Thursday, May 31, 2007

As Kobe's World Turns

So, Tuesday Kobe said he is a Laker forever. Wednesday, he said he wanted to be traded and there was nothing that could change his mind. Later in the day, it sounded like he talked to Phil and changed his mind. What a drama queen.

Wilbon on Kobe

Kobe says he wants out of Los Angeles, wants the Lakers to trade him because he feels the team hasn't kept its promise to rebuild a contender around him, and because he feels one of the team's executives has told reporters in L.A. that it was Kobe who more or less endorsed Shaq being traded to Miami after the 2004 season.
There's more intrigue in the latest Kobe reality show than the last hour of "The Good Shepherd." There's Kobe going public with his trade demand.

There's his request that former Lakers boss Jerry West put off retirement to come back from Memphis and fix the Lakers. There's an implicit suggestion that current Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak has been inadequate in the specific area of acquiring talent -- which is true. There's "he-said," innuendo, revision of history and plenty of hurt feelings.

By late Wednesday afternoon, Jackson had gotten hold of Kobe, who did a tiny little backslide on his trade demand in an ESPN interview with Dan Patrick. And by late evening in California, the backslide had turned into a full backpedal with Kobe telling the populace how much he wanted to stay in La-La.

Either way, this is one May cliffhanger that isn't going to hold until fall.
Bryant isn't going anywhere. The Lakers aren't going to trade him and shouldn't. West, arguably the greatest basketball executive who ever lived other than Red Auerbach, will get over being steamed at Kobe, push retirement away for a couple of years or so and ultimately save the Lakers. Within the next 48 hours, Kobe will have talked again with Jackson, also with West, also with owner Jerry Buss, who preferred Kobe over Shaq three years ago, and will conclude it was all a misunderstanding. We'll hear inside a week or so that they're all on the same page, that Kobe was simply demonstrating the great passion he has for the team, its fans and winning championships, which is what he's about.

We'll hear Kobe say he was serious at the time, that his feelings were hurt, but that the club has promised him -- the great West has promised him -- that whatever happened the last three years is over and that the team will do whatever it has to do to return to championship form.

But it won't keep all parties from viewing each other with suspicion.

Bill Simmons proposes many trades for Kobe, one with Dallas

Dallas trades Josh Howard, Jason Terry and Jerry Stackhouse (sign-and-trade starting at $7.3 million per) for Kobe.

Comments: I'm intrigued by this one because (A) the Lakers would be competitive with a Howard-Terry-Odom-Bynum nucleus; (B) Kobe would solve all of Nowitzki's toughness/crunch-time problems; and (C) Dallas could probably win a title with Kobe, Nowitzki, the Diop/Dampier combo, Devin Harris and seven guys they found on the street. But would the Lakers ever trade Kobe to a Western contender? And would Cuban ever admit that Dirk was irrevocably damaged by the 2006 Finals and the Warriors-Mavs series, to the degree that he needed to acquire another crunch-time guy? If the Mavs didn't have the testicular fortitude to pull off a Shaq trade three years ago, they won't have the gulliones to go after Kobe.

Playoffs are all about LeBron …right now, anyway…

Give me the choice of the Detroit Pistons coming out of the Eastern Conference finals or LeBron James going into the championship series – with whomever are those other guys on his team – and I’ll take James without hesitation.

More than I care about a possible San Antonio-Cleveland matchup in the NBA Finals, I want to see if this extraordinarily gifted 22-year-old can reach almost impossible expectations and secure the trophy that ultimately validates a star’s portfolio.
Fickle? Oh, yeah. Two games ago, the basketball-talkers were knotted up over James’ failures against the Pistons.

In Game 1, James whipped a pass to an open 3-point shooter in the final moments rather than taking the ball in for a power dunk. The shot missed and it became James’ fault.

In Game 2, he tried to force the last shot in traffic, but got tangled with a defender in an airborne struggle, and missed.

With James playing as a mere mortal (scoring just 29 points total), Cleveland trailed 0-2, and the series was labeled as insufferably boring.

Two Cleveland wins and 57 James points later, the suddenly compelling Eastern Conference finals are tied up heading into tonight’s game. And James stands on the threshold of becoming a star to headline the NBA for the next 10 or 15 seasons.
Miami’s Dwyane Wade led the Heat to last season’s title, and shares some of the qualities with James that could lead to transcendent stardom.

But James has held a place in basketball fans’ consciousness since his midteens. He signed a shoe contract for $90 million when he was 18.

The second he stepped on the floor, straight out of high school, he was among the most physically imposing players in the league.

Under the pressure of constant scrutiny, James has somehow managed to avoid any of the prevalent NBA knuckleheadedness.

He’s a vocal leader on his team, without apparent self-absorption. His postgame interviews are more analytical and insightful than most veterans can supply. He even seems like a fairly decent actor/dancer/performer while assuming a number of personae in his Nike commercials.

And his game? The drives and dunks are highlight staples, and he’s a spectacular passer. He could improve his free-throw and perimeter shooting.

He put in 32 points in Game 3 to get the Cavs back into the series, and then stepped up with 13 points in the fourth quarter of Game 4 on Tuesday to finish with 25 points and 11 assists. He netted a critical 3-pointer and then made a pair of lethal free throws in the final seconds.

I’ll admit it: The series is now interesting because of LeBron James. The Finals need him. The NBA needs him.

Oh, yeah. Spurs are in the Finals …whoopee

Four months ago, the Spurs had reason to wonder about their mortality. They were old and unathletic, former champions with lead legs and graying beards, trudging toward retirement instead of a title.

With the Dallas Mavericks and Phoenix Suns surging to the top of the standings, the Spurs conceded the division and No. 1 playoff seed and clung to the same two-word mantra they've always kept close: Keep improving.

The Spurs did just that. They strengthened their defense. Their aging shooters relocated their touch.

And four months later, with a sellout crowd filling the AT&T Center on Wednesday night, the Spurs overwhelmed the Utah Jazz 109-84, then pulled on their Western Conference champion T-shirts and hats and celebrated their fourth trip to the NBA Finals.

"It feels great to be back," Tim Duncan said. "It feels great to be back."
The Spurs will have a week to rest and prepare before opening the Finals on June 7 against Detroit or Cleveland, their reward for dismissing the Jazz in five games.
Duncan and Tony Parker made sure the Spurs didn't have to work any harder than needed, each scoring 21 points, neither playing more than 28 minutes. Manu Ginobili had 12 and Fabricio Oberto, whose hustle and headiness helped steady the Spurs throughout the series, had seven points and 10 rebounds.

"We started off the season up and down, up and down," said Robert Horry, who is going after his seventh championship. "All the good teams in the league were getting streaks and rolling. We didn't put it together, so I said hopefully, it's a sign we'll put it together late.

Ducks beat the Senators in another quality contest

Two games into the Stanley Cup finals and the scorecard for the Ducks' checking line reads as follows:

Shut down the Ottawa Senators' vaunted scoring line of Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley. Check. Account for the game-winning goal in each game. Check. Put the Ducks two wins away from their first championship. Check.

Samuel Pahlsson came up with the late heroics this time at the Honda Center on Wednesday night as he ended a scoreless duel with 5 minutes 44 seconds remaining in the Ducks' 1-0 victory in Game 2, which gave them a commanding 2-0 lead in the series.

Game 3 is Saturday at Ottawa.

History is firmly on the side of the Ducks. Only three teams have rebounded from a 2-0 deficit to win a seven-game Stanley Cup series — the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs and the 1966 and 1971 Montreal Canadiens.

It gets better. Thirty teams have won the first two games at home since the seven-game format was instituted in 1939, and 29 have gone on to win the Cup.

On to baseball, Newberg on Teixeira

If Texas is to trade Teixeira, shouldn't the Dodgers and Braves be considered extremely strong candidates, if not the strongest two? The local media doesn't seem to think so.

A lot can change if Dunn hits the market, and if A-Rod hits the market (doesn't his opt-out seem to draw closer to an inevitability every day lately?), and Todd Helton and Torii Hunter and maybe even Miguel Tejada and Troy Glaus. Right now Teixeira stands to be the prize catch, which is not to say he wouldn't be even if all those others are dangled. But if the July buyers can get a Helton or Glaus for significantly less than it would take to get Teixeira, that's when Texas loses some leverage in terms of what price in players it can put on its star first baseman.

Maybe the Rangers can't get what Oakland got for Mark Mulder (Haren, Daric Barton, Kiko Calero) or what Cleveland got for Bartolo Colon and Tim Drew (Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee, Brandon Phillips, Lee Stevens). And Texas doesn't have to trade Teixeira at all, let alone in 2007.

But as I discussed in my May 16 and May 25 reports, it seems inevitable that, strategically, the Rangers will have to trade Teixeira this summer or this winter unless they believe they will be able to sign him long-term after the 2008 season.

Again, I don't want Teixeira traded. But it may be inescapable at this point.

Seems to me that the best chances for it to be this summer would be if the Dodgers or Braves were to step up.

And Adam Morris gets us ready for the 2007 MLB Draft with good stuff. And Organizational Over-view A look at the Doug Melvin Drafts …and A review of the Hart/Fuson/Daniels drafts since

Rangers lose!

If the Rangers were able to pull back and observe their series with Oakland from a distance, they'd have seen the only two things keeping them from contending in the AL West.

•Strong starting pitching.

•An efficient offense.

Oakland, which has gone to the playoffs five times since 2000, clinched the three-game
series Wednesday with a perfectly methodical 6-1 win.

