Friday, March 30, 2007

Friday, March 30

Eric Gagne is on the Disabled List …In other news, the sky appears to be blue, water is wet, and Ruffles have ridges…

The plan is to have Gagné pitch in three minor-league games in Surprise through Wednesday. Then he'll join the Rangers for Opening Day introductions Friday before pitching that night in Frisco. He'll pitch three innings there, including on back-to-back nights.

Gagné is scheduled to be activated April 13 and to be available for the Rangers that night in Seattle.

The Rangers had hoped to get Gagné as many as 12 spring innings, but he wound up with only six, counting a "B" game, a simulated game and a minor-league game Thursday.

"We just felt like as a group, we all felt like he needs more work," pitching coach Mark Connor said. "And we'd rather sacrifice having him for eight games and then have him for 154."

During Gagné's stint on the DL, the Rangers will give Akinori Otsuka his old job back. Otsuka saved 32 games for the Rangers last season but was going to be moved to a setup role to make room for Gagné.

Even after Gagné returns, Otsuka will still be expected to save some games, although the Rangers made it clear Gagné won't lose the closer's job even if Otsuka is spectacular early on.

"I really look at it like we have two closers, and that would just further reinforce that," Daniels said.

Connor said the club wouldn't have pushed Gagné into the season even if Otsuka wasn't there as an insurance policy, but Daniels said "it would have been a lot tougher" to make that decision without Otsuka.

With Otsuka moving out of the eighth-inning setup role, that task will fall to Joaquin Benoit and Kameron Loe, both of whom had stellar springs.

Gagné thinks the next two weeks will solve some questions that remain unanswered.
"Would I be able to go on a consistent basis? I don't know. That's basically what it was about," Gagné said. "It's frustrating because I'm so anxious to leave here and try to help them out. It's a new team.... But it just gives me more time to be more ready."

I am not sure I can take much more of this story, Billy Gillispie wants Kentucky?

At the end of another bizarre day in Texas A&M's quest to lock down basketball coach Billy Gillispie, school officials delayed an announcement of a new contract agreement after receiving indications from Gillispie that he wants to keep his options open.

Possibly so he can stay in the running for the most tantalizing of current job openings — Kentucky.

EA Sports Simulation likes Ohio State and UCLA in the Finals …whereas I think I will take Ohio State-Florida…

Meanwhile, the good people at NBA Draft.Net have the following participants in the Final Four slated in their 1st round mock draft

1. Memphis Greg Oden 7-0 250 C Ohio St. Fr.
4. Milwaukee Al Horford 6-9 245 PF Florida Jr.
6. Seattle Jeff Green 6-8 235 SF Georgetown Jr.
7. Philadelphia Joakim Noah 6-11 230 PF Florida Jr.
8. Portland Roy Hibbert 7-2 278 C Georgetown Jr.
14. Golden St. Corey Brewer 6-8 185 SF Florida Jr.
22. *Charlotte Arron Afflalo 6-5 215 SG UCLA Jr.

So, watch with the discerning eye of Donnie Nelson and get your mocks together…
Roy Hibbert is not a stiff anymore …so says John Thompson, anyway…

Hibbert, Georgetown's 7-foot-2 junior center, makes Saturday's semifinal game between the Hoyas and Ohio State intriguing. That's because the Buckeyes have their own 7-footer, freshman Greg Oden, a first-team All-American who has been in the spotlight since his sophomore year in high school.

Hibbert, always the tallest in his class, was just a second-team all-metropolitan selection his senior year in Washington, D.C. Few outside his family and the Hoyas program knew of Hibbert when he was stumbling his way through his first practices as a freshman in 2004.

But his improvement and Georgetown's success make Hibbert vs. Oden the most intriguing Final Four matchup of big men since 1984, when Houston junior Akeem Olajuwon faced off with Hoyas junior Patrick Ewing.

"It's something that people are talking about," John Thompson III said. "It's not too often we have two low-post centers going against each other, particularly this late in the tournament."

Hibbert describes his development as a basketball player this way: "I tried to be good at what I was, being tall. I've always been the big guy around the basket."
He was 6-2 in sixth grade. As an eighth grader, he was 6-10 and could dunk.
"We'd just throw the ball up around the basket, he'd grab it and flush it," said North Carolina freshman point guard Ty Lawson, who played on an AAU team with Hibbert from sixth to eighth grade.

When he arrived at Georgetown, Hibbert was 7-2 and weighed 290 pounds -- and about 280 of that was undeveloped tissue. The story goes that Hibbert was so weak he couldn't do a single push-up.

"He could barely stand up on his own two feet," Georgetown forward Jeff Green said. "He couldn't get up and down the floor. [Now], he's got the stamina to stay in games offensively and defensively."

Isn’t the best part about the Final Four Nantz-y?

One of the things I most look forward to (from a trainwreck sort of perspective) is listening to what type of bad cliche or play on words Jim Nantz will come up with in the seconds after the NCAA Title game finishes. Last year he played it cool, with the phrase, "Florida - as good as it gets." Technically, this didn't really make a lot of sense to me, because Florida didn't even win their own conference during the season (meaning they weren't really as good as it gets), but I was willing to let it pass.

In the past, however, some of Nantz' work has been pretty bad (in my opinion). For instance, in 2005, when North Carolina (led by Sean May) won, Nantz said this:

It started in March, ended in April, and belonged to May.

WHAT? What does that even mean? Well, I know what it means, but how lame is that? In 1999, when Connecticut won the Title, Nantz came up with this:

UConn, you can.

That, I truly have no idea what it means. But that's beside the point. This year, I'm hoping Nantz can top himself... IE come up with something even cheesier than the May line from 2005.

It is a big strong NHL weekend for the Dallas Stars, who have visits to Detroit and Nashville scheduled. It is a 3-day round robin tournament between these 3 clubs, as
Round 1 was Detroit winning in Nashville again …Detroit is 6-1-1 versus the Predators….

The Predators had Peter Forsberg, Paul Kariya and Jason Arnott on the ice, the goalie pulled for the extra attacker and a man advantage on a power play.
And still they couldn't push the puck past Chris Osgood to force overtime.

That sums up their struggle to end Detroit's run atop the Central Division and the
Western Conference -- only to keep coming up short head-to-head.

Pavel Datsyuk scored the go-ahead goal in the second period and had an assist, and the Red Wings beat Nashville 2-1 Thursday night and moved back into a tie with the Predators atop the NHL.

The Red Wings, Predators and Buffalo all have 105 points, but Detroit has a game in hand on Nashville with its four of final five games left against Central Division cellar dwellers Columbus and Chicago.

Detroit coach Mike Babcock said he isn't worrying about standings, finishing first or fourth.

"We're in the playoffs, and one through eight, I don't know who we want to play ... Which team do we match up best against? I can't figure it out, so I'm not spending any time doing it," Babcock said.

Nashville blew a chance to pad its lead and has four games left to win a franchise-best 50th game. Three of those are at home. Not that anyone is making excuses, but several Predators pointed out they were short-handed with five forwards out -- four to injuries including Steve Sullivan (back).

Forsberg, who played nearly 22 minutes, said they tried to battle despite running low on forwards and are frustrated at not having control in their own hands.
"We have to rely on Detroit losing two points, and we go undefeated. It was two huge points we lost today," he said.

Nashville coach Barry Trotz pointed out Detroit had scored only seven more goals in this series with a couple of empty netters.

"I'd like to see our club healthy and play them," he said.

Detroit came into this game having already won the season series with five victories in the first seven games. The Red Wings finished off the series finale in style with their fourth straight victory against Nashville and 13 of 16 possible points.

The Mavs visit the Suns on Sunday, who got pounded by Golden State yesterday. Kevin Willis might soon be in the uniform

A chance meeting with Mark Cuban in Las Vegas at All-Star weekend was the genesis of Kevin Willis getting an audition with the Mavericks.

Willis, the 44-year-old 7-footer who has been unofficially retired since the end of the 2004-05 season, had the first of two workouts with the Mavs’ coaches Thursday morning. He will stick around for another session on Friday, when the Mavericks will weigh whether to add Willis to the roster as their third center.

"I ran into Mark at All-Star weekend and had a few words," Willis said. "The next thing I know, I get a call from Rolando [Blackman[ and it kind of went from there. I started doing some shooting and running just in case I got a call. And here I am."
Willis is not signed. But he still looks in exceptional condition. The only question is whether the Mavericks believe he can be used for three-to-five minutes in an emergency situation if they get matched up against a big center in the playoffs like Yao Ming.

How Old is Kevin Willis?

Kevin Willis joined the league in 1984.

His draft class included guys who are now in front offices, on the bench, no longer close to their playing weight, or missing entirely from the NBA sphere: Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley, John Stockton, Otis Thorpe, and even Rick Carlisle.

Willis was born when much of the U.S. did not yet have zip codes, when JFK and MLK were alive, and when reasonable people agreed that no one would ever walk on the moon.

The fact that Willis has played NBA basketball at all this decade is remarkable.
Since the beginning of 2000 alone, Willis has not only played for five different teams, but has even managed to get suspended for fighting. That alone makes him a walking tribute to virility.

