Speed Read: LeBron’s Heroics Keep Cavs Alive

I guess it just wouldn’t be a Magic-Cavs game in Cleveland if the home team didn’t blow a 20-point first half lead. And not only did their early 34-12 lead vanish, it went away nearly as quickly as it came about. By the time the Magic had finished scoring the first nine points of the second half, they had a 64-56 lead and it looked like Nike was going to have to commission a Hedo Turkoglu puppet.

LeBron and Wally

(The most impressive part is that LeBron literally carried Wally for the entire second half)

But then, LeBron James came alive and put the team on his back like a superstar should in a win-or-go-home game. And (for once this series) he actually got some help from his teammates, who had the courtesy to make the shots he set them up for. When all was said and done, LBJ had a triple-double (37, 14, & 12) and the Cavs had beaten Orlando 112-102, sending things back to Disney World for Game 6.  The odds are still stacked against Cleveland, but this Magic team isn’t exactly full of guys who have been here before.

Stan van Gundy

(Don’t worry Orlando, you still have this very calm, collected man running your team)

ABC counter-programmed against the NBA game with the gripping finals of the National Spelling Bee. Fortunately, they had the good sense this year to keep Mike and Mike away from it, instead going to “Dancing with the Stars” host Tom Bergeron, who was joined during the proceedings by Brooksfavorite gymnast, Shawn Johnson. The winner was Kayva Shavishankar of Olathe, Kansas, who got bonus points for having a name that was harder to spell than any of the words on the championship list. She spelled “laodicean” right to win the title, taking home the big trophy and $40,000, which will pay for nearly one year of college. This article says she’s a “budding neurosurgeon,” which leads me to believe that she’s actually already done brain surgery. Props to her if that’s the case. The favorite, Sidharth Chand, flubbed “apodyterium” and finished fourth, joining the 292 other spellers who have ultimately just wasted a whole lot of time studying for this. Anyway, this is all just an excuse to post the video of that one girl screaming the last word back in the ’90s again:

The fallout from the Memphis violations scandal continues, with new allegations surfacing about Derrick Rose, who is supposedly the Memphis athlete whose SAT was taken by a stand-in to ensure that he passed. According to the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, Rose was one of four Simeon High School athletes whose transcripts were fraudulently altered in order to help him get accepted to college. Meanwhile, Kentucky officials continue to maintain that they believe that John Calipari is not a risky hire, even though his two previous schools have come under investigation soon after he left.

John Calipari

• The BOSTON HERALD says that Terry Francona got so upset about getting ejected from yesterday’s Red Sox-Twins game that he received medical attention in the clubhouse afterward for elevated blood pressure. Tito’s only 50 years old, but has been a walking heart attack waiting to happen for several years. Let’s hope he lives to see David Ortiz go deep again.

• For years, baseball stat-types have been looking for a way to quantify Derek Jeter’s bad defense. Well, the HARDBALL TIMES’ Colin Wyers came up with a metric that does just that. According to the new SZR (Simple Zone Rating), Brooks Robinson is the best fielder ever (which sounds about right) and Jeter is the second worst (foiled by Eddie Yost).

• Here’s your Stanley Cup preview from USA TODAY. This is the first rematch since the Islanders and Oilers played back-to-back Cup finals in 1983 and 1984. The Isles won in ‘83 (their fourth title in a row) but the Oilers unseated the champs the next year. That means it’s now been 25 years since Gretzky and Messier won their first cup. And what a scene it was when it happened (fans with goofy signs were on the ice before the game ended. They’d be tasered these days):

• Speaking of the Stanley Cup, the first two games will be played on consecutive nights this weekend, the first time since 1955 that Cup games have been played two days in a row. And why? No, it’s not Yanni’s fault this time. It’s actually Conan O’Brien’s fault. DEADSPIN says that NBC wouldn’t air weeknight games because if they go into overtime, they could’ve pre-empted one of O’Brien’s first shows as host of the “Tonight Show.” The finals weren’t orginially supposed to start for another week, by which time the world would’ve forgotten about hockey altogether.

• The World Series of Poker got underway yesterday with a special 40th-anniversary hold ‘em tournament. The buy-in: $40,000. About half of the field of 201 has hit the rail, and this special tourney (a who’s who of pro players) will conclude on Sunday. The $10,000 main event doesn’t start until early July. For now, here’s a picture of Phil Ivey getting an arm massage as he casually leaves a giant wad of $100s just sitting on the floor:

Phil Ivey

• Could Joe Torre have a bigger horseshoe up his butt? Manny gets suspended for 50 games, and somehow Juan Pierre turns into Ty Cobb (uh, except for the racist part). Pierre, who is widely known to be one of the worst offensive players this decade (stealing bases doesn’t make you good), is hitting .440 since becoming the starting left fielder for the Dodgers. L.A. won again last night, 2-1 over the Cubs in Chicago.

