A hearty stew of offbeat sports and pop culture.

October 2008 Archives

We hope you've got big, candy-infused plans for mayhem tonight. Until then, here's "Thriller" in its entirety to tide you over.

Thank you for your continuing support of Sports Pros(e).



mcbride.jpgLast night in Foxboro, Mass., the Chicago Fire and New England Revolution battled to a 0-0 draw in the playoff opener for both teams. The teams ran up and down the field for a full 90 minutes and some extra time, but could not muster one goal between them.

One of the veteran copy editors was engrossed in the action, his eyebrows raising each time a squad made a push into enemy territory. He was the only one in the newsroom watching. One person went so far as to remark that a 0-0 draw was a complete and utter waste of everyone's time.

Now, soccer is sort of the Buster Bluth of sports in America -- the littlest brother that gets picked on and mostly ignored. For the record, I've only recently become a fan and most of that has to do with how much I like playing FIFA 2008. But we thought it'd be fun to debate the merits of a 0-0 soccer match here in this forum.

Don't worry, I haven't forgotten about the Cubs and Sox' search for a leadoff hitter or the next savior of Bulls basketball's special place in the world. But if we live in a world where Reece Davis can put on a judge's outfit and rule on arbitrary matters, then we all should.

Heck, it's the cool new thing to do around suntimes.com.

A 0-0 soccer tie is totally worth it

What you've got to understand is that this is the playoffs. Simply put, these games count. A 0-0 tie is exactly the same in the ledger as a 3-3 tie. When the scene shifts back to Toyota Park, the Fire will have the home-pitch advantage. How do you not get excited about that? How do you not get excited about demeaning someone who calls it home-field?

Moreover, it's the playoffs. I'd watch the playoffs of anything. The WNBA, arm-wrestling, chili-cooking. If there's a competition ripe for dramatics, then you can bet it holds my attention. Just because there weren't goals doesn't mean there weren't spectacular, athletic plays. Maybe the reason no one scored was because there were a multitude of well-judged, well-timed challenges.

There's beauty in soccer's details, my friends. It's like an Aaron Sorkin show: a little slow and boring at first, but rife with intriguing layers. A perfectly paced through ball to a midfielder might not be as sexy as a LeBron James' slam dunk, but each sport has to be assessed on its own merits.
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Also, Chicago was playing the New England Revolution. As good Midwesterners, we have a duty to oppose all East Coast teams, especially if they come from a town that fancies itself the greatest thing since sliced bread -- thanks to Mr. Garnett, Brady and Ortiz.

I'll grant that a 0-0 certainly isn't the apex of professional sports, but in a world where ESPN routinely shows over-caffeinated card sharks chasing straights and flushes, I welcome any type of "real sport" I can get.

Now, somebody please tell me how wrong I am.

BY MIKE LANSU Sports Pros(e) NBA Guy

What can we learn from the first game of an NBA rookie? Nothing. But that doesn't mean I'm not going to break down the debuts of the six rookies who could make a significant impact this season.

Last season's No. 1 pick Greg Oden missed all of last season with a knee injury and sprained his foot in the first half of the Blazers' opener. It's safe to say it won't be the last time the Indianapolis native finds himself on the IR this season.

Memphis' O.J. Mayo and Miami's Michael Beasley sure like to shoot, but if they don't start making some baskets they will find themselves on the bench in a hurry.

Thumbnail image for kevinlove.jpgChicago's Derrick Rose and Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook looked good and OK, respectively, in their Association debuts. Both shot the ball effectively, got to the free throw line and had a limited number of turnovers for a rookie point guard.

The most impressive rookie: Minnesota's Kevin Love. The big man with lots of basketball skills and no athleticism shot effectively, crashed the boards, contributed on defense and limited his turnovers.

Here are my Rookie Rankings after Game 1:

1. Kevin Love: 12 points (5-of-8 FG, 2-of-2 FT), 2 assists, 9 rebounds, 1 steal, 2 blocks, 2 turnovers.

2. Derrick Rose: 11 points (3-of-9 FG, 5-of-7 FT), 9 assists, 4 rebounds, 3 steals, 0 blocks, 4 turnovers.

3. Russell Westbrook: 13 points (4-of-9 FG, 4-of-6 FT), 4 assists, 4 rebounds, 0 steals, 1 block, 2 turnovers.

4. Michael Beasley: 9 points (4-of-14 FG, 0-of-0 FT), 0 assists, 4 rebounds, 0 steals, 0 blocks, 3 turnovers.

5. O.J. Mayo: 10 points (5-of-20 FG, 0-of-0 FT), 2 assists, 5 rebounds, 2 steals, 0 blocks, 3 turnovers. (Note: Missed all 7 three-point attempts).

6. Greg Oden: 0 points (0-of-4 FG, 0-of-2 FT), 0 assists, 5 rebounds, 1 block, 2 turnovers. (Note: Left game in first half with a sprained right foot).
Oh, thank God. Here we were thinking that the Cubs' collapse in the playoffs in three straight games against the Dodgers earlier this month was a result of an inability to execute on offense and field ground balls. Turns out it has more to do with a tattoo parlor in Tennessee and a mildly humorous joke.

It all started when Jimmy Burroughs made the decision to get a tattoo of an adolescent blue bear walking in front of a giant red letter 'C' -- some may call it the "Cubs logo." But Jimmy got more than he bargained for. Jimmy got way more than he bargained for. In fact, Jimmy was so displeased with what he bargained for that Jimmy got a refund of the $190 he dropped on the tattoo in the first place.

Turns out while Gatlinburg, Tenn. tattoo artist Deke Rivers was making Jimmy's tattoo, he thought it would be funny to etch the words "Go Cards" into the logo before filling it in. As a joke. Because, as we all know, tattoos are not something permanent that go on the body, but rather a venue -- a medium, if you will -- by which to bring the world a bit of joy through the gift of humor.

Rivers eventually filled in the logo and covered up the hilarious "Go Cards" joke. But the "Go Cards" lettering can still be seen.

Stltoday.com has the entire story along with a photo of the joke that ended the Cubs' World Series hopes and dreams.

Jimmy told Stltoday.com, "I pretty much blame the tattoo for the Cubs losing."

So right, Jimmy. So right.

And again -- the Cubs' collapse had nothing to do with their inability to produce runs on offense or their inability to effectively catch ground balls with their gloves.

Cubdom can breathe that collective sigh of relief now.
Reigning Associated Press Player of the Year Tyler Hansbrough is out indefinitely with a shin injury.

That's the bad news for North Carolina.

""He'll be ok," Hansbrough's father, Gene, told ESPN.com's Andy Katz. "His leg's been bothering him for a couple of weeks. It's a stress reaction and he needs to rest a bit. He just needs time to let it heal. There is no reason for him to limp through it."

According to ESPN medical analysist Dr. Michael Kaplan, the MRI likely showed increased uptake in tibia (leg bone) suggesting a stress reaction. An overload or overuse type phenomenon occurs with inflammation and, ultimately, fatigue failure with stress fracture. This is a precursor condition to stress fracture. A period of rest is mandatory for tissues to quiet down or worsening injury will result.

The brightside is that they are ranked No. 1 in the ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll.

ESPN/USA Today Poll

 1. North Carolina (31) 0-0 775

 2. Connecticut 0-0 707

 3. Louisville 0-0 694

 4. UCLA 0-0 650

 5. Duke 0-0 578

 6. Pittsburgh 0-0 576

 7. Michigan State 0-0 572

 8. Texas 0-0 538

 9. Notre Dame 0-0 525

10. Purdue 0-0 465

11. Gonzaga 0-0 437

12. Memphis 0-0 425

13. Tennessee 0-0 408

14. Oklahoma 0-0 387

15. Arizona State 0-0 304

16. Miami (FL) 0-0 233

17. Marquette 0-0 219

18. Georgetown 0-0 175

19. Florida 0-0 161

20. Davidson 0-0 158

21. USC 0-0 153

21. Wisconsin 0-0 153

23. Kansas 0-0 130

24. Wake Forest 0-0 129

25. Villanova 0-0 122

Others Receiving Votes

UNLV 60, Saint Mary's 59, Ohio State 54, Baylor 47, Xavier 27, Syracuse 23, Texas A&M 19, LSU 19, Arizona 18, Virginia Tech 15, Brigham Young 13, West Virginia 10, Washington 8, Siena 8, Kentucky 7, Vanderbilt 7, Oklahoma State 4, Clemson 2, Washington State 1.



Now that is out of the way, we can show you this picture.
There are certain things that really reach the highly sought after 18-49 male demographic. Two of them would have to be football and Conan O'Brien. We here at Sports Pros(e) can't believe it took this long to mix the two.



Congratulations Houston Texans' receiver David Anderson, you're our new favorite football player.
USA Today is reporting that the Chinese government created a list of American athletes that might cause trouble at the Beijing Olympic Games this summer.

"The names included softball players Jennie Finch and Jessica Mendoza and soccer player Abby Wambach, who broke her leg and missed the Olympic Games. It also included two Paralympians, one athlete who wasn't a member of the 2008 softball team and a top female collegiate golfer. Golf is not an Olympic sport.

"We viewed these concerns as being entirely unjustified and unwarranted," USOC spokesman Darryl Seibel said in an e-mail Wednesday. "As such, we rejected the request to address this with our athletes or transmit the letter to them. We saw absolutely no need to burden the athletes with this."

Jennie Finch? Paralympians? Nice work, China. Very thorough report.

One athlete on the list couldn't be happier about it.

""This may be the biggest compliment of my life," Wambach, a member of Team Darfur, said in a phone interview when informed of the list. "If they're worried about us, maybe we do have more strength as athletes and as people to speak out. This just gives me more empowerment."

When your local sports team wins a world championship, you earn the right to go a little crazy. But that craziness has it's limits.

For instance, it's probably alright to be a hungover at work today. It's probably even okay if you called in sick.

But, if you're this guy then you've got some explaining to do.



Things escalated quickly! I mean, that really got out of hand.
If you are an ardent follower of "Law & Order", you're probably familiar with cui bono. It's Latin for "as a benefit to who", and it's what Jack McCoy asks his ADA just before they realize the murder was actually committed by the victim's brother. McCoy always gets his man.

So who benefits from the Phillies winning the World Series?

Obviously, those trying to sell rain water from Game 5 at Citizens Bank Park on EBAY.

From EBAY:

"You are bidding on rain from the same storm system that brought the game to a screeching halt. It is in the process of being collected (as I write this) not 5 miles away from Citizens Bank Park. It will be contained in a small vial and then sent to you via priority mail. I do not know what size vial or exactly how much you will get but it will be no less than 2 ml. I took a picture of the rain that I have collected thus far in the pan that is sitting on my front steps. That is the only collection unit that I am using so a very limited number of vials will be available & once they are gone, they are gone. Some will laugh but others will covet this tangible piece of history in the making...

The bidding ends on Nov. 3.
Mos Def has my vote ... if only for his proposal to put a moratorium on the word "shortie." But why limit free breakfast only to kids, Mos? I'm hungry in the mornings too! Enjoy:


Here at Sports Pros(e), we're giant fans of common sense. That's why the following clip is so disturbing.

In last night's Houston-Marshall football game, Cougar wide receiver Patrick Edwards tried to run down a lob in the end zone. The results were disastrous.



What in the heck is that equipment cart doing there? Edwards fractured his leg, ending what had been a stellar freshman campaign.

To their credit, those in the Houston camp seem to be keeping their emotions in check.

"Cougars' coach Kevin Sumlin said that while he had "his opinions" on the subject, he would offer no comment on such a dangerous situation. University of Houston athletics director Dave Maggard said he will pursue the subject with Marshall officials.

"It was duly noted and I think we'll save the conversation for another day," Maggard said. "I don't think there is any question that it is a problem. We all noticed it, and we want to find out why something like that would occur. It was a serious injury, no question about it."

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Asked by Christian Laettner during the 1997 Eastern Conference semi-finals how many children he hoped to one day father, Jason Caffey used his hands to answer. (Sun-Times photo)

Unless you were a superfan of the Bulls championship run during the 90s or one of eight women who bore any of his 10 children, the name Jason Caffey probably doesn't ring a bell.

Caffey won two championships with the Bulls as a reserve power forward, but oh how times have changed. As my grandmother used to say, "Where there is laughter soon will be tears."

Most recently, the AP is reporting that Caffey cannot file for bankruptcy, which opens the door for the eight mothers of his 10 children to sue him for child support.

This isn't the first of Caffey's legal woes, which include an assault charge in 2005 for rendering a male stripper, "too emotional to strip," according to Deadspin.

Earlier this month, Caffey granted an interview to WKRG in Mobile, Ala. shortly after serving an eight-day jail sentence for failure to pay child support for one of his kids. His explanation included: "It's never that I didn't send child support it's just that I didn't send the amount that was said to be sent by the courts."

But wait ... there's more.

When CNN's Nancy Grace is forced to make a flow chart (A FLOW CHART!) of your exploits, it's bad:


Diego Maradona, the Argentinian soccer legend best known for his 1986 "Hand of God" goal against England in the 1986 World Cup, is poised to become the head coach of the Argentina national team.


"Argentinian football legend Diego Maradona is set to be named coach of the national side after he came out of a meeting with Argentinian Football Association president Julio Grondona on Tuesday.

The Albicelestes have been without a coach since Alfio Basile stepped down for personal reasons on October 16 and although Grondona has yet to announce it to the press, reports suggest that the official presentation will take place on Thursday.

The 48-year-old Maradona has just six months of coaching experience under his belt and there is this little issue

Should be interesting.
Detroit Lions fans always need something to dull the pain. Daunte Culpepper could be that something. He wants to be that something.

Culpepper, who earlier this year retired from the NFL, wants to come back. Evidently to a team that is 0-7 and has won one playoff game since 1957.

From the Detroit Free Press:

"Free agent quarterback Daunte Culpepper is visiting the Lions today, after reportedly canceling a visit to Kansas City and saying he is in negotiations with a team that is a better fit.
You're a brave man, Mr. Culpepper. Very brave indeed.

*If I haven't said it before, the Lions won't win more than once this season.