But now that Willis reportedly has a workout today (via GirlsGoneSports) and may join the Mavericks soon?

We should all be eating whatever it is Kevin Willis is eating.

Spoons are Funny

Office Platoon

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Thursday, March 29

Time is a bit short today, but let’s not forget to blog….

Dirk hurts ankle again; Mavs gut to a win

On most nights like this one, Mavericks coach Avery Johnson might have harped on the team's defensive rating or the four missed free throws in the final 30 seconds.
Instead, Johnson called the come-from-behind 105-103 victory over Milwaukee on Wednesday in front of 20,398 at American Airlines Center one of his favorite wins of the season.

The franchise-tying 60th win, the eighth in a row, and 13th in 14 back-to-backs this season came on the heels of a perfect six-game road trip and with Dirk Nowitzki out of the game for almost all the second half with a sore left ankle.

The Mavs (60-11) face New York at home Friday before Sunday's showdown in Phoenix.
"I am really excited about this one because this is what you call a gutsy win," Johnson said. "If gutsy is a word in the dictionary, then the Mavericks that were out on the floor tonight, all of their pictures would be right next to it."

Nowitzki still scored 17 points in 16 minutes before he turned his ankle in the second quarter. Jason Terry and Jerry Stackhouse took over the offense, draining nine 3-pointers between them.

Devin Harris and Josh Howard helped stymie Milwaukee's red-hot Michael Redd after a blistering first half. Redd poured in 23 of his game-high 34 in the opening 24 minutes to push the Bucks to a 62-54 lead.

So, now we await word on the health of Dirk….again.
This interesting stuff from Tim McMahon

Teams that won 60 games three times in a five-season span:

Team -- Seasons
Boston Celtics -- *1983-84, 1984-85, *1985-86
Boston Celtics -- 1979-80, *1980-81, 1981-82
Chicago Bulls -- *1995-96, *1996-97, *1997-98
Dallas Mavericks -- 2002-03, 2005-06, 2006-07
Los Angeles Lakers -- *1984-85, 1985-86, *1986-87, *1987-88
Milwaukee Bucks -- *1970-71, 1971-72, 1972-73
Utah Jazz -- 1994-95, 1996-97, 1997-98
*NBA champions.

Think about all the Hall of Famers on these teams, and it puts Dirk's greatness in perspective.
Celtics -- Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish
Bulls -- Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen
Lakers -- Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy
Bucks -- Kareem (Lew Alcindor), Oscar Robertson
Jazz -- Karl Malone, John Stockton

Elias Says

The Mavericks beat the Bucks on Wednesday night, giving Dallas 46 wins in its last 50 games. Only one other team in NBA history won at least 46 times in a 50-game span within one season: the 1966-67 Philadelphia 76ers, who began that season with a 46-4 record.

Michael Redd had 34 points in the first three quarters but was held scoreless in the fourth quarter in the Bucks' 105-103 loss. Kobe Bryant is the only other NBA player to score 34 or more points in a game this season, all before the fourth quarter. Kobe's done that three times, but in each case the Lakers won by at least 10 points and his fourth-quarter scoring was not needed.

Aggie coach can be really well paid…if he stays

Texas A&M appears ready to make Billy Gillispie the highest-paid men's basketball coach in the Big 12 Conference.

According to three high-ranking officials close to and within the A&M system, athletic director Bill Byrne and the third-year coach have reached a verbal agreement on a deal that would increase Gillispie's annual salary from $1.25 million to somewhere in the neighborhood of $2 million.

But the enhanced deal, which would run through 2012, still must be presented to the Texas A&M Systems Board of Regents for review in closed executive session today. It will be voted on and rubber-stamped for public view Friday.

That would leave Gillispie to sign the extension Monday, the same day ground is supposed to be broken on a $22 million basketball practice facility. If Gillispie signs the contract as expected, his annual salary would exceed the $1.8 million earned by Texas' Rick Barnes and the $1.6 million paid to Kansas' Bill Self.

Gillispie, 47, is 70-26 in three seasons in College Station and has taken the Aggies to three consecutive postseasons, including back-to-back NCAA Tournament berths. A&M advanced to the Sweet 16 this season for the first time in 27 years.

But with Arkansas still searching for a coach and Kentucky's courtship of Florida's Billy Donovan still far from a marriage, the road to Monday certainly has some potential twists with Gillispie headed to the Final Four in Atlanta.

Annual salaries of Big 12 basketball coaches:

$2 million*
Billy Gillispie, Texas A&M

$1.8 million
Rick Barnes, Texas

$1.6 million
Bill Self, Kansas

$1.3 million
Bob Knight, Texas Tech

Mike Anderson, Missouri

Bob Huggins, Kansas State

Sean Sutton, Oklahoma State

Doc Sadler, Nebraska

Jeff Capel, Oklahoma

Greg McDermott, Iowa State

*-Approximate figure in deal expected to be signed early next week.

US – Guatemala bore the spots off the ball …Sorry. I must tell the truth. That game was not what I would want to show critics of the beautiful game to convince them why soccer is awesome. The US tried, but if you cannot break down Guatemala in 90 minutes, then you get a failing grade.

With the Guatemalans disinterested in attacking, the U.S. controlled play but couldn't finish its scoring opportunities in a 0-0 draw at Pizza Hut Park.
"For us, it was a different game," U.S. interim coach Bob Bradley said. "Guatemala was organized and stayed behind the ball. It was a struggle for us to find ways to break them down."

Eight of the 11 U.S. starters were 25 or younger, with defenders Jay DeMerit and Frank Simek making their first international appearances.

However, the U.S. dictated play as Guatemala kept 10 players behind the ball, using FC Dallas forward Carlos Ruiz as its lone forward.

The American inexperience showed in the inability to break down a team content to bunker down.

"It was frustrating," outside midfielder Clint Dempsey said. "You'd think, in a friendly, the other team might try to win. They came in looking for a draw, and the longer the game went on, the more frustrating it became."

However, Bradley said Wednesday's match could help the U.S. in its June 7 rematch against Guatemala in the Gold Cup tournament.

"We need to experience these games," Bradley said. "It's a match that repeats itself all over the world. We have to understand how to not get frustrated, how to break teams down, and that's important."

Meanwhile, Urbina should slide down your draft charts for this summer, as Uggie is going to be in prison for a while

Former Major League Baseball pitcher Ugueth Urbina was sentenced to 14 years in prison for the attempted murder of five workers on his family's ranch, the Attorney General's Office announced Wednesday.

Urbina, a former pitcher with the Montreal Expos, Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers and Philadelphia Phillies, was also found guilty of illegal deprivation of liberty and violating a prohibition against taking justice into his own hands during a dispute over a gun on Oct. 16, 2005, according to a statement from the Attorney General's Office.

"I am very disappointed and upset," his agent, Peter Greenberg, told ESPN. "We're hopeful that the judicial process will exonerate Uggie. I firmly believe he's innocent."

The 33-year-old free agent was accused of joining a group of men in attacking and injuring workers with machetes and pouring gasoline on them at his family's ranch, located about 25 miles south of Caracas.

"The ruling was too severe," said Jose Antonio Baez, a former attorney who represented Urbina.

Urbina repeatedly has denied involvement in the violent attack, saying he was sleeping at the time.

But Wuanyer Perez, the attorney for the accusers, told ESPN that "justice has been served" and indicated that his clients will seek damages in civil court.
"We think it is an excellent sentence. The victims consider this an important example that anyone with power, influence and money is not above the law," Perez said. "It is an example for the entire world, not just for Venezuela, that everyone is on equal ground when it comes to the law and justice."

"There is an appeal process here in Venezuela and we are prepared to answer if they decide to take that route," Perez said. "Now that the criminal case is concluded, we are prepared to take this case to the civil side and we will seek damages. The victims have gotten better, but the psychological impact remains."

The pitcher's lawyer, Jose Luis Tamayo, has said that Urbina surprised the workers by showing up at his ranch that night while they were bathing in the pool without permission. Urbina spoke sharply to them, but later left and went to sleep,
according to Tamayo.

Urbina, a two-time All-Star, last pitched in the major leagues with the Phillies in 2005. He's 30th on the all-time saves list with 237. He had two saves in the 2003 World Series for the victorious Marlins.

Mia Hamm has twins

Nomar Garciaparra got a call during dinner Tuesday that his wife was close to giving birth. About six hours later, Garciaparra was at the side of Mia Hamm and their newborn twin daughters in L.A. because he had a private jet on standby at Vero Beach Airport.

Hamm gave birth to healthy twin girls, each weighing more than five pounds, Wednesday morning. They are the couple's first children.

During the flight, Garciaparra was on the phone with the delivery room when the babies were born.

Kermit does Hurt by Nine Inch Nails

Skiers should wear a cup

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

USA in our little town

Sam’s Army rolls into Frisco tonight, and I will be there. I am still a bit disappointed by the butt-kicking our US National Team received last summer at the World Cup, but the boys are moving on and I am trying to join them.

Bruce Arena is the past, and Bob Bradley, although still interim coach, could be the future for the National team. Tonight, we have the rare treat of having a full national team (many times for friendly matches the European employed player stay in Europe) to match up against a pretty hapless Guatemala side.

