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Thursday’s Morning Mashup

07.08.10 at 7:56 am ET
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Welcome to Thursday’s Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our WEEI.com home page or click here for updates from our news wire.

WHAT’S HAPPENING TODAY:
No local games scheduled

AROUND THE WEB:

LeBron James might be comfortable putting himself front and center Thursday night on ESPN as he announces his free agent decision in a prime-time special, but there is a growing contingent that is turning on him for the display of arrogance. Adrian Wojnarowski at Yahoo! Sports rips James for his ego-driven “Championship of Me” approach. Kevin Blackistone at AOL FanHouse also writes that LeBron is staining his image with this circus. Mark Heisler in The Los Angeles Times terms the ESPN special “a tacky ending” and calls the network “the enabler of narcissists.”

Stu Woo in The Wall Street Journal has a piece on major leaguers who still live at home.

The Los Angeles Times reports on USC athletic director Mike Garrett apologizing to other colleges for accusations that they tried to lure a freshman football player to transfer after NCAA sanctions against the Trojans were announced.

ON THIS DAY TRIVIA: On July 8, 1994, which Red Sox player turned an unassisted triple play against the Mariners?

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “It’s not about the money. It’s not about anything else except for winning. I’m a winner. Dwyane’s a winner. We’re going to bring winning to Miami.” Chris Bosh, after announcing he would join Dwyane Wade with the Heat

STAT OF THE DAY: 24-15 — The Rays’ record against the Red Sox since June 30, 2008

‘NET RESULTS: Mariners minor leaguer Fred Bello hit inside-the-park home runs on consecutive nights.

TRIVIA ANSWER: Shortstop John Valentin

SOOTHING SOUNDS: Raffi is 62 today.

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LEEInks list: Most memorable press conferences

07.07.10 at 10:45 pm ET
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In a culmination of the circus that is the 2010 NBA free agency period, LeBron James will bypass the normal ritual of holding a press conference to announce which team he will sign with. Instead, James will hold a one-on-one interview with Jim Gray Thursday night where he’ll announce his decision within the first 10 minutes of the program. Predictably, the rest of the 60-minute special will be devoted to reactions, brown-nosing (or “Bron-nosing”) and all things LeBron.

For an overly image-driven athlete like LeBron, having complete control over the situation and having an entire program focus on the positives and not the negatives is ideal. Other athletes, however, have to rely on PR firms and finely tuned press conferences with plenty of tears and emotion to get their statements across. Press conferences aren’t exactly a new thing, but they haven’t been around for all that long. With the advent of television, press conferences came along as a way to have order and to ask questions while still providing video clips.

As such, we’ve put together a list of some of the most significant press conferences in sports history.

Note: This list is about controversial, groundbreaking and memorable press conferences. This does not include press conferences more famous for sound bites or tirades (sorry Allen Iverson, Jim Mora, Dennis Green, Rick Pitino and Mike Tyson).

Tiger Woods

Speaking of another overly image-driven athlete, Tiger Woods also had a fully controlled press conference when he wanted to apologize for allegations that he cheated on his wife. The hitch was that in the whole room of friends and reporters, no one else was allowed to ask questions or talk. What resulted was an awkward 14-minute statement, punctuated with an even more uncomfortable hug with his mother.

That night on ESPN, SportsCenter ran the press conference, unedited, three times in 90 minutes, analyzing it over the entire program. Expect to see double that for LeBron’s announcement.

Kobe Bryant

In 2003, Kobe Bryant was involved in a marital scandal of his own, but he handled it much better, addressing the issue up front and admitting his infidelity as his wife sat courageously by his side. In the end, it worked to perfection, because the incident was eventually pushed to the back burner.

The only thing we are left with is video of this strange, and now slightly humorous, press conference in which it takes Kobe about two minutes to utter a complete sentence. Also make sure to count how many times he plays with his mouth and lips as he struggles to start crying.

Mike Piazza

In a complete reversal of the last two press conferences, when Mike Piazza was with the Mets, he deemed it necessary to have an ad hoc press conference, near the batting cages, to clear the air about the single biggest topic on everybody’s mind at the time. “I’m not gay,” he said. “I’m heterosexual.”

The day before, the New York Post reported that Mets manager Bobby Valentine told a magazine that he thought the majors were “probably ready for an openly gay player.” The Post then assumed that one of Valentine’s players was openly gay, and Piazza deemed upon himself to immediately throw his name out of the running. Unfortunately for him, the move backfired and the whole situation that didn’t even involve him to begin with stuck with him for the rest of his career. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Mike Piazza (AP)

Michael Jordan

His Royal Airness gives us a double whammy here with press conferences. In 1993, he shocked the world by retiring in the prime of his career to take on baseball following the death of his father, a sincere baseball fanatic. A couple of unsuccessful years in the minors later, MJ returned  to the court with open arms from the Chicago community. He proceeded to win another three straight championships, then promptly retired on top.

But he wasn’t done. In 2001, Jordan had the itch to play again, so he unretired (again) for the Washington Wizards, a team he was already in the front office for. Another two unsuccessful years later, he re-retired for the third time, this time for good. He was a regular Brett Favre before Brett Favre knew he could act like Brett Favre.

Magic Johnson

Probably no other press conference in sports had a bigger impact than Magic Johnson’s in 1991. At the time, HIV/AIDS was a scary pandemic that was affecting the world, but it was never blown out of proportion. When Magic called his press conference, he surprised everybody by announcing his immediate retirement from basketball, but the reason for retiring terrified everyone even more.

Never before had the virus been on the forefront like this. Since most people thought the virus was only a problem for homosexuals, it wasn’t taken as seriously. But when Magic revealed he had it, ordinary people stood up and took notice of the risks. It’s been very rare that such a moment has affected both the sports world and the outside world on this kind of level.

Bart Giamatti

No one would ever imagine the holder of one of the sport’s most cherished records would be forbidden from being honored for it and would be kicked out of the sport he loved. That happened on Aug. 24, 1989, when all-time hits king Pete Rose accepted the terms of his banishment from commissioner Bart Giamatti. The commissioner held a press conference to announce the news that Rose was forbidden from taking part in another MLB game again and he was not allowed to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame.

Sadly, Giamatti passed away just eight days later of a heart attack, 154 days into his tenure as commissioner.

Bart Giamatti reads his statement to the press. (AP)

Mike Schmidt

Mike Schmidt was known for his tough demeanor and his general callous attitude toward the press and the fans. When he suddenly decided to retire a month into the 1989 season, it wasn’t a surprise. Schmidt had been breaking down over the past few years and he didn’t give the media much notice. What was surprising was his reaction, and probable sudden realization, that he was retiring from the game. It was a breakthrough moment in sports television history: emotion, live and unscripted, for shows like SportsCenter and the evening news.

Depending on whom you ask, it’s either the most heartfelt display they’ve ever seen out of an athlete or the silliest. Either way, it’s a side of Iron Mike that you’re probably never going to see again.

Wayne Gretzky

When you think of hockey, you think of Wayne Gretzky. Heck, when you think of Canada, you think of Wayne Gretzky. The Great One had that kind of impact on the sport and the country. That’s what made it so devastating when in 1988, Gretzky held a press conference in the Edmonton Oilers locker room to announce he was being traded from the Oilers to the Los Angeles Kings. His move was dubbed as the moment that changed all of hockey. After that, nothing was sacred, and big-time players weren’t chained to their teams. The priority shift went from the team to the player, and it’s been that way ever since.

The move might not have been the best for Gretzky, though. He never won another Stanley Cup after leaving Edmonton. The Oilers have yet to win another one, either.

Muhammad Ali

Ali was the greatest in many ways. He was great in the boxing ring and he might have been even better outside of it. Ali made it a trend to trash talk and create publicity for himself by using the media. He had several famous pressers, filled with well-thought-out, rhyming quips, but the most memorable might have been just before the Rumble in the Jungle against George Foreman that was captured in the movie “When We Were Kings.”

In the clip, Ali showed that sometimes he could even come up with his rhyming quips on the fly. He was a true pioneer; a rapper before rap.

Sandy Koufax

It wasn’t the first press conference in sports, but it is the first memorably shocking one. For years, Sandy Koufax was dominating the National League, setting a league record with four no-hitters, including a perfecto in his second to last year. Unknown to many was that Koufax was dealing with severe arthritis in his pitching arm for the last couple of years in his career. After the Dodgers were swept by the Orioles in the 1966 World Series, it was an easy decision for Koufax to throw in the towel and call it a career at the ripe age of 30.

Koufax held a press conference to announce his decision and it was spread all across the country, from LA to Brooklyn, on news reels in the time before regular televised news.

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LEEInks list: Fans’ video pitches for LeBron

07.07.10 at 4:56 pm ET
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Rumors continue to swirl about LeBron James and where he will end up in free agency. While it seems like Cleveland, Chicago and New York are the favorites to be his landing spot, fans and celebrities around the nation have made efforts to lure LeBron to their town. Here are 10 such efforts.

1. The entire cast of “Hot in Cleveland,” including Betty White, wants LeBron to stay put.

2. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg woos LeBron through an informative commercial about the city and emphasizes that the Knicks need him.

3. Cleveland fans beg LeBron not to leave.

4. Cleveland fans perform a song that requests: “Please don’t leave, LeBron!”

5. Clippers fans plead desperately for LeBron to head to the West Coast.

6. From the site lebrontothemavs.com., here is a video trying to persuade LeBron to consider the Lone Star State.

7. “Please Stay, LBJ,” from FOX 8 in Cleveland.

8. From the website sendlebrontochicago.com, a promotional video shows why Chicago would be the best fit.

9. Radio personalities from Z-107.9 Hip Hop in Cleveland want LeBron to stick around.

10. A Rockets fan sings a song trying to get LeBron’s attention.

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Wednesday’s Morning Mashup

07.07.10 at 8:23 am ET
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Welcome to Wednesday’s Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our WEEI.com home page or click here for updates from our news wire.

WHAT’S HAPPENING TODAY:
MLB: Red Sox at Rays, 7:10 p.m. (NESN, WEEI)

AROUND THE WEB:

♦ A fan fell from 30 feet from the club level to the lower bowl at Tuesday night’s Rangers-Indians game in Arlington, Texas, after reaching for a foul ball. The Dallas Morning News has reaction from the Rangers.

The New York Times has an update on the Roger Clemens-Brian McNamee legal fight, which resumes Wednesday in a New Orleans court.

♦ Eagles quarterback Michael Vick will not face charges related to the June 25 shooting outside the club where he was having a birthday party. Allen Wilson in The Buffalo News writes that at the very least, Vick was guilty of using poor judgment.

Tim Sullivan in the San Diego Union-Tribune writes that the alliance between the Reds and Red Sox to get All-Star votes for Kevin Youkilis and Joey Votto cheapens the game.

ON THIS DAY TRIVIA: On July 7, 1978, the NBA approved a franchise swap between Celtics owner Irv Levin and the owners of which team?

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I don’t know what happened to [Kevin] Youkilis, but once that occurred, I said we are not going to pitch to [David Ortiz] anymore. That was a fortuitous moment for us.” — Rays manager Joe Maddon, after his team held on for a 3-2 victory over the Red Sox Tuesday night

STAT OF THE DAY: 9 — Runs scored in the bottom of the ninth inning by the Rockies Tuesday night in their 12-9 victory over the Cardinals

‘NET RESULTS: Here’s a YouTube song/video in support of Reds first baseman Joey Votto, who is vying for the final National League All-Star roster spot.

TRIVIA ANSWER: The Buffalo Braves, owned by John Y. Brown and Harry Mangurian (Levin then moved the team to California, where it became the Clippers)

SOOTHING SOUNDS: Ringo Starr is 70 today.

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Tuesday’s Morning Mashup

07.06.10 at 7:07 am ET
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Welcome to Tuesday’s Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our WEEI.com home page or click here for the top stories from our news wire.

WHAT’S HAPPENING TODAY:
MLB: Red Sox at Rays, 7:10 p.m. (NESN, WEEI)

AROUND THE WEB:

♦ Former Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell was arrested in his hometown of Mobile, Ala., for possessing codeine-laced cough syrup. In The Oakland Tribune, Cam Inman writes that this is not a surprising development, considering how much of a bust the former No. 1 overall pick was in Oakland, but it’s a sad story of a “clueless kid.”

Kevin Kernan in the New York Post writes that A’s pitcher Dallas Braden isn’t happy with shirts being sold by his team that read: “Get off my mound.” That refers to Braden’s comment to Alex Rodriguez during a game early this season. Braden is on the disabled list, so he won’t face the Yankees this week.

♦ In the Detroit Free-Press, Mitch Albom pays tribute to former Red Wings enforcer Bob Probert, who died while boating with his family on Monday. He was 45.

♦ The Knicks agreed to a deal with Suns free agent Amar’e Stoudemire. Mike Lupica in the New York Daily News writes that it’s only a good start, and that the Knicks still need to sign LeBron James or Dwyane Wade.

♦ The remains of chess legend Bobby Fischer were exhumed Sunday night in Iceland to test for a paternity claim and help settle claims for his estate.

Jason Goodall in The Wall Street Journal looks at the Hawk-Eye technology that has revolutionized tennis.

ON THIS DAY TRIVIA: On July 6, 1966, the Red Sox swept the Yankees in a doubleheader in New York, with the same pitchers getting the win and save in both games. Who were the pitchers?

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Totally comfortable, totally confident that my leadership qualities will uplift all of us to do something great this upcoming season. So again, the Knicks are back.” Amar’e Stoudemire, after signing as a free agent with the Knicks

STAT OF THE DAY: 7 — Complete games this season for Phillies right-hander Roy Halladay, after Monday’s 3-1 victory over the Braves

‘NET RESULTS: Early action at the Tour de France has been highlighted by crashes and big pileups.

TRIVIA ANSWER: Don McMahon (wins) and John Wyatt (saves)

SOOTHING SOUNDS: Gene Chandler is 73 today.

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List: When Mother Nature intervenes

07.05.10 at 12:21 pm ET
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On June 14 in San Diego, there was a slight hiccup in the eighth inning of the interleague matchup between the Blue Jays and the Padres. A 5.7 magnitude earthquake came and went with little effect or damage. It only lasted a few seconds, but it wasn’t fun for everyone. “I don’t like it. … It’s kind of freaky,” said Chase Headley, the batter who was up for the Padres when the quake rumbled through.

Thankfully, the tremors didn’t affect the game or injure anybody as the Jays went on to win 6-3. A good side effect is that what happened in San Diego got us to thinking of some of the most memorable Mother Nature moments in sports history. Keep in mind that since football is the only outdoor game played during the winter up north, it has far and away the most moments.

The Sneakers Game
Dec. 9, 1934
Polo Grounds, New York
New York Giants 30, Chicago Bears 13

In what was the second NFL championship game, the undefeated Bears visited the Giants on the cold, icy surface of the Polo Grounds. With his team trailing 13-3 in the third quarter, Giants coach Steve Owen pulled out a secret weapon: sneakers, borrowed from the Manhattan College basketball team. The Giants players wore the sneakers on the literal frozen tundra and had much better traction. As a result, the Giants scored 27 unanswered points in under 10 minutes to take the championship away from the Bears.

The Ice Bowl
Dec. 31, 1967
Lambeau Field, Green Bay
Green Bay Packers 21, Dallas Cowboys 17

Thirty-three years after a frozen NFL championship game, there was another, more famous game on New Year’s Eve in 1967. Played in minus 13 degree temperatures, with a wind chill of minus 45, the game was the coldest one played up to that point. It was so cold out that the referees couldn’t even use their metal whistles because they would stick to their lips. The winner would go on to play the AFL champion in Super Bowl II, but at that time, it was only about who won the NFL title.

The Epic in Miami
January 2, 1982
Orange Bowl, Miami
San Diego Chargers 41, Miami Dolphins 38

A temperature of 85 degrees in Miami is nothing out of the norm, but it is … when it’s in January. That was what made this anomaly such an integral part of the epic battle that took place in the 1982 AFC divisional playoff game between San Diego and Miami, two teams that should have been used to the hot weather. When the Chargers built up an enormous 24-point lead in the first quarter, Miami came back to tie it by the third. A few points later, the game went to overtime, when the Chargers won on a field goal with just over a minute left in the extra frame. The image of Kellen Winslow having to be helped off the field at the end of the game only signified how exhausted and dehydrated the players were after fighting for almost 75 minutes in such hot weather.

The Freezer Bowl
Jan. 10, 1982
Riverfront Stadium, Cincinnati
Cincinnati Bengals 27, San Diego Chargers 7

A week after playing in that abnormally hot Miami weather, the Chargers were almost unfairly forced to play in the coldest game in the history of the NFL. The temperature at game time was minus 9, but with the addition of 27 mph winds, the wind chill sunk to an absolutely frigid minus 59. Maybe the Chargers were still exhausted from the week before because they barely showed up to play, losing by 20 points.

The Snow Plow Game
Dec. 12, 1982
Schaefer Stadium, Foxboro
NE Patriots 3, Miami Dolphins 0

For the third 1982 moment on our list, we head home to the old turf of Schaefer Stadium. It was a 0-0 game between the AFC East rivals in the fourth quarter of a late regular-season matchup. With snow already piled up and more on the way, Patriots coach Ron Meyer called in for a little help from a convict on work release with a snow tractor. Don Shula didn’t like it, but the rest was history.

It’s also funny to notice how history repeats itself. In the final game of Foxboro (formerly Schaefer) Stadium, the Patriots played the Raiders in the snow and depended on a last-minute field goal to tie it before winning in overtime, 16-13. It came to be known as the modern-day Snow Bowl (as well as the Tuck Rule game). This time, there were no tractors allowed.

The Fog Bowl
Dec. 31, 1988
Soldier Field, Chicago
Chicago Bears 20, Philadelphia Eagles 12

What could be considered the craziest, or possibly the coolest, game on our list wasn’t even expected to happen at all. It was actually an above-freezing New Year’s Eve in the Windy City with sun predicted all day for the 1988 NFC divisional playoff game. It turned out to be that way through the first quarter, but come the second, the smoke rolled in. What happened was fog with thickness never seen before. The players played in their own little gray bubble as broadcasters, fans, coaches and referees struggled to figure out what was going on. There was talk of postponing the game, but the league decided to let things play out at the Bears took advantage of the home fog advantage.

The Windy City Slugfest
May 27, 1979
Wrigley Field, Chicago
Philadelphia Phillies 23, Chicago Cubs 22 (10 innings)

We go from a Philly-Chicago game in the Chicago fog to a Philly-Chicago game in the legendary Chicago winds. With near tornado force winds all day, the ball was jumping out of the park at an astounding frequency. The two teams combined for 11 home runs, 50 hits and 97 total bases. Over 10 innings, there were only two scoreless frames — the second and the ninth. The biggest irony was that there were no lead changes; the Phillies scored most of their runs early and the Cubs chipped away until they were finally able to catch up and send it to extras. Despite his team scoring 22 runs through nine, Phillies shortstop Larry Bowa was prompted to say, “No lead was safe. … By the third or fourth inning, you knew you had to keep going. You needed runs.”

The 45 total runs in the game weren’t even enough to break the major league record, set 57 years earlier. That was a 26-23 game, also at Wrigley, with the Cubs beating who else but the Phillies.

The World Series Earthquake
Oct. 17, 1989
Candlestick Park, San Francisco
Oakland Athletics vs. San Francisco Giants (postponed)

The only game on our list that was actually postponed before it even had a chance to be played might be the most famous Mother Nature event in all of sports. The Giants were preparing to host their first World Series event at Candlestick in 27 years. First pitch was scheduled for 5:15 local time, but an earthquake occurred at 5:04, bringing everything to a halt. When the 6.9 magnitude earthquake hit, it knocked out the power grid at the stadium and commissioner Fay Vincent was forced to postpone the series.

The sheer coincidence that both of the neighboring cities affected by the earthquake were in the Fall Classic when it struck caused a 10-day delay until Game 3 could be played. Officials believed that the Battle of the Bay actually saved lives, though; it kept people off the streets and out of dangerous locations, such as the numerous bridges and roads that collapsed in Oakland and San Francisco.

Here’s the actual footage of the opening to the original Game 3. Enjoy the smooth sounds of James Earl Jones and Massachusetts’ own James Taylor, the brief Game 2 recap and the earthquake footage.

2008 World Series, Game 5
Oct. 27, 2008
Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia
Philadelphia Phillies 2, Tampa Bay Rays 2 (suspended, rain)

Citizens Bank Park after the Game 5 rain. (AP)

Mother Nature had really opened up her hair and let the rain fall all day in Philadelphia, but there was hope that baseball could still be played without delay, especially seeing as how it could have been a clinching game for the Phillies. The game was played through continuous rain that picked up in the later innings. When the top of the sixth came around, the Phillies were up 2-1. In regular-season ball, any game called after five innings can be considered a completed game. With the Phillies already ahead, pressure was on to see if they could set precedent by winning a championship in a shortened game. Crew chief Tim Tschida waited as long as he could before the Rays were finally able to tie it at 2 in the top half of the sixth.

When that was done, the game was suspended — the first time a postseason baseball game was ever suspended in the middle of the game, to be played another day. Persistent rain delayed the game for two days until the bottom of the sixth could be resumed on Oct. 29. The Phillies won that game, 4-3, and their second world championship. When asked about protocol, commissioner Bud Selig vehemently stated that he would have suspended the game for another day even if the Phillies held the one-run lead. The owners agreed and made a new rule saying that all postseason games and postseason qualifying games would be suspended if they are called before the ninth inning.

The Heat Game at the Garden
June 8, 1984
Boston Garden
Boston Celtics 121, Los Angeles Lakers 103

The only indoor event on this list still was affected by nature. With the Boston summer beating down on the old Garden all day, the heat stayed inside, especially since the arena had no air conditioning. The heat from the intensity of the previous game was hard to beat, but when temperatures approached nearly 100 degrees, it was dangerous. Oxygen tanks were needed on the sidelines and doctors were at the ready to treat aches and cramps. Boston took Game 5, but the series would go back to the Garden for Game 7 four days later before Boston wrapped up the title. Luckily, the temperature wasn’t as hot. It was only 91.

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Monday’s Morning Mashup

07.05.10 at 7:55 am ET
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Welcome to Monday’s Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our WEEI.com home page or click here for the top stories from our news wire.

WHAT’S HAPPENING TODAY:
MLB: Red Sox at Rays, 7:10 p.m. (NESN, WEEI)

AROUND THE WEB:

♦ At Yahoo! Sports, Jeff Passan expresses surprise at the selection of Braves utility player Omar Infante to the National League All-Star team, calling the player the “worst All-Star ever” and looking at other players who would have been better choices by National League manager Charlie Manuel. In the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, David O’Brien writes that even Infante was surprised by his selection. “I got a call from [general manager] Frank Wren, and the first thought I had was that I got traded,” the Venezuelan said through an interpreter. “I was kind of nervous and choked up. By the time Frank told me I was going to the All-Star Game, I thought he was joking around. It took like five minutes for me to realize I’m going to the All-Star Game.”

♦ In the New York Daily News, Filip Bondy misses George Steinbrenner, who again was absent from Yankee Stadium on Sunday, the owner’s 80th birthday.

♦ The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the University of Georgia is set to announce its separation from athletic director Damon Evans, who was arrested last week for DUI, while a woman in his vehicle was arrested for disorderly conduct.

ON THIS DAY TRIVIA: On July 5, 1970, which veteran major leaguer, making his Red Sox debut, pinch hit in the fifth inning against the Indians and hit an inside-the-park home run?

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I looked there and I felt like, in my opinion, and I’m not his manager, but at the same time, he’s a young kid. I say let him pitch and let him get his feet on the ground in the major leagues and kind of let him earn his way.” — Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, who will guide the National League All-Stars, on his decision not to select Nationals rookie phenom Stephen Strasburg

STAT OF THE DAY: 9 — Red Sox players on the disabled list, after Clay Buchholz became the latest to be sidelined

‘NET RESULTS: A minor league player has a meltdown about a strike call.


KWCH: Minor League player goes on rant @ Yahoo! Video

The gang from Improv Everywhere creates separate lanes on a New York City sidewalk for New York residents and tourists.

TRIVIA ANSWER: John Kennedy

SOOTHING SOUNDS: Bill Withers is 72 today. Here he is last year taking part in a prank of the USC football team and then leading the players in his hit “Lean on Me.”

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I’ll flip ya, flip ya for real

07.03.10 at 1:34 pm ET
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Argentina got to see Miroslav Klose's signature flip celebration after his second goal of the match, and fourth for Germany in the game. Klose's third and fourth goals of 2010 South Africa give him 14 for his career, tied with another German great Gerd Muller for second all-time behind only Brazil's Ronaldo

It was put up or shut up time today after the war of words in the media in the lead-up to the all-important quarterfinals between Germany and Argentina.

I can’t say Germany were better start to finish against Argentina today because truth be told, the Albicelestes were really terrific for the final 25-30 minutes of the first half and the first 15 minutes of the second half really controlling possession and looking threatening through mostly the likes of Angel Di Maria.

But what I can say is that Germany were the better team start to finish creating the best chances of the match and finishing with surgical precision 80 percent of them. In fact Miroslav Klose, who had two goals, missed the only other golden opportunity in the first half on a beautiful ball played into the box from Thomas Muller in which Klose blasted it over the bar.

I said it to Rich at one point in the game, Argentina and most of the South American teams like Brazil cannot play from behind – Uruguay are the only ones to have won playing from behind and really should have been eliminated by Ghana as Gyan missed a penalty literally with the final kick of extra time. These teams are wonderful front-runners, really the best front-runners, able to devastate when teams come forward, but they become unglued when they go down.

Bastian Schweinsteiger was the absolute best player in the game. I also said before the tournament that is was a good thing that Michael Ballack was no longer going to be the trigger man because that meant Schweinsteiger – the best German player – would take on that role and open things up for the young thoroughbreds. It’s exactly what has happened.
Today Schweinsteigher picked out Muller – the best young player in this tournament – for the first goal, was sensational tracking back to stop the Argentine attack through the middle time and again stealing the ball in his defensive third and making good outlet passes, and then he dribbled through the a tired and exposed Argentine defense before picking out Arne Friedrich for the third German goal – the death blow.
Muller was also on his game as well scoring the first goal on a header off a free kick in the 3rd minute of the game to set the tone and also set up the second German goal when he fell, but still had the composure to slide the ball to Lukas Podolski, who then found Klose. It’s a crime and I will cry this from the rooftops if it has an impact in the semifinals, that Muller was carded by the referee in the first half for a deliberate yellow card. First of all, Di Maria had done the same thing within the first 5 minutes of the match even worse sticking out his arm to block a counter, but was not carded. Muller definitely handled the ball, but his was not so cynical that it deserved a yellow, and with that card he is now suspended from the semis an absolute disgrace.
I have to also give props to an old favorite in Klose. I have been highly critical of the Bayern Munich forward, who barely played this past season and I think only scored 4 goals all season. I have thought he was too old and at times he has frustrated me with his lack of sharpness missing very good opportunities like the one he had in the first half that he tapped over the bar in the 24th minute. However, the reason why Klose is now tied with Gerd Muller for the second all-time lead in World Cup goals scored with 14 only trailing Brazil’s Ronaldo with 15 is this very simply fact – he puts himself in the right space through great movement for players to find for easy goals. The great goal scores have instinct for making the critical runs, and Klose although not the same player he was in the past two World Cups, still has the confidence with the national team and the ability to get in the right spots for his teammates to find him. And with his second goal tonight, the whole world got to see his signature Flip-celebration.
In the end Germany’s tactics won out over Argentina, who were frustrated time after time and could not penetrate the tight German defense. In fact the only time Argentina broke through and looked to score for a millisecond was when they had four players off-sides, only this time the side official got the call right denying Argentina what would have been the equalizing goal.
Don’t lay the blame too heavily on Messi even though he did not score in this tournament. Tevez and Higuain were also invisible in this game, and perhaps Argentina could have used someone with the vision like a Juan Sebastian Veron to find those front-running players. Di Maria, Javier Mascherano, Maxi Rodriguez were all not good enough and that’s where the game was lost for Argentina.
What a game for Germany, what a finish we have set up here. If Spain beats Paraguay, like they should, I will have successfully predicted three of the final four, but really any of the three remaining European teams could win this tournament. I think the Netherlands will beat Uruguay, who are without Suarez after the red card vs. Ghana, but I truly believe the winner of Spain-Germany wins this World Cup.
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World Cup roundup, 7/2: Ghana suffers tough defeat

07.02.10 at 6:18 pm ET
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FRIDAY’S GAMES:

Netherlands 2, Brazil 1 – Five-time champion and World Cup powerhouse Brazil were knocked out of the tournament by the Netherlands, 2-1, on Friday morning. After suffering a loss to France in the same round four years ago, Brazil came up short once again. Despite controlling the match for the first half, Brazil fell apart after allowing an own goal in the 53rd minute off an inadvertent header by Felipe Melo. Earlier, Melo made a great pass up the field which Robinho finished to give Brazil the 1-0 lead. Wesley Sneijder put the Dutch ahead with a header in the 68th minute which Brazil could not respond to. The Netherlands advance to the semifinals for the first time since 1998 when it lost to Brazil on penalty kicks.

Uruguay (4) 1, 1 (2) Ghana – In one of the toughest defeats in recent World Cup memory, Ghana missed a penalty kick at the end of extra time before losing on penalty kicks to be eliminated by Uruguay. Asamoah Gyan missed the opportunity in extra time then converted on his penalty kick attempt, but that wasn’t enough to keep Ghana from heartbreak after missing twice in the shootout. Sebastian Abreu sealed the victory with his chip shot to send Uruguay to the semifinals while knocking out the final African team.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “It was an amazing game. I think we showed the whole world how we can play. Finally we won, we beat Brazil.” – Netherlands midfielder Wesley Sneijder

STAT OF THE DAY: 24 – Team-record unbeaten streak of games for the Netherlands, extending back to a September 2008 loss to Australia

SATURDAY’S GAMES:

Argentina vs. Germany, 10:00 a.m.

Paraguay vs. Spain, 2:30 p.m.

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The latest NBA/NHL rumors, 7-2

07.02.10 at 12:46 pm ET
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It’s the second day of free agency in the NBA, and after Day 1 failed to produce any answers to when and where the biggest names will sign, the rumors (and some facts?) continue to pour in.

The biggest news of the day by far came early Friday morning when multiple outlets, including WEEI.com, reported that Celtics great Paul Pierce had agreed to a four-year, $61-million contract with the team. Pierce had opted out of his previous contract just days ago and became an unrestricted free agent, but Friday’s news most likely means he never wished to truly test the free-agent waters and instead wanted to rejoin the C’s from the get-go to try for another run at the title. To see what Pierce’s signing means for the C’s, click here.

Speaking of getting the band back together, the Boston Globe reported that the Celtics reached out to Ray Allen, the other free-agent member of the Big Three, first at 12:01 a.m. Thursday morning. C’s coach Doc Rivers, who had announced that he would remain on the Boston bench for at least another year, told the Globe, “The first call, we called Ray. We sat around and we have these names on the list and we said, ‘Hey guys, our most important guy is Ray. We gotta get Ray back.’” In the same report, it mentions that Boston reached out big men David Lee and Brad Miller as well. WEEI.com reported that the C’s were actually the first team to talk to Lee, who averaged 20.2 points and 11.7 rebounds per game last season for the Knicks.

The biggest non-Celtics rumor may be that Joe Johnson will reportedly accept the Hawks’ six-year, $119 million contract offer. He is listening to other teams, but according to ESPN.com, the deal is nearly as good as done. Read the rest of this entry »

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