A hearty stew of offbeat sports and pop culture.

November 2008 Archives

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Well, this story certainly had a misleading slug.

@Body.text: BC-BKC--Indiana-Jones,0143

IndianaÕs Jones injured against Cornell

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) Ñ Indiana freshman guard Verdell Jones III was taken off the court on a stretcher with an injury in SundayÕs basketball game against Cornell. The nature of the injury wasnÕt immediately known. JonesÕ head appeared to strike the shoulder of Cornell center Jeff Foote on a hard pick near midcourt during the first half. Jones was on the court several minutes before being strapped to the stretcher and wheeled out. AP-CS-11-30-08 1703EST

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Oklahoma will now represent the Big 12 South in the conference championship game against Missouri after jumping Texas in the latest BCS Standings.

Texas beat Oklahoma earlier this year.

Let the debate begin.

How does this sit with you? Do you feel like the Sooners are more deserving of playing in the championship game than the Longhorns? Are you sick of computers deciding everything or are you a fan of all things HTML?
The latest in the developing Plaxico Burress story:

The AP is reporting the following:

"Lawyer Benjamin Brafman wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press that Burress will turn himself in Monday morning in New York City and "will enter a plea of not guilty later that same day."
It looks like the Tennessee coaching staff is going to be going from zero Kiffins to two Kiffins.

Former Oakland Raiders coach Lane Kiffin is expected to be named as the new leader of the Volunteers on Monday and it looks like his father Monte will be following him to Knoxville.

Sources: Monte Kiffin to join son Lane's staff with Volunteers
   [ESPN]
weddingkiss.jpegHere's a little heartwarming story for you to enjoy while the miserable weather sets into the Midwest.

Claudaniel "CD" Fabien and Melody LaLuz Fabien pledged to be abstinent before marriage -- but went a little further by agreeing not to kiss each other on the lips before their union was official.

The couple's wedding was yesterday and they finally locked lips.

Now you may kiss the bride   [Sun-Times]
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Tonight's game in Minneapolis is crucial for the Bears.

A win would put them in sole possession of first place in the NFC North with four games to go and secure the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Vikings.

Brad Biggs pounds home the importance of the game in his piece today, while all five of our sportswriters pick the Vikings to win.

Earlier this season, the Bears used an explosive passing attack and stellar special teams to win the first game between these two squads, 48-41.

So what do you say, Chicago? Is the lack of faith in Lovie & Co. justified? Or will the Bears improve to 3-0 in night games this year? Tell us your predictions.
Boston College defeated Maryland 28-21 today to advance to the ACC championship game next Saturday against Virginia Tech.

The game featured a touchdown pass on a fake field thrown by none other than Billy Flutie, nephew of hail mary enthusiast Doug Flutie.

Color commentator Ray Bentley seemed to either get caught up in the moment or is under the impression that Doug's heroics against Miami took place in 1964 instead of 1984.

Even still, a nice moment.

pal.jpgMichael Phelps, who captured the hearts of Americans everywhere with his stunning performance at the Beijing Olympics, has apparently had his heart captured by a new girlfriend.

The Huffington Post is reporting that Phelps brought Caroline Pal -- a Las Vegas cocktail waitress -- home to meet his family over Thanksgiving.

The New York Post also dishes on Pal:

"Pal, 26, has posed for photos taken for risqué Web sites, including "Beverly Hills Pimps and Hos."

    Her MySpace page greets visitors with the welcome: "Baby, let me upgrade you."


A cursory image search for Pal yields all sorts of interesting results. Hint, hint.


Mississippi State football coach Sylvester Croom has resigned.

ESPN
is reporting the news.

Croom, the first African-American head coach in the history of SEC football, took over the Bulldogs in 2004.
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Plaxico Burress was accidentally shot in the leg last night at a club, according to this article from ESPN.com.

No one seems to have further information, but FoxSports.com is reporting that the gunshot wound was self-inflicted.

Feel free to share your thoughts on this story -- which can only have a logical explanation. Or, send your well-wishes to Plax, who adds yet another storyline to his already controversial season.
Georgia and Georgia Tech are renewing their rivalry in Athens as we speak. Both teams are ranked in the Top 20 and have some serious bowl aspirations. But it looks like what the American populace is really concerned about -- per Google Trends -- is the Georgia Tech fight song.

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To quote a World War II era ditty, "We did it before and we can do it again."

Missouri and Kansas fire up yet another installment of their storied rivalry today at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City. In the interest of full disclosure, I'll remind readers that I'm a Mizzou alum and, therefore, not entirely fond of the University of Kansas athletics department as a whole.

I can tell you as a former MU Summer Welcome freshman orientation leader that the Mizzou/KU rivalry is something that is ingrained in the hearts of Tigers months before you first take that first symbolic walk through the columns or attend your first 500-person gen-ed lecture at Middlebush Auditorium.

We like to call it the oldest rivalry west of the Mississippi. And until last year -- when the No. 1 ranking was on the line and both teams were undefeated -- people weren't really aware that these two programs still fielded teams, much less that they were bitter rivals.

The stakes are a little lower tonight than last year's contest. Much lower, also, than the circumstances surrounding the origin of the rivalry. You can read the full story here, but in summation, it all has to do with slavery and some enterprising Missourians burning of the town of Lawerence.

KU can play spoiler tonight, a role that Missouri will fill next week. The Tigers' national title hopes went away a very long time ago, but fans are still hoping for a magical, memorable season. With its second straight trip to the Big 12 championship game already wrapped up, Mizzou has the opportunity to play spoiler to either Oklahoma or Texas Tech, depending on a number of factors outlined in the Houston Chronicle.

Missouri fans are chiming in with their usual fervor. From the MizzouRAH blog comes this encapsulating quote:

"I don't like a lot of things. I can't stand onions, geometry or college football analyst Brent Musberger. But there's probably only one thing I truly hate: The University of Kansas."

All this week at that blog, the authors have been providing daily vitriol, embarrassing KU-related video and less-than flattering photos of the men who frequent Lawerence, Ks. bars and the women who love them.

But the venom is much harder to track down on the Jayhawks' side.

This brings me to something I observed in college and maintain to this day: Missouri fans hate Kansas WAY more than Kansas fans hate Missouri.

With KU's basketball program completely eclipsing that of Missouri's -- especially in recent years -- all we really have left is football.

Kansas fans have a pesky way of always bringing numbers into any my-school-is-superior-to-yours conversation. Numbers like "zero" -- as in the amount of Final Four college basketball appearances Missouri has. And numbers like 2008 -- the year KU last won the national championship in said sport.

It's hard to make fun of a team for looking so silly while winning because, in the end, they win.

But Mizzou owns football -- barely. We're up 54-53-9 in the second-most played rivalry in college football history. The Tigers have taken the last two after losing three in a row to the Jayhawks.

So, for the sake of our ailing basketball program. For the sake of their thriving one, don't blow this one, Tigers. If this rivalry is to live on for Missouri and Kansas students for years to come, we must continue to own the Indian War Drum.

And, oh yes ... a bully for Old Mizzou!
weis.jpgCharlie Weis and Notre Dame travel to Los Angeles tonight to take on USC in a game that most people think won't be much of a game.

Neil Hayes
writes that a win today would rank as one of the greatest upsets in the rivalry's history and an uninspired blowout could cost Weis his job.

Irish wide receiver Golden Tate also dons his Captain Obvious cape, saying not many people outside of the Notre Dame locker room think his team has a chance.

So, does anyone out there think Notre Dame will shock the world and take down the mighty Trojans? Or will USC run all over them?

You can add "standing up for himself" to the unbelievably long list of things LeBron James does well.

After Charles Barkley took James to task for openly discussing his free agency following the 2010 season, the current Cleveland Cavalier called the former Right Guard pitchman "stupid."


From the Associated Press:

"He's stupid. That's all I've got to say about that," James said Friday night before the Cavaliers' game against Golden State.

Barkley made the comments on TNT's NBA studio show and Dan Patrick's radio show.

"If I was LeBron James, I would shut the hell up," the Hall of Famer said on Patrick's show. "I'm a big LeBron fan. He's a stud. You gotta give him his props. I'm getting so annoyed he's talking about what he's going to do in two years. I think it's disrespectful to the game. I think it's disrespectful to the Cavaliers."

James has made no secret about his desire to be a transcendent world icon.

He's flirted with the idea of playing in Europe and built a rather impressive stable of celebrity friends.

He's even hosted "Saturday Night Live" in (gasp) New York.

He's also carried a mediocre Cleveland team to the NBA Finals, rejuvenated a franchise and averaged 27.9 points, 7.2 rebounds and 6.3 assists this year.

Ironically, Barkley is pleading for James to shut up and just play basketball. There's a few people out there who would have preferred the Round Mound of Doubling Down did the same during his career.

Look, Barkley is going to say exactly what's on his mind. He's boisterous and entertaining. That's why he's gainfully employed as an analyst. But he's missed the mark here.

