Chicago Sun-Times
A hearty stew of offbeat sports and pop culture.

September 2008 Archives

Lane Kiffin has been fired as coach of the Oakland Raiders.

ESPN is reporting this was done over the telephone.

Tom Cable may be the new coach.
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The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel is reporting that Tony Mandarich is coming clean about the fact that he was anything but clean during his college and professional football career.

In addition to his alcohol and painkiller addictions, Mandarich has admitted to using steroids, according to the article. This revelation should come as a surprise to anyone who is hearing about steroids or Tony Mandarich for the first time. Everyone else will surely chime in with a resounding, "Yeah, we figured."

The Journal-Sentinel reports that Mandarich makes these revelations on "Inside the NFL," which airs on Showtime this Wednesday.

Mandarich joined Sam Bowie in the early 90s as the benchmark for highly touted draft picks who fail miserably at the pro level. With this interview, we now know why.

This disturbing quote from the Journal-Sentinal article:

"There's other factors that were involved that nobody knows about that were way more of an effect on why I had the huge downfall in Green Bay than steroids (such as) drug and alcohol abuse. ... I was injecting a drug called Stadol ... and it was euphoric. I went from doing one injection on that one day, and a week later I was doing between five to seven shots a day for the next three years."
Mandarich, when asked about falsifying a urine drug test before his Michigan State Spartans played USC in the Rose Bowl, explained, "You got to improvise. You got to improvise." We're guessing he doesn't mean this type of improvise.

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I've had a few heroes. They've primarily been sports stars like Cecil Fielder or musicians like Billy Corgan. And of course, competitive eater Takeru Kobayashi.

But after reading this story about a Florida man who punched a shark that was attacking his dog, my definition of "hero" has changed. None of those other guys ever did anything as awesome as this.

" Greg LeNoir watched in horror as a shark's mouth opened wide Friday, chomping a large set of teeth on his beloved 14-pound dog, Jake.

''Noooooo,'' LeNoir shrieked, fearing the worst.

But the case of the rat terrier versus shark has a happy ending.

''Jake's doing great,'' LeNoir's brother, Phillip, said Monday. ``And I still can't believe my brother jumped in the water and punched a shark.''

Neither can I, Phillip. Neither can I.

Shot-blocking enthusiast Alonzo Mourning's new book is going to get the attention of the NCAA. His 231-page memoir chronicles his comeback from kidney disease, but the juiciest tidbits involve alleged shady recruiting practices.

""Resilience" also touches on how Mourning was recruited as a star high school player. He writes that Maryland, Syracuse, Virginia and Georgia Tech all recruited him intensely and courted him with clothes, shoes, dinners at ritzy restaurants and a trip to a strip club.

"Everyone understood I could have gotten money at any of these places. The message was sent," Mourning writes.
t.o.jpgTerrell Owens is a lightning rod for criticism and the bane of a defensive back's existence. He has a boatload of talent and is certainly not afraid to speak his mind.

The Dallas Cowboys' wide receiver proved that yet again after his 'Boys suffered a 26-24 loss to the Washington Redskins on Sunday.

"Owens, despite having 18 passes thrown his way in the loss to Washington, had what was deemed a serious conversation about the offense with quarterback Tony Romo after the game, according to multiple sources.

The types of routes and throws are what concerns Owens, the sources said. The receiver, who the sources said was venting to Romo about his frustrations, has not liked how some of the throws were coming from the quarterback as far back as the season opener.

Eighteen passes! Not getting the ball enough? C'mon!

The ironic part about this is that two games ago, Owens was held to just two catches and 17 yards receiving by the Green Bay Packers. After that performance Owens took on a team-first mentality and said it was all about the big star on the helmet and not his personal stats. This prompted all sorts of "T.O has changed" stories from the media.

So, is the soap opera in Dallas just beginning, or is this just a little bump in the road that will go away quietly?

Sad news tonight regarding Jaguars' offensive tackle Richard Collier, who was shot while sitting in a car earlier this month.

We've been having a wild time with the live chats here at the Sun-Times internet department. They're informative, topical and downright hilarious at times. But there's no substitute for the fresh air, over-priced hot dogs and drunk fans you get at the actual event.

We'll be at U.S. Cellular when the White Sox take on the Minnesota Twins in a one-game playoff for a trip to the actual playoffs. And we couldn't be more excited about it.

These types of games have a long history of memorable events. Let's flip through the history books.

1951: Brooklyn Dodgers vs. New York Giants
Bobby Thompson hits a walkoff homer off of Ralph Branca, inspiring the iconic call from announcer Russ Hodges.



1978: New York Yankees vs. Boston Red Sox
Light-hitting Bucky Dent gets his name in the paper by lifting a pop-up into some netting above a huge Green Monster.



2007: San Diego Padres vs. Colorado Rockies
Matt Holiday caps a Rockies' comeback with an ugly slide that busts his face up as he scores the winning run on a sacrifice fly. The call is still under review.

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???: New York Mets vs. Chicago Cubs
: Henry Rowengardner and the Cubs use trick plays and the floater to beat Hedo's Mets and prove kids are awesome.



Actually, the Minnesota Twins have a good chance to win if they don't get bogged down with a word problem in the clubhouse before the game. That and if they avoid hitting the ball to Griffey.

So yeah, anything can happen in these situations. Expect a full report on Wednesday.
Your Sports Pros(e) NBA Insider is Mike Lansu. He promises to keep you up-to-date with all the turnover ratios, DNPs and illegal defenses in the news once the season gets rolling. He shakes the rust off in this brief post.

BY MIKE LANSU Sports Pros(e) Contributor

The Charlotte Observer reported Saturday the Charlotte Bobcats fired about 35 non-basketball employees Friday.

But the 'Cats just signed Larry Brown. They are paying this guy $4,159,200 and this guy $5,050,000.

But don't feel bad for the employees, the paper said the organization provided severance packages and contacted NASCAR and Fox Sports Net on behalf of the former employees.

Really? NASCAR and Fox Sports Net? That's the best they could do? They couldn't even put in a call to the Atlanta Hawks or LA Clippers?

We learned tonight that the Bears seem to thrive in night games. I bouyed a half-brained monster theory as to why this is, and what Love Smith & Co. should do about it. Then, I came across this video that gives Bears fans even more hope.

They can win during the day, as long as there is intense, mysterious fog.



Tom Skilling and Verne Lundquist in the same video? Outstanding.
Poor Jerry Seinfeld. All the deliciously-edible PCs in the world probably couldn't cheer up New York Mets fans who watched their team crumble down the stretch for the second year in a row.



The New York Post commemorated the final game at Shea Stadium with an outstanding 'Shea It Ain't So' headline, while the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel went with the bland, yet much more upbeat 'Brewers Clinch NL Wild Card'.


It's a well-known fact that monsters prefer to come out at night. Ask any six-year-old if you don't believe me.

So it shouldn't come as any surprise that the Chicago Bears -- Monsters of the Midway -- do their best work when the sky is dark and John Madden is in the booth. Sunday night, Kyle Orton threw a career-high three touchdown passes -- including one to Devin Hester (you remember him, right?) -- and the defense authored a brilliant goalline stand in a 24-20 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles.

Resident sunshine-blower Kevin Allen would probably equate this win's importance with the creation of the printing press or use some other hyperbole, but let's call it what it is -- a season-saver.

That's not to say that this win makes the season. It's saying a loss very well could have broken it. After two consecutive come-from-ahead defeats, all signs pointed to a third when the Eagles drove into the red zone in the waning moments. But, as Brad Biggs writes, the defense stiffened, providing what could be a season-defining stand.

"The defense that wilted under a barrage of Brian Griese passes last week rose up to withstand three turnovers by Kyle Orton in the third quarter, allowing just three points out of it. But the stand that the Bears may look back on a few weeks from now -- if they can use this as a launching point -- will be the goalline stand with four minutes to go in the game. On third down from the one-yard line, Correll Buckhalter went nowhere trying to dive in the end zone. His effort on fourth down was snuffed out by defensive end Alex Brown and linebacker Lance Briggs.
This all took place as a vast majority of live-bloggers did their best Chicken Little impressions, convinced the sky was falling and the Bears were about to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

" 10:19: Roman Modrowski:  they're going to score
10:19
Bear Fan in Utah:  not looking good
10:19
RogersPark Kris:  looks that way

10:19
NJ:  th quarter bears choke
10:19
woody:  offense missed a chance to end this game

10:20
Qumar Zaman:  this is embarrasing
10:20
Roman Modrowski:  all we're going to hear is how tired the defense is
10:20
NJ:  now they can run to
10:20
Roman Modrowski:  we hear that every week
With one huge tackle by Alex Brown, all was right in the Chicago sports universe. The Cubs are in the playoffs. The Sox are still in the hunt. And if the Bears can keep playing under the lights, they very well may find themselves there as well.

Al Michaels claimed during the broadcast that Chicago was the No. 1 sports town in America. And on this Sunday, it'd be hard to argue.

You've seen good catches before. You've seen great catches before. But I highly doubt you've ever seen a better catch than the one Morgan State wide receiver Edwin Baptiste made last Saturday.



That was sick, disgusting, filthy, dope and any other "SportsCenter" buzz word you want to add.
Look out, Maine and Nova Scotia. I'm coming for you.

Tropical Storm Kyle forms in Atlantic  Reuters
allanhouston.jpgYup, that's a real headline. The New York Knicks have re-signed sweet-shooting guard Allan Houston.

Look, he has a ruled named after him.

"Houston, 37, earned just as much fame toward the end of his career for the knee problems and long-term contract that caused to NBA to name a rule after him.

As the face of the franchise at the time, Houston was signed to a six-year, $100 million contract in August 2001. He was still owed nearly $40 million through 2007, including $19.125 million for the 2005-06 season when he called it quits.

As part of the new collective bargaining agreement in the summer of 2005, teams were allowed to waive one player whose salary would not count against luxury tax computations. It was called the "Amnesty Rule" but became known as the "Allan Houston Rule."

If you simply must by Knicks tickets, go here.
Mark Reynolds struck out for the 200th time this season this afternoon against the St. Louis Cardinals. The Arizona Diamondbacks' third baseman broke Ryan Howard's whiffing record for strikeouts in a single season. And the Diamondbacks' loss gave the Los Angeles Dodgers the NL West Division crown.

Reynolds can take solace in the fact that life at the top of the strikeout world isn't so bad:

"The Office" was my favorite show on television for about four months during the first season. I'd never seen the British version and stumbled upon Creed Bratton, etc. while channel surfing. The subtle and sweet Jim-Pam dynamic was the driving force of the show and the will they/won't they tension was gripping.