Sunday, Landon Donovan dominated Ecuador for 3 goals, so big things are expected tonight in Frisco. I hope the ticket sales are going well, but I fear a sea of seats.

According to DuNord these 4 players will not be with the US tonight:

Carlos Bocanegra - Fulham
Brian Carroll - DC United
Tim Howard - Everton
Oguchi Onyewu - Newcastle

Let’s hope that means we will see Green Bay’s Jay DeMerit and Dallas’ Kenny Cooper

Kenny Cooper is enjoying a homecoming of sorts.

The FC Dallas forward is staying at a North Dallas hotel a few minutes from his parents' house and a couple of miles from his alma mater, Jesuit.

Cooper is joined by his teammates on the U.S. men's national team, which is preparing for tonight's match against Guatemala at Pizza Hut Park.

"To be involved with the national team here is very special," said Cooper, 22. "Growing up here, going to high school here, there have been so many people in Dallas who have been so influential in my soccer career. I'm excited."

Whether Cooper will get playing time against Guatemala and his FC Dallas teammate, striker Carlos Ruiz, is not yet clear. He remained on the bench during the U.S.'s 3-1 exhibition win over Ecuador last Sunday in Tampa, Fla.

U.S. manager Bob Bradley, however, is intent on giving other players opportunities tonight and may even start a new lineup.

One thing is for sure: Cooper will have a large contingent of family and friends cheering him on at Pizza Hut Park. The group includes 20 family members, ex-Jesuit classmates and teammates from his days with Solar SC, an area select soccer club.



What: International soccer friendly
Where/when: 8 p.m. today, Pizza Hut Park, Frisco,
Tickets: $18-$125 (214-373-8000)
TV: ESPN2; Galavision in Spanish

About the U.S. F Landon Donovan scored three goals last Sunday against Ecuador, becoming the 10th player in national team history to notch a hat trick. Donovan is tied with Brian McBride for second all-time in U.S. goals; he needs four to catch Eric Wynalda. ... The U.S. is 6-1-4 in matches played in Dallas-Fort Worth. ... Manager Bob Bradley is the first in U.S. history to win his first three matches. Bradley has victories over Ecuador, Denmark and Mexico.

About Guatemala: The Central American team is coming of a 0-0 draw against Barbados. ... Guatemala is 4-9-4 vs. the U.S. All four wins came before 1989. ... The teams will also meet in this summer's Gold Cup in the U.S. ... The national team is 0-2-4 since Hernan Gomez took over as manager last April. The team has scored six goals and allowed nine in that span.

All Quiet on the Gillispie front

A day after feverish speculation that Texas A&M basketball coach Billy Gillispie would bolt for Arkansas, several people in the A&M athletic department, including associate sports information director Colin Killian, said Gillispie spent the day in his office preparing for spring recruiting.

A&M athletic director Bill Byrne and Gillispie offered no public comment for the second day in a row, which continued to fuel the Arkansas speculation.

Arkansas athletic director Frank Broyles announced through the school's sports information department that he is beginning a national search to replace Stan Heath, who was fired Monday after back-to-back 20-win seasons that ended in the NCAA Tournament.

Gillispie's name also has been mentioned in regard to the vacancy at Kentucky. The Wildcats appear to be zeroing in on Florida's Billy Donovan, but Gillispie could be next in line. John Calipari was effectively removed from the Kentucky mix when he agreed Monday to an extension with Memphis.

Meanwhile, I have had some time to consider and reconsider my views on Arkansas. I obviously got carried away on the show yesterday by claiming they may not be in my top 30 for college basketball jobs. That is just silly. But, I do stand behind my claim that they do not belong in my top 10 which is what many Razorbacks claim (who seem pretty mad at me).

All I was talking about were jobs that are “no-brainers” when it comes to leaving A&M. I just don’t think the Arkansas job is a job Gillispie has no choice but to accept.

We all know UNC, Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, and UCLA are the top 5 by any standards. Then to me, Indiana, UConn, Syracuse, Maryland, Arizona, Michigan, Michigan St, LSU, Texas, Ohio St, NC State, Georgia Tech, and Louisville are all jobs that are better, too. (Edit, 9:50am - in running through the ACC, I mixed Wake Forest with Georgia Tech in the first apologies)

So, I have Arkansas is the top 20, but barely.

Street and Smith’s did the historical rankings in 2005, based on many factors that I did not really weigh in mine (like anything accomplished during the peach basket era), but Here is their Top 20

1 University of Kentucky
2 University of California Los Angeles (UCLA)
3 University of North Carolina
4 University of Kansas
5 Duke University
6 Indiana University
7 University of Louisville
8 Universtiy of Arkansas
9 Universtiy of Connecticut (UConn)
10 Universtiy of Cincinnati

11 University of Utah
12 Ohio State University
13 Oklahoma State University
14 University of Arizona
15 Syracuse University
16 University of Pennsylvania
17 North Carolina State University
18 St. John's University
19 Princeton University
20 Temple University

So, anyway, Arkansas obviously has a rich tradition and a lot of nice accomplishments. I just don’t think it is a job that if you refuse you will take it to your grave.

How about a 6-0 Roadtrip???
The Mavs crush the Hornets ..

The Mavericks put an exclamation point on the 10-day, 6-0 trek by pounding the playoff-hopeful Hornets 105-89 on Tuesday night at the Ford Center.

The seventh consecutive win pulled the Mavs (59-11) within a victory of the third 60-win season in team history. They face Milwaukee at American Airlines Center tonight.
The Hornets (32-39) took a 39-38 lead in the second quarter with an 11-0 run, prompting a couple of timeouts from Mavs coach Avery Johnson. After the second stoppage, he made several defensive adjustments.

"We had to take two guys out of there who weren't competing defensively," Johnson said. "Once we got some new guys in there, we picked it back up."

Stackhouse, Jason Terry and DeSagana Diop subbed in for Devean George, Erick Dampier and an ill Dirk Nowitzki. The Mavs responded with an 11-0 run.

The Mavs' lead would grow back to 12 at the half (56-44) before reaching 25 in the third quarter and 31 in the fourth.

Josh Howard led the Mavs' attack with 25 points, most coming on smooth jumpers.

Speaking of 6-0, the Stars roll up 6 against the Coyotes

At 46-24-6 (98 points), the Stars are two points behind the Anaheim Ducks for first place in the Pacific. They have a potential tiebreaker edge with two more wins than the Ducks.

With the return of Steve Ott from ankle surgery, the Stars were so annoying, the Coyotes drew two 10-minute misconduct penalties and a game misconduct.

"Otter, I think, really got us going," said center Mike Ribeiro, who had two goals and an assist. "After he got in a few scraps, the game really picked up."
And now, the Stars have two challenging games against the conference's top two teams. They play at Detroit on Friday and at Nashville on Saturday.

"This is exactly where we want to be," Ott said. "We have to play every game like it's a playoff game, because the points are that valuable. We have a chance to accomplish a lot of things before the playoffs start."

Dallas appears to be getting close to where it needs to be. While the two victories over Phoenix (Dallas beat the Coyotes, 4-3, in a shootout Saturday) have been uneven at times, the Stars have found ways to win.

Mix that with a 3-2 overtime loss to Anaheim on Friday that was played with postseason intensity, and Dallas is reaching playoff gear.

"You just feel like the team is playing better," Ribeiro said.
The Stars also are getting healthy. The return of Ott and Brenden Morrow has provided a more physical edge and given coach Dave Tippett options for juggling lines.

And Dallas is starting to score goals (16 in the last four games) while getting continued strong goaltending (eight goals allowed in the last four games).

John Tavares is good ….

John Tavares hasn't yet gotten around to getting his drivers license. That's hardly normal behavior for a typical 16-year old.

Then again, it's not the typical 16-year-old who erases Wayne Gretzky's name from the record books, either.

When Tavares scored his 71st goal on Saturday for the Ontario Hockey League's Oshawa Generals, he passed the remarkable standard of 70 set in 1978 by the 16-year-old soon-to-be Great One. On Sunday, the season's closing night in the OHL, Tavares added a goal and three assists, driving his totals to 72-62-134 in 62 games, good for second place in the league scoring race behind London's Patrick Kane (62-83-145).
Another Gretzky in the making? You can tap the brakes. But Tavares has used this amazing season to establish himself as a potential NHL tentpole in the mold of Sidney Crosby.

By way of comparison, the 16-year-old Crosby went 54-81-135 for Rimouski in the run 'n' gun Quebec league. Tavares' 72 goals are the most anyone of any age has scored in the OHL since 19-year-old Ray Sheppard netted 81 for the Cornwall Royals in 1985-86.

Jet Blue seems pretty cool

Television screens at each seat with live satellite broadcasts are a feature that has changed the in-flight experience for sports fans and nonfans alike, virtually creating a sports bar in the sky. Fans can follow the action, but they do not always do it discreetly.

“I can always tell when something exciting has happened, good or bad,” said Natalie Ordakowski, a flight attendant for Frontier Airlines. “Everyone lets out a huge roar. They throw their hands up in the air or tease one another. We definitely sell a lot more liquor when games are on.”

