May 31, 2010

Christy Mathewson was a man who was bigger than life. When you look at all he accomplished you will appreciate the review, penned by Jerry Crowe of the LA Times. of what Eddie Frierson has done to give it the deserved ink

“You might say that actor Eddie Frierson is infatuated with Christy Mathewson, the dominating pitcher who was part of Cooperstown’s inaugural class of inductees.

For nearly half his 50 years, Frierson has brought the gentlemanly Hall of Fame right-hander to life on stage in the one-man play “Matty: An Evening with Christy Mathewson.”

Written and performed by the actor, it’s a labor of love that drew glowing reviews during an off-Broadway run in the 1990s. These days, with Frierson
dressed in dead-ball era New York Giants flannels and cap, it is reprised up to 20 times a year by the actor, a former Santa Monica High baseball coach and
UCLA walk-on.

“I figure I can do it for at least another five years,” says Frierson, who already has outlived his subject, who was 45 when he died in 1925. “I was going to
retire it a few years ago, but it’s too much fun and people keep asking me to do it.”

The latest was Greg Hayes, who persuaded his former college roommate to stage a benefit performance of “Matty” this Saturday night at the Canyon Theatre Guild in Newhall.

Says Frierson of the appearance, which will benefit a college scholarship fund: “It’s something Matty would have done.”

Frierson would know.

After graduating from UCLA in 1982 with a theater arts degree, he started researching Mathewson two years later, making the first of several trips to the pitcher’s hometown of Factoryville, Pa.

“It was kind of a fluke,” Frierson says of his introduction to Mathewson, who played 17 major league seasons from 1900 to 1916, winning 373 games. “I was looking for something to develop as a project and my dad found an old copy of ‘Pitching in a Pinch,’ ” a memoir written by Mathewson in 1912.

Thus began Frierson’s immersion into all things Matty.

“The characters and the stories just kind of jumped out at me and I thought, ‘This is perfect,’ ” Frierson says of his initial interest. “But then as I got to know more about him, it became clear that he was a lot more than just a few stories in a book.”

In addition to his baseball exploits — he is credited with introducing the screwball — Mathewson was class president at Bucknell, a devout Christian who refused to pitch on Sundays and, in the words of football pioneer Walter Camp, “the best all-around football player to ever put on a collegiate uniform.”

He also was a musician and singer, a World War I veteran, author of children’s books, co-author of a Broadway play, etc.

As Frierson continued digging, he says, his priorities shifted.

“I was looking for something to develop into a vehicle for me,” he says, “but within two weeks of deciding, ‘Hey, this is the thing to do,’ it stopped being about me and starting being about, ‘How many people can I introduce to this wonderful man?’ ”

The first draft of his script, Frierson says, took 12 hours to read. And his initial performance, at a Society for American Baseball Research convention in Washington, was “pretty amateurish,” notes Frierson, who makes his living mostly as a voice actor.

Seven or eight years later, pared down to 2½ hours after numerous revisions and trial runs, “Matty” ran for nine months at the Two Roads Theatre in Studio City in 1995, leading to its off-Broadway debut a year later.

“You don’t have to be a baseball fan to be completely engaged by Eddie Frierson’s performance,” NBC’s Bob Costas said. “He leaves the audience with a real appreciation of Christy Mathewson, and the place and time in which he was an authentic American hero. On the other hand, if you are a baseball fan, you will be surprised at how much you didn’t know about Matty.”

Theater critics also raved, the New York Times hailing “Matty” as “charming” and “appealing” and USA Today calling it “as memorable as an exciting World
Series game.”

The New York Post called it “pure virtuosity, a perfect pitch.”

Frierson, a father of three whose two sons are named Christy and Matty, was overwhelmed by the response, and by a later invitation to bring “Matty” to

“It was surreal when I walked up to the Hall of Fame and there’s my banner on the brick façade,” he says. “And people are lined up halfway around the block
to get my autograph.”

Frierson, as a pitcher, says he helped Nashville Hillwood High to a Tennessee state championship in 1977, but he never got into a varsity game during 2½
seasons at UCLA.

“I made it further in baseball through ‘Matty,’ ” he says, “than I ever had the opportunity to do as a player.”

And performing it, Frierson notes, has never grown old. At the show’s conclusion, the actor often remains in character and takes questions from the audience as the legendary “Big Six,” so nicknamed because he was 6 feet tall.

“I can answer any question that anybody has about Christy Mathewson,” Frierson says.

Someday, he says, he hopes to write a Mathewson biography, but for now he’s happy portraying the Hall of Famer.

“My kid wants me to keep doing it until he can do it,” Frierson says of 12-year-old Christy. “I think as long as I’m physically able and nobody says, ‘Gee, you
look old,’ I can keep doing it until I just don’t look the part anymore.”



May 30, 2010

Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe and Bill Plaschke of the LA Times gave their opening thoughts about the upcoming series that will hold a lot of interest.

First Shaughnessy:

“The Red Sox, Patriots, and yes, even the Bruins have had their moments over the last 110 years, but we would do well to remember it is the local
professional basketball franchise that has brought the most honor and hardware to the sports Hub of the Universe.
Invented by Walter Brown in 1946 and made great by Red Auerbach and Bill Russell, the Celtics are the team that rarely lets you down when it matters most.
They don’t choke, they rarely lose Game 7s, and they certainly don’t blow a series in which they lead three games to none.
And that is why it comes as no surprise that the Green Team dismantled the Magic on the fabled parquet floor last night. On a night when pundits and poets speculated about an epic fold and exposure of old bones, the Celtics throttled Orlando, 96-84, in Game 6 to advance to the NBA Finals for the 21st time since 1957. The Celtics are 17-3 in the championship round and will play either the Los Angeles Lakers or the Phoenix Suns (LA leads, 3-2, going into
tonight’s game), beginning Thursday night at the home of the Western Conference winner.
Former Celtic and NBA MVP Dave Cowens, who would have fit in nicely with this crew, was on hand to present the conference championship trophy to
owner Wyc Grousbeck. Cowens urged the Celtics to “go out there on behalf of the NBA and Red Auerbach and all Celtics present and past and bring home
No. 18.’’
Explaining why he never lost faith in a team that went 27-27 over its final 54 regular-season games, Celtics coach Doc Rivers said, “This starting five has never lost a series. Ever . . . This is where we thought we’d be. Don’t be surprised. We did go through tough times, but we kept saying, as a staff, ‘It’s in us.’ ’’
Like most of his players, Rivers is throwing nothing but sevens and 11s at this hour. How else do we explain Nate Robinson? The diminutive three-time slam dunk champ came to Boston from the Knicks in February and managed to play himself to the deep end of the bench. Robinson was not part of Rivers’s
playoff rotation, but still Doc predicted that the little guy would be a factor in at least one game.
Nobody believed Rivers. Doc probably didn’t even believe himself. More likely, the coach was just being nice.
But it happened. After Rajon Rondo was splattered on the floor late in the first quarter (by Dwight Howard, of course), Robinson came off the bench to score an astounding 13 points in the second quarter as the Celtics bolted to a 21-point lead. This was the same Nate Robinson who scored a grand total of 6 points, playing a total of 16 minutes, in the first five games of the series.
“Nate Robinson stayed focused in 30 straight games without playing,’’ noted Rivers.
Robinson was hardly alone. Captain Paul Pierce was immense, torching the Magic for 31 points with 13 rebounds (“We were going to win this game no matter what,’’ he said). Ray Allen added 20 points and it should be mentioned Glen Davis rebounded from his Wednesday night to provide 6 points and seven rebounds in 17 minutes off the bench.
“Give them credit,’’ said Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy. “They are playing very well right now. You have to admire them.’’
In the wake of Wednesday’s triage-tainted Celtics loss at Amway Arena, there was measurable pregame angst in the region. Two Celtics suffered a
concussion in Game 5 and the massive Howard emerged as a modern-day villain in the mold of Wilt Chamberlain or Moses Malone. Newbie Celtic fans
weren’t sure what to expect when they poured into the Causeway Cauldron for Game 6.
Rivers said, “After everything that happened, I was concerned going into this game that it would get ugly.’’
The Celtics’ Game Presentation Folk worked overtime to whip the crowd into a frenzy before warm-ups. The giant videoboard displayed an image of
Friday’s Boston Herald cover with Howard featured next to a headline that read “Take Him Out.’’ Then we saw grainy footage of Kevin McHale’s takedown of Kurt Rambis in the 1984 Finals and script regarding the deliverance of blows. Promoting this theme on the scoreboard was pretty bush-league stuff by Boston standards. Better at times like this to remember that we are not Yahoo Orlando or Raleigh. Fans in Boston know what to do without coaching from the videoboard.
After two days of nonstop noise about officiating (convicted felon Tim Donaghy emerged as a media go-to guy), NBA commissioner David Stern summoned the benign/vanilla trio of Monty McCutchen, Mike Callahan, and Ken Mauer for Game 6. For sure you weren’t going to see Joey Crawford, Billy Kennedy, or Joe West after all the mayhem in Game 5. Kevin Garnett denied Howard a pregame fist bump.
Before the game, Van Gundy went on about how the NBA — contrary to popular notion — is actually a first-quarter league. For decades it’s been trendy to claim that everything you need to see happens in the final two minutes. The Magic coach reminded all that the team that wins the first quarter usually wins the game.
It was therefore heartening for Hub fans to see the Celtics race to a 30-19 lead in the first 12 minutes. Highlights were many, but it would be hard to top
Pierce’s fast-break throwdown off a pass from Rondo (12 points in the quarter) in the final minute. If you’re a Celtic fan you’ll always take an 11-point lead with no points from Garnett in the first quarter.
The second quarter belonged to Robinson and the Celtics went ahead by 21 before settling for a 55-42 halftime lead.
All doubt was erased in the third as the Celtics ran out to an 80-56 lead. Pierce had 11 in the quarter.
The first “Beat LA’’ chants were heard during a timeout with the Celtics leading, 85-65, with 8:40 left. Players on the Celtic bench were already wearing their
conference championship hats while Rondo and friends dribbled out the clock.
Red would have been lighting a stogie right about then — thinking about the next game, which will be Game 1 of the NBA Finals Thursday night in Los

From the Left Coast, Plaschke tells us:

“Them again.