In subsequent seasons, I've become less interested. The show has gone downhill, in my opinion. Tonight, Season 5 of Michael Scott's dysfunctional office begins on NBC.



There are tons of unanswered questions. Will Jim propose to Pam? Will Michael get back together with Jan?

And what about the new H.R. lady? What's her situation?

I want to hear some predictions for the upcoming season and if you're still watching "The Office".
1_61_092309_cheerleaders01.jpgThere were tears in Idaho this week, and it all has to do with a story we told you about Tuesday. You remember this one -- the University of Idaho Vandals cheerleading squad (or was it a dance squad ... or some clever combination of the two?) wore uniforms at a home football team that were deemed by some fans and administrators -- or perhaps members of the squad themselves -- to be too revealing or too uncomfortable (or a combination of the two?).

Today, the Fort Mill Times is reporting that the squad's coach, Cassie Helm, has resigned in the midst of the scandal, officially making this a story that refuses to die.

Helm defends the uniforms, telling the Times that their presence helped inspire the gals to keep in tip-top shape:


"The kids were real motivated to look as best as they could," she said. "When you walk out there and you feel so proud about what you're doing, that's the goal of the whole thing. The kids had the package."

God knows what is actually meant by "the package." Perhaps that's cheerleader speak for "super spirit?"

At least one cheerleader on the squad, however, told the Times that the uniforms were the cheerleaders' idea and that they picked them out.

A FoxNews report that can be found here would suggest that once the uniforms arrived, some of the cheerleaders found them to be uncomfortable.

The Times goes on to report, however:

"Helm said some cheerleaders told her they cried after a meeting in which the uniforms were confiscated."

One can only speculate that these were not tears of joy.

Meanwhile, the Vandals football team remains 1-3, which is good enough for last place in the Western Athletic Conference.

NOTE: The Lewiston Tribune also did some reporting on the subject, including an article titled, "Poor body image? Fat chance, says squad," that we would happily link to, were it not for the fact that the Lewiston Tribune is the LAST NEWSPAPER ON EARTH THAT CHARGES FOR ITS ONLINE CONTENT. C'mon!
oc.jpgPretty intense piece from Sun-Times Twitter King and White Sox beat writer Joe Cowley today taking Orlando Cabrera to task for calling out his teammates.

"Give Orlando Cabrera credit: Between hands of Texas Hold 'Em, playing dominoes and mastering the art of the five-minute change, shower and dash after games, the White Sox shortstop has found time to set the stage for his exit from the South Side.

An exit in which he undoubtedly will point the finger at the organization months from now, insisting, ''They were the problem, not me.''

Cowley details comments made by Cabrera on the ''Boers & Bernstein'' on WSCR-AM (670).

"Then there was this little gem on the clubhouse antics: ''There are guys that want to be clowns or want to be funny or want to be this, but what I don't like is there's a time for that and a time to get serious in a ballgame, and I don't see that. ... You can have fun, but at the same time, you have to take care of business.''

That apparently includes calling up to the press box to have your errors overturned onto your teammates -- whom, coincidentally, you have taken no time to know.

The White Sox hold a 1/2 game lead in the AL Central and play the Minnesota Twins tonight. Probably a big game.

A Sun-Times poll reveals readers aren't so confident Ozzie & Co. will reach the playoffs:


Will the Sox make the playoffs?

Yes

33%    106 votes
No

66%    208 votes
Total Votes: 314


St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker could be throwing a party in his city as early as today. He's promised his city a downtown fiesta when -- not if -- the Rays clinch the American League East.

I'd like to say that I had a feeling all along that the Rays could do it. I'd like to say that it's really no surprise to me that the team has fared as well as it has this season. But that would be an utter lie. I attended too many $5 Rays games with more players on the field than fans in the stands, witnessed too much ineptitude and watched more news conferences featuring a dejected Lou Piniella than I care to remember.

My stint as a proxy Rays fan lasted three years, after which I returned home to Chicago to refocus my energy solely on the North Siders. But during those three years I saw nothing to suggest that the word 'playoffs' could ever come close to being uttered in Southwest Florida.

But just because the Rays have made their first playoffs in franchise history doesn't mean the team is making all the right moves.

Even with all the fan support support and despite the magical season, the Rays management still refuses to remove tarps that cover 6,000 seats at Tropicana Field for the first round and potential second round of the playoffs. Could you imagine if the Cubs or White Sox said that they simply wouldn't be releasing 6,000 playoff tickets? Pandemonium, friends. An editorial in today's Tampa Tribune urges the team: "Pull back that tarp, Rays!"

A party is nice. It's good for the city, good for the fans and good for the team. But if baseball in Southwest Florida is ever to be taken seriously here, there or anywhere in the world, they're going to have to let as many of their fans see the game as possible -- even if those seats totally suck. You're morons if you don't, Rays.

The team is currently in Detroit, facing a Tigers team that was supposed to be having the season that the Rays have had. I think it apropos that once again sports teaches us that anything can happen. Today's pauper can be tomorrow's prince and vice versa.

Good luck in the playoffs, Rays. Have fun at your party. And for God's sake, let 6,000 more fans come to your stinkin' games. It may be a long time before it happens again.
Troy Brown, pass-catching and Snow Game enthusiast, announced his retirement today in Boston. Brown caught 557 passes in his career and also filled in at defensive back in recent years.

""You can't outrun Father Time, as hard as you try to do it," Brown said. "There comes a time when you say 'I can't keep up the way I used to.' "
beerpongstab.jpgBeer pong, despite being woefully inferior to its cousin beer die, is wildly popular on college campuses. Usually, it's fun. Occasionally, the trash-talking gets out of hand. But stabbings are very rare.

"A University of Montana student remains hospitalized after he was repeatedly stabbed over a game of beer pong last weekend.

Collan J. Sheppard, 23, has been charged with felony assault with a weapon and is being held on $50,000 bail.

Sheppard, who is from East Glacier, stabbed Jerry Brady Stewart in the abdomen and the arm, puncturing an artery after the alleged disagreement, according to court records.
The incident occurred around 1:00 a.m. Saturday morning at 1117 Cleveland Street, where a party was being held and several people were playing beer pong in the basement.

UM sophomore Brenna Gibson − a member of the household − said Sheppard became angry with her over a "house rule" − a rule observed by some who play the game that depends on the household in which the game occurs.
Brandon Jennings, the high school basketball phenom who took his ball and went to Europe, has signed a shoe deal with Under Armour.

"Jennings is the first basketball shoe endorser for the brand, which has signed him to a multi-year contract that is incentive based. Although Jennings has a three-year deal with the Italian team, it is well known that he has an out after each year.

"The endgame is for Brandon to make it the NBA and be the impact player that everyone is predicting that he'll be," said Steve Battista, Under Armour's senior vice president of brand.

In case you haven't heard of Jennings, and why he decided to play for Pallacanestro Virtus Roma of the Italian pro league instead of in the NBA, ESPN's Andy Katz can educate you.

Or if you prefer moving pictures:

Fans were escorted out of Citizens Bank Park earlier tonight when the bomb squad was called in to detonate what turned out to be ... wait for it ... several hot dogs in foil wrappers.


"Fans inside the stadium were evacuated, but players remained on the field during the incident. Bomb squad members further investigated the packages and determined they were simply several hot dogs in foil wrappers. Sadly, the wieners were detonated as a precaution."

'Sadly' -- is that so, CBS3? Have you begun some anti-hot dog cruelty campaign that we need to know about?

Is there some shortage of hot dogs in Philadelphia that would make it a sad situation to see a few hot dogs destroyed in the name of better-safe-than-sorry?

CBS3 Philadelphia -- friend of encased meat everywhere. God speed, CBS3. And good luck in your campaign.
Last week we celebrated International Talk Like a Pirate Day. Between you and me, I'm just now shaking that rum hangover and putting that eye patch into storage.

Thankfully, there's a new holiday to fill the void.

Today is National Punctuation Day.

You're probably asking yourself how to best observe this momentous day. We've got you covered.

  • Sleep late.
  • Take a long shower or bath.
  • Go out for coffee and a bagel (or two).
  • Read a newspaper and circle all of the punctuation errors you find (or think you find but aren't sure) with a red pen.
  • Take a leisurely stroll, paying close attention to store signs with incorrectly punctuated words.
  • Stop in those stores to correct the owners.
  • If the owners are not there, leave notes.
  • Visit a bookstore and purchase a copy of Strunk & White's The Elements of Style.
  • Look up all the words you circled.
  • Congratulate yourself on becoming a better written communicator.
  • Go home.
  • Sit down.
  • Write an error-free letter to a friend.
  • Take a nap. It has been a long day.
Plaxico Burress was suspended by the Giants for two weeks for violating team rules.

Burrress' agent Drew Rosenhaus appeared on "SportsCenter" moments ago to talk about the punishment.

"Obviously he was not at work and he was attending to a family matter," Rosenhaus said.
 "That's really all that I can say about that because it's private and has to do with he and his family.

No doubt there was an infraction -- we accept that -- but we don't except the penalty for the infraction. Plaxico and I believe it is too strong."

Rosenhaus said that Burress was not accepting the punishment without a fight.

"We are in the process of appealing this. Were hoping to have a hearing with an arbitrator to get Plaxico reinstated, certainly in time for the Seahawks game."

Rosenhaus confirmed he was filing a grievance to the league.

"We were hoping we could work something out which would have a lesser ramification on Plaxico and the team. He's very dejected about it. He wants to be there for his teammates, for his coaches for the organization. He regrets what happened on Monday, but he has done an awful lot for this organization and he doesn't feel it's appropriate for him to miss a game."

Rosenhaus said he hopes the appeal is heard as soon as possible.
Much, much more on this once I have time to wrap my mind around it, but it looks like the Matt Millen era has mercifully come to an end.

As stated many times before around here, Millen led the Lions to a 31-84 record after taking over as CEO and team president in 2001.

"Reports say that it is unclear if Millen was fired or removed himself from the equation, but the news comes just days after Bill Ford Jr. publicly stated he would have fired Millen if it were his decision but he lacked the authority to do so. The authority rested with his father, who has been the sole owner of the Lions since 1964.


Phone messages left for Millen, head coach Rod Marinelli and other team officials were not returned.

The Lions' 0-3 start this season stirred the groundswell for Millen's apparent demise. The Lions have won only one playoff game during Ford's tenure and are an NFL-worst 31-84 since Millen took over in 2001. Millen has gone through three head coaches, none of whom have been able to turn the Lions into a winner.

Although as of late morning no official word had come from the Lions regarding Millen, reports of his firing had fans excited.