• I have to admit that I never thought I’d see the day when John Salley and Patti Blagojevich would be interviewed together, but GOOD DAY L.A. had them yesterday morning as they promoted their new TV show about getting stranded in the jungle. And YOU BEEN BLINDED has the video, which includes Steve Edwards asking the married Salley about his “girlfriends,” which didn’t amuse John at all. Salley also defends Patti by calling our country “communist.” Good times all around.

John Salley and Patti Blagojevich

• Is Twitter over yet? Now the LPGA is saying they would “love” to have players tweeting mid-round. Yeah, let’s slow golf down even more.

• BLOOMBERG has a good look at Sonia Sotomayor’s influence in ending the baseball strike nearly 15 years ago. Sotomayor grew up just a couple of miles from Yankee Stadium in the South Bronx, which also happens to be the country’s poorest congressional district. But hey, at least they have a shiny new stadium with $2,500 tickets!

• Now that Shea Stadium has been blow’d up, Tom Glavine has decided it’s safe to pitch again. He threw five scoreless innings in a AAA rehab start last night, and may pitch for the Braves next week. Still, expect something to “flare up” if Glavine’s turn in the rotation comes up when the Braves are in New York.

Which sports figure would you most like to send to the jungle for a month?

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Speed Read: Rodney Harrison’s Career Likely Over

The NFL is on the verge of losing one of its largest revenue streams, based on the news out of New England last night. Safety Rodney Harrison, who has rankled opponents over the years with his aggressive (some say dirty) play, joined Tom Brady on the “guys opposing fans are happy to see in pain” list after it was revealed that he will miss the rest of the season with a torn thigh muscle. In fact, the AP is going as far as calling it a career-ending injury.

Rodney Harrison

The oft-fined safety tore his right thigh muscle and rehab will reportedly take 8-10 months. Harrison is in the last year of his contract and many expected that he was going to retire after the season anyway. He’s donated more than $200,000 to NFL over the years in fines for illegal hits. Roger Goodell will just have to keep making up more reasons to fine Hines Ward to account for the reduced cash flow.

Kellen Winslow and his staph infection were suspended one game by the Browns because Winslow had the gall to call out the team’s brass for asking him to hide the illness and for not taking enough action to prevent further infections. Despite the fact that Winslow made it clear that his beef was not with his teammates or coaches, GM Phil Savage called the comments “unwarranted, inappropriate and unnecessarily disparaging to our organization.”

It looks like Larry Johnson will likely not play this Sunday whether the NFL suspends him or not. Herm Edwards suggested in comments yesterday that LJ’s latest act of female degradation would be enough to earn him another week off.  It has been confirmed that police are investigating the incident.

Pudding pops for everyone! Bill Cosby was on hand last night as Temple beat Ohio 14-10 in a game that nobody wanted to see, but everybody watched for like five minutes because nothing else was on. The PHILLY INQUIRER insists that the Owls are still in the MAC Eastern Division hunt despite a 2-3 league record.

Bill Cosby

The World Series starts tonight, and HOME RUN DERBY has the preview you’ve been waiting for. It’s of the teams’ cheerleaders, of course, which means there hopefully won’t be any photos of a shirtless Matt Stairs. It should be noted that the Phillies’ Ballgirls are actually the ones who sit in foul territory and field balls that go out of play, while the Ray Team is more of a traditional squad — with some dudes, though. The Ballgirls are actual softball players who just happen to be attractive, which makes them the winners in my book. Anyone can operate a t-shirt cannon.

World Series cheerleaders

• Think it’s not physically demanding to be a baseball manager? Just tell Terry Francona that. He’s having surgery this offseason for a back injury that has left him with “diminished feeling” in his arms and unable to stand up straight, according to the ASSOCIATED PRESS’ Jimmy Golen.

Terry Francona is frail

Since Francona has become manager of the Red Sox he’s been struck by the following maladies:

A foot infection, a knee replacement, staph infections in both knees, chest pains, several years on blood-thinners, a life-threatening blood clot in his lungs and now a back problem that will require surgery.

Francona also chews massive quantities of tobacco during the season, which I’m sure helps a lot with all of this. And he won’t even turn 50 until early next season.

• It’s not the World Series without the participating cities’ newspaper columnists taking really easy cheap shots at each other. Today, the PHILLY DAILY NEWS’ Stu Bykofsky has the floor, and it might just be the worst trash talk I’ve ever read. There’s references to tuberculosis and Salvador Dali(?), and he calls Rays fans “tampons.” It’s all very sophisticated.

• Those catwalks at the Trop? Yeah, the geniuses who built the place thought that nobody would ever hit a baseball up that far, so says USA TODAY.

• Monday was a rough night for the Bailey brothers. CBS4 in Denver is reporting that Champ Bailey tore his groin (yeesh) in the loss to New England and is going to miss 4-6 weeks, while his brother Boss injured his knee and is out for the season.