Starter Dan Haren lulled the Rangers' bats to sleep. The Oakland offense squeezed runs
out of virtually every opportunity it encountered against John Koronka.

"I thought we had a chance to break through against him, but every time I thought we had a chance, he made a pitch," manager Ron Washington said. "But he got a lead and once he gets a lead, those guys over there know how to run to the wall and catch the ball. That's what he does."

Haren threw strikes and watched the Rangers hit balls helplessly into the wind. He got 18 of his 24 outs on fly balls (14) or strikeouts (4).

The A's meanwhile, took advantage of a leadoff walk in the first, turning it into a two-run inning. They tacked on single runs in the third, fifth and sixth against Koronka with a pair of bunts and a pair of sacrifice flies playing key roles.

All those little things added up to a big margin. By the end of the sixth, Koronka was out of the game and the A's led, 6-1. It was the second time in the series – and the 20th game in 53 this season – that the Rangers have trailed by at least five runs.

"They got a couple of doubles, a sac fly and an infield hit," Washington said. "You scratch out runs, that's what happens."

The Rangers haven't done a particularly good job of scratching out runs.

They seem to keep struggling with the idea of making the opposing starting pitcher work hard early. On Wednesday, it was as if they started down that path, then forgot all about it in mid-game.

They made Haren throw 79 pitches through the first four innings, but just 37 over his next four.

At one point, Haren retired 11 consecutive Rangers.

"In the late innings, we come out and have some good at-bats," said shortstop Michael Young, who had a two-pitch flyout in the fifth. "We're battling late, but we have to do a better job earlier in the game."

Chris Young dominates …Again…

Chris Young dominated the Pittsburgh Pirates again, allowing four hits over seven innings in the Padres' 9-0 victory Wednesday night, their eighth shutout of the season.

Young, a former Pirates farmhand, walked one and struck out seven. Pittsburgh has managed seven hits in 23 2-3 career innings against Young (6-3).

“I think certain guys match up better against certain teams, and he obviously matches up well against us,” said Jason Bay, who had one of only two extra-base hits against Young. “The three times he's thrown, obviously, we don't have a lot of him figured out yet.”

Khalil Greene's grand slam in the eighth inning gave San Diego a 7-0 lead. The Padres have won four of five and seven of nine and remain one game behind the Dodgers and a half-game behind the Diamondbacks in the NL West.

The Pirates, who won the series opener Tuesday, had won four of five.

“It was a good win for us,” Young said. “I felt good. For the most part, I was able to execute my pitches pretty well. I had decent fastball command and for me that's my bread and butter. On nights when I'm able to put my fastball where I want, I'll take my chances.”

In his two previous starts against Pittsburgh – both last season – Young took a no-hitter into the sixth inning. His no-hit bid June 4 at PNC Park lasted 5 1-3 innings and he allowed two hits in eight shutout innings. On Sept. 22, in San Diego, Young lost a no-hitter with one out in the ninth on Joe Randa's two-run homer.
Still, Young downplayed his supremacy over Pittsburgh.

“You've got to get up for every game,” Young said. “It's the big leagues and if you don't have your good stuff, teams are going to make you pay. Regardless of who it is, I just try to focus on making
good pitches and try to execute my game plan. Some nights it works out and other nights it doesn't.”

Pittsburgh had 11 players on the roster who had faced Young before Wednesday, and they were a combined 3-for-49 (.061) against him. The Pirates went 4-for-24 (.167) against Young on Wednesday.

Rookiepedia rates the top 15 …And there is our favorite Aggie…

1 Greg Oden
7'1" 245 19 Ohio State

2 Kevin Durant
6'10" 190 18 Texas

3 Al Horford
6'9" 235 20 Florida

4 Yi Jianlian
7'1" 230 19 China

5 Brandan Wright
6'10" 210 19 North Carolina

6 Corey Brewer
6'8" 185 21 Florida

7 Mike Conley
6'1" 170 19 Ohio State

8 Julian Wright
6'9" 220 19 Kansas

9 Jeff Green
6'8" 225 20 Georgetown

10 Joakim Noah
6'11" 230 22 Florida

11 Spencer Hawes
7'1" 230 19 Washington

13 Acie Law
6'3" 185 22 Texas A&M

14 Thaddeus Young
6'8" 210 18 Georgia Tech

15 Tiago Splitter
7'1" 240 22 Brazil

England football wages are going way up

The average Premier League footballer will earn around £1.1million a year next season, according to a new report.

The annual review of football finance by Deloitte also predicts the bumper new TV rights package will see the first £10million-a-year player within three seasons.

The reports shows wages last year shot up by 9% in the top flight in England.

Dan Jones, partner of Deloitte's sports business group, said a 3% wage fall in 2004-05 now appeared to be just a blip in the overall upward trend.

Jones said: 'We do expect the average annual earnings for a Premier League player next season will be in the region of £1.1million and that over the next three years we will see English football's first player to earn £10million per annum from a club, equivalent to £200,000 per week.'

The review also shows a huge gap in wages paid by Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool compared to the rest of the Premiership.

However, spending power among all Premier League clubs is now far superior to comparable sides in Italy and Spain.

Jones said the wage rise could be explained by clubs anticipating the extra income from the £2.7billion TV deal that comes on stream from next season.

That would also explain why overall operating profits were down 15% - but are expected to double next season.

There is also concern at the widening gap between the Premier League and Coca-Cola Championship clubs. The gap between the average club revenue for each league was a record £56million in 2005-06 and is likely to increase to over £70million next season.

Championship clubs' total wage costs for 2005-06 increased by 5% to £228million - just twice the wage bill for Chelsea alone.

Don’t run on the pitch

Nashy, Nashy!

And even more! With or Without You!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Trade Tex, Version 3.0

Well, despite making this point back in Spring Training, I welcome other media to this side of the tracks…

Cowlishaw wants to trade Teixeira

Even with Tuesday's win at Oakland, the Rangers need to win the next two just to hit the season's one-third pole on a pace for 99 losses. We have seen some bad teams pass through Arlington, but the Rangers haven't lost that many games since 1985, the year Bobby Valentine replaced Doug Rader as manager after 32 games.

There won't be any firing of Ron Washington 50-odd games into his managerial career, but let's at least dispense with the notion that this team has any hope for the next four months.

It's time for Hicks and general manager Jon Daniels to submit to a full-fledged rebuilding program. And that has to start with a trade of Mark Teixeira.

It doesn't matter that from June through September, Teixeira would be the Rangers' best offensive weapon. What would his hot late summer bat do? Get them down to 95 losses?

Teixeira will be a free agent after the 2008 season. He has never sounded as if he would commit to the Rangers long term if the team was doing less than winning division titles.

When I asked him what he would say to a trade Tuesday, Teixeira replied, "I have no control over those sorts of things. My job is to play as hard as I can and help the Rangers win. If I am traded, I will deal with it and make the best of it."

In other words: Get me out of town now!

OK, those are my words, not his, but look at it this way. Teixeira, being a high pick and a Scott Boras client, made millions straight out of college. He's making millions now. He's going to make lots of millions in the future.

He has been to All-Star games, has won Silver Slugger and Gold Glove awards.
The thing that's missing from his career is playing in meaningful games.
This team has competed once since he has been here and that was in 2004 when the Rangers finished three games out of first.

Teixeira wants to win. This team isn't going to.

Give him a fresh start and get prospects in here that can make this team competitive in two years.

And then here are the proposed deals thrown out by Grant and Cowlishaw. Incidentally, these packages seem very generous. If the Rangers can get any of these three, I would do it this morning. Especially Detroit. Maybin and Miller are at the very top of the pile of baseball prospects.

Who could the Rangers get for Mark Teixeira? Tim Cowlishaw offers up a few teams who could be willing to trade prospects:

Boston Red Sox

LHP JON LESTER, 23, majors (on 15-day DL): 7-2, 4.76 ERA in 15 career big league starts

OF JACOBY ELLSBURY, 23, Triple-A Pawtucket: Boston's No. 1 prospect hitting .284, solid defensively

OF BRANDON MOSS, 23, Triple-A Pawtucket: Nine home runs and 36 RBIs in 47 games

Los Angeles Dodgers

1B JAMES LONEY, 23, Triple-A Las Vegas: Houston native has 14 doubles and 31 RBIS in 48 games

RHP CHAD BILLINGSLEY, 22, majors: 3-0 with a 4.00 ERA in 18 appearances this season

SS PRESTON MATTINGLY, 19, Class A Great Lakes: Son of Don Mattingly picked 31st overall in '06 draft

Detroit Tigers

LHP ANDREW MILLER, 22, Double-A Erie: Has 12 strikeouts, 0.56 ERA in 16 innings since call-up

OF BRENT CLEVLEN, 23, Triple-A Toledo: Austin native was Florida State League MVP in 2005

OF CAMERON MAYBIN, 20, Class A Lakeland: .430 on-base percentage, 35 runs scored in 46 games

Evan Grant’s summer game plan

One bat or arm is not going to make a difference. That said, you don't have to tear down the entire club and start from scratch. If the Rangers are smart, they'll take my little checklist here and spend the last four months of the season addressing the items on it.

Here they are:

1. Trade Mark Teixeira. You don't need to waste your time on me. Go read Tim Cowlishaw's column. It lays out all the reasons why the Rangers must trade Teixeira, even if I don't agree that a rebuilding plan must be a complete overhaul. Teixeira can bring pieces. This Rangers team needs pieces.