People were driving past the team's headquarters, honking horns and cheering. One man in a pickup yelled, "Finally!" as he drove past the entrance.
Finally, indeed.
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Matt Millen is shown here in 2002 with first-round draft pick Joey Harrington. (AP Photo)

Matt Millen has been fired as the Detroit Lions president and CEO, according to Jay Glazer of FoxSports.com.

This should come as welcome news to my Sports Pros(e) counterpart, Kyle Koster. A Michigan native and Lions fan, Kyle recently shared his thoughts about Millen.

He refused to give a Lions-related story a clever headline here.

Even Sports Pros(e) contributor Bruce Koster even weighed in on the Lions' ineptitude here.

Kyle will surely offer his own analysis on this blog later today.

Elsewhere, Roy Williams told the Detroit Free Press it's not Millen's fault. ESPN's Kevin Seifert has already published his analysis, stressing the importance of finding the right replacement for Millen.


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Fans at Murphy's Bleachers who watched the Cubs fall apart during the 1984 National League Championship were allowed to booze during the seventh, eighth and ninth innings, and last I checked both Murphy's Bleachers and Wrigley Field were still standing. (Al Podgorski/Sun-Times)

Wrigleyville bar owners are up in arms over Mayor Daley's proposal for bars and restaurants to cut liquor sales after the seventh inning during potential title-clinching games, our Fran Spielman reports. The booze-sale hiatus would last all of two innings and pick back up at the end of the game.

This is a colossal waste of time. Never mind the fact that this could cause hordes of angry, drunken Cubs fans (instead of just dejected, drunken Cubs fans) to spill out of the bars and onto the streets. Never mind the fact that they put the west border of the Wrigleyville booze ban at Racine, leaving bars like Cullen's, Messner's, Hye Bar, Mystic Celt, Guthrie's, D'Agostino's and a smattering of others in the clear.

Calling this a voluntary moratorium on liquor sales while threatening to yank liquor licenses for those who don't volunteer kind of defeats the purpose of 'volunteer' in the first place and smacks of nothing more than governmental meddling.

As a former bar tender, I can say with confidence that bars are crafty places, and their crafty owners will find crafty ways to circumvent this proposal and they should, because those places tend to be pretty dead in the baseball-less winters. And in case you have been wearing earplugs and a blindfold for the past few months, these are tough economic times and the people who work in bars should be allowed to take full financial advantage of the Cubs' good fortune.

If you're going to ban booze sales in Wrigleyville bars after the seventh inning, you're clearly going to have to regulate how booze is packaged and sold during the seventh inning. If these bars are smart (and, as I mentioned before, they are) they'll start pushing sales of buckets of beer and three-for-one drink specials during the sixth and seventh innings.

Does the proposal call for stopping the sale of liquor after the seventh inning or the serving of it? If the language of the proposal says to stop the sale of liquor, what's to stop them from giving away free-drink tickets for use after the seventh inning?

That bars will craft more ways than I can think of to get around this proposal is reason enough to call it a waste of time. There's got to be a better way to keep fans responsible during the game and after. It shouldn't fall on City Hall to make it happen. It should fall on Cubs to encourage their fans to have have some class. It should fall on the bars to keep their clientele under control and it should fall, foremost, on the fans themselves to buck the stereotype that so many insist is unfair, yet manage to live up to night after night outside my bedroom window.

That said, Daley's essentially asking some of the most stressed-out, borderline alcoholic fans in the world to eschew their M.O. Their thirst for alcohol during the games -- especially the playoffs -- is an unstoppable train. If something idiotic happens after a Cubs win, it's more likely that it'll happen as a symptom of the tit-for-tat mindset that the ban would spur rather than in spite of the hour or so that fans won't actually have stopped drinking in the first place.

Deadspin weighs in with a Deadspinian photo of a compromised Mark Cuban.

Chicagoist weighs in and notes that the same doctrine will be in effect during the White Sox potential playoff run at Jimbo's and First Base on the South Side -- which, let's face it, is just silly for so many reasons.

Ardent Sox fan Richard Roeper agrees that the ban is ridiculous.
Warren Sapp made his debut on "Dancing With the Stars" last night, doing the cha-cha with Kym Johnson. We'd totally do the cha-cha with Kym Johnson.



According to those in the know, Sapp's performance was somewhat impressive.

""Big boys can dance," exclaimed excitable judge Bruno Tonioli after the performance by Sapp, who stepped confidently around partner Kym Johnson to the strains of Stevie Wonder's hit Do I Do. "You showed us all."
The Palm Beach Post's Kevin Thompson says Sapp has a chance this season if he can stop staring.

"The big fella is pretty light on his feet, isn't he? NFL players have done really well on the show. While Sapp is no Jason Taylor or Emmitt Smith, he has a nice bounce in his step. If he can keep his eyes off his cutie-pie partner long enough, the one-time defensive tackle should stay in the game for several weeks.
Since both Kevin and I dance like Elaine Benes, we need you to tell us if ol' No. 99 was impressive, unimpressive or neither.
Listen up, people. You've got to get it together. You can't be beating each other up over baseball games and gouging people's eyeballs out over baseball games. And you certainly shouldn't be killing someone over a baseball games. 

More cheerleader news!

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I don't want to be the only one not having cheerleader-related fun. With the news the Idaho Vandals ditching their uniforms and last night's season premiere of "Heroes", I was beginning to feel left out.

Not anymore.

Cheerleader charged with selling drugs.
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Some fans deemed these outfits "inappropriate," according to Idaho U. dean of students Bruce Pitman. What do you think? (NWCN.com)

Sports Pros(e) turns its attention to Moscow, Idaho for the first time ever this morning, where the University of Idaho cheerleading squad is being ordered by the university to wear more clothing. It seems their new outfits were deemed too skimpy by some fans. But, as Bruce Pitman, dean of students, was quick to point out to the Associated Press, "To be fair, there were a number of fans who liked them." Of course there were.

With a story like this brewing, the blogosphere is sure to be bubbling. RightFielders had this to say:

"The new Idaho cheerleader uniforms have been fitted, ordered and will be worn in October for the first time. They are 6? longer than the cute versions, remove the team logo from cheerleader ass, and generally look like something your ancestors wore on the Mayflower. They are in black and silver, so picture something resembling a linebacker on the Oakland Raiders."

Before the double-standard police come knocking, this news comes a couple weeks after the Vandals' football team was forced to have the school logo removed from the bum of their pants, as Deadspin discussed Sept. 6.

This is interesting, considering the football stands are one of the last places you'll find fans showing displays of decency and decorum.

What do you think? Should your school's cheerlearders be forced to wear more clothing? Is it fair for the school to be forcing these cheerleaders to get new uniforms?

The Detroit Lions have been terrible under Matt Millen. And by terrible, I mean they have gone 31-84. "Fire Millen" merchandise sales have skyrocket, though.

Today, Lions vice chairman Bill Ford said if it were up to him, he'd pull the plug on the great Millen experiment.

""I think the fans deserve better and if it were in my authority, which it's not, I'd make some significant changes," Ford said Monday.

Asked by a reporter if he believed Millen should leave the team, Ford said, "Yes, I do."

The Ford Motor Co. executive chairman is the son of William Clay Ford, the franchise's owner since 1964.

javonringer.jpg

There's nothing like waking up on a crisp Saturday morning to the sound of your school's marching band blasting the fight song while high-stepping across quad. Sadly, college is but a memory for us here at Sports Pros(e). But that doesn't mean we aren't still crazy about our alma maters. Especially since we each have viable Heisman candidates racking up gaudy numbers.

Kevin's Missouri Tigers are 4-0 after feasting on non-conference opponents. Quarterback Chase Daniel completed 20 consecutive passes against Buffalo while racking up 439 yards passing. He also has two first names, and as some people say, an impeccable sense of fashion.

Meanwhile, Javon Ringer is gaining rushing yards at an alarming rate up in East Lansing, Mich. The Michigan State running back is second in the nation with 699 yards on the ground and first with 11 touchdowns. Eleven! Because homer-ism in this town is a one-horse race, I didn't want to be the first to say "Ringer" and "Heisman" in the same breath.

Thankfully, someone else did.



Also, some guy named Darius Passmore is the nation's leading receiver. Ironic, don't you think?

Who do y'all like in the Heisman race? Do either of our guys have a chance? Tell us what you think.
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Kyle Orton bows his head, presumably to pray, during yesterday's loss to the Bucs -- a loss that is a part of a great man's great plan. (AP Photo)

While questioning the very existence of an omnipotent God, I once asked a friend why such a God would allow suffering in the world. Her answer: God has a plan. We must accept that plan and have faith that His is a plan divinely wrought and beyond human understanding.

Sub the word "God" for "Lovie Smith" here and you begin to have a good idea of why the Bears allowed the Buccaneers to come back from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter to win with a field goal in overtime.

Some fans (possibly those who were heard booing the team at various points of yesterday's game) would prefer to cast themselves as Job of the grandstands and wonder why Lovie Smith and Co. would scorn them so. Still others may wonder why, two weeks in a row, the Bears -- who are far-and-away the greatest team that has ever brandished the NFL logo on their uniforms -- could possibly lose late-game leads and, ultimately, both games.

Think about it. Clearly Lovie has something cooking. After all, how can you have a storybook season if there's no story? To create and conjure that story, however, the team must overcome some major obstacles.

Perhaps these doom-and-gloom Bears fans would prefer Homer's "Iliad" and "Odyssey" if Achilles and Odysseus would have just marched through Ancient Greece unscathed and unmolested. Not this fan. This fan can appreciate the virtue of a little scathing. That's why my lips don't purse at the bitterness of this overtime loss.

After all, what could the team possibly gain by winning all the time?

Pride? That's a sin.

The envy of other teams? Let's be honest -- we would never want to force sin upon another team.

Winning games early in the season only exposes your weaknesses for later games. That's not to say that the Bears have any, but if players are forced to exert themselves, it's possible that some could develop. Even the Gods in Homer's day were corruptible. I suppose most fans would have the players exert themselves to the brink of their abilities, saving no energy for the Super Bowl or, in Odysseus' case, the Cyclops.

To those fans, I assure you of this: Lovie has a plan. We must accept that plan and have faith that His is a plan divinely wrought and beyond the understanding of we simple-minded fans.

For it is without this faith that we would surely parish.
You know those things that sound dirty, but really aren't? Well, this isn't one of those things. It's just as filthy as it sounds.

From Bears blogfather Brad Biggs:

" The Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers did not leave cheap shots on the field Sunday afternoon at Soldier Field as some strong allegations regarding dirty play were made afterward.

