5:00 PM Boston College tight end Craig "CJ" Parsons & Marist College QB Anthony Varrichione pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges of beating a homeless man unconscious in Allston, Massachusetts last January.
When the final table of the World Series of Poker Main Event starts in November (after a lengthy break so ESPN can show the coverage almost live), all eyes will be on Phil Ivey, the celebrity poker pro who somehow fought through a field of almost 6,500 players to make the “November Nine” and have a shot at the $8.5 million first prize. But he’ll also be sitting on a very short stack, with about 10 million chips compared to the leader, self-employed logger Darvin Moon, who has almost $59 million in chips. (And how exactly does one freelance as a logger? Go door-to-door asking if you “need any pine trees cut down”?)
But while tournament organizers Harrah’s and ESPN will certainly be pushing Ivey in the media the next few months, they probably won’t be talking about Jeff Shulman, who sits in fourth place. Which might seem surprising, since he finished seventh in 2000 and is a known entity in poker, both as a player and editor of CARD PLAYER Magazine, one of the main mags covering poker. But as MLIVE points out, they’ll probably be backing away from him for one simple reason: he says he’ll take the bracelet and “throw it in the trash” if he wins.
The loudest cries entering the Rio came from the poker fans that weren’t there. Commercialization is ruining poker. Corporations are ruining poker. ESPN is ruining poker. Norman Chad is ruining poker. Frankly, it’s difficult to understand how anyone could ever shuffle cards again under that onslaught.
After a weekend at UFC 100, any amount of T&A in the service of your favorite sport’s sponsors seems downright tame. Still, one does not judge these matters by way of chatter on the Internet. (Except you, deeply intelligent and thoughtful reader.)
Therefore, we dove in to find out what sexy item is one of the best-sellers at the company store, why players really buy pictures of themselves playing, and what ESPN’s new actress/reporter thinks of the new poker paradigm. Read more…
If MLB and Fox executives are wondering why no one watches the All-Star Game anymore, here’s Exhibit A: the winning run for the AL in their 4-3 victory over the NL was driven in by an eighth-inning sacrifice fly from Adam Jones of the Baltimore Orioles, a name that resonates with a thud among all but the most die-hard baseball fans. And the person he scored was the Tigers’ Curtis Granderson, who can be politely called “slightly more well-known than Adam Jones.”
To put it mildly, if the All-Star Game was a weekly series, it would be on the verge of cancellation by now. Especially after TV critics would have inevitably slammed it for its lack of imagination and formulaic structure. Yes, we get it - the AL is always going to win. Can’t we just have a twist on that every once in a while? (And not the shoddy “Who’s Going to Pitch?” cliffhanger that Bud Selig and company cooked up a few years ago.)
After 13 years of not seeing the National League win, it’s not surprising that people just aren’t that interested anymore. But there was an attempt to spice things up this year by bringing in a big-game star for a special guest appearance: President Barack Obama. After warming up with Albert Pujols in the batting cages before the game, Obama took the mound and delivered a pitch that was about as effective as his pitch for the bank bailout.
I’ll leave it to WIDE WHITE to give a breakdown of Obama’s pitch as it relates to his policies, but suffice it to say that it was neither great nor awful. He should just be thankful that Pujols was there to make a great pick to keep the ball from hitting the dirt. (And that was Pujols’ best play of the night, since he went 0-for-3 before the hometown crowd.)
The game MVP was Tampa Bay’s Carl Crawford, not so much for what he did at the plate but for his actions in the field, most notably his catch that robbed Brad Hawpe of what would have been a go-ahead home run in the seventh. And the NL can’t blame the loss on the AL being fired up because of Ichiro Suzuki’s notoriously profanity-laden pregame pep talks - President Obama’s visit to the clubhouses took up so much time that he didn’t get to give one.
Speaking of Ichiro, he took some time out of his schedule on Monday to visit the grave of George Sisler, whose record for hits in a season he broke in 2004. It was a nice touch, except for the fact that instead of bringing flowers or a wreath, Ichiro just swore at Sisler’s grave for 15 minutes straight until being escorted away by cemetary workers. Oh well, I guess it’s the thought that counts.
