Dan Shaughnessy reviewed that disgraceful exhibition that was televised by ESPN on Thursday night.

““Despicable Me.’’
Starring LeBron James, ESPN, Jim Gray, and the Miami Heat.
All despicable.
It’s been more than 36 hours since “The Decision’’ and I’m still nauseous.
Truly, has there ever been a more hideous sports-related hour than what we saw Thursday night?
It’s hard to know where to start. We had MeBron speaking of himself in the third person and saying, “I’m going to take my talents to South Beach.’’ We had ESPN lying to us about at what point MeBron would announce his move, then morphing into game-show mode. We had Gray forever forfeiting all semblance of integrity, taunting America (particularly Clevelanders) by intentionally delaying the only question we wanted him to ask. And now we have the Miami Heat — a veritable team of A-Rods, the team we will root against in every game as long as LeBron, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh are together.
Despicable. All of them.
I don’t know about you, but I’m suddenly a big fan of dangerous Dan Gilbert, the unhinged owner of the Cavaliers. In a rant worthy of vintage Boss
Steinbrenner, Gilbert blasted James as if he was Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner. Gilbert labeled James a narcissistic deserter and a “self-titled’’ former king. Then he called James a quitter, specifying all the playoff games in which MeBron quit against the Celtics this year. Ouch.
Certainly James is free to pursue all opportunities — he earned that — but maybe he could have spoken with Gilbert, man to man, and told him he was going to play elsewhere. After all, the Cavs did fire their coach and general manager and offer to play their games in Akron to please MeBron.
Reaction was all over the map. We saw folks burning James jerseys in Cleveland. The front cover of the New York Post screamed “LeBUM!’’, with “SON OF A BEACH!’’ on the back. The Daily News went with “WHO CARES!’’ Meanwhile, ESPN commentator Mark Jackson lauded MeBron’s
comportment and said he used “The Decision’’ as a teaching moment for his children.
Fans in jilted cities and happy fans in South Florida reacted along partisan lines and we expected nothing less. But it’s impossible to heap enough abuse on Gray and the Worldwide Leader.
ESPN executive Norby Williamson had promised that LeBron’s decision would be revealed in the first 15 minutes of the program. Fat chance. We sat
through 22 minutes of fluff before Stu art Scott finally tossed to Gray, who was sitting in a high chair, opposite James. Gray looked like the ridiculous host in “Slumdog Millionaire.’’ For a ridiculous six minutes, Gray toyed with a rapt audience, asking 18 mind-numbing, vapid questions about biting fingernails and the difficulty of arriving at a decision. Imagine the anguish for the oft-pummeled people of Cleveland, waiting for the verdict while a smug Gray sat there like he was reading from the script of “Our Town.’’
The New York Post’s Phil Mushnick said Gray was chosen for the role because of his “special relationship with the online college, the University of Phoenix.’’
Apparently the University of Phoenix is a sponsor of Gray’s Monday Night Football radio show.
What a field day for the Heat. The franchise is everybody’s favorite to make it to the Finals against the Lakers next year. Call me a homer, but LeBron to
Miami with reality-show-twins Wade and Bosh only makes me root harder for the Celtics, the Magic, the Bulls, or anyone but Miami in the upcoming years.
Too bad the Celtics have so many guys playing on the back nine. Think about it, folks; the 2010-11 Celtics will be the oldest team you have ever seen. In the last week they inked Paul Pierce to a four-year extension, which means he’ll play 17 seasons in a Boston uniform. Ray Allen was signed to a two-year deal
that will take him through 16 NBA seasons. Kevin Garnett, who has been playing in the NBA since 1995 (didn’t KG block a shot by John Havlicek?), will have played in 17 NBA seasons when his deal is up. And now the Celtics have Jermaine O’Neal, who came into the league in 1996.
Where are these guys going to train — On Golden Pond?
Doc Rivers is going to be Old Man Rivers. The Celtics of 2010-11 are the men from “Cocoon.’’