It was the skirmish after Brian Griese's two-yard pass to Jerramy Stevens on third-and-nine from the Bucs' eight-yard line that heightened emotions in what had been a chippy affair. Tampa was going to have to punt from its own 10-yard line early in overtime, setting the Bears up with premium field position, before one of the all-time boneheaded Bears' penalties moved the chains for the Bucs.

Cornerback Charles Tillman was singled out in the fracas for squaring off with Tampa wide receiver Michael Clayton and called for a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty. For his part, Tillman said emotions got the best of him.

"I was just trying to pull them off and one thing led to another,'' he said. "It got a little physical. [I've] just got to be smarter than that. No excuses.''

But it all started in the trenches where Bucs right tackle Jeremy Trueblood was rolling around with defensive end Adewale Ogunleye. Trueblood leveled some serious accusations after he was asked by the Sun-Times if he was at the root of the skirmish.

"If you want me to be truthful with the situation, I don't know who it was, but they grabbed me in places they shouldn't have grabbed me after the play and that's what started the whole thing,'' Trueblood said. "I told people in interviews earlier that it got chirpy. I think those guys take a lot of pride in what they do, and we take a lot of pride in what we do, but one thing I don't stand for is someone grabbing you in your genitals.''

Asked to identify the guilty grabber, Trueblood said he could not.

"I don't know who it was,'' he said. "But whoever was beneath [me] paid the price. I was just doing what I do on a block, I was just laying on top of him, not moving. That [stuff] happens on every play, excuse my language, but that happens on every play. Someone is going to grab and someone is going to poke. We were kind of letting it ride. I was going to get up, I was going to walk away. I don't know what happened with Tillman. I don't even know who our guy was involved with it. We were an extenuation of the whistle.''

The good news? Trueblood did not have to give up creative control, spin-off rights and theme park approval for Mr. Grabber, Baby Grabber, and any other Grabber family character that might emanate there from.

And the Buccaneers won, 27-24.

You don't have to act like you don't like seeing things blow up or fall down. We're totally cool with that. And if it has some sort of sports peg, rest assured we'll post it for you.

Miami Arena, where Rony Seikaly once roamed, is now more. Want proof? Here you go.



Don't worry, this was all supervised.
Around this time every week, I usually sit down and do a little revisionist history regarding those clawless cats that are the Detroit Lions. It's light-hearted, fun and downright therapeutic. Normally an actual news article has to be dissected, redacted and essentially ruined until it conveys exactly how bad these Lions are.

Tonight, the work has already been done for me.

Lions season officially over 
  Detroit Free Press

"Matt Millen was speechless when a reporter approached him at halftime.

They were on the right path -- to the unemployment line.

Stay the course and pay no attention to that fast-approaching iceberg.

The front-office comedian looked as though he finally had seen enough Sunday. If creating a coaching staff in his own image was Millen's objective in his third try, he succeeded.

Rod Marinelli is as clueless as his boss.
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Chicago deserves this. Chicago needs this. Anything to keep the winter at bay a little longer -- especially playoff baseball -- is good and right for the city of Chicago.

Mind you, it won't decrease the violence that plagues our streets. It won't improve our schools or put more money in our teachers' pockets. It won't help the downward spiral in which our economy seems to be caught.

But it will give us something to watch together -- something that's bigger than you, me or any of the players on the field or fans in the bleachers. These are the times when a simple game can conjure a collective consciousness. When any of this city's teams are winning, you can feel it on the bus, on the L and you can see it in the eyes of the people you pass. It's a shared subconscious and you can't help but get caught up in it.

And with the White Sox in their own playoff hunt? Well, that's just icing. Because Chicago is a better city when its sports teams are winning. Some of my earliest memories involve the '83 Sox, the '84 Cubs and the '85 Bears (and, strangely enough, Molly Ringwold).

I like that the Cubs won it with a few days left in the regular season. Because for those few days, it's not about dread. It's not about the heartbreak that could befall us. It's not about lovable losers, billy goats or sundry curses. It's about pure optimism and millions of Cubs fans who have begun to let themselves believe that this team could defy recent history.

I was roaming the streets of Wrigleyville yesterday with thousands of fellow Cubs fans moments after they clinched. It was optimism defined. It was loyalty rewarded. It was controlled chaos. It was -- and it is -- exactly what Chicago needs right now.
rays.JPGWell, it happened. After a spring and summer of waiting for the other shoe to drop on the Tampa Bay Rays' magical season, those pesky Sunshine Staters clinched a spot in the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.

And although we aren't saying we are responsible for this improbable run, we certainly didn't hurt. In fact, we went on record early around here regarding Tampa's finest.

Blog brother Kevin Allen lived near beautiful Tropicana Field for a while, and raved about the intimate nature of the building. I mean, where else could this type of tomfoolery fly?

"One of our favorite rituals at the Trop was to send half of us to the third-base side and the other half to the first base side and have a conversation across the field as the game was going on. Those watching at home could make out perfectly what we were saying. Whenever an opposing pitcher came in to warm up, we would give annoyingly loud (and often high-pitched) sound effects to the ball. At one point, Francisco Cordero told us in so many words to refrain from doing that.
While the rest of the world waited for the collapse to come...it didn't. The Rays smashed their previous high-water mark for victories, and have battled the reigning World Series champion Boston Red Sox tooth and nail.

In fact, it looks like the only way teams have been able to best these guys this year is to *cough* cheat. Just kidding, A.J. We'll never get sick of you hosing a hustling Joe Cowley at second base.



Congratulations, Tampa Bay Rays. You're this week's Sports Pros(e) smile, wink and acknowledging head nod award recipients. (it's a coveted award, don't knock it)
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Despite today's hiccup in the Cubs' quest for the division title (and beyond), it looks as though they'll clinch it any day now and turn Wrigleyville into Bourbon Street North.

We've written at-length about the myriad signs that this could be the Cubs' year, which prompts us to give pause and pay tribute to those years it simply wasn't. To help with that, there's the Wrigleyville-based comedy group pH, whose final performance of the sketch show "100 ... Years of Losing" takes place this Wednesday at 8 p.m. at the Stage Left Theater just a few blocks south of the Friendly Confines.

It's a known fact that teams who clinch their division tend to phone it in for the remainder of the season until the playoffs begin. So, for those of you who aren't necessarily itching to watch the likes of Koyie Hill, Micah Hoffpauir and Casey McGehee make their cases as to why they shouldn't be relegated to worst-case-scenario appearances throughout the playoffs, "100 ..." is an excellent way to get your pre-playoff Cubs fix.

At least half of Sports Pros(e) (this half) will be in attendance to see (in the spirit of full disclosure) some friends of the blog who populate the cast. We hope to see you there too!

For ticket info, click here.
Ahoy mateys!

Because we're always trying to put on finger on the pulse of what is important to our readers, we'd be remiss if we didn't mention that tomorrow is International "Talk Like a Pirate Day."

The Pittsburgh Pirates host the Houston Astros this weekend, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are in Chicago to play the Bears and the East Carolina Pirates are at North Carolina State. We'll see if these teams do anything special to commemorate the occasion. I doubt it.

For tips on how to act like a pirate, consult this list.

Also, check out the Pirate Name Generator.
eddie.jpgPearl Jam frontman and Chicago Cub enthusiast Eddie Vedder's tribute to his favorite team is making the rounds this morning.

You can hear the song here.

And here's the best attempt at transcribing the lyrics I could find:

""Someday We'll Go All the Way"

Yeah, don't let them say that it's just a game.
Well, I've seen other teams and it is never the same.
When you go to Chicago, you're blessed and you're healed, The first time you walk into Wrigley Field.
Heroes with pinstripes and heroes in blue, Give us the chance to feel like heroes do.
Whether we'll win and if we should lose, we know Someday we'll go all the way.
Yeah, someday we'll go all the way.

We are one with the Cubs, with the Cubs we're in love.
Hold our heads tall as the underdogs.
We are not fairweather, but farweather fans.
Like brothers in arms, in the suites and the stands.
There's magic in the Ivy and the old score board.
The same one I stared at as a kid keeping score.
In a world full of greed, we could never want more.
Someday we'll go all the way.
Yeah, someday we'll go all the way.

Here's to the men and the legends we've known.
Giving us faith and giving us hope.
United we stand and united we'll fall
Down to our knees the day we win it all.
Yeah Ernie Banks said, "oh, let's play two".
I think he meant two hundred years.
Playing at Wrigley, our diamond, our jewel.
The home of our joy and our fears.
Keeping traditions, and wishes anew,
The place where our grandfathers' fathers they grew.
The spitual feeling if I ever knew.
And when the day comes for that last winning run, and I'm crying and covered with beer.
I look to the sky and know I was right today.
Someday we'll go all the way.
Yeah, someday we'll go all the way.

Is it too much to ask of someone to jump out of a plane, land in the correct place and fire up your crowd?

The answer? Apparently it is.

First, there was the Duke-UNC fiasco where the guys landed in the wrong stadium.



Not to be outdone, the Cincinnati Bearcats tried the same stunt, but were foiled by a wire.



And now today we're minding our own business when this minor-league baseball clip comes across our desk.



(Shakes head in amazement, Googles "parachuting lessons" and ends post)
Josh Howard, Dallas Mavericks swingman and former Demon Deacon, finds himself in a tough spot today after video of him disrespecting the "The Star-Spangled Banner" surfaced on YouTube.

The video can be viewed here. (This may be offensive to viewers.)

Howard says, "The Star-Spangled Banner' is going on. I don't celebrate this [expletive]. I'm black."

Then there is some reference to Barack Obama that I can't make out.

The video was shot at a charity flag-football game in July.
nike.jpgErnie Davis, the first African-American to win the Heisman trophy, died of leukemia in 1963. Nike's swoosh was introduced into the zeitgeist in 1971. So it wouldn't make any sense that a statue honoring the trail-blazing running back would feature him wearing Nike cleats, right?

Oops.

This isn't the first statue error this year, and it's not even the first problem with a statue honoring an athlete named Ernie. When the Cubs unveiled their Ernie Banks tribute this spring, there was a pretty major grammatical error on it.

Whomever is in charge of the Ernie Els statue better not screw it up.
I can't stress enough how much the news that Chicago is the nation's most stressful city distresses me.
" According to Forbes.com: "With 7.3% unemployment and a gallon of gas going for just under four bucks, the Windy City has some economic headwinds that result in a perfect storm for stress. Chi-town's pollution problems (it ranked No. 7 in terms poor air quality) and lack of breathing room (it's No. 2 in terms of population density) couple to create a Midwestern Molotov cocktail of stress."
As of right now, 57 percent of Sun-Times readers agree that Chicago is Stress City, USA.
Let's open it up to the nation, though. Tell us where you live and how much it stresses you out/is a walk in the park. Be warned though, we Chicagoans will not relinquish this crown without a fight.
.7_19 FROST JOE GODDARD.A0243.jpgOur former Sun-Times colleague and ESPN "Around the Horn" contributor Jay Mariotti won't be joining the ranks of the Chicago Tribune, according to an article on the paper's Web site.