The ugly uniforms, the obnoxious fans, the chippy players, and that damn cigar.

Kevin McHale’s arm around Kurt Rambis’ neck, Cedric Maxwell’s hands around his own neck, Larry Bird on the wing, Danny Ainge on the floor and Paul Pierce in that damn wheelchair.

The Memorial Day Massacre, the Heat Game, the Junior Skyhook game, the June 17 Swoon, and those damn balloons.

Love it and loathe it, the Lakers are once again going green, their 111-103 victory over the Phoenix Suns here Saturday night clinching the Western
Conference championship and setting up the 12th NBA Finals meeting of the most storied championship rivalry in any sport.

It will be the Lakers against the Boston Celtics in the Finals, a phrase as common in the sports lexicon as, say, “Paul Pierce is a flopper.”

If you sense any angst here, well, the Lakers have endured 51 years of it in this rivalry, losing nine of the 11 Finals, including being run out of Boston two seasons ago in possibly the most embarrassing Finals clinching in NBA history.

The Lakers have been to 10 more finals, but the Celtics have won two more titles. The Lakers have had bigger stars, but the Celtics have played with more substance.

Their Finals fights have been filled with great fun, but gruesome pain. Lakers fans today are using their hands both to applaud their chances and cover their eyes. They want Boston. The Lakers want Boston. Everyone willing to risk the annual heartbreak. Everyone dreaming of the ultimate knockout.

“After we came back in the playoffs last year, I ran into Paul Pierce in a complex . . . in L.A.,” said Coach Phil Jackson, referring to one of the Celtics’ stars.
“I said, ‘Get it back, we want to meet you in the Finals.’ So here it is.”

Will this year be different? Will this be the year that the Lakers gain some revenge for moments that span from 1959 to 2008? Can they dredge up the past without being swallowed by it? Will this series push the franchise to the heights of a second consecutive championship, or stall it in old stereotypes?

It says here, yes. It says here, yes to revenge, yes to heights, yes to a memorable seven-game defeat of their rivals.

I picked the Lakers to win two years ago, but didn’t realize the toughness of the Celtics and the desperation of their veterans. Today, after a surprisingly
difficult series against the Suns, the Lakers are the ones with those traits.

Beginning Thursday at Staples Center, the Lakers will hit the Celtics with a combination of speed and strength that doesn’t exist in the Eastern Conference. The Lakers are not only a little better than this year’s Celtics, but, more important, they are a lot better than the 2008 Lakers, and that will be the difference.

“We’ll see . . . we’ll see how much we matured,” Kobe Bryant said Saturday after scoring 37 points in helping the Lakers recover from a fourth-quarter stall to hold off the surging Suns. “[The Celtics] challenged us two years ago . . . now it’s a test to see how much we’ve grown.”

They’ve grown. From the soft team that wilted under the Celtics’ elbows and energy two years ago, they’ve grown. Even from the distracted team that
struggled to beat Oklahoma City several weeks ago, they’ve grown.

They have several advantages now that they didn’t have two years ago, and they will use them to hammer out redemptions.

They have home-court advantage. They have won 28 of their last 31 postseason games at Staples Center. Enough said.

They have Kobe Bryant’s memory advantage. He is still furious over the 39-point beating handed the Lakers in their last postseason meeting with the Celtics, that awful series-ending Game 6 in Boston two years ago. And you know what happens when Kobe gets mad.

Bryant went seven for 22 in that game and spent the next year listening to folks use it as proof that he couldn’t lead a team to a championship. Well, he won that championship, last year in Orlando. Now he wants Boston to watch him win another one.

They have Ron Artest’s defensive advantage. Two years ago, the Lakers didn’t really have enough manpower to shut down series MVP Pierce. They do now.
Artest has reached his Lakers potential this postseason, a game-winning shot Thursday, 25 points on Saturday, lockdown defense at every step.

They have the Andrew Bynum-presence advantage. He wasn’t available two years ago and, although struggling with a knee injury now, he will at least be
another big body who can throw a few blows to Boston’s middle.

“Our bigs have to play, they have to play well,” Jackson said.

The only thing certain is that the series will be bigger than all of it. Thursday? Really? Can’t we start this thing now?

“It’s obviously a huge rivalry . . . a renewed fervor between both these towns,” Jackson said. “It’s something that has been anticipated the last couple of weeks, so here it is.”

Celtics again? Welcome back.”

I have to admit it that Bob Ryan, of the Boston Globe, was right in saying that “Celtic Pride” would carry the day, er- night.

“Dwyane Wade will be huddling with his divorce lawyers. LeBron James will be preparing for The Great Recruiting Tour. And Dwight Howard will be
sharpening his elbows. But if they get an idle moment or two, those three members of the All-NBA team will rendezvous in Hilton Head, or some such
getaway, to watch the Boston Celtics play for the NBA championship.
It’s official. First, they crushed Wade’s overmatched Miami Heat. Next, they took care of the 61-win Cavaliers. And now they have disposed of the 59-win
Magic. The Afterthought Celtics will be playing in the NBA Finals for the second time in three years and the 21st time overall.
And you were worried? C’mon. There’s a reason NBA teams are now 0-94 after falling behind, 3-0, in best-of-seven series and why only one of those 94, the 1951 Knicks, have even made it 3-3.
It’s pretty hard, that’s why. The fact the Bruins lost a deciding seventh game in this very building to enter the record books was never germane. The Bruins had no championship pedigree and they were playing shorthanded. The Celtics are a year removed from a title and still had the Big Three Plus one, in addition to a few other very useful guys.
It was a blissful evening at TD Garden, the game ending in the exact manner as Game 6 of the Cleveland series; that is to say, with the rival coach having
conceded by pulling his star player and with the delirious crowd chanting — what else? — “Beat LA!’’ for the entire final two minutes.
The final was 96-84, and what a shameful liar that 12-point spread is. For the Celtics trailed for just 12 seconds in this game. They led by 11 after one, 13 at
the half, 21 after three, and 24 with 11:45 to play. They were in complete control in the final 39 minutes or so.
Oh, and you had Nate Robinson in the Key Player of The Game pool, didn’t you?
Yup, Nate was a true Little Big Man last night. He had been dropped from the rotation in the regular season and had played 16 minutes, total, in the first five games of this series. But Doc Rivers liked what he saw of the 5-foot-9-inch guard in Orlando Wednesday amid that disappointing loss, and he told his
coaching staff he was going to give Robinson a shot in what was only the most important game of the season, until the next game.
Rajon Rondo come out of the gate with a spectacular 12-point, three-assist first period. He was clearly on top of his game. And Nate Robinson, amazingly, trumped him.
Who on this earth would have expected Robinson to hit the Magic with 13 points in a 19-9 run that expanded a 9-point second-quarter Celtics’ lead to
19 (51-32)? Well, you’d have to say Doc, who put him in the game to begin with, and then you’d also have to say 21-year-old Brian Kennedy, the
Needhamite who may have been the only person in the building brave enough to walk into the joint proudly wearing a green jersey with the No. 4.
“I got onto him when he scored the 41 off the bench for New York after not playing for 14 games,’’ said Kennedy.
“I’ve been telling him, and other guys, too, every day at practice, ‘Stay engaged, at some point you’re going to win a game for us,’ ’’ Rivers explained.
The Robinson outburst included a pair of threes, a pair of non-threes, three free throws, a steal, an assist, and a forced backcourt violation.
“Nate Robinson,’’ sighed Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy, “was huge. That was a huge, huge lift for them.’’
Perhaps the Celtics would have won this game if Nate Robinson had done nothing more in replace of Rondo than simply not screw up. But what he did
ensured that he will at least be an italicized footnote in Celtics’ history, a la, say, Glenn McDonald. Things like that matter around here. Ask Dave Roberts.
Of course, he wasn’t the best player on the floor, or anything close to it. The best player on the floor was the Captain, Paul Pierce, who played one of his
stellar Havlicek-Bird games with game highs of 31 points and 13 rebounds, and he had 5 assists, 2 steals, and some outrageous baskets that eliminated even the slightest possibility of the Magic staging a miracle comeback. He was also a major part of a Celtic defense that held the bombs-away Magic to a
manageable 6 for 22 on threes.
In case you haven’t heard, the Magic couldn’t beat Stetson or Rollins if they aren’t killing you with threes.
There is no way to minimize what the Celtics have done by dispatching Cleveland and Orlando, who ran through the league with a combined 120-44 record.
“They made us both look bad,’’ said Van Gundy. “Cleveland was upset because they didn’t play well. We’re upset because we didn’t play well. But they’re just playing very well to go through two series like that. No. 1, they will get down and dirty on defense. No. 2, they are a very unselfish team on offense.’’
Basketball in May and June. Don’t the good people of New England love it? Any time you’re still playing basketball when the grass needs mowing and you’ve got the screens in means only one thing: You’ve got a very good basketball team.
The NBA Finals begin Thursday, with or without LA.
And you were worried?”