Joan Vincenz, the managing director for product marketing at Delta Air Lines, said, “We have people whooping or crying when their team is winning or losing.”
Major sporting events like the N.C.A.A. tournament or the World Cup stir fans’ passions, and some of those fans find themselves on airplanes during their teams’ games.

“This is the reason I travel with JetBlue,” said Adams, who watched Ohio State prevail in the Round of 8. “It’s better than whatever foolish movie they usually have on planes.”

A spokesman for JetBlue, which offers 36 channels of DirecTV, said that ESPN consistently ranked among the three most-watched channels. A spokesman for Frontier, where customers pay $5 to use a 24-channel system, said ESPN was the most-watched station by far.

JetBlue was the first airline to offer live satellite television; when the airline
started in 2000, all of its planes had small, seatback screens. In 2002, it acquired LiveTV, which installs seatback televisions and equips planes with satellite systems. Frontier purchased its systems from LiveTV, and as of 2005, all its airplanes were equipped with televisions. On Delta, Dish Network satellite television is available only on cross-country flights from Kennedy.

Airlines must negotiate the specific set of satellite TV channels they want to carry. Sometimes sporting events are not included among the channels, so the airline can try to work out a special arrangement. Frontier has done this for several years to allow passengers to watch the Super Bowl.

“On that one day a year, we negotiate with DirecTV and LiveTV to basically replace a channel with the station broadcasting the Super Bowl,” said Joe Hodas, a spokesman for Frontier, which has not made such an arrangement for the N.C.A.A. men’s basketball tournament or the World Series.

JetBlue regularly carries CBS, so sports fans can watch the N.C.A.A. tournament and the Super Bowl, among other events.

CJ Wilson offers this comedy

Monkey-ed Dumb and Dumber

Braveheart Monkeyed

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Sports! Sports! Sports!

I said going to Kentucky is a no-brainer. But, Arkansas? With all due respect, wouldn’t you think twice if they just fired a guy who had back to back 20 win seasons with NCAA tournament bids? I might stay put. Of course, the money talks.

Panic in Aggieland – Gillispie to Arkansas?

A sweetened deal is in the works for Texas A&M basketball coach Billy Gillispie, but if Arkansas has its way, the Aggies' offer might be too little, too late.

As word broke Monday that the A&M Board of Regents prepared an enhanced financial package for Gillispie, scheduled for approval this week, word also quickly spread that Arkansas has Gillispie on its radar.

Arkansas athletic director Frank Broyles fired Stan Heath on Monday afternoon, following back-to-back 20-win seasons that included invitations to the NCAA Tournament.

Upon Heath's firing, speculation turned to Gillispie, whose three-year run with the Aggies has taken the program to new heights, including consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances for the first time in school history.

Some reports had Gillispie meeting in Fayetteville with Arkansas officials Monday, but Gillispie was seen at his office in College Station and around the A&M campus most of the day. Other speculation had Arkansas officials in College Station on the same day they fired Heath.

The Opening Day Lineup for YOUR TEXAS RANGERS!

New manager Ron Washington hopes the Rangers aren’t the kind of all-hit, no-pitch squad that has been seen too frequently at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, but he doesn’t doubt his offense.

“We’re going to hit,” Washington said. “That’s not going to be a problem.”

--- CF Kenny Lofton

Lofton brings a veteran presence and a winning pedigree to the top of the Rangers’ lineup. At 39, he can still hit (.301 last season for the Dodgers) and run (32 stolen bases in 2006). The Rangers will be content if he plays 130 games in center field.

LF/DH Frank Catalanotto

Though he’ll rarely play against lefties, Catalanotto will be in the lineup as long as he remains a dependable hitter. He’ll play more in the field than anyone would have guessed because of the presence of Sammy Sosa, who will also DH.

SS Michael Young

After signing an $80 million contract extension that made him the face of the franchise for years to come, Young moves into the No. 3 hole after hitting second last season. His RBI total could surge if Lofton and Catalanotto hit well ahead of him. Another 200-hit season from Young is as likely as a 100-degree day in August.

1B Mark Teixeira

Like Young, Teixeira could have his name on the lineup in permanent marker. He has played in 446 consecutive games, the second-longest streak in the majors. Teixeira will try to improve on an ’06 season that started slowly, resulting in a down year — by his standards — for home runs (33) and RBI (110).

DH/RF Sammy Sosa

With his words and his bat, Sosa has made it clear this spring that he is not coming back to baseball to be a platoon DH. He wants to play every day, and a strong camp has earned him that right. But will a successful spring translate into a super summer?

3B Hank Blalock

Coming off postseason shoulder surgery, Blalock needs to show he can still be a
feared hitter. Through Sunday, Blalock had hit .250 this spring, without a home run, but he has begun to find his swing. He has been more patient, with nine walks and seven strikeouts.

RF Nelson Cruz

Manager Ron Washington has decided to give Cruz, 26, a chance to prove himself this season. Doing so would relegate a more experienced outfielder, usually Brad
Wilkerson, to the bench, but Washington wants to see more out of the talented but unpolished Cruz.

C Gerald Laird

Hitting eighth takes some pressure off Laird, who is hoping to spend his first full
season behind the plate as a starter. Laird has power (four home runs this spring) and can take advantage of pitchers who underestimate him.

2B Ian Kinsler

Against lefties, Kinsler will hit second, but Washington will use the second-year player at the bottom of the order against righties. His speed (a team-leading 11 stolen bases last season) allows him to hit near the top; his emerging power (14 HR in 2006) makes him a future candidate for the middle.

Meanwhile, in Cowboys news, the schedule shows the Sunday Night Opener at home

An early peek at the 2007 NFL schedule shows the Cowboys playing in two nationally televised games: a Sunday night home opener against the Giants and a Thanksgiving contest against the Jets. The rest of the NFL schedule will be released in April.

Sept. 6: New Orleans at Indianapolis, 7:30 p.m. KXAS/Ch. 5
Sept. 9: Chicago at San Diego, 3:15 p.m., KDFW/Ch.4
Sept. 9: NY Giants at Dallas, 7:15 p.m., KXAS/Ch. 5
Sept. 10: Baltimore at Cincinnati, 6 p.m., ESPN
Sept. 10: Arizona at San Francisco, 9:15 p.m., ESPN

Green Bay at Detroit, 11:30 a.m., KDFW/Ch. 4
NY Jets at Dallas, 3:15 p.m., KTVT/Ch. 11
Indianapolis at Atlanta, 7:15 p.m., NFL Network

Ken Hamlin here to protect Roy

Jones signed Ken Hamlin last week for one reason: to help make Williams an impact player again.

If he does, then Hamlin will be worth every bit of the one-year, $2.5 million contract he signed last week, and after the season Jerry will open up his checkbook and give him a long-term deal just like he did with Andre Gurode.

If Hamlin doesn't, it means Jerry will have failed Williams, the franchise, the fans and himself again.

See, Williams isn't supposed to be a good player. He's supposed to be great player, which is why the Cowboys made him the eighth player selected in 2002. And that's why Jerry handed him a $12 million signing bonus last summer and a multi-year deal, essentially making him a Cowboy for life.

But he can't be great playing 20 yards from the line of scrimmage in a conservative scheme that uses a lot of Cover 2 principles that illuminate his weaknesses and none of his strengths. In that scheme, Williams can be good a player.

After all, he has been to four consecutive Pro Bowls, but a faction of the league will continue to call him overrated. Consistently place Williams near the line of scrimmage – like Wade Phillips intends to do this season – so he can disrupt running plays with his athleticism and instincts and pressure quarterbacks by blitzing, and he can be an impact player every week.

That didn't happen last year.

Of course, Williams made his share of big plays and occasionally dominated an entire game like he did in a blowout win over Houston, but too many times he didn't tilt the game in the Cowboys' favor.

Hawks compliment your Mavs

Hawks guard Anthony Johnson knows all about the Mavericks and their precision craftsmanship, having spent the first half of this season on their roster. When Woodson warned his team of the Mavericks' ability to annihilate opponents early with their "clockwork" attitude to the game, Johnson knew exactly what he was talking about. "They're a machine," Johnson said before the Mavericks made their first nine shots and piled up 39 points in the game's first 12 minutes, an opponent season-high. "Everything they do, it's done with a purpose." Woodson said it all stems from the Mavericks' collective experience and the no-nonsense approach of their coach, Avery Johnson, who celebrated his 42nd birthday Sunday. "They treat every game like it's Game 7 of the NBA Finals," Woodson said. "And they do that because they're playing for one thing and one thing only — that's to win a championship."

The American Hope: Jack Johnson signs with the Kings …and mentions marketing opportunities which makes me nervous…

The Kings signed defenseman Jack Johnson on Monday to a three-year entry-level contract that will pay him $850,000 a season, with bonuses that add another $2 million a season, sources familiar with the team said.

Johnson, the third overall pick in the 2005 draft, is expected to be in the lineup Thursday when the Kings play the Vancouver Canucks.

The Kings acquired the rights to Johnson from the Carolina Hurricanes for defenseman Tim Gleason and center Eric Belanger. The Kings also had to take defenseman Oleg Tverdovsky, who has one year left on his contract that will pay him $2.5 million next season.

