Italy is the Champ …
Italy are world champions, with a flawless set of penalties in the shoot-out securing football's ultimate prize. They had never been undisputed masters in any other aspect of the final, yet the honour is theirs for the fourth time in their history. The veterans of France, tapping unimaginable reserves of stamina, had been more potent from the opening of the second-half onwards but are now submerged in the miseries of their leader.
A red card rather than a greetings card ushered Zinédine Zidane into retirement 19 minutes into extra-time. The captain was sent off for reacting to a dispute with Marco Materazzi by turning and butting the scorer of Italy's goal in the chest. He had surely been provoked but Zidane will be right to curse his stupid reaction.
This World Cup had come to mean too much to him and the dismissal followed three bookings in his six matches here. The 34-year-old was as overwrought as any testosterone-maddened youngster but could still have contrived a triumph. Five minutes before his expulsion he was unmarked to connect with Willy Sagnol's cross 12 yards out but his header was tipped over by Gianluigi Buffon.
Goalkeepers had little to do, even if the final was diverting and often classy. Buffon might as well have been a bystander in the shoot-out, since a Juventus team-mate David Trezeguet bashed his penalty against the bar. The left-back Fabio Grosso secured victory for Italy from the spot.
Zidane leaves soccer with a most bizarre exit strategy …a head butt…
But amid the whirlpool of rumour and counter-rumour surrounding the incident there was no suggestion it was due to a racist comment. For all his tattoos and hardman image on the pitch, Materazzi is regarded as tolerant and easy-going off it. His best friend at Internazionale is the Nigeria international Obafemi Martins.
But while his players were content to move on, the France coach Raymond Domenech hammered home his contention that Materazzi had robbed his side of World Cup glory.
"The sending off of Zidane changed the match; that was the key moment of the game," he insisted. "We had been playing better than Italy in extra-time and you could see they were just waiting for penalties.
"It was a pity that we were without Zidane for the last 10 minutes, it affected our balance and perhaps it should not have happened."
"The referee was not on our side," he added, his tone growing increasingly bitter by the word. "I don't know what Materazzi told Zidane . All I know was the man of the match was not Andrea Pirlo but Materazzi; he scored the equaliser and he had Zidane sent off.
"It's sad, it's a pity. Materazzi really put on a great show when he fell down - we know how these things work."
Lippi and his players, meanwhile, were content to revel in glorious delirium. As Gennaro Gattuso walked past his coach, an almighty grin on his face, he summed up the mood of his team-mates. "This is the best feeling in the world," he said. "I feel like I'm incredibly drunk."
A really good week for the Rangers considering the circumstances: Win 2 out of 3 against Toronto, and then 2 out of 3 against Minnesota and beat Johan to finish the weekend! Nothing wrong with that result …
There are probably better ways to end the first half of the baseball season. It's just that the Rangers can't think of any.
The excitement of a 5-2 win over Minnesota on Sunday, and how they fashioned the victory, were perhaps a little overwhelming.
They did, after all, come from behind to beat the AL's best pitcher, Johan Santana, to gain a tie for first in the AL West with Oakland. The A's lost their third straight to the Los Angeles Angels to tighten up the division even more. Only 2 ½ games separate first and last place.
"This was a big win for us," manager Buck Showalter said. "It gives a lot of our guys good, positive vibes about what could be in the second half."
It was important to the Rangers not just because of the result, but because of how the result was accomplished. Make no mistake: It was significant to beat Santana. The Twins had won each of his last nine starts.
Why Shanahan left Detroit …
"It was just a growing instinct," he said via phone from his summer home in Massachusetts. "As great as the future is in Detroit, I think I belonged a little more to its great past."
This is not your typical departing-athlete statement, which more often goes: "I had to do what was best for my family."
But Shanahan was never a typical athlete. More cerebral than most, more risk-taking than others, Shanahan, in his decade in this city, was keenly aware of the public thermometer. He knew how rare it was to ride a wave of Red Wings fever to three Stanley Cups in six years. And now, at 37, with the local horizon filled less with championships than with melancholy comparisons, he got while the gittin' was good.
"I guess I felt my group was leaving, our era is kind of over," he said. "I think it's better to walk out the door than to have it opened for you and, you know" -- he chuckled -- "they grab you by the scruff of the neck and throw you out."
This is not Ben Wallace, harpooning big money and leaving behind the teammates who made him special. Shanahan took a one-year, $4-million deal from the Rangers, for the same or even less potential money than the Wings were offering, because he feels he is down to his final seasons and he wants to play them on the ice, not against his shadow. He spoke to Steve Yzerman about it. He spoke to Ken Holland about it. Both conversations, he said, ended not with anger but with them talking about how much they had accomplished together.
And while Shanahan no doubt would have made the Wings better next season -- the left wing led them in goals with 40 -- let's be honest. There already were people saying "he's not what he used to be." Or "he can't get it done in the playoffs." Or "he's not worth that much money."
Blackhawks have Martin Havlat …
Prepare for the Home Run Derby …
The rest of tonight's field is set to include: Berkman (24 homers), Florida's Miguel Cabrera (15) and the Mets' David Wright (20) for the NL plus American League stars David Ortiz of Boston (the major-league leader with 31), Toronto's Troy Glaus (23) and the Chicago White Sox's Jermaine Dye (24). If you're looking to handicap that field, Ortiz has bashed six homers in the past week since accepting a Derby invite -- he wants to raise charity money for a heart clinic in his native Dominican Republic -- and Dye has bashed four.
Contrast that list to the slugging All-Stars present in PNC Park tonight, but spectating only: the White Sox's Jim Thome (30), Pujols, Washington's Alfonso Soriano (27), Lee (26), the Mets' Carlos Beltran (25), the White Sox's Paul Konerko (21), Toronto's Vernon Wells (21), Bay (21), Atlanta's Andruw Jones (20), the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez (19) and the Angels' Vladimir Guerrero (18).
Perhaps the difficulty of this event is best explained by its perplexing pantheon of former champions. Anaheim's Garrett Anderson in 2003 over Pujols, Delgado plus the Yankees' Jason Giambi and Gary Sheffield? Arizona's Luis Gonzalez in 2001 over Chicago's Sammy Sosa, Giambi, San Francisco's Barry Bonds and Rodriguez? The Yankees' Tino Martinez in 1997 over Oakland's Mark McGwire, Colorado's Larry Walker and three-time winner Ken Griffey Jr. of Seattle?
Another great use for youtube: After hearing about it for a few days, I had to see it, so I searched, and lo & behold, there it was! The Gary Matthews, Jr, Catch! …