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Today's Bulls preview comes to us courtesy of Mike Lansu, who was glad to take a break from writing about autopsy reports and four-alarm fires. When not breaking cops and court news, you can find him using his lanky frame on the low box at any number of West Side gyms.

The Bulls are the most difficult team in the NBA to project.

They don't have anybody who can consistently score and the other team always has the best player on the floor (Seriously. If you don't believe me, pick a team - any team. They have somebody on the team better than everybody on the Bulls.) The Bulls have a lot of guys who don't play defense and have too many guards and not enough big men.

Can a team with a rookie point guard and head coach live up to last season's preseason expectations of Eastern Conference contenders? Could they actually be worse than last year with Rose and Del Negro? Is sneaking into the playoffs with a record around .500 a good thing for the long-term success of the franchise?

For the Bulls to return to Eastern Conference contenders they will need more than Rose and Del Negro to outperform expectations. The Bulls teams of the mid-2000s that made strides from NBA laughing stocks to contenders had one thing the 2008-09 squad does not: interior presence.

At center, Ben Wallace and Tyson Chandler played like the biggest players in The Association. Offensively, the only thing they provided was a rebounding presence that forced opponents to put an extra body on them, leading to increased rebounding production from the teams' forwards. But defensively, Wallace and Chandler were feared. Opponents were scared to drive, allowing the Bulls' other guards to take chances on the perimeter that led to easy points in transition.

If Del Negro's preseason rotation is any indication, Drew Gooden will be the Bulls' starting center. Offensively, Gooden should succeed against slower centers in transition, but tends to settle for 15-foot jumpers in the half-court game. Having a big body on the perimeter puts a lot of pressure on the forwards and guards to get in the paint and rebound.

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Joakim Noah and Aaron Gray are better suited to play center. However, Noah often plays out-of-control and picks up too many fouls to see major minutes. Gray is one of the slowest players in the league. He makes Will Perdue look fast.

The Bulls will need production out of the forwards if they aren't going to get it at center. Loul Deng is one of the best complementary players in the league, but doesn't have a scorer to create shots for him. For the Bulls to succeed, he will need to create and become that prolific scorer. He is the best player on the team and needs to step up on the offensive end.

If Gooden starts at center, Tyrus Thomas must play power forward. The often-erratic Thomas looked more mature in the preseason, but is still young and probably a year or two away from being a consistently dominant player. He should put up monster numbers in some games, but will be a non-factor in others.


Off the bench, Andres Nocioni is the only established forward coming off the bench. He can play both forward positions, likes to bang in the paint and has a jumper good all the way out to three-point range. He has lost a step and his tendency to get into early foul trouble limits his minutes. SLEEPER: Cedric Simmons could get playing time if Gooden makes a permanent move to center. The athletic N.C. State alum is a more polished but less talented version of Thomas.

When healthy, the Bulls have a bevy of guards that can score and create. Rose will see significant minutes at the point. Hinrich will start at the shooting guard and move to point guard when Rose comes out of the game.

Rose should create for teammates - especially the athletic Thomas - but a poor jumper will make for inconsistent scoring nights. He also needs to work on his defense. Hinrich is the safe choice at shooting guard. He is too small and too slow to dominate offensively, but he won't turn the ball over much and will consistently make open jumpers. He is a tough defender who can guard bigger guards despite giving up a couple inches.

Backup Thabo Sefalosha has looked good in the preseason and should work his way into Del Negro's rotation. He is a lockdown defender with a developing offensive game. He was drafted as a point guard, but that clearly isn't going to work in the NBA and coaches need to move him to shooting guard full time. Gordon will come off the bench, shoot a lot, not play any defense and complain that he is under paid. Larry Hughes is hurt - but it doesn't matter because he won't play much because he is neither talented nor young.

So how many wins can a team with no center and no consistent scorer win? More than you think. While they don't have a consistent 20-plus point-per-game player, they have lots of guys who could go for 30 any night. As long as one player has a great game every night they should contend on the offensive end. And Rose is a smart enough point guard to find the teams go-to guy early in the game and find ways to get him the ball.

When nobody can score they have virtually no chance because they are that bad defensively. Hinrich and Deng are the only starters who play above-average defensive. The bench players just foul - except for Hughes and Gordon who don't even bother to do that.

The Bulls should finish around .500 and sneak into the playoffs, which isn't necessarily a good thing for the long-term development of the franchise. Until the Bulls find a consistent scorer they will linger as a middle-of-the-pack team.

Big night in the Association, not in Philadelphia. Pacey was cooler than Dawson, anyway.

Listed below are a few more reasons to love the Internet.

1. A blogger can name their site "OnlyDrinkHighLife."
2. Said blogger can create a comprehensive list of celebrity look-alikes for the players and coaches involved in the World Series.
3. He can provide splitscreen images to prove his point.
4. I can pass along his work to you, the reader.

World Series Look-Alikes   Only Drink High Life

Did he miss any?
As if any of us needs an excuse to indulge our sweet tooth(s), today is National Chocolate Day. Mild research resulted in the discovery of this Web site, which tries to pass off chocolate as a vegetable. We're not so sure about that. It also offers suggestions on how to fully incorporate chocolate into your menu today.

"Breakfast: Your favorite chocolate cereal along with two or three chocolate cream-filled donuts. Wash it down with a little hot chocolate.

Mid-morning snack: A chocolate candy bar(with or without nuts) to hold you over and give you a boost until lunch.

Lunch: A big tall glass of chocolate milk is a must along with your meal. Try a piece of chocolate pie or pudding for dessert.

Mid-Afternoon: Eat healthy(???) with some chocolate covered raisins. This contains both vegetable and fruit.

 Dinner: If you are an adult, sip a chocolate liqueur before dinner. Chocolate flavored coffee is a must with dinner. Dessert is none other than chocolate cake.

Nighttime snack: Chocolate ice cream, of course!

A pretty daunting lineup, even for the sugar-savvy.

What are your favorite chocolate items?

oakley1.jpgWe're excited about this one. There's a charity auction on eBay right now where you can bid on the opportunity for you and ten of your friends to have a lovely dinner prepared for you by none other than former NBA all-star Charles Oakley.

This is a serious auction, with portions of the proceeds headed to a couple of reputable charities. The bid is currently $357. We can't swing that with our meaty Sports Pros(e) salaries, but perhaps if some of you readers want to go in on it with us, we can all hang with Mr. Oakley in my cozy Wrigleyville apartment.

Currently no word on whether he promises to keep his shirt on ... or off, whichever you may find more savory.

The best part though has to be the free shipping. Now you're talking, Chuck!

Looks like we were not alone in our disbelief that Michigan was awarded a touchdown when they shouldn't have been in Saturday's game against Michigan State.

From the Detroit Free Press:

"Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said the decision by a replay official to award Michigan's Brandon Minor with a touchdown against Michigan State on Saturday, overruling the on-field referee's call, was "not acceptable."

"The people in the replay booth made a mistake," Delany said while meeting with reporters at the conference's basketball media day Sunday. "It wasn't a mistake of judgment; it was a mistake of an application of the rule. They applied the wrong rule and they applied it improperly."
hamelsws5.jpgOh, to be in Philadelphia today. I'd imagine no work is getting done at the office buildings and the kids aren't even pretending to learn anything at school.

That's because the Phillies have a chance to win their first World Series since 1980 when postseason golden boy Cole Hamels takes on Scott Kazmir tonight in Game 5. Hamels has done nothing but win in October, racking up four victories.

If they Rays are entertaining any thoughts of coming back, it's imperative that Evan Longoria and Carlos Pena actually start making contact with the ball. The sluggers have combined to go 0-29 with 15 Ks in the World Series.

It'd be fun to see this series extended, but it's impossible to pick against Hamels right now. Look for the Phillies to wrap it up tonight.

Sports Pros(e) predicts: Phillies 6, Rays 4
Joe Morgan, Hall of Famer and muse of this incredibly popular blog, takes a lot of heat for his commentary. Morgan has been teamed with Jon Miller for 19 years on the weekly Sunday night broadcast, but that partnership could soon be a thing of the past.

From NY Daily News:

"Sources said Morgan could be shifted to the network's midweek baseball telecast, where he would work with a new play-by-play partner.

His likely Sunday night replacement would be Rick Sutcliffe. If there is a switch, it is not a given Miller would stay in the "Sunday Night Baseball" booth, either. He too could be moved to another night or over to the radio side.

"We expect both Jon and Joe to be back in the Sunday night booth next season," an ESPN spokesman said.

Of course there is a big difference between "expect" to be back and definitely returning. So there is something up here. Miller and Morgan have spent nearly two decades together. During that time their relationship has had its rocky moments. That's no secret.

There's something about my being at work, casually monitoring sporting events that brings out the controversial calls.

Yesterday, it was the pylon touchdown in the Michigan-Michigan State game that had our cubicles buzzing. Not to be outdone, the third-base umpire in tonight's Game 4 got his puzzling call out of the way in the first inning.

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That sure looks like Rays third baseman Evan Longoria tagging Jimmy Rollins out at the end of a rundown. The man in blue (or in this case, black) didn't see it that way. Rollins was ruled safe on the play and subsequently scored to give the Phillies a 1-0 lead.

UPDATE: Power hitter and Subway sandwich enthusiast Ryan Howard has just hit an opposite-field three-run homer to give Philadelphia a 5-1 lead in the 4th inning.

Is the improbable run of the Tampa Bay Rays finally coming to an end?

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The Rays, obviously not happy with the way the game is being called, are giving it to the umpires -- who don't seem too amused. Joe Blanton has also homered, prompting the obligatory "Rocky" theme music from FOX.

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The Phillies continue to hit the long ball and it's turned into a blowout, with the Fightin's up 10-2. Jayson Werth did his best Steve Garvey impression after his homer.

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While we understand the Philadelphia fans are excited about what is going to be a 3-1 series lead, we must point out that Ryan Howard isn't quite 35. That renders this sign useless.

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Tony Siragusa makes me happy. Since he played the lovable, wise-cracking veteran on HBO's premiere season of the "Hard Knocks" documentary in 2001, it's always been a pleasure to see "Goose" pop up here and there on my television box.

There was the stint on "Sopranos" where he played bodyguard Frankie Cortese.

Then there was his memorable role as a Russian toughguy in my favorite Spike Lee joint, "25th Hour."

Now, Siragusa makes a living schlepping fine meat products under the moniker Goose's Barbecue. His baby back ribs bear the tag line, "The filet mignon of ribs." I've never had them, but if Tony says it, I believe it.
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I had reservations about watching the Cowboys-Bucs game today because watching Brad Johnson helm an offense is a practice akin to watching the elderly gum moldy cardboard. Then I saw an ebullient Siragusa giving a pre-game sideline report. "Heck yeah," I said, audibly, to no one.

If only Kenny Albert and Daryl Johnston would throw to him more. You've got a diamond roaming the rough sidelines during your broadcast, Fox Sports. I vote you extricate said diamond from the rough -- let's get some shots of Goose housing some BBQ with some fans. I want to see Goose whooping it up with Jessica Simpson, Jerry Jones and sundry ridiculous Dallasians.

We're nearly half-way through the first quarter of the game and there's been nary a peep from Goose. This is football -- an American game. And no one, in my opinion, better represents the American sporting spirit than Tony "Goose" Siragusa.

You're probably sitting there watching the Ohio State-Penn State game right now, wishing someone would score to spice things up. You may be wondering what else is on, exactly how old Joe Paterno is and if you're limber enough to dot the "i" in Ohio.

But one thing we know you're wondering is, "just what is a Nittany Lion?'

From PSU.com:

"The origins of "Nittany" are a bit obscure, but most likely the word comes from a Native American term meaning, "single mountain." (Since a number of Algonquian-speaking tribes inhabited central Pennsylvania, the term can't be traced to one single group.) The description applied to the mountain that separates what is today Penns Valley and Nittany Valley, with its western end overlooking the community of State College and Penn Sate's University Park campus. The first colonial settlers in the 1700s adopted this term, or a variation of it, in formally naming Nittany Mountain.

Thus by the time Penn State admitted its first students in 1859, the word "Nittany" was already in use. Following the emergence of the Nittany Lion mascot in the early 1900s, Nittany gained even more public prominence. Today, the word helps to define a host of places, services, and other entities in the Nittany Valley. Some of those most closely related to Penn State are included here.

Now you know.

It looks like there is going to be baseball in Philadelphia tonight. The grounds crew is taking the tarp off the field and amateur meteorologist Tim McCarver forecasts that the game will begin in 15 minutes.
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UPDATE: We're going to be playing ball, folks. And may I just say ... that Taylor Swift can carry a tune. Her rendition of the national anthem was ... well, World Series material.

The World Series may be delayed tonight by rain, but that probably won't dampen the spirits of the Rays pitching staff, which -- as the headline would suggest -- is ready to take some collective ABs.

According to an article from the St. Pete Times, yesterday's batting practice evolved into a home-run derby for Rays pitchers. And by home run derby, of course we mean a bunting and ground ball contest:

"Three right-handed hitting pitchers -- James Shields, Edwin Jackson and Matt Garza -- took on three lefties -- David Price, Andy Sonnanstine and Scott Kazmir -- in a game rewarding them for successful bunts and opposite-field hits."
Apparently it turned into quite the epic battle:

"With the southpaws trailing 11-3 going into the last inning, they put together a wild comeback. Sonnanstine, Price and Kazmir hit consecutive homers, but the righties prevailed 11-10 when Price flew out to end the friendly competition."
During interleague play this year, the Rays pitchers led the American League in hitting with a .367 batting average. To watch: Sonnanstine is a .400 career hitter. Granted, he's only had 10 at-bats, but still ... that's four more hits in the majors than all of Sports Pros(e) combined.

Meanwhile, the feel-good story of tonight's game is definitely 45-year-old pitcher Jamie Moyer getting his first career World Series start.

He told the Philadelphia Inquirer, ""To get the start for Game 3 is something that I've been dreaming about my whole life."