"The L.A. Kings, that's the spotlight, with all the marketing there, that will be a great opportunity," Johnson said last month. "I've played with a couple of the players there, Patrick O'Sullivan, Dustin Brown. I'm excited about playing there."

The Kings' plan to have veteran Rob Blake mentor Johnson, who doesn't shy away from contact and has top-end skating skills and a heavy shot.

UFC buys Pride

During a televised statement, UFC heavyweight Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic — 2006 PRIDE FC Open Weight Grand Prix Champion — discussed returning to the Japanase mixed martial arts promotion for another go at Fedor Emelianenko — the top fighter in the world in the division.

What seemed like heresy and a pipe dream just a few days and weeks ago, is now all of a sudden a very real possibility.

Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta — alongside UFC President Dana White — announced the purchase of PRIDE FC from Dream Stage Entertainment (DSE) at a press conference at Roppongi Hills Arena in Tokyo, Japan, earlier today, according to
As part of the blockbuster deal, current PRIDE FC President and CEO Nobuyuki Sakaibara confirmed speculation that he will step down after PRIDE 34 on April 8.
According to an Associated Press report in the Boston Herald, the final sale price was a cool — and relatively cheap — $70 million.

BaD Radio’s Wikipedia Page

The Story behind the 3 stars of the game

Check out this cool site: Playoff

Wanted: College Punter

With the departure of senior punter Alex Reyes after the 2006 season, the Texas Tech football team had a few players lined up to fill the position. But with some misfortune because of eligibility and injuries, the Red Raiders are hoping to find a punter through tryouts open to the Tech student body.

Tech special teams coach Ruffin McNeill said considering the mishaps with the punters slated to replace Reyes, the Red Raiders are looking for anyone who is willing to work for the job.

"The guys that we had coming in, one didn't come back because of grade problems, one of the punters that we had that would be here in the spring broke his leg during the season and then we signed one who would be here in the fall," McNeill said. "We had a tryout, but (the team is) just looking for some guys who would like to compete for the job."

McNeill said anyone can tryout for the position, and whoever is successful could wind up with a spot on the team this upcoming season.

"It would be good to have some film, if they don't then that's OK," McNeill said. "It could be one, two, three (people); there's no certain number. We try them, and if they are able to kick successfully, then they have a chance to go to the spring with us and maybe even through the fall."

McNeill said there are no specific requirements the team is looking for, but those who tryout need to be willing to work hard.

"No specific criteria on height and weight," he said of a potential punter's requirements. "Just be willing to work, be willing to accept coaching and be willing to compete."

Reyes finished the 2006 season averaging 45.2 yards per punt and six touchbacks.

Anyone wanting to tryout for the team can start today by calling the Texas Tech Athletic Department and ask for Tech graduate assistant Clay McGuire. Tryouts could be held as early as today at the team's practice facility for a chance to be on the roster by Monday.

Bookmark this: Best Fights in Hockey

Hockey could use some sportsmanship

Jim Lites is right.

The NHL needs to change its communal mind-set on many issues, and this is one of

The one-for-all, all-for-one, team's-the-thing culture can be -- and often is -- a refreshing contrast to the me-me-me culture of the NBA and other sports. (By the way, this is an aside: If the NHL ever follows the increasingly prevalent NBA practice of encouraging their public-address announcers to be screaming lunatic morons who act as if they believe everyone in the building has an IQ of a roll of adhesive tape, hand me earplugs.) When that team's-the-thing morphs into only-one-team matters policy, as often happens in the NHL -- leading to a frequent refusal to promote opposing stars, great plays or teams -- it's a problem.

TV ratings in the States aren't great? (OK, that's being nice.)

It would be better if fans in Nashville or Miami or Tampa, or even St. Louis and Washington and Denver, were indoctrinated on game nights that, wow, this Ovechkin kid or Marian Gaborik or Pavel Datsyuk all are worth watching on television -- and not only when they're passing through town.

Promote the game.

It's a mind-set and it involves little things.

Mandate that all goals are replayed on the scoreboard screens. Even if the home-team goalie was a sieve on a floater from the point or the young opposing star weaved through four home-team skaters and got the shot off with one hand after being knocked to the ice. Show them all. (For one thing, don't confirm to the guy who spent $122 on the ticket that he might have been better off staying home and watching from the couch, because even the cheerleading home broadcast realizes it can't get away with pretending the other team didn't score.)
Show highlights from around the league.

Salute players reaching milestones.

Stop pressuring local broadcasters, whether they draw paychecks directly from the franchise or otherwise are beholden to the team, to be relentlessly "positive," no matter what happens. Insulting fans is no way to court or keep them.

When a player who did yeoman's service for the local team, but has moved on in an increasingly transient league, returns -- especially for the first time -- at least show him on the scoreboard screens during a media timeout and allow the fans to give him a nice round of acknowledging applause.

Technology is great, so the detailed press notes can be flashed on the scoreboard screens and fans can be told that the left winger has points in 11 of his last 14 games, his dog's name is "Chico" and he had a terrific career for the Chicoutimi Sagueneens before moving to the NHL. But do it for both teams, not just the home guys.

All of that happens in some cities. Good for them.

It should happen everywhere.

It's about class.

The Predators didn't have any last week, but they're not alone.

Video of Dan with Razor

Video of Bob with Razor

Ricky Gervais in Africa – watch it all.

NHL makes some great commercials

Monday, March 26, 2007

See This Movie

About a week ago, I was contacted by Kim Young, who handles press duties for the Dallas AFI International Film Festival about the movie “The Rocket”. This is a movie about the life and times of the great Maurice Richard. Almost all hockey fans know the name, and some know some of the story, but his story is extraordinary enough that I was curious to know more by checking out this movie for myself.

Loved it. Some sports movie cheese is in there, but for the most part it is solid, cinematic greatness. Especially if you are a fan of the sport, as the time period is depicted wonderfully and you feel you are back in the Montreal Forum in the 1950’s. You have to fight through some French subtitles, but the action scenes are brilliant, with many NHL players (Mike Ricci, Sean Avery, and many more) getting key roles in the film. I think it is well worth seeing.

And, for good measure, after the Stars beat Phoenix on Saturday night, Doug Armstrong and the coaching staff watched it on the airplane home, and from all accounts, they loved it, too.

Anyway, tonight is the big night of the premier at the Dallas Film Festival, at the Angelika Film Center.

Here is some of the stuff Kim sent me:

Here's the deal: the Southwest premiere of THE ROCKET will be at 7:00 p.m. Monday, March 26th, at the Angelika Film Center. The second screening will be a 9:45 p.m. the next night, Tuesday, March 27th, also at the Angelika. FYI, to date, the movie has only been screened in the U.S. at festivals in New York and Palm Springs. As far as I know, there is no theatrical release planned for it here, but a DVD release in April, so if fans want to see it on the big screen --- and it is such a well-short and art-directed movie! --- they need to catch it Monday or Tuesday.

Because you will be talking about the movie on the day of the first screening, if people want to get tickets for that night (Monday), they will have to get them at the Angelika box office.

If they want to get tickets to the Tuesday screening, they can get tickets on Monday at the AFI DALLAS box office -- 1155 Broom -- across the street from the El Fenix in downtown Dallas, buy from the web site - or at the theatre. For tickets day of screening, they have to get them at the venue.

For talking points, it's pretty cool that in February, THE ROCKET won 9 Genie Award (Canada's Oscar -- actually sanctioned by the Oscar folks here) There's that number 9! A triple hat trick! It was nominated for 13 Genies, and the 9 it won included: Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Cinematography and Editing.

I'm attaching two articles about the movie and the Genie Awards, and here are a couple of links that might give you some thoughts. The movie's official web site has been taken down, as it was released in Canada last year.

Link 1 ...

link 2 ...

And of course it would ever so appreciated if you felt like talking a bit about this being the very first AFI DALLAS International Film Festival, and that we have 191 films, 200 screenings, over 10 days at 7 venues. The Festival kicked off on March 22, and goes through April 1. Lot of details about films, events, parties, etc., at the web site ---

We really do have something for everyone! I was taking with some of the LA folks with AFI who are in town to help launch this festival, and they told me that the size and scope of the Dallas festival is where most film festivals are at Year 5!

Anyway, if you have a chance, I would like to invite you to check out the rare great sports movie that depicts a wonderful hockey player who has an amazing life story.

The Rocket – Movie Trailer

Who is the Rocket?

And now that I have plugged this, on to our links:

Mavs screw around with Hawks; get away with it

The Mavericks have set themselves apart from the rest of the league this season. But Sunday, the team proved it has the same DNA as everyone else.

It turns out the Mavericks are human. A team that prides itself on an unrelenting focus let up against Atlanta.

It didn't cost them a victory – Jason Terry wouldn't let it – but the Mavericks frittered away a big early lead and had to play their best in the final minutes to leave Philips Arena with a 104-97 win.

"I told our guys I appreciated the way they came out and played hard," Mavericks coach Avery Johnson said. "And I appreciated the way they finished, especially offensively.

"But as you saw, we're not the flawless team that everyone thinks we are."
The Mavericks won their 58th game Sunday. That's more than the Hawks have won the last two seasons combined.