2. Play Jason Botts. Every day. Get him up here in the next two weeks, so he'll have a good 100 games and 400-plus continual plate appearances to allow the Rangers to really get a feel for if this guy can play in the majors. The club has missed on its own players a number of times over these dreadful eight seasons, and many of those misses can be attributed to the organization not getting enough of a look at a guy at the major league level. Remember Travis Hafner? Craig Monroe?

3. Pitch Brandon McCarthy and Robinson Tejeda every fifth day. Doesn't matter how ugly or bad the numbers are. These guys need 30-start seasons to lay a foundation for success. Don't care if they lose 18 games apiece. If they are worth keeping around, they'll learn from the experience and it will make them significantly better for 2008. If they aren't, well, at least you will have found out in an environment that doesn't scuttle real hopes.

4. Pitch Eric Hurley. At Double-A. Do not rush Hurley to the majors this year. He has dominated Double-A for about half a season. If he keeps it up for another five or 10 starts (until late June, early July), then move him to Oklahoma if you wish. Give him every chance to put together a season in which the numbers look sexy and he can generate some, for lack of a better term, mystique. Ranger pitchers need confidence. Exposing them to the big leagues before they are fully ready to pitch at that level destroys that confidence. See Juan Dominguez and Edinson Volquez. Hurley can come to camp next year as a legitimate contender for the rotation without a handful of major league starts.

These are the basics. Obviously, there is a lot more to be done, like trading veterans such as Kenny Lofton, Sammy Sosa, Eric Gagne and perhaps Akinori Otsuka (he may have the most value of the foursome).

What's done is done this year. They have been afforded a rare chance to make real progress towards solving something for 2008.

It's up to them to take it.

And, the Rangers win

Rangers pitcher Mike Wood will go back to Triple A Oklahoma today, but at least he’ll go back happy.

After Wood battled through five shutout innings in the Rangers’ 4-0 victory over the Athletics, he has every reason to return to the minor leagues with a smile on his face, knowing he did exactly what the major-league club asked of him.

“He did what he normally does,” manager Ron Washington said of Wood, who filled in for the injured Kevin Millwood on Tuesday. “If his stuff is around the plate, he’s going to get ground balls and he’s going to get outs.”

In the first inning, Wood looked like he wouldn’t last long because his stuff wasn’t close to the plate. Like so many Rangers starters have this season, Wood struggled with his control. He walked three consecutive batters to load the bases with two outs, but regained his composure and got a groundout.

“I came out of the chute overthrowing a little bit, I got a little excited, and when I backed off a little it starting sinking too low,” Wood said. “I couldn’t make an adjustment. It was a weird inning. When I got that last out, I came out the next inning, I had to raise my eye level and stuff started working a lot better.”
Wood went on to walk two more hitters, but one was intentional. The bases on balls inflated his pitch count — he threw 95 pitches and only 48 strikes — and ended Wood’s night after only five innings, but they didn’t detract from an excellent start.

Wood struck out three and allowed five hits for his first victory as a Ranger — and the team’s first win in the past seven games. The Rangers earned their third shutout of the season; two have come against the A’s.

“When he seemed to get in some type of trouble,” Washington said of Wood, “he and [catcher] Gerald [Laird] found a way to make the pitches.

Wood, a onetime Athletics pitcher, has a 2.86 ERA in 22 innings at McAfee Coliseum.
The Rangers did their part to help Wood on offense and defense. A fine sliding catch by left fielder Nelson Cruz, on a looping, sinking Shannon Stewart line drive, ended the fourth inning and left two Oakland runners stranded.

Texas also turned three double plays to support Wood and relievers C.J. Wilson, Joaquin Benoit and Eric Gagné, who earned his third save when Michael Young made a stellar play on a ground ball to start a game-ending double play with the bases loaded.

Meanwhile, John Danks struggles in Minnesota

Left-handed rookie John Danks' lack of control compounded the pitching woes and Danks was pulled after 3 1/3 innings.

"The only way to describe it is that I just stunk," Danks said inside a quiet clubhouse. "What can you do? You have to move on to the next game."

It marked the shortest outing for a Sox starting pitcher since Mark Buehrle lasted only one inning April 5 after he was hit by a line drive.

But Danks was just the start of the pitching problems.

Reliever Nick Masset gave up three runs after retiring the first two batters in the fifth.

Included was a double steal by the Twins that didn't draw a throw from catcher A.J. Pierzynski.

Opponents have scored 15 of their last 21 runs against the Sox after two outs. The bullpen has allowed 45 earned runs in its last 45 1/3 innings.

The offense continued to minimize their opportunities. The Sox loaded the bases with one out in the first but managed only one run, on Paul Konerko's sacrifice fly.

The Sox put only one more runner in scoring position until the seventh, when they scored another run on a bases-loaded walk to Jermaine Dye, whose hitting streak ended at 14 games.

That rally, however, fizzled when reliever Pat Neshek induced Konerko to hit a feeble grounder to the right side of the mound for the final out.

Konerko did make a diving catch at first base to rob Morneau of a hit, but that was the only time the Sox contained the 2006 AL Most Valuable Player.

Morneau ignited a four-run rally in the second by launching a two-run home run off Danks that struck a scoreboard panel just below the upper deck and traveled an estimated 428 feet. Morneau hit a pair of doubles in his next two at-bats to cap a four-RBI performance.

Danks has allowed 10 home runs in 51 innings, and his four walks were a season-high. It was his shortest outing since lasting 4 2/3 innings in Detroit on April 20.

Bron, Bron! Cavaliers tie the series at 2-2

The fourth quarter, when LeBron James had been deemed wanting, was when he went to the place where only the great ones go Tuesday night.

The fourth quarter, the incubator for legends in the playoffs, had been when things went wrong in Michigan in the first two games of the battle with Detroit for Eastern supremacy and went right at The Q in the third game, when the Cavaliers got back in the series.

They got even Tuesday night in the fourth game, beating Detroit, 91-87, when James scored 13 of his 25 points in the final period. The Cavs wasted a 12-point lead in the first half, fell behind as late as 77-74, then rallied because James elevated his game to a state of all-around excellence most players only dream about.

"I said to my teammates, 'Just get me to the fourth quarter,' " said James, who was scoreless in the third quarter and missed all of his six shots.

It sounds somewhat like former Clemson coach Tates Locke saying, "Just get me to the last 2 minutes, and I'll outcoach this guy."

But in the last 12, James did outplay everyone.

He drove through the defense in the fourth quarter, hitting a driving layup on which he beat both of Detroit's erasers, Tayshaun Prince and Rasheed Wallace, absorbing the hit from Wallace (which knocked off his headband) and then sank the foul shot.

James once said to have his headband ripped off was like Superman losing his cape. But he has no super powers, just a narrow focus he has sometimes lacked on his way to global icon status, a work ethic reflected in his new, long pregame workouts, and a sense his time is coming the way gossip runs through a small town - in a hurry.

James also had a cold-hearted, step-back 2-pointer as Prince clawed at him, and he set up his teammates because everyone on the other team watches LeBron then.

Along with the suddenly invaluable Daniel Gibson, who chipped in 21 points, James got the Cavs, gasping and frazzled, to the wire.

So, which Longhorn PG would you invest in?

I might buy Gibson stock.

True Hoops Game Notes for Cavs-Pistons

Game 2 in the Stanley Cup Finals is tonight. And the LA Times tells the Dany Heatley story

Traded to Ottawa in 2005, Heatley has enjoyed back-to-back 50-goal seasons and is a fixture with Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson on one of the NHL's most dazzling and productive lines. Although they played poorly in the Senators' 3-2 loss to the Ducks on Monday, they will get a chance to correct their mistakes tonight.

But there's one mistake for which Heatley can never atone, the one that divides his life into Before and After.

Dan Snyder, a center who wasn't drafted by an NHL team but won a job because of his tireless grit, was a passenger in Heatley's Ferrari after a team function one night in Atlanta, where both played for the Thrashers. Investigators determined Heatley was driving from 63 to 81 mph in a 35 mph zone when he lost control of the car and it crashed into a brick pillar and iron fence, shearing in half and throwing both men out of the vehicle.

A supremely skilled winger and potential franchise player, Heatley broke his jaw and seriously injured his knee. Snyder, 25, suffered brain trauma and died after six days in a coma.

Heatley, who had consumed some alcohol but had a blood-alcohol level well below Georgia's legal limit of .08%, did not go to jail. That was largely because Graham Snyder and his oldest son, Jake, testified on Heatley's behalf at his hearing.

It was bad enough, they said, that Dan lost his life. It would only compound the tragedy if Heatley were to lose his life and livelihood too.

A remorseful Heatley pleaded guilty to four charges and the only felony charge against him was dropped. The judge gave weight to the Snyders' forgiveness and sentenced Heatley to three years' probation, limited his driving to work- or medical-related matters and ordered him to deliver 150 speeches about the dangers of speeding.

Graham Snyder said his family wholeheartedly forgives Heatley but clearly, it's not always easy. Especially during the playoffs. Dan played on championship teams in the American Hockey League and International Hockey League and it jolts his family anew each spring that he was robbed of the chance to play for an NHL title, too.

"It's not that you don't have your moments," Graham Snyder said. "It's not all positive moments that have come out of it, but we've tried to take as many positives as we could.

Tom Green plays soccer bully

Miss USA

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Big Sports Blog

Lots of different items to consider this Tuesday Morn….
Stanley Cup Finals are going, and the 3rd period last night was very good …Ducks are up. My pick for the finals? Not sure. Ducks in 7? But Heatley and Senators are fun to watch…

Perhaps we were a bit hasty in dismissing these Anaheim Ducks.