So who do you like it tonight's game?  Sports Pros(e) is taking the Rays 5-4.
Sitting in the newsroom watching the game, our little quorum of journalists could not believe when the referees went up to the replay booth and returned a touchdown call on the catch by Michigan's Brandon Minor.

michtd.jpgIf we understand correctly, it was ruled a touchdown because Minor's foot hit the pylon in the air.  Our tiny brains thought that the receiver needed to establish contact with the ground in order for it to be a catch.

Judging by Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio's reaction, he concurs.

Can anyone tell us the ruling on this? Do you agree or disagree with the call?

UPDATE: Looks like ABC has a team working on this. Here's what they came up with:

fake rule.jpgThe plot thickens.
Batting Stance Guy is a bit of a cult phenomenon and it's hard what to make of him. For the record, I've never seen anyone better at impersonating the study in subtlety that is the batting stance.

His latest effort features walk-off World Series home runs. Hey, the World Series is going on now! There's a totally tie-in there.

Bonus points for BSG for involving the family dog.

The other day we introduced you to Matt Williams, the Texas Tech student who won a field-goal kicking contest during a timeout of the Red Raiders game against UMass earlier this year. In the tradition of all those movies we loved as kids, he is now the Texas Tech kicker.

Dreams can come true, kids.

Mr. Williams' right leg is getting quite a workout against the Kansas Jayhawks this afternoon. He's connected on all six of his PATs as Texas Tech is de-feathering Kansas, 42-14.
msu vs. mich.jpgUPDATE: What's the deal with that pylon touchdown call?

I've resisted the urge to write anything about the rivalry game taking place in Ann Arbor, Mich. just a few short, overcast hours from now. And I think I know why.

I'm too nervous and scared.

For the past six falls the Michigan Wolverines have found a way to defeat my Michigan State Spartans. They've done it by blowing out out lame-duck coaches, like in 2002. They've done it by dominating the line of scrimmage, like in 2003. And they've done it by ripping the heart out of green-and-white chests and stomping on it, like in 2005.

Long the little brother to the winningest program in history, Michigan State has always been the underdog. It's a role we relish, especially when it affords us the chance to take down the top-rated team in their Big House -- with a little help from a turf monster. But this year seems to be different. The Spartans are 6-2 with one of the most explosive running backs in the nation and the Wolverines are undergoing extreme growing pains under first-year coach Rich Rodriguez. All of this adds up to State being a 4-point favorite on the road. What?

It's scary to have the expectations. It's scary to know that people think Mark Dantonio has the better team. But the scariest part is knowing that if Michigan were to win, it'd be the most painful loss of them all.

So perhaps that's why I avoided talking about the bulletin board material Wolverine defensive end Brandon Graham provided earlier this week. Or why I haven't been basking in the Michigan losses to Toledo and Utah at home. The old maxim that records can be thrown out the window in rivalry games is so true, especially in this case.

The ominous feeling has set in and I want it to go away so bad.

One time, Sparty. One time. That's all we ask.
ESPN.com is reporting that Lute Olsen is retiring. This reminds me of one of the greatest moments of my pre-teen life.

I grew up in a town called Batavia. We didn't have the quaint shops or sundry amenities of our tonier neighbors Geneva and St. Charles (those came later in life along Randall Road). Batavia was a frustrating place to live as a kid because it just wasn't awesome. But then, in the early 90s, we had basketball.

Not only did we have basketball, but we had Corey Williams, a lanky 6-7 forward who is the first person I ever saw dunk a basketball live. I remember it well. It was a game against Waubonsie Valley. He got the ball around the top of the key, slashed through the lane with a single dribble, leapt, and I swear, in slow motion, reached the ball far back behind his head with one hand and hung suspended in air for what had to be seconds as an entire packed gymnasium held its collective breath. And then -- BAM! He slammed the ball through the rim with such ferocity that I was certain something had broken. Something had to have broken!

He was truly, in the eyes of this 11 year old, a God among mortals.

But no one knew how powerful a God Corey Williams was until big names in college basketball started attending games at Batavia High School. Lute Olson was one of those names.

The game he attended was absolutely packed. You had to get tickets in advance back then to see Corey play. There was a rumor going around that Lute Olson was in the crowd, but we figured it was just that -- a rumor -- like the Prestbury Waterheads, the haunted house near Johnson's Mound and other local legends.

But there he was -- a shock of white hair and tanned skin sitting in on the risers at Batavia High School with a University of Arizona Wildcats polo on. It was surreal.

Toward the end of the game, I scampered to the opposite side of the court with some friends so we could stalk Lute Olson and approach him after the game. We had no plan after that. We had no pens to ask for an autograph. Nothing clever to say. We just wanted to position ourselves in front of him. To cross paths with greatness.

And we did it. Three of us little dudes waited for the crowd to clear and went up to Lute Olson. He towered over us. For a second, we all just stared at each other. Then he asked us if we were Arizona Wildcats fans. We lied and said we were -- as if we knew you were allowed to cheer for any non-Big 10 school. Then he told us to get good grades and maybe we could go to University of Arizona. And soon it was over. But we'd done it. We'd crossed paths with Lute Olson.

What he said stuck with me though. The thought of actually being able to some day go to Arizona was entirely foreign before that moment. But coming from Lute Olson it was the truth. We could leave Batavia, leave Illinois and do whatever the hell we wanted.

Lute Olson made me believe that great things could happen in my hometown. His presence -- just his presence -- made me realize that being from Batavia didn't mean that people won't recognize what you do.

I followed Corey's career at Arizona -- and the Wildcats -- very closely until I went to Mizzou and invested my college basketball fandom into that program.

Arizona is losing more than a coach. They're losing a class act that will be terribly hard to follow and an ideal figure head.

It's strange to think that Arizona won't have Lute Olson on its bench this season. And it's strange to think he won't be making anymore visits to small town gymnasiums.


Update: Dick Vitale has a nice farewell to Olson at ESPN.com. He writes, "He is the ultimate Frank Lloyd Wright and has built the program into something very special over the years. Arizona had been in the depths of despair, and he took the school to greatness. There was an excitement in the desert that was so special."

What's on TV tonight, dude?

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Welcome to a new nightly feature here at Sports Pros(e). We're just as big of couch potatoes as you are, if not more. So we might as well give you some direction on what to watch.

Crystal Magnum, the woman at the center of the Duke lacrosse case, appeared publicly today for the first time since making the allegations two years ago. She maintains that she was attacked in an upcoming book.

From the AP:

""Even as I try to move on with my life, I still find it necessary to take one more stand and fight," she writes in the book, "The Last Dance for Grace: The Crystal Mangum Story."

"I want to assert, without equivocation, that I was assaulted. Make of that what you will. You will decide what that means to you because the state of North Carolina saw fit not to look at all that happened the night I became infamous."

Anyone out there going to buy this book?


scottkazmir.jpgIf you watched the game last night, you probably noticed that the running game had a significant impact. While Jason Bartlett's steal may have been the most rewarding baser-running move of the night, Cole Hamel's pickoff of Carlos Pena was the most important of all the cat and mouse games.

Rays' starter Scott Kazmir also had a heck of a time holding runners on, and the ever-savvy Tim McCarver was quick to point this out.

So what was Kazmir's problem?

The young left-hander was tipping his pickoff move.

From Yahoo! Sports:

"In the entire NLCS, the Phillies stole two bases. In the division series, they stole five.

But pitchers weren't tipping their moves to first and second bases in those series. Scott Kazmir was.

So in the second inning, Shane Victorino and Pedro Feliz attempted a double steal, foiled when Carlos Ruiz fouled off a pitch. In the third, Jayson Werth ran on a 1-and-1 pitch to Utley, who two innings earlier had homered, meaning it wasn't near worth the risk of being thrown out - unless Werth knew he would make it. In all, seven Phillies broke for the next base, the first five against Kazmir.

If you've ever assessed the world around you and thought, 'Boy, things are pretty good -- but I wish cats could glow in the dark,' then your time has come.

From AJC Pets:

"Mr. Green Genes -- his name comes from Mr. Green Jeans, a character on the long-departed "Captain Kangaroo" television show -- is deeply suspicious of strangers. He spends most of his days napping, and he doesn't like being held when he doesn't want to be cuddled.

In normal light, the 7-pound cat, who lives at the center, looks and acts like any other feline.

But turn out the room lights and switch on some black light, and you can see glowing ears, nostrils, eyes and gums. Those body parts light up because the protein is more likely to express itself in mucous membranes, Lyons said.

"You can't lose that cat at night," said C. Earle Pope, the center's senior scientist.

That cat is going to get caught up the rave scene. Trust me.

Tampa Bay shortstop and small-market enthusiast Jason Bartlett endeared himself to an entire nation with a 90-foot food drive during the fifth inning last night.

You see, in this crazy world of cross-promotion that we live in, Bartlett's stolen base won free tacos for millions of Americans.

From Market Watch:

"As promised, Americans will feast on millions of free Crunchy Seasoned Beef Tacos as Taco Bell's "Steal A Base, Steal A Taco" World Series promotion paid off for the second straight year.

Fans can visit any participating Taco Bell location on Tuesday, October 28, 2008 from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. (local time) and claim their free Crunchy Seasoned Beef Taco.
"You know we had Jason pegged as the guy who might steal millions of tacos for America," said David Ovens, chief marketing officer, Taco Bell Corp. "This is one stolen base that goes into the record books more than just a stat, but as a steal that fed the country."
Histrionics aside, will you even remember that you can cash in on this deal when Tuesday rolls around?
Hey, look...video. We're probably going to be doing more moving picture work in the future, because reading is just so 1996. For the sake of objectivity, I flipped my Rays hat backwards.

I guess baseball is more important than I thought. Kudos to the good people at Fox for cracking this egg of melodramatic knowledge all over us.

This was the teaser shown before the start of Game 1 of the World Series. Prepare to be moved.

texastech.jpgTexas Tech has had some problems with their kicking game so far this season. They've used two kickers that have combined to miss six PATs and half their field-goal attempts. So, they're considering doing what any reasonable major program would do.

They're picking someone out of the stands.

From RedRaiderSports.com:

"The sixth-ranked Red Raiders are now seriously considering giving Matt Williams a shot against No. 18 Kansas this weekend.

Williams is a Tarleton State transfer student who won a month of free rent at the Tech/UMass game several weeks ago by kicking a 30-yard field goal. After his successful try, Williams was walking back to his seat when he was flagged down.

"They relayed a message to me saying that Coach [Mike] Leach wanted to talk to me," Williams told RedRaiderSports.com the next day. "He told me to come into his office on Tuesday and talk to him, and then Coach [Clay] McGuire told me to come and speak with him on Monday."

Texas Tech is the school that brought you this show and routinely throws the ball 90 times a game, so it should come as no surprise that they're trying something unconventional.

A popular story making the rounds today chronicles people who are downsizing their houses. Some of these tiny homes total just 100 square feet.

Those are some tiny houses!

While it seems a little silly to do something like this, it provides us with an excuse to show one of our all-time favorite commercials.

okst.jpgYou've probably noticed that our economy is in a bit of a slump right now. If you haven't, then allow me to congratulate you on an amazingly blissful existence.

Sooner or later, this "crisis" or "mild depression" or whatever the experts are calling it these days was bound to trickle down to the level where it would really make an impact.

College athletics.

Three years ago, oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens made a $165 million donation to Oklahoma State University, which was to be used to improve the athletic facilities. But, as the New York Times reports, things have gotten a little complicated.

"Those funds, along with $37 million from other donors, were invested in BP Capital Management, a hedge fund controlled by Pickens. At the time, it looked like a windfall that would keep on giving. Instead, Pickens recently acknowledged that his investments had lost $1 billion this year amid the financial crisis.

Now, building on Oklahoma State's athletic village has been held up, and the athletic director, Mike Holder, said the project would have to wait until Pickens's financial situation improved. Holder and a spokesman for BP Capital declined to disclose the current value of the university's investment in Pickens's hedge fund.

More is sure to develop in this story as we found out just how bad things are in Stillwater, or if it's a non-issue. Rumor has it (from some commentators) that there will be more news on this on Monday.

davidbeck.jpgThe man charged with making soccer popular in the United States may be taking his game overseas.

Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder David Beckham may be loaned to AC Milan.

"With the Major League Soccer season in the United States nearly over, Beckham is eager to join another club in Europe so he can remain match fit and keep his place in England's squad for World Cup qualifying.

England coach Fabio Capello has said he will not pick players who are not active.

"We'll sign him for a few months and then he'll go back. Beckham has chosen Milan," Galliani said at Malpensa airport before flying to a UEFA Cup match. "Our team is very competitive and will remain as is, but Beckham is something different and intriguing."

Former Atlanta Falcons quarterback and noted dogfighting enthusiast Michael Vick will plead guilty to state dogfighting charges in the near future in an attempt to move from prison to a halfway house.

Are you kidding me, America? This is what we've come to? A society that informs our sexual partners they should get checked for an STD by sending them e-cards?
Specially painted rubber duckies made their way into the lockers of each of the Philadelphia Phillies players Monday.

No one initially stepped forward to take credit for the placing of the duckies.

Said Philadelphia's NBC10.com: "No one will go into what the ducks mean, but they mean something to the players, as much as the World Series means everything to Philadelphia."

Lo and behold, the fine folks at Philly.com uncovered the mystery of the rubber duckies, and it turns out the meaning behind them is a bit ... shall we say ... random:

It goes back to a phrase that second baseman Chase Utley has been known to utter on occasion: "Get the rubber duck out of your butt."

In other words, relax.

Utley told manager Charlie Manuel to get the rubber duck out during a recent playoff game when things were not going so well. It struck a chord with Manuel, whose team tangles with the American League champion Tampa Bay Rays tomorrow.

Manuel wanted some rubber ducks for his players and coaches. Bonnie Clark, the Phillies' vice president for communications, placed the order - each duck was different from the next - and the team's clubhouse staff placed them in the lockers. Some of the ducks matched the players better than others. For instance, Brett Myers, a fan of heavy metal music, had a skull on his.

But the overall message was received.

"Nothing is different just because it's the World Series," closer Brad Lidge said. "Don't change a thing. Just play our game."

"No tight [butts]," Manuel said.

