Speed Read: The NFL Is Back! It’s Awes…Yawn

Hey, it’s early August, so it’s that time of year to get really fired up about football and be let down again and again by the abyss of suck that is the preseason. The Hall of Fame Game was last night, and it was billed as Terrell Owens‘ big debut for the Bills against the Titans. It’s exciting and all since it’s football, but it’s lame because even before halftime you’re watching guys that even the UFL would reject. Owens was fine in limited action, and both teams only used their starters briefly. By the end of it, guys like Gibran Hamdan and Alex Mortensen (both of whom I think I just made up) were playing quarterback. There was even a Patrick Ramsey sighting.

Gibran Hamdan

(I don’t even know who I am)

This particular rivalry is well-known for the “Music City Miracle” back in 2000, and Tennessee pulled another fast one on Buffalo in last night’s games — though the stakes were just slightly smaller. It all started when Titans punter AJ Trapasso took a long snap, and then pulled off one of the best fakes I’ve ever seen:

It’s too bad they can never run that again, since every team has now seen it. Well, except for the Raiders, who I’m sure haven’t figured out this whole “videotape” concept yet.

And how about the jerseys? Both are old AFL teams and were wearing throwbacks that will be brought out periodically during the season. Though for the Titans, the oil derrick image has some uncomfortable connotations. While the Oilers certainly had their moments of success, to the younger generation the logo serves as a reminder of the team’s ugly divorce from Houston (when a couple of thousand people would show up to see the lame duck team during their last year), and their odd welcome in Tennessee (when they played a season in Memphis, wearing the Houston unis and not exactly packing in the fans). When the team switched looks (and the nickname), things started to head the right direction and the Titans have been one of the better teams in the regular season over the last decade.

Titans Oilers

It’s officially the time in the baseball season when things start getting weird. The Red Sox were held scoreless for 31 innings by the Yankees over the weekend before finally breaking through with a go-ahead homer in the eighth inning last night by trade deadline prize Victor Martinez. But even that wasn’t enough, as Johnny Damon and Mark Teixeira went back-to-back in the bottom of the inning to finish off a 5-2 Yankee victory and a four-game sweep of the suddenly hapless Sox.

Mark Teixeira

The Yanks now lead the AL East by 6 1/2 games with roughly 50 to play. Boston, meanwhile, has allowed half of the AL to creep back into the wild card picture. The Rangers are now tied for the lead with the Rays lurking just a game and a half back. Heck, Seattle, a team that traded away Jarrod Washburn and his sub-3.00 ERA, is only 4 1/2 out and have re-appeared as a contender.

But nothing is as odd as what’s going on in the District. The Nats, a team left for dead in early April, have now won eight games in a row after beating the D’Backs yesterday. Quite an accomplishment for a team that only won 32 of its first 104 games. In fact, it’s the third-longest run ever for a team that started a streak at least 40 games under .500.

By comparison, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen’s threats to start throwing at every hitter in the AL in retaliation for the Indians plunking three of his players in Saturday’s game between the two teams seems downright mundane.

Ozzie Guillen

• Want Madden 10? SPORTS RUBBISH points out that you can get it for free for subscribing to SPORTS ILLUSTRATED for $49. Not a bad deal, considering the game will retail for around $60.

• So you know that guy the Raiders drafted first that everyone says they were totally crazy to pick that high? You’re not going to believe this, but it seems as if he’s not really very good. Like, the Niners are still glad they took Crabtree over this guy.

• Look, England, when you withdraw your badminton team from the world championships because of threats made by some Islamic extremists, then the terrorists have won.

• The Phillies’ Shane Victorino was tossed out of yesterday’s loss to the Marlins by home plate umpire Ed Rapuanowhile he was 350 feet away playing center field.

Shane Victorino

• The Cubs might only be two games out of a playoff spot, but they haven’t won a series against a team with a winning record since April.

Jim Leyland doesn’t understand all the hubbub about the steroids, and unlike some Hall of Famers (ahem, Hank) seems to understand what “confidential” is supposed to mean.