It’s fashionable to note that the Celtics are the model for the new Heat. Danny Ainge assembled three Hall of Famers and won a championship in the first
year. But that was different. Ainge gave up draft picks and players to get Allen and Garnett. Pierce, Garnett, and Allen were much older than James, Wade,
and Bosh. But Boston has players who could submerge their egos and play defense. The Heat have three megastars in their prime, but there’s no guarantee this will work. LeBron and friends have put enormous pressure on themselves. They have to win or they are LeFrauds.
Pray for a bust. Here’s hoping there’s no reward for any of the Despicable Me characters who participated in “The Decision.’’

Bob Ryan, also from the Globe, talked about “The Decision” in light of it creating the chief competition for his Celtics.

““I’m going to take my talents to South Beach.’’
With that, LeBron James brought joy to the Miami Heat and their fans, disappointment to New York and Chicago, and enormous sorrow to people in
Cleveland and Northeast Ohio, who have, as he himself said, “seen me grow from an 18-year-old kid to a 25-year-old man.’’
The vehicle was an hourlong ESPN special last night, which was unprecedented in American sports history and which was decried by many as an astonishing manifestation of egomania on the part of a young superstar who has basically conducted himself in a mature manner throughout his career. But James seemed to veer into a new realm during this recruiting process, culminating in this look-at-me declaration, which was in direct contrast to the low-key M.O. chosen by Oklahoma City star Kevin Durant, who announced his decision to sign a five-year contract extension via Twitter.
But this is 21st century America, and LeBron James is a classic product of his times. He is five years younger than ESPN itself. The network put many of his
high school games at Akron’s St. Vincent-St. Mary High School on television, which many thought was crass. But it all seems natural and normal to him.
There is little sense in exhibiting great moral outrage about the process. To paraphrase a certain football coach well-known in this area, it was what it was.
And now the Miami Heat are what they are, a bizarre collection of top-level players who will be surrounded by a lot of low-level, minimum-wage talent.
LeBron James will be teamed up with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, the former a player who is only slightly less gifted than James, and the latter a top-flight forward whose range of skills separates him from all but a few big men in the NBA. They will automatically become the latest so-called Big Three to terrorize the league.
But the rest of the team is currently a mystery, and that’s not hyperbole. The only people other than the Big Whatever are the enigmatic Michael Beasley and solid point guard Mario Chalmers. But for there to be enough money to pay the great triumvirate — who will all be making less than they could have
commanded on other teams — Beasley must go. And any way you slice it, there will be little more than chump money available for the auxiliary members of the 2010-11 Heat. The question will be: Can a team thus assembled actually win an NBA championship?
This situation is highly analogous to that of the 2007-08 Celtics, at least as they were constituted in the summer of 2007. I, for one, denounced that roster from 4 through 12 as the worst in the league, a rash pronouncement that proved to be far off base. But in order for the Celtics to become champions, Danny Ainge had to come up with such key supporting players as James Posey, Eddie House, and, as the final piece of the puzzle, P.J. Brown. Clearly, Pat Riley, the Heat president and basic chief hoop honcho, has a lot of work to do.
As far as the jilted suitors are concerned, all the sympathy should be extended to Cleveland. New York spent two years preparing to welcome The King, but their entire pitch was based on nothing more than a ludicrous entitlement mentality. I’m speaking more of the fans and media than the organization, and it was all summed up by the back-page headline on the New York Daily News that shrieked, “Don’t Screw Us Now!’’ I mean, really.
Chicago will survive. Many people believe the Bulls would have represented a better avenue to a quick title, and with their signing of free agent forward
Carlos Boozer they will be rated ahead of the Heat by a lot of experts.
But Cleveland, oh, wow, that’s going to be devastating. There is no way to exaggerate the proprietary feeling the sports fans of Northeast Ohio had toward a player who was an enormous high school star in Akron (think Worcester to Boston) and who provided them with countless thrills during his seven years as a Cavalier, during which he played in six All-Star Games, made first-team All-NBA four times, and led the team to its only trip to the Finals, a losing effort to the Spurs three years ago.