Mariotti told the Trib, whose writers were often the target of some of his most pointed columns:

"The Sun-Times' lawyer threatened me with a lawsuit in 64-point type. Things sort of stalled."

This comes as somewhat of a surprise, considering that Mariotti-to-the-Trib rumors were called a matter of when, not if on Deadspin last week.

The site has changed its tune with today's headline, "Tribune Kills Mariotti Talks As A Thankful Populace Rejoices."

This would seem to be good news for some Tribsters who were wary of "Hurricane" Jay's potential arrival. Over at Michael Miner's News Bites blog on the Chicago Reader Web site, Trib columnist Mike Downey is quoted saying: "Only six groups would be offended by Jay being hired. The Cubs. The White Sox. The Bears. The Bulls. The Tribune staff. And our readers. Everybody else is going to say, 'What a great hire!'"

When he left the Sun-Times, Mariotti said he was in talks with several Web sites that he would potentially write for. It'll be interesting to see at which of those sites he eventually lands.

In case you've forgotten the blow up surrounding Jay's departure, Kyle had an excellent wrap-up of all the drama here.

PANTHERS REDSKINS FOOTBALL.jpgThe Redskins' Chris Cooley gave fans a whole lot more than they bargained for when he attempted to post photo of some of his study materials on his blog, http://chriscooley47.blogspot.com.

I'm not entirely sure how to put this, so I'll let Local6.com do the talking:

"Cooley, however, said he was studying in the nude, and he didn't examine his photo closely before posting it."

You get the picture -- Cooley definitely unwittingly (or was it) posted a photo of his swimsuit part on the intertube.

Oops.

Cooley, of course, apologized. He left his readers with this explanation of why the post wasn't immediately taken down: "The picture wouldn't have been up for so long, but we were in the middle of winning a big game."
Last night's football game between the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles gets a solid "two thumbs up" from this guy.

It had 78 combined points, a healthy amount of Terrell Owens and an extremely funny moment courtesy of DeSean Jackson. But one thing that struck me as strange was the on-air apology from the joke-y Tony Kornheiser.

The comment in question happened when the guys at ESPN cut to the Spanish language feed of former Arkansas Razorback Felix Jones' kickoff return for a touchdown.



Here's what Kornheiser said: "I took high school Spanish and that either means 'nobody is going to touch him' or 'could you pick up my dry cleaning in the morning."

And here's the subsequent apology: "I said something before I shouldn't have said, I apologize for it. Not my first mistake, undoubtedly won't be my last, but a 100% apology."

Normally, I'm pretty sensitive to what could be construed as offensive. And generally I err on the side of caution, thinking that there's little to be gained by bringing race or language into a joke. But in this case, I don't think Kornheiser meant to be demeaning or intentionally insult anyone.

On the other hand, we live in a hyper-sensitive world and a major network would be irresponsible to risk receiving bad press over something like this.

Do you think Kornheiser had anything to apologize for? Has the pressure to be 100% politically correct at all times detracted from commentators ability to say what the average fan is thinking? Did you even notice this exchange, or were you too wrapped up in the game on the field?
whitetieaffair.jpgLocal musicmakers the White Tie Affair are making huge internet waves right now. Evidently their song "Candle" was featured in tonight's episode of "The Hills" on MTV.

While this show isn't exactly my cup of tea, I'm glad to see these guys getting some pub. A while back, the Sun-Times featured them as a local group on the rise. Lead singer Chris Wallace was nice enough to regale me with tales of the road and to talk about how much fun they're having.

Nice work guys.
DeSean Jackson, author of this amazing punt return, had a bit of a brain lapse in Monday night's game against the Dallas Cowboys.

Jackson discarded the ball before he crossed the goal line on what was initially ruled a 61-yard touchdown. After a Cowboys' challenge and some incriminating evidence, the Eagles retained possession on the 1-yard line.



Brian Westbrook ran it in on the next play, so in the big picture this brain cramp won't have an impact on the final outcome. But Jackson should get used to seeing the clip for the rest of his career. If he has any questions, I'm sure Leon Lett could help him out.
Kenny George -- all 91 inches of him -- may miss his senior season. The UNC Asheville center and shot blocking enthusiast is currently in the hospital recovering from two surgeries on an infected right foot.




He's tall!
Earlier today we looked into the fiasco that was the end of the Chargers-Broncos game in Denver. And it looks like Ed "Hercules" Hochuli's blown call has the NFL re-examining a rule.

More Hochuli: This mildly graphic fake picture from The Onion.

Monday Night Football soon.

Sports Pros(e) predicts: Cowboys 27, Eagles 17
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Ted Lilly almost sent the world spinning wildly off its axes this afternoon when he carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning.

See, his teammate Carlos Zambrano didn't give up any hits last night. No team has every thrown back-to-back no-hitters. The St. Louis Browns came close in 1917 by tossing no-no's on consecutive days. Nice try, guys.

Sadly, journeyman Mark Loretta drove a single into right field with two outs in the seventh inning. It's hard to be mad at Mark Loretta, but c'mon dude, we wanted to see some history.
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Ned Yost will not lead the Milwaukee Brewers into the postseason for the first time since 1982. The Brew Crew fired Yost moments ago. The fate of Wisconsin baseball now lies in the hands of Dale Sveum.
Rumor of 'witchcraft' spawned a soccer riot that killed 11 people in the Democratic Republic of Congo .

" Eleven people were killed in a stadium riot in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo after a soccer player tried to use witchcraft to win a local match, U.N.-backed Radio Okapi reported on Monday.

Nyuki club was losing to local rivals Socozaki on Sunday when Nyuki's goalkeeper advanced up the pitch and tried to use "fetishist" spells to turn the tide of the match, Okapi said, without giving more details.

Chicagoans had a lot on their plate yesterday, what with the Greg Olsen fumbles, the Carlos Zambrano strikeouts and the Dewayne Wise walk-offs. So it's perfectly reasonable to think you missed the most exciting NFL game of the day (Broncos 39, Chargers 38). Luckily, we have videotape.

What you're about to see is going to confuse you. An unbelievably bad call confused Norv Turner and the general concept of time confused Dick Enberg, who thinks the game is over with 24 seconds left on the clock. And Mike Shannahan confused us all by going all Tom Osborne at the end.



NFL referee and shoulder-press enthusiast Ed Hochuli apparently told Turner that he had "blown" the call by blowing the whistle. Turner called this "unacceptable".
Kudos to Sun-Times resident multimedia master Craig Newman for putting together this interactive slideshow about Carlos Zambrano's no-hitter in Milwaukee.

bruce.jpgAfter much prodding, the father of this blogger has agreed to weigh in on the Detroit Lions. And although I've tried my best to capture the essence of what it's like to support this franchise, there is no better voice than that of a man who has seen them lose in every conceivable way for more than a half century. We here at Sports Pros(e) thank him for taking time out of fixing this gas guzzler to share his thoughts.

BY BRUCE KOSTER Sports Pros(e) Contributor

Well another Sunday, another episode of "you can't make us win" at the Silverdome/ Ford  Field O' Dome. Locations, years, coaches and quarterbacks are all meaningless distractions that comprise the undefinable blur marketed as the Lions.

Officially, I quit rooting for them about 1985. But I must confess they are still my team. I know it's twisted, but I love the way they deliver. They give me what I'm expecting every time I invest three hours of my Sunday couch time.

I'm there to see my team do ANYTHING they can to not win a game. Today, once again I witnessed a masterpiece painted on the big green canvas. My guys unwittingly stumbled into a come-from-way-behind 1-point lead with seven minutes left in the game.
I was waiting in a Wrigleyville Subway when I saw that big, beautiful goose egg under the H for hits signifying that Carlos Zambrano was taking a no-hitter into the fifth inning. I had checked the Cubs' Web site earlier today to see what channel they'd be playing on, but it didn't list one so I thought the game wouldn't be televised. I was excited that I wasn't stuck with the Browns/Steelers game after all. I hustled home to watch Big Z mow down the remainder of the batters he faced to become the first Cubs pitcher since Milt Pappas in 1972 to fire a no-hitter in a Cubs uniform. I sent a text to my brother, an even bigger Cubs fan than I. He had considered making the trip to Milwaukee but didn't because his kids have school tomorrow -- it's the same call my mother would have made when we were growing up.

As a Cubs fan, I'll never forget the sequence of events and nuances leading up to watching this slice of Cubs history. It'll be seared into my memory -- like when my dad made me stay up in 1984 to learn the definition of heartbreak from a guy named Steve Garvey. Like when I rushed home from school in 1998 with my friend Jon because we had gotten word that a fresh-faced Cubs pitcher named Kerry Wood was threatening to break to single-game strikeout record. And like watching the world fall apart with scores of fellow displaced Cubs fans in a Sarasota, Fla. bar on a balmy October evening in 2003.

This doesn't happen. The Cubs are never this far ahead in the standings this late into the season. Our pitchers don't throw no-hitters. This is frivolous. Is it time to start allowing ourselves to believe once again? Is it time to allow ourselves, as fans, to become vulnerable again -- susceptible to oh-so-imaginable disappointment?

If something like this -- a no-hitter -- can happen at Wrigley North, I argue that anything can happen at Wrigley proper. Belief is knocking on the door, checking the windows, trying hard to creep in. Like 1984. Like 1989. Like 1998. Like 2003. Like last year. You can't help but allow it to creep in as a Cubs fan. If this isn't a sign that this is a year unlike any other, what is?

If this isn't a sign that these Cubs may not be subject to the same heartbreak hoo-doo as teams from years past, I don't know what is.

It won't stop raining here. A state of emergency has been declared in Cook County. It was an extraordinary and powerful act of nature that drove the Astros north to Milwaukee in the first place. It will take another act of nature to fulfill our perhaps-unwarranted, certainly ill-advised belief in these Cubs.

I was certain I wouldn't witness history. I was certain Darin Erstad would ruin everything. I was in a state of highly guarded optimism when I watched it. Where were you?


In a NASCAR race, five bonus points are awarded to any driver that leads a lap and five bonus points are awarded to any driver that leads the most laps. Were the same brilliant, revolutionary scoring method implemented in professional football, the Bears certainly wouldn't have come three "official points" within notching a "statistical win" against the Carolina Panthers today.