While MLB was playing a game that no one really cares about, the NBA is knee-deep in something arguably more exciting and definitely more important: free-agency. The main story right now is what will happen to Lamar Odom, and the saga took another turn last night as the Lakers have pulled their three-year deal worth $9 million off the table. The reason? Owner Jerry Buss is upset that Odom’s people haven’t responded to the offer while continuing to negotiate with the Mavericks and Heat.
But there’s another free-agency drama going on that is a little more below the radar screen, but just as fascinating. The Portland Trailblazers have made a four-year, $32 million offer sheet to promising young Utah forward Paul Millsap, who is a restricted free agent. That means that the Jazz have until the end of the week to match the offer and keep Millsap on the team.
The problem is that Millsap’s offer from the Trailblazers includes an immediate cash payout of $10.3 million, which Utah would also have to do if they match the offer sheet. And apparently, the cash isn’t flowing through the streets of Salt Lake as readily as Mormon children, since the Jazz ownership would likely have to take out a short-term bank loan to get the deal approved. (Portland doesn’t have that problem, since $10.6 million is vending machine money to billionaire owner Paul Allen.)
Not only does this make me question the solvency of the Utah ownership group, but it also makes me wonder how the whole loan process would go down. Would they have to wait in line at the bank before getting seated at one of those tables out in the lobby. What would they have to put up as collateral - Jerry Sloan? It simply boggles the mind.
Other sports news:
It turns out that with 22 points, WNBA star Diana Taurasioutscored her blood alcohol level the night she was arrested for a DUI - barely, as the AP reports that she’s been charged with an “Extreme DUI” after her blood alcohol level was shown to be 0.17 percent - twice the legal limit in Arizona.
Speaking of the WNBA, they announced their All-Star Game starters yesterday. No word on if Michelle Obama will be there for the traditional “First Fundamentally Sound Screen” of the game, or if they’ll get “stuck” with Hillary Clinton.
One thing you might not have seen at the All-Star Game (other than the National League hitting the ball) was a lot of black players. The PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER floats one reason why: the lack of strong black male role models in the inner cities makes it tough to find coaches for organized games.
With all the talk about Tiger Woods taking on Turnberry this week, there’s one thing that should be noted: Padraig Harrington is going after his third freakin’ straight British Open title. USA TODAY says it might be difficult since he’s completely changed his swing from last year.
The World Series of Poker Main Event is down to the final three tables, and poker celebrity/Norman Chad man crush Phil Ivey is still very much in the hunt, standing at fourth place with more than 11 million chips. Antonio “The Magician” Esfandiari is also alive as they play down to the final table tomorrow.
Anthony Randolph notched his name in Las Vegas NBA Summer League history by tying the single-game scoring record by putting up 42 in the Warriors’ victory over the Bulls. Something tells me you won’t find any pictures of him posing with a basketball with “42″ written on it.
While sports talk radio is struggling elsewhere, it seems to be alive and well in Boston, where legendary rock station WBCN in being pulled off the air and replaced by the city’s third all-sports station.
This isn’t what you would call the most eventful week in sports. In fact, tonight is one of the only nights all year when none of the major sports are playing regular-season games (yeah, there’s the whole Home Run Derby thing, but we’ll get to that later). I mean, I’m almost forced to lead with news about Brett Favre exhibiting to the Vikings that he is, in fact, capable of throwing a football. But who cares about that, when we can discuss a blind item about a married baseball player hitting on an intern?
(Do either of these two count as an “intern” of anything?)
Of course, it should come as no surprise that there are some athletes out there running around on their wives. But, there’s nothing else going on so let’s try to figure this out. Our first clue is that the three most recent teams to make a trip to Houston were Washington, Pittsburgh, and Detroit. We should also assume that this player is somewhat famous, because why would somebody brag on Facebook about getting someone like Bobby Seay’s phone number? (That’s just as a hypothetical example.)
Our second clue, as mentioned in the blog post, is that the intern went to a “large, prominent university near his team’s hometown.” To me, the key here is “near.” That eliminates Pittsburgh in my mind (Pitt is, obviously, in Pittsburgh so the “near” part is out, and Penn State and West Virginia are too far away). Washington would make sense because the University of Maryland is close (and even UVA is somewhat nearby), but Detroit also fits the bill, with Ann Arbor just a short drive away. Since Ortiz had time to notify the mentors of the young lady in question about her behavior, and the Nats had just arrived in town on Thursday, I’m not sure this whole story would’ve had time to run its course with a Washington player. I’m leaning toward this being a member of the Tigers.