In the seemingly interminable gap between the end of the Western Conference finals and Monday's opening game of the Stanley Cup finals, it seemed the Ducks' flaws multiplied exponentially while the invincibility of the Ottawa Senators likewise grew.

The Ducks were too thin up front, too thin on the back end, took too many penalties. In short, they were lucky to be here. The Sens? Gee, they were really good weren't they? Yet, when the dust cleared at the end of Monday's Game 1, it was Anaheim that dominated, twice erasing one-goal deficits to win 3-2.

More impressively, the Ducks did exactly what they wanted to do, which was to physically pound the Senators into mistakes.

After the game, the Senators said as much -- they knew what to expect coming into the series and that this game was a marked departure from their earlier playoff rounds.

It's entirely possible they were hit harder in the first period Monday than in all their other playoff games put together.

"You have to win a game here and we didn't start very well. We didn't finish very well. They had the majority of the chances," Ottawa coach Bryan Murray said. "Their checking line played head to head with our [top] guys and they ended up getting the winning goal. So that's the whole game in a nutshell."

The game sets up some interesting questions for the Senators.

They have never trailed in a series this spring so they will now have to play catch-up for the first time. Monday also marked the first time the Senators lost a game in which they scored first -- they're now 8-1. They also lost for just the second time this spring when leading after two periods.

Meanwhile, The Spurs are now 48 mintues from the Finals

The Utah Jazz had splintered another Spurs lead, bumping and clawing their way within a single point as the frenzied sellout crowd filling EnergySolutions Arena roared its approval.

Manu Ginobili, apparently, had seen and heard enough. Having watched the Spurs wither under Utah's physicality just two days earlier, he cradled the ball with both hands and barreled into the lane, crashing into Jazz forward Paul Millsap before dropping to the court.

Ginobili picked himself up, then stepped to the free-throw line, a process he would repeat time and again for the remainder of the game. Drive. Crash. Free throw. Drive. Crash. Free throw.

By the time Ginobili was done Monday, he had scored 16 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter, sent Utah coach Jerry Sloan and Derek Fisher marching to the locker room in frustration and pushed the Spurs to a 91-79 victory that left them on the edge of the NBA Finals.

"I just tried to do the same thing," Ginobili said. "Play as tough as them."
That was enough to give the Spurs a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference finals. They
will attempt to close out the best-of-7 series Wednesday at the AT&T Center.

"It is a great position to be in," said Tim Duncan, who provided 19 points, nine rebounds and five blocks. "But we don't in any way think we are just going to walk in our building and take these guys out.

"They have shown they can play with us. They have shown that they are very physical."

Today in Kobe news, He wants to be traded

Tangled as their web was, they didn't think things could get any worse … until news that Lamar Odom and Kwame Brown would need surgery, complicating trades, and Western Conference rivals Portland and Seattle drew the picks with which they're expected to take budding superstars Greg Oden and Kevin Durant.

Seeming to raise the stakes with every telephone interview, Bryant told The Times' Mike Bresnahan that his frustration was ongoing, turning our Sunday paper into a special section on Kobe.

Then Bryant did his usual number with ESPN's Ric Bucher, who was obliged to go on camera and state Bryant's views, as opposed to quoting him directly.

Bryant said he wanted West back. Bucher paraphrased him as adding, "Short of doing that, yes, I have a no-trade clause. Yes, I'd be willing to waive that. You might as well go ahead and trade me because I can't wait for the current team to develop."

Bucher says that after going on the air, he checked back and Bryant said he'd been accurately represented.

However, the same day, Bryant told Bresnahan that he wanted West, but it wasn't an ultimatum — "It's not something where I demand he comes here. All I can do is offer my thoughts. I love being a Laker. I want to retire a Laker. I want to fix this thing or at least help any way I can."

And, JJT wants to get him for Dirk …look. The Lakers are not trading Kobe. If they do, they are not trading him in the West. And if they do, they are not trading him for Dirk. Total waste of space here, but anyway…

Bryant is mad at the only franchise he's ever played for because they haven't gotten him enough help to make the Lakers a legitimate contender.

And nothing is going to change this off-season because Lamar Odom's shoulder injury means he has little trade value. Neither does Kwame Brown, the only other player on the roster worth more than a Wal-Mart gift card, though his contract expires at the end of next season.

It's Bryant's fault he's in this predicament because he's the one who chased off O'Neal, so he could be the focal point of the team. Now that it's not working out, he wants to wear a new uniform next season if he doesn't get what he wants.

We all know Cuban has a soft spot for Nowitzki because of the 7-footer's work ethic, talent and ability to lead the Mavericks from the abyss of the '90s. Nowitzki is the most decorated player in franchise history, with a low-maintenance personality to match.

Those are just some of the reasons Cuban was so emotional at the news conference to announce that Nowitzki had been named MVP. But he also loves the Mavericks and he'll be doing his club a disservice if he doesn't explore every avenue to make it a better basketball team.

You can't convince me adding Bryant doesn't improve the Mavericks. I'll worry about who's playing power forward later.

If you think it's laughable to move Dirk Nowitzki (foreground) for Kobe Bryant, think again.

It's not that Nowitzki isn't a great player. Winning the MVP proves that just in case you weren't impressed that he averaged 24.6 points and 8.9 rebounds for a team that won 67 games.

But we all know he doesn't always embrace the moment and deliver in the Mavericks' most important games. We all know he has a reputation for being soft, perhaps because he didn't learn the game on inner-city black tops, where you call your own fouls, or spend a summer playing at Rucker Park in New York.

Oh look. Rangers get their butt beat again …And Ron Washington is getting tired of this bit…

Maybe it was the season-high six-game losing streak. Maybe it was the fact that the Rangers now own the worst record in baseball. It could have been because their starters’ ERA is now the second-worst by any team in the last 50 years.

Whatever it was, something set Rangers manager Ron Washington off after a 5-3 loss to the Athletics, his old team, on Monday. After watching Robinson Tejeda exit after only three innings for the second consecutive start, the usually reserved Washington could reserve judgment no longer.

“He just didn’t show me no guts,” Washington said of Tejeda, who walked four batters and allowed two demoralizing home runs. “He’s got good stuff — there’s no reason to run away from bats. Whatever the problem is, we certainly better straighten it out.
“It’s time to start growing up and throwing the ball in the strike zone. Because after awhile, there ain’t going to be no more scholarships.”

Washington’s challenge to the 25-year-old pitcher was unmistakable. For his part, Tejeda said he believes his mechanics have gone awry, leading to a lack of control. Tejeda has walked 14 batters over his past 14 2/3 innings and has lost four of five games after starting the season 3-1.

“In the beginning, I was pounding the strike zone a lot,” Tejeda said. “I was very aggressive. ... Maybe I’m doing something different now with my delivery that changes the whole story. I just need to go talk to my pitching coach and see what he sees in me and what he thinks we have to work out and follow him. That’s the only thing I can do right now. ... It’s not like you throw the ball and you have a mirror in front of you that you can see what you’re doing wrong.”

Tejeda did not record an out in the fourth inning and left after allowing five runs and five hits, including a three-run homer to Eric Chavez. His start echoed his previous outing, when he also lasted three innings and allowed five runs.

The story for the Rangers seems to be the same nearly every night. Starting pitching is always the first part to fall off the Texas jalopy as it sputters toward another loss.

The Rangers’ starters’ ERA is now 6.32, higher than any team in the past 50 seasons but the ’96 Tigers.

Nine times in 51 games — essentially, at least once every trip through the rotation — starters have pitched three innings or less.

Washington’s vote of confidence in his rotation wasn’t too forceful Monday.
“That’s what we’ve got,” Washington, “so we send them out there every night.”
The Rangers fell a half-game behind the Reds for 30th place in baseball Monday. It’s the first time the Rangers have held the worst record in the majors since June 1, 1990, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Their record then was 4 1/2 games ahead of the 18-33 mark they possess now.

Random Cowboys story of the day

Quarterback Tony Romo calls it a meaningless word. But it's a word and a description that has come to be a part of the Dallas Cowboys, much like the star on the helmet, for two years now.

They sure are close.

Close at Valley Ranch means one thing -- Super Bowl. Gone are the days when Cowboys
owner/general manager Jerry Jones openly spoke of the big game, but his optimism remains perpetually boundless. With Jones agreeing he is going for it all by signing offensive lineman Leonard Davis in the off-season, the Cowboys remain hopeful they are close ...even if the evidence isn't overwhelmingly in their favor.

But even in a diluted NFC, the Cowboys don't want to hear the word close until they at least prove it.

"I just think it's tough to say we're close when we haven't even played for a division championship," linebacker Bradie James said. "When we get to that point, then we'll be close. Until then, we need to get some playoff wins. It takes more than just making the playoffs."

The Colts, the most recent Super Bowl champions, can recount horror stories of close and the pain that comes with it. With quarterback Peyton Manning, the Colts qualified for the playoffs in seven of the past eight seasons before finally winning it all in February.

The Steelers were close for nearly a decade. Between 1996 and 2005, they had six 10-plus win seasons, six playoff appearances and four AFC title game appearances. They didn't win a Super Bowl until the 2005 season.

Then there are the Eagles, who played in four consecutive NFC title games before reaching the Super Bowl -- and losing -- in the 2004 season.

"The difference between us and the Eagles? They were playing for the NFC East [title] all the time. We haven't done that," James said. "We haven't made a championship game."