Substitute laps with quarters and, by my calculation, for three quarters with the lead and the points for the team who leads the most quarters, the Bears are up 37-20.

Perhaps the problem today was that the game itself was simply too long. This thing was over when the Bears were ahead 17-3, and clearly the refs should have called it -- not unlike a boxing KO. If you let any game go on long enough, it's almost certain that the other team will eventually come back and score 17 unanswered "official points." Because this is an inevitability in a game that's allowed to just drag on, the Panthers really don't deserve those "official points" -- and the Bears are up 37-3.

Then if you take into consideration the intangibles -- such as the fact that we represent Chicago and they don't even represent a city, but rather than a conglomeration of two states whose individuality has been stripped from them -- then things start to look even sunnier. I'd give us three points just for that. And suddenly the Bears lead 40-3.

Add to all of this the fact that in college football, it's considered taunting to boastfully pound one's chest with one's fist as Jake Delhomme so brutishly did during the third quarter and you really have to negate that Panthers field goal.

So the way I see it, Bears win 40-0. For those of you counting real points at home, that's a shutout. A shutout!

Not sure about you folks, but I'm perfectly content with a 40-0 shutout.

Never mind the fact that Devin Hester suffered a mystery injury to his ribs. Last I checked, ribs were made for healin'. 

Never mind the fact that tight end Greg Olsen couldn't seem to stop giving the ball to the other team. Last I heard, altruism and benevolence were considered virtues.

How easy it is to overlook the fact that rookie Matt Forte looked sharp again, and carried for 92 yards. That they were stylishly gained should be reason enough to add another 20 or so to that total.

Roman Modrowski asks us on the Full Court Press blog: Where did this game go wrong? But considering today's 40-0 victory by true-point standards, I have to ask, where did this game go right, and how else can this team go right?

Congrats, boys. C'mon home a perfect 2-0!
The White Sox announced today that their 2009 television broadcasts will have a new member.

"Steve Stone will slide from the radio booth over to TV after agreeing to a six-year deal to handle color-analyst duties for television broadcasts beginning in 2009, the Sox said today.
I've long maintained that Stone is one of the premier color analysts out there and that it was a shame that things got awkward with the Cubs.

Does the introduction of the former Cy Young winner excite you? Are you more apt to tune into a Sox broadcast now? And what about the Hawk-Stone dynamic? Will they mesh together?
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(Thomas DeLaney Jr./STNG)

I can't say that I saw "Bring It On" or the subsequent sequels, but I doubt they are as interesting as the story coming out of Green Bay this evening.

Apparently, 33-year-old Wendy Brown really wanted to be a high school cheerleader. And although I never saw "Never Been Kissed", I doubt Josie Geller stooped to the level of stealing her daughter's ID to fulfill her dreams.

u-bolt.jpgUsain Bolt, the world's fastest man and dancing machine, would have run his 100-meter race in Beijing in 9.55 seconds if he hadn't celebrated early.

So says Norwegian physicist Hans Eriksen.
Blimey! In news that has thrown me bum-over-noggin, it looks like some English dude named William Bray mentions Base Ball in a 1755 diary entry.

"Julian Pooley, the manager of the Surrey History Centre in England, said Thursday he has authenticated a reference to baseball in a diary by English lawyer William Bray dating back to 1755 - about 50 years before what was previously believed to have been the first reference to what became the American pastime.
The notion that the national pastime may have originated overseas just doesn't sit well. It certainly makes this ditty a little less appealing.



What do you think? Big deal or small deal?
ozzieguillen.jpgI'll go out on a limb and guess that nothing Ozzie Guillen can say would surprise you. In an issue of Sporting News that hit newsstands today, he dishes out some strong, expletive-filled opinions.

Again, nothing new. But still entertaining.
Jim Tressel says Heisman candidate Beanie Wells, primary ball toter for The Ohio State Uinversity, is now doubtful for Saturday's epic clash in Los Angeles against USC.

Will Farrell approves.
Ted Lilly may be a pitcher, but he proved last night that he's not afraid to get his hands dirty. Just ask St. Louis Cardinals' catcher Yadier Molina.



The Sun-Times sports staff appears to be giant fans of this move.

Remember 9/11

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It's hard to believe it's been seven years since that horrific day. And it's harder to believe that we need reminding that this is the anniversary of that fateful event.

Please take a moment today to hug your loved ones and cherish the gift of life while remembering all the families that were forever effected by this tragedy.
Faithful Sports Pros(e) reader and commenter "bruce" has suggested we trot out the Wade Boggs story. Since he happens to be the father of this humble blogger, we have no choice but to cave to this demand.

I first stumbled across the gem in April and since have made it a point to bring it up as much as humanly possible. It is truly one of the best stories I've ever heard.

It involves Hall of Fame third baseman and a whole bunch of beer.
Boston Red Sox first baseman and conversation enthusiast Sean Casey is widely regarded as one of the friendliest guys in baseball. Red Sox starting pitcher Paul Byrd has a windup straight out of 1926. Thankfully, someone gave these goofy dudes a camera and the topic of clubhouse buffets.
Front-Page-Portrait.jpgHere at Sports Pros(e) we love to see when sports wiggles its sporty behind into all things pop culture and politics. So it thrilled us this afternoon to mosey across a few stories about a young New York politician named Daniel Squadron.

Squadron, 28, played Giants to 30-year incumbent Martin E. Connor's Patriots, defeating him in the Democratic primary for New York State Senate. Meanwhile, a look back at Squadron's career shows that he played the part of an in-training Tom Brady to Sen. Charles E. Schumer's Drew Bledsoe when he worked as an aide in Schumer's office.

The sportly metaphors don't end there. The Village Voice gives Squadron a one-two punch of criticism in a recent article, even going so far as to say he has "a glass jaw" when it comes to stepping up to tough questions about his finances.

Squadron's story thus far -- that of a rookie who seems to come from out of nowhere to shock the cagiest of veterans -- reminds us that sometimes, an underdog isn't an underdog at all, but rather a topdog whose face the spotlight has yet to hit at just the right angle.

That's what's fun about politics and that's why we love sport. That nothing's given. That an unknown can shock us all.

It's explains the world's fascination with a Chicagoan named Obama and an Alaskan named Palin.

And it explains Chicago's newest fascination with a guy named Matt who, to quote Teddy Roosevelt, speaks softly and carries a big stick -- or football.


What could possibly be more embarassing than breaking your leg while you celebrate scoring a goal?

If the goal didn't even count.

Real Salt Lake forward Fabian Espindola's aerial acrobats took a turn for the worse when he stuck the landing on a nifty flip and fractured his left leg. Video after the jump.
If you've ever wanted Arkansas State Red Wolves gear, yesterday was the day to stock up.

"Hoppy Hoffman, who owns a store that sells Arkansas State apparel, came up with a new promotion this season: 1 percent off after each home football game for every point the Red Wolves win by.

Then Arkansas State won its home opener 83-10 on Saturday.

"We had a ball with it," said Hoffman, who owns The Design Shoppe. "It was so much fun yesterday."

In other lopsided action, the Slovakia women's hockey team took it the Bulgarians, 82-0.

"Slovakia outshot the Bulgarians 139-0 during the 60-minute game, played in Latvia. The margin of victory is a record for a women's International Ice Hockey Federation-sanctioned event.

Bulgaria was outscored 192-1 in the Olympic qualifying tournament.

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(Matthew Grotto/STNG)

Call me lame, but I can't get enough of these animals-doing-things-people-do stories. Whether it's a water-skiing squirrel or a Frisbee-catching dog, you know people are going to automatically joke that the animal can perform this skill just as well as a human professional.

The latest example? Tonka, the football-snapping dog from Tinley Park.
Greg Oden, blocked shot and high-percentage field goal enthusiast, probably doesn't have a future as a professional singer.



In all fairness, this took place at a charity event and we commend Oden for giving back to the community.
Sure, Matt Forte looked good. Kyle Orton managed the game well. The defense was stellar. But don't buy into all the hype and good vibes surrounding the Bears' 2008 campaign.

Evidently, the world could end on Wednesday when scientists in Switzerland will attempt to re-create the immediate aftereffects of the Big Bang.
jobac.jpgGoogle Trends shows that the fourth most searched phrase this morning is "Java Chamberlain". Really, world? JAVA Chamberlain?

In non-sick coffee flavor news, Ryan Ward has been busted for impersonating Yankees relief starting relief pitcher Joba Chamberlain.
bears.jpgBrandon McGowan, Charles Tillman and Kevin Payne do the safety dance. (AP Photo)

As the saying goes, what a difference a day makes. Twenty four hours ago, it's safe to say that the vast majority of informed football enthusiasts didn't expect the Bears to win, much less dominate the Colts 29-13 in a game that was pretty much in the books by the middle of the third quarter. It's safe to say, however, that I was a bit more optimistic than the average football enthusiast with my 32-24 prediction yesterday.

But even I didn't expect the Bears' defense to fare as well as it did against a Manning-led Colts offense. As Danimal pointed out in a comment on yesterday's Bears Brightside, "Well, you got the bears offense right, but why give them so little credit on defense?" Well put for a man who claims to be half-Dan, half-animal.

Just so we never forget the haters, here's a look back at some of the Tribster's Bears-related headlines from before last night's big victory over the Indianapolis Colts:

Rick Morrissey: No cause for optimism with Bears

Mike Downey: Bears unlikely to surprise in 2008

The closest the Tribsters came to anything resembling accuracy in the days leading up to yesterday's victory came from David Haugh:

5 ways Orton can succeed in the Bears' offense

Note to Colts: We're not in 2006 anymore -- subtitled 'Injuries to Colts' offensive line, Manning's lack of practice present opportunity for upset'

And here are some of the headlines following the Bears' victor (Note that none are titled 'I was wrong; Kevin was right':

Forte shines in debut as Bears stun Colts

Pretty good as openers go

Rick Telander: Backfield bonanza

Couch: A re-defining moment

Mike "Bears unlikely to surprise" Downey: Showtime for Bears

David Haugh: Bears gushing in Lucas Oil opener

So what can we take from the Bears' opener? Are they 'back' in that pessimistic way that Midway Monster doubters try to crawl secretly back onto the Bears bandwagon?

That would indicate that the Bears went somewhere in the first place. Expect the doubters to question whether this week was a fluke and hearken the Bears' playoff loss to the Panthers to end the 2005 season as an indicator of how the team might perform next Sunday.

Jake Delhomme and the Panthers hung on by their fingernails to 'Shock the Chargers' yesterday. They're battered. They're not as deep as the Bears. This team's in good shape. This city's in good shape. Get excited, Chicago. We're better than they thought and at least as good as I think.


