If you can avoid only one game this week, it should probably be the Raiders at the Giants on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET on CBS. Some are calling the Giants the best team in the NFL, and the Raiders, who may not even have a coach, um, are not. May cause loss of vision and abdominal cramps; view at your own risk. Elsewhere on your dial: Read more…
The United Football League begins play ON THURSDAY with the California Redwoods taking on the Las Vegas Locomotives in Vegas at UNLV’s Sam Boyd Stadium. (Coincidentally where the XFL played its first game.)
(Obtaining Right To Witness Coaching Wizardry Of Fassel Not-So-Facile)
Seeing as I have Direct TV and the game is on Versus (so I’m screwed), I was actually thinking about trekking from L.A. out to Vegas to take in the game. So I logged onto the UFL’s official site late Sunday night to look into buying tickets for the game.
I started by going to the official league site here. Then to the league’s “tickets” page here. When you click on “tickets” for the first game listed, Vegas vs. California, you’re transported to, for some reason, UNLVTICKETS.COM. Read more…
• An Iowa inmate gets let out of jail for the day so he can go see the Red Sox play the Royals in person.
• Two Costa Rican paparazzi are suing Tom Brady for being shot at during his wedding to Gisele. Brady’s reaction? “I go no reaction to that one.”
• Flummoxed by your fantasy football failings? ESPN is offering to help the old-fashioned way - with a toll-free phone number.
• When it comes to NCAA sanctions, the BCS schools often get lighter sentences than their non-BCS brethren.
The UFL season begins in about a week, as if you didn’t have the date circled with a sparkly glow pen. In addition to rolling out the schedule, we’ve also got your announcers for the Versus TV broadcasts. You’ve got your Doug Flutie, your Dave Sims, your Kordell Stewart … wait, what? But most importantly of all …
Gratuitous Anita Marks. If anyone were cut out to be a UFL sideline reporter, it’s Ms. Marks, who has not only been a broadcasting fixture on radio, but also a quarterback in the Women’s Professional Football League and a Playboy model. Ha, match that resume, Suzy Kolber.
Just when you thought that your memories of the Denver Gold and the Pittsburgh Maulers must be resulting from some Tijuana-induced drug flashback, the news hit: The USFL is back! But unlike the UFL, with its fancy “press conferences” and “letting people know they exist,” the USFL just kind of quietly put up a web site, and if you happen to stumble upon it, great. Welcome aboard!
(Steve Young, during his glory days with the L.A. Express)
I didn’t hear of this until Tom Hoffarth of the LA DAILY NEWS reported it in his blog — odd, since Los Angeles doesn’t seem to have a team in this new USFL World Order — and linked to their new web site. According to Hoffarth, Tom Ramsey, the former UCLA and Los Angeles Express quarterback, is among a San Diego-based group running the new league. Read more…
After hearing about Mike Singletary’s latest motivational move at San Francisco 49ers training camp, we can all be glad of this: he kept his pants on this time. In fact, he did what many 49ers fans wish someone would have done years ago: he sent former No. 1 draft pick and genial bust Alex Smith packing.
Unfortunately for those fans, Smith came back, as he wasn’t traded or cut. No, Singletary had Smith watch the last 30 minutes of training camp from the top of a hill overlooking the practice facility after Smith threw a deflected pass into coverage that was intercepted during a scrimmage. Personally, it sounds like a better punishment would have been to give Smith a couple of passes to nearby Great America and tell him to have fun and enjoy the roller coasters.
Smith tried to force a pass to noted slacker-slash-slugger Vernon Davis, but it was tipped and eventually picked off. Unfortunately for Smith, this came right after Singletary announced to the team that “the next guy responsible for a turnover would have to sit on the hill for the rest of practice,” leading to Smith getting his perch high on a hill.
Again, some one tell me how this is punishment? Instead of working his butt off at training camp and sweating in the summer heat, Smith got to relax and watch the practice from a grassy vantage point - probably under a shady tree while eating a couple of apples as bluebirds sang to him. And I guess that we are supposed to be impressed that his starting offensive line came to sit with him in a “nice show of solidarity,” although I suspect they saw a chance to get out of the last half-hour of practice and made the most of it.