• NEW YORK MAGAZINE’s Lucas Mann was with Stephon Marbury when he watched the final presidential debate…at a homeless shelter on the Bowery in New York.

• The LOS ANGELES TIMES’ Bill Shaikin celebrates the fact that there are a number of African-American stars in this year’s World Series.

• The first NHL team in Toronto is doing so well, that the league is talking about putting another one there, according to a CBC report.

• Texas Tech coach Mike Leach told the FORT WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM that he tries as hard as possible to stay away from computers.

• Your police-assaulting and racial-slurring act may fly in Dallas there, Mr. and Mrs. Collegiate Sports Marketer, but the BOSTON HERALD says you’re in some trouble for doing it in their backyard.

Marion Jones‘ former track coach, who was a whistleblower in the BALCO case, has avoided prison time and instead was sentenced to 12 months of house arrest, write Lance Williams of the SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE.

Who’s going to be the Phillies’ DH in Game 1?

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Torre Bets LA Columnist Manny Will Get A Haircut

Here’s to hoping Manny Ramirez doesn’t read the Bible, or, at the very least, that somebody convinces him that the story of Samson & Delilah was just an obscure Grimm Brothers tale. Because Joe Torre, Ramirez’s new manager, would very much like the slugger to tighten up his wig. As in: cut off the dreadlocks and try to look more like a baseball player and less like a hobo.

Manny Ramirez Dodgers

The LOS ANGELES TIMES’ T.J. Simers thinks that, despite Torre’s wishes, there’s no way the mercurial Ramirez would oblige, and Simers is even willing to put his money (in the form of a charitable contribution) where his mouth is: Read more…

Position Players Prepped For Pitching Predicament

During last night’s 15-inning endurance test at Yankee Stadium, there appeared to be a chance that, at the very least, Red Sox skipper Terry Francona was going to have to figure out which position player he would have had to turn to. The NEW YORK TIMES reports that players such as Evan Longoria and game MVP J.D. Drew were ready to hit the mound.

J.D. Drew All-Star MVP

(Not like he didn’t earn the MVP, but pitching would be icing.)

The AL manager had promised the Devil Rays that Scott Kazmir was not going to be overworked; in fact, he didn’t want to use Kazmir at all.

Read more…

Blog-Some: Vols’ Baller Gets It On With Gaye Tune

• DEUCE OF DAVENPORT gets it on with Jordan Howell, as the Tennessee senior guard tickles the ivories to Marvin Gaye’s greatest.

• THE EARTH TIMES puts down the Hofbrau, as new a study reveals that watching soccer in Germany is bad for your health.

• FAN IQ’s 100% INJURY RATE has the poop on Beijing’s Olympic toilet situation - It’s great if you believe in squatter’s rights.

Read more…

New Schilling Rule Excluded Players From Winning Contract Incentive Awards

NEW ‘SCHILLING RULE’ KEEPS AWARDEES FROM CASHING IN Not to be outdone by his manager, Red Sox hurler Curt Schilling has caused the creation of another restrictive rule:

Curt Schilling Barbara Bush

The BOSTON GLOBE’S EXTRA BASES lays down the law that players given financial incentives to win certain awards will no longer be eligible for said awards.The Baseball Writers’ Association of America, approving the resolution on Wednesday, based the new rule on Schilling’s contract, which states that the Sox would pay their pitcher $1 million if he gets at least one Cy Young vote.

Luckily for Curt, the new rule doesn’t take affect until 2013. Meanwhile, the ‘Francona Rule‘ - limiting what managers can wear during game play - goes into action next season.

Baconator

The new ‘Schilling Rule’ will replace the previous one, which banned Baconators in the bullpen up until the 6th inning.

Francona Not Allowed To Wear Pullovers In Games

BASEBALL TELLS SOX’S FRANCONA THE PULLOVER IS OVER: MLB’s fashion police throws the book at Terry Francona, as the Red Sox manager is no longer allowed to wear pullovers during games:

Terry Francona pullover

The BOSTON HERALD reports that Major League Baseball is banning the comfortable clothing from part of the official uniform. VP Bob Watson, referring to the decision as the ‘Francona Rule’, said that managers must wear a team jersey or jacket while deliberating in the dugout.Watson maintained, “You can’t wear your nightshirt, or whatever it is. You can wear it before games, or after games, but not during games.”

Eric Wedge John Gibbons pullovers

Cleveland’s Eric Wedge and Toronto’s John Gibbons have also been known to pose in pullovers while working. MLB had earlier stated that first offense for the fashion faux pas would be a $1,000 fine, strike two would cost $5,000, and strike three would mean a one-game suspension.But even with the uniform uproar, the Yankees always somehow manage into play. The Herald story has a poll asking readers if they agree with the new rule.

Francona Rule Poll

The choices are:”No, Terry Francona should be allowed to wear what he wants.”

-or-

Sure. As long as they don’t make him wear pinstripes.”