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Well, it looks like that the NFL hasn't exactly given the "all clear" on this name-changing business.

" According to a press release by the Cincinnati Bengals, the NFL informed Ocho Cinco earlier Sunday that he will have to wear his original name on the back of his jersey.

Ocho Cinco stepped on the field Sunday with the nameplate "C. Johnson." The receiver had a legal name change in the state of Florida this summer so he could wear his former nickname of "Ocho Cinco" this season. Although the NFL recognized the name change, the release says "certain issues remain [with the NFL] to be resolved before Ocho Cinco will be permitted to wear his new surname on his jersey."

"He will wear the name Johnson on his jersey today and will be referred to as Chad Johnson on the official play-by-play sheet," the statement said. "Further questions should be directed to the league office."

Whatever his name is caught a grand total of one ball for 22 yards in the Bengals' 17-10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

brady injured.jpgTom Brady, Super Bowl and supermodel enthusiast, may be out for the year after sustaining a injury in today's game against Kansas City.

"The Patriots offered no official word about the extent of Brady's injury -- ''They're looking at him, doing some tests on him, so I don't have any information there,'' coach Bill Belichick said after the game -- or about how long he would be out, but Yahoo! Sports reported Brady, who wasn't available for comment, is expected to miss the rest of the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in the knee.

''It's bad,'' a team source told Yahoo! Sports. ''We're going to have to play without him.''

One Patriots player told ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer: ''[Matt] Cassel's our quarterback for the rest of the year.''

Video of the injury, complete with another very concerned Michigan Man, after the jump.
lionsweek1.jpgFor those of you not familiar with the Rewriting History segment, here's a crash course. We take the headline of the day surrounding our team of choice and attack it with the big, red teacher's pen until it reads how we want it.

Kevin handles the Bears. I handle the Lions.

Obviously, today was not a good day to be me.
In today's Sun-Times, each of our noble columnists chose the Bears to lose tonight's game against the Colts.

Only Rick Telander thought the Bears would finish within a touchdown in this Super Bowl XLI rematch.

Meanwhile, the Tribsters have become completely obsessed with Kyle Orton's facial/neck hair when they're not too busy predicting that the Bears will not win more than eight games this season.

Phooey.

Baloney.

I'd like to go on record on this, the first official NFL Gameday Sunday of the season, and reiterate my unwavering, righteously indignant belief in the Bears this season. This is a franchise that thrives on lack of expectation and on-paper talent. It's a franchise that constantly challenges us all to rethink our notions of exactly how an NFL team should be run. It's a franchise that, yes, in the past has caused us to think twice about whether we want to spend time, emotion, energy and prayer on any sports team ... ever.

But we are Chicago.

We're not, as one Deadspin contributor who doesn't even live in the Midwest and grew up nowhere near the Chicago metro area so smugly dubbed us, the city of Shrugged Shoulders. We're Chicago. Which means that even if we don't win, we still win. We may not have invented the mustache, but we perfected it. We may not have invented encased meat, but we devour it with more reckless abandon than Austria and Germany combined. And we may not have invented losing, but we do it with more charm, style and gut-wrenching epicness than anyone in the world.

We win because we're nothing more than Chicago -- City of the Century, birthplace of grit. I'd take a thousand Cade McNowns over one Tom Brady if it meant that I never had to live anywhere else or root for any other team with the blind optimism of a gadfly.

With that, I offer this prognostication: Bears 32, Colts 24.
chuck.jpgKyle Orton's not the only one stepping back into the limelight this weekend after some time off. Ultimate Fighting Championship icon Chuck Liddell stepped back into the octagon last night at Atlanta's Phillips Arena to face Rashad Evans.

It wasn't pretty. The 38-year-old Liddell was knocked out 1:51 into the second round with a mighty overhand right to the jaw.
cowley3.jpgcowley3.jpgcowley3.jpg cowley3.jpg

Whoever decided to get Sun-Times White Sox beat writer Joe Cowley a twitter account deserves a raise. The man flat out understands how to use this new-fangled gadget.

His latest gem may take the cake.
Fourth quarter begins with a Percy Harvin touchdown off an option. It just reminds us how much we truly love running the option in football video games.

Miami, entirely anemic on offense, then promptly gives up. Herbstreit questions Miami's conditioning and maturity level.

Tebow gets back to Superman form with a touchdown toss to Louis "We're The U" Murphy. Musberger reminds us all that "A lot can happen in nine minutes," but we know he's sort of lying.

Musberger then reminds us that no one can call "fumble!" quite like Brent Musberger with a bit of upward inflection at the crescendo. Unfortunately for the 'Canes, they're unable to recover said fumble.

Herbstreit and Musberger revisit the Washington-BYU situation. "We've seen a lot more things that are worse that have not been called," says Herbstreit. Their chiding is cut short when Tebow throws a deep touchdown to a sticky-handed Louis Murphy. Ironically, it's called back because of a cheeky penalty.

And just when you thought his amazing day was over, look who's back, this time tripping up Brandon James, saving a touchdown on a punt return. "Bosher should be a safety," said Musberger. "This is unbelievable." Matt Bosher: Kicker. Hitter. And one heck of an American.

Gator fans chant "SEC" and this one's in the books. Gators win 26-3.

During the post-game interview, Tebow's tractor beam eye contact with Erin Andrews is interrupted for only a moment -- long enough for him to pat a 'Cane on the shoulder to say "Good job, man." Tebow: class act.
Matt Bosher literally kicked off the second half with another solid hit on Brandon James.

Robert Marve -- whose play-action ability is Houdini-esque -- came back into the game, but neither team seemed to want to offend the other by scoring. Herbstreit thinks the Miami QB's bravado is Marvelous. Pun reluctantly intended.

Herbstreit seems to think that Florida fans were less than enthusiastic about their team's chances during the taping of College Gameday. Perhaps they're thoughts are focused more on certain impending doom.

A debate about who's "The U" is settled by wide receiver Louis Murphy, who Musberger quotes as saying, "We're the 'U'. I don't refer to them as the 'U'. I refer to them as Miami. If the 'U' is for university and winning championships, we're the 'U'. They are Miami, and that's what I call them."

Carl Moore's crucial, injury-inducing 28-yard catch at the Miami five yard line was the first spark of offense in the third quarter -- and it came with 30 seconds left. Better late than weather.

Florida leads 9-3 and is threatening. Players chuck four fingers into the air and we'll soon find out to whom the fourth quarter actually belongs.


They're getting cocky down in Greenville. A visit to the Web site of the town's Daily Reflector newspaper reveals the top headlines: "ECU is two for two" and "Hanna hurries by."

OK, Greenville. We get it. You're having a really good weekend. You've avoided destruction and bested the No. 8 team in the nation in West Virginia. And you're the BMX capitol of the United Sates, according to your Wikipedia page.

Sure, East Carolina has beaten three ranked teams in a row and looks poised to ease through the Conference USA schedule. But c'mon, Greenville. You and your approximate 209,000 residents don't really think you can keep this hot streak up, do you?

We're watching you, Greenville. And as for you, Daily Reflector. Shame. Shame. Just because the city you serve has become infested with braggadocios doesn't mean you need to reflect that bravado ... daily.

We're watching, Greenville. Oh, we're watching.

The inimitable Robert Marve began the second quarter by "taking a beating," which cleared the way for true freshman Jacory Harris to enter the ballgame. Harris led the team to victory last week over Charleston Southern.

Matt Bosher's 50-yard field goal brought the game to 7-3 and erased, if only for a moment, the memory of his 14-yard punt in the first quarter that led to the Gator touchdown. Wait a minute ... so he's the field goal kicker and the punter? Well played, Miami. Well played, indeed.

Tim Tebow refuses to slide. We like that, fans like that ... jury's still out for Herbstreit.

Brent Musberger called the situation in Washington-BYU game "ridiculous." He sounded mad. Very mad. Kirk Herbstreit called it a "horrendous call by a PAC 10 official in Seattle."

It's been an emotional evening so far for Matt Bosher, who had a punt blocked in the endzone for a safety. "You fight, scratch and claw at the University of Florida to be on the punt team," says Herbie. It's Urban Meyer's baby.

Bosher's emotional night continued after the safety when he made a very un-punterlike tackle near midfield that involved the pile driving of super-returner Brandon James.


Florida's up 7-0 at the end of the first quarter. The Gators looked like they could dominate, then quickly looked like they would rather let this be a game.

We started things off with Erin Andrews being told by Urban Meyer that under no uncertain terms would the Gators be looking to lighten the load of Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow. Back in the booth, Kirk Herbstreit informed us that, indeed, he knew better than the team's head coach that they will be trying to lighten Tebow's proverbial load.

He may not have great listening skills, but Herbstreit sure enjoys watching the 'Canes redshirt freshman quarterback Robert Marve --

"He's like the Little Engine Who Could: 'I think I can, I think I can.' First down! Move the sticks for the first time in the history of young Robert Marve's career. He moves the 'Canes into an opportunity to have another opportunity at a set of downs."

*** Should be noted that no one yet has used the phrase 'marvelous' in reference to any play by Robert Marve.

*** According to Brent Musberger, the 'Canes invented swagger. Ironically, the wet suit was invented by a man who graduated from Miami ... of Ohio, the late Hugh Bradner.


College Football Game Lounge

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Usain Bolt, Jamaican sprinter and being-faster-than-anyone-in-history enthusiast, is truly electric.

Yesterday, the three-time gold medalist registered a 9.77 in the 100 meters after nearly falling out of the blocks. I'm certainly no Grantland Rice, so let's just let the videotape do the talking.
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Carlos Quentin sits -- dejected, forlorn, in pain -- in the dugout Friday night during the White Sox game against the Angels at the Cell. (AP Photo)

Remember how Carlos Quentin has pretty much kept the White Sox in the playoff hunt all season, saving face for the team's general manager Kenny Williams along the way?

Yeah, that's all pretty much moot now that Quentin broke his wrist and may be out for the rest of the season. However, he would like everyone to know that it was NOT a rage-induced wall punch that busted his right wrist, as was the rumor Joe Cowley told us via Twitter.

As he told the Trib's Mark Gonzales:

"My last at-bat, second pitch, I fouled it off against [Cliff] Lee," Quentin said in describing how he broke his wrist Monday in Cleveland. "Something I've done thousands of times since I was a kid. I had my bat in my left hand and kind of hit down on the bat head with my right hand [with a] closed fist. I hit it a little bit low and nicked my wrist.

He would also like (the other) Sox Nation to know that he did not punch a wall. Once again, the words of my mother come back to ring true: Don't hit.