Pretending this enormous cloud of uncertainty isn't hanging over LeBron's future would just be ignorant. So would pretending Cleveland as sexy of a market as the Big Apple.

Until all the i's are dotted and t's are crossed on James' lucrative new deal, it's going to be a story.

Hopefully this little tiff goes away though -- not that we need to see any more kissing and making up from Chuck.

Anything less would be, well... uncivilized.


Chad Ocho Cinco is not immune to the shopping bug. The Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver and notorious malcontent was seen weaving through the aisles of a Best Buy in Florence, Ky. early this morning.

Luckily, The Cincinnati Enquirer's Michael E. Keating was there to capture the moment.

chadjohnson.jpegSomeone please write a caption for this.

And while you're at it, this one probably needs one too:


ochogame.jpegWe've been critical of Mr. Cinco around here in the past, but this latest stunt really makes us smile.

Well played, Chad. Well played, indeed.

The Stephon Marbury era in the Big Apple may finally be coming to an end.

The Knicks guard and affordable-shoe enthusiast refused to take the court Wednesday against the Detroit Pistons -- the second time in six days he'd done so.

Report: Marbury's second refusal to play may lead to his departure
   [ESPN]

Thumbnail image for shop.jpgBy now America has shook off its collective turkey-induced food coma and headed out in droves for another holiday tradition.

That's right sports fans, it's Black Friday.

Stores are packed to the gills with thrifty shoppers dying to get the best deal on the presents they intend to give to their family, friends or that weird guy in accounting whose name they drew in their office Secret Santa programs.

Evidently, up to 128 million shoppers are expected to hit retail stores this weekend.

That's more people than voted in the election earlier this month.

Now, I feel like I speak for many men when I admit that I just don't get the hype. The prospect of throwing sharp elbows at an ungodly hour of the morning to save 10 percent on a tie for my uncle just doesn't appeal to me. The whole thing seems ... silly.

But then again, how many things do I -- and so many other sports-thirsty American males -- do in the name of fandom that these shoppers find bewildering?

Uhh, follow me on this one.

The Pittsburgh Pirates, desperately seeking to improve what has been several lean years in a row at the bottom of the NL Central, have signed two pitchers from India.

Here's the catch: Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel each had not touched a baseball until earlier this year.

Oh yeah, they were also discovered after participating in a reality show.
hankjr.jpgCowboy hat and football-preparation enthusiast Hank Williams Jr. is probably best known to the American populace as the guy who sings the 'Monday Night Football' theme.

The country music artist will once again ask us if we've braced ourselves for football tonight before the Saints-Packers game. Earlier today he announced that he intends to run for a seat in the Senate.


Hank Williams Jr. Announces Senate Run   [WSMV]
The holiday season has officially begun, as evidenced by Google Trends.

Seems people are really boning up on their traditional Thanksgiving recipes.

Picture 2.pngBake on, America. Bake on.
LenDale White was a non-factor in the Tennessee Titans' 34-13 loss to the New York Jets yesterday.

He was the field for just three plays, but that didn't stop him from becoming the center of attention after the game.

From WBIR:

"White told 10 Sports "I only played three plays, so I couldn't really tell you what happened (in the loss to the Jets), I have no idea. I wasn't paying attention so I didn't care."

"I don't know if I had gotten the ball 30 times if we'd have won the game or not," said White. "I would like to be involved more, or if I'm not involved I'd like somebody to tell me what's going on."


Not playing attention? I don't care?
 
Those gems surely won't sit well with Titans coach Jeff Fisher.
bruce.jpgAfter much prodding, the father of this blogger has agreed to weigh in on the Detroit Lions. And although I've tried my best to capture the essence of what it's like to support this franchise, there is no better voice than that of a man who has seen them lose in every conceivable way for more than a half century. We here at Sports Pros(e) thank him for taking time out of fixing this gas guzzler to share his thoughts.

BY BRUCE KOSTER Sports Pros(e) Contributor

Last week I had a bad postgame dream and in a moment of weakness could not bring myself to kick the sick dog that is the Detroit Lions.

I'm over that.

OK, here we go. 0-10 and no looking back.

The boys are running out of new and innovative ways to not win a football game this year.

How would they do it this week?

Well, how about this: They come on strong -- real strong --  and march down the field, scoring three times to go ahead 17-0 in the first quarter. Then, just as the fans are whipped into yet another Ford-O-Dome stale beer-induced zone of denial, lets do the following.

Let's give up 150 yards and 21 unanswered points to the Bucs in the next six minutes.

Oh, and just for a little icing on the cake, while giving up those 21 points let's have Daunte Culpepper catch his own guys TWICE for a penalty on the hard count when we have the ball third and short.

NICE WORK!!

Cut to halftime.

Bucs 21, Lions 17.

Scan to crowd where the fans that just a very short time ago were peeing their pants with excitement. Now they are looking at their shoes, shaking their heads in confusion and startled at what has just happened.

Is it possible that with ticket sales slumping and empty seats multiplying like rabbits the Fords have secretly taking to giving away tickets to anyone that can prove they have never seen or heard of the Lions?

OK third quarter. Lets do this: give up a easy touchdown right away courtesy of really bad tackling skills.

That makes 28 unanswered points. Then, just to keep it interesting, they recover a Bucs' fumble and promptly throw a pick-6.

OK so now we are at....35 points unanswerd.

Time to bring in Drew Stanton.

They had to scrape him up off the field with a coal shovel after a devastating sack.

They were also penalized six times? ( lost count) in the third quarter.

Forth quarter, more penalties, fumbling and stumbling.

We lose.

0-11.

Hey, after 50+ years of poor perfomance you would roll over and fall asleep after first quarter foreplay too.
Prior to today's 105th meeting on the gridiron of the University of Michigan and the Ohio State University football teams, a bit of a skirmish broke out.

A fracas, if you will:

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In case you've developed any sort of sympathy of Michael Vick in the wake of Joey Porter's comments, we learned today that he found the violence humorous.

From CNNSI.com:

"In a 17-page report filed Aug. 28, 2008, by case agent James Knorr of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and released Friday under the Freedom of Information Act, a person identified as confidential witness No. 1 said Vick placed pets in the ring against pit bulls owned by "Bad Newz Kennels" at least twice and watched as the pit bulls "caused major injuries."

The witness said Vick and co-defendants Purnell Peace and Quanis Phillips "thought it was funny to watch the pit bull dogs belonging to Bad Newz Kennels injure or kill the other dogs."

Someone who may have been wearing a Bears uniform during Sunday's 37-3 loss in Green Bay might have created a hole in the wall of the Packers' visitors' locker room. [via ProFootballTalk].

This transgression is not sitting well with folks around Green Bay.

Mike Vandermause, columnist for the Green Bay Press-Gazette, writes, "Maybe if the Bears had displayed that much aggression on the field, the game wouldn't have been so lopsided. The Packers dominated the Bears in every conceivable way. However, when it came to immature, irrational, toddler-like post-game outbursts, the Bears were the clear winner."

Ouch, Mike.

To his credit, Vandermause (who apparently lives in a world where no wall in his path has ever suffered any harm) reminds us that the Packers aren't completely innocent when it comes to the team's dealings with the Bears.

He cites the following instances in particular:

"The Bears' Matt Suhey likely still has nightmares about getting plastered by the Packers' Ken Stills, as does Jim McMahon about getting dropped on his head by Charles Martin. Those sorry incidents came well after the whistle and will go down as two of the most blatant cheap shots in the history of the bitter rivalry."

All this reminds us, however, that the Bears-Packers rivalry just isn't what it used to be. In a league where big money, big mouths and even bigger egos make the most intriguing headlines, there's little room left for tradition.

It's naive to assume that guys like Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs get any more amped up for a game against the Packers than they do for a game against the Panthers.

And to suggest that a hole being punched in a wall after an embarrassing loss adds another chapter to the Bears-Packers rivalry is like saying a person who lights a cigarette in California is contributing to last week's wildfires.

Because when it comes to the cities of Green Bay and Chicago and their respective professional sports teams, no one cares anymore. The fire is out.
patknight.jpgSweet mother of Mary, Texas Tech scored 167 points Thursday night in a game against East Central Oklahoma.

From the AP:

"Trevor Cook scored a career-high 20 and was one of 10 players in double figures for Texas Tech, which shattered the school record for points Thursday night in a 167-115 victory over East Central.

Alan Voskuil and John Roberson each had 17 points, and Mike Singletary and Wally Dunn added 16 apiece for the Red Raiders (3-0). The previous school mark was 128 points, set in a double-overtime win against Texas on Feb. 20, 1994.

Pretty good work by the Red Raiders, but this year's most impressive offensive performance belongs to the Slovakian women's hockey team, who squeaked by Bulgaria 82-0.

We're just one hateful day away from the annual festival of animosity that is the Michigan-Ohio State game.

Suffice to say, the traditional rivals are deviating from the script where both of them are, for lack of a better word, good. Ohio State is holding up their end of the bargain, coming in with a 9-2 record and Rose Bowl aspirations. Their neighbors to the north have won exactly 25 percent of their games under first-year coach Rich Rodriguez, who wishes people would get off the message boards and find a life.