The Cowboys have made the playoffs three times since 1999, haven't won a playoff game since '96, have recorded one 10-win season in the past eight years and are coming off their first consecutive winning seasons since 1995-96.

"We were 9-7 two years in a row; that's not close," defensive end Chris Canty said. "We're a team that's good, we've had some winning seasons, but we're trying to get over that hump to become great."

So why do they deserve the label of "close?"

Aiding, and confusing, their stature is the fact that the Cowboys play in an NFC
that has won just two of the past 10 Super Bowls and doesn't exactly boast any super powers, which allows the Cowboys to accurately claim they are close. Of course, any number of NFC teams can probably make the same claim.

My Brother’s blog – containing nothing but religious discussion …so, if it is your cup of tea…

Star Wars Quotes ranked

Here are some emails for you:

Some of my Texas Tech buddies and I were sitting around one night and we realized that Texas Tech needed a blog…

And there isn’t one out there (worth a damn) – until now…

Your site has had a huge influence on us – we wanted to let you know that.

Keep an eye on us – I told my boys that one day we want to grow up and be just like you…we’ve linked your blog at our site – maybe one day you can do the same for us…


Bond J Bond

Hi Bob,

I am not sure how much you have been following the NHL playoffs since the Stars were ousted, but I am sure Sports Sturm can appreciate what a shot at the cup means for Ottawa, a small market team (pop. 800,000) whose franchise was on life support 4 years ago. What makes it even more satisfying is when you look back at some of the low-points (mind you, some quite hilarious) in the history of this franchise.
Quotes taken from the Ottawa Citizen…
Richard (Ottawa)

1 - Chief executive officer Roy Mlakar : "The low point for me was telling the team they wouldn't get paid." In late December, the team's finances were in shambles and players had their Dec. 30, 2002 paycheque withheld.

2 - At the 1992 NHL expansion draft, Senators general manager Mel Bridgman selects three ineligible players in a row, prompting eye-rolling from other teams' representatives, and Mel's famous line: "Ottawa apologizes."

3 - An Ottawa Sun circulation employee, a former Ottawa 67's player named Larry Skinner, who played a few dozen NHL games in the 1970s, attends the Senators' first training camp to do a first-person diary. Skinner leads the camp in scoring.

4 - The Senators lose 41 consecutive road games in 1992-'93. When they beat the New York Islanders on the Island (April 10, 1993), for their first road win, players react as though they have won the Stanley Cup.

5 - The Senators have bus issues in Boston. They end up on a city subway. A local spots a couple of well-dressed young men with sports bags slung over their shoulder and asks where they're from.


"Ottawa!" the Bostonian replies. "Great city. Lousy hockey team."

"This is the hockey team," he is told.

"A hockey team riding dah subway? No wondah you guys stink!"

6 - Thieves break into the practice facility of the expansion Senators and steal a bunch of video equipment, but leave the videotapes behind. "Burglars with taste," then-assistant coach E.J. McGuire says.

7- ESPN had one highlight from the Senators' first season (10 wins, 70 losses, four ties) in their year-end package. The highlight? Winger Andrew McBain is ejected from a game in Chicago and falls down the steep steps of the old Stadium on his way to the dressing room.

8 - After Rick Bowness, the Senators' classy inaugural coach, is fired during the 1995-'96 season, he is replaced by Dave "Sparky" Allison. In a desperate attempt to stop the losing, Allison asks his assistants to participate in a seance to speak to the ghosts of dead Senators. Allison would have fit in with the CFL's Ottawa Rough Riders.

9 - Alexandre Daigle, Ottawa's first overall pick in the 1993 draft: "Nobody remembers No. 2," ... A quote that will live on in draft infamy. Really? No. 2 that year was Chris Pronger, still an NHL superstar on defence, while Daigle rides out his modest professional career by playing in Switzerland.



I keep hearing people all over the metroplex complaining about the cost of going to a Ranger's game. I hear numbers thrown all over the place like $15 to park, $30 tickets, food, memorabilia, etc. The reality is that going to the Ranger's game can be extraordinarily cheap if you know how to do it.

The Star Telegram press pass gets you two free tickets to one select game in a month. Sure, you don't get to see the Red Sox or Yankees, but you do get to go to a game. Are the seats great? Not even close, but I have not been to one game where I couldn't move up a class or two of seats with any problem.

Parking? Please...$6 if you don't mind walking a bit. Only suckers pay that much for parking, and (once again) I have never had a problem getting the cheap parking.

Rangers Ballpark (is that what it is called now?) is one of only 4 ballparks in the nation that allows you to bring in your own cooler. Whatever you want to bring in, as long as the cooler is soft sided. How can you beat that?

Most Rangers games, my family of 4 only spends about $15. I am tired of hearing people bitch about the cost of the games, when if they just did a little research and maybe showed a little restraint (like not buying 4 beers or not buying that Ranger's jersey), they could afford to go to a game too.

Euless, TX

LeBron – the only man who can save us from a boring NBA Finals now…

Pirate Master – I’ll give it a try Thursday night

Monday, May 28, 2007

The King is Here

LeBron is awesome in Game 3, Cavaliers win

LeBron James said Sunday night's game was the most important of his NBA career.

Now it's his biggest victory.

An inspired James rallied the Cavaliers with 12 of his 32 points in the fourth quarter to propel the Cavs to an 88-82 must-win victory over Detroit in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals at The Q.

The Cavs trail, 2-1, in this best-of-seven series with Game 4 Tuesday at The Q.

James dom inated the score book, chipping in nine assists and nine rebounds.

"In order for us to win, I have to play like this," James said. "And that's not holding the ball as much and not allowing their defense to set. They're very good when you allow their defense to set. I was a little more aggressive on the post. Once I got easy baskets, that opened up my outside shot."

James' biggest moment arrived with a poster dunk over the outstretched arm of Rasheed Wallace for a 70-68 Cavs lead in the fourth quarter.

"It's hard to rate that dunk because it was off the charts," said Cavs forward Drew Gooden. "That dunk sparked us."

Gooden also saw an unseen side of James.

"That's the most focused I've ever seen LeBron James before a game," Gooden said. "He didn't say anything. He had his headphones on. He got here early and he wanted to win, and it showed."

The Dunk

Rangers are so bad it hurts

Washington is fond of saying the Rangers are one hit, one pitch and one play away from winning most nights. He believes it when he tells you he's just waiting for one of his players to deliver that game-winning play.

As mama used to say, "He can wait until he's blue in the face and it's not going to happen." You know why? Bad teams find ways to lose the same way good teams find ways to win.

Take Sunday's game. Kameron Loe turned in a good performance, allowing three runs in six innings. The Rangers scored four times in the bottom of the sixth, giving Washington an opportunity to use the bullpen the way he drew it up in spring training.

Joaquin Benoit was going to pitch the seventh and the Rangers' two most reliable pitchers – Akinori Otsuka and closer Gagne – would handle the final two innings.
Only Benoit did his job

Otsuka, the Rangers' best pitcher this season, allowed two runs and Gagne gave up a homer that proved to be the difference-maker in the ninth.

"I wouldn't think Otsuka would give up two runs or Gagne would give up a bomb," said Washington, "but it happened. ... This is baseball, you can't predict what's going to happen."

It didn't help that Texas failed to do the little things that help teams steal close games. Leading 4-3 in the seventh, Lofton led off with a double to right. Young, who excels at moving runners over, grounded out to shortstop, so Teixeira didn't have an opportunity to drive him in with sacrifice fly.

"That was a bad at-bat," Young said.

In the eighth inning, Sosa threw home when he had no shot to get Kevin Youkilis, allowing J.D. Drew to take second. Mike Lowell followed with a run-scoring single as Boston took a 5-4 lead.

Again, it's the little things hurting this team.

Of course, Boston made the only great play it needed to win the game. Coco Crisp made a lunging catch in right-center field to rob Catalanotto of at least a double that would've driven in a couple of runs and given Texas a three-run cushion.
Now, do you see the difference between teams that win and those that lose?
No team has won fewer games than Texas. Not Washington. Not Pittsburgh. Not Cincinnati.

Not even perennial loser Kansas City.

Perhaps you think the Rangers are better than those other clubs. Maybe, but I don't get to watch those other teams play bad baseball on a regular basis.

Meanwhile, the New York papers, wonder about Teixeira in a Yankee uniform …I suppose it has not occurred to them that the Yankees are also 12.5 games out of first place…

If you look at the potential sellers at the July 31 non-waivers trade deadline, there's a whole lot of nothing available from Tampa Bay, Kansas City, Washington and Colorado. Cincinnati could offer supplementary pieces such as Jeff Conine and David Weathers, and there surely will be the annual discussion of Ken Griffey Jr. possibly waiving his no-trade right. Prediction: He won't.

Which leaves the Texas Rangers, a team that never expected to be in sell mode this season and still hopes to avoid it.

But they'll need a significant turnaround from every department, and if that doesn't happen, they'll be shopping some inventory.

Including, possibly, the biggest catch of the summer.

Could the Rangers trade All-Star first baseman Mark Teixeira in the middle of the season? You'd have to think the Yankees, among others, would be interested.

"My hope is that Mark is a Ranger for his whole career," Rangers general manager and Queens native Jon Daniels said Friday in a telephone interview. "It's good for the industry when a guy sticks with one team.

"But you have to consider all possibilities, too."

Daniels stressed that he has not offered Teixeira to anyone and added that no team has called him about Teixeira, even though he made similar comments this past week to the Dallas-Fort Worth media. Yet Teixeira's contract runs through 2008, and given that he's represented by Scott Boras, there's virtually no chance that he'll forego free agency.