But that doesn’t tell the half of it. As has been well-documented, Cleveland has not enjoyed a major sports championship since the Browns won the NFL title in 1964. And now, with the Indians in the dumper, the Browns classically mediocre, and no NHL franchise, the next title is nowhere in sight. But even that doesn’t cover it all.
LeBron was beloved because he had preached community and loyalty. He was the hometown kid made good, and that resonated in an area hard-hit
economically. Yes, even more so than other locales in this country. He was a source of pride. He was one of them.
And now he has abandoned them. That’s the way it will be framed. Is this fair? Should they have been able to hold him as an emotional hostage? Did he owe
them anything at all?
The good news for all of us is that this ordeal is over.”

Barbara Barker talked about the outlook for Amer’e Stoudemire with the NY Knicks.
“LeBron James or no LeBron James, the Knicks were in a celebratory mood Thursday afternoon.
About nine hours before King James took over the airwaves and announced he was going to the Heat, the Knicks took over the floor of Madison Square Garden, holding a half-hour news conference to officially welcome Amar’e Stoudemire to the team.
Stoudemire, a 6-10 power forward, appears to be bringing a dose of much-needed swagger to the organization. After being introduced, the new Knick stepped to the podium and boldly declared it to be “a new era” at the Garden.
“We’re looking to get the Knicks back on top,” Stoudemire told a crowded news conference that included No. 1 Knicks fan Spike Lee. “We’re looking forward to building this franchise and winning a championship.”
Stoudemire, who has a career average of 21.4 points and 8.9 rebounds, is the most dominant big man to wear a Knicks uniform since Patrick Ewing. Though he is sure to be a power in the Eastern Conference, some teams, including the Suns, had concerns about his left knee and did not want to give him a maximum contract.
The Knicks, however, were pleased to welcome him aboard. The Knicks and Stoudemire had agreed to a five-year deal worth $99.7 million on Monday, but the deal couldn’t officially be announced until yesterday, the day the NBA’s moratorium on signings and trades was lifted.
The Knicks and Suns arranged a sign-and-trade deal, which provided the Suns a draft pick and a $16.5-million trade exception. By doing so, the Knicks gained an extra $800,000 in cap room.
Though Stoudemire never won a title with the Suns, he did help lead them to the Western Conference finals twice. One of those trips, in 2005, was when Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni was the Suns’ coach.
D’Antoni and Stoudemire did have some differences, but both said they worked them out this past weekend when they sat down to breakfast.
D’Antoni said it takes a rare kind of person to succeed in New York, and he believes Stoudemire is that sort of person.
“New York is not for everybody,” D’Antoni said. “It’s a big stage and you have to show some guts and some grit. You’ve got to come out every day and work. And Amar’e will do that.”
Former Knick Allan Houston, who was on the team that went to Cleveland to pitch New York to James last week, agrees it takes a special person to have the courage to play in New York.
“LeBron, I don’t know if he wants it,” said Houston, who came to the Knicks from the Pistons as a free agent and now works in the front office. “Stoudemire, he wants it.”
But wanting it and getting it are two different things. Stoudemire is joining a team that has had nine straight losing seasons. The last two admittedly resulted from the Knicks’ decision to position themselves for this year’s free-agent market.
“Up until now, our plan has been to save money under the cap,” Knicks president Donnie Walsh said. “Now it’s about putting together a team that can win.”
The Knicks certainly have a lot more wheeling and dealing to do before they get to the team they want to rebuild with, but Stoudemire clearly is not afraid to be the first piece of the puzzle.
Said Stoudemire: “It was a situation where no one wanted to make the first move. I felt confident enough to take that first step.”


Phil Rogers of the ChiTrib wants to make the All-Star Game mean a lot more than a photo-op.
“Commissioner Bud Selig has vastly improved the All-Star Game since that embarrassing 2002 tie in Milwaukee.