I know NFL teams are careful not to push players too hard, but don’t players run laps as punishment any more? Suicide sprints? Something other than sitting down and not training at training camp? Mike Singletary’s training camp is allegedly some combination of the Junction Boys, the Bataan Death March and the training montage from “Rocky IV” from how the media is portraying it, but if that’s as tough as it gets in the NFL, maybe we’re coddling players a bit too much.
I have no idea what a UFL training camp is going to be like; I’m guessing it will be more advanced than teaching the players what the Xs and Os on the playbook mean, even if just barely. But it does seem like the players are going to go through a lot of punishment - at least on the field, thanks to their names and uniforms. That is, if the ones announced on Monday by the Las Vegas franchise are any indication.
First off there’s the name: the Las Vegas Locomotives. Because when I think of Las Vegas, I don’t think of gambling or nightlife or danger - I think of trains. Yup, you really get the high rollers coming in on the train from Barstow to Las Vegas. It’s basically a half-step up from calling the team the Las Vegas Hobos, and unless your team’s offensive coordinator is John Hodgman, that’s not going to fly.
And then there are the uniforms. Now, I’m no sartorial demigod, but…I don’t want to say that it’s hideous, but the USFL called and they are planning on suing you for $1 for ripping off their designs. The whole thing looks horrendously 80s, from the shiny neon aquamarine pants to the blocky numbering. I think I saw MC Skat Kat wearing something suspiciously similar in a video with Paula Abdul back in the day.
Basically, the whole thing is a mess, and even Las Vegas head coach Jim Fassel is confused as to the connection between Las Vegas and trains. (But this isn’t the first time he’s been confused in his life.) Plus, the team’s name is sure to be shortened by people to “Locos,” which the owners seem to think is great cross-cultural marketing but just reminds me of how crazy you’d have to be to try and go up against the NFL.
Finally, I have to wonder what Jeff Gordon’s motivation is to keep racing. After all, he could be at home having sex with his Brazilian supermodel wife, playing with his kids or simply climbing up and down one of the giant mountains of cash he presumably has laying around his house from all of his winnings and endorsement deals.
And after yesterday’s race at the Watkins Glen road course in New York, he is probably wondering the same thing himself after being involved in a bad multi-car crash that sent him careening into a guard rail - not a SAFER barrier - at nearly top speed. Gordon walked away unscathed, although he was complaining of aggravating a sore back injured after he’s been involved in several big crashes in the last few years.
After watching that replay again, let me ask Gordon something: hot Brazilian supermodel wife, or smashing the bejeezus out of your car head-on into a guard rail? Your choice.
In other sports news that happened while you thanked God you weren’t the local TV reporter who drew the short straw and had to cover the “Furries” convention:
- Crocs announced late yesterday that it is pulling out of its title sponsorship of the AVP Tour at the end of this season. But how ever will beach volleyball survive without its association with ugly rubber clogs? Wait, they’ll survive thanks to hot chicks rolling around on the sand wearing next to nothing? I guess…
- This is exactly what you want to hear from a tennis player playing his last season before his retirement: former world No. 1 Marat Safin admits that it’s “impossible” that he’ll win another title. I don’t think he’ll be getting the same teary send-off at the U.S. Open that Andre Agassi did.
- Former New England cornerback Tebucky Jones is already suing Patriots team doctors for misdiagnosing his career-ending knee injury. Now he’s telling the BOSTON HERALD that NFL teams frequently cut injured players in order to avoid paying them for sitting on the injured reserve. It’s all so shocking, I know. Next he’ll tell me that they also pressure them into playing hurt, and look the other way about steroid and drug use. If only Oliver Stone could make a movie about this…
- The Chicago White Sox were able to get two-time All-Star Alex Rios on waivers from the Toronto Blue Jays for no compensation (which with the exchange rate means the White Sox made money on the deal). So, do you think the Blue Jays were thrilled to be rid of the $64 million due to Rios through 2014?
- If there’s ever been someone who should be happy to have a home run overturned by instant replay, it’s the Rockies’ Troy Tulowitzki. Sure, he missed out on a grand slam in the second inning and had to settle for a two-run single. But he needed that single en route to becoming the fifth Rockies player to hit for the cycle in Colorado’s 11-5 rout of the floundering Cubs.