If the Rangers deal Teixeira in July, they'll be giving their trade partner a year and a half of the switch-hitting slugger, which would raise Texas' asking price. Perhaps the Yankees, suddenly replete with pitching prospects and lacking an everyday first baseman, would bite. Or the Red Sox, or Teixeira's hometown Orioles.

This guy doesn’t figure Sosa belongs

Yes, Bonds-and-756 makes me uneasy. But Sosa-and-600? That makes me sick.
Six hundred was special. In its own way, 600 was as special as 755. Only gods need apply for either number, and while there can only be one home-run king, there were only four players with 600 home runs. Here's the roll call: Aaron, Bonds, Ruth, Mays.

Aaron, Bonds, Ruth, Mays? That's four of the greatest players in history. Possibly the four greatest players in history, though arguments can be made for Cobb, Williams or DiMaggio.

Bonds belongs in that group, asterisk or no asterisk. Don't let the steroid issue confuse the issue of his greatness. Before the steroid era hit baseball in the late 1990s, Bonds was the best player of his generation, a three-time MVP, a first-ballot Hall of Famer. On an annual basis he was good for a .300 batting average, 30 home runs and 30 steals (if not 40 and 40), with 100 runs, 100 RBI and 100 walks. He won eight consecutive Gold Gloves. Before steroids turned baseball into a lie, Barry Bonds was the truth.

The home runs that came in record-setting bunches from 2000 to 2004? Those are tainted. No question about it. Bonds has been linked to the BALCO scandal. His bulky body, his escalating power numbers, both coming at an age when most (clean) athletes start to shrink in stature and statistics? It looks bad. For crying out loud, an entire book has been written about his usage of steroids, and the book has not been discredited.

But make no mistake: Bonds was a great player before the steroid era. He had 394 home runs at age 34, before his body began to change. Was he going to reach 756 no matter what? It's possible, though not likely. Either way Bonds was -- is -- one of the best ever.

Sammy Sosa? He wasn't great. He was good, maybe very good, but he wasn't great. He wasn't headed for the Hall of Fame. And he damn sure wasn't headed for 600 home runs.

The steroid era basically began in 1998, when a reporter noticed a bottle of Andro in Mark McGwire's locker while McGwire and Sosa were erasing the known limits of baseball power. By the time that season was finished, McGwire had an unthinkable 70 home runs, Sosa had a crazy 66 and the steroid era was in full bloom.

But don't forget who Sammy Sosa was before 1998. Midway through the 1997 season, the Cubs signed him to a four-year, $42.5 million contract extension that was ridiculed in the media. Why? Because Sosa hadn't been that good. He had good power and speed, but he hit .251 and struck out 174 times in 1997. He was no star.

When the Rangers lose, there are always blog wars

To my surprise, Rampage dominates Chuck

The magnetic light heavyweight from Memphis, Tenn., put his mark on mixed martial arts Saturday evening by stopping hard-hitting UFC light heavyweight champion Chuck "The Iceman" Liddell early in the first period of their title fight.

Saturday night's UFC main event inside a sold-out MGM Grand Garden Arena boiled down to two very separate yet intertwined questions:

Would Liddell, who found redemption versus Randy Couture and Jeremy Horn, fulfill his quest for a clean slate by taking out the last man to defeat him? Could the challenger, who was hounded by questions surrounding his mental strength heading into the 205-pound showdown, perform at a high enough level to thwart Liddell's mission?

Clearly both answers were going to be known at the same time, but no one expected to find out so soon.

Less than two minutes into the opening period of the five-round clash, referee John McCarthy dove in to save Liddell from serious punishment after Jackson countered a risky hook to the midsection with a fully-extended overhand right that met the champion's jaw.

"Ya know, I got caught," said the 37-year-old Liddell, who absorbed a handful of strikes while he remained dazed on the canvas. "What are you gonna say man? I made a mistake, got caught. Nothing else you can say."

Andrew’s previews the Stanley Cup Finals

The only thing that has been able to slow down the Senators since late December has been the long layoff since they eliminated Buffalo in the Eastern Conference Final back on May 19. After a sluggish start to the season, the Senators finished the regular season with a 31-7-8 record over their final 46 regular season games and are 12-3 in the playoffs for a combined record of 43-10-8 over a 61-game stretch. They've been impressive in beating each Pittsburgh, New Jersey and Buffalo in five-game series to advance to the Stanley Cup Final.

The Ducks were billed as Stanley Cup contenders from the start of the season and have lived up to the hype. They started strong, got derailed by some key injuries at the midway part of the season but were able to get it together by the playoffs, where they have put together a 12-4 record. The Ducks were clearly the better team in first and second round series wins against Minnesota and Vancouver. They struggled at times against Detroit, but found a way to win Games 3 and 4 despite getting outplayed and beat the Red Wings in six games.

The painful to watch Dick Stockton gets demoted

Not earth-shattering news, but from a very reliable source AA has learned that Dick Stockton has been demoted from the #2 team for the upcoming season.

Here's the breakdown. Basically their trading Dick with Kenny Albert. FOX is high on Albert as they've put him on playoff baseball coverage and most recently their Bowl coverage this past season. Daryl Johnston stays as analyst with KA, and Dick Stockton now works with....get this....Brian Baldinger. I don't think I could put a worse team together if I wanted to (I can't wait to get the NFL package on DirecTV this year).

The other interesting tidbit is that this team might drop to 4th on the Announcing Depth Chart for next year. Matt Vasgersian and JC Pearson

The teams should look like this come the 2007 Season (Sideliner in parenthesis):
Buck and Aikman (Pam Oliver)
Kenny Albert and Daryl Johnston (Siragusa)
Matt Vasgersian and JC Pearson (Jay Glazer)
Dick Stockton and Brian Baldinger
Sam Rosen and Tim Meyers (Chris Meyers)

I don’t believe this story for a second

Jacqueline Gagne has had 10 once-in-a-lifetime experiences in less than four months.
Since Jan. 23, the 46-year-old from Rancho Mirage, Calif., has hit 10 holes in one, or just eight fewer than were hit on the entire Ladies Professional Golf Association tour last year.

Her local paper, the Desert Sun of Palm Springs, Calif., has corroborated Ms. Gagne's feat, running notes alongside articles from editors saying they're just as skeptical as readers, but everything has checked out.

The paper also asked a local statistician, Michael McJilton of the College of the Desert, to compute the odds against the feat. The result, which headlined the article: 113,527,276,681,000,000 to 1. And that was after just seven aces. I asked Mr. McJilton to repeat the computation after Ms. Gagne hit three more in the following couple of weeks, over a total of just 75 rounds. He returned the astronomical number of roughly 12 septillion (12 followed by 24 zeroes) to 1. Such an unlikely event should never happen. It's like winning the lottery four straight times. No wonder David Letterman came calling.

Rampage destroys Iceman

And here is some holiday email:

Sports Sturm:

Couldn't agree with you more about your rule for not being allowed to be a "die hard" of more than one team in any sport, or even more than one team period, across the four major sports. Maybe "allowed" isn't the correct word; the better word would be impossible, because it is impossible mentally, physically and, more important, emotionally to be a "die hard" of more than one team. Period!

I always thought this was the case, but it has been proved to me at ever increasing levels with the Mavs run to the Finals last year and their first round exit this year.

I'm a born and bread Dallas-ite and have always been a fan of what was mostly the three major teams. Now that the Stars are local, I'm a fan of them too. However, the ranking is 1) Mavs 5) Cowboys 6) Rangers 7) Stars.

My affinity for the three "other" teams is not even in the same hemisphere as my affinity for the Mavs and, like I wrote earlier, this is only a new revelation to me.
For the longest time I thought it was a dead heat between the Mavs and Cowboys. However, the Mavs run of last May and June, and the Cowboys little playoff excursion showed me just where my allegiances truly lie.

Do I want the Cowboys to win? Sure, more than any other team in the NFL. My first formidable football years were the late Tony Dorsett and Danny White days. I went to all the playoff pep rallies in the early-90s and cheered as much as anyone when they won SBs XVII, XVIII, and XXX.

However, I've never had more sleepless nights than I did during May and June last year. Starting in the Western Semis against the Spurs last year I averaged about an hours sleep after a loss, and maybe got two or three after a win. And, if there was any controversy that went against the Mavericks (i.e. Game 5 in Miami and when Terry was suspended after Game 5 in San Anotnio) I slept not one wink. It was devastating. It wrecked me. It was to the point this year that I even tried to not watch the games against GSW. I had a really bad feeling going into the series. It was so bad that I even bet against the Mavericks each game; my rationale being that maybe that would make the losses sting less. If they lost, hey, at least I won some money. If they won, I really didn't give a darn about the money. You know what, it did not help my emotional well-being AT ALL. I feel like to traitor now. I keep thinking that maybe I jinxed the Mavs by going about it as I did. I feel horrible.

However, you'd think a loss as devastating as the Cowboys experienced against the Seahawks in January would have been crippling to me. Down by one, about to kick a FG. Went upstairs. Played a little FIFA '07 on the Playstation 2 (Fulham's my team). Went to be bed and right to sleep. Sure, it sucked, but not as devastating as the loss my Mavs and I suffered.

The one wrench in this whole theory could be the fact that the Cowboys won three SBs
during my late high school years, which was a time that my love for my local sports teams had become fully engrained in me. Maybe because the Cowboys have already provided me with the joy and satisfaction that a world title for the favorite sports team provides a person has left me satisfied with whatever they do for the following 15 - 20 years. Who knows?! Maybe that's the reason my passion is for the Mavs instead of the Cowboys.