Jim Caple, of ESPN Page 2, spoke of John Fogerty of CCR fame who rekindled a lot of childhood feelings about not getting into a lot of sandlot
games (I wasn’t even good enough to play Little League).
“John Fogerty could have written a song about a different position but “Middle Reliever” would not have resonated nearly as well.
Beat my head, hold the bullpen phone — another pitching change!
They’re born again, three runners on the bags.
A’heading in, and blowin’ the lead, it’s a left-handed setup man;
And everyone can tell that victory goodbye.

No, other positions would not have worked. Fogerty chose “Centerfield” because to him the position was special. It was the center of the universe, the land where baseball’s gods roamed.
“It was this mythical place. Center field was the place where all the greats played,” Fogerty said in a phone interview. “I had long decided that the right fielder, which was probably me growing up — if they had nine kids and No. 1 was the best player, then No. 9 was in right field. But the centerfielder was always the best fielder on the team. He was the power hitter and fast and could handle everything. If you think about all the center fielders who’ve played the game, they’ve normally been the best players, too. DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays.”
Fogerty recorded “Centerfield” 25 years ago — it came out the year before Jamie Moyer reached the majors — never realizing he was releasing not just a song but an anthem. Go to any ballpark in the country and there’s a good chance you’ll hear it playing. It is as much a part of the lyrics of baseball as “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” “Cold Beer Here!” and “A-Rod Sucks!” It’s the game’s unofficial walk-up music, such an integral part of baseball that Fogerty will perform the song live this summer at the Hall of Fame induction ceremonies.
“I think I will be lifted off the ground,” Fogerty said of his emotions when he plays on induction day. “No. 1, I’ll be very keyed up and nervous and want to do a good job. The bigger the game, the more the adrenaline kicks in. I believe that my poor little brain won’t be able to comprehend it all, I’ve been working to this moment all my life, since I was a little boy. In no way am I saying I’m equal to the players but I have loved them and thought about them as little boys do — and to sing a song that is about them, there will be a lot of things I’ll be feeling.”
I don’t think I’m going out on too far a limb here by saying his performance will be more rousing than umpire Doug Harvey’s acceptance speech.
“I think of all the great players he was talking about in that song, and going through my career, every time I heard that song, I thought that song was made for me,” Tigers outfielder Johnny Damon said. “It’s one of those songs that just sticks with you. Any kid who grows up playing center field, when they hear thatsong, they get that chill.”
Well, not everyone.
Ken Griffey Jr., the greatest center fielder since “Centerfield” was released, insists that he never even heard the song until his first game in the minors with the Bellingham Mariners in 1987, and that it has no special meaning to him. “It’s about a guy who wanted to play and I was already in the game.”
That’s the whole point, though. When we stand to sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” all we’re asking is to watch and chomp on peanuts and Cracker Jack.
“Centerfield” is a plea to be get into the game, a demand to play, a call to arms, a chance to show what we can do. Put me in, Coach!
“I used to use that phrase all the time,” Fogerty said. “I’d be watching the Game of the Week and there would be that time when they would show the
dugout — I feel like Ronald Reagan now — and it would just be time for Claudell Washington or Orlando Cepeda or someone to go out there and save the day. I’d be watching the game and they showed the skipper and I’d be shouting at the TV, ‘Put me in, Coach! Put me in, Coach!’
“That was a phrase I used all the time. All the phrases in the song are phrases I’ve heard a million times. Touch ’em all. A moment in the sun. Just things I
always heard as a fan.”
Fogerty says the song was relatively easy to write. “I had gotten the idea that I was going to make a song about center field. The album was called
‘Centerfield.’ It was a comeback for me. It had been 10 years since I had been anywhere near the music business publicly. So I knew I would call the album
‘Centerfield’ because it was very special to me. And I thought, you ought to try to make a song about it. I was practicing a song, and I came up with that guitar riff that starts the song. I went into the studio, playing the guitar with a drumbeat and it just came out.
“That’s the thing about this wonderful, mystical part of songwriting — you don’t realize it’s there, but it is there, and when it’s right, it shakes you and shocks you and you know immediately.”
The opening riff of “Centerfield” is contagious. You hear it, and you immediately start clapping. You hear it and you think of baseball and summer and green grass and swift, strong athletes racing back to catch impossibly long fly balls. “Centerfield” has a running time of 3:53 but, as Damon says, “That song will go on forever.”

Dan Shaughnessy, of the Boston Globe, said the idea of a choke was hard to swallow and went on to say:

“It defies all logic and laws of probability.
It . . . cannot . . . possibly . . . happen . . . again.
But there is doubt. There is a lingering sense of dread. The Orlando Magic are Glenn Close, lifeless and submerged in the bathtub, but we are afraid she may
yet rise out of the water and try to cut out our heart. One more time.
Let’s try some numbers, shall we? Big league baseball, basketball, and hockey have been playing best-of-seven series for more than 100 years, and in that
time, 287 teams have taken leads of three games to none (thank you, Elias Sports Bureau). Only four teams have recovered from 3-0 to win the series. And now it’s going to happen twice within a span of 16 days? In the same city?
Still, we fret. We are damaged because of the Bruins. We are like the proverbial dog that has been kicked too many times. Every motion made in our direction causes us to recoil.
Do I have to remind anyone? The Bruins led the Flyers, 3-0. They let it get away in overtime in Game 4. Then the Bruins let the Flyers get some confidence.
Then it got to Game 7, at home, and the Bruins led, 3-0. Then the Bruins lost and fans threw black-and-gold towels on the ice and spilled onto Causeway
Street full of angst and anger.
It was simply impossible. In the words of Globe scribe Mike Vega, it was, “3-0, 3-0, uh-oh.’’
Now the Celtics. They led, 3-0. They let it get away, losing Game 4 in overtime. In Game 5 Wednesday in Orlando, they were spanked. When the game was finished, they had two guys with concussions, one who was ejected, and a few others hurting.
We wonder if this might be the sports god taking revenge for what the Red Sox did to the Yankees in 2004 — the 3-0 comeback to end all 3-0 comebacks.
Is this Garden gag of 2010 some kind of macabre payback for the Biblical revival of the Idiotic gang, who shucked 86 years of hard-luck hardball?
Don’t go to that dark place, people. Not yet. The Celtics are going to win tonight. They have a healthy Big Three. They have Rajon Rondo ready to answer Jameer Nelson. They have Kendrick Perkins, granted a stay by the NBA’s behavior police.
The league yesterday ruled that Perkins did not deserve a technical foul when he was T’d up for the second time by Eddie F. Rush in the second quarter of
Game 5. This means Perk gets to play tonight in Game 6 at the Garden.
It also means that the league has a problem. Trust me when I tell you I loathe postgame talk about officiating. It’s boring and fruitless. The Celtics did not lose Game 5 because of the refs. They lost because they allowed Orlando to make 13 of 25 threes. They gave up 31, 26, 27, and 29 points in the four quarters.
They let the Magic shoot over 50 percent in every quarter.
But what Rush did with Perkins should not go without punishment. The ref took the Celtics center out of the game in the second quarter. And the league has admitted it was a mistake. Rush should be fined or suspended. And the punishment should be announced.
Enough about the zebras. Let’s go back to the numbers. There have been zero 3-0 comebacks in NBA history. Zero. And that covers 93 series since 1947.
The Celtics have never come close. They have gone ahead, 3-0, and swept. They have gone ahead, 3-0, lost Game 4, then won the series. But they have
never been forced to play a Game 6 after taking a 3-0 lead.
Which is another reason we are nervous. And we are already fast-forwarding with our panic.
What if they lose tonight? Can they be expected to win a Game 7 on the road after losing three straight? Are the young legs of the Magic running ahead of the old bones of Boston now that the teams are playing games every other day? Are the Celtics healthy? Where’s KG? What happened to Rondo? Can they win without Big Baby? Can they win with Rasheed Wallace and his creaky back? Have they morphed into the team that went 27-27 over the last 54 games, losing all those double-digit leads?
Worst of all . . .
Are the Celtics (gulp) choking?
Keep your heads. The Celtics failed to close this out in Game 4 at home. They were predictably beaten at Amway Arena in Game 5. But now they are home.
And they are better. And they will end this tonight.
Or they have a Sunday date with history and humiliation.”