- The San Francisco Giants are honoring former pitcher Dave Dravecky on the 20th anniversary of his comeback from cancer. Which is great, except it reminds me of the sound his arm made when it snapped like a twig during his comeback, and then I need to throw up.
- The USL Division II soccer match between the Real Maryland Monarch and Bermuda Hogges was your standard affair. If you consider a player scoring two goals in the first half and then getting arrested at halftime, a coach being ejected from the game and having to watch from the parking lot, and a goalkeeper being forced to play striker as “standard”.
- There was great line in a SPORTING NEWS post about the terrible level of umpiring seen this season, with umps continually deciding to make themselves the center of attention. It mentions Phillies announcer Larry Anderson responding to umpire Joe West telling him that MLB umps were “the best in the business” by telling the audience that he wanted to respond that “if you guys are the best in the business, you’ve got a really bad business.”
- I sure hope new Minnesota T-Wolves head coach Kurt Rambis wasn’t expecting Ricky Rubio to be playing for him any time soon, as team president David Kahn said the buyout of Rubio’s European contract is still “very problematic“.
- And there’s really only one way to celebrate Hulk Hogan’s 56th birthday: crank it up, Mr. Rick Derringer!
Since the NFL — indeed, the world — is not yet ready for Michael Vick and Maurice Clarett trying to catch on with a team at the same time, the latter is going to stay in prison. For now. Clarett, the former Ohio State running back who led the Buckeyes to a national championship in 2003, has withdrawn a request for early release from prison that would have allowed him, he said, to pursue an NFL career.
For someone who hasn’t played a meaningful down of football since his freshman year in college, Clarett has spent an alarming amount of time in the public consciousness. He’s hung out with Los Angeles rap stars, been drafted in the NFL, been involved with drug running and the Israeli mob, and was even the subject of a case ultimately decided by U.S. Court of Appeals judge Sonia Sotomayor. Even though he’s only 25, he’s seemingly been everywhere and lived two lifetimes — sort of an evil Forrest Gump.
Although he’s now locked up, we have not forgotten about Maurice Clarett. One reason is that he’s blogging from lockup — or at least we’re led to believe that he is. Clarett isn’t allowed Internet access in prison, but he phones in his writings to a relative, who then posts them on a blog entitled The Mind of Maurice Clarett; a sort of orange jumpsuit poetry jam in which he dwells on his feelings more than the day-to-day details of life behind bars (which has led some to believe that he’s not even the one writing it). There’s no entry so far on his decision to withdraw his request for a pardon by Gov. Ted Strickland.
Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien opposed Clarett’s request for pardon, saying his conduct off the playing field did not warrant special consideration.
“My observation was then and is now he had no chance of obtaining clemency under the statute or by action of the governor so it’s probably wise” that he withdrew the request, O’Brien said.
Clarett hasn’t played football since 2005, when he was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the third round — a surprise move after an unimpressive NFL combine performance in which he was dubbed “Slo Mo” by the media.
He’s serving 7 1/2 years at the Toledo Correctional Institution after being convicted in 2006 of aggravated robbery and carrying a concealed weapon, a chain of events that ended with his arrest while wearing a bulletproof vest with four weapons in his car, less than a mile from one of the robbery victims. He must serve at least 3½ years of that sentence, and although he pulled his request for early release, he still becomes eligible for judicial release in March of 2010.
It doesn’t seem that long ago that Clarett was on top of the world, rushing for 1,237 yards (a school record for a freshman) and scoring 18 touchdowns in helping lead Ohio State to a 14-0 record in 2002-03. The season culminated with Clarett scoring the winning touchdown against Miami in the Fiesta Bowl. But he was released from Ohio State for a variety of NCAA rules violations, then migrated to Los Angeles, where he hung out with rap stars, and began spiraling more and more out of control. He eventually tested the NFL’s eligibility rules in an attempt to enter the 2004 draft — an initially successful challenge that was overturned by United States Court of Appeals judge Sotomayor.