A fair fight? This was like Sean Penn challenging Stephen Colbert to a comedy smackdown. The Mavericks' 23-point lead early in the second quarter did nothing to inspire confidence in an upset.

But shortly after that lead, the Mavericks became sloppy handling the ball. Their defensive rotations deserted them. They were a step slow, which explains why the Hawks shot 49 free throws.

"We have to try not to have those lapses where we forget to play defense," Mavericks forward Josh Howard said.

Georgetown back in Final Four (against Ohio State); UCLA to play Florida

Georgetown’s stunning come-from-behind 96-84 overtime victory against North Carolina on Sunday in the East Regional final at Continental Arena sent the Hoyas to the Final Four for the first time since 1985. That team was coached by John Thompson Jr. and featured center Patrick Ewing, the father and namesake of one of the current team’s key reserves.

North Carolina held a 10-point lead with 7 minutes 19 seconds remaining, but an untimely drought allowed Georgetown to scratch its way back into the game. Guard Jonathan Wallace made a 3-pointer from the left wing with 31 seconds remaining in regulation to pull the Hoyas into a tie for the first time since midway through the first half. A 3-point attempt by North Carolina’s Wayne Ellington in the final seconds bounced off the back of the rim, sending the game to overtime.

Georgetown kept the momentum through the extra five minutes, scoring the first 14 points. Tar Heels Coach Roy Williams wore an exasperated look while players on the bench stood wide-eyed with hands on their hips.

Georgetown, which will play Ohio State on Saturday in Atlanta in a national semifinal, cannot avoid comparisons to its past. The Hoyas lost the 1985 championship game to Villanova, and won the 1984 title by beating Houston.

Liddell vs Rampage in UFC 71

The way Chuck Liddell has dominated recent opponents Tito Ortiz and Randy Couture, it appears the Ultimate Fighting Championship's light-heavyweight champion is unbeatable.

Irvine's Quinton "Rampage" Jackson knows that's not true.

In a PRIDE Fighting Championships tournament in 2003, Jackson pounded the fatigued Liddell with a flurry of second-round punches that prompted Liddell's corner to stop the fight.

Now, less than four months after Jackson joined UFC, he's getting his shot to take Liddell's belt. UFC will officially announce today that the fighters have signed contracts to headline a May 26 pay-per-view card, UFC 71, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.

"I'm ready, for sure," Liddell said. "I'm at the top of my game, and I've been looking forward to this fight for a long time. I should've never lost the first time. It won't happen again."

Jackson hadn't planned on fighting Liddell so quickly in his UFC career, but his manager said UFC President Dana White tore up their prior contract and offered a new four-fight deal that will begin with this title fight.

"Our plan was to get more exposure in the UFC so the American public would become more familiar with Rampage, but don't get me wrong … with Rampage's ability, he knows how to handle this," Juanito Ibarra, Jackson's manager/trainer said. "Chuck Liddell is a fight we're ready for.

"Chuck's the champion of the world, but Rampage has a style to beat Chuck and take his title."

Landon Donovan dominates Ecuador

With 31,547 spirited fans at Raymond James Stadium cheering him on, U.S. midfielder Landon Donovan put on a show that was both exciting and vindicating for player and fan alike.

The largest crowd to watch an international friendly match in the state of Florida witnessed a brilliant performance by Donovan as he scored all three goals for the U.S. men's national team in a 3-1 win against Ecuador.

It was the second career hat trick for the seven-year veteran and a definite boost of confidence after coming off a disappointing performance in the 2006 World Cup. Donovan went scoreless during the tournament and only recently broke his longest goal-less streak for the U.S., at 27 games, against Denmark earlier this year.
"Throughout camp, you could tell [Landon] really stepped things up in terms of his role on our team," U.S. interim head coach Bob Bradley said. "He really came through in terms of great goals and good movement off the ball."

Donovan wasted little time opening the scoring. Only 49 seconds into the game, with a majority of the fans still looking for their seats, the midfielder hit a 20-yard strike into the right-hand corner of the net, giving the U.S. a 1-0 lead, and more importantly, momentum.

"I've been working a lot this year on shooting from the outside," Donavan said. "It wasn't a perfect shot, but I don't think the goalie saw it, and caught him a little off guard.

"It helped us a lot."

His 3 Goals are here

Donovan blogged by ESPN

Landon Donovan showed again why he continues to be a focal point of so much debate among the soccer diehards in this country. I'll state the obvious -- today Donovan was the star of the show. His hat trick was of the highest quality and against "serious" competition in Ecuador, not a weak CONCACAF minnow. In fact, if Donovan hadn't been robbed of a blatant penalty call (a free kick outside the box was given instead), he'd have probably scored four.

When Donovan plays like this, he effectively shuts up his critics (myself included) but of course it begs the inevitable question as to why he doesn't deliver like this on a more consistent basis.

It could be that we are beginning to see a new Donovan, one that's more mature, focused and locked in after last year's World Cup disappointment. The last few years, Donovan had appeared to play more passively and seemed less willing to run at people -- forgoing the style that he had displayed so effectively at the 2002 World Cup. Judging by the way he's performed in the last two internationals, it seems that he's back to playing aggressively and that's when he's at his best

As brilliant as Donovan's performance was -- and make no mistake it was brilliant -- did Bruce Arena really just compare Donovan to Michael Jordan? Arena remarked on air that while coaching Donovan the last few years, he felt that he could relate to how Phil Jackson must have felt when coaching MJ. OK, that's a stretch to say the least. Enough said.

Kam Loe for #5

Loe’s clockwork performances in his five spring training appearances deserve to be required viewing in every Rangers pitcher’s video library.

The No. 5 starter? You could make a compelling argument that Loe should be the team’s No. 4 or even No. 3 starter, since he has outperformed both of those
designated starters, Robinson Tejeda and Brandon McCarthy.

“No doubt about it in my mind — I’m not thinking bullpen,” Washington said, when asked Sunday about Loe’s starting chances.

“We’ve still got to make a decision on that, though. But he certainly didn’t do anything today to make us think otherwise.”

Wright’s situation is complicated by his contract. He needs to be placed on the club’s major league roster by Wednesday, or Wright, 32, will be free to seek another team’s employment. Based on his spring performance — one bad game out of four starts — Wright could soon find work elsewhere.

Wright, therefore, appears likely to get the No. 5 starter’s job. The Rangers’ own Web site said as much Sunday. And the 25-year-old Loe appears headed to the bullpen, where he will work in long relief.

Loe said he will accept that. But that doesn’t mean that he would be long-term happy with it.

Even Washington admitted, after all, that Loe’s spring performance deserves to be rewarded. Rangers fans, long starved for good pitching, are going to have a hard time understanding how Loe, the team’s best spring pitcher, got sent to the bullpen.
The manager declined to announce anything, but he tried to explain how, with three off-days in the cold month of April, the bullpen’s long-relief specialist may well end up logging more early pitching time than the much-scrutinized No. 5 role.
With which role, as a reward, would Loe prefer to be bestowed?

“That’s a tough decision,” the pitcher said, after a pause. “Does that mean I get the starting slot after April?

“I want to have the opportunity to win 20-plus games this year. But that’s their decision.”

Theismann fired? ….

Joe Theismann will not return as an analyst on "Monday Night Football" this season, according to reports from Newsday and The New York Times.

When reached by phone, according to Newsday, Theismann would neither confirm nor deny the report, and added he could not respond publicly "until I fully understand what has taken place."

A Super Bowl-winning quarterback with the Redskins and ESPN NFL commentator since 1988, Theismann, 57, was apparently informed of his removal on Friday. But Newsday quoted an ESPN spokesman as saying "we have nothing to announce."

In ESPN's first year of MNF, Theismann paired with Mike Tirico and Tony Kornheiser. Media critics often pointed out the lack of cohesion between Theismann and Kornheiser, even though the Washington D.C.-based personalities have known each other for more than 25 years.

Theismann's replacement could be current ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski. Other names bandied about include Bill Parcells (who recently signed with ESPN) and Emmitt Smith, the league's all-time rushing leader. An official announcement could come Monday.

Peyton Manning on SNL

Friday, March 23, 2007

Good times in Anaheim

Anaheim --- This road trip is very cool. I obviously have been clear about that. Details from yesterday include whipping Jere Lehtinen, Nik Hagman, and Jussi Jokinen in the lobby about my trip to Liverpool, charging all sorts of dollars to Tom Hicks at Morton’s for the media dinner, and sharing a lengthy elevator run with Sergei Zubov as we had a chance to discuss LA Traffic.

But the big story of interest amongst the hockey community is that the hometown Ducks lost in Phoenix, so now, with tonight’s war at the Pond, and tomorrow’s date in Phoenix, the Stars could be 1 point out of first place when we hop on the plane home on Saturday night if the Stars get 2 wins. When the Stars were 18 points out of first place in December, you could not have convinced me that was going to be possible.

Also interesting tonight is Marty getting the start in a huge game against Anaheim. So far this season, he has beat them 4-3 in October, but since lost to the Ducks 3 times, by scores of 4-1, 5-1, and 4-1.

Mike Smith has started 3 times against the Ducks, and lost the first time 4-1 in December, but beat them twice in February, 1-0 and 4-1.