A lot of people don’t like using it to determine home-field advantage in the World Series, but it’s a better alternative than merely rotating home fields on a yearly basis, which is how the Twins wound up hosting Game 7 in 1987 and ’91. The game has become much more competitive.
Selig has expanded rosters for the 2010 game in Anaheim, Calif., and made managers’ lives easier by requiring that starting pitchers who work on the
previous Sunday be replaced on the active All-Star roster. But he didn’t go far enough with the changes announced in April.
It’s time to eliminate the rule requiring each of the 30 teams to send a player to the game.
Call the change the Robert Fick/Dmitri Young rule, for the players who represented the Tigers in ’02 and ’03, when they lost 105 and 119 games.
Voting by fans and players will select 50 of the 68 players who will be announced Sunday as All-Stars. Managers Joe Girardi and Charlie Manuel then have discretion to round out the rosters, but easily half of those picks could end up being used on players from the teams overlooked in voting.
Don’t be surprised if as many as 10 teams don’t have a player voted on, including the $144 million Cubs.
Most teams that don’t have a player voted onto the team do have someone who won’t look too awkward when teams are introduced.
Nationals closer Matt Capps entered the weekend with 22 saves. The Royals’ Joakim Soria had 20 saves. A’s sinkerballer Trevor Cahill was 8-2 with a
2.74 ERA. Orioles infielder Ty Wigginton had 14 homers and 42 RBI.
But what are you going to do with the Astros? Roy Oswalt’s 5-10, so he’s out. Would you rather have speedy center fielder Michael Bourn (25 steals) or
closer Matt Lindstrom (19 saves, 2.97 ERA)?
And the Pirates? The guy having the best year is setup man Evan Meek, but setup men tend to be invisible. Center fielder Andrew McCutchen has a ..301
batting average, 19 stolen bases and much talent, which probably will get him the call even though his stat line is unremarkable.
And the Diamondbacks? Dan Haren is 7-6 but his ERA is 4.56. The lineup is loaded with low-average, high-strikeout hitters who have double-figure home runs and 35-plus RBI. You might as well put names in a hat and draw them out. Chris Young? Justin Upton? Kelly Johnson? Adam LaRoche?
Oddly, the big-ticket Cubs are almost as difficult to decipher.
Carlos Silva is probably the most deserving, but he was 5-18 for the Mariners in 2008-09. Do you think Manuel wants to run him out against American
League hitters?
Centerfielder Marlon Byrd and setup man Sean Marshall are worth consideration, but there are so many more deserving outfielders and pitchers in the NL.
Even Alfonso Soriano can’t be ruled out. He leads the Cubs in home runs, RBIs and OPS (on-base plus slugging) and could be used as a designated hitter or pinch hitter.
But it’s time to stop squeezing guys like these onto the roster. It’s a game for the guys who are playing the best, so why not make that the primary
A keeper: Not much has gone right for the Indians, but it looks like they have handled catcher Carlos Santana just right.
Santana, acquired from the Dodgers in the 2008 Casey Blake trade, has been killing the ball since he was promoted from Triple A, showing why he has
been advertised as a future batting champion. He was hitting .333 with four home runs and 14 RBIs through his first 17 games.
“And he’s seeing all these pitchers for the first time,” Indians broadcaster Rick Manning said. “Wait until he learns them.”
The 23-year-old Santana, like the Braves’ Jason Heyward, has advanced strike-zone judgment for a rookie. He has almost twice as many walks (13) as
strikeouts (7), boosting his on-base percentage to .456.
“He was that kind of hitter in the minor leagues, and we knew it would continue when he got up here, and might even get better,” Indians manager Manny Acta said. “When you’re a patient hitter in the minors, and then come up here where the umpires are better and the strike zones are tighter, patient hitters can draw even more walks.”
Taking no chances: Jeremy Jeffress, considered the Brewers’ top pitching prospect before he began a run of three suspensions for marijuana use, has
returned from a 100-game ban. He will be banned for life if he tests positive again.