So Clarett has lost his latest battle to return to the free world, but has never lost his struggle to remain in the public eye. And I suppose that it’s good that we hear from him from time to time. If for nothing else, his presence serves as a cautionary tale.
“I’m a man and I struggle. I’m not speaking of anything specific. I’m just talking in general,” he wrote in his latest blog entry, dated Aug. 3.
“Depression comes and depression goes. Inspiring thoughts come and they flee as fast as they come. Sometimes my spirit is in balance and at others it runs wild. I’m not afraid. I just get a little confused at times. I know which way is up and I know how to identify a weasel from a mile away. I know who I love and I know why I love them. I don’t claim to be omniscient but I do claim to be a survivor of the urban circumstances and experiences. … I’m Youngstown’s own.”
We now lighten the mood and bring you back to the 18th hole at the Buick Open, where MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann reopens the Tiger Woods Fartgate investigation. If you haven’t seen, and thus heard, the infamous video of Woods allegedly farting while sizing up a shot during the tournament, you’re in luck, because Olbermann has rescued the footage from the abyss.
More interesting than the alleged emission itself — which now that I hear it sounds more like a Whoopee Cushion — is the fact that the PGA pulled all YouTube evidence of the video off the web moments after it happened. Folks, that’s the really hilarious part. Don’t make me come back here and explain this again.
“Tiger broke 70 yesterday, perhaps after breaking something else. We can’t say for sure that it was The Tiger that roared … he might have had one of those Leslie Nielsen machines, or maybe John Daly stepped on a duck.”
If there was a second farter on the grassy knoll, kudos to him. Because that was some excellent timing.
We mentioned this briefly on Tuesday, but I feel that MAXIM’S take on David Ortiz’s Gmail inbox needs further scrutiny. It appeared Monday on their site and immediately won the Internets, delighting us with sample emails such as:
Erin Adrews: I know an ace PR guy …
Crate and Barrel: Fall is right around the corner! …
Alyssa Milano: Offer still stands — Bj, Hj, whatever you …
And the always hilarious:
C.C. Sabathia: FW: Red Lobster All-You-Can-Eat sampi!
And speaking of that fine magazine, let’s dive into this morning’s links, as we ponder why a 12-year-old boy would tell his mother that his subscription to ELECTRONIC GAMING had been somehow switched to MAXIM.
- The Reading Phillies set an attendance record on Wednesday for Pedro Martinez’s rehab start, in which he pitched decently, earning the win in an 8-4 victory over Trenton. Martinez struck out 10 of the first 17 batters he faced, finishing with 11 strikeouts over six innings. He gave up four runs, three earned. Fun fact: It was his first win at the AA level since 1991.
- So you’ve taken the summer off to visit every Major League Baseball park? That’s become somewhat of a cliche, don’t you think? The Taviano family of Columbus, Ohio has invented the new hotness: Visiting 52 zoos in 52 weeks. Marla Taviano, her husband and three daughters began their 22,000-mile quest last August, and ended it on Saturday at their hometown Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. That’s a lot of monkeys.
- Not sure what level of Little League the above video is from, but you can bet that Scott Boras has it playing on an endless loop in his office as you read this. As you can see, Jason Moody hits five home runs, including hitting for the home run cycle (watch the catcher, who is not amused). And in yet another example of this, a West Virginia Little Leaguer also hit for the home run cycle. Eli Canterbury, 12, of Barboursville, went 4-for-4 with four homers — solo, two-run and three-run homers, and a grand slam in his final at-bat — as Canterbury’s Barboursville District I All-Stars beat East Huntington 19-1. No Major League player has ever hit for the homer cycle; the only time it’s happened in pro ball was by Tyrone Horne of the Double-A Arkansas Travelers in a 13-4 win over the San Antonio Missions on July 27, 1998.
- The Denver Broncos are one of the several NFL teams who prohibit players or personnel from using Twitter, but you’d never know it by listening to head coach Josh McDaniels. “I don’t really have a Twitter policy,” McDaniels said. “I don’t know what it means; I don’t know what it is. I don’t know MyFace, Spacebook, Facebook stuff. I don’t know what that is either.”