But if he must hit, I offer this advice to Quentin: Hit a (soft) wall. Hit a pillow. Just don't hit the top of your bat. Otherwise, your team might wind up feeling queasy, as Chris de Luca tells us.
piniella.jpgHere's one.

Cubs manager Lou Piniella showed up three hours later than he planned to Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati Friday night. Turns out he and first-base coach Matt Sinatro got lost in Ohio and drove 90 miles in the wrong direction.

It'd probably be funnier if the Cubs hadn't lost their sixth straight game.
In a move that will make a lot of fictional Law & Order defense attorneys happy, the LPGA today decided that English-only rule was a little silly after all.

As first casually opined on this here blog, the backlash finally caught up with this surprisingly un-PC policy.
Lots of times people ask me why I take such an irreverent view when it come to all the sports. The answer, and I hope this isn't oversimplifying it, is that for every seemingly devastating buzzer-beater your team sustains, there is a side-splitting blooper. In short, you never know when a squirrel is going to run all over a baseball field.

Hilarity after the jump.
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clintonportis.jpgBecause the Cubs and White Sox have both been crushing it all summer, the beginning of the NFL season kind of crept up on us here at Sports Pros(e). In hindsight, a mildly funny season preview would have been a smart thing for us to do. Alas, such a thing didn't happen.

The least we could do is make an uninformed prediction about the big kickoff game tonight.
Well, it's safe to say that Daunte Culpepper's career didn't quite go as planned. The three-time Pro Bowler and lobbing-it-up-to-Randy Moss enthusiast today announced his retirement from the NFL.

And apparently he did it by sending an e-mail to the NFL Network's Adam Schefter.
jeredweaver.jpgThe Detroit Tigers have grossly underachieved this year. They're going to inexplicably miss the playoffs, but that doesn't mean they can't be spoilers down the stretch.

And if Jered Weaver's hand injury is an indication, they're going to find unique ways to do it.
Giants Rockes Baseball.jpgHere's a heart-warmer: Scott McClain has been a minor league baseball player for 19 years. Last night, he socked his first home run in the majors for the San Francisco Giants.

This from ESPN.com:

"The last three or four years, I've said this is my last season going in, but for some reason I end up putting up fairly decent numbers, and it makes it worth it to come back," said McClain, who has played in just 32 major league games.

For sheer dedication and stick-to-it-iveness, we give Scott McClain this week's Sports Pros(e) smile, wink and acknowledging head nod award. (it's a coveted award, don't knock it)

Perhaps more miraculously in the game, future where-are-they-now fodder subject Barry Zito pulled off his third win in his last four starts.

It's a sad day, indeed, for doubting Thomases everywhere.
Lewis Lazare reports that the Cubs and White Sox are embarking on a pretty 'effing creative ad campaign. Starting tomorrow you can expect to see this sign outside of Wrigley Field:


effen.jpeg

Surely teaming with a Dutch vodka company can only help in the quest for the first World Series since 1908. For context, prohibition didn't take effect until 1920.
westham.jpgIn case you're keeping score at home, this is the second soccer-related post in the past 39 hours. I make no apologies.

The presidential candidate not appearing on tarmacs* with Levi Johnston is evidently a long shot to take over as manager of West Ham, a member of the English Premier League.

*Barack Obama
02_levi_lgl.jpgFirst, it was the news that Levi Johnston, the most famous high school hockey player of all time, was the father of Bristol Palin's baby. Then, it was Blackhawks promo night at the Cubs game last night, with defenseman Brian Campbell singing the seventh-inning stretch.

And now, never one to avoid stealing a headline, that lovable scamp Johnston is set to join the Palin family on stage at the Republican National Convention, according to the Associated Press. Plus, he's getting tarmac face time with John McCain himself.

Forget the political implications. We're much more interested in what this means for America's fourth-most-popular professional sport.

The NHL season doesn't hit the ice until Oct. 4, but already hockey has invaded the collective subconscious -- at least here in the Midwest -- in ways we've never seen before.

The important question amid all this hoopla is this: Has the American mainstream finally come around to jumping on the hockey bandwagon, eh?

Is Levi Johnston -- the 18-year-old dubbed 'hunk' by too many media outlets to count -- exactly the unintended marketing tool that this too-oft-forgotten sport needed to boost its highlights from the final moments of Sports Center to -- dare I say -- the middle of the show!?!?!?

So enticing has this one amateur hockey player become to the media that it's gone and tracked down his mother, a self-proclaimed "country gal," who wants no part of the spotlight.

So attractive is this story that media outlets have taken to quoting the infamous unnamed 'relative' with this provocative nugget: "He's a good guy."

I can't imagine what's next for young Levi Johnston along this rocky road he faces. But one thing is for sure: The most famous high school hockey player of all time is good -- no, great -- for a sport that's getting better at being perceived as getting much better.
It seems there's a lot of tension surrounding the Cubs today. Visual evidence here, here and also here.

So it seems like a good time to provide a little levity via some snatch-and-grab video work. Let's take a look at Jim Edmonds' strange trip into the ivy last night.



When Ohio State coach Jim Tressel was playing coy with Heisman contender Beanie Wells' injury, the ever-intrepid reporters at the Columbus Dispatch sought out a different source.

Beanie's mom.
Detroit Lions' running back Tatum Bell allegedly celebrated his first mention on Sports Pros(e) in an unusual fashion. He apparently stole new running back Rudi Johnson's bags.

I've mentioned I love the Lions, right?

Our de facto younger brother Ricky O'Donnell tells us that Johnson's fantasy value just skyrocketed, but the real story is the backfield rivalry larceny that's brewing sweeping through  the Motor City.
rickywilliams.jpgThere was a time when even the least funny guy you know was cracking wise about Ricky Williams and marijuana. But it turns out that the former Texas Longhorn and nose ring enthusiast might be the one getting the last laugh.

Williams signed a one-year contract extension with the Miami Dolphins this weekend and by all accounts seems like he's got his life moving in the right direction. He's taking classes at Nova Southeastern University and plans on becoming a doctor after he retires from football.
rudi.jpgOne of the things we like to do for fun around here is to put a positive spin on the events unfolding around our favorite football teams. Mr. Allen first explored this here.

Today, I'll take a look at the Lions' signing of Rudi Johnson and how it all but guarantees Detroit a trip to the playoffs.
tony.JPGYou're probably wondering what Tony Stewart is really like. Sure, you see him turning left repeatedly and throwing hands in pit road, but what about the man underneath the orange jumpsuit?

It turns out he's quite the character. One might go so far as to describe him as a modern-day Babe Ruth.
A.J. Pierzynski, White Sox catcher and getting-in-the-middle-of-stuff enthusiast, recently executed  a creative baserunning maneuver that propelled his team to victory. But Pierzysnki's 'reach out and touch someone' move pales in comparison to the nimble dancing stylings of one Fernando Perez.
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Brittney McGlone leads a pack of stiletto-wearing Australians who set a world record for ... um ... most random world record ever set? (AP Photo)

Brittney McGlone can run fast in fancy shoes -- this, according to Reuters. She proved it today when she won the first-ever Stiletto Sprint at Sydney Harbour in Australia. The 18-year-old McGlone joined 264 stiletto-sporting sprinters in setting a new world record for the most women to run an 80 meter dash wearing 75mm high heels.

McGlone didn't just win, as the video below shows. She dominated. Perhaps she'll feel a bit lonely at the top, however, after she sees the video and the other runners finishing in arm-locked solidarity.


amd_levi-hockey.jpgHe's suddenly the most famous high school hockey player of all time.

So dedicated to the sport of hockey is Levi Johnston that he declared on his MySpace page, "I live to play hockey," according to the New York Daily News.

So dedicated to the sport is Levi Johnston that he's willing to play through pain -- a cracked tibia, no less -- to help his team to victory, according to the Anchorage Daily News.

Ignoring entirely vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin's plea for privacy, the media has jumped all over the opportunity to discover everything it can about Levi Johnston. All that we here at Sports Pros(e) can deduce at this point is that he's the most famous high school hockey player of all time.

Asking the media not to respect privacy in a family matter is kind of like asking the Mongols to plunder everything but the China -- leave the fine China, please?

To which the Mongols reply simply: Smash.

Deadspin delves into it here.

Huffington Post focuses on the 'redneck' thing here. And Max Blumenthal weighs in with the taste-free, aren't-I-a-clever-devil moniker 'Juno from Juneau.'

Our own Carol Marin, however, reminds us that it's really none of our business to begin with here.
meat.jpgI've longed for the American public to accept soccer into the fold for a long time. The acquisition of David Beckham hasn't exactly done the trick, but I still hold out hope. And the fact that a Romanian club traded a player for 30 kilograms of tasty meat can only help the acceptance process.

Apparently the Illini's season-opening loss to this author's alma mater still stings down in Champaign. As the team's ever-eloquent coach Ron Zook told reporters yesterday, "I was just trying to figure out what was going on with the defense. They were going through us like crap through a goose."

Judging by Illinois' strong showing against a tough Missouri team, Michigan's loss, Northwestern's big win and Ohio State's key injury to Chris Wells, it's going to be an interesting season here in the Midwest.

And now that most of you have access to the Big 10 Network on your television screens, you should definitely check out "Friday Night Tailgate," which is hosted by friend-of-the-blog, friend-of-the-author and fellow Mizzou Tiger Mike Hall. The show's got a new look, a fresh approach and now two of the most talented improvisational actors in the country in Jordan Klepper and Steve Waltien. If you like Big Ten sports and comedy, then my friends you're in for a treat.
Patriots Lynch Football.jpgToday the Patriots cut nine-time pro-bowl safety John Lynch, meaning he won't be a part of the team's 53-man roster when the Pats open their season against the Chiefs next week. Though there's possibility he could rejoin the team later in the season, we here at Sports Pros(e) recall the John Lynch of old -- a John Lynch who would be a boon to any roster around the league.

Once regarded among the hardest hitters in the NFL, Lynch was a key figure in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Super Bowl run during the 2002 season.

The Patriots also cut cornerback Fernando Bryant, who had been taking reps with the first team during the preseason. This surprised even fellow defensive back Rodney Harrison, who simple sentiment to the Boston Globe about summed it up: 'Wow.' The article certainly confirms that there's a lot happening right now in Patriotville.

In honor of Lynch and his hard-hitting ways, we offer a YouTubian tour of some of Lynch's greatest hits of the past year or so:
cc.jpgCC Sabathia, Milwaukee starting pitcher and large back tattoo enthusiast, was straight up dealing against the Pittsburgh Pirates Sunday. The current box score shows that Sabathia threw a one-hitter against the hapless cellar dwellers. But eventually, the big left-hander may be credited with a no-hitter.

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