The Sports Curmudgeon recommended this article from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette written by Gene Collier. He answers all of those disappointed voices from warm weather NFL towns.

“On the morning of Jan. 9, 1994, I woke up in a Marriott in Syracuse, fully content that this would be among the most relaxing days of an already fairly relaxed life.
Pitt’s basketballing Panthers had spent the previous evening getting trimmed by Jim Boeheim’s fellas inside the Carrier Dome, which was, like the balance of upstate New York, getting pelted with blinding, wet, lake-effect snow that would be measured in feet. They don’t obsess on the inches so much up there.
Surely, I felt, no flights would be departing, including the one that was supposed to take me to Newark for the NFC playoff game between the New York Giants and the Minnesota Vikings that very afternoon.
Surely, I figured, I’d be watching that one from various sectors of the king-size bed, which was to be vacated only upon the rap-rap of room service, a plan that would be strictly enforced for the second game of that Sunday’s NFL playoff doubleheader as well.
It was 7:30 a.m.
Three-and-a-half hours later, I was walking through the parking lot at Giants Stadium, because a lot of people in this country remain fully functional in the
worst of conditions regardless of whether it will ruin my day, including USAir, which on that day, flew me and one other person to New Jersey. Not to complain. In East Rutherford, there were no more than a few inches of snow, and the wind had calmed to maybe 30 mph, gusting to 60. The wind chill on the frozen concrete over Jimmy Hoffa was minus 377 degrees.
On the way to the press gate, I passed a tailgater who was shoving a burger through the mouth hole of his Giants ski mask.
I guess I looked at him a second too long, because he glared at me as if I was crazy.
The point is (at last!), when it comes to football, particularly postseason football, people will go anywhere and endure almost anything. It’s 100 percent logic-free, but it’s a fact.
Next time you’re sitting in your family room on Jan. 9, and there’s snow on the ground and the wind chill is minus 377, say this out loud:
“I know, let’s light the grill, put on our ski masks, and shove some burgers through the mouth holes while holding some Bloody Marys!”
Then try it with this preface, “I’ve got playoff tickets!”
So it is, like so many things, completely beyond me that there is so much reactive outrage across the sportscape for this idea of playing the Super Bowl in a cold weather site with no dome. The NFL’s plan to put Super Bowl 48 in New York on Feb. 2, 2014, isn’t without its downside, but aside from the
all-but-certain upstaging of Punxsutawney Phil, I can’t see it.
You’d think they were trying to put it in Frostbite Falls for a 2 a.m. kickoff with a halftime show featuring Up With Ice Fishing.
ESPN has been showing a continuous loop of horrible weather as the b-roll for this story, either that or it’s the outtakes from “Dr. Zhivago.” Wait, wasn’t that
a scene from “Twister”?
Terrell Suggs, the Baltimore Ravens linebacker, said that the Super Bowl should be a reward for players and he doesn’t want to get there only to find “it’s 20 below zero.”
Well that would be just about 60 degrees off the normal February temperature for New York according to NY.com, which claims 40 degrees as the average February high. Could it actually be 20 below that day? One chance in maybe 500, but that’s a chance the NFL is willing to take to help pump $550 million into New York’s economy while staging its biggest event in the media capital of the world.
Might the conditions be uncomfortable, the footing be less than perfect, even to the extent that it alters in some significant way the individual performances of the noble combatants? Heck yeah, just like it was Jan. 9, 1994; just like it was for the Greatest Game Ever Played right there in the Bronx Dec. 28, 1958; just like it was for the Ice Bowl at Lambeau Field Dec. 31, 1967; just like it was when Jerome Bettis nearly knocked Big Bear Brian Urlacher into the Allegheny on a dark and snowy night at Heinz Field Dec. 11, 2005.
Not one of those games, nor dozens of similarly delicious dramas, would retain a fraction of their iconic qualities were they staged on some swift Southern lawn, much less on the floor of the SuperDome.
Frankly, I’m glad the Sunbelt stranglehold on elemental Super Bowls has been broken this week because it opens the door for my original idea, which was to
play the Super Bowl in the home stadium of one of the competing teams.
Why should the only teams with a chance to win the Super Bowl at home be your Giants, Jets, Saints, Buccaneers, Dolphins, Cowboys, Chargers, Colts,
Lions, Cardinals, and their ilk?
Put the big game on the home field of one of the conference champions. The host conference will be determined, of course, by which league wins baseball’s All-Star Game.
No need to thank me.”

Bob Molinaro of HamptonRoads.com looked at the LeBron hype and said that games don’t measure up to its excitement.

“When ESPN hypes speculation about a certain member of NBA royalty with a Countdown to Free Agency clock, the only healthy response is a shake of the
head followed by a small laugh.
To paraphrase former ESPN anchorman Dan Patrick, you can’t stop the media’s maddening guesswork about LeBron James, you can only hope to contain your annoyance with it.
In six weeks, James becomes a free agent. That’s a mere six weeks or an eternity, depending on your point of view and stamina for uninformed bloviating.
There’s no doubt that the media are up to the challenge of filling the days and hours with more clueless conjecture.
Cleveland? New York? New Jersey? Chicago? Where will LeBron land?
My favorite rumor has him quitting basketball to play wide receiver for the Cleveland Browns. I made that one up myself.
Hey, at this point, it’s hard to fashion an original scenario.
With ESPN and its Web sites flashing the days, hours, minutes and seconds until July 1, the Le-Bron countdown has become predictably farcical, and gives the impression that the on-going NBA playoffs are nothing more than a sideshow.
But to some degree, maybe they are.
I understand the irony of a column that contributes to an environment it criticizes, but it should occur to all of us that most of the biggest – and most
obsessed-over – sports stories of the past year have had nothing to do with final scores, championships or anything that happened on the court, field or golf course.
About this time last year, Michael Vick was leaving prison. The stories of Vick’s rehabilitation consumed us, didn’t they?
They did, at least, when we weren’t distracted by last summer’s speculation about Brett Favre’s front-porch vacillations.
Sure, the media dutifully report on the various pennant races, playoffs, bowl games, title chases and what have you that dot the calendar, but rarely with the all-consuming passion and lunacy that’s invested in the off-field carnival.
The NFL season must have seemed like a pretty big story before Tiger Woods crashed his car in late November and jump-started lurid, excessive speculation about his lurid, excessive secret life.
Whatever it was that preoccupied us before that took place couldn’t have been very interesting, and by that I mean, it didn’t involve sex.
When Ben Roethlisberger’s off-field peccadilloes came to the attention of Georgia police, the sordid misadventures of the Steelers quarterback provided Woods with a small reprieve from scrutiny.
Once again, an off-field controversy had trumped the games.
Neither man is off the hook with the media as far as their extracurricular activities are concerned, but let’s just say that there’s been a lull in the action.
That’s where LeBron comes in. At least there’s a timetable involved in his story. Tick, tick, tick. It adds to the trumped-up suspense.
You’ve got to smile, though, at the random imaginings.
He’ll leave Cleveland because he knows he can’t win a title there. Or, he’ll remain a Cavalier because he owes Cleveland a championship. Take your pick.
A story I read yesterday has James going to the Chicago Bulls, where he’d be joined by Celtics coach Doc Rivers.
Stranger things have happened. But at this point, everything is wild speculation meant to tease and tantalize.
As ESPN’s silly Countdown to Free Agency continues, the sentence you rarely hear spoken on TV and radio is, “I don’t know.”
Where will LeBron play next season? For now, “I don’t know,” is the only response that rings true.
It’s best said with a laugh.”