- Now let’s check in on your Chicago Cubs, who are locked in a death struggle with the Cardinals atop the NL Central. So surely when the Reds trotted out 32-year-old right-hander Justin Lehr on Wednesday — who was making only his second big league start — the Cubs would take advantage. D’oh! Lehr pitched a shutout, 4-0, as the Reds broke an eight-game losing streak.
- The Charleston RiverDogs will present “Illegal Use of Your Ed Hochuli Night” on Aug. 11, which will include “flex-offs,” and a Hochuli lookalike roaming the stands throwing penalty flags. So I would get your tickets now.
- Koren Robinson has had a troubled career; run off the tracks due to dropped passes, drinking and a run-in with the cops. The former Seahawk, Viking and Packer may be playing for the Orlando Tuskers of the UFL this season. Robinson was the ninth pick overall in the 2001 draft, the year that the Falcons chose a young man named Michael Vick with the No. 1 pick.
- Brandon Roy’s five-year contract extension will likely keep him in Portland for the rest of his career, and since he was born in Seattle, that’s OK. Roy has agreed in principle to the deal, with the fifth year, ending in 2015, as an option. Pending salary cap issues, it could be worth more than $80 million, the second-richest in Portland’s history.
- Meanwhile, here’s Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs, arriving at training camp and displaying what he thinks of a certain NFL rival. Suggs wears the shirt under his practice jersey.
- Who would have thought four years ago that Eli Manning would be making more money than Peyton Manning? Or Cooper Manning, for that matter? With his new $97.5 million contract, Eli will be making about $15.3 million annually, to Peyton’s $14.17 million.
Hey, you know how there’s that UFL deal, and it’s just a bunch of NFL castoffs playing football for peanuts instead of, oh doing anything else? You know, the league whose most famous participants are J.P. Losman, a cocaine dealer, and Jim Fassel (coaching, though we’d pay to watch him take some snaps at weakside linebacker)?
Well, as bad an idea as it sounds like, they have a couple good things going for them. One, back in March, they inked a TV deal with Versus to air one game a week. So, y’know, if you’re that starved for football, you can always watch on Versus. But pardon us if we feel a little unsatisfied; can’t we involve someone a little… crazier?
Earlier this week, the UFL — the attempted upstart league that would challenge the NFL (ed. note: Yeah right, never heard that one before) — held its inaugural draft. In the second round, the team from San Francisco drafted a defensive end out of Auburn, Marquies Gunn. Normally, that might not make headlines, except for the fact that Mr. Gunn has a few, how should we say, indiscretions on his record.
(Dude, don’t be so threatened, he just wants to know if you want any cocaine …)
Yes, the aptly named Mr. Gunn is a drug dealer. According to this report from the ASSOCIATED PRESS, Gunn was arrested in February for trying to sell cocaine to an undercover police officer three times across a six month period. Hey, we can at least give him credit for his persistence, right?
Well, it finally happened: Former Giants coach Jim Fassel convinced a football team that he deserves another shot at being a head coach. Here’s the catch: That team isn’t in the NFL, and it’s not even in the NCAA, either.
(Hey, coaching in Vegas can’t be any more awkward than his ESPN spots.)
According to the LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, the former Super Bowl runner-up agreed to become the head coach of Las Vegas’ entry into the UFL, the new upstart professional league that is designed to rival the NFL. The UFL is slated to start operations next fall, and while league sources wouldn’t confirm Fassel was on board, UFL Commissioner Michael Huyghue wouldn’t deny it, either, and quickly added that there were, “upcoming announcements about the league.”
Sounds ominous, doesn’t it? And by “ominous,” we mean “desperate” on the part of Fassel. How is it that a man who, by all accounts, was one whisker away from becoming head coach of the Redskins last winter falls all the way back to taking a job in a start-up league? And what kind of a career move is a UFL head job, anyway? Do we have any idea whether this league is even going to be solvent for a single season? Last time we checked, the XFL actually played a couple games, emphasis on “couple”. The UFL hasn’t played a single matchup yet, has yet to hold a draft or officially announce stadiums where teams are playing, and its opening weekend is a mere eight months away! Heck, they don’t even know all the cities that are going to be involved. It’s a total mess.