HOW-EVAHHHH (that’s a little Stephen A. for you), not accusing anyone of anything, but it’s interesting to note that Adam Dunn is a married father who happens to be from Houston and was there this weekend (and is the only member of the Nats anyone has ever heard of). Again, just stating facts.
Moving on, while the Cardinals were splitting a doubleheader with the Cubs in Chicago, St. Louis was hosting All-Star festivities that included the Futures Game and the Celebrity Softball Game. And it all almost didn’t happen. After the World took their turn at bat in the top of the first inning of the Futures Game, the game went into a rain delay…for four hours.
(If the rain delay went any longer, these two would’ve been old enough to play in the game.)
When things finally got back underway at about 6:30, it was decided that they’d only play seven innings. The World team rallied from a 5-3 deficit in the top of the final inning and went on to win 7-5. Then it was time for the main event.
The Celebrity Softball Game is one of those things that sounds good on paper, but never really makes for good viewing. Perhaps that’s because MTV set the bar so high with their Rock ‘N Jock games of the mid-’90s. Would it kill you to make Bill Bellamy and Dan Cortese honorary managers, MLB?
(I was a big Awayboys fan. Those Homeboys were just so infuriatingly smug.)
Now, I’ve only seen the highlight package shown on MLB.COM (the game will be shown on ESPN after the Home Run Derby tonight), but it appears as if the game might be able to overcome the hokey commentating of Gary Thorne and a contrived “umpire argument” by NL first baseman Bobby Knight with the notion of getting to watch Jenna Fischer and Annie Wersching play softball for an hour.
(We can only hope Jenna was wearing this during the game)
I’m not sure which team won, or who was on what team, but you know the game is a sham when Vince Coleman (The Juan Pierre of the ’80s) is homering off of Goose Gossage. I’d give Andy Richter and Nelly better odds of going yard than Coleman…oh wait, they both actually homered also. Ashanti apparently celebrated grounding into a fielder’s choice, and Shawn Johnson predictably did a floor routine to first base when Lee Smith walked her.
(Admit it, if you’re between the ages of 30 and 35, you had at least one of these in a card protector 20 years ago, and now it’s worth more as a heat source than as a collector’s item.)
While you count down the hours until you can see Billy Bob Thornton turn into an RBI machine, here are some links to get you through the day:
• Manny Acta’s All-Star break has just become indefinite, as he’s been fired as manager of the Nationals. When Jason Marquis has won half as many games as your entire team has to this point, that’s probably grounds for getting dismissed.
• Dustin Pedroia is going to skip the All-Star Game to spend time with his wife Kelli, who is having some troubles with her pregnancy. Luckily, there was a member of the Rays available for Joe Maddon to pick for the team. And while Carlos Pena is a nice pick and all (he leads the league in homers), the AL now has only one true second baseman on its roster (Aaron Hill’s going to play the whole game?).
• The CHICAGO TRIBUNE has a photo essay of Cubs who have had bizarre injuries, in honor of Ryan Dempster, who broke his toe hopping over the dugout railing the other day. Beware of clicking on #10. I had forgotten about that one, and wish I hadn’t been reminded.
• Let’s give it up for the hot mom who made a spectacular diving play on a ground ball in foul territory at the Giants game in San Francisco yesterday:
• The Derby is really the only thing going in the world of sports tonight, and we should all remember that it might not exist if not for Mark Scott, the broadcaster who came up with the idea back in 1959, when he produced and hosted the syndicated show Home Run Derby — a weekly head-to-head contest featuring two MLB sluggers. The show (which was rerun on ESPN and now is on DVD) is cool, if for no other reason than it’s one of the only ways for people from my generation to actually see footage of guys like Hank Aaron and Willie Mays swinging the bat. It was only on for one year because Scott died from a heart attack in 1960. Here’s part of an episode featuring Aaron and Duke Snider:
• Ana Ivanovic is appearing in the August issue of VOGUE, and one photo has been leaked (what’s up with the huge white border?):
His only source for the story is the former business manager of an unnamed strip club, who asked remain anonymous for the story. This guy says McNair was a frequent visitor to the club and had an ongoing affair with a dancer that lasted for six years. Here’s what he had to say:
“She liked money and athletes,” the former business manager said on condition of anonymity. “She went out with athletes before. She was one of those girls who said, ‘You’re married? You have kids? So what?’ Lets have fun.