Ignoring the trite adage that records need to be throw out in rivalry games, there is little to suggest that Michigan has any chance against the Buckeyes.

But, in the words of the always calm Chris Berman, that's why they play the games.

It's matchups like these that bring to light one of the most misunderstood, elusive questions that plagues the thinking man's sports enthusiast.

Why all the hate?

I'm not naive. A good rivalry, one steeped in utter distrust and sickening disdain makes for good theater. It's the classic 'us vs. them' story that arouses blind loyalty to teams and vengeful vitriol against foes. No one is going to argue that it should completely go away, but still, have you ever stopped to think about why you hate the other guys so much?

As a Michigan State alum, I'd venture to say I took more pleasure in Appalachian State's shocking upset of Michigan in 2007 than I have in the Spartan's surprising 9-2 start this season. More joy in the Wolverines hapless basketball teams recently than in Tom Izzo's successes in East Lansing, Mich.

That's probably not healthy.

Then again, it's not at all out of the ordinary.

Red Sox fans root for the Yankees to go 0-162. Yankees fans root for the Red Sox to go 0-162. But what's weird is when the desire to see the opponent fail more than your team succeed.

The questions I'll pose to you are the following:
1. Which team do you hate the most, and why?
2. What is the furthest you've ever seen disdain for a team go?
3. Would you rather see your team succeed or your rival fail, and why?
4. Do you think Michigan can keep it within two touchdowns?
Good news for Washington Wizards fans: Gilbert Arenas says finishing in last place could be a blessing in disguise.

The AP reports:

" With Arenas still working his way back from a third knee operation in 1 1/2 years, the Wizards are off to a 1-8 start heading into their game Friday against the Houston Rockets.

"I don't want to see them struggle," Arenas said Thursday at Madame Tussauds, where his wax figure was unveiled, "but if this is one of those years where we don't make the playoffs or we finish in last place ... that's what happened to San Antonio and that's how they got Tim Duncan and look at them now ... and that's for the better."
That is not exactly what a fan wants to hear 9 games into a season.
sarahmarshall.JPGSports and movies are really merging together today.

First we had the feel-good Tony Romo goes to the movies story and now we learn that Atlanta Falcon rookie sensation Matt Ryan's girlfriend is named Sarah Marshall.

From ESPN:

"The Falcons made Ryan the first quarterback taken in the draft, and the richest, with a six-year, $72 million contract (including $34.75 million guaranteed). After the draft, Ryan immediately flew to Atlanta with his father, Mike, then bought a house and began acclimating.

"That was very important to Matt, to be settled early on," Mike Ryan said.

The fresh-faced Exton, Pa., native, who'd lived his entire life in the Northeast, soon found that he enjoyed Southern living. He particularly likes the fast-food chain Popeyes, which, along with pizza, are his self-professed weaknesses. His girlfriend, Sarah Marshall, a former BC basketball player, also moved to Atlanta, and she has become the resident cook for the two of them on weeknights.

Also of note: Ryan enjoys Pacey Whitter's latest joint, "Fringe".


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Luxury magazine Michigan Avenue has published a piece on former Sun-Times co-worker Jay Mariotti titled "Mariotti Unplugged" in its Holiday 2008 issue. As the deck headline promises, "The outspoken, defiant, polarizing (some say petulant) former Sun-Times sports columnist opens up about new friends, famous foes, and the future of journalism."

Chicago writer Josh Schollmeyer, whose current Facebook status claims he's "dropping magazine articles like Ani DiFranco drops albums," penned the piece. It contains a trough of rehashed play-by-play from Mariotti's departure from the paper three months ago, along with 12 cunningly crafted Q & A questions with the columnist and ESPN personality himself, including the following sound bite:

"MA: Describe Jay Mariotti the coworker.
JM: I'm the best teammate you'll ever have-- if you're in this business for the right reasons. If you're a columnist who's lazy, boring, political, doesn't write the tough piece, you'll hate me. If you're a beat writer who courts the favor of the people you cover and knows more than you report, you'll hate me. If you're an editor who doesn't have vision and guts, you'll hate me. But if you care and have a soul, we'll get along great."
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ESPN is reporting that Chad Ocho Cinco will not play in tonight's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver has been deactivated for violating a team rule that team officials are refusing to disclose.

The Cincinnati Enquirer, however, is reporting that the team rule he violated may have something to do with this:

"Bengals play-by-play announcer Brad Johansen said on WCKY-AM today that Ocho Cinco told him that he overslept for an 8:30 p.m. meeting Wednesday. Johansen also said that Ocho Cinco told him that head coach Marvin Lewis told Ocho Cinco rules are rules."

There was also some chatter from NFL.com reporter Adam Schefter that Ocho Cinco "got into it last night with someone in the Cincinnati organization and left a team function."

Ocho Cinco's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, told Sports Center that his client is "not going to make this a controversy or a circus."

This, of course, would be a first for Ocho Cinco. Then again, if you're playing for a team that's currently 1-8-1, why bother making a stink in a stinky place?

AP is also reporting the story.


It's easy to get caught up in all the Chad Johnson and Adam Jones news today, but in the interest of fairness, let's talk this morning about a professional athlete going above and beyond the call of duty.

Dallas Cowboys quarterback and Jessica Simpson enthusiast Tony Romo is racking up quite a reputation as a nice guy. His latest act was treating a homeless Dallas man to an afternoon at the movies.

From the Dallas News:

"Romo, who confirmed the story but didn't want to elaborate, waved Doc over to sit by him and his friend. Doc sheepishly mentioned that he hadn't showered in a few days.

"Don't worry about that," Romo said. "I'm used to locker rooms."

And so the $67 million quarterback and a man who doesn't have $6.70 to his name sat next to each other and shared laughs for 90 minutes or so.

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A Lakers fan, a Rockets fan and two Phoenix Suns fans celebrate Kerry Wood's record-tying 20-strikeout performance against the Houston Astros May 6, 1998. (Sun-Times photo)

Some Cubs fans still can't believe that Kerry Wood will be a Cub no more.

Like it or not, that's the reality.

So which team will have Kid K in their bullpen next season?

Sporting News writer Gerry Fraley posits Arizona as a good fit for Wood:

"Arizona makes sense. Wood now lives in the Phoenix area, and the Diamondbacks are unsettled at closer. Free agent righthander Brandon Lyon, who closed for Arizona for most of the 2008 season, allows the ball to put be put in play too often, and he was terrible in the second half this past season (1-2, 8.46 ERA, 40 hits allowed in 22 1/3 innings)."

Even the Diamondbacks' Web site is addressing the possibility that Wood will go west -- albeit a less optimistic take. Beat reporter Steve Gilbert tells one D-backs fan:

"As far as Wood is concerned, he figures to get a multiyear deal and some think as much as $10 million per year. The D-backs don't have that kind of money to spend ... the club seems content to go into Spring Training with Chad Qualls (as closer)."

The Mets, Indians and Rangers have also been mentioned as possible destinations for Wood. Foxsports.com reports:

"One rival executive predicts that the Rangers will make a strong run at free-agent closer Kerry Wood, who was born in Irving, Tx., a suburb of Dallas; Wood has allowed only three home runs in 90 2/3 innings the past two seasons, making him a reasonable choice for hitter-friendly Rangers Ballpark."

Cubs fans: Would you prefer to see Kerry Wood pitching in the American League, or would you welcome the chance to face him in late-inning situations?
While keeping tabs on my GMail account this evening I couldn't help but notice that something had changed. The usual stark and simple theme had transformed to feature a slew of reds, blues and yellows.

Naturally, a freak out ensued.

Luckily, it was just Google Themes kicking in.

Turns out Google is stepping up their aesthetic game.

If these changes haven't taken effect on your account, brace yourself. It's a bold new world.

For those of you already seeing them, how do you like it?
mussina.jpgMike Mussina is expected to retire, according to a source close to the situation. The 40-year-old has quietly put together a remarkable career that includes 270 wins.

Mussina pitched in Baltimore for the first 10 years of his career and the final eight with the New York Yankees. Along the way he managed to maintain a paltry 3.68 ERA and 2,813 strikeouts.

These numbers are slightly short of the sexier 3,000 Ks and 300 wins that pretty much punch a pitcher's ticket to Cooperstown. But Mussina's ERA in today's run-happy climate -- one he was able to maintain in the bandbox that is Camden Yards -- and his sustained reliability over an 18-year career should not be discounted.

In my humble opinion, he belongs in the Hall of Fame. He was never the elite pitcher in baseball, but he anchored whatever pitching staff he was on and even won 20 games in what will probably prove to be his final season.

What do you think? Should the Moose be enshrined in baseball's holiest temple? Or is he just not up to par when compared with other hurlers who are already there.
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In what can only be described as one of the worst ideas floated in a long time, Oakland Athletics owner Lew Wolff today proposed that the first round of baseball's postseason be shortened to one game.