• Speaking of drugs, is there some sort of ADD epidemic in baseball? The Red Sox’ Nick Green is one of more than 100 players who have an exemption that allows them to use amphetamines (like Adderall).

• The HARTFORD COURANT’s Desmond Conner has a far-fetched, but actually pretty solid, idea about creating a Big East/ACC superconference.

George Karl fell out of love with Lithuanian big man Linas Kleiza in the playoffs, and now it looks like Greek team Olympiacos is going to steal him away from the Nuggets, if this poorly-translated Spanish story is to be trusted.

• WAG extraordinaire Colleen Rooney (wife of England soccer player Wayne Rooney) talks about her daily beauty routine in the DAILY MIRROR. She’s not really big on waking up with “panda eyes.”

Coleen Rooney

Which preseason is the worst to have to sit through?

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Speed Read: The End Of The Road For Smoltz?

One of the sadder sights in sports is watching a legend come to a realization that, despite still having the desire and the will, they just don’t have it anymore. You could see it in John Smoltz‘ eyes when he was staring blankly out of the Red Sox dugout last night, stewing in the crushing reality of getting battered by the Yankees for eight runs and nine hits in just 3 1/3 innings of a 13-6 loss.

John Smoltz

It was the first time the Yankees have beaten the Sox this year, and maybe the last time we’ll see Smoltz on the mound. He’s now 2-5 with an 8.33 ERA. He’s given up at least five runs in six of his eight starts. He has zero quality starts and hasn’t gone more than six innings in any game. More importantly, he’s pitching for a team that’s struggling to stay ahead in the wild card race and can’t afford to give the guy charity starts, even if he is a sure-fire Hall of Famer. In some ways, it’s probably better to be Tom Glavine — a guy who wanted to go out on different terms but might be better off that he didn’t have to go out this way.

As for the Sox, it can’t be good knowing that you’ve won eight of nine from your biggest rivals and you’re still 3 1/2 games out of first. The Yankees are 10 1/2 games better than the Sox in games in which they haven’t played each other. And with A-Rod back in the lineup, it’s hard to see the Sox winning eight of the next nine the teams play. In fact, the Yankees haven’t seemed so in control of the AL East since 2006. And any time you have Muhammad Ali wearing your cap in the stands, that can’t hurt:

Muhammad Ali Yankee hat

And now, I bring you what may turn out to be the lamest sports feud ever. Seems that former baseball commissioner Fay Vincent has drawn the ire of John McEnroe’s father (who also happens to be named John McEnroe). To the point where the elder McEnroe felt compelled to write a letter to the PALM BEACH POST about a column Vincent wrote that was supposed to be a tribute to Walter Cronkite. Yes, the combined age of the people involved in this dispute is about 341 years (and one of them’s dead!).

Fay Vincent

(A fine baseball historian, but a total hack when it comes to tennis)

Vincent’s original column was a nod to a comment Cronkite supposedly made after the senior McEnroe was seen shouting at CBS president Tom Wyman because a network cameraman accidentally ran onto the court to capture the end of the 1985 US Open Final a point early:

Mr. Cronkite and I had sat silently through all this, but with Wyman’s explanation, the cultured and civil Cronkite whispered in my ear, “Fay, a real block off the old chip.” I laughed loudly and told him he had it just right.

For many years after, whenever I saw Cronkite at a gathering or in a restaurant I always made it a point to remind him of the event and to congratulate him for such a perfect and witty comment. Interestingly, he always admitted he remembered.

Somehow I recall Cronkite more fondly and respectfully than I do either of the two McEnroes. By the way, the father was a successful partner in a major New York law firm.

Old Mac isn’t having any of that noise.

John P. McEnroe

(”You cannot be serious, Fay!”)

Quoth Mac Sr.:

I write in response to Fay Vincent’s recent column, which centered on a comment from Walter Cronkite and involved my son and me. He recalls sitting next to Walter Cronkite and Tom Wyman, president of CBS, at an unidentified final match at the U.S. Tennis Open. I held Mr. Vincent’s tenure as the commissioner of Major League Baseball in high esteem, but must reconsider after reading his unflattering and virtually totally inaccurate account.