“I can tell you that she was very upset when she learned that he had died,” the former business manager added.
I don’t doubt that McNair may have visited this club every time he was in Minneapolis, and that when he did he sought out the same woman. But was there really a relationship here? Maybe he just liked to see the same stripper every time he was in Minnesota? Did he have a different woman in every city he went to?
(What about this city was so alluring for McNair?)
But how often would he have occasion to go to Minnesota? Since he played only for AFC teams, a search of PRO-FOOTBALL-REFERENCE.COM shows that McNair only went to Minnesota to play against the Vikings three times: in 1995 (as a rookie when he wasn’t even a starter), 2001, and 2004. That’s only one game there in the last six years. He was from Mississippi and lived in Tennessee, so I’m not sure why he would be making frequent trips up to Minneapolis, unless he was good friends with some of the Vikings who were on that sex boat.
If there’s anyone out there in Minneapolis, what club would be the choice of athletes?
So while it might make sense for the woman in Minnesota to be sad (perhaps more for the loss of a customer), it doesn’t make sense that she would be completely distraught, unless she traveled to see McNair. Kazemi reportedly saw another woman leaving McNair’s condo days before the shooting, but it’s far-fetched to think that it could be the Minnesota stripper. Which makes you wonder exactly how many women he was involved with in some way.
Moving on, Lenny Dykstra continues to try and keep up with Darren Daulton in the race to be crowned the “looniest guy who played for the 1993 Phillies.” In an interview with CNBC’s Jane Wells that is not done justice by this accompanying article, Dykstra rambled (often incoherently) about his financial woes that has led to him filing for bankruptcy. Here’s the video, and it’s worth all 18 minutes of your time:
Dykstra claims that Washington Mutual perpetrated fraud against him on a mortgage that he can no longer afford, and that he is simply filing in order to deal with foreclosure proceedings (he points out that it is his corporation filing Chapter 11 in order to “reorganize”). He even goes as far as to call out a specific Wamu employee, even mocking his stuttering. Of course, Dykstra also stumbles over his words, so it’s unclear when he’s pretending to be the stutterer and when he’s just being himself. He also claims to not be very smart, and to not really know how all the paperwork works in any of this. So how is he so sure that he was taken advantage of in his mortgage? His attorney says he’s worth around $50 million, but Dykstra won’t go as far as to even give a ballpark figure of his net worth. When Wells informs him that the bankruptcy paperwork indicates his assets are no more than $50,000, he doesn’t really have any answer that would lead you to believe otherwise. This despite boasting that he’s “111-0 in the stock market” (which, if you steal other people’s stock advice, maybe that isn’t that hard).
The only evidence Dykstra could offer of his net worth still being in the millions (it was reported as $58 million in 2008) was that his failed venture at a lifestyle magazine for athletes (called “The Players Club”) was being reorganized into a company that I think is also supposed to help pro athletes manage their money. And, in his words, “will someone be interested in that later, and want to give me $10 million? I don’t know, but what I have is exactly what’s stated.” Oy. So, basically, it looks like he’s got a few businesses that aren’t worth anything or aren’t profitable, like his private-jet airline called Legends Air, and he’s just hoping that someone will want to give him millions for them later.
The interview took place at Dykstra’s home, which he bought from Wayne Gretzky two years ago. Just after the 8:00 mark, when Dykstra claimed that it was his primary residence, Wells starting losing her patience, pointing out that there was no furniture in the house (with a great “wtf is wrong with you?” look), to which Dykstra responded that the house was undergoing a “remodel” as if that was supposed to be apparent.
(The home in question, which is supposedly worth $25 million)
Please, someone get Dykstra and Daulton together for an interview. Or just tape them talking to each other for an hour. That would be better than anything I’ve ever seen on “E:60.”
Alright, before I go on any more Dystranian tangents, let’s get to today’s links:
• You thought Yankee Stadium was expensive? The total cost of the new stadium for the Marlins in Miami is going to run at least $2.4 billion because the county is going to take an insane amount of time to pay back its loans. Because it can’t afford a new stadium. And they’re still going to draw 8,000 fans a night. Has there ever been a worse idea than this?