Seriously.

While it is ridiculous that Game 7 of the 2009 World Series would take place on Nov. 5, I doubt anyone out there would sign off on this idea.

Except maybe the Cubs. They'll take all the help they can get.
I had a great time in college, but one joy that I never got to experience was the opportunity to name the school's mascot.

The lucky students at Butler University will be able take a crack at naming the new Bulldog mascot.

The AP reports:

"Starting with Wednesday night's men's basketball game against Ball State through the women's game against Coastal Carolina on Dec. 6, fans may submit names for the new costumed mascots that replace two that were stolen from Hinkle Fieldhouse in August.

Finalists will be announced Dec. 20, and fans may vote online or at games through Jan. 17. The winner will be announced on Jan. 22 during Butler's game against Wisconsin-Green Bay.
Alright, out with them. What name would you submit?
Perhaps the most talked-about matchup in the NFL this Sunday will be the skirmish in Nashville between the 10-0 Titans and the first place (yes ... first place) New York Jets.

The Jets are coming off an impressive overtime win against the Patriots that had the normally unflappable Brett Favre flapped and admittedly 'nervous as heck', according to an article at Newsday.com.

The Titans, meanwhile, are drawing praise from unlikely places -- namely Mercury Morris, the 1972 Miami Dolphin running back who manages to get his mug on the TV box whenever a team threatens not to lose a game. He tells ESPN he likes the Titans' chances to finish the season undefeated because the Titans, like the magical Miami team he continues to milk, were also underdogs.

But if the Titans are underdogs, don't tell tight end Bo Scaife, who boasted to the Tennesseean, "I feel like we refuse to lose. We have a goal and every week somebody is standing in the way of that goal. We expect to win every week."

And now that the Titans have unexpectedly been thrust into the national spotlight, writers are clamoring to offer their unique reasons why it's happening in the form of lists -- including this list from ESPN. The Jets have also been the subject of their share of the sports-writer list. Namely, a list from bleacherreport.com tells us that an all-New York Super Bowl is not outside the realm of possibility. But the Tennessean comes right back with yet another list that outlines what the Titans will need to do to thwart Brett(y) and the Jets.

Wait right there, Tennessean. The Jets are not to be underestimated. Momentum is on their side. They're coming off of one of the most exciting wins in recent franchise history and with Favre at the helm, sports writers around have perfected that (dare I say, listless) refrain of "anything's possible."

Need proof? Here's NJ.com:

"The Jets finally exorcised the demons, having lost 11 of the previous 12 meetings. The Jets have won four straight and six of seven. As a reward, the players were off until Wednesday. Nice move by the kinder, gentler Mangini."

They're taking days off. Nothing screams confidence quite like shutting it down for a few days.

This is the part where one would normally offer a bold prediction -- something like Titans 24, Jets 17. Or perhaps, wandering even further out on a limb, Jets 19, Titans 17. I understand that's the custom in these situations where the stage has been properly set for a clashing of two ... um ... titans? But I defer to you, dear reader.

Do you agree or disagree with this statement: Whichever team wins Sunday will represent the AFC in the Super Bowl.
It's only 10:25 a.m., but we're pretty confident that nothing is going to top this headline. The only question is if it was intentionally brilliant or not.

Christ runs for 232 yards in Catholic victory   [NJ.com]

Video: Surviving Jonestown

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Forgot to mention this earlier, but today is the 30th anniversary of Jim Jones and the Jonestown suicides.

ESPN provided an unbelievably compelling portrait of the events on "Outside the Lines" last year. It also follows Rob Jones, grandson of the cult leader and member of the University of San Diego basketball team.

When we wondered out loud on the last day of August if Dustin Pedroia was on track to win the American League MVP Award, it seemed like a long shot.

Well, it happened.

Pedroia took home the hardware today, becoming the first AL second baseman to win the MVP since Nellie Fox in 1959.
Fear not, sports fans. Sideline reporter and American sweetheart Erin Andrews isn't going anywhere.

"CL: I read the SportsBusiness Daily interview where you briefly mentioned a career in entertainment as opposed to sports and you're a fan of TMZ. What would be the perfect role for you to switch to entertainment reporting?

EA: I don't want to switch. The one part of that article that they didn't put in there was I said I want to read TMZ and People when I want to get away from sports because I read about sports 24/7. So then it was this whole thing on the internet. "Oh my god, Erin Andrews going to Hollywood!" And it was like, "No, that's not what I said." I'm honestly one of the biggest tomboys there is and I love sports.

In horrible news for anyone trying to eat healthy on a budget, Nestle Prepared Food Co. has announced a recall on three of its Lean Cuisine entrees.

Guess it's back to Ramen Noodles for this guy.

Lean Cuisine issues recall   [BizJournals]
University of Missouri basketball fans (all four of them) are breathing a sigh of relief today as highly touted recruit Xavier Henry has signed with Memphis instead of Mizzou's rival Kansas.

Henry, a 6-6 shooting guard from Okahoma City's Putnam City High School, told ESPN this morning, "The deciding factor was getting my last chance to play together with my brother at Memphis and keeping my family together so everyone could watch us. We both know how to play and we play great. We should be able to take over Memphis."

Oh, to be young and optimistic. It wasn't too long ago that a fresh-faced kid with a flowery last name from the South Side of Chicago made an identical decision to join John Calipari's tenacious Tigers. Henry's tenure in Memphis, one can only assume, will last as long as that of Derrick Rose.

But will it be as successful? Who cares. Kudos to him for eschewing millions in Europe for a crack at the college experience. The freshman year of college is an important step in the development of a young man's psyche -- or so we hear.

Speaking of the Bulls' rookie darling, does Henry's style of play strike anyone else as being eerily Rose-esque?

Yankee Stadium Baseball.jpg

The Cubs will be the first team to face the New York Yankees when the new Yankee Stadium opens, according to an article posted yesterday at NJ.com.

The teams will duke it out in a pair of exhibition games April 3-4.

The statement the Yankees organization released smacks of a public relationist's pen, but we'll include it anyway:

"The Yankees organization is excited and honored to host the Chicago Cubs in two exhibition games to be played at the new Yankee Stadium," Yankees co-chairperson Hal Steinbrenner said in a statement. "As we welcome our fans into the ballpark for the first time, it is fitting to showcase two of baseball's greatest and most historic franchises."

Hal's right though. Who better to help the Yankees smash the proverbial bottle of Champagne against the hull of this ship on its maiden voyage than our own Cubbies? Just think of the storylines that we media folk will likely revisit: Sweet Lou's return to New York. Babe Ruth calling his shot against the Cubs in the 1932 World Series. Prodigal Yankee Alfonso Soriano returning to the playground of his youth.

For a behind-the-scenes look at what the Cubs can expect to encounter at the Yankees' new digs, New York Times writer Tyler Kepner offers a recounting of a recent tour he took of the stadium. It includes this tid-bit:

"The batting cage, a long walk down a corridor at the old Stadium, is now about 20 feet from the entrance to the dugout. Just out the dugout door is the video room for instant analysis of at-bats. It's all right there for the players."

For new Yankee Nick Swisher, the video room more likely provides an opportunity for instant analysis of his enthusiastic cheering for fellow teammates. That unwavering positive attitude, a boon for any organization, will surely be a welcome thing for a franchise that didn't have a whole lot to cheer about last season.

My only question: Why make this an exhibition? Why not make these babies count? Who says you can't open a season with a little interleague skirmish?
The Detroit Free Press' Drew Sharp is quite a faithful man.

He writes today that a winless season for an NFL team is an impossibility. The Detroit Lions are literally inventing new ways to lose every week in his own backyard. And yet -- he remains confident they won't get shutout all year.

"Let me reiterate -- it ... is ... impossible ... to ... lose ... all ... 16...games ... in an NFL

season.

This league is rigged for the accidental victory, and the Lions came awfully close Sunday against Carolina to being the blind squirrel stumbling upon that acorn.

I'd like their chances of finally getting that first victory against Tampa Bay next week if they played it in Tampa, because this team plays better away from the poisonous climate of Ford Field. Now, the Lions are wholly responsible for creating that toxic environment, but they seem more comfortable knowing that they're the villain when they first take the field as opposed to when they commit their first dumb mistake.

Impossible? Anything is possible.

Those pining for a college football playoff may have cause for optimism, based on comments made by President-elect Barack Obama on "60 Minutes" Sunday night.



BCS coordinator John Swofford responded this morning.

""For now, our constituencies -- and I know he understands constituencies -- have settled on the current BCS system, which the majority believe is the best system yet to determine a national champion while also maintaining the college football regular season as the best and most meaningful in sports."

Swofford added: "We certainly respect the opinions of president-elect Obama and welcome dialogue on what's best for college football."

How very diplomatic.

So what do you think? What side of the college football postseason aisle do you sit on? Are you for or against a playoff or do you like the current system and the emphasis it puts on the regular season?
If there was any remaining chance of Mark Cuban winning the bidding war to own the Chicago Cubs, it probably just disappeared.