Anyway, great theory.
P1 Joel
Allen, TX

Hey Bob,

I just wanted to chime in on this discussion. YOU’RE ABSOLUTELY RIGHT!!!!
I am a die hard Cowboys fan, nothing in the sports world (or probably anything in the world, don’t tell my wife) is better than the Cowboys winning the Super Bowl. I love the Mavs, Stars and Longhorns; however, I recognize that I am pretty fair weather when it comes to these teams. The Cowboys on the other hand I stand by win or loose. When they suck, they are still my team…they just suck.

I have lived in Houston for 9 years, and I try to root as hard as it may seem for the Texans. But I don’t know every player, college attended and birthday of the Texans.

Your pyramid analogy is a perfect way to put it.

• Stars Stanley Cup….Awesome, but not as sweet as Cowboys Superbowl
• UT National Championship….Awesome, but not as sweet as Cowboys Superbowl
• Mavs run last year….great, but give me a Cowboys Superbowl.

BTW, I have always had a rooting interest for Dallas teams, but I have jumped ship from the Rangers to the Astros. But hey if by miracle the Rangers turn things around I will be a Ranger fan.

Giddy up,

Sports Sturm,

Just wanted to get a proper ruling from you (or maybe Dan, since he has a little Cleveland experience with this).

I was born in 1978 in Houston and grew up there for my entire childhood. I was an Astros, Rockets, and at the time, Oilers fan. This was during the days of the Run-N-Shoot, Warren Moon, Ernest Givens, the Meltdown of Epic Proportions in Buffalo, etc - a memorable time to be a young fan.

As you know though, in 1996 the Oilers - led by the Great Satan that is Bud Adams - packed up and moved to Tennessee. I was an impressionable 18 yearsold at the time and vehemently swore off any allegiance to the Oilers/Titans/whatever-they-called-themselves-that-week.

I left for college at A&M and then moved directly to Dallas. Raised in Houston (and as an Oiler), I grew up learning to hate the Cowboys, and even though I've been here for 6 years, I don't think that will ever change.

Since I left, Houston got a new team - the pitiful Texans - but having never lived there during their tenure, I can't claim allegiance to them. Plus, they give me no reason to even try and fake it.

The closest I've come to rooting for a NFL team is with Green Bay since my high school football team's uniforms were exactly like the Packers (though with an S instead of a G on the helmet) - but the older I get, the shakier that logic seems.

So, basically - I've committed myself to Sports Bachelorhood with the NFL - not unlike a guy whose dirty hooker of a wife cheated on him while they were married, so he's sworn off the marriage in general. Or, you know, something like that.

Anyways, just wanted to get a ruling from the Great Sports Sturm - is it possible (and acceptable) to commit to being the George Clooney of NFL fans and eternally play the field? To just turn on the TV on Sunday, pull for whoever I like more/hate less, hope the game is entertaining, and leave it at that?


Friday, May 25, 2007

Now, LeBron and Jordan both hate Detroit

LeBron hits brick wall known as Pistons

LeBron James drove to the rim on Richard "Rip" Hamilton, who is quick as his slash and stick nickname, but he also is spindly, like a jagged splinter that can fester if it wounds you. Hamilton is 6-6, not even 190 pounds. James is 6-8, 250.

You expect James to bulldoze him.

James has met a lot of expectations in the four years since he entered the NBA as the most hyped rookie ever. But he has not met the expectations of making a winning play against the Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Cavs lost again, 79-76, the second straight brutal finish to an ugly game.

He passed in the first game with the Cavaliers down two, and Donyell Marshall missed the would-be winning 3-pointer.

Thursday night, with the Cavs down one, James missed a twisting, off-balance half-hook off the glass as Hamilton swiped at the ball and seemed to rake his arm. You don't get that call, not on this floor, not in that clock situation. Maybe you should, but that is not the way games have ever been called.

Let the players decide it, is the referees' motto. Decide what? Sumo wrestling in short pants instead of those loincloth thingies? Goat-roping and bulldogging, like in the rodeo?

Basketball is not much of a game if the only way to stop great players is to mug them. This is how two of the four teams still playing professional basketball manage not to even reach 80 points in 96 minutes of clumsy action.

Pistons continue to walk slippery slope

This time, LeBron James shot it. This time he missed it, and another Cavalier missed, and another Cavalier missed, and in those frantic final seconds, we saw what this series has become, before our wincing eyes.

The Cavaliers keep battling, and the Pistons keep making one more play at the end, one more play than James. It's pretty obvious now, this isn't going to get any easier for the Pistons, no matter how much tougher they make it for James.

Detroit's victory in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals Thursday night looked almost exactly like the opener. The score -- 79-76 -- was the same. The difference? The right player missed the last shot, although the Cavs loudly protested James was fouled by Richard Hamilton with 7.9 seconds left and Detroit hanging on to a 77-76 lead.

Maybe he was fouled. Maybe a seasoned superstar gets that call. Or maybe the sweaty final seconds remain the experienced Pistons' domain, as do the taut second halves, when they wiped out a 12-point deficit with a familiar suffocation that was borderline inhumane.

James finished with 19 points, five in the second half. Rasheed Wallace scored 16 and had 10 of the Pistons' final 13, including the tough winner with 24 seconds left. His defense was nearly as good as his clutch offense.

"Since we started the playoffs, 'Sheed has been extremely locked in, extremely motivated, and down the stretch, he wanted the ball," coach Flip Saunders said. "It was just a matter of who was going to make a few plays down the stretch."

Down the stretch -- that's when you're defined in these games. It's not how much you score but when you score. It's something Detroit's veterans know, something James and the Cavs are still learning.

That learning curve is starting to twist, slowly. If not for little-used reserve Jason Maxiell, who scored 15 and showed phenomenal energy, this night was trouble for the Pistons. A technical foul on Cleveland coach Mike Brown with one second left settled it, but nothing has been settled yet.

Meanwhile, In former BaD Radio intern news, Mike Bacsik continues his Cinderella Story

There is no accounting for the way Mike Bacsik pitched Thursday night, or the way he pitched last week in what was his first major league start since 2004. But the 29-year-old Washington Nationals left-hander -- a man who thought he might be out of baseball when these very same Nationals released him in 2006 -- somehow spun 7 2/3 innings of three-run ball in a 4-3 victory over the Cincinnati Reds, a decision that gave Washington three wins in this four-game series.

Each time Bacsik squinted in to look for the sign, he stared at the fingers of one Brian Schneider, his catcher. Such is the status of the Nationals these days that even when they get a 3-for-4, two-RBI performance from first baseman Dmitri Young, even when they get a home run from shortstop Cristian Guzman, even when Chad Cordero makes hearts thump when he closes it out in the ninth, the most important player on the field, day-in and day-out, might be the guy who went 0 for 4 Thursday.

This hodgepodge staff -- one that has four-fifths of the starting rotation on the disabled list, one that has used 17 different pitchers this year -- is now getting production from all sorts of unexpected sources. Not the least of those is Bacsik, who notched his first major league win since Aug. 4, 2004, when he was in Texas, and now has a 1.98 ERA in his first two starts with Washington.

So, as the Nationals have fashioned 10 wins in their past 14 games, nods have gone out to pitching coach Randy St. Claire, who stitches it all together, and a few more to Ricardo Aponte, the bullpen coach who's keeping the relievers focused on a nightly basis.

But the one man who is there each night is Schneider, the 30-year-old who has a staff of pitchers who, almost every time, throw the pitch he wants to throw.
"We can talk all we want about our pitching staff and the great job that Randy's doing, and Rick Aponte," Manager Manny Acta said. "But Brian Schneider's been huge."
As the Nationals have waited for offense -- they had only twice scored seven runs in a game before this week, and they did so three times in this series -- they have chewed through pitchers. The turnover has been so rapid that last week, when lefty Billy Traber came up from Class AAA Columbus, Schneider didn't get to say hello until he met Traber on the mound for his first appearance.

"You got guys coming up here I haven't caught since spring training," Schneider said. "It's tough, being able to talk to them about what's been working for them down there, to what might work here. Where to set up. What counts to get out there on the corners. There's a lot of things going on, but it's all about what's going to make them the most comfortable."

So Bacsik got comfortable with Schneider quickly. When he made his Nationals debut with six scoreless innings against Baltimore on Saturday, he shook Schneider off once. On Thursday night, when the only runs he allowed came on a solo homer to Adam Dunn in the fifth and a two-run blast from Alex Gonzalez in the eighth, he followed Schneider's advice on each and every one of his 100 pitches.

"When he goes over the hitters before the game," Bacsik said, "he has a commitment to what he says, and he knows it's going to work, which makes me believe it's going to work, too."

Schneider, then, convinced Bacsik of the game plan, and then went out and executed it. Bacsik, with no guarantees as to how long he'll be here, essentially put his career in another man's hands.

"I don't know if I could do that," Schneider said. "If I'm a pitcher, just say, 'Whatever this guy calls, I'm throwing it.' For someone to do that, you got to respect him."

So it worked Thursday, even as Bacsik said: "I got away with some pitches. Those were crush-me pitches."

Yet the reeling Reds didn't crush many of them. After Dunn homered in the fifth, he came up again with a man on in the seventh and struck out on a flat, 75-mph curveball.

"Luckily, I think it was so pathetic that he missed it," Bacsik said.

Still need more Bacsik?

There was a time not long ago when Mike Bacsik wondered whether he would get a chance to win another major league game.