BOOM! Take that, Vincent. I bet you’ll think twice the next time you consider spinning a yarn about the 1985 US Open final like nobody’s gonna call you on your bullcrap. In McEnroe’s defense, it appears as if Vincent completely botched not only the most basic aspects of the match (for example, he contends that the younger McEnroe dispatched of Ivan Lendl easily when Lendl actually won in straight sets). But McEnroe’s real anger is directed at Vincent’s accusation that he directed a profane tirade at Wyman. He then goes on to essentially say that Vincent made up the “block off the old chip” quote and even gets in this weird comment about Cronkite:

Personally, I had two brief encounters with Walter Cronkite over the years. The first was in the men’s room at the Yale Bowl one year at halftime of the Yale-Harvard game where we briefly spoke (but did not shake hands). A similar incident happened in the men’s room at a Manhattan restaurant a few months later and I said something like “we have to stop meeting like this,” at which he chuckled and agreed.

It’s a shame Cronkite isn’t around anymore, if for no other reason than the inevitable “I’m pretty sure we shook hands” rebuttal that would’ve been in the paper on Monday.

grumpy old men

Andre Ethier hit his third walk-off homer of the season last night against the Braves. By comparison, Ichiro has one walk-off hit in nine years.

• The Patriots have acquired Raiders holdout Derrick Burgess, who led the NFL in sacks four years ago.

• Remember when Freddy Adu was a big deal? 19-year-old American soccer phenom Jozy Altidore has joined English Premier League team Hull City, and should be in their lineup for the opener against Chelsea next week.

Jozy Altidore

• YAHOO!’s Dan Wetzel has an interesting take on the Michael Crabtree situation (which we covered yesterday), specifically on the notion that Crabtree is trying to negotiate based on where he was going in mock drafts, and not the actual one.

• THE WIZ OF ODDS says sports betting is back on again in Delaware.

• Hockey season may seem far away now, but those Red Hot Flames will make the wait a little more palatable. I’m guessing that what happens at the 0:55 mark won’t be included in the montage at Brett Hull’s Hall of Fame induction:

Julio Castillo, the minor-league pitcher who was convicted of assault for throwing a ball into the stands last year, was sentenced to 30 days in jail and three years’ probation yesterday.

• As a huge Guided By Voices fan, I have to tip my cap to WALKOFF WALK for building a post around comparing Robert Pollard and Roger Clemens.

• Topps has signed an exclusive deal with MLB to become the sole licensed manufacturer of baseball cards starting next season. This comes as quite a shock to those of us who thought they stopped making baseball cards in 1991.

John Hughes hadn’t directed a movie in 18 years, but his death is still a shock to any of us who grew up in the ’80s. He had his hand in a few clunkers over the years, but where would any of us be today without Ferris Bueller or The Breakfast Club? How would we know how to properly chatter?

Should the Red Sox give John Smoltz another start?

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Speed Read: Wings Denied By Ref’s Early Whistle

It might not have seemed possible a few months ago, but it appears as if Ed Hochuli has no longer made the worst officiating gaffe of the last 12 months. That honor now belongs to NHL ref Brad Watson, who probably didn’t sleep very well after the mistake he made in last night’s Red Wings-Ducks game in Anaheim.