Mark Cuban sued by SEC for insider trading    [Sun-Times]
The Philadelphia Eagles and Cincinnati Bengals battled it out in the trenches for 75 minutes Sunday, scratching and clawing for every yard. When the dust settled, it ended in an extremely unsatisfying 13-13 tie.

But the real news is that Eagles quarterback and future Hall of Famer* Donovan McNabb was blissfully unaware that ties existed in professional football.

"No one was more surprised than McNabb that it ended so soon -- 3 hours, 46 minutes after the opening kickoff. The 10th-year quarterback thought it would keep going until someone scored, just like a playoff game.

Wrong.

''I didn't know that,'' McNabb said. ''I've never been part of a tie. I never even knew it was in the rule book. I was looking forward to getting the opportunity to get out there and try to drive to win the game."
Consider for a moment the juxtaposition of one of the league's premiere players and the face of a franchise not realizing the rules of overtime against a nation of armchair quarterbacks armed to the teeth w ith an intimate knowledge of football rules, history and statistics.

Consider it a small victory for Joe Six Pack. Something to you knew that Donovan didn't.

Maybe I'm the only one who is shocked by the irony of fans sitting at home knowing the rules and the signal-caller of one of the teams out there waiting for a second overtime to begin.
mcnabb.jpg
McNabb can tak e solace in the fact that he isn't the only one unhappy with splitting the chunky soup of victory equally. Bengals quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick called the outcome "terrible."

The last tie in the NFL was in 2002, when the Steelers and Falcons fought to a 34-34 stalemate.

It raises the question if ties should exist in professional football. It seems like so much time is spent debating the overtime system -- one that so often is decided by who gets the ball first -- and so little on whether calling a game a draw is a reasonable thing to do.

So, should the NFL look into changing this, or are you OK with a tie every six years or so?

*Subject to interpretation.
Two weeks ago tonight I was hunched over my laptop in one of those Jerry McGuire mission statement moments, writing an impassioned plea to Bears fans everywhere. Pleading to jump on the Bears bandwagon and finally put the often salty, rarely enjoyable relationship with the Detroit Lions.

Since then the Bears have done nothing but lose a football game at home, lose a football game on the road, lose to a team in the AFC, lose to a team in the NFC and spark a firestorm of criticism for Lovie Smith, a man who navigated them within threequitbears.jpg Rex Grossman turnovers of a Super Bowl.

The 37-3 drubbing doled out by the Aaron Rodgers-led Packers this afternoon was over before halftime and transformed a lively Bears chat into Ground Zero of the "fire Lovie Smith, fire them all" movement.

In short, things have not gone well.

So maybe it's not the Bears at all. Maybe it doesn't have anything to do with the porous run defense that was shredded for 200 yards, including 145 from Ryan Grant. Maybe it has nothing to do with an offense captained by a hobbled Kyle Orton that mustered just three points. Surely Devin Hester's stunningly dramatic vanishing act has nothing to do with the downturn.

It's definitely me.

I apologize to Chicago and battle-tested Bears fans everywhere from the bottom of my heart. I'm sorry for messing things up.

Someone who has become so resigned to losing like I have should not contaminate the drinkable waters of another team's fan base. The Lions are football's arsenic, pure and simple. And apparently their reign of inept terror follows indoctrinated fans even after they've renounced their faith.

But since we like to look at the Brightside on Monday mornings around here, let's attempt to wash the stink off from Sunday's gag-inducing performance.

While Rick Telander, Greg Couch and Mike Mulligan all heaped on plenty of criticism, it was tempered by a simple look at the standings. After 10 games, the Bears are Even-Steven with the aforementioned Packers and Minnesota Vikings for tops in the NFC North. Coming into the season, I bet most Bears backers would have happily accepted this scenario.

Mulligan provides some much needed perspective about what reasonable aspirations for this team are. They are not an elite team, a great team and maybe not a very good team, yet hope springs eternal.

"Regardless, while the Bears might not look like a playoff team, they remain in an enviable position to emerge as the NFC North champions -- provided they can respond in the same way their competition has in the last two weeks.
Next Sunday's game against the Minnesota Vikings looms large, but an extra week for Orton's leg to heal could literally be just what the doctor ordered. Although the scruffy one didn't lose the game in Green Bay, he certainly didn't help win it. Take solace in the fact that a healthy Kyle Orton -- in 2008 -- does not complete 13 of 26 passes for a paltry 133 yards.

Perhaps the embarrassing loss can light a fire under a highly-paid defense that has underperformed, a head coach who might be a little too passive and a return man whose last Ridiculous moment came in 2007. Maybe this loss was just what they needed.

Or maybe the damage is done. The icy cold grip of Lions leprosy has transfixed itself to my new flame. Lovie will be unceremoniously dumped, Orton will return to mediocrity and the Bears will win one playoff game in the next 50 years.

Oh, the horrors that could abound ...

But that's not what I want, Chicago. You deserve better.

So I'll leave your team alone.

I'll never ask for membership in Bears fandom ever again. It's better this way. Sorry things got weird.
We mentioned yesterday that the Baltimore Orioles will be sporting some new duds next season. This curiously inspired some readers to remind themselves and others of the Cubs' playoff ineptitude.

At the risk of opening the door for more unwarranted ridicule, we revisit the Oriole outfit issue with some visual proof:




From ABC2 Baltimore, we get some of the reasoning behind the uni switch:

"After the Senators left Washington in 1971, the Orioles dropped all references to Baltimore on their uniforms to make the team more appealing to baseball fans in the Baltimore-Washington corridor.

"Washington has its own team now, so the Orioles are making a pronounced effort to represent Baltimore and the state of Maryland. The oriole on the cap will also get a makeover."
Someone owns this car -- a fellow fan (or possibly player) of my alma mater, University of Missouri. And that fact makes me a very proud alum.

donk2.jpgAfter consecutive losses to Oklahoma State and Texas this year, Mizzou's hopes for a national title fell by the wayside. However, what a lovely surprise this morning when I checked Deadspin and found this gem. The Mizzourah blog apparently first posted it.

Note the tiger tail hanging from the trunk. That's a Mizzou tradition -- Saturday mornings driving down I-70, which bisects the state and connects Columbia to St. Louis and Kansas City, it's quite common to see the tiger tails hanging from the trunk of the car in front of you. It's a not-so-subtle way of letting the world know, "Hey ... I'm a tiger and I like novelty items."

Deadspin speculates that this particular ride may belong to star safety/rapper William "Willy-Mo" Moore -- who, by the way, will net you a ridiculous amount of INTs on NCAA 09 in the franchise mode. A warning though ... he'll try to go pro on you after the first season, but it's quite worth it to drop some of your recruiting points to keep him around.

Hurray, Hurrah, and a bull for old Mizzou! Indeed.
It started as an innocuous argument over light beer in a dark corner of a bar. It's turned into an incredibly difficult and time-consuming compilation that has inflamed passions and sparked vigorous debate.

What are the Top 25 pop songs of the 2000s?

Now, the caveats are as follows:

1. The song obviously had to achieve notoriety from 2000-present.
2. The song had to have been a nationwide hit and be incredibly popular.
3. The song could not have -- for lack of a better term -- sucked. It had to be an enjoyable listen.
4. Only one song per artist or group. The song has to be the most popular hit from that artist or group.
5. Songs are not in a particular order.

We started out with a few "locks". Songs that we would simply not waver on. "Hey Ya" by  Outkast was our unanimous top choice. "Crazy" by Gnarls Barkley and "Yellow" by Coldplay were also no-brainers.

The rest were much more difficult, and by no means scientific or correct.

Obviously, we'd like to have your input on this undeniably crucial issue.

Without further ado, we offer The List:
43310870.jpgThe Baltimore Orioles finished the 2008 season in last place in the American League East, arguably the most competitive division in Major League Baseball. So that's forgivable, right? But what's worse than its poor play, the team just didn't look good as it was pounded daily by the likes of the snazzy Red Sox, the pin-striped Yankees and the dapper Rays.

So rather than addressing their suspect pitching staff or superstar-less lineup card, the club is improving the its duds.

For instance, the team's mascot, the venerable oriole, will be getting a makeover. According to the Balitmore Sun, the new bird "looks more like a traditional oriole with its head tilted upward and it feathers more outstretched and a more pronounced head, chest and neck area. The bird's feet are also more perched rather than flat."

The biggest change to the Orioles' uniforms is coming to the team's road jersey:

"'Baltimore' will be across the front of the gray jerseys in orange and outlined in black and in lettering very similar to how 'Orioles' is scripted on the home jerseys. The Maryland flag patch on the left sleeve will be surrounded by the text 'Orioles baseball.' On the right sleeve, the 'Orioles' script, which stretches across the home jerseys, will be written in smaller form. The uniform pants will also include orange striping."

This way, when you're watching your home team put the hurt on the orange birds, you'll know exactly which city's fans to feel sorry for. Baltimore.