(This is an early rendering, missing the tarp over the unused top deck)
• San Diego State fired football coach Chuck Long back in November, but he’s continued to show up for work every day because his contract guarantees him his salary of more than $715,000 per year if he keeps coming to the office. What exactly he’s doing, nobody knows. SDSU can’t force him to leave, but the SAN DIEGO TIMES-UNION says the school is paying a consultant $125 an hour to try and mediate a settlement with Long and get him to leave (thanks the WIZ OF ODDS for the tip).
• A group of Canadians are working on an offer for the Phoenix Coyotes, and they totally want to keep the team in Phoenix. I mean, what group of Canadians wouldn’t want the team to keep failing in when they could be selling out a new arena in suburban Toronto every night?
• The D-Backs were crusing through five innings last night, leading 7-0 over the Marlins. It was still 7-4 after seven. Then the eighth inning happened. 13 hitters, eight hits, two errors, and a passed ball later, Florida had scored a franchise-record 10 runs in the inning.
• The Nats and Astros resumed a game last night that was suspended on May 5th with the score tied at 10. The Nats, the home team on the scoreboard, only took seven minutes to push the winning run across — in Houston. Even stranger, the winning pitcher was Joel Hanrahan, who now plays for the Pirates.
• Ron Artest has worn a different number everywhere he’s gone, so it’s no surprise that he’s changing it up again with the Lakers. According to INSIDE THE LAKERS, Ron-Ron’s going to wear #37 — because it’s the number of weeks Thriller was the #1 album. Top that tribute, Griffey.
• Lakers point guard Jordan Farmar just played poker for the first time two weeks ago, but he’s still alive in the main event at the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. Of the 6,494 players who started the tourney, only about 1,500 are left going into today’s play (and 648 will get paid). While it’s still way too early, Farmar would face an interesting dilemma if he were to make the final table. That table won’t be played until early November, which is during the NBA season. Would the Lakers let him miss a game or two to finish a poker tournament? Actually, I’m really rooting for this to happen so we find out. First place, by the way, is more than $8 million — much more than Farmar makes at his job.
The Cincinnati Reds have been playing baseball for nearly 120 years, but never had they been beaten as badly as they were last night by the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Back on July 26th, 1892, the Phillies blasted the Reds 26-6 at the Baker Bowl. That would stand for nearly 107 years as the franchise’s worst loss, until Dusty Baker’s Reds were bowled over by the Phillies again last night, this time by a 22-1 margin.
The Phils dropped 10 runs in the first inning and just kept piling on. Cincinnati starter Johnny Cueto came into the game with a 2.69 ERA, but after allowing nine runs while recording only two outs, that mark soared to 3.45. Even more shocking, Baker actually took him out of the game. By the time the eighth inning rolled around, backup shortstop Paul Janish was serving up a grand slam to Jayson Werth.
Phillies starter Cole Hamels probably said it best: “When you put that many runs up, it makes it uncomfortable for the other team.” Kind of like the back of a Volkswagen.
(Nearly every photo of Foster on the Internet looks something like this.)
Thankfully, there is some good news for future patrons of Yankee Stadium. Those of you who have to pee during the seventh-inning stretch can now do so without the risk of being thrown out of the yard. The Red Sox fan who was ejected for trying to go the bathroom during “God Bless America” also is getting a settlement of more than $10,000 from the City of New York. What I find funny about the whole thing is that when I worked in the press box at the old Stadium, media members often used the long break to take care of business. Heck, Bob Sheppard’s whole spiel before they played Kate Smith’s rendition of the song was taped, and he was usually on the way to the men’s room at the time.
• WASTING AWAY IN WRIGLEYVILLE says that Erik Estrada has seen a lot of child pornography. How could they make such an absurd claim? Maybe it’s because when Estrada appeared on the Cubs-Braves telecast last night, he said “I’ve seen a lot of child pornography.” You know it’s a strange interview when a mention of Ron Jeremy’s wang isn’t the highlight. Video is up for now (see it while you can!)
• When a photo like this is out there, there’s just no excuse NOT to run it. Yes, this is the mug shot of “Three’s Company” star Joyce DeWitt, who was booked for DUI on Saturday:
The sports angle? Uhhhh, remember that one episode where Mr. Furley thinks Jack’s gay and Jack gets hit in the face with a door and there’s some really crazy misunderstanding that could’ve easily been averted? And it was at…the Super Bowl? Remember? I got nothing.
