around these parts, we all know that the destination for cutting edge political satire isn’t the Daily Show or Colbert Report, but rather the ECHL.

Las Vegas Wranglers Blagojevich Jersey

Those Las Vegas Wranglers are up to their old tricks again, scheduling Rod Blagojevich night. The players will play in vintage prison uniforms, a move that’s either hilariously slanderous or slanderously hilarious. They’ll also be auctioning off the best seat to the highest bidder.

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Illinois Gov.’s Corruption Extends To Sale of Cubs

It’s been a pretty interesting day living in the state of Illinois. I woke up this morning and logged on to the CHICAGO TRIBUNE’s website to see if there was any news coming out of baseball’s Winter Meetings surrounding the Cubs and White Sox, and instead I was hit with a barrage of stories about our Governor Rod Blagojevich. Yes, our wonderful Governor was arrested this morning by the FBI at his home thanks to his apparent attempt to award Barack Obama’s vacant senate seat to the highest bidder.

Now I wasn’t exactly shocked to find out that my Governor was going to jail — Corruption in Illinois politics!?  Get out of town! — because our last Governor is currently in prison.  No, the shock was that the $25.53 I bid for the Senate seat just wasn’t enough. What’s truly unfortunate about this whole thing though is that Rod’s corruption wasn’t just limited to trivial things like Senate seats but also to more important matters — like the sale of the Chicago Cubs.

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