But Milwaukee GM Doug Melvin has placed Jeffress on the 40-man roster, which will shield him from pot testing. The players’ union, which generally
doesn’t allow MLB to test for “drugs of abuse,” should protect him now.
Melvin claimed the move was made to reward Jeffress, not to protect him.
“He has been a model citizen with his counseling, rehab, everything,” Melvin said. “We would have had to put him on (the 40-man) at the end of the year
anyway, and we thought he deserved to be put on now.”
Melvin says Jeffress has maintained his “electric arm.” He has been moved to the bullpen, and the Brewers hope he can put himself into big-league
consideration within a year.
Silver lining: Joe Maddon’s new favorite team is the 1917 White Sox.
They were managed by Pants Rowland and featured Shoeless Joe Jackson, Ray Schalk and Eddie Cicotte. They also won the World Series after being
twice no-hit during the season, as Maddon’s Rays have been this year (Dallas Braden’s perfect game, Edwin Jackson).
“I’m looking for that positive vibe, and there it was,” Maddon said.
The last word: “People say, ’Who’s the best player?’ (Albert) Pujols. I’ll give you that. But offensively, Miguel (Cabrera) is now every bit as good as
Pujols.” – Chipper Jones after the Braves played the Tigers.”

Mike Wise of the DC Post reported that ex-Redskins coach is trying to give NFL players some advice about their post-career lives.
“Unbeknownst to all but a handful of people, Joe Gibbs spent most of two days at Redskins Park on June 1-2. He met with many of the team’s key veterans, two of their wives and about 20 players in all, sandwiching the time during the team’s offseason training activities.
He is involved. Very involved.
“I wanted to give back,” Gibbs said in a telephone interview. “I just thought this was something I could do for the players.”
Joe Gibbs talked money  early last month. For help, he enlisted two university professors with Harvard MBAs.
He humbly spoke of how, during the early 1980s in Washington, Gibbs lost his personal fortune because of financial ignorance. How he felt helpless when
several of his former players — some in contract disputes — confessed to him about making bad business decisions that negatively affected their careers. And how every team in the NFL needs the kind of OTA that recently transpired in Ashburn: a free-of-charge financial seminar Gibbs partnered with Strayer University to put on.
“What Coach Gibbs felt compelled to do means a lot,” said London Fletcher, a Pro Bowl linebacker who took part in the nine-hour, three-session class over
a week and a half with teammates Phillip Daniels, Kedric Golston, Reed Doughty and other players. The wives of Daniels and Golston also attended.
“I’m fairly conservative — some would say tight,” Fletcher added. “But I have friends who have situations where once they’re done playing, they fell on hard times. Is it needed? We just saw a stat that after retirement about 80 percent of players end up in financial ruin. What do you think?”
According to a 2009 Sports Illustrated 78 percent of all NFL players go bankrupt or are in financial duress just two years into retirement. Which makes the furor of the past month feel a little like small potatoes, no?
For all the consternation over a certain lineman not showing his face around Redskins Park, Albert Haynesworth could have used that seminar more than a new defensive scheme; he currently faces three lawsuits and other legal filings
Mark Brunell, the former Redskins quarterback who has signed playing contracts for $52 million during his career, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last week because he could no longer pay off a series of bad business loans when a housing investment backfired.
Young, black defensive stars.
Aging, white quarterbacks.
Hall of Fame coaches.
As Gibbs learned a long time ago, banks don’t discriminate at collection time.
About the time he won his first of three Super Bowls and started to become the most revered sports figure in Washington’s history, Gibbs got involved in an Oklahoma real estate deal that went belly up. He lost everything because he didn’t understand his liability if another person signed on his behalf.
“It probably took [his wife] Pat and me four and a half years to pay off our debts,” Gibbs said. “I just didn’t know anything, like the difference between a
simple partnership and a LLC.”
He also remembered some of his dejected former players who confided in him. “To be quite truthful, when a player who was very good or great had that
going on while he was playing, it affected him; I could see it,” Gibbs said. “I just felt helpless. There really wasn’t a lot I could do there, you know?”