The Lakers are already the defending champs, and while the Cavs are adding an over-the-hill Shaq and Boston is making overtures to the shell that once housed Rasheed Wallace, the champs may have made the biggest splash of all — adding the insane, yet extremely talented, Ron Artest.
(Odds Ron’s going to forget he’s Kobe’s teammate and gets a flagrant 2 on him? About 2-to-1.)
The news came somewhat out of nowhere last night, as ESPN was still reporting during the early evening hours on the east coast that LeBron James had been reaching out to Artest in an effort to get him to Cleveland. ESPN expert Chris Broussard went on Sportscenter downplaying that situation, and within a couple of hours Artest was in ESPN’s L.A. studio announcing his intention to sign with the Lakers for the mid-level exception.
This is all fine and dandy, but does nobody remember about this?
Although, to be honest, Artest is just about the only guy in the league who could do this and then ask Kobe to go out to Applebee’s afterward. This guy doesn’t exactly go about things the normal way. I mean, we are talking about a guy who once tried to work at Circuit City in the offseason to get the employee discount.
All the clamoring for the Lakers to pony up the cash to keep Trevor Ariza sure went away quickly, considering that Artest is accepting the mid-level (which will be under $6 million next year) while Ariza was looking for something in the $7 million+ range. And now word is out that Ariza will be taking Artest’s place in Houston, and will in fact accept the mid-level (though over the full term of five years).
(”Here’s how many titles I’m going to win in Houston.”)
Apparently, the swarm’s queen bee took up residence inside the coat, which led to thousands of workers, or drones, or whatever they are, descending on the area around the jacket. It was nearly an hour before a beekeeper arrived on the scene to take care of the bees. He dove right into the jacket, sprayed the bees (which were in a mass about the size of a soccer ball) with some sort of agent, then shoveled the presumably dead bees into the jacket (PETA is already preparing to complain about this I’m sure), which was put into a plastic bag and carried away. Eyewitnesses report that the beekeeper received the biggest ovation of the day, as the Astros cruised to a 7-2 win.
• A suspected rapist who was attempting to assault a woman yesterday in San Diego was fought off successfully by the woman, then he tried to run away from her. Which might have worked…if the woman wasn’t a marathon runner. Let’s just say the future’s not looking too bright for this guy right now.
• The World Series of Poker’s main event starts today at the Rio in Las Vegas, and among the thousands registered to play over the next few days is none other than Barack Obama. No, the Prez didn’t buy in himself — a poker pro named Richard Sklar (who also happens to be an ex-con) put up the $10,000 to enter him into the event. Sklar then made a number of bets with other pros that Obama would show up to play at least one hand. Chris “Jesus” Ferguson and Phil Gordon are among the pros who said they’d pony up big cash for charity if he does show. GAMBLING ONLINE has details, as does this thread at poker site TWO PLUS TWO.
“If you look at college football now, it’s the greatest sporting event spread over September, October, November, December and a little bit of January that the country has. A playoff would seriously diminish the regular season, as it has in college basketball… This isn’t basketball. This isn’t March Madness. Football’s a different game, different environment. We have different traditions. It’s hard to see why a playoff is a good idea.”
I’m with you, Harvey. I don’t even know why any of these silly sports with their useless playoffs even have a regular season. An arbitrary, invitation-based system guided by a perplexing computer formula is obviously the way to go for any sport that wants to be taken seriously.
Greg Mueller is not much of a household name, but he’s trying. And although he played professional hockey for nine years*, the Canadian is becoming more well-known in another area: poker.
(A sight for sore eyes for Mueller. On the left. No, really, on the left.)
Though he had six appearances at the final table (including two runner-up finishes), Mueller had never earned a bracelet, the prize that signifies a win in a World Series of Poker event. But at a Limit Hold ‘Em event in his native Vancouver, Mueller (known in the poker world as “FBT,” or “Full-Blown Tilt) got an assist from an unlikely ally.
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.
(The most impressive part is that LeBron literally carried Wally for the entire second half)
(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 Brooks‘ favorite 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 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.
• 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:
• 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.
• 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.