All of this, of course, begs the question: If you put lipstick on an oriole, will Danys Baez still be 0-6 with a 6.44 ERA in 53 appearances?
We'd be remiss if we didn't mention this before turning in for the evening.

Sun-Times columnist Bill Zwecker reported today that Alex Rodriguez is just a big teddy bear when it comes to Madonna.

"No matter the denials or (more recently) the simple ''no comment'' lines, the Madonna-Alex Rodriguez romance apparently is the real deal.

Sources close to the music superstar and the New York Yankees slugger claim Madonna is truly smitten by A-Rod, allegedly telling a close pal Rodriguez ''has the heart of a poet trapped inside an insanely gorgeous body.''

Rodriguez himself is said to be something of a romantic -- penning not Madonna poems, but sweet, personal and rambling expressions of his feelings.

One person who claims to have seen them calls the notes ''sort of like old-fashioned love notes.''

Yes! Yes! A million times yes. We always knew that Mr. May had a soft side. If we could only get a look at these notes. The romantic inside hopes they are written in eloquent cursive with hearts over the i's.

weis.jpgPerhaps I'm an anomaly, but I lust for dynasties in sports.

That may be sac religious to say on the North side, where my neighbors are pining after their first world championship since Teddy Roosevelt was in office. But I'll say it anyway.

Dynasties are good for sports.

They give a majority of the nation a common enemy. They give each game that team plays an added importance, an added element of intrigue and suspense. They give fans of that team a sense of invincibility that further stokes the competitive fire.

Sadly, I'm too young to have experienced a truly transcendent dynasty. I didn't get to see the 1927 Yankees or the Celtics teams that ruled the NBA in the '60s.

Hell, the closest thing in my lifetime may be the New England Patriots, who morphed from America's darling to public enemy No. 1.

But I unabashedly pulled for the Yankees in the postseason when Derek Jeter was leading them to World Series titles in 1996-1998. Having a so-called "Evil Empire" gives the sporting world a steadying force, once constant in a world of parity.

In recent years, dynasties have become as rare as a player who remains with one team his whole career.

It wasn't always this way. Especially in college football.

The Notre Dame teams of the late 80s and 90s loosely qualify as a dynasty. The first Sports Illustrated article I remembering reading was a preview of the Miami Hurricanes-Notre Dame matchup in 1988. It was billed as Catholics vs. Convicts, and it blew me away.

I realized it wasn't just a college football game. It was one way of life against another. It's those types of story lines that drew me to sports. The stark contrast of the Lou Holtz-led Irish and their nameless jerseys taking on the seemingly me-first Hurricanes captivated me.

And the 1992 matchup with unbeaten Florida State in South Bend is still burned in my memory. Beano Cook's ill-advised declartions of Ron Paulus' greatness are still there, too.

Notre Dame was the program everyone hated, but would love to be.

Despite attending school at Michigan State, where we were traditional rivals, I still wanted Notre Dame to succeed. It's been depressing to watch the gold helmets rust. It's been sad watching what was once the premier collegiate program self-destruct and become the butt of jokes.

And it continues.

Neil Hayes recently wrote that Charlie Weis is, for lack of a better term, on the hot seat. In fact, 66 percent of our readers think he should be given his walking papers.

The Texas Longhorns recently tied Notre Dame with 826 all-time victories, and there is little doubt that the burnt orange will open up a healthy lead in that category in the next couple of years.

So what can be done from keeping Touchdown Jesus from covering his face? Can the Irish ever return to being that beacon on college football's hill.

Conventional wisdom says no.

Weis became the subject of much criticism last year when he suggested the rigid academic standards at Notre Dame put the football team at a disadvantage.

At the risk of offending the politically correct police -- he has a valid point. But it's not the only valid point. The other is that it can be done.

Vanderbilt, who has similarly high expectations for student athletes has enjoyed a nice run lately. Returning Notre Dame to its exalted status can be done, but not easily.

Greg Couch says the answer is taking the great recruiting classes and developing them, something that Weis has failed to do adequately.

There are some out there that love the BCS busters. The Boise States and the Ball States and the Utahs. But I know there are plenty out there who long for the stabilizing forces. The perennial powers.

So here's wishing Notre Dame, despite myriad obstacles facing them, turn it around and return to glory.

Oh, yeah. If the Yankees want to start competing with teams like the Rays, that would be great too.

What do you guys think? Any sympathy for the Irish? Or are you happy to see the once-mighty fall -- and fall hard?
Are dynasties good for sports or do you like the parity?

Tim Lincecum -- he of the unorthodox windup -- has won the Nationa League Cy Young.

The young right-hander went 18-5 on a San Francisco Giants team that lost 90 games this year. He also compiled a major-league high 265 strikeouts.
It seems some members of the Jacksonville Jaguars were quite literally adding insult to injury during a 38-14 romp over the Detroit Lions on Sunday.

From The Detroit News:

""They were cracking jokes," Lions running back Kevin Smith said. "They thought we were a joke. They said we (stink). They were saying that to me, that I (stink). And I told them they (stink), too. And they said, 'Well, not as bad as (you).' And I said, 'You're right.' (Because) we haven't won one game."
While Smith was admitting the ineptitude, Lions coach Rod Marinelli wove this inspirational gem:

""You're in this dark tunnel and you've got no way out," Marinelli said. "You're waiting for the light and you see that light, so what do you do? You start digging and getting out."


And if there's no light at the end of the tunnel?

"You (have to) have the same belief in what you're doing when you expect no light," Marinelli said, before adding, "My shovel is sharp and my will is outstanding."

The Lions have lost 16 of their last 17 games.

Anyone out there think they'll win a game this season? Two games? Show yourselves.

Stumbled upon the glorious Stuck in the 80s blog today at tampabay.com and I couldn't be happier about that fact.

A couple weeks ago, editor Steve Spears compiled a list of mascots from the fictional high schools in all those 80s movies that we love to love. Why is this so wonderful? Because Mike Fox played for the Beavers in "Teen Wolf." And we're reminded of that before we even get to the lively comments section.

Yesterday, Steve called attention to the awful "Saved By Zero" commercials that Toyota is running. Horrible, horrible commercials. I will never consider buying a Toyota and I'll ridicule those who drive them because of this horrible horrible commercial.

Thank you, Steve. You've made my morning.
49ers Cardinals Football.jpg

It wasn't that long ago that the word "retirement" was the buzz surrounding 37-year-old Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner. But his resurgence this season has shown the world that Brett Favre isn't the only old name capable of baffling NFL secondaries in a game that rewards youth and vim.

There's an acronym in the state of Arizona that has characterized professional football in the state since 1988 when the team made the move from St. Louis to arid AZ: SOC.

It stands for Same Old Cardinals.

The consensus around the campfire these days is that, thanks to Kurt Warner, these are not your Same Old Cardinals.

Arizona Republic sports writer Paola Boivin captured the Arizona optimism that has invaded the state in yesterday's column: "If there's a tougher player in the NFL," she says of Kurt Warner, "I don't see him."

She continues:

"The Same Old Cardinals wouldn't have had the atmosphere they had Monday, a noisy, home-team-heavy crowd waving towels that made University of Phoenix Stadium look particularly telegenic for a national TV audience. It was an ideal evening for football, enhanced by a stadium with its roof open.

"The Same Old Cardinals wouldn't have come into the game with some gutsy coaching decisions that have served this team well."

We know a thing or two about being optimistic about the chances of your professional sports teams early in the season here in Chicago. Pitcher Ryan Dempster predicted a Cubs world series appearance during spring training last year. I predicted, and maintain, that the Bears will never lose another game as long as the franchise exists.

But something's different in the Arizona air this year. A skeptic might say that this week's squeaky victory against the lowly 49ers on the game's final play is nothing to brag about. But the plot lover in all of us would love to believe that it's a turning point for the team. That it's a sign of good things to come.

Wins and losses are cyclical. As Mike Ditka once told us, success isn't permanent and failure isn't fatal.

The city of Chicago lost two legitimate playoff hopes in the baseball realm, but saw its native son win the Presidency. Arizona has watched its native son lose yet another bid for the same office. Could it be time for the football tides -- those oft-cruel fates -- to drift in the direction of an unlikely team with an unlikelier leader?

Logic tells us that political elections and the game of football are entirely unrelated. But if you're a fan living in Arizona, logic has nothing on a 37-year-old giver of hope.
It's been less than a week since Barack Obama was elected the 44th president of the United States. But the always interesting Gilbert Arenas has already gotten his commemorative tattoo.

From Wizards Insider:

"Arenas has decided to show his permanent support of President-elect Barack Obama with a tattoo. Arenas had the words "Change We Believe In" tattooed onto the fingers of his left hand in cursive writing. Then, Gilbert showed the outside of his pinky finger, which had "44" inked on it.
Of course, Arenas is no stranger to the political realm.