It is obviously a real big start for Marty to demonstrate his ability against the first place Ducks at a sold-out Pond.

Obviously, hockey season is heating up…

The Aggie run is over

The clutch baskets had come so easily, so naturally for Acie Law over the past two seasons that it seemed as if he could pull off his magic at any time, in any situation.

On Thursday night, playing inside an Alamodome crammed with maroon-clad supporters and a trip to Texas A&M's first Elite Eight on the line, the senior point guard never got the chance to make history.

With 2 seconds left and A&M trailing by one, the inbounds pass was intended for Law, but a Memphis player disrupted his route toward the Aggies' bench with an accidental thumb to the eye.

"My first instinct was to close my eye because it was burning," said Law, deeming the play a non-foul, then noting his brief hesitation prevented him from getting open.

The pass instead went to junior guard Dominique Kirk near midcourt. His only recourse was to take a couple of dribbles and heave a desperation 3-pointer from well beyond the arc. It didn't draw iron.

Now, how long until Billy is in Lexington

He beats Rick Pitino. In Lexington.

Then he's free to talk. On the same day Tubby Smith leaves Lexington.

There are forces in play in the career of Billy Gillispie, and that was clear Thursday. There has to be some explanation for Acie Law missing the kind of shot he never misses.

So maybe Gillispie will get the job he's privately said he wants. He's a country fit for Kentucky, with his horse-racing hobby just down the road, and he could always come back to Texas. He'd want to come back to recruit.

The first tale comes from 1998, when Smith won the first Final Four played in San Antonio. That championship should have made him the Mack Brown of Kentucky (a few decades of free lunches plus a lifetime job for Greg Davis).

But it didn't take long before Smith took heat from a basketball nation that always wants more. Smith played a slower style than Kentucky liked and, besides, hadn't he won with Pitino's players?

So Smith bailed for Minnesota on Thursday, and left behind a note for the coach who follows him: One championship isn't enough.

Knowing Gillispie — and the egos of coaches — this won't scare him. The coaches' game is recruiting, and this game is more easily played at a top-five program. If Gillispie could get talent to come to College Station, doing the same in Lexington would be a lock.

The Rangers are rated #22 in Sports Illustrated, but #2 in the AL West

Much of the conversation at Rangers camp this spring centered on the comeback of Sammy Sosa and understandably so, given his high profile and propensity for self-promotion. Ever modest, he wore a slammin' sammy's back T-shirt on his second day in Surprise, Ariz. But more important to Texas's season is the comeback of another former All-Star, new closer Eric Gagné. Over the last two years Gagné has pitched only 15 1/3 innings because of elbow and back injuries. Still, the memory of his 2003 Cy Young season, not to mention his 96.4% lifetime save rate -- no other active pitcher is higher than 91.7% -- was enough for the Rangers to gamble on a one-year, $6 million deal. "There were very few guys on the market who we thought could be impact players, and he was at the top of the short list," says general manager Jon Daniels. "At six million we're counting on him."

Gagné may not look the part of the intimidating closer, with his squat, 6-foot, 245-pound frame, scruffy hair and rumpled pants (he requests them a size larger than necessary), but if he regains his form, Texas will have one of the best bullpens in baseball. Hard-throwing Frank Francisco and Wes Littleton will split work in the seventh inning, and Akinori Otsuka, who racked up 32 saves in 36 chances last season, will pitch the eighth (that is, if Daniels doesn't trade him this spring for more depth in the rotation or another bat).

Otsuka isn't thrilled about his demotion. He says the Rangers didn't talk to him before signing Gagné and that he was caught by surprise because, "I thought I pitched very well last year." Otsuka isn't the type to let his displeasure affect his performance, but it's a situation worth watching.

Meanwhile, the Suns declare “Title or Bust”

There are many Suns bashers in existence today, none bigger than TNT's Charles Barkley. Many NBA fans feel the Suns' system, which is predicated on a high-tempo offense, cannot work in the playoffs. They feel that defense wins championships and the Suns don't play much D. The fact is, the Suns may very well be capable of winning it all in Mike D'Antoni's system. To say that the Suns can't win is irresponsible.

Phoenix has gotten as far as the conference finals in each of the past two years so it must be doing something right. Unfortunately we will never know if the Suns could have won two years ago had Johnson not gotten hurt, or last year had Stoudemire, Thomas and Bell not been injured.

Doubters will have ample ammunition should Phoenix falter in the playoffs with a full roster. This is the year the Suns have to win it all. The window won't close after this year, of course, and it'll stay open as long as Steve Nash, Shawn Marion and Stoudemire are playing at a high level. But if Phoenix doesn't advance past the conference finals this year it will be more difficult for those of us who believe the Suns' style can win to defend the system. It will be harder to argue with the naysayers who believe that the Suns' lack of defense and inability to dominate in the half-court game is the team's downfall.

The Suns' chief competition to a title will be Dallas. The Mavericks are a more complete team than the Suns because they play better in the half-court set and put more emphasis on defense.

I read this story yesterday and began to worry. Tell me if these quotes by Tom Hicks resemble his views on spending with the Rangers …He has no plans of following Chelsea and United in spending…

Liverpool are currently fourth in the Barclays Premiership, 21 points behind leaders Manchester United and Hicks knows money will need to be made available to help trim that gap, though he ruled out a repeat of the transfer spree Chelsea embarked upon following Abramovich's buy-out of Chelsea in July 2003.

'I've been in the business for 13 years and I know that doesn't work,' the Texas Rangers and Dallas Stars owner told Radio 5 Live.

'Our job as owners is to create the right balance of generating as much revenue as the fans want to pay, the sponsors want to pay, the media companies want to pay and giving as much of it to the players as you have to to have a business that can go forward as a business.

'The key is to have a smart manager like Rafa who will take a long-term view of how we can get better. I know enough from talking to him now that he doesn't want to do what you just described, he wants to build for the long term.

'I'm not saying we won't spend for transfers, that may be what we do. But it's got to be in the context of a plan that makes Liverpool competitive every year for a long time.

'We have budgeted a big number, I'm not going to tell you what it is because it's part of Rafa's plan, but the new stadium is very important to that because with the higher revenues Liverpool have we will be able to compete with anybody.

The Sopranos final scene has been shot

Tony, Carmela and Paulie Walnuts set up shop yesterday in a classic Joisey joint to film the final scene of "The Sopranos."

But instead of the Bada Bing, a fictional go-go bar filled with naked pole dancers, the producers chose a wholesome ice cream parlor in Bloomfield, N.J., called Holsten's for the finale.

"Tony! Tony!" a small crowd of excited fans cried out when James Gandolfini, who plays mob chief Tony Soprano, alighted from his limo.

Gandolfini rewarded his fans by playfully sticking out his tongue.

"It's very exciting," said Pete Pignatore, 72, of nearby Clifton, whose pompadour would not look out of place on the Paulie character's noggin. "You see these people on TV, then you see them on your street. It's a whole different ballgame."
Wearing big shades and a chain around her neck that read "Jacqueline," 24-year-old Jackie Feliciano could have passed for a mob moll.

But she was just a fan - and got as giddy as a schoolgirl when she caught sight of Gandolfini.

"Oh, my Gawd, I can't even begin to tell you," she said. "Fabulous!"

Seldom, if ever, do I care about cricket. Ok. I have never cared about cricket. But, how can you not show some interest in this story? Murder is the ruling with the cricket coach who died

A pathology report indicated that Pakistani cricket coach Bob Woolmer died of "manual strangulation," according to a statement from Jamaican police commissioner Lucius Thomas.

"In these circumstances, the matter of Mr. Woolmer's death is now being treated by the Jamaican police as a case of murder," the statement said Thursday night.
Police announced Tuesday that Woolmer's death was suspicious, two days after he was found unconscious in his room at the Pegasus Hotel. Woolmer, 58, was declared dead at a hospital soon after he was found. (Watch what has emerged as a possible motive in Woolmer's murder )

Initial media reports indicated he died of a heart attack.

Woolmer's death came less than 24 hours after former world champion Pakistan was beaten and eliminated by the relatively unknown Irish team on St. Patrick's Day, one of the biggest shocks in World Cup cricket history. The loss on Saturday prompted outrage among the team's hardcore fans, with protesters burning effigies of Woolmer and the team captain in Karachi.

Asked about suspects, Deputy Police Commissioner Mark Shields would only say, "We have a few definite lines of inquiry," acknowledging later that betting on cricket matches was among them.

Woolmer’s final interview

Our old boss leaves ESPN; he was tired of fighting with Dan Patrick’s toupee’

Red Zebra Broadcasting, a company formed by Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder last year, announced Thursday afternoon that it named ESPN Radio General Manager Bruce Gilbert its CEO, just one day after Bennett Zier announced his resignation from that position.

Zier, a former Clear Channel executive in the Washington area, resigned March 21. Red Zebra officials had said Thursday morning they expected to name a replacement for Zier in a day or two.

Gilbert joined ESPN Radio in 2003. While there, he helped expand its broadcast properties. He was also involved in the management of ESPN Radio stations in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth and Pittsburgh.

"Red Zebra offers an extremely unique opportunity to get back into the exciting world of local radio, where I spent 26 years before joining ESPN," Gilbert says in a statement released by Red Zebra.