Alex Beam, of the Boston Globe, offered a health warning.
“I wonder if now is the moment to tell my editors that my next 12 columns will all be about the World Cup soccer tournament, which starts early next month in South Africa. I suppose they will find out sooner or later.
Today: The disturbing public health angle.
Where were you in January 2008? I know where I was; pawing through the New England Journal of Medicine’s disturbing overview “Cardiovascular Events During World Cup Soccer.’’ A team of no fewer than 11 German health professionals — the same number as on a soccer side — analyzed acute cardiac events in Munich during the five weeks of the 2006 World Cup, held in Germany.
Their conclusion: World Cup bad for you! “Viewing a stressful soccer match more than doubles the risk of an acute cardiovascular event,’’ Ute, Helmut,
Christoph, Gerhard & Co. wrote. “In view of this excess risk, particularly in men with known coronary heart disease, preventive measures are urgently
I’ll spare you most of the jargon (“An autocorrelation of the Pearson residuals and a fitted quasi-Poisson regression analysis involving an additional over dispersion parameter . . .’’) to get to the point. The docs realized that as the German national team progressed ever-closer to the final round, its fans experienced ever-greater levels of stress. The final two games, a lucky win against Argentina, and Germany’s elimination by Italy, the eventual tournament victor, were almost too much to bear: “It is clear that watching an important soccer match, which can be associated with intense emotional stress, triggers the acute coronary syndrome and symptomatic cardiac arrhythmia.’’
And I thought Germans were tough. Guess not. If they had to watch Paul Pierce drive the lane, take a rib jab from Jameer Nelson, a hard foul across the throat from Dwight Howard, sink the basket and convert the three-point play . . . I guess das Volk would just lie down and expire.
You thought perhaps this masterwork of epidemiological research would go unchallenged? You would be wrong. Two Italian physicians from the University of Verona fired off a letter to the NEJM suggesting that if the Germans laid off the knockwurst, the spaetzle, the sauerkraut, and the foaming steins of Kaiserdom beer, they might be able to survive 90 minutes of World Cup.
“Central European foods . . . are commonplace among people who are watching sports on television,’’ write Drs. Lippi and Targher, who add that “a large body of epidemiologic evidence attests that these foods can trigger postprandial angina pectoris and acute coronary syndromes, especially . . . when accompanied by stress, physical inactivity, alcohol consumption (especially binge drinking), consumption of coffee, and smoking.’’ Might we suggest a Mediterranean diet, esteemed residents of Munich?
Earlier this year, four more Italian medical geniuses tossed in their 500 lire — sorry, two euros — with a scholarly article in the International Journal of
Epidemiology titled “It is just a game: lack of association between watching football [soccer] matches and the risk of acute cardiovascular events.’’ The Italian docs note the Germans’ World Cup-related faintheartedness, and then state: No problem here! They analyze Italian hospital admissions during the 2002 and 2006 World Cups, and conclude: “The cardiovascular effects of watching football matches are likely to be, if anything, very small.’’
Easy for them to say, as the wondrous Azzurri, the Italian blues, cruised to World Cup triumph in 2006.
Ute Wilbert-Lampen, one of the German authors of the original NEJM study, agreed to answer a few questions via e-mail. What “preventive measures,’’ I
asked, might reduce cardiac stress at World Cup time? She told me that cardiac patients should be scrupulous about taking their drugs, and that fans “should avoid heavy alcohol and food.’’
What about those laid-back Italian researchers, invoking NPR host Bill Littlefield’s mantra that “it’s only a game’’? “We do not agree with Francesco
Barone-Adesi and colleagues that ‘it is just a game,’ ’’ Wilbert-Lampen answered. Lastly I asked: Is World Cup watching dangerous only for
cholesterol-crazed Germans? “We believe that our findings are not specific to Germany,’’ she wrote. “Great and important sport events in other countries may also lead to an extraordinary emotional strain with subsequent cardiovascular events, particularly in cardiovascular high-risk patients.’’
Celtics-Magic tomorrow night. Do you have the heart to watch?”

T.J. Simers told us in the LA Times how Bill Walton is doing.

“”Once in a while you get shown the light

in the strangest of places if you look at it right.” —- Jerry Garcia

Bill Walton is grateful he’s not dead, but it wasn’t too long ago, he says, “that I went from thinking I was going to die, to wanting to die, to being afraid I was going to live.

“You have no idea where I have been.”

He says this while coming to his feet on a perch behind his San Diego home overlooking Balboa Park, the hair just as disheveled but gray now rather than red, standing now on two fused ankles, medical talk of amputating one of his feet fortunately never going beyond just that.

He raises his arms to the sky, which he does a lot these days, sturdy for now on two shot knees, “hands and wrists,” as he says, “that don’t work,” two titanium rods and four bolts holding his spine in place.

“I’m the luckiest guy in the world,” he says while standing there reaching for the sky with raised arms. “I can’t stop smiling.”

Thirty-six orthopedic surgeries in his 57 years of life to date, pain in his spine so excruciating, so relentless the past two years he lay flat on the floor of his home, recoiling in fear if anyone came within five feet of him, eating his meals on the floor, crawling and sliding to the bathroom.

“When you’re on the ground and can’t move, there is no difference between morning and night,” he says. “It’s endless. You just want it to go away, but it’s every day to where you see nothing but that forever.”

He was playing basketball for UCLA 36 years ago, a game against Washington State, he’s high in the air and “when you’re high above the basket and someone comes running from the other side of the court and takes your legs out from under you, I’d call that a deliberate act of vicious dirty play,” he says.

“That’s where my back problems started. You just deal with it,” says Walton, who played 10 years in the NBA. Coach Wooden taught us a lot, and one of his mantras applies here: ‘Things work out best for those that make the best out of the way things work out.’ ”

But then he could no longer deal with it. “One of the great fallacies in life is that it’s just about hard work and if you just try a little harder,” he says.

He tried everything, and nothing worked. He got off an airplane at the San Diego airport two years ago and crumbled to the ground. He fought back, but then the pain became so debilitating he was flat on his back again.

“You could never know, there are people out there who do know, but you have to be there,” he says. “Hope dies last, but you need to see there is a tomorrow.
But in time I had no reason to believe.”

So he began thinking about taking his own life. “I was standing there on the edge of the bridge,” he says. “I had a life that was not worth living. I had nothing, nothing.”

And what would Coach John Wooden have said had Walton taken the leap? “What he said to me over and over again,” he says. “You’re the slowest learner I’ve ever had.”

Then he’s on his feet again, his arms raised to the sky, and get used to it, he does it about every five minutes or so, while saying the same thing over and over again: “I’m back in the game of life.”

Broadcaster Jim Gray found the doctor, and the doctor, Dr. Steven Garfin, was doing innovative spinal work. “I just said, make it stop,” says Walton, and although given no assurances, he underwent 8½ hours of surgery.

Seven months later, seven months of more agony, one day he tells his wife, Lori, “I feel it’s turning. I told her, I think I’m going to make it.”

Two days later he’s riding his bike, turning the corner to his home when a teenager, trying to impress some young girls, jumps on a skateboard and dive bombs the bike rider. He loses control, plows into Walton, breaking Walton’s pelvis and tailbone.

“But the fusion holds,” he says, the kids running off and Walton lying in the street until neighbors find him.

Three more months on his back where he cannot move, on the bottom again, Walton says, but he’s on his feet now, and you would never know where he’s been.

“Bill Walton 15.0,” he says. “I’m up every morning at 3:30 saying ‘let’s go.’ In the pool at 4:30, so many things I want to do.”

He’s working on education projects, music, the environment, while also getting the word out on Dr. Garfin and what he can do to save lives seemingly lost.

“Go take a look at the people in Dr. Garfin’s waiting room,” he says. “You have people with these erector sets on their heads, tubes coming out, but look at their spouses and the look on their faces. Broken spirits, broken dreams. I feel for those people.”

He’s also pumping up awareness in the “Million Dollar Challenge,” to raise funds for the Challenged Athletes Foundation to buy more wheelchairs and prosthetics.

“I’m building a new career,” he says, his enthusiasm overwhelming again and NBA basketball just not as much fun without him behind a microphone. “My goal? I want to make a difference in the lives of people.”

He still loves basketball, his admiration for Chick Hearn right there with Garcia and Bob Dylan, and he had the Lakers taking on the Celtics in the Finals weeks ago.

When this season began, though, he was still on a cane, the phone ringing and it was NBA Commissioner David Stern inviting Walton to join him at Staples Center for the Lakers’ opener.

“He says he’s going to have the honor of putting the championship ring on my son’s finger and he would like me to be his guest,” Walton says. “I call Luke, and tell him I’m up in the suites with the commissioner and don’t know if I’ll get down to see him.

“Luke is a polite young man, but he interrupts,” and as Walton recounts the moment, he stops and he cannot speak. Time passes.

“Nothing like the pride a father has for his son,” he manages to say.

He’s crying now. “Luke says to me, ‘Dad, you’re a player; get out of that suite and get down on the floor where you belong.’

“I’m sorry,” Walton says, while wiping away tears of joy, and you guessed it, he’s on his feet again, the Bill Walton everyone remembers — reaching for the sky with every reason to believe now he’ll be able to touch it.”


May 25, 2010

Alan Scher Zagier, an AP writer, had a piece published in the LA Times that pointed out an inequity that’s often played out by NCAA member schools. The NCAA says that its rules are clear that athletic scholarships are one-year, merit based awards and can be revoked putting the athlete in limbo.
Very often recruiters will often promise a lot including full rides but can deliver a lot less.