Unfortunately, Sports Pros(e) has deemed a Phillies World Series win a massive improbability. Meantime, waste a few minutes with this trip down memory lane:

If I had to guess, the last time Nick Carter and the Backstreet Boys crossed my mind was 2003 when I spent spring break in Marathon, FL. Carter maintained a very nice residence just down the road from where we stayed.

I would have been fine if that was my last Backstreet Boys memory. But the powers that be have apparently granted the boy band the privilege of singing the national anthem before Game 1 of the World Series tomorrow night.

From the Heater:

"Move over, B.K. Jackson. The Backstreet Boys will sing the national anthem of game 1 of the World Series on Wednesday night, according to team fan experience director Darcy Raymond. Throwing out the first pitch will be Pinellas County Commissioner Bob Stewart. Stewart was a St. Petersburg City Council member back on July 24, 1986, who voted with five others to build the stadium even when the area didn't have a team.
Nothing, and I mean nothing says October baseball like BSB.

UPDATE: I've heard from many people who took issue with the "artistic license" taken by the Backstreet Boys during tonight's rendition. Personally, I thought it was pretty good. Judge for yourselves:



For my money, Marvin Gaye's anthem before the 1983 NBA All-Star game is the gold standard.

Tony Kornheiser has instigated some pretty spirited discussion on this blog in the past, and we hope he continues to be a reliable water-cooler-topic-provider in the future.

For the record, I think Mr. Kornheiser makes the Monday Night Football broadcasts more entertaining that another "hardcore analyst."

But one blogger at Fanhouse.com deserves a gold star for keeping a running tally of how many times our second-favorite "Pardon the Interruption" host mentioned Tom Brady and Matt Cassel during last night's game.

Cassel, as you may know, was the starting quarterback for the New England Patriots. Brady was not. Despite this fact the final tally was apparently: Brady 22, Cassel 9.
Reality television and 40/40 club enthusiast Jose Canseco regrets writing "Juiced," the book that many see as the impetus for the Mitchell Report.

From ESPN:

"During the A&E Network's one-hour documentary, "Jose Canseco: The Last Shot," Canseco said he "regrets mentioning players [as steroid users]. I never realized this was going to blow up and hurt so many people."

During the program, the 44-year-old Canseco said he "wanted revenge" on Major League Baseball because he believed he had been forced out of the game. The book was his means of getting even, and he named names "to show I was telling the truth" about steroids in baseball, he said.

Canseco also said he wishes he could apologize to players he named in his book, like Rafael Palmeiro, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire.

""If I could meet with Mark McGwire and these players, I definitely would apologize to them," Canseco said, according to the New York Daily News. "They were my friends. I admired them. I respected them."

ws.JPG
Since the Rays downed the Red Sox in Game 7 of the ALCS, I've heard from many people that they weren't going to watch a pitch of this World Series. A few of them cited the aesthetic shortcomings of Tropicana Field, a lack of rooting interest and just general frustration that both Chicago teams fared some miserably.

And yet despite all these comments, Game 1 of the World Series will be played Wednesday night in St. Petersburg. Perhaps I'm in the minority here, but I've got a lot of enthusiasm for this Fall Classic.

It's no secret that we've been on the Rays' bandwagon for some time now. It's hard not to root for a team that is playing so beyond the expectations set for them. And the way they're doing it is pretty fearless, as exampled by untested rookie David Price picking up the four-out save in the deciding game against Boston.

Sun-Times baseball guru Chris De Luca reports that the upstart Rays aren't likely to get a case of stage fright.

"''One thing that surprises me about Tampa is how their young guys don't care what situation they're in,'' Phillies closer Brad Lidge told MLB.com. ''These are guys 24, 25 years old that look like they're 10-year veterans. They look like they've been there before. They're obviously very talented, but at the same time they're not blinking.''

The Rays finished 51 games out of first place in their 1998 debut season. Before this season, the closest they got to a division title was finishing 18 games out in 2000 under Larry Rothschild, now the Cubs' pitching coach and the first manager of the Devil Rays.

They would have had every right simply to be content to reach the playoffs. Watching them hold off the defending World Series champion Red Sox in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series showed that the young Rays have their eyes on the ultimate prize.

Across the diamond, a well-rested Phillies team is looking to bring the city of Philadelphia its first world title since 1983. A SPAM musubi-fueled Shane Victorino is tearing the cover off the ball and starting pitcher Cole Hamels has been downright dominant in the postseason.

Pat Burrell has been excelling in other ways.

When they wrapped up their series with the Dodgers in five games, we sort of jumped the gun, claiming the Fightins' would take the World Series in five games as well. We'd like to retract that.

Vegas pits the Rays as favorites, Rays fans are learning the only prescription for baseball fever is more cowbell and it's just too good of a Cinderella story to have an unhappy ending. Even though it'd be great to see legendary Phillies' broadcaster Harry Kalas singing again, we think it's going to be Tampa hoisting that trophy.

Sports Pros(e) says: Tampa Bay in Six

What do you think? Who wins and in how many games?

The San Francisco 49ers have fired coach Mike Nolan.

The 49ers are currently on four-game losing streak and have gone 18-37 under Nolan since his tenure began.

ESPN is reporting that former Bear great Mike Singletary has been tapped to fill Nolan's shoes.
If there's one thing we appreciate around here, it's a good cheerleading scandal. Whether it be racy uniforms or mother/daughter identity theft, we're dedicated to bringing you all the latest pom-pom gossip you can handle.

Today's item comes to us from Georgia, where eight cheerleaders have been suspended for performing drunk at their school's football game.

"Eight McIntosh High School cheerleaders have been suspended for being drunk while performing during a varsity football game on Oct. 10, Fayette County schools spokeswoman Melinda Berry-Dreisbach confirmed Friday afternoon.

"They were under the influence at the football game," she said. "I don't know if they had bottles or whatever it was, but they were under the influence."

The McIntosh Chiefs have had trouble stringing together wins this season. That will happen when you have a schedule that features Lithia Springs and Starr's Mill.

In a move that Ed Hochuli would be proud of, the referee in Saturday's LSU-South Carolina game made a nice tackle on Gamecocks' quarterback Stephen Garcia.

The Steelers' Hines Ward has done it again. Despite $15,000 in fines for unnecessary roughness calls the past two games, Ward took advantage of the opportunity to level the Bengals' Keith Rivers with a shot that effectively looks to have ended the rookie linebacker's season.

Watch the video here:



Ward told the Post-Gazette, ""It was a clean hit. I didn't stand over the guy or anything. I just celebrated, the same as a guy does when he gets a sack."

One Faniq.com blogger sums it up his emotions: "Thus, Hines Ward is one of my favorite players in the NFL."

What do you think? Excessive or warranted?
You may remember that there was a little drama surrounding Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers this summer. It was such a weird time for all of us, especially if you wanted to watch 'SportsCenter'.

Now that ol' No. 4 is gunslingin' for the New York Jets and the Packers have a new quarterback of their own, you'd think this whole soap opera would have gone away by now.

No such luck.

"Jay Glazer of FoxSports.com reported Sunday morning that Brett Favre contacted the Lions before their game against the Packers in Week 2 and gave them a lengthy scouting report on Green Bay's offensive schemes. The story was based on anonymous sources. Favre strongly denied the report, according to Peter King of SI.com, who reported that a Lions executive, Tom Lewand, also called the report false.

Maybe a story with anonymous sources that is discredited by two primary sources isn't news, but the fact that other members of the Lions declined to deny it is interesting.

Some members of the Packers don't seem all that happy about the allegations.

" Defensive Cullen Jenkins: "I don't know if he's done it or not. It's one of those things, personally and I don't know the situation, but I just think it's kind of messed up how he left here. Hasn't talked to Aaron (Rodgers), wished Aaron good luck or anything or like that but he's called everybody else, called Tony Romo and stuff like that. I don't have nothing against Brett personally. But I think in his position, he could at least show a little more class, a little more respect to Aaron in that regard. If that was the case, if he did talk to the coaches, I could see if he told his coaches if they were going to play us. That's all right. But if you go out of your way to talk to another team, nah, I don't think that's right."

Cornerback Charles Woodson: "He contacted them? I don't respect that. If they called him and he gives them information, that's one thing. But to seek a team out, because you know I guess you're trying to sabotage this team, you know I don't respect that. I know he's been the greatest player around here for a long time but there's no honor in that.
What do we think about all this? Do you think Favre would do something like this or is this a dead issue? And if it's true, does that change how history views him?
Former Latin High School basketball star Kenny George, whose 7-7 frame makes him the country's tallest basketball player, will not play college ball this year amid reports that part of his right foot was amputated.

George, 22, played center for the University of North Carolina-Asheville where he was named last season's Big South Conference defensive player of the year. He averaged 12.4 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.3 blocks.

The Asheville Citizen-Times reports that George contracted MRSA, a form of potentially fatal staph infection.

UNCA coach Eddie Biedenbach offered this poignant statement:

"This is a really terrible setback for Kenny. He worked so hard to get into the situation where he could play last year and was working hard to be ready for this season. To have basketball taken away from him seemingly isn't fair. There's much more to Kenny than just basketball. Our thoughts and prayers are with him as he goes on with his life."

Meanwhile, in a different sport and a far different tax bracket, Cleveland Browns tight end Kellen Winslow said the cause of his recent hospitalization was a staph infection. He criticized the Browns for treating him "like a piece of meat," according to the Associated Press.

Winslow is frustrated about the lack of visitors -- one visitor in particular -- during his three days in a Cleveland hospital last week.

"I heard from Romeo Crennel and I heard from my position coach (Alfredo Roberts) when I was in the Clinic. I heard from my teammates," Winslow told the (Cleveland) Plain Dealer. "But I never heard from the main man -- Phil Savage -- and that really disappoints me. Sometimes I don't even feel a part of this team."

The AP reports this was Winslow's second staph infection and the sixth by a Browns player since 2005.

"There's obviously a problem (with staph) and we have to fix it," he said. "Just look at the history around here. It's unfortunate, because it happens time and time again."

For more on staph infections, we defer to Medicine.net.

We live in amazing times.

And by that I mean we live in a world where the Tampa Bay Rays are going to host Game 1 of the World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies on Wednesday night.

Their nail-biting 3-1 victory was closed out by David Price (who?), and will surely be go down in history as the most productive thing a group of mohawked men has ever done.



kyleorton.jpgWriting Bears Brightside is easier when they put up 48 points behind a quarterback who suddenly looks like a viable team leader and special teams that looked a little extra special.
 
The blocked punt and the muffed punt were pretty cool, but this edition is all about Kyle Orton. Kyle Orton is ... sort of good after all. Greg Couch goes so far as to say that he's the leader of the Bears.

"It might be time to say the obvious, say it out loud and not be embarrassed.

Kyle Orton is for real.

He is the leader of the Bears.

As an admitted narcissist, I'm deriving great pleasure from the recent Kyle lovefest sweeping the city. And there is no way that after seeing just how well he can play that he'll be demoted any time soon. Feel free to buy that No. 18 jersey you've been pining for.

Orton's 114.5 passer rating was just one of the gaudy numbers racked up by a Bears team that finds itself tied first place in the NFC North headed into the bye week.

First place is a good place to be. Especially considering all the pessimism that seemed to surround this squad heading into the year. There is absolutely no chance the Bears would be 4-3 with Rex Grossman as quarterback.

Couch continues:

"It feels so strange to have a quarterback. And it's amazing to think that the coaches evaluated Grossman all these years as the better choice.

In fact, they were so into babying Grossman that in his first few years, they didn't want him to feel the pressure of a legitimate quarterback behind him.

So they kept Orton.

All this time, they were playing the wrong guy. But that's all changed, finally.

Who knows what Orton can do.

To his credit, Orton seems like the picture of humility. He made the following comments after the game:

" A lot of guys making plays, a lot of ups and downs, guys really banded together and we made plays when we had to. It was a great game. We can be a good offense. It's all about execution. We get better every single week. We practice hard and we have a group of guys who are together with a common goal. We work together very well. Doesn't matter how we score, throwing ,running, we just need to execute and move the football.
But what I like the most about him is that he has a darn good idea about what it takes to win a football game.

" Our goal is to score one more point than the other team. We go in trying to score as many points as we can
So even with astute observers Rick Telander and Mike Mulligan pointing out that something has to be done about this defense, it's comforting to know that Orton & Co. are capable of hanging some crooked numbers on the scoreboard.

In the all-important Court of Public Opinion, Orton seems to be rapidly gaining approval. A non-scientific poll at a Friday night cocktail party revealed that not only is the random casual fan impressed with his "game management," several pointed out that his beard has never looked better. While the latter is open to debate, the chants for Rex have been rendered obsolete.

In summation, the quarterback controversy is dead, the playoffs are definite possibility and the Bears are finding ways to win games even when the opponents are scoring 41 points.

Bear down, Chicago. Good things are happening here.

nfl.jpgHere at Sports Pros(e), we'll occasionally defer to the true experts to shine the light on a particular topic. That's why this morning we turn to Alyssa Milano, who sat down with the NFL Network's Rich Eisen recently to give her week 7 NFL picks.

As long as you're willing to sit through a five-minute infomercial for NFLShop.com and a very awkward fashion show that includes a fat guy in a woman's sweatshirt, you're in for a treat.

I won't spoil the magic, but I will provide you with the link.

The good news is that Milano correctly chooses the Bears to beat the Vikings today at Soldier Field. "I figure since the Cubs lost," she tells Eisen, "Chicago's gonna have a great year." Apparently Ms. Milano's been perusing our Bears Brightside series.

Before you go questioning Milano's authority on football picks, I'll refer you to Season 1, Episode 11 of Who's the Boss: "Samantha's Growing Up." From the Who's the Boss Resource Web site:

Forced to confront the fact that Samantha is not a little girl any more, Tony buys her her first bra. When it turns out not to be the kind she wanted, she asks if Angela can take her shopping. Tony is less than thrilled, however, when Samantha comes home looking a bit too grown up.