Monkey-ed Dumb and Dumber

Canucks Rap

13 year old hockey prodigy

Thursday, March 22, 2007

2 Points for the BaD Radio Trip

Sorry we are late, but when you arrive in Anaheim at 2am Texas time (after a 1:30 stop at In and Out Burger) – you got to get some sleep.

Anytime you go on a road-trip with a team, you need the team to do well for your own well-being. I mean, these are superstitious people, and if the new guys on the plane precede a losing roadtrip, well you can imagine the deductions.

So, when the Kings took a 2-1 lead 10 seconds into the 3rd period, there were moments of discomfort, but two very fortunate goals from the Stars get them a season sweep of the Kings and a 3-2 win

Dallas needed two seeing-eye shots to beat Kings goalie Sean Burke and seize the lead in the third period. Philippe Boucher's big blast from the point was tipped by Antti Miettinen to make the score 2-2. And then Krys Barch lifted a shot through a crowd that beat Burke up high and ended up being the game-winner. Jeff Halpern added an empty-netter to give Smith a little breathing room.

"It would be nice to put teams away or build a lead, but we did show some resilience," Halpern said. "We're trying to roll over lines and be a 60-minute team, and sometimes it does take 60 minutes for teams to break."

Miettinen scored for the second consecutive game after going 29 games without a goal. Mike Ribeiro tallied his third goal in the last two games. Mike Modano, meanwhile, added an assist and now is just 13 points shy of tying Phil Housley for the most points by an American-born player (1,232). Modano has seven goals and four assists in the past 10 games.

Dallas, which finished the season series against LA at 8-0-0, needed the victory as San Jose posted a 4-1 win over Chicago and moved into fifth place in the Western Conference with 94 points. The Stars (44-24-5) are in sixth place with 93 points based on winning percentage (Minnesota also has 93 points, but has played one more game).

The game had a festive feel. The Kings honored the return of former captain Mattias Norstrom, who was traded to the Stars on Feb. 27. Norstrom has played more games for the Kings (780) than any defenseman in franchise history, and he was met with signs that screamed "We Love You Matty," and "Captain 4-Ever."

The Kings' organization prepared a video presentation of highlights played to Pearl Jam's Better Man and followed with a playing of Welcome Back while the crowd gave Norstrom a standing ovation.

"It was a game I really wanted to win," Norstrom said afterward. "It's nice to see us get away with one."

By the way, you may remember that in Edmonton last year on this same road trip, I was invited to join Doug Armstrong in his GM booth for the game ; well, it looks like Saturday, it will all happen again! I am hoping it works out.

Meanwhile, The Mavs continue to Get….It….Done….…that is 4 straight since the Phoenix game…

Another night, another win as the Mavericks' inexorable march toward the league's best record continues. The latest was a 98-90 win over the Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena with the type of defense that is crucial once the playoffs begin.

"I thought our defense really won us the game, holding them to 40 percent shooting and making it tough on LeBron," said Dirk Nowitzki, who finished with 23 points, nine rebounds and six assists for the Mavericks. "I thought we made him take some tough shots and stayed home on the other guys."

James did get his points. But he missed 11 of the first 14 shots he took and finished the evening 12-of-28 from the field. He had more turnovers (six) than assists (four) and was clearly frustrated for the better part of the game by the Mavericks defense.

Devin Harris opened the game on James. Then Jerry Stackhouse took a run at him. And Jason Terry. Josh Howard spent the better part of the last three quarters on the heart and high flying soul of the Cavaliers offense. Virtually everyone on the Mavericks bench – except for coach Avery Johnson – took a turn.

But that only tells part of the story. The Mavericks kept James off-balance by throwing a zone at him one possession then double-teaming him the next. They ran a man at him the moment he put the ball on the floor one trip, then backed off him in the next.

"We mixed it up on him quite a bit," Stackhouse said.

"I mean, it's tough to really contain a guy who is that aggressive," said Harris, who guarded Detroit's Richard Hamilton and New York's Stephon Marbury to open this road trip. "But I thought the first three quarters we did a great job on him. We did a great job of rotating.

"It was a good team effort."

These teams opened the month at the American Airlines Center with Dallas pulling out a 95-92 victory. Johnson cited that game as, "one of those wins that could have gone either way."

Texans get the QB they need …So they pass on Reggie Bush last spring because they don’t need a RB, then get Ahman Green because they need a RB. They pass on Vince Young last spring because they don’t need a QB, then they trade a ton for Matt Schaub. Wow. What a franchise…

Schaub, whose trade to the Texans will be officially announced today, has signed a six-year contract worth $48 million, including $7 million guaranteed. He will make $20 million over the first three years.

If the Texans want to keep Schaub for the last three years of the deal, they will pay him the $10 million option bonus in March 2010. In March 2006, they gave David Carr an $8 million option bonus that extended his contract for three more years.

The Texans wanted Schaub bad enough to pay a heavy price. They agreed to swap first-round positions in April's NFL draft, which means the Falcons will have the eighth pick and the Texans the 10th selection. The Texans also sent Atlanta a second-round pick this season and another second-round choice in 2008.

Obviously, Kubiak, general manager Rick Smith and owner Bob McNair believe Schaub will be worth it.

Schaub (6-5, 237 pounds) turns 26 in June. He'll be introduced today at a news conference at Reliant Stadium.

Trading for Schaub, who has started only two games in three seasons and will be backed by Sage Rosenfels and Bradlee Van Pelt, will hasten Carr's exit after five seasons as the Texans' starter.

Trading Carr has been more difficult than the Texans anticipated. His base salaries of $5.5 million this year and $6 million in 2008 are making teams leery of trading for him. If no team makes an offer, the Texans will have no choice but to waive Carr, which would free him to sign with any team.

The Carr era is coming to an end at a time when the Schaub era is beginning.

Before the Texans pulled the trigger, Kubiak spoke with three coaches. Gibbs, the Falcons' former offensive line coach, worked with Kubiak at Denver for years. Musgrave, who played quarterback for Kubiak at Denver, was the Falcons' quarterbacks coach last season. Groh, a longtime NFL coach, was Schaub's head coach at Virginia.

Aggies big night is tonight

A&M (27-6) hopes to continue the winningest season in school history in its first Sweet 16 appearance in 27 seasons.

"We'll probably have more fans than anybody else," A&M coach Billy Gillispie said. "It may be able to help you get over a couple of tough spots in the game, but it won't be the ultimate determining factor."

Memphis players are using the quasi-road game as another obstacle to overcome. They stumbled in the West Regional final last season in Sacramento, Calif., against UCLA, but say they are better equipped to playing on the road this time.

They also said they are battling a lack of respect, despite a nation-best 24-game winning streak that was fueled mostly by victories over Conference USA teams.
Memphis also will have to overcome the iffy condition of leading scorer Douglas-Roberts, who is hobbled with a severely sprained ankle.

"I'm not at 100 percent and not at 80," Douglas-Roberts said. "But by (today), I should be alright and ready to play."

Tony LaRussa – asleep and drunk at the wheel

Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa spent the night in the Palm Beach County jail, booked on drunk driving charges.

According to police in Jupiter, Fla., where the Cardinals spend spring training, LaRussa was found at an intersection slumped in the driver's seat of his blue Ford SUV around midnight, asleep or passed out with his foot on the brake and the engine running.

Police officers had to knock on the window repeatedly before LaRussa responded, according to the report. He failed field sobriety and breathalyzer tests, registering a .093 blood-alcohol level. Florida's legal limit is .08.

Dallas Cup begins next week. Here is the schedule for Chelsea and Real Madrid’s youth teams.

If you are like me, you may think that the NCAA tournament is a bit overrated. I mean, I like it and all, but if made to choose between this and the NFL Playoffs or the NBA Playoffs or the MLB playoffs, I would choose the pros every time. Well, evidently, sponsors disagree with me

According to the report, the post-season NCAA Tournament games bring in more television ad revenue than the post-season games in professional football, basketball and baseball.

Post-Season TV Ad Revenue (2006)
Sport Total Ad Spend ($ Millions)

NCAA Men's Basketball 497
Pro Basketball 424
Pro Football (includes Super Bowl) 423
Pro Baseball 382

Source: TNS Media Intelligence

This item concens me. Jerry Stackhouse likely to leave this summer

jlust22: What do you think the chances are of the Mavs being able to re-sign both Jerry Stackhouse and Devean George in the off-season since both will become free agents?

Eddie Sefko: Actually, George has a second season on his deal, so he won't be a problem. As for Stackhouse, the Mavericks already have more than $80 million committed in payroll for next season, although $18.6 million of that is to Michael Finley and doesn't count against the team's luxury tax. Stackhouse knows this has been a wonderful fit for him and he has shown the rest of the league that he can be a huge factor on a championship caliber team. He'd like to stay here, but if somebody comes calling with an upgraded role and big paycheck, my gut tells me he's gone. And there are a few other players out there this summer who might be appropriate replacements, perhaps at less money. Having said all that, it would be sad to see Stackhouse go. It's almost like he's found a home here.

ORR nails Fedourek

Pistol Pete remembered

The Shield Promo