“After scoring just 22 points all season in mop-up duty, Missouri freshman forward Tyler Stone has no illusions of bolting college for the NBA after a single year.
Instead, the 6-foot-7 Memphis native is a different sort of one-and-done: a college athlete leaving a school sooner than his family expected as a prized recruit takes over his scholarship.
“I can’t see how a school can love him to death one year and the next year cut him loose,” said his mother, Sharon Stone. “They had to get rid of somebody.”
The NCAA says its rules are clear. Athletic scholarships are one-year, “merit-based” awards that require both demonstrated academic performance as well as “participation expectations” on the playing field.
College sport watchdogs – and, occasionally, athletes themselves – tell a different story. They see unkept promises and bottom-line decisions at odds with the definition of student-athlete.
Those discrepancies apparently have caught the attention of the U.S. Justice Department. Its antitrust division is investigating the one-year renewable
scholarship, with agents interviewing NCAA officials and member schools. A Justice Department spokeswoman declined comment because the probe,
announced on May 6, is ongoing.
“This happens a lot more than anybody even believes,” said New Haven management professor Allen Sack, a former Notre Dame football player and vocal NCAA critic. “You’re allowed to do it. According to the NCAA, there’s nothing wrong with it.
“Coaches don’t go out of their way to clarify (scholarship length). They make it as vague as they possibly can.”
At Missouri, the school announced on April 12 that Stone and sophomore guard Miguel Paul were transferring to seek more playing time. Two days later, the Tigers signed a pair of the country’s top-rated junior college transfers, rugged 6-foot-8 forward Ricardo Ratliffe and guard Matt Pressey, whose younger brother Phil will also join Missouri as a freshman in the fall.
Missouri coach Mike Anderson called the timing of the two announcements coincidental. Both Stone and Paul had previously expressed interest in seeking a fresh start, he said, calling their decisions to leave “mutual.”
“I don’t have a lot of guys go in and out of my program,” he said. “My kids are like my family, and I want my family to be happy. If you’re not happy, then
maybe this is not the right place.”
Paul told The Associated Press that “the coaches wanted me to stay but I told them this wasn’t the place for me.” He is transferring to East Carolina.
Stone, meanwhile, will play for mid-major Southeast Missouri of the Ohio Valley Conference after sitting out the required year for Division I transfers. He declined an interview request, but his mother spoke with the AP at length in several interviews and made it clear that her son was pushed out.
She described a celebratory spring break barbecue touting her son’s first year in college. Her son went back to campus afterward and, hours later, called with unexpected news. “He came back (to Columbia) Monday and said, ‘I have to transfer,'” she recalled. “I thought he was going to graduate from that school.”
Exactly how often athletic scholarships are revoked to make room for better players is hard to quantify, though a pair of recent studies on turnover in college basketball offer a few clues.
The National College Players Association, an advocacy group that lobbies for athletes’ rights, found an average roster turnover rate of 22 percent among the 65 schools in the 2009 NCAA tournament. That works out to 169 players out of 775 possible returners.
The group includes players who lost scholarships for academic reasons or who sought transfers, but excludes graduating seniors and those who left for the NBA.
The University of North Carolina’s College Sport Research Institute found that 11 of 95 Division I schools studied had at least 20 percent roster turnover for the 2009-10 season. The UNC study also excluded injured players as well as those who turned pro or graduated.
Both studies include Kentucky, where seven players on Billy Gillespie’s final squad didn’t return once John Calipari took over in 2009 and brought his own recruits. Four of those former Wildcats have said publicly they were asked to leave the program.
Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart said that Calipari was honest with the team he inherited.
Players were told up front whether or not they fit into Kentucky’s plans. Either “we have a spot for you or we can help you go someplace else,” Barnhart said.
Advocates for athletes say players who leave against their will often stay quiet, so they can save face by requesting a transfer and getting a recommendation from their now-former coach that will help them jump more easily to a new school.
The one-year renewable scholarship, with a limit of five years of athletic aid, has been in place since 1973. Kevin Lennon, the NCAA’s vice president for
academic and membership affairs, said the 37-year-old policy has not been a frequent topic of concern among member schools. He noted that NCAA rules
require colleges to provide athletes who lose scholarships with an appeals option, typically consisting of a campus panel formed from outside the athletics department. But such arbitration is not common, he acknowledged.
Requiring Division I transfers to sit out a year before competing for a new school prevents coaches from recruiting players away from other schools, said Maryland basketball coach Gary Williams.
Coaches who routinely “run off” players risk sullying their reputation – and losing recruits to other coaches who would point out that track record, he added.
“I don’t know many coaches who do that,” Williams said. “If you develop a reputation for doing that, you probably won’t be coaching very long.”
In football, former Colorado State kicker Durrell Chamarro expected to stay at the school that recruited him for his entire college career. After a redshirt
freshman year and another season as a backup, he hoped to emerge as a starter by his senior year.
Instead, former Rams coach Sonny Lubick told Chamorro in the spring of 2007 that his scholarship had been revoked. Chamorro was invited to remain with the team as a walk-on, but the only child of a retired southern California school teacher and a waitress couldn’t afford out-of-state tuition of more than $17,000 a year.
“I was told that as long as I maintained at least a 2.0 GPA and didn’t break any rules, I would have my scholarship for four or five years,” said Chamorro, who was also offered scholarships by Arizona State, Oregon State and Washington out of high school.
Lubick retired in 2007 and now works in community outreach at Colorado State’s business school. He recalled that Chamorro was put on notice after his first year on scholarship that “you’ve got to be better. We’ll give you one more year.”
The retired coach added that NCAA rules allow schools to sign up to 25 scholarship athletes each year but with a roster limit of 85 players – a system that assumes some students won’t have their aid offers extended.
Chamorro, who had a 3.4 grade-point average at Colorado State eventually transferred to Cal Poly Pomona – but not before borrowing roughly $10,000 in student loans, changing his major because his new school wouldn’t accept all of his transfer credits and taking a detour through junior college.
“They say whatever they think they need to get you to come to their school,” he said. “But when you get there, they can do whatever they want.”

Bob Hohler, of the Boston Globe Staff, wrote about a series of lawsuits between the inventor of a bat-testing machine and the UMass-Lowell Research Center.
This appears to be a complicated issue with wrong-doings on both sides. So we’ll have to watch how this plays out.

“The blueprint seemed foolproof. With free money — $200,000 grants each from Major League Baseball and Rawlings — the University of
Massachusetts-Lowell would buy a bat-testing machine and create a research facility to help ensure the integrity and safety of the national pastime.
The UMass-Lowell Baseball Research Center opened in 1998 and struck profitable deals to certify every model of bat used in the major leagues and NCAA competition. As a gesture of goodwill, the center gave free advice to the National Federation of State High School Associations and youth baseball organizations, gaining national acclaim for addressing the dangers of balls rocketing off metal bats at dangerous speeds.
Juiced balls, corked bats, other threats to baseball’s historic standards: If scientific testing was needed, the Lowell center responded.
Then came a legal nightmare. Accused of violating its license to operate the testing machine, the baseball center became entangled in a seven-year court fight that spanned two jury trials and ended in January with the taxpayer-supported university taking a $4.4 million hit: a $3.1 million court judgment, plus $1.3 million in interest. The case also cost the university $1.7 million in legal fees.
Now the testing center is in crisis, its future in jeopardy.
The center is “at risk of closure if an effective plan for financial sustainability is not developed,’’ UMass-Lowell chancellor Martin T. Meehan recently wrote to the NCAA, seeking financial assistance.
The university paid the exorbitant legal judgment by borrowing money against the school’s research grant reserves, a UMass official said. The loan is scheduled to be repaid with funds generated by the center.
The question is, will the center survive?
The stakes are high. While the major leagues and NCAA could fund another testing center, shuttering the Lowell facility would eliminate jobs, student research opportunities, and a vital resource for more than 1.5 million young players a year who benefit from bat safety information the center provides at no cost to high school and youth baseball.
Elliot Hopkins, the baseball rules editor for the National Federation of State High School Associations, said the organization cannot afford to pay for the safety information it receives from the Lowell facility.
“Losing the center would literally cripple high school baseball nationally,’’ Hopkins said. “We couldn’t replace it.’’
Meehan has appointed a committee to recommend ways to save the center. The facility generates about $600,000 a year in revenues, with the NCAA paying about $480,000 and Major League Baseball contributing most of the balance.
Meehan’s first step was to ask the NCAA to pay an additional fee for each bat model the center certifies. The center has tested hundreds of models through the years.
“The per-bat financial contribution would help ensure that the [center] can continue to provide a valuable service to the NCAA for years to come,’’ Meehan’s letter stated.
The NCAA, while expressing appreciation for the center’s work, indicated in a statement to the Globe that it was not in a more giving mood.
The Lowell center “has helped in the development and growth of the NCAA baseball bat certification program,’’ the statement read. “In regard to its request for additional monetary assistance, the [center] is an independent contractor and solely responsible for its finances. For its part, the NCAA did renegotiate its contract late last year for an increase in certain testing fees in the hope of enabling the [center] to continue its work and remain financially stable.’’
UMass-Lowell spokeswoman Patti McCafferty said last year’s increase was not related to the financial burden created by the legal case.
“We’re going to continue to work with the NCAA on this issue because it’s important that the center continues the good work it is doing on behalf of baseball players across the country,’’ she said.
‘Very big black eye’
No one is more pained by the center’s predicament than its founding director, James Sherwood, who has been at the forefront of regulating bat performance since the NCAA began cracking down on non-wood bats in the 1990s. A mechanical engineering professor, Sherwood was a key defendant in the legal case, arguing that his alleged breach of the license generated no more than $25,000 for the university.
The machine’s owner, Baum Research and Development Co., and inventor, Charles Baum, of Traverse City, Mich., alleged otherwise, claiming millions of dollars in damages.
Two juries in a federal court in Michigan agreed with Baum. A judge set aside the first jury’s verdict against UMass-Lowell ($2.5 million, plus interest) in 2005 as excessive, but a second jury heard additional evidence and hit the Lowell center even harder. The university’s appeal for a third trial was denied.
Sherwood was flabbergasted. He said the case stemmed from a once-productive working relationship with Baum gone bad.
“This is a blemish on our record, a very big black eye,’’ Sherwood said. “But we don’t deserve it. I really believe we were victimized.’’
Baum, who also manufactures composite bats and has sued both the NCAA and bat maker Hillerich & Bradsby, sold the testing machine to UMass-Lowell on the condition that it be used only to certify bats for the NCAA and other baseball organizations, not to perform commercial testing for his competitors. He alleged Sherwood violated the agreement by performing tests for numerous bat makers.
Baum’s lawyer, Andrew Kochanowski, blamed the costly litigation on Sherwood’s refusal to admit the extent of his licensing breach.
“The whole thing could have been avoided 10 years ago when they were informed they were using the machine improperly,’’ Kochanowski said. “When they decided to keep using it improperly, everything spiraled downhill.’’
Sherwood said he felt deceived by Baum and betrayed by the legal process.
“In all honesty, I never would have continued using that machine if I didn’t feel we were within all our rights to use it,’’ he said.
Lawyers hit it big
With the sides unable to settle their differences, the legal struggle turned into a bonanza for the lawyers. Baum’s legal team rang up more than $750,000 in bills, while UMass-Lowell’s lawyers charged the school $1.7 million.
Officials at UMass-Lowell said the school made numerous attempts to settle but were unwilling to meet Baum’s multimillion-dollar request. Instead, the university’s lawyers waged a full-court defense, including an unsuccessful attempt to persuade a federal appeals panel to dismiss the case.
In the end, UMass-Lowell’s exhaustive legal maneuvering inspired ridicule from Baum’s camp. After the second jury heard two weeks of proceedings and needed only four hours to reach a verdict, Baum stated in a court motion, “This litigation has been dragged out by UMass regardless of cost, using the money of the state of Massachusetts to employ three different law firms to raise frivolous issues.’’
The university’s lawyers described their work in court filings as a legitimate attempt to prevent “a miscarriage of justice.’’
“If Mr. Baum cared so much about the state of Massachusetts, he would have settled the case eight years ago instead of dragging the university through two costly federal trials in Michigan,’’ McCafferty said.
She said the university should not be accused of spending exclusively state money on the legal fees because state appropriations total only about 24 percent of UMass-Lowell’s budget.
Sherwood, meanwhile, remains hopeful about the center’s future. With his student assistants and a new testing machine, he continues certifying bats, ensuring the quality of major league baseballs, and preparing to enforce a new set of bat performance standards the NCAA plans to enact next year.
“We’re doing a lot for the welfare of the players in the game,’’ he said. “It’s really a labor of love.’’
He has participated in seminars from France to Australia, will travel to Vienna in July, and is scheduled to host a prestigious international conference at the center in 2012.
Until then, his work will include a special challenge: trying to save the center and pay down the $4.4 million bill.
“Closing the center is not going to change the outcome of the case,’’ Sherwood said. “We need to find a way to grow and move past this.’’