Hence, Gibbs’s brainstorm a couple of months ago: Instead of one NFL-sponsored seminar players could sign up for at a certain time of year, why not bring the class to the training facility?
Said Robert Silberman, the chairman and chief executive of Strayer Education, Inc., Gibbs “came to us and essentially asked, ‘Can you put together a short course where they can ask the right questions of their financial advisers, attorneys and agents?’ As he put it, he thought there was a real dearth of instruction and education. His concern was a number of pro athletes have not had sufficient instruction in finances.”
The next step was getting the owner and the coach to go along, which they willingly did.
“Joe asked us to support this program, and we’re happy to oblige,” Redskins owner Daniel Snyder said through a team spokesman. “Anything that helps
players we’re in full support of.”
When the players shuffled into the room at Redskins Park used for the seminar early last month, Gibbs actually shared his own personal story of financial loss and embarrassment. Then Strayer professors Meghan Rodgers and Angela Harris began.
Investments. Spending habits. Savings. Taxes. Credit cards.
“Something as simple as creating a budget, how to put away money properly, looking at our window of earning opportunity,” Fletcher said. “Or what kind of questions to ask financial advisers, how to set up a business to reduce your liability in case things go wrong.”
Gibbs said of the 20 who took part, “about 15 of ’em were real serious,” and ended up receiving completion certificates after finishing with an online portion of the seminar.
“Some of them have a lot of money now; some of them don’t have a lot of money, relatively speaking,” Gibbs said. “Didn’t matter. I just wanted all those guys I coached with the Redskins to be better prepared in life to handle their finances.
“I said: ‘I’m not going to charge you anything. We’re not recommending any investments. We don’t want to ask you for anything. This is a gift.’ ”
The gift of having something to fall back on once the cheering stops, the gift of not making the same mistakes a young, impressionable man made in his first
steps on the way to Canton because he didn’t know how to protect his assets.
“I’d really like to talk to the league and the union about doing something like this leaguewide,” he said. “Just makes sense.”
When a $100 million defensive lineman hasn’t repaid a $2.38 million loan to a Knoxville, Tenn., bank, when a veteran quarterback is left holding the bag in multiple, failed real estate investments — when just 22 percent of NFL players are thriving two years after they leave the game — as usual it’s hard to argue
with Joe Jackson Gibbs.”

Tom Robinson of HamptonRoads.com talked about the greedy NFL owners.

“The logical, sensible and reasonable thing for the NFL to do is to eliminate 2 of 4 preseason games while keeping the regular season at 16 games. Except we know that, when it comes to bankable – as in revenue – logical, sensible and reasonable stand no chance.
As it stands, NFL franchises get 10 home dates a year to shovel the gold into the vault. To expect them to voluntarily reduce the size of their shovel, for the sake of something silly like the health and safety of the human resources who produce that gold, is, unfortunately, laughable.
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady surely knows this despite his recent comment to The Associated Press: “The long-term impact this game has on our bodies is well-documented.”
Sure it is, which doesn’t change the fact that 18 regular season performances are coming. The idea has been floated too often by management during the
drum-beating of collective bargaining discussions to believe it’s not going to happen.
They present two more full-speed chances, then, for life-altering concussions and other lasting ills in a game where collisions change lives weekly. Two more opportunities to damage exhausted bodies before throwing them into the unforgiving cauldron of playoff football.
What’s to like about that plan, except nothing?
I dread the idea, as I suspect most reasonable pro football fans do, but shame on me for mentioning the “R” word again. It has no place at this table.
“I don’t believe it’s a good thing,” said Chesapeake’s Chris Crocker, a safety for the Cincinnati Bengals who is about to enter his eighth season. “I think it’s
motivated by television contracts; more games, more money to be generated from them.”
How much of that money will go to the abused players will have to be worked out in the bargaining process. So, too, will the possible expansion of roster sizes and practice squads in order to meet a more intensive labor schedule.
“I know for sure from a player’s standpoint, we just want to get rid of some of the preseason games in general,” Crocker said.