And how did they know it was time to buy Samantha her first bra? If you'll recall, she and Tony were tossing the football during the opening sequence and it hurt to catch the ball against her chest. If that's not a recipe for hilarity and future football prognostication skills, I don't know what is.
cousins.jpgThings are not going smoothly in St. Petersburg. First, TBS treated us to reruns of the "Steve Harvey Show" instead of the first inning. Now, home-plate umpire Derryl Cousins is leaving the game after being struck just below the mask by a foul ball off the bat of Red Sox' Jason Varitek.

Cousins has been the focus of scrutiny for his tight strike zone in recent days. He also left a game in 2006 after being struck with a ball.

From Wikipedia:

"Derryl Cousins (born August 18, 1946 in Fresno, California) is an umpire in Major League Baseball who has worked in the American League from 1979 to 1999, and throughout both major leagues since 2000. He has umpired in the World Series in 1988, 1999 and 2005. He has also officiated in the All-Star Game in 1987, 1998 and 2008, and was behind the plate for the 2008 game at Yankee Stadium, which lasted a record 4 hours 50 minutes before ending in the 15th inning. He has worked in five American League Championship Series (1985, 1989, 1995, 2003, 2006), and in five Division Series (1997, 1999, 2002, 2005, 2007). Cousins was promoted to crew chief for the 2008 season.

Cousins has worn uniform number 13 since the AL adopted them in 1980. Since he was called up to the AL during the 1979 umpires' strike, he was not allowed to join the Major League Umpires Association, the former umpires' union which was headed by Richie Phillips. He is currently a member of the World Umpires Association, the new collective bargaining union of MLB umpires since 2000.

Cousins was the home plate umpire for the game between the San Francisco Giants and the San Diego Padres on August 4, 2007. In the top of the second inning at San Diego, Barry Bonds of the Giants hit his 755th career home run off Clay Hensley, tying Hank Aaron for first all-time. Also, he was the third base umpire in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series when Kirk Gibson hit his famous pinch-hit home run. Cousins also was the second base umpire in the last game in Yankee Stadium on September 22, 2008.

Uhh...what's going on TBS? Isn't there supposed to be some sort of baseball game on right now? This sure doesn't look like the previous five games of the Rays-Red Sox series.

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Our friends at the AP explain the outage:

"TBS had experienced router failure in Atlanta, which caused transmission problems, Rays spokesman Dave Haller said.

TBS spokesman Jeff Pomeroy didn't immediately return a telephone call from The Associated Press seeking comment.

Major League Baseball spokesman Rich Levin said MLB was unaware there was a problem until the broadcast failed to come on the air. No consideration was given to delaying the start of the game because the starting pitchers already had warmed up, Levin said.
louholtz.jpgPep talk and Notre Dame enthusiast Lou Holtz apologized today for comments he made Friday night.

"ESPN analyst Lou Holtz apologized on air Saturday for mentioning Adolf Hitler during a college football studio show the previous night.

The former Notre Dame coach referenced Hitler while making a point about good and bad leadership during a discussion of the struggles of first-year Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez.

''Last night while trying to make a point about leadership, I made an unfortunate reference,'' Holtz said. ''It was a mistake and I sincerely apologize.''

An ESPN spokesman said Holtz will not be further disciplined.
The Killers are one of the buzzy bands that seems to always be playing Saturday Night Live or producing another critically acclaimed album.

Judging by the past week, the good people who direct sporting events on television have apparently caught on to the toe-tapping sounds of Brendan Flowers & Co.

First it was FOX using them to hype postseason baseball, which didn't last to long on the North side. And now today, the Buckeye beatdown of Michigan State played out to the soundtrack of "All These Things That I've Done."

The point of all this?

We really like the Killers, but hate having their music connected with our favorite teams (Cubs and Spartans, respectively) getting crushed.

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As we've discussed during live chats on this Web site in the past, I don't cry when it comes to professional or college sporting events. If you're not playing, tears simply shouldn't factor into the equation. It's just not worth it.

The only times I've come close to tears following a sporting event, however, have involved the University of Missouri football team (and maybe a certain Cubs-Marlins series in 2003). There was the Mizzou-Oklahoma game in 2002 while sitting in the student section, watching the seemingly indestructible Brad Smith get destructed. Then there was the Mizzou-Oklahoma game that had the Big 12 title (and Mizzou's first trip to the national championship) on the line last season. And then there was last week. A devastating loss to Oklahoma State where the team looked as though some alien being had come down to replace the Tigers with the Booneville High School squad.

horns.jpgToday the Tigers take on No. 1 ranked Texas in Austin. If the Tigers win, they have a real shot at the conference championship and even a (albeit quite long) shot at the national title game. Lose, and it's just another pretty good season -- another where expectations simply, tragically weren't met in Columbia.

The stats aren't exactly on Mizzou's side, according to Mutigers.com:

  • Texas hasn't allowed a rushing touchdown yet this year.
  • Mizzou's last win in Austin came in 1896 (a 10-0 Tiger win).
  • The Longhorns have won 13-of-14 meetings between UT and Mizzou dating back to 1931.
  • Mizzou is 0-10 all time against teams ranked No. 1 in the nation.

However, two stats give the Tigers a wee glimmer of hope:

  • Missouri is 7-0 under coach Gary Pinkel after suffering their first loss of a season.
  • 28 tigers are playing in their home state. This brings ... I don't know ... extra incentive?

Granted, these stats aren't going to tip the scales in Vegas, but it is college football -- which means that anything can (and most likely will) happen.

The Columbia Tribune has an interesting article about Mizzou's offensive coordinator and Texas' defensive coordinator -- both of whom could be considered for future head coaching jobs.

Mark Schlabach of ESPN.com weighs in, reminding us that Colt McCoy and Chase Daniel were quite close to being teammates instead of rivals.

Dallas Morning News columnist Kevin Sherrington talks about the fact that so many Tigers, including quarterback and Heisman hopeful Chase Daniel, hail from Texas with the hope-inducing headline, "Mizzou's Lone Star flavor should worry Texas Longhorns."

We'll take that.

It's a widely accepted fact that the Bears will compete in the Super Bowl Feb. 1, 2009 in Tampa. Unfortunately, it will cost more than $1,000 for me to do so. For the first time in the game's history, Super Bowl tickets have broken the $1,000 mark, according to the AP.

I already lamented earlier this year about the price of tickets at Soldier Field. And now this? It's getting to the point where you have to be a bazillionaire to be a true fan anymore. Luckily, that's the tax bracket in which I roll. But what about Joe the Plumber? What about him, NFL?
Former Los Angeles Lakers center Vlade Divac, whose first English words were "Yabba, dabba doo" has been appointed the head of humanitarian issues and sports by Boris Tadic, President of Divac's native Serbia.

According to the AP:

"(Divac) told reporters today he has taken up the post in order to help promote humanitarian work in Serbia. After retiring from basketball, Divac moved to his native Serbia where he has a business and runs a humanitarian organization."

No word yet on whether Deca Losih Muzicara, the Serbian band that penned the early 90s hit "Vlade Divac" will get back in the studio to honor Divac's newest venture. But, for those of you who haven't witnessed the pop/punk/ska revolution that is DLM, here's a YouTube gem that features their biggest hit:

Remember when the hottest story in sports was whether or not Michael Strahan was going to come back to the New York Giants after retiring? Seems like a long time ago.

He eventually declined to come back and judging by the following clip, I'd say he made a smart choice. I mean, who among us wouldn't love to guest-star on "Chuck" and get beat up by an extremely small girl while "Barracuda" plays in the background?

It's safe to say that there isn't any news about Adam Jones that would surprise us at this point.

"Adam "Pacman" Jones has entered an alcohol treatment facility in the Dallas area on an inpatient basis, a source told ESPN's Ed Werder on Thursday.

According to a report in the Dallas Morning News, which first reported that Jones had entered rehab, the NFL -- which suspended the Dallas Cowboys cornerback indefinitely following an alcohol-related scuffle last week with a bodyguard assigned to protect him -- required Jones to seek treatment.
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Before this postseason started, I knew that Shane Victorino was from Hawaii and that he was fast. Over the past two series, it's become clear that he is the spark plug of a Philadelphia Phillies team that looks very capable of winning the World Series. He's an exciting player to watch, and his recent power surge had added yet another dimension to his dynamic game.

But not everyone is a fan of Victorino.

"After finding out Victorino's favorite food is SPAM musubi, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals' Assistant Director Dan Shannon sent him a letter, calling for him to give up SPAM because its maker Hormel is under an animal cruelty investigation.
What is spam musubi, you ask?

"Spam musubi is a very popular snack and luncheon food in Hawaii made in the tradition of Japanese onigiri, also known as a musubi. A Spam musubi is composed of a block of salted (not vinegared; that would be sushi) rice with a slice of Spam (cooked or uncooked) on top, and typically nori (dried seaweed) surrounding it to keep it in shape. It is the favorite food of Hawaiian baseball player Shane Victorino.
Sounds gross, but if it made me play like Shane, I'd eat it for every meal.
Cole Hamels allowed just one run in seven innings of work and Jimmy Rollins hit a leadoff home run as the Philadelphia Phillies defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-1 to advance to the World Series.

The franchise's last trip to the World Series was in 1993, when they lost to the Toronto Blue Jays on Joe Carter's walk-off home run.

Whether they play the Rays or the Sox, Sports Pros(e) is picking them to win the title in five games.
Troubled ex-Chargers defensive lineman Chris Mims was found dead by police this morning in his Los Angeles apartment.

He was 38.
BY MIKE CLARK Sports Pros(e) World Record Analyst

Sometimes setting a world record involves years of training, loads of talent and maybe even a little luck.

And other times setting a world record just requires the willingness to stuff a bunch of live insects in your mouth.

See for yourself which category Travis Fessler of Florence, Ky., falls into. Who says there is no good news in papers these days?

The 60 x 60 foot Citgo sign that has served as the backdrop for countless of home runs over Fenway's Green Monster caught on fire today.
soldier field.jpgSI.com just released their rankings of NFL stadiums, which were computed with a complex mathematical formula that makes the BCS algorithm look easy.

Soldier Field is 17th out of the 32 venues. Those pesky Green Bay Packers and their iced-over stadium is at the top of the list.

The Bears apparently rank 15th in "team quality" and the "atmosphere" is "scientifically" rated as 16th best.

Do you feel slighted, Bear fans? Where would you rank Soldier Field? Are you upset the Packers are No. 1?

Predictably, the Lions and Ford Field are second to last.
Thumbnail image for alcs1.jpgKevin Allen can stop ranting and raving about the Rays and their wasted real estate.

The Rays are peeling back the tarp and allowing 5,762 more people into Tropicana Field to watch Game 6 of the ALCS ot Game 1 of the World Series (Oh my God, the Rays could host a World Series).

""This was our decision and based on the input and feedback from the fans," Rays president Matt Silverman said, according to the Tampa Tribune. "We want as many people as possible to be able to enjoy this."

The Rays dismantled the Red Sox 13-4 last night and hold a 3-1 lead in the series.
One of the gimmicky things that I actually enjoy during sports broadcasts is having a celebrity introduce their team of choice.

I mean, when else do I get the opportunity to get a screen-grab of Mary Hart and the Los Angeles Dodgers' lineup?

When legendary Phildelphia broadcaster Harry Kalas introduced the Phillies before Game 1 of the NLCS he referred to hard-hitting left fielder Pat Burrell as "The Bait." Apparently this awesome nickname stems from his babe-attracting prowess.

"During his appearance on Fox, Kalas introduced Pat Burrell as "The Bait," then said that was a story for another day. That day has come. Here's that tale: During Burrell's first few years with the club, before he was married, the older players used to command him to make appearances at the bar while the Phillies were on the road. They dangled him as "bait" to attract women.

"Can you imagine how many hearts Burrell has broken?" Kalas said.

****************

Also, Kalas can flat-out sing.



Patrick Cote could beat you up. In fact, he makes a living beating people up.

The ultimate fighter will be chatting live with us at 3 p.m. He can answer all your questions about MMA, UFC and his upcoming fight against Anderson Silva at UFC 90.

For many of us, video games are one of the few remaining bastions of solitude in this crazy world. They serve as a welcome escape from reality and provide us with the opportunity to mash buttons without thinking about politics.

Until now.

"Sen. Barack Obama is taking his presidential campaign somewhere no political campaign has gone before -- to video games.


The Obama camp has bought "billboard space" within nine video games, all from Electronic Arts: "Madden '09," "NBA Live '08," "Burnout Paradise," "Nascar 09," "Need For Speed Carbon," "Need For Speed Pro Street," "NFL on Tour," "NHL '09" and "Skate."

The virtual ads in the games are frequently updated with real advertising through online downloads. They feature a photo of the senator with text indicating early voting has begun and direct gamers to the Obama Web site voteforchange.com.

While I think this is a good start for Obama, it seems like he is missing a chance to tackle the issues that Madden gamers care about the most.

Where does Obama stand on the Cover 2? If elected president, would Obama mandate a fourth throwback jersey option for all teams? Can Obama promise to curb so-called "late-game cheating" by the computer?

I suck at Madden, by the way.

These guys don't.
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Spoiler alert: Lance Mackey, shown here with lead dog Larry, wins. (AP Photo)

The Discovery Channel began airing "Toughest Race on Earth: Iditarod" last night, and it's been met with a bevy of reviews this morning.

The Iditarod, of course, is known as "The Last Great Race on Earth" and began in 1973 as a tribute to the 1925 cross-country dog sled trip from Anchorage to Nome to deliver a diphtheria vaccine to Nomeites.

While the endurance test that is the Iditarod obviously can't hold a candle to the three miles I knocked out yesterday on the treadmill at the FFC, it's still pretty challenging. As the narrator tells you, these mushers, along with a dozen sled dogs, are "pitted against the worst nature has to offer" during a voyage that can take anywhere from 9 to 14 days.

My parents are former residents of Nome -- the end point of the race. They moved there my sophomore year of college. I spent part of a summer there in 2002 waiting tables, painting the insides of mobile homes and rehabbing a hardwood floor or two. I remember the experience well -- unfortunately. Nome feels like the end of the Earth. Exile. Siberia. A third-world country to a then-21-year-old from the cozy Chicago 'burbs. I wasn't there during the Iditarod, but my parents spoke highly of that time of year and, to be sure, they were bigger fans of the hamlet than I.

Media outlets have offered mixed reviews while jumping at the opportunity to cast puns in the direction of the documentary, which airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. CST.

The show got three stars from New York Daily News TV critic David Hinkley along with the headline: "Iditarod: Mush ado about sledding." Quite pithy, Hinkley. Quite pithy, indeed.

In its review, Variety chooses to focus on a brief cameo from Sarah Palin, the future mother in law of the most famous former high school hockey player of all time. Hinkley points out that the Alaska gov's name was actually misspelled in the original pilot.

For a real expert opinion though, visit Iditablog.com. They're linking back to their accounts of the race coinciding with the parts that make it on the show.

One thing's for sure: I'll be watching -- if only to catch a glimpse of a town I'd rather forget.
NFL Jones Suspended Football.jpgThe NFL has issued the following statement regarding the Dallas Cowboys' Adam Jones:

"Commissioner Roger Goodell notified Adam Jones of the Dallas Cowboys today that he is suspended indefinitely without pay as a result of his most recent violation of the NFL Personal Conduct Policy.

"Jones will miss at least the next four games. Commissioner Goodell will determine the final length of the suspension following the Cowboys' Week 11 game against Washington on November 16. The decision on whether Jones can return to play will be based on Jones' strict compliance with his NFL and Dallas Cowboys treatment plans as well as on evaluations of Jones' progress that will be provided to Commissioner Goodell by clinical experts retained by the NFL. Jones was involved in an alcohol-related physical altercation at a Dallas hotel on October 8 that resulted in hotel employees calling the police. Commissioner Goodell in today's letter to Jones called it a continuation of "a disturbing pattern of behavior and clearly inconsistent with the conditions I set for your continued participation in the NFL.

"Jones was suspended for the entire 2007 season for multiple violations of the NFL Personal Conduct Policy. In reinstating Jones on August 28 of this year, Commissioner Goodell said that the player's participation in the NFL depends on demonstrating that he can conduct himself in a socially responsible manner, avoiding any other conduct that brings disrespect to himself, his team, or the NFL."


ESPN has the story here.

The Dallas Morning News is reporting that the suspension, which will cost Jones at least four games, will cost the cornerback $41,176 a week. In the paper's Cowboys Blog, they're reporting that the team will not be cutting Jones.

Jerry Jones made the following statement on behalf of the team:

"We respect and support the decision of the commissioner. I regret that this issue has brought negative attention to the Cowboys and the NFL. We move forward with a very clear knowledge as to what the process will be for a possible re-instatement. Adam is well aware of where he stands and what he has to do."


CHIEFS CAMP.jpgTony Gonzalez: He gone? (AP Photo)

The Tony Gonzalez Era in Kansas City looks to be in its final moments, as the nine-time pro bowler will likely be traded per his request this afternoon.

The Kansas City Star weighs in with a somber piece about his glum teammates:

"He wants to win," said cornerback Patrick Surtain, who was sent to the Chiefs in 2005 after asking Miami for a trade ...

"We're a very young team, and we knew we were going through some ups and downs this year. He doesn't feel he has many more years to play, and he wants an opportunity to win. Who can blame him? He has every record you could want individually, but he wants the chance to play for the Super Bowl.

"He feels he has a better chance somewhere else."

The Associated Press also weighs in, reporting that a Chiefs spokesman said that no deal was pending.

As for where Gonzalez may be headed, Chiefs fan blog Arrowhead Pride has a few ideas, namely Philadelphia or Buffalo.

The trade deadline is 4 p.m. EDT today. We'll keep you updated as this one develops.
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The first official BCS standings will be released on Sunday, but if you can't wait that long to see what the complex algorithm has to say about your favorite team, we've got you covered.

Sam Chi runs BCS Guru, which apparently has enough data to figure out what the standings will be.

He currently has Texas at the No. 1 spot, with Alabama a close second.

My Michigan State Spartans are at No. 15 and Kevin's Missouri Tigers are No. 13.
Sad news today as we learn that former Chicago Cub pitcher Kevin Foster has died. He was 39.

"Kevin Foster was never a superstar during a seven-year, 100-game major-league career.

''But he was a superstar human being,'' Foster's brother, Mark, said Monday. ''He loved baseball, he loved people and people loved him. He was a happy person who got along with everybody, and we will miss him.''

As of 3 p.m., more people are punching in "Phiten necklace" into their Google Search field than any other phrase.

For the life of me, I can't figure out why. But I'll take a stab at it.

You'll see many of the Boston Red Sox sporting the necklaces when they host the Tampa Bay Rays today in a pivotal Game 3 matchup at Fenway Park.

Phiten necklaces are designed to relieve neck and shoulder pain while looking awesome around your neck when you blast a two-run homer.

About.com's Scott Kendrick weighs in on the accessory here.


Clemson coach Tommy Bowden has been fired, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the situation.

A few members of the football family down there aren't exactly shedding any tears over the move.

"They just told us. It's what he deserved," said senior quarterback Cullen Harper, who was benched after the Tigers' loss to Wake Forest loss and replaced by highly regarded sophomore Willy Korn. "Dabo Swinney is a fine man and will do an excellent job."

Harper struggled playing behind an inexperienced offensive line this season. His father, Jeff Harper, an offensive lineman on Georgia's 1980 national championship team, said Bowden's dismissal was justified.

"I'd call it karma," he said. "I thought it needed to be done. I think anytime a head coach or someone in a leadership position starts to place blame on his coaches and players, it weakens their respect on the team. His past experiences have shown he's done that."
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Perennial Pro-Bowler and life-saver Tony Gonzalez is getting his book recommendations from Barack Obama.

Joe Posnanski, who you should be reading regularly, reports that the Kansas City Chiefs' tight end was reading "My Losing Season" by Pat Conroy.

If you want to be like Barack or Tony, you can purchase the book here for a paltry $18.45.
Wesley Korir finished fourth in the Chicago Marathon yesterday, but he won't get the prize money.

Korir apparently started five minutes after the elite group.

"Wesley Korir, a Kenyan native and track and cross-country runner at the University of Louisville, was the fourth-place finisher Sunday, but he won't receive any prize money.

Korir did not start in the elite wave at 7:55 a.m., but rather with the remainder of the field at 8 a.m. U.S. Track and Field rules stipulate that all runners receiving prize money must have the same gun time so that no runner has an advantage.

This is the first year the race has used an earlier start for the elites. The problem was not anticipated, but according to race spokeswoman Marianne Caponi, because the race is under USATF's jurisdiction, it must adhere to the rules of that organization.

The fourth-place prize money of $15,000 went to fifth-place finisher Martin Lauret of the Netherlands.

Is it possible that Korir outperformed everyone and legitimately finished fourth? Did he hail a cab to shave off some time? Where does Rosie Ruiz stand on all of this?

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Greg Olsen allows Falcons linebacker Michael Boley to break up a pass in yesterday's game. That was very kind of you, Greg. (AP Photo)

Brilliant. Cunning. Genius. Revolutionary.

These are the words that come to mind when I reflect on the Bears' mammoth display of raw power and mercy yesterday against the Falcons.

Sure, some of you out there were probably left with mouths agape after the Falcons walked away with a 22-19 victory in the final second of the game. But you have to realize that the Bears were simply playing puppet master with fate itself. Indeed, the Bears stared fate in the eye yesterday and said, "We own you, fate. We dictate the outcome of games ... not you."

So why would the Bears do this? Why would they benevolently step aside at the last moment and allow a far less superior Falcons team to 'steal' a win? Why wouldn't they just dominate throughout the entire game like they're so capable of doing?

It's the same reason Warren Buffett, one of the wealthiest people in the universe, still lives in a relatively modest house he purchased for $31,500 in 1958. Just as Buffett doesn't need lavish living quarters to flaunt his financial and personal worth, so the Bears don't need "wins" or "consistently strong play" to prove they're the greatest team ever, of any sport, to walk onto a field of grass or artificial turf in the history of planet Earth.

People tend to focus on who had more points at the end of a game. Some people would like to focus on the decisions made within that game that may have led to one team having less points than the other team at the end of said game. But what are these "points" really? If the point system were fair in football, sheer greatness and unadulterated omnipotence would count for something.

Then the Bears would end up with more of your precious points as time expired.

Luckily, I see what many don't. I see that the Bears allowed the Falcons to think they were in control of yesterday's game only to come back at will and prove that they could win the game, but choose not to. It's a classic example of the Gods toying with mere mortals for their own amusement.

Fear not, Bears fans. For you are witnessing history. You have the pleasure of rooting for a team that, if you're able to see its true inherent all-powerfulness, can never lose a football game.

Don't question their motives. Though the Bears gaveth to Jason Elam, let us not remember that they can taketh away whenever they want.
Competitive eater and real American hero Joey Chesnut performed another feat of eat yesterday when he downed 45 pieces of pizza in 10 minutes.

This gives Chestnut a sort of junk food Triple Crown.

"The 24-year-old rocketed to competitive-eating celebrity when he won Coney Island's July Fourth hot-dog eating contest in 2007. He took the title again this summer by gulping down 59 dogs in 10 minutes.

He won a contest in Tennessee last month by wolfing down 93 Krystal hamburgers in 8 minutes.

Mmmmmmm, records.

amd_levi-hockey.jpgLevi Johnston, the most famous (now former) high school hockey player this nation has ever encountered, is spilling proverbial beans about his pending fatherhood and next summer's wedding to fiancee Bristol Palin, daughter of weekly SNL lampoon target and future popular Halloween costume Sarah Palin.

As if the pressures of being a high school dropout-turned oil field apprentice electrician aren't enough, now Levi's got the Associated Press hanging out in front of his home.

Luckily for Johnston, the AP apparently has a huge crush on him. He told them that he could talk to them because Palin's handlers have backed off:

"They're not telling me anything right now," Johnston said as he checked his Blackberry. "It's pretty chill."

And that MySpace page that claimed he was a gun-totin' redneck who didn't want kids? Just a joke! His friends made it years ago without his knowledge, the AP reports. It was the media's fault for refusing to LOL.

At various points in the article, like when they call him "a Wasilla heartthrob," the AP gets weird:

"He's dark haired, tall and muscular, sports a bit of stubble and drives a red Chevy Silverado truck. He'd be the perfect cover for Field & Stream."

The fine folks over at Field & Stream weren't reached for comment, apparently. No word on whether he'd actually, in fact, be the perfect cover for Field & Stream. It's just the Associated Press' opinion.

We told you five weeks ago about how good Johnston's presence in the national political spotlight was for the sport of hockey. So we say that the real tragedy in all of this is the fact that the Wasilla High School Warrior hockey team (and, let's face it, high school hockey in general) has lost a legitimate scoring threat:

"Wasilla hockey coach Bill Sturdevant, who was invited to the wedding, said he was sorry to hear Johnston wasn't going to return for his senior year of high school."

Someone's going to have to step up, Warriors. Your season hangs in the balance.
I figured out how to capture stills from my television. Looking forward to abusing this technology.

For instance, how about a unnecessary shot of Mary Hart?
 
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BY MIKE CLARK
Sports Pros(e) Contributor


We here at Sports Pros(e) like our world leaders to be tough and strong, but are wondering if Vladimir Putin might be going a little overboard.

The former Russian president and puppet master for the guy who currently holds the job, Dimitry Medvedev, is the star of a new DVD whose title translates as "Let's Learn Judo with Vladimir Putin."

This is apparently not Putin's first foray into the martial arts media world. Amazon is selling a paperback version of his judo guide for $18 (marked down from $20).

Could be a great stocking stuffer this holiday season for that Russian nationalist/self-defense aficionado on your Christmas list. This may point the way for other former heads of state looking for ways to raise a little cash after they leave office. We can foresee other such releases, like "Let's Learn Phonics with George Bush."
If you're ever looking to feel sufficiently bad about your level of physical fitness, ride the El at 6:30 a.m. with scores of eager marathoners.

That's exactly what I did this morning on my way to work on the day of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon.

Now, I'm a relatively fit dude. I can join in a pickup game of basketball, flag football or darts and hold my own. But I'm not marathon fit.

I may never be marathon fit. And that disappoints me.

I'm not going to go and make any bold resolutions here that I know I just can't live up to. But I will say this: I'm going to make a concerted effort to really research what it would take to train for the marathon. In other words, I'm going to take the steps to find out how to find out how to take the steps to training for next year's marathon.

In essence, I'm forming a marathon exploratory committee.

But you know what scares me most about running a marathon? It isn't the training. It isn't the inevitable soreness. It's the potty. What if I have to go to the bathroom while I'm en route? There's probably a simple answer to this, but what if there isn't? And what if there is a simple answer that isn't really simple to me?

Meanwhile, a trio of Kenyans are looking like they're going to complete the race in just over two hours.

I can hold it for two hours. Right? Wait ... that would mean I'd have to ... you know what ... never mind. I'm already exhausted.

11:06 a.m. Update: I just watched Evans Cheuriyot of Kenya complete the Chicago Marathon in 2:06:25. Unbelievable that people can do this. I'm getting updates on my Blackberry from friends who are running it. I'm not sold yet, but I'm starting to think that I might seriously take a huge step in the direction toward finding out how to do this.

Find out how your friends are doing here.

Meanwhile, watch video of Cheuriyot winning it at NBC5.com.

If you'd like to join my Chicago Marathon exploratory committee and offer any advice on where to start a year out, please do share. Already Hans has quelled my bathroom-related fears.
Far_and_away_ver1.jpgIn the hours after the Oklahoma Sooners lost to the Texas Longhorns in the Red River Rivalry game at the Cotton Bowl, the second-most searched term on Google was the query "What is a Sooner?"

Fear not, dear readers. Our research department found the following:

The term originated in 1889 when the U.S. government opened Oklahoma, then an Indian territory, to expansionists who were salivating over the term 'manifest destiny.' To claim their land, several expansionists participated in a land run, not unlike the beginning of the childhood game "Ghost in the Graveyard."

Turns out that some of the settlers got a head start on the whole shebang, and they were dubbed "sooners" by their jealous, law-abiding counterparts.

Here's how Dictionary.com defines the word 'sooner':

1. a person who settles on government land before it is legally opened to settlers in order to gain the choice of location.

2. a person who gains an unfair advantage by getting ahead of others.

For you film buffs out there, the event served as the backdrop for the 1992 Tom Cruise/Nicole Kidman epic "Far and Away."

Here's the entirely unreliable Wikipedia page on sooners.

And here's the Ask Yahoo page.

Now you know. And ...


Charlie Manuel, who guided the Philadelphia Phillies to a 3-2 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 1 of the NLCS last night, plans on managing tonight despite his mother's death earlier this morning.

Manuel's mother June died this morning at the age of 87.
alcs1.jpgThe Boston Red Sox take on the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series tonight.

All season we've been suffering from an acute case of Rays fever around here. Kevin, of course, was a Floridian for a brief spell and knows his way around the Trop. I've gotten so caught up in the Cinderellas from the Sunshine state that I may or may not own an authentic Tampa Bay baseball cap.

Our adopted team is pitted against the newest Evil Empire, the Boston Red Sox. The AL East rivals (yes, we live in a world where the most heated divisional rivalry this year may have been Boston-Tampa Bay) have thrown punches, done their fair share of scoreboard-watching and strutted their stuff on the catwalk, yeah, the catwalk down the stretch.

As White Sox fans can tell you, these plucky rays of sunshine aren't your slightly older brother's Devil Rays. Third baseman Evan Longoria blasted home runs in each of his first two postseason at-bats against Javier Vazquez and may have outslugged Sox second baseman Alexei Ramirez for the AL Rookie of the Year. Relief pitcher Grant Balfour is also adept at giving directions, especially to a certain White Sox middle-infielder.

But the guy we like the most is manager Joe Maddon. He may look like Michael Douglas in
"Falling Down," but his disposition couldn't be any different. He's the steady hand at the tiller that keeps the young Rays playing above expectations.

Sure, his math theory may be a bit extreme, but it's hard not to like a guy who wears No. 70 and plasters motivational posters all over the field of play.

But Boston is still Boston. My colleague recently pined to have the same sort of success that's permeated the avenues surrounding Yawkey Way nest a little closer to the Friendly Confines. They've become baseball's biggest and best dynasty, winning with both high-priced free agents and by cultivating a deep farm system. The Dustin Pedroias and Jon Lesters mix in rather nicely with the Big Papis and J.D. Drews.

Closer and deep-exhale enthusiast Jonathan Papelbon can also cut a mean, androgynous rug.

The smart money would be on the Red Sox pulling this series out. Hey, if Curt Schilling says it, it must be true.

But something tells me that this season isn't sticking to the same tired script. I mean, the Tampa Bay Rays are hosting the American League Championship Series. Before this season they'd never won more than 70 games in a year.

It's understandable if you're all baseball-ed out, Chicago. Or if you're cursing the baseball gods. We get it. It's been a rough week.

But there's plenty of room left on the Rays' bandwagon should you wish to join.

Sports Pros(e) predicts: Tampa Bay 4-2

It'd be safe to say that it's not a good idea to joke about AIDS. Or to claim someone "faked" having AIDS. I think we're all on the same page with this.

Okay, maybe everyone but Minneapolis radio hosts Langdon Perry and Chris Baker is on the same page. They apparently think Magic Johnson faked AIDS.

Good work, boys. I'm sure this won't cause any trouble.

You're probably sitting at home thinking, 'Hey, I like hockey and I also like blogs. I wonder if there's anything out there for a person like me?'

Yes. Yes, there is something for you, valued reader.

Blackhawks winger Adam Burish is writing a blog for the Sun-Times this season. It's called Dropping the Gloves, and we're real excited about it around here.

Burish accumulated a team-high 214 penalty minutes last season, so we're a little afraid of him. Something like this could happen if he's angered.

There's a few things not even a week of fishing in northern Michigan can fix. At the top of that list is the hapless franchise that is the Detroit Lions.

Former Michigan State Spartan and NFL bust Charles Rogers has been ordered to repay $8.5 million to the franchise that had such high hopes for him.

"Former wide receiver Charles Rogers owes the Lions reportedly about $8.5 million because violating the NFL's substance abuse policy put him in default of his contract, an arbitrator has ruled.Now the Lions must go though the legal process of collecting from Rogers, who has been out of pro football since the Lions cut him before the 2006 season.

The Lions will receive salary cap credit for whatever they actually collect. But after the Lions originally filed their grievance in 2005, seeking more than $10 million, Rogers said: "It's going to be kind of hard to get 10." He laughed and added: "We'll see, man."
Evidently, Kevin's playoff-bound Chicago Bears took it to Detroit 34-7 on Sunday. Can't say I'm surprised or disappointed I missed that.
I woke up this morning thinking about my brother's aversion to wet bread. Perhaps it's because I was dreaming of Thanksgiving dinner and the amazing stuffing my mother makes. My brother hates the stuffing because, as I mentioned earlier, he hates wet bread.

I've always admired his resolve. When he makes his mind up about something, there's no changing it. He makes no apologies; offers no explanations other than, "I don't eat wet bread."

I like that. I don't have that. If I don't like a food, I make myself like it. I smother it in cheese, drown it in gravy, dip in in ranch, deep fry it or wrap it in bacon (or any combination of the five). I compromise and wiggle my way around obstacles rather than simply saying, "I don't eat wet bread."

But one thing I will not waver on is cheesecake on my birthday. Cheesecake and "The Weight." I eat cheesecake on my birthday and I listen to the song "The Weight" by The Band on repeat ... for maybe an hour or two. This has been a staple in my life for as long as I can remember.

Robbie Robertson, who wrote "The Weight," once said about the meaning behind the song:

"Someone says, 'Listen, will you do me this favor? When you get there will you say 'hello' to somebody or will you pick up one of these for me?' 'Oh, you're going to Nazareth, do me a favor when you're there.' So the guy goes and one thing leads to another and it's like, 'Holy shit, what has this turned into? I've only come here to say 'hello' for somebody and I've got myself in this incredible predicament.'

Aside from being a damn good tune that has the power to make a bar full of any demographic simultaneously bob their heads, it's such a fantastic metaphor for so much in our lives. We go into various situations with certain expectations. And seldom are those expectations precisely matched. Some people hate that. Hate it when things don't go the way they expect them to. I used to be that way.

Now I'm the opposite.

After graduating college, I went to work in Florida. I hopped around a bit. I worked at a couple different publications.

Then a couple years ago, a close friend of mine died rather tragically. He was 23. He was doing exactly what he wanted to be doing (working, at the time, at the same magazine where I was working). He was living exactly where he wanted to be living and appreciated the place we were (Sarasota, Fla.) for what it was. I definitely couldn't say the same. I felt like I went there as somewhat of a favor and instead of making it a temporary thing, I got sucked in. I stayed there way too long doing things I was only mildly into.

In other words, in my mind, I only went to Sarasota to say 'hello' for somebody and I got myself into an incredible predicament because I couldn't leave.

Don't get me wrong. I made great friends there that I love dearly to this day. But it wasn't where I wanted to be and it certainly wasn't what I wanted to be doing. My heart will always be Chicago.

So when Troy died, I made a pact with myself: I will always make every effort to be doing what I want to be doing in the exact place I want to be doing it.

I'm headed to the grocery store now to buy a cheesecake. "The Weight" has been on repeat as I've been typing this.

I'm 29 today. And I'm exactly where I want to be. And I do what I love every day.

For all the friends, family, co-workers and teachers who helped make that possible, thanks.
Marlins Diamondbacks Baseball.jpgIt's not a good time to be a leg in the Treanor household, as there's a 50 percent chance you're recovering from an injury right now.

Gold medal-winning volleyballer Misty May-Treanor confirmed last night that her ruptured Achilles (ouch!) will force to sit out the rest of "Dancing With the Stars." But she says she won't let the injury, which she suffered during rehearsals, stop her from competing in beach volleyball.

"I plan on coming back to the beach," she told USA Today. She also assured the paper that her injury won't affect her plans to try again for gold in 2012.

Though the news was leaked on a radio show earlier in the day, May-Treanor showed up on the show last night to chat with host Tom Bergeron, who should be remembered as one-fifth of the worst Emmy's hosting job ever.

In other Treanor news, 32-year-old Florida Marlins catcher Matt Treanor, Misty May's husband, recently underwent surgery to repair three muscle tears in his left hip. Again ... ouch.

This could severely affect Matt's TV schedule while he's recovering. He told the L.A. Times last month that he would faithfully watch his wife on the show.

Though it's tough to fake a rupturing of the Achilles tendon, we can't help but wonder whether this was a ploy to spend more time at home with the hubby. If so, well played, Misty May ... well played.

SI.com published this feel-good profile of the couple in 2005.
It must be nice to be a Boston Red Sox fan. Actually, I feel like I sorta know what it's like to be a Boston Red Sox fan. We were all Boston Red Sox fans in 2004, weren't we? They were epic underdogs then -- David to the Yankee's Goliath. And America has a way of rallying behind an underdog. They were, in essence, the us of then.

But now, after the Sox toppled the Angels 3-1, effectively winning their series on the heels of Jason Bay's head-first diving slide across home plate, it's apparent that these are not your uncle Paulie's Boston Red Sox.

It's evident that we're witnessing a modern dynasty the likes of which we haven't seen in decades. And we're insanely jealous here in Chicago.

There was a time when it looked bleak for fans in Boston. When the sporting world was certain the team suffered a divine affliction similar to that of the not-so-venerable Chicago Cubs.

Now that the Sox have won this series and will now face division rivals Tampa Bay Rays, Curt Schilling's prediction that the team will go on to win the World Series seems that much more ... insightful.

The bottom line is this: We're so freakin' insanely wicked jealous here in Chicago -- specifically near the intersections of Clark and Addison. We want what Boston has enjoyed the last few seasons. We want to eschew our endless dread and feel perennially on top. We want it to be a given that we'll be there in blankets watching night games in 40-degree weather, warmed by the likelihood of greatness afoot.

We'll trade you. We'll give you Soriano for Pedroia. D-Lee for Papi. Fukudome for ... your bat boy. Maybe it's not fair on paper, but it's fair in life. It's only fair that you share the wealth, Boston.

And while we're at it, we want our injured pitchers blogging about how our teams are unstoppable. Heck, we'll take our healthy pitchers blogging about ... anything really.

Hasn't Chicago proven that it  can handle a dynasty with the Bulls throughout the 90s? Haven't we paid our dues and proven that we deserve, year-after-year, to have a baseball team locking horns deep in October? We're good winners. We'll be cool.

We're told it's a sin to covet. That we should be happy with the many blessings that have been bestowed upon us. And don't get me wrong ... there are some blessings.

But what is a blessing if its automatic companion is a curse? Or in this case curses. Curses!

So tell us, Boston. Tell us how to hope.

Ours is a city that rose from its own ashes to become one of the greatest modern cities in the world. We're home to doers. Great thinkers. Artisans of renown.

But we cannot bring a championship to the North Side.

Perhaps, dear Bostonians, you can answer this question: Why? Why should we keep buying tickets here in Chicago? Why should we keep tuning in and hoping, praying when we know the end result is futility? Why should we care when we absolutely cannot bring a championship to the North Side?

Maybe ... just maybe ... this is the cost of love.


We ran across this today while digging for hard news on the Web.

It's pretty much self-explanatory, but we thought we'd share it anyway to remind our dear readers that being a member of the media is now always a walk in the bird sanctuary:

Bears Lions Football.jpgThe liberal media elite would like you to believe that Sunday's trouncing of the Detroit Lions was the byproduct of a so-so Bears team beating up on a squad that more closely resembled a Division I-AA intramural club.

They want to downplay the Bears' victory ... a practice akin to saying the universe is "pretty big, ain't it?"

The folks up the river (we're looking at you, John Mullin) would have you believe, "The Lions' trademark poor execution was accompanied by any number of dubious decisions." So typical of the liberal media elite blaming the losing team for losing, rather than giving the greatest team of all time on Earth the credit it so richly deserves.

Are you kidding me? There should be a ticker tape parade down LaSalle today -- the only proper way to celebrate yesterday's feat.

Mullin continues, "Detroit quarterbacks and receivers were not in the same book, let alone on the same page." Well did you ever consider, Mr. Liberal Media Elite, that perhaps it wasn't an issue of Lions players not being in the same book as much as it was a matter of the Bears rendering them illiterate?

And I suppose you want to attribute Kyle Orton's mercifully amazing performance to the Lions' lackluster secondary. But you fail to point out that the Bears' QB and Pro Bowl shoo-in appeared on "Big 10 Friday Night Tailgate" this past Friday, bearing his soul to sports journo extraordinaire and friend of Sports Pros(e), Jordan Klepper. You failed to mention that, media. And if you think that Orton/Klepper one-on-one didn't have more to do with The Bearded One's performance than Detroit's allegedly porous secondary, then I ask you to kindly turn in your press pass, sir or madam.

In case you, the general public, haven't noticed, the Bears sit atop the NFC North five games into this young season. Well, I have news for all of you. They haven't even begun to try. They've managed to lull nearly everyone in the NFL into that proverbial false sense of security.

Well, it's pounce time, suckers. And all you doubters and haters out there will surely bare witness to a furious, unprecedented bear attack . Un. Prece. Dented.

Even Mitch Albom (Mitch Albom!) of the Detroit Free Press -- the Lions' own PR bullhorn -- had this to say in (apparently in an effort to take away from what was perhaps one of the greatest performances ever by the absolute greatest football team ever):

"Kyle Orton? A career day? Then again, against our sad sacks, isn't that the norm? The Lions gave Atlanta rookie Matt Ryan a touchdown on his first NFL pass, gave Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay's eternal backup, a career afternoon, and gave their own castoff, J.T. O'Sullivan, his best day ever in San Francisco. Why not Orton?"

Oh sure, Detroit. It's all about you, isn't it? It was your "sad sacks" who were the problem. Have you ever considered that in a Bears-less universe it could be you that was destined for the Super Bowl. You whose fate is sealed in February. In a Bears-less universe, everyone would have a chance. But this is the Bears' world. The Bears' league. And all others are foragers in a barren land. A land ravaged by massive Bears with crazed eyes and thick blood dripping from their massive jowls.

Finally, as Mullen and Albom only half-report, Roy Williams summed up the Lions' performance with one word: "Lost." But if this is indeed "Lost," it's clear that no one is willing to give the Bears credit for moving the island.
p1_edwards_trent.jpgNo one likes to watch his or her favorite quarterback hit the ground and fail to rise like a Phoenix. That's why it was so hard for BIlls fans to watch their quarterback go down ... in Phoenix ... and not immediately get up.


Edwards, who has been a stalwart for the Bills this season, was replaced by J.P. Losman.

Just the other day, the National Post reported that Edwards brings calm to the Buffalo area with his poise and veteran-like attitude. So without Edwards, once can only assume that the calm Buffalo was growing so fond of could be gone.

Coupled with the fact that Buffalo lost 41-17 and there's obvious reason for concern in Buffalo.

In related news, has anyone noticed how the Buffalo accent sounds so similar to the Chicago accent? Curious ... very curious.

I don't want to be in the same room as the Cubs right now. It's not good for us. We've been having problems lately and everything just kind of came bubbling to the surface tonight. I just can't do this anymore. I give, I give and I give some more. And what do the Cubs do? Oh sure, they give ... for a while. And then it's take, take, take -- me, me, me.

I just ... I thought I knew the Cubs. I thought we had something special. Especially this year. Especially this year. I mean ... all the signs were there.

Everyone would say to me, "Kevin ... look at your team. Look at how amazing they are. Best record in the National League. You both look so happy. After 100 years of buffoonery, your guys are gonna finally make it happen."

It. I feel like I don't even know what it is anymore. Just a notion, perhaps. A foggy memory of something that never even happened in the first place.

All those signs that people held up and put in their windows around the neighborhood -- the ones that say "It's gonna happen." I hate those signs. You know what ... I'll tell you what it is. It is epic failure. It is three busted ground balls in the second inning of game 2. It is the season ending on a check swing by a guy who signed a $136 million contract to play a game that centers around a ball and a stick. A game that a handful of its best all-time players played while drunk.

Next year's signs, if Cub fans are intelligent (ha ha ha), will say "It's not gonna happen." Because it is clearly some godforsaken curse. Each one of us -- all of us Cub fans -- did something wretched in a past life to deserve this. It has nothing to do with a goat or any other myth or neighborhood legend. It has everything to do with it. That thing that you reach for that's just beyond your finger tips. Pure, concentrated punishment for some invisible crime. Punishment  for something we'll never know whether we ever did.

I probably shouldn't tell the Cubs, but I've been seeing another team. The White Sox. It was -- is, was ... what's the difference -- just a fling. It was going well for a while. We had a few laughs. We even danced a little -- something the Cubs and I so seldom do anymore. Oh, what's the use? It's not going to work out with the White Sox either.

This may make me a bad fan, but tonight ... tonight was the final straw. We're breaking up. Me and the Cubs. We're over. Did I say this last October? No. Last October was different. Last October the bar was so low that all the Cubs had to do was put their uniforms on with the numbers facing back and it was considered a victory. But this was supposed to be our year. It was supposed to happen. Instead, it happened.

Could we possibly get back together, me and Cubs? I don't know. Teams can change. They can go out and sign free agents. They can better themselves. They can do the things necessary to prove to me and the rest of the world that they're ready for a commitment. A commitment to winning.

Six months is a long time. A lot can happen.

To tell the truth, I'm not looking forward to a life without baseball. I'm not looking forward to that.

But I can tell you I sure am looking forward to a life without it. At least, that is, until next year.
Freelance journalist/photographer/videographer Ricci Shryock spent the last few days exploring Wrigleyville and capturing the sights and sounds that surround it. The following slide show is the compelling result:


Just when we thought we had our fingers fully on the pulse of all major sports, female MMA comes from out of nowhere to grapple our attention.

The occasion? We're ashamed to admit -- nakedness.

Athletes who are required to make weight in their respective sports have often taken extreme measures to make it happen, but MMA fighter Gina Carano went the extra mile by stripping in front of a room full of photographers to get down to 141 lbs.

Naturally, dudes everywhere are allowing their minds to run wild.

Carano fights tonight at 8 p.m. on CBS. So does Kimbo Slice, who, we're happy to report, did not strip naked.

For those of you watching with children in the room, don't worry ... she's covered with towels:


Gone fishin'

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marlin.jpgLiterally.

I've gone fishing. You're in Kevin's capable hands. I imagine there will be some stuff to write on. Maybe a post on baseball? Might be a good idea.

-Kyle
Jim Calhoun and the UConn basketball team had high hopes for recruit Nate Miles.

Not anymore.

The 6-6 swingman was expelled from UConn after being arrested for violating a restraining order.
Ahh, postseason baseball. Where emotions happen.



When I watched this live, I thought that Orlando Cabrera had gone completely off the deep end, kicking dirt and talking trash for no apparent reason.

Joe Cowley explains that Rays' pitcher Grant Balfour may have instigated the whole thing after all.

"After striking out Juan Uribe with one out and the bases loaded, Rays reliever Grant Balfour appeared to yell on the mound in excitement and make a get-out-of-there gesture toward Uribe.

The next batter, Orlando Cabrera, took exception to that, and during his at-bat, he kicked dirt in Balfour's direction -- ''to challenge him.'' Balfour fanned Cabrera, then clearly yelled in his direction and made gestures pointing Cabrera back to the dugout.

Meanwhile, there was a shouting match going on at first base, where Pierzynski had been stranded. It looked like first baseman Willy Aybar and Pierzynski were trading words, but it was interim first-base coach Omer Munoz, who allegedly told Rays catcher Dioner Navarro to ''take your pitcher back into the dugout.''

Cabrera also said Balfour has an interesting habit. One that would necessitate Orbit gum.

"''They said he always gets pumped up like that. He said the F-word to the hitter every time he swings at his pitch. I didn't know that. I was just pumped up.'

What did you all think of the confrontation? Who was in the right, who was in the wrong? And do you think there's going to be any carry over to tonight's game?

nldsgame2.jpgMarty Farmer has been talking all season about how great the Dodgers are. Let's just say he loves their "young talent." Part of "Code of Silence", starring Chuck Norris, was shot at his house in Oak Park. That's awesome.

BY MARTY FARMER Sports Pros(e) Contributor

When I heard the bizarre news that Cubs chairman Crane Kenney enlisted the sacerdotal services of Rev. James L. Greanias to "bless" the apparently demonic confines of Chicago's dugout, I thought, 'wow, that's really weird and arguably creepier than Bartman's Cubs hat-Walkman ensemble.
For some odd reason, it also reminded me of one of my favorite yarns about Tommy Lasorda.

One weekend when Tommy's Dodgers were in Cincinnati for a three-game set, Lasorda ran into Reds skipper John McNamara at church.

I'll let the Prince of Pasta pick up the story:

 "Now, I know why John's in church, he knows why I'm there. When Mass is over, as we are leaving through the center aisle, Mc says to me, 'Wait for me outside, I'll be right out.' I began wondering what he was going to do and I stopped and watched him. He went over to the right side of the church and he knelt down and lit a candle. When I saw that, I walked up the left aisle, and when he left I went over to the right side and blew out his candle. And all during the game, I kept hollering to McNamara, 'It ain't gonna work, John, I blew out the candle.'"

******

With the Dodgers heading back to Chavez Ravine leading the Cubs 2-0, things clearly aren't working for the Cubs. I offer two obvious observations about Chicago's National League ballclub: I think they are a good baseball team that enjoyed a fantastic, historical regular season. More importantly, they are playing terrible in the NLDS.

For their part, the Dodgers have helped fuel the Cubs' collapse courtesy of solid pitching from D-Lowe and "Bills"; timely hitting from Manny Ramirez, James Loney and Russ Martin; and Joe Torre pushing all the right buttons. Unless the Cubs rip off three straight wins (possible but not probable), consider another season lost in Baseball's Bermuda Triangle of Addison, Clark and Sheffield.

I've felt all season long that LA is a dangerous team on the rise despite skeptical "looks" from some of my Cubs buddies. Western Division jokes aside, the Dodgers are loaded with young talent.

Sure, the additions of Ramirez and Casey Blake have been huge, but the best ERA in the NL coupled with players like Martin, Matty Kemp, Jonathon Broxton, Blake Dewitt, Clayton Kershaw, James McDonald (another young stud pitcher) and Andre Ethier (all under 26) bodes well for the future. As a Dodger fan, I've haven't been this geeked since Gibby went yard on Eckersely in '88. Crank up some Randy Newman!



Of course, there's still an important game to win, so no guarantees are in order. I certainly don't believe in jinxes, let alone billy goats and black cats, but I also know the Dodgers haven't won a postseason series in 20 years.

Words can't really do justice to what we witnessed tonight in Wrigleyville. I'm not much for cliches, but you truly had to be there to fully appreciate the depression en masse that filled the air like the thickest Los Angeles smog.

If it weren't for the endless amenities and convenient access to multiple forms of public transportation that will remain long after the fans have come and gone, I'd say to hell with Wrigleyville. I love my neighborhood, but on a night like tonight -- when the newfound bite of cool air reminds us all that papa winter is around the corner, it sucked to live here. The Cubs' offense looked anemic. The Cubs' defense looked amateurish. And the fans took a Manny-induced vow of silence that I'll never forget.

Seriously ... that silence.

All year, walking through at least 81 crowds in and around the ballpark, you heard the hum. It was the gears of victory lubricated by oily optimism -- pumping, grinding and rattling even in defeat. After a Cubs loss, you'd still find bleats of optimism rising anonymously from the crowd.

But not tonight.

The Cubs haven't been eliminated. In fact, they're three wins in a row away from advancing in the playoffs. Three wins in a row is something that the Cubs have done many many times this season. There's still a sliver of hope. Though only a sliver, you'd think the fans would cling to it -- clutch it in their paws and slam it against their chest, offended by the notion and entirely opposed to the suggestion that it be let go.

But ... that silence.

I didn't want to watch the post-game interviews. I didn't want to know what I already knew. That it's inexplicable. That routine ground balls are meant to be just that -- routine. For some reason though. On this night there was nothing routine to be found.

There was only ...


Check back here at 12:30 for the Sox-Rays live chat.

Over/under on Evan/Eva Longoria jokes: 14

To tide you over, here are some of the indelible images from the White Sox' surprising run to the postseason.

We're always looking for more words around here. Try as we may, we just can't post on all the sports, celebrity, television, babe and scandalous stories that deserve to be posted on.

This is where you come in.

If you'd like to contribute to Sports Pros(e), please leave a comment that tells us so. You certainly don't have to be a sports expert, but a healthy knowledge of what's going on outside your home is a plus. Humorous applicants will be fast-tracked.

In addition to getting your name in big, bold letters with your post you'll receive no compensation other than the chance to showcase your wit and interact with us. Hope that doesn't scare you off.
Dear James Loney and Manny Ramirez,

In case you haven't heard, the Cubs franchise is in the midst of a bit of a drought when it comes to winning the World Series. I fully realize it's your job to win baseball games ... and be it that last night's (and tonight's) game pitted you against the Cubs, you can claim that you were only doing your job when you so unceremoniously trounced them 7-2.

But in case you haven't been reading the newspapers or devouring blogs, allow me to catch you up on what you've been missing.

This is the Cubs' year.

I know this partly because after the Cubs clinched their division, I spoke to several fans outside the park who told me so. We're talking several here -- like 28 fans who said, unflinchingly, that this is the Cubs year. And if you can trust anyone when it comes to letting you know who can and should win in the playoffs, it's the fans.

And if I may say so, Mr. Loney and Mr. Ramirez, it would seem after last night's performance that you're both hell-bent on bucking fate, on sticking out your tongue at the baseball Gods and choosing your own adventure rather than sticking to the script that was so clearly laid out before you when Ryan Dempster told the media on Day 1 of spring training that the Cubs would win the World Series.

So fellas -- ease up. Seriously. You're playing like you're actually trying to win. What's that about? Clearly this is not the Dodgers' year or the media and blogosphere would be saying, "This is the Dodgers' year." That was 20 years ago, my friends. And last I checked, there's no one named Orel or Kirk on your team.

I expect a Dodgers' loss tonight. Not because I'm a fan. But because I'm a member of the media. And what we say goes. In case you haven't noticed, we have the power to dictate the outcome of myriad events.

Back off, Manny. And James Loney, I don't want to see you giving us reason to ever use your name as a pun again.

That is all.

Sincerely,

Kevin Allen
Sports Pros(e)


BY RICCI SHRYOCK Sports Pros(e) Multimedia Correspondent

Freelance photographer/journalist Ricci Shryock is a friend of Sports Pros(e). During Game 1 of the NLDS, Ricci set out to capture the ups and downs of Cubdom throughout Wrigleyville. The following is a sample of what Ricci saw through her lens:

CubsOct1_1.jpg
(Photo by Ricci Shryock)

Oscar Jauregui, Domenick Cascio and Tony Vivirito celebrate the Cubs' Mark DeRosa's two-run homer in the second inning to put the Cubs ahead.

CubsOct1_2.jpg
(Photo by Ricci Shryock)

Twenty-one year Cascio said he's been a Cubs fan all his life. He will turn 22 this month, and he says the best birthday present would be a World Series Championship for the Cubs.

CubsOct1_4.jpg
(Photo by Ricci Shryock)

Cubs fans celebrate early during the first game of the 2008 playoffs. Laura Cline (Bottom-right), said she convinced her husband, Chad Cline (a St. Louis Cardinals fan) to came to Chicago from Bloomington, Ill. to watch the game at The Cubby Bear.

CubsOct1_6.jpg
(Photo by Ricci Shryock)

More cheering fans at The Cubby Bear, but the mood quickly shifted when...

CubsOct1_5.jpg
(Photo by Ricci Shryock)

The Dodger's James Loney hit a grand slam to help his team take the lead, 4-2.

CubsOct1_3.jpg
(Photo by Ricci Shryock)

Cubs fans leave Wrigley Field after the first game of the playoffs. The Cubs lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers, 7-2.