Wings Ducks puck highlighted

(I guess Brad Watson still needs that glowing puck they used to have on FOX)

Trailing 2-1 with just over a minute left, Detroit’s Marian Hossa knocked in a loose puck that squirted free from Jonas Hiller’s pads and was sitting all by itself in the crease (as you can see above) for the apparent tying goal. But, astonishingly, Watson blew his whistle just before Hossa scored, wiping out the goal because he says he lost sight of the puck (admittedly, Watson was at a terrible angle to see where the puck was) even though the rest of the world could see the thing sitting right in the middle of the crease. The play wasn’t reviewable, and the Ducks held on for a 2-1 win to take an identical lead in the series. Wings fans are irate, but since everyone else in hockey hates Detroit the screams aren’t resonating much outside of Michigan. Here’s the full video of the play:

For what it’s worth, the announcers are right that NHL refs are required to blow the whistle as soon as they lose sight of the puck. And, while Hossa’s shot clearly goes in before the whistle sounds, the rule is that the play is dead as soon as the ref decides to blow the whistle, which is a second or so before he actually does. Procedurally, Watson did everything right. But the whole thing about not seeing a puck right there in plain sight? Yeah, he messed that up pretty bad.

Brad Watson and Islanders cheerleaders

(Hey Watson, are your eyes ever where they’re supposed to be?)

In the NBA playoffs, The Hawks hung around for a while, but eventually the Cleveland Cavs ran away and hid, making it eight straight games involving Atlanta that has ended in a blowout. LeBron accepted the MVP award from David Stern before the game, then tossed up a ho-hum 34 and 10 in a 99-72 win. The Cavs outscored the Hawks 50-28 in the second half and lead the Eastern semis 1-0.

LeBron MVP

The Nuggets also used a second-half run to take a 2-0 lead in their series with the Mavs. Carmelo Anthony and Nene each scored 25 in a 117-105 Denver victory. Dallas was one of the hottest teams down the stretch but this just looks like a bad matchup for them. They’re now 0-6 against the Nuggets this season and, including their only home loss after the All-Star break. DALLAS MORNING NEWS columnist Jean-Jacques Taylor has already declared the series over.

The Dodgers beat Arizona 3-1 last night to move to 12-0 at home this season, which is just obscene in a sport like baseball. The win tied them with the 1911 Detroit Tigers for the best home start in Major League history. Even more obscene is that L.A. won the game with Jeff Weaver on the mound. Is Scott Erickson not with the team anymore?

In the Bronx, the Red Sox pounded Joba Chamberlain for four runs before an out was recorded, and cruised to a 7-3 win, making them 5-0 against the Yankees this season. Even though Joba got roughed up early, he recovered and ended up striking out 12 batters in 5 2/3 innings. Regardless, he still had a better day than his mother.

Jason Bay

(The new Yankee killer)

• SI’s Jon Heyman says MLB is now “investigating” the pitch-tipping allegations about Alex Rodriguez. If you haven’t heard, Selena Roberts says in her book that A-Rod would let opposing batters know what pitches were coming in blowout games, with the understanding that they would return the favor later. There’s about a 0% chance that we’ll ever know what really happened. But it all seems a little far-fetched. Wouldn’t somebody notice this? And who are the other people in on this scheme?

• SPORTS RUBBISH brings us footage of a soccer team called Corinthians in Brazil celebrating a major tournament victory by setting their team captain (known only as “William”) on fire during the trophy presentation. They didn’t mean to, but I’m sure that’s of little consolation to the guy who was on fire:

• According to the INDIANAPOLIS STAR, the Titans will travel to New York Jersey in September to play…the Titans?

• Remember when the Winnipeg Jets moved to Phoenix in the late ’90s and everyone said it was crazy that they thought a hockey team would work in Arizona? Well, looks like everyone was right. The Coyotes are bankrupt and the CEO of BlackBerry wants to buy the team and move it to Ontario (the Canadian province, not the dusty city in California with an airport).

• Manchester United is going back to the Champions League final for the second straight year, after throttling Arsenal 3-1 in London. Man U scored twice in the first 11 minutes and never gave the Gunners a chance to compete. Through all of this, United is still finding time to wheel and deal, reportedly offering $127 million to Bayern Munich for French star Franck Ribery.

• The Patriots’ cheerleaders just got back from a week-long photo shoot in Aruba, where they were joined by 150 Pats fans, says the BOSTON GLOBE. The girls reportedly engaged in some beach volleyball, presumably to the delight of said 150 fans.