"Sure," the bald-headed, physically uninspiring pitcher said. "Last year, April 1, when Washington told me: 'You know what? We don't have any spots for you in Triple-A, and we're going to release you.' "

So when Bacsik completed his journey back last night to beat the Cincinnati Reds 4-3 and earn his first win in three years, it was reason enough for the 29-year-old to smile.

That it came wearing the uniform of the same Nationals team that released him just more than a year ago made the story all the more impressive.

Bacsik had no reason to re-sign with Washington last winter, not after getting dumped by the organization, then going 11-0 for the Arizona Diamondbacks' Class AAA affiliate in Tucson. He could have signed with anyone.

But Nationals assistant general managers Mike Rizzo and Bob Boone pleaded with him to come back. They admitted their mistake in letting him go, and despite some reservations, Bacsik agreed to come to spring training and again compete for a job.

"They were really persistent," the left-hander said. "They called and they called, and I thought to myself: 'I've got to give this another chance.' "

Bacsik again didn't make the major league roster, but he did earn a spot in Class AAA Columbus' rotation, and the way he handled the whole situation convinced Washington manager Manny Acta he deserved a shot to be called up last week.

"Character. Big-time character," Acta said. "This guy got released by us last year and went and had an 11-0 season in Triple-A and decided to come to camp with us. That shows a lot."

And now Bacsik has his first big league win since Aug. 4, 2004, (when he pitched for the Texas Rangers) to show for it. In thoroughly befuddling the Reds over 72/3 innings last night, he helped Washington win three out of four from Cincinnati and improve to 10-4 over the last two weeks.

Sox in tonight; here comes Daisuke

The numbers – 6-2, 4.06 ERA, the seventh-most strikeouts in the American League (58) – tell part of the story of Boston Red Sox rookie phenom Daisuke Matsuzaka. Let teammate David Ortiz tell the rest.

"He's so under control that he reminds me of Pedro when he's out there doing his thing," Ortiz said, referring to former Red Sox star Pedro Martinez. "It doesn't matter what the situation is. He always looks like he's in control."

Matsuzaka, 26, is beginning to live up to and maybe even surpass the hoopla that comes when a team spends over $100 million to acquire your services. He's scheduled to make his first appearance against the Rangers tonight in Arlington after being named last week's AL Player of the Week. He is 3-0 with a 1.88 ERA in his last three appearances, pitching seven innings in each of them. He hasn't walked a batter in 17 innings.

We live in a time when there are no secrets, even if you come from the other side of the world. The hype machine has been operating at full whirl since last November, when the Red Sox won the posting bid for Matsuzaka. Most New Englanders, even those who have been paying little attention since then, probably know more about him than they do about their neighbor.Matsuzaka became eligible to pitch in the majors last winter following his eighth season with Japan's Seibu Lions. He wowed American observers during spring training 2006 by leading Japan to a surprising victory in the first World Baseball Classic and followed that with his best season for the Lions – 17-5 with a 2.13 ERA.

Boston was awarded the rights to negotiate with Matsuzaka with an unprecedented $51.1 million bid to the Lions. The Red Sox eventually stared down uber-agent Scott Boras through 29 contentious days of negotiations, signing Matsuzaka to a contract far closer to their original offer (the final deal was six years, $52 million) than Boras' original demand (three years, $48 million).

And they did it while consciously bending their approach to the Japanese norms of civility and respect. Matsuzaka, in fact, said he decided to sign with the Sox when he realized they would help his family make the cultural adjustments to the United States.

Love Bill Simmons; Don’t love his constant Boston subjects…Happy Celtics lost lottery

Remember yesterday I was in love with the Mavericks going to get Zach Randolph? Sam Smith looks at his rap sheet …I might want to adjust my opinion…

Sure, there have been troubled players who have succeeded, like Rasheed Wallace with the Pistons and Dennis Rodman with the Bulls.

But this, according to newspaper reports over the years, is what you also get with Randolph:

•1995. Thirty days in juvenile detention for shoplifting.

•High school years: Thirty days of house arrest for battery.

•Thirty days in juvenile detention for receiving stolen property, a gun.

•2002. Underage drinking arrest in Marion, Ind., his hometown.

•2003. Team suspension by the Trail Blazers for sucker-punching teammate Ruben Patterson in practice and breaking his eye socket.

•2003. Arrested in Portland for driving under the influence of intoxicants and marijuana.

•2004. Accused by police of lying in an investigation of his brother shooting three men in an Indiana nightclub.

•2006. Suspended by the Trail Blazers for making obscene gestures to fans after a game in Indiana.

•2006. Sued by a Portland woman for sexual assault, though prosecutors didn't file criminal charges.

•2007. Left a strip club without paying the bill while he was on bereavement leave from the team and missed three games after the death of his girlfriend's cousin.

•2007. Earlier this month, police were called to the parking lot of a strip club where Randolph and teammate Darius Miles were part of a gathering and a gunshot was fired.

It all reminds you of the wonderful scene from the Bill Murray movie "Stripes" when the characters played by Murray and Harold Ramis are undergoing the Army enlistment process and the recruiter asks if they were ever convicted of a felony.

Murray pauses considerably and says, "Convicted? Not convicted."

It happens every spring: A story about hockey not getting a television audience

Two measures of hockey's TV troubles came during the NHL playoffs. Last weekend, NBC broke from an Ottawa Senators/Buffalo Sabres game in overtime to broadcast a pre-race show for the Preakness Stakes, directing fans to cable network Versus. And a first-round NBC broadcast of a Calgary Flames/Detroit Red Wings game generated lower ratings than the poker tournament that preceded it.

But NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman maintains that hockey is largely on track after its lost season. "The definition of a troubled franchise has changed dramatically," he said. "We don't have any franchises going out of business. We don't have any franchises in real distress."

The league is believed to have grown its regular-season revenue by about 6% to $2.3 billion this year — about where the league was before the lost season. The NHL had skated itself into a corner before the labor dispute, in part because of a rapid expansion in Sunbelt cities without a strong hockey heritage. Player salaries also had surged, and heading into the canceled 2004-05 season, the league claimed a $272-million loss.

The new labor agreement reached in 2005 gave NHL owners immediate financial relief with a 24% player salary cut. A revenue-sharing plan was instituted to help weaker franchises and bolster parity on the ice. Bettman acknowledged that it will take time to fix all of the league's problems: "Those are not things that happen by throwing a light switch. They take time."

As it stands, even a winner on the ice easily can slip from profit to loss.

The Carolina Hurricanes turned a $10-million profit while winning the Stanley Cup last season. The franchise spent $10 million in the off-season to retain key players and led the league in ticket revenue growth by setting another regular-season attendance record. But the team missed the playoffs — along with postseason ticket revenue — and will lose money.

"We walk a very, very fine line," Hurricanes Chief Executive Jim Rutherford said. "Our owner made the decision to continue to keep this team competitive, to keep it appealing enough so that more people will come to see our games."

NHL franchises focus hard on attendance because the league can't command broadcast riches enjoyed by the NFL ($4 billion annually), Major League Baseball ($600 million) and the NBA ($600 million). Its NBC deal calls for profit-sharing rather than a guaranteed check, and the Versus cable network will pay the NHL about $60 million this year.

The average number of viewers watching the nine regular-season NHL games that NBC broadcast fell by 2% from a year ago to 1.3 million, and viewership for playoff games through the conference finals was down 5% to 1.4 million.

Average viewership for Versus' regular-season coverage rose 31% to 212,366, and is up by 7% to 409,369 so far during the playoffs. The network has expanded its reach to 72 million households, up from 69 million last year.

MMA is everywhere

Its success, usually viewed through the prism of the hypermarketed Ultimate Fighting Championship, has been building for years. But in the past few months, M.M.A. has catapulted into the mainstream. It is forging an identity distinct from the more venerable combat sport of boxing — or, M.M.A.’s leaders argue, nudging the sweet science further into the sports periphery.

The U.F.C. is Sports Illustrated’s cover story this week, and its premier star, Chuck Liddell, was the cuddly cover boy (holding his 8-year-old son) recently for ESPN the Magazine. “60 Minutes” has done a story about the sport, and promotes, a mixed martial arts Web site.

One of M.M.A.’s newcomers, the International Fight League, has one new alliance with USA Wrestling and another one with the U.S.O., which this week allowed seven of its fighters to sail aboard Navy ships from Norfolk, Va., to Manhattan and Staten Island with 3,500 sailors for Fleet Week.

All this appears to be the multichapter prologue to tomorrow night’s Liddell-Quinton Jackson light heavyweight championship match in Las Vegas at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, where a capacity crowd of 13,318 was announced yesterday, with gate receipts of $4.4 million anticipated.

But to Dana White, the high-energy, combustible president of the U.F.C., the fact that major news media organizations are now recognizing M.M.A.’s appeal is merely symptomatic of their previous ignorance.

“No disrespect to the media, but this has been the hottest thing for 18-to-34 males for the past few years,” he said. “The media franchises are supposed to have their finger on the pulse of things, but they’ve been way behind here.”

Liddell vs. Rampage

Chuck Liddell with Rome

Hey Bob,

I’m originally from Dallas and was a long time Ticket listener, as well as a big time Liverpool fan. I hear that the AAC had a watching party yesterday and that there was a pretty big turn out. Were you guys involved? How was the turnout? Any pictures?

Mark Crowder

Picture #1 - I lead the crowd in You'll Never Walk Alone

Picture #2 - Crowd is sad that Liverpool is getting beaten.