Scott Ostler, of the SF Chronicle, wrote about those guys in the bullpen.

“The Philadelphia Phillies stand accused of stealing signals. At Coors Field in Denver, Phillies bullpen coach Mick Billmeyer was seen using binoculars to peep at the Rockies’ catcher from the center-field bullpen.
Cheating? Poppycock, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said.
“We’re not going to let somebody just stand out there in the bullpen with binoculars looking in,” Manual sputtered, after he let somebody just stand out there in the bullpen with binoculars looking in.
TV cameras caught Shane Victorino in the Phillies’ dugout, on the bullpen phone. Does this make Victorino “the Spyin’ Hawaiian”?
Manuel insisted, in spite of all the evidence, his team was not cheating.
“We’re smarter than that,” he said.
(Sound of crickets.)
Clearly the Phillies need assistance defending themselves against the charges. Because I wrote the book, “How to Cheat in Sports” (Chronicle Books), I might be able to help. Charlie and Mick, here are some helpful phrases to fire at accusers:
— “Since when is bird-watching a crime?”
— “I just found these in my box of Cracker Jack.”
— “Hell yes, I was watching the Rockies. I want to make sure they’re not trying to steal our signals.”
— “Dude, it’s a Viewmaster.”
— “You mean this? My ‘binoculars’ flask? Want a taste?”
— “Tell you what, buddy. When you try to make a criminal out of a guy working undercover for Homeland Security, the terrorists have won.”

Leave it to T.J. Simers of the LA Times to get some inside stuff about the Lakers’ plan to cut Phil Jackson’s pay from $12million to $5million. It almost seems that Jackson might be getting a piece of the team.

“Michael Wilbon is a media giant, blabbermouth co-host of PTI, while also working alongside ESPN basketball expert Magic Johnson at times, an occasional column for the Washington Post and a guest this week on Tony Kornheiser’s radio show in Washington, D.C.

Wilbon has so much to say, there’s no problem believing him when he says. “I have no idea what I said on the radio.”

But someone taped him talking authoritatively about the $7-million pay cut he says Phil Jackson will have to accept to remain with the Lakers, and Wednesday, KTLA’s Steve Hartman played it on TV here for everyone.

“I was told yesterday,” Wilbon says, “that Phil Jackson’s been told that not only will he not be making $12 million next year, it’s going to be a $5-million cap on his salary.”

If that’s true, there’s probably no chance of Jackson returning to coach the Lakers.

So is it true?

“Phil, we have Michael Wilbon here,” I said during Jackson’s press briefing prior to Game 2. “He said on the radio in the last day or so you’ve been told you will have to take a pay cut and the pay cut will be down to $5 million. Have you been told that?”

Jackson replied with good humor, “You know, I don’t know where these rumors come from.”

That’s when I pointed to the media giant who was standing, albeit shrinking right beside me.

“Well, they come from here, from Michael Wilbon,” I said, while pointing to the troublemaker.

Jackson said, “Ask Michael where they came from, don’t ask me.”

I presumed he meant Wilbon and not Jordan, and later Wilbon would say he talked to “multiple sources, in this case two,” and “they weren’t media.”

I had a hunch he doesn’t talk to Plaschke, or watch “Around the Horn” for that matter.

As the press briefing continued, I told Phil, “I just wanted to check the accuracy [of Wilbon’s report]. He has a very good reputation and I’m sure he’s on the mark, but I just wanted to verify with you.”

“That’s a good one,” replied Phil, who must’ve thought I was joking when I said Wilbon has a very good reputation. He probably gets Wilbon and Kornheiser

Wilbon, meanwhile, said nothing, too busy giggling — you can take the guy off the PTI set but you can’t take the PTI out of him.

“I’m sorry,” I told Phil, laughter in the room making it difficult to hear him and I had no idea Wilbon was so funny. “I didn’t hear your answer.”

“That’s good,” repeated Phil, while still not verifying Wilbon’s report. “I won’t answer the question. I don’t know if there was a question there.”

Here it is, as ridiculous as it might sound asking the guy who has won more championships than any other NBA coach, “Have you been told you will take a salary cut if you return?”

“Yes, it’s been indicated,” Phil said.

“But not down to $5 million?” I wondered.

“I’m not going to say down,” he said in showing the good sense not to appear as if he was bellyaching being paid something like $5 million. “I’m not going to say down, it’s weird to say stuff like that … it’s still a ridiculous salary whatever is.”

That’s refreshing to hear, although as ridiculous as that salary might be, I suspect he’ll still go for the highest ridiculous salary he can get.

Jackson said later through a spokesman he actually has not been told by anyone in the Lakers organization he will have to take a pay cut.

He just assumes he will, the spokesman said, given all the media speculation.

When did Jackson start citing the media as gospel?

If true, he might have six or fewer home games remaining in his Lakers career. One more title.

As for our giggling media giant, the troublemaker wanted to know why the Nets’ new billionaire owner, Mikhail Prokhorov, wouldn’t ask Jackson what it
would take to go there.

He coaches the Nets or Bulls, Wilbon said in continuing to stir things up, “and why wouldn’t LeBron James go play for Phil?”

Right now it looks like anyone could coach the Lakers in this ho-hum series with the Suns, but what value do you place on someone about to take the Lakers to the Finals for the seventh time in 10 years?

Whatever, talk of a pay cut after retirement talk the other day suggests this could be Jackson’s last Lakers hurrah.

I wonder if he leaves his high chair for Brian Shaw.

You know Wilbon’s probably hoping that’s the case, so much more for him to talk about, so many more radio/TV shows to do.

Just be happy we don’t have troublemakers like that in L.A.”

Frank Deford recalled an earlier time as well as a present time activity.

“Back in the 1960s, Joan Weston was most likely the highest paid female athlete in the world. Of course, you probably never heard of her. She was the star of the Roller Derby. It wasn’t her choice. It’s just that she was a fabulous natural athlete and, in those days, there weren’t many opportunities for women in professional sport.
One night, somewhere out on the road, because the Derby was always somewhere out on the road, Joanie held her little dog in her lap, sighed, and told me this, wistfully: “All I want out of the Roller Derby is to make good money, get out of it in one piece, and years from now, when I say I was in the Roller Derby, I want people to still know what it is. I want that.”
Joanie died much too young back in 1997, but she’d be happy to know that, incredibly, yes, in 2010 a lot of people do know what the Roller Derby is. The
sport, which was dreamed up in the ’30s as a Depression divertissement, regularly has booms and busts, but it just can’t be killed. In the last few years it’s resurfaced again, but this time as an amateur participant sport — and almost exclusively for women. This thing is like mah jong, on wheels.
The number keeps growing, but there are now more than five hundred women’s leagues in sixteen countries, from all over North America, to Europe, to Australia, to Brazil, to Abu Dabai.
The A&E network did a reality show on the revival. Drew Barrymore made a movie about it. I even saw a musical comedy showcase. Now the Derby’s
actually starting to draw crowds in the thousands, with respectable ticket prices — $15 to $20. So many women are migrating to the mayhem that two skaters, Jennifer Barbee and Alex Cohen, have written an “Insider’s Guide” for aspiring skaters . . . or “dolls,” as they prefer to be called.
Now, what kind of a woman would get herself involved in a disreputable fracas like this?
Well, you’d be surprised. The majority of skaters are college-educated, and many are professionals. Alex Cohen, for example, just happens to be the local host of “All Things Considered” in Pasadena. Our own NPRD — National Public Roller Derby. She’s skated under the nom du knockdown of “Axels of Evil,”
which is one-of-a-kind, as you have to register your skating name. Sorry, you wannabe dolls, these are also already taken: Margaret Thrasher, Demolicious, Baby Ruthless, Sybil Disobedience, Eve L. Stepmother, Georgia O’Grief and Ginger Smack.
For the skaters, the appeal seems to be that they can be both sexy and strong . . . and themselves. Also: The after-bout parties are fabulous.
My old friend Joanie Weston would be thrilled. Not only is the Derby thriving again, it’s downright respectable to be a doll on wheels.”

Bob Moliaro, of Hampton roads.com, starts our look at this latest chapter.

“Here we go again.
Performance-enhancing drugs, banned by sports and feared by decent folk, are in the news.
As one of his teammates estimates that at least 20 percent of NFL players are using some sort of prohibited performance-enhancing drug, Redskins wide
receiver Santana Moss is being linked to a notorious Canadian doctor accused of smuggling human growth hormone.
“I ain’t got nothing to do with nothing that ain’t about me,” said Moss, an eloquent defense if ever there were one.
It’s never about them. It’s always somebody else.
Tour de France pedal pusher Floyd Landis, though, has finally stopped peddling his lies and admits he was a doper. He’s also implicating others, including Lance Armstrong. A charming fellow, that Floyd.
The stories involving Landis and Moss make up a twofer that provides media and fans with another opportunity to rage against performance-enhancing drugs.
Maybe we should take this occasion, though, to come to our senses at long last. Maybe it’s time that the naive holdouts stopped pretending that the use of steroids and HGH is some sort of monstrous incongruity sure to bring big-time athletics to their knees.
If that were the case, it would have happened by now because banned PEDs have been around longer and are more prevalent than people want to admit.
Take cycling. Please. At its highest levels, the sport is rife with drug cheats. Everybody knows it. But once again, the familiar themes and dark suspicions will be recycled in time for the Tour de France.
Few inside the bike business mourn Landis now. Those outside the sport won’t give him much thought.
And while it’s understood that Armstrong is a hero to many – for reasons other than ticking off the French multiple times – even his worshipers have to realize that his cycling legacy is shrouded in uncertainties that undermine the legend.
As for a sport that matters to the American public, no amount of so-called scandalous publicity can dim the NFL’s TV ratings.
With a wink and a nod, everybody understands what’s going on in pro football. The banned PEDs are one of the ingredients that make the NFL great. You’d have to be living under a rock to think otherwise.
The players’ bodies take such a beating – and are asked to recover so quickly from injury – that it’s almost unfair not to grant them access to HGH.
Asked if 20 percent was a good ballpark figure for how many players circumvent the NFL’s drug policies, veteran Redskins defensive end Phillip Daniels said, “It’s probably more than that, really.”
Could as many as 25 percent – one in every four players – be relying on anabolic agents?
Even if this were proven, it’s unlikely it would change the perception of the NFL. People know the score. Media. Fans. All of us. A lot of the hand-wringing and commentating that takes place after a football player is exposed simply is for show.
There could be significant fallout from Galea’s arrest for smuggling and distributing HGH. Some of it could fall on Alex Rodriguez and Tiger Woods, a couple of his former clients.
Redskins fans might want to be concerned about the investigation. Also, there’s a chance that further revelations about players and HGH could prove
embarrassing to the NFL.
But before anybody leaps to conclusions, let’s remember that the NFL isn’t called the Teflon league for nothing.
Pro football never was going to wake up with a drug hangover the way baseball did after its steroid era. Recent developments shouldn’t change that.”

Then he’s followed up by Graham Dunbar and Dennis Passe, AP Sports Writers, who had  this appear in the Miami Herald.
“The leaders of the IOC and World Anti-Doping Agency said on Friday that Floyd Landis should provide concrete evidence to back up his allegations of
doping by seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong.
“He has to bring proof that this is true,” International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge told The Associated Press. “These are accusations that need to be corroborated by proof.
“You can’t condemn without proof,” Rogge added. “He would be better off by giving evidence to corroborate that, otherwise he is risking a lot of libels. …
You can only sanction an athlete with tangible proof.”
WADA president John Fahey, in a separate interview with the AP, said if there is any substance to Landis’ allegations, either the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency or
the International Cycling Union (UCI) should intervene.
“If he has evidence, he should make that evidence available to the USADA or UCI and I’m sure if there is any substance to that evidence, either of those
bodies would act,” Fahey said. “There will always be rumors about it.”
Rogge and Fahey spoke after Landis, in a series of e-mails sent to sponsors and sports officials, confessed to years of doping after having previously denied cheating.
The American rider, who was stripped of the 2006 Tour de France title and served a two-year ban for doping, also alleged that Armstrong not only joined him in doping but taught others how to cheat.
Armstrong denied the claims by his former teammate, saying Landis has no credibility.
“We have nothing to hide,” Armstrong said at an impromptu news conference before the fifth stage of the Tour of California on Thursday. “Credibility, Floyd lost his credibility a long time ago.”
Rogge said UCI officials will require “more evidence than just an e-mail. They need to have more details to launch an inquiry.”
Rogge also expressed doubts about Landis’ claim that Armstrong and longtime coach Johan Bruyneel paid former UCI president Hein Verbruggen to cover up a test in 2002 after Armstrong purportedly tested positive for the blood-boosting drug EPO. Verbruggen is also a former IOC member.
“To my knowledge it is not possible to hide a positive result,” Rogge said. “The lab knows the code. WADA gets it also. Then it goes to the national and
international federations.
“One person cannot decide: ‘I can put this under the carpet.'”
The UCI denied changing or concealing a positive test result, and Bruyneel said, “I absolutely deny everything (Landis) said.”
Rogge welcomed Landis’ confession of his own doping.
“The fact that he is coming out is something that we applaud,” he said. “It will clear his conscience. An admission is proof under the WADA Code and you
should be penalized.”
Fahey, reached by phone in Melbourne, Australia, said Landis’ confessions didn’t surprise him.
“There was absolutely no doubt about the decision in the Court of Arbitration for Sport on his final appeal,” Fahey said. “They saw him as being a cheat, and in this context, he has now admitted it, and I am pleased. There is no contrition, however, no apology, and I regret that.”
In two e-mails obtained Thursday by The Associated Press, Landis admitted for the first time what had long been suspected – that he was guilty of doping for several years before being stripped of his 2006 Tour title.
“I want to clear my conscience,” Landis told ESPN.com. “I don’t want to be part of the problem any more.”
Neither Landis nor his family returned repeated messages from the AP.
The Wall Street Journal first reported the details of the e-mails. The newspaper also reported Landis was cooperating with the Food & Drug Administration’s criminal investigations unit and had met with FDA special agent Jeff Novitzky, the lead investigator in the BALCO case.
In an e-mail Landis sent to USA Cycling chief Steve Johnson, he said Armstrong’s positive EPO test was in 2002, around the time he won the Tour de Suisse.
Armstrong won the Tour de Suisse in 2001 and did not compete in 2002.
“We’re a little confused,” Armstrong said.
The e-mail to Johnson also said: “Look forward to much more detail as soon as you can demonstrate that you can be trusted to do the right thing.”
Landis also implicated at least 16 other people in various doping acts, including longtime Armstrong confidant George Hincapie, Olympic medalist Levi Leipheimer and Canadian cyclist Michael Barry.
The Wall Street Journal reported another e-mail from Landis also linked another top American racer, Dave Zabriskie, to doping.
“At the end of the day, he pointed the finger at everybody still involved in cycling,” Armstrong said.
Landis is part of a long list of former Armstrong teammates and former U.S. Postal Service riders who have either acknowledged or been caught doping.
USA Cycling would not comment about Landis’ series of e-mails, citing its policy on not discussing “doping allegations, investigations or any aspect of an adjudication process.” The US. Anti-Doping Agency also declined to comment for similar reasons.
Like Armstrong, UCI president Pat McQuaid questioned Landis’ credibility.”
This is a situation that has taken on a life of its own and will continue until something concrete is decided unilaterally.