Let me first off apologize for what has been a needlessly long gap between posts. I can only say that an assortment of "real world" duties have gotten between myself and the blogosphere lately. That said, Iet me try to catch up on all that's happened since the last innane entry.

rexy.jpg* My first game as a Bears fan ended eerily similar to the hundreds of games as a Lions fan had before. The good guys lost. And the Sun-Times' tallest sports columnist Greg Couch says that Rex Grossman-quarterback experiment has run its course.

Thirty-nine percent of Bears fans agree that Bad Rex was the reason the Titans were able to preserve their unblemished record.

* Another week went by in the college football season, and it still looks like Texas Tech is for real. Even though the Red Raiders dismantled Oklahoma State, there are still plenty out there quick to point out there's lots of ball to be played.

Meanwhile, the cries for Charlie Weis' ouster at Notre Dame have been getting louder. The Fighting Irish are currently tied with Texas for second place all-time with 826 wins. Anyone think they can keep pace with the Longhorns? Anyone? Anyone? Buehler?

* Cubs catcher Geovany Soto was named the National League Rookie of the Year today. Sadly, this is most likely the shiniest postseason hardware coming to Chicago. Alexei Ramirez finished second in the AL voting, behind some guy named Evan Longoria.

* The Bulls are going to be without the services of wrist-tattoo enthusiast Kirk Hinrich for quite some time. Time for a guard other than Derrick Rose to step up.

* And finally, the Super Bowl garnered higher ratings than Election night coverage. It's great to be an American.

We return triumphantly to the world of sport this morning with some sporty highlights from around the country:

Trey Smith, Nick Montana and Trevor Gretzky -- sons of Will Smith, Joe Montana and Wayne Gretzky, respectively -- all dominate on the gridiron for the same football powerhouse, much to the displeasure of the schools they dominate. Deadspin has that story.

Allen Iverson, now a Piston, promises to practice. Do we believe him?

President-elect Barack Obama isn't the only one who's not a fan of the current BCS bowl system. USC football coach Pete Carroll also thinks it stinks.

Greg Maddux looks to be retiring. So soon, Greg?

That's MAYOR former NBA star Kevin Johnson, folks. In fact, the first black mayor of Sacramento.

And here at home, the Sun-Times print edition is flying off the racks, presumably because people are clamoring to read Mully's story about the woeful Bears defense. It could also be because our front page looks like this.

Obama voted. Did you?
For the most part, we deal with pretty inconsequential stuff in this blog.

In the grand scheme of things it probably doesn't matter too much what kind of facial hair a quarterback is sporting or if slamball makes a comeback. Sports are a diversion from everyday life that is both necessary and entertaining, but at the end of the day they're mostly fun and games.

To be honest, I'm fine with that. People care about Allen Iverson and the Philadelphia Phillies. And they should. But every now and again it's good to step back and realize there are more important things going on than slam dunks and field goals.

joeplummer.jpgToday is one of those days.

The long marathon of campaigning for Barack Obama and John McCain culminates right now. It's Election Day 2008.

Regardless of party affiliation and personal outlook, pretty much everyone has a stock in the outcome of today's voting. One great thing about America is that we are a melting pot of varying beliefs, philosophies and passions. Luckily, we're privy to the right of being able to have our voices heard when new leaders are selected.

I'll readily admit I'm quite politcally apathetic. Maybe to a fault. But in the past couple of months I've spoken with many people who couldn't wait for this day to come. Many of them are young voters exercising their rights for the first time. Their excitement and sense of civic duty have tempered my general cynicism. I think that's a good thing.

It promises to be a long day filled with lots of math and emotion. Here at the Sun-Times we're looking forward to keeping you updated with all the latest numbers and reaction. While I'll be in the office looking at a giant map of blue and red states, Kevin Allen will be in Grant Park for Obama's rally. He'll provide Twitter updates on the scene down there.

I can't speak for Kevin, but I'm very excited about today. For as long as I can remember, I've wanted to be a journalist, to inform and interact with people about things they care deeply about. This is the first election I'll get to play a very small part in reporting.

We like to defer to our esteemed political blogger Lynn Sweet when it comes to these things. She'll no doubt be feverishly posting all the latest right here.

I'll post more links to our coverage as they become available. Even if you choose to get your news from some other source, we encourage you to get involved, stay involved and really enjoy being a part of history.

Don't worry, posts about cheerleading scandals and Lindsay Lohan will be waiting for you when it's all over.
Chris Berman's interviews of the two presidential candidates during halftime of the Steelers-Redskins game were about what we thought they'd be. Pretty superficial, three minutes long and nowhere worthy of the hype they received.

Still, there were some interesting moments. Like John McCain doing his best Boomer impression and quoting Alexander Pope.



Barack Obama also voiced his support for a playoff in college football, an idea that may just win him a few votes in football-crazy states.

No matter how bad your costume turned out this Halloween, a Washington man donned an even worse one.

As terrible as it is to dress as a terrorist bomber, it's even worse to enter a bank with a fake bomb strapped to yourself.
This isn't exactly breaking news, but CNN has an interesting piece about the all of the vindictive, anonymity-assured negativity permeating blogs these days.

We here at Sports Pros(e) encourage you to let us have it if you see something on here you don't like. We can take it.

In other the-opposite-of-irony news, the story has garnered some insidious comments by people using screen names.
The Denver Nuggets have traded Allen Iverson to the Detroit Pistons for Chauncey Billups and Antonio McDyess.

After a morning of speculation, the Associated Press announced the deal is official.

Billups is a Denver native and played his college hoops at Colorado.

* The Boston Globe reports that Iverson had been telling people in Denver he expected to be packing his bags soon.

*The Rocky Mountain News says Iverson would be a perfect fit in Detroit.

* The Detroit Free Press consulted Rasheed Wallace for comment, which is always entertaining.

What do you think of the trade? Judging from the reaction on some Pistons message boards, the good people of Detroit are sorry to see Mr. Big Shot go.
sandwich.jpgOne of the greatest food-related innovations of all-time occurred -- according to legend -- when gambling enthusiast and Earl of Sandwich John Montagu ordered his roast beef dinner  be placed between two slices of bread in 1762.

Ta-da! The sandwich was born.

Today we "celebrate" National Sandwich Day. A full history of the sandwich and list of activities can be found here.
Cubs starting pitcher and goatee enthusiast Ryan Dempster may not be returning to the Friendly Confines in 2009.
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From FOX Sports:

"Dempster, 31, plans to test the open market, major-league sources say. He filed for free agency on Friday, and does not intend to sign with the Cubs before their exclusive negotiating period with him expires on Nov. 13.

The prevailing assumption in baseball is that the Cubs will re-sign Dempster, a right-hander who went 17-6 with a 2.96 ERA last season while starting full-time for the first time since 2002.

Dempster's return, however, no longer is a given.

While the Cubs remain interested in retaining Dempster, an 11-year veteran, the pitcher first will entertain bids from other clubs. He conceivably could receive four-year offers on the open market, an important consideration if the Cubs only are willing to give him three.

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Rex Grossman sports the neckbeard during yesterday's game -- and we couldn't be happier. (Sun-Times photo by Tom Cruze)

The Kissing Suzy Kolber blog has long been a source of inspiration for Rex Grossman enthusiasts and detractors alike. They've gone so far as to give the oft-maligned backup quarterback -- who stepped in admirably to lead the Bears to victory yesterday -- a sexy alter ego.

They're back today with a keen observation that Kyle (Koster ... not Orton) and I noted during the game yesterday:

Rex has a neckbeard now.

The neckbeard, of course, was perfected by Kyle Orton and celebrated by many. Whether a product of laziness or a conscious facial hair choice, as long as the Bears keep winning we, including my partner and newly minted Bears fan Kyle Koster, are officially urging Grossman not to rid the city of Chicago of a neck-bearded quarterback.
We're certainly not experts on the city of Kingsville, Ontario. But judging by their municipal Web site, there are plenty of ways to have good, clean fun up there.

Getting hammered and recklessly driving a zamboni is not one of them.

From Winnipeg Sun:

"A 34-year-old woman from Kingsville, Ont., has been charged with impaired driving -- on a Zamboni.

Provincial police say an off-duty officer spotted the woman driving erratically on the ice resurfacer at Kingsville Arena on Thursday night.

The driver was missing major spots on the ice and bumping into the boards.

At one point, police allege the woman stopped the Zamboni and slumped over the steering wheel.

Police say they found a bottle of vodka on the woman, whose name was not released.

Something kind of different is going to happen during halftime of Monday's Pittsburgh Steelers-Washington Redskins game. Since it's the night before the presidential election, ESPN will air interviews with both Barack Obama and John McCain that were conducted by Chris Berman.

Surprisingly, this will not be Obama's first appearance on "Monday Night Football".



You're probably thinking, 'what are the odds that they would schedule a Monday night game in Washington on the eve of an election?'

From Los Angeles Times:

"We worked with our partners at the NFL to schedule a 'Monday Night Football' game in Washington on this special night, and this presents a unique opportunity for John McCain and Barack Obama to reflect upon the last few months and address a large primetime audience on the final day of the campaigns," said Norby Williamson, ESPN executive vice president, production.
Now you're probably wondering who gets to go first.