Of course they do. Practice games are charades as unwatchable for fans as they are unnecessary for players, most of who must stay in top shape year-round because they’re strong-armed into attending a slew of “voluntary” workouts.
Practice games are blatant licenses for franchises, which exploit every advantage, to calculatedly rob consumer bases invested far too emotionally into a business relationship.
I’d love to see the players tell the owners what to do with their two additional bone-breakers. But they probably won’t have the chance before they’re locked out by owners, who are guaranteed TV money in any case, seeking to change the financial status quo.
“There’s definitely going to be a lockout,” Crocker said. “It will happen, there’s no doubt in my mind. That’s (the owners’) leverage. They have all the chips.”
Even so, ram-rodding two more dangerous games onto the schedule would be a boorish, and foolish, display of that muscle.”

Norman Chad posted this explanation on the DC Post.
“On another 100-degree day in the desert, I am taking the temperature of America while sitting in the Rio Casino sports and race book. Yes, Sin City has been devastated by tough times, but the gambling economy, my friends, never dries up completely.
With a bank of 32 screens in front of me, I am again reminded that Sports Nation is controlled by two entities: Television (lately ESPN) and gambling
Where there is a will, there is a way. And where there is a line, there is a wager.
By late morning here, a half-dozen racetracks already are in action, and by late afternoon there will be a dozen baseball games from back East, plus golf and soccer filling the room.
It is Wall Street, minus the inside trading; trust me, Gordon Gekko would go bust within one year of betting the ponies. The house is the only one with an
edge — you never see a sports book downsize, do you? Sure, once on “Seinfeld” that bookie buddy of Kramer’s didn’t have money to pay Jerry for his winning Knicks bet, but in real life, real bookies shop at Benetton and drive Cadillac Escalades.
You can bet on what’s happening today or what might happen six months from now. In either case, you are pinning your financial future on athletic
performance of which you have no control. Frankly, you have a better chance of scaling Mount Everest in a Hyundai than you do of beating the game.
Still, with the odds against us, we can’t stop trying to buck them. Heck, if I were a betting man, I would’ve taken Slovenia +250 on the money line last week against the United States — that means, for a $100 wager, I would’ve won $250 if the Slovenes beat the Americans in the World Cup. But I had one
extraordinarily bad betting week many, many years ago, and now I only gamble on marriage.
Ah, but my gaming misery doesn’t stop others from flooding into sports books such as the Rio.
(Kicking it up a notch is chef Emeril Lagasse, who opened Lagasse Stadium — a sports book-sports bar-dining emporium — last year at the Palazzo here on
the Strip. Let’s say you’re visiting from Pittsburgh and plunk down $50 on your beloved Pirates — while watching them get beat, 9-2, on one of 100
high-definition screens, you now can enjoy Ahi Tuna Melt with Creole Tomato Glaze. Note: Bring cash for your losing bets and two credit cards for your bill.)
A sports and race book is like a Gamblers Anonymous meeting, without the introductions. Everyone just goes about his business and no one cares what you’re doing. At the Rio, the sports book is just across from the thrice-daily buffet, which now offers a $39.99 “all-day pass.” Considering that cocktail waitresses come by every few minutes offering free drinks and bathrooms are nearby, realistically — if you bring a change of clothes and a razor — you likely could spend up to a week in the sports book without having to leave.
Sports books remain one of my favorite people-watching venues in the world, comparing favorably with a Parisian sidewalk cafe or the Venice Beach
boardwalk. The human condition is on display, in its rawest form. You bet, you watch, you win or lose; you emote. Rinse and repeat.
After a race finished at Derby Lane greyhound track in St. Petersburg, Fla., an older gentleman to my left waved his right hand dismissively and grumbled,
“That [expletive] dog couldn’t win a three-legged race with Carl Lewis.”
I had nearly moved away when this misfit sat down next to me — because he was smoking a cigarette, though I could’ve sworn we were in a non-smoking
section — but after he uttered his somewhat brilliant, somewhat nonsