What a spectacle, and frankly, what excitement. I really enjoyed the proceedings, but what makes great events great is conflict. Something to make you mad or react with anger.
Enter Smoke …
Tony Stewart is maybe the very best in the business. He also may be the biggest jerk in the sport. The sport loves him, and Nascar’s discipline of him reminds you of how college basketball used to look the other way with its big boys. I remember the quote from the 1980’s book I love, Raw Recruits: “The NCAA was so angry at Dale Brown at LSU that they slapped 2 more years probation on Marist”.
Don’t think that didn’t cross my mind when Stewart vs. Kenseth caused a black flag for Kenseth, and Stewart vs. Kyle Busch got Busch’s nose hit with the rolled up newspaper. Stewart was sent to the back of the line but that is nothing for a guy with his car on a drafting track like Daytona. It takes him about 5 laps to get back in the front draft.
I love his style, and he adds a certain “WWF” to the sport, which isn’t all bad. You know, the guy who hits his opponent with a steel chair at precisely the moment that the ref is distracted.
Here is Tom Sorenson’s take:
When we last left Stewart, he had turned Nice. After he won his second championship last season, Maturity was bestowed. No longer the angry driver, he had, at 34, evolved into a Senior Spokesman.
After last week's Budweiser Shootout, at which Kyle Busch knocked him around, Stewart complained about rough driving. When a star complains, NASCAR responds. The organization said it would issue penalties for aggressive driving.
The edict was issued with a straight face and a stern voice. Yet, there was a minor problem: If you're not aggressive, you're not in Nextel Cup.
Stewart says Matt Kenseth got into him early Sunday, and Stewart eventually responded by swinging low and running Kenseth into the infield. Kenseth hit the grass, turned sideways, shot back onto the track and, as the sparks flew beneath his Ford, into the wall.
"He wrecked me intentionally," says Kenseth.
"He started the whole thing and I finished it," says Stewart.
The finishing move was so blatant only Dale Earnhardt Jr. could have pulled it off without incurring a penalty.
That was big entertainment yesterday at Daytona. Well done, racing.
On to the Olympic Hockey tournament, where the English speakers went 0-4 over the weekend. I am not saying I knew this was going to happen to the US, but it was easy to see that they had some real issues with all of their name players being so old. Chelios, Tkuchuk, Weight, Hatcher, Modano, Schneider, and Guerin were all stars about 5 years ago, but in 2006, only Modano still dominates. And there are no stars behind them of note, it appears.
But, what the freak is going on in Canada???
They have no such excuse. They have MVP’s of recent seasons, they have goal scoring champions, they have dominating players of 2006, and they can’t score A goal all weekend? Wow.
Finland 2, Canada 0 …
Damian Cox tries to figure it out …
Shockingly, despite all of its expensive and lethal offensive firepower, Canada hasn't scored a single goal in two games, having turned Swiss goalie Martin Gerber and Finnish puckstopper Antero Niittymaki into national heroes in their respective countries in the process.
Which brings us back to the possible need for some words of, er, wisdom from The Great One.
If you remember, it was four years ago at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City that Gretzky let loose on the world in a sensational press conference after Canada had lost its first game, barely won its second and then fought to a nasty draw with the Czech Republic.
It was a bit illogical, but his charges that "American propaganda" was trying to undermine Canada's Olympic hockey hopes and accusations that the hockey world wanted Canada to lose made banner headlines everywhere.
The players heard about it all well after the fact. But the controversial outburst, along with a lucky loonie planted at centre ice, was credited with helping the team win the next three matches and the country's first gold medal in men's hockey in 50 years.
Here at the '06 Games, unless Pat Quinn and his coaching staff can solve this sudden scoring drought, and the decision to bench star winger Rick Nash for the third period yesterday was an intriguing first step, it's possible Canada could go home without a medal at all.
The Canadians have already qualified for the quarter-finals, but they could confront a powerful, confident European opponent immediately and almost certainly will face a much, much tougher road to the gold medal game than in Salt Lake City when the same surprise results produced Belarus as their semifinal obstacle.
Perhaps it is time we will all get behind our friends, The Finns…
Speaking of Fins, Ricky Williams is officially brain-dead …
Miami Dolphins running back Ricky Williams has violated the NFL's substance abuse policy for a fourth time and is facing a one-year suspension for the positive drug test, Denver television station KDVR reported on Sunday.
The Miami Herald, citing two sources of its own, confirmed the station's report that Williams had failed the test, but neither media outlet would say which substance Williams used.
Williams has tested positive for marijuana three times and served a four-game suspension when he returned to the NFL last season following a one-year retirement.
Dolphins coach Nick Saban told ESPN he was not aware of the report and would not comment, citing the confidential nature of the league's substance-abuse policy.
Dolphins spokesman Harvey Greene declined to comment when reached by the Herald on Sunday night.
Now, for my All-Star Game coverage, I offer you no articles, and 1 picture:
Everything else was so-so…
Good story on Olympic Costas …
By 2008 or 2010, the prime-time studio model might be an anachronism in Internet America. Already it seems less important and extensive than it used to.
For now, though, Costas holds the fort.
Among other things, the job calls for acting skills, because aside from interviews such as the one with Jacobellis and some feature segments, Costas appears live in our time zone. That means he must try to be enthusiastic about the broadcast of upcoming events without giving away exactly what he knows has already happened.
That also means long, strange hours for Costas and his colleagues. (Dick Ebersol, the chairman of NBC Sports, doesn't even leave the broadcast center; he has a bed in his office.)
Costas usually arrives between 6 and 8 p.m. and is on the air from 2-5:30 a.m. Turin time most nights.
Why not just tape the show and get to bed at a decent hour? Primarily because NBC wants to be able to react to breaking news and keeps an anchor available 24 hours a day.
NBA to look at playoff format …
The two best teams in the Western Conference are on course to meet in the second round of the playoffs, which is a problem.
Even David Stern recognizes as much, which is why his league is taking a closer look at changing the postseason seeding format to prevent similar scenarios from unfolding in the future.
Under rules implemented when the league expanded from four divisions to six last season, the top three seeds go to each of the division leaders, with the fourth through eighth seeds going to the teams with the next best records in the conference.
The Dallas Mavericks (41-11) currently lead the Southwest Division by one game over the San Antonio Spurs (40-12), who have the second-best record in the conference but would drop into the fourth seed if they failed to win the division.
"I think the one thing there may be some interest in ... would be to maybe look at how you seed the top four teams," deputy commissioner Russ Granik said
Saturday. "One thing that we have kicked around is whether you might say, all right, those same four teams are going to get the top four seeds, but maybe you do it in accordance with their records."
The issue will come up for further discussion when the league's competition committee meets in June.
Personally, I think it should stay like it is. That is just how sports works, and to get worked up about the 2nd place team in this division is not necessary. I remember in 1997, The Chiefs were 13-3, and the Broncos were 12-4, so they had to take a wildcard, despite having the 2nd best record in the AFC. They went on the road, and ended up beating Green Bay in the Super Bowl as huge underdogs, despite being 12-4. If you are good enough, you will beat whoever is in front of you.
Baseball America answers an interesting question …
We all know major leagues make huge money. The salaries of minor leaguers aren't mentioned much at all. What's the pay scale as a player moves up through the minor league ranks?
If minor leaguers are going to get rich, they're going to do so via their signing bonuses. They don't make much in terms of salary.
I talked to officials with two clubs to ask what they paid their minor leaguers, and they use similar scales. Players make roughly $850 a month in short-season and Rookie leagues, $1,000 a month in low Class A and $1,100 in high Class A. They get about $1,500 a month in Double-A and $2,100 a month in Triple-A. If a player repeats a league for a second year, he might get a $100-$200 raise.
Minor leaguers fare a little better when they qualify for six-year free agency. At that point, free agents in demand can command $10,000 to $15,000 per month for playing in Triple-A. But that's still a far cry from the annual major league minimum salary of $327,000.
What was REALLY the high point of the sports weekend? Liverpool 1, Manchester United 0 ….
Liverpool followed up their midweek league triumph over Arsenal with another big time scalp when they ended Manchester United's hopes of a cup double with a 1-0 win.
Peter Crouch's first-half header was enough to win this fiercely competitive FA Cup fifth round tie, the first time Liverpool have beaten United in the competition for 85 years.
Gay or not Gay – suing your wife for spousal support …
The Empire Broke-Back …
Why Mike Delfino plays fantasy baseball …
The Deadspin file on Johnny Weir …what a Diva…
Why do we call him Big Anthony? Look how much bigger he is than Bill Guerin! Big Anthony’s website …
In other news, Barry Bonds says 2006 is it. If you believe he is going to retire 10 HR's short of Hank Aaron, please see me after class.