From the New York Times:

""We'll flip a coin," said Norby Williamson, an ESPN executive vice president. He said he will not ask campaign officials to call heads or tails. "We'll do it amongst ourselves," he said.
In the same blog post, Berman admits that these interviews aren't going to have dramatic repercussions.

""This isn't going to be a mind-changer," he said, "but it might give people one or two things to think about before they go into the voting booth."
For what it's worth: the last time McCain's Arizona Cardinals took on Obama's Bears, Chicago came away with a 24-23 win despite committing six turnovers and scoring three points on offense.

Cardinals coach Dennis Green did not take it well.



Are you going to tune into these interviews or are you all interviewed out? Will they have any impact whatsoever? Anyone upset about politics seeping its way into any otherwise lovely NFL game?
It's a big, big night for the Wayne surname.

Indianapolis Colts' All-Pro wide receiver Reggie Wayne has caught three passes for 39 yards in the Sunday night game against New England, and a wild rumor about rapper Lil' Wayne's death is being Googled more than any other phrase in the world.

Follow Reggie's game at NFL.com.

Follow Lil Wayne's life here. This is one of the better headlines we've seen in awhile.
It looks like that big game in Lubbock, Texas last night was even bigger than previously thought. Texas Tech, in all their fan-out-of-the-stands quirkiness, moved up to No. 2 in the latest BCS standings after beating Texas in the waning moments. The Longhorns slipped down to No. 4.

Alabama is still atop the standings.
Today was a day of mixed, confusing emotions.

For Bears fans, there was the exhilarating comeback victory over the Detroit Lions that was tempered by the loss of Kyle Orton.

For me, there was the oddly awkward match-up between the team I grew up with and the team I'd like to adopt. Okay, maybe it's not so hard to bail on the Detroit Lions, one of the most embarassing franchises sports has ever tried to hide from its new girlfriend. Still, manning our wildy entertaining live chat this afternoon, I couldn't help but get that awkward feeling in the pit of my stomach.

barrysanders.jpgSure, the Bears have ingratiated themselves into my heart with their dramatic ways this season. But they'll never occupy that special place reserved for the Lions. Growing up, I got to watch Barry Sanders every Sunday. This undoubtedly fueled my passion for sports in the same way Michael Jordan ignited the fury here in Chicago. Sanders is hands-down the most entertaining athlete to watch I've ever seen.

The Lions?

Not so spectacular.

Still, I stuck with them through the cartoonish antics of Wayne Fontes, the fumble stylings of Dave Kreig and the pseudo-fued between Johnny Morton and Jay Leno. I stuck with them when they selected wide receivers in the first round of the 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2007 NFL drafts. I stuck with them when Marty Mornhinweg opted to kickoff instead of take the ball in an overtime loss to the Bears.

Most disturbingly, I've stuck with them while they've gone 31-87 since Matt Millen took over in 2001.

Today, however, I really contemplated what I'm getting out of this relationship. Their games are rarely televised in Chicago, they'll be lucky to win three games this year and there's a perfectly viable football team in the city I call home. So, wouldn't it make more sense for me to switch my allegiances to the Bears?

When Bill Simmons published his rules for being a fan, the one I felt most strongly about was the sham that is team polygamy. But, like Peyton Manning approaching the line of scrimmage, I'm calling an audible.

I wish to be a Bears fan now, if they'll have me. If I need to prove myself, I will.

I've always liked Soldier Field. Obviously more before it mated with a spaceship, but still now. On trips down here as a child I realized what a beautiful setting it made, one that was in stark contrast to the Pontiac Silverdome.

I know your quarterbacking pain. Every now and again there will be a list of Bears quarterbacks during the past 15 years that makes the rounds and you'll invariably hear your co-workers laughing about the obscure names on it. I know this game, Chicago. The Lions have employed an unremarkable stable of quarterbacks that includes names like Andre Ware, Ty Detmer and the aforementioned Dave Krieg during the same time period.

I love teams that have stout defense and a reliable running game as the foundation on which they are built. Or, I think I would -- if given the chance to enjoy it. The Lance Briggs' led defensive unit and Matt Forte powered ground attack may not completely qualify, but it's a start.

I love Devin Hester, or maybe just the idea of Devin Hester. One unquantifiable game
devinhester.jpg changer that has the capacity to do things you've never seen before every time he touches the ball. I love Kyle Orton, an oft-maligned game manager that has quietly led a team with low preseason expectations into first place in the NFC North halfway through the year.

Most importantly, I see what it means to be a Bears fan. To honor Ditka. To always believe you have it bad, when a team in your own division self-destructs to levels rarely reached. To refuse to admit Brett Favre's existence. To drink on the El at 9 a.m. on the way to the game. Or to wear your brand new Matt Forte jersey to work on casual Friday, and a million other nuances I haven't learned yet.

And I've seen what it's like when a whole city gets behind a team, putting baseball ties aside to back a storied franchise through thick and thin.

It's not like that for the Lions, at least it hasn't been for awhile. The Lions are the butt of every joke, a three-hour comedy of errors to be ignored Sunday afternoon while you do something else. My own father only watches just to see what new lowlight they can add to their already full reel. When combing through newspaper Web sites to glean my Detroit news, it's impossible to ignore the swell of negativity that's overtaken the team and everyone who pulls for them.

What I'm saying is that I want out. My Sundays have been void of excitement for too long and I want to feel like a real Chicagoan. I want to be a Bears fan.

Is there room for one more on that bandwagon?
It took a plug from a teen television drama, but it looks as though the sport of Slamball is making its way into the collective conscious like never before. Thanks to a host of Hollywood exec types and actor James Lafferty, the national spotlight is shining brightly on Slamball as Lafferty's character, Nathan Scott, takes on the sport as a means to re-ignite his once flaming hot basketball career.

Take a gander at the plethora of Slamball videos on Youtube. It's quite possible to find yourself mesmerized by this sport, which combines basketball, football (most will say ice hockey) and trampolines for a rambunctious good time. Best appreciated in slow motion, Slamball's appeal begins with its potential for danger. It's precarious enough to launch yourself several feet in the air with little regard for the return trip to the ground, but to do it while another soul is also launching himself equally high into the air with the intent on brining you down and you've got yourself a clever little game.

Entertainment Weekly recently interviewed Lafferty about Slamball and the role the sport is playing on the show. He told the magazine:

"[Slamball] is like the closest thing to flying you can do without jumping out of an airplane or being strapped to a harness and swung around."

It gets better. Founder Mason Gordon recently revealed to the Los Angeles Daily News that he's trying to get Slamball into the Olympics. If he has it his way and we have it our way, Chicago 2016 will see the first Olympic SlamBall tournament. Consider this an endorsement for both!

Regardless of how people are learning about this sport, the fact that they are is clearly a good thing. There are countless songs that I was only luke warm on until Gregg Gillis, a.k.a. Girl Talk decided to smash several songs head-on into each other (see "Play Your Part") for some mashup deliciousness. Slamball strikes the same chord.

We're reaching a point in our society where creativity may be nearing a saturation point. There are only so many chords and combination of those chords that will sound purely original in music. That's why Girl Talk's mashups are so popular. It's the same with sport. Perhaps there just aren't that many ways you can make a quality game from little more than a stick and a ball so we're starting to find ways that we can combine sundry sports to create things like Slamball.

What could possibly be next? I vote politics and MMA. It's been a long couple years of following campaigns and it would be nice to watch candidates literally duke it out rather than doing so figuratively.

I digress ... thanks to the magic of internet video, we can see a behind-the-scenes howtheydothat from "One Tree Hill" on the ins and outs of Hollywood Slamball:


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Nothing funny about this one. Kyle Orton went down late in the first half with what looked to be an ankle injury. This is a huge blow to the Bears offense, which had only managed to put up only 13 points in the first half.

No word yet on the nature or severity of the injury, but friend of the blog Mike Hall reports from the sideline that Orton's out for the game.

Rex Grossman took over in the second half as the Bears' quarterback and managed to hit Rashied Davis for a touchdown with 7:00 left in the third quarter.

Before leaving the game, Orton was 10-18 passing for 110 yards.

Brad Biggs, covering the game for the Sun-Times, has an explanation of the play where Orton got hurt.

What do you think: If Orton's injury (higher power forbid) is serious, what effect does this have on the remainder of the Bears season? What do you think of Grossman's job filling in as backup?
BY MIKE LANSU Sports Pros(e) NBA Guy

I have nothing to say about the Bulls disgusting loss to Boston Friday night. And that gives me an excuse to write more about Drew Gooden.

SLAM magazine's Lang Whitaker is reporting Drew Gooden's lack of scalp hair has earned him the nickname "Recede Wallace."

Just because he can't grow hair on his head doesn't mean he can't grow it on his face. Leading to first to this look, then this look and finally this look -- which he calls The Johnny, named after Johnny Depp's character in Pirates of the Carribbean.