Pats cheerleader

• Shockingly, LeBron James is not going to be rolling around in that new Kia he got for winning the MVP, choosing to donate it instead, according to CARS.COM.

• The Nats and Astros played to a tie after nearly 11 innings yesterday in D.C. and then the rain came. And everyone just shrugged and said “really, does anyone think the outcome of this game is going to matter in September?” and decided to just call it off. Well, that would be the reasonable thing to do. In reality, they will resume the game in July in Houston (but the Nats will still be the home team).

• If you offer any of the Pittsburgh Pirates a beer right now, they might punch you in the face. The Bucs have now lost to the Brewers 17 times in a row after an 8-5 decision last night. It’s the longest such streak for any two teams in almost 40 years.

Zack Greinke missed most of the 2006 season because of anxiety and depression. Three years later, he’s the AL’s pitcher of the month and one of only three pitchers in ML history to start 6-0 with an ERA of 0.50 or less (the other two are Fernando Valenzuela and Walter Johnson).

Is Zack Greinke the real deal?

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Manny Ramirez: “Yanks Will Offer 3-Year Deal”

Someone send Red Sox Nation a memo, they might want to get all of their “Ramirez 24″ memorabilia ready for a bonfire. If word from the NEW YORK DAILY NEWS’ Mark Feinsand carries any credibility, former Boston all-everything outfielder Manny Ramirez is confidently telling friends that the Yankees will offer him a deal of at least three years, a marriage that would surpass the Johnny Damon defection in the pantheon of the greatest Judas moves in sports history.

Manny Ramirez measures up

(Soon to be a hated mural in Boston.)

Here’s the straight shot from Feinsand’s story — the latest in a string he’s been out in front on — as directly as you can get it:

“Manny Ramirez has told friends that he is confident the Yankees will offer him a contract of at least three years.”

Sure, Ramirez has a long way to go before he’s actually playing for the Yankees. After all, New York has yet to offer him a contract, let alone negotiate over whether he has to shave his dreadlocks, speak to the media or re-attend public high school in the Bronx to prove that he does, in fact, have an education above the fourth-grade level.

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Bosox Exec: No ‘Stratospheric’ Yankee Tix Prices

How much are tickets going to cost at the new Yankee Stadium next season? So much that even Red Sox President Larry Lucchino thinks they’re ridiculous. If you want the best seats in the house, you’ll be paying a face value of $2,500 even for a mid-week snoozer against the Orioles.

Yogi Berra with no undershirt

(Now Yanks can afford undershirt for Yogi?)

The warm fuzzies of last night’s celebration at the stadium have given way today to speculation about what the new park will bring to the table — and how much richer baseball’s Goliath will get going forward. Lucchino has his worries, especially facing an economic downturn. And he’s in charge of the second richest team in baseball. What is everyone else thinking?

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A Lesser-Known Perk of MLB Fame: Free Bagels

Being Joba Chamberlain gets you riches beyond your imagination, the adulation and/or envy of millions, and extended face time with Erin Andrews. Being a Chamberlain impostor, meanwhile, gets you all the chewy bread you can handle, my friend.

Joba Chamberlain Yankees bugs

NEWSDAY tells the tale of a pesky impersonator of the Yankees star pitcher, and to the man’s credit, it certainly wasn’t greed that foiled his nefarious plan.

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Tebow A Cut Above The Rest; Benson Wants Mom

SbB enjoys the sights & sounds of the Virgin Islands - America’s Caribbean!

• When it comes to circumcising Filipino children, Florida quarterback Tim Tebow is a cut above the rest.

Tim Tebow With Bikini Hottie

(The Gators QB studying up on the human body)

Cedric Benson claims he wasn’t drunk, but he did want his mommy.

• Got $12,000 burning a hole in your pocket? Why not spend it on a soccer ticket in Moscow?

Jimmy Kimmel & Bill Simmons weigh in on E:6o’s age assassination of Miguel Tejada.

Nick Saban & Gary Pinkel recall the 1970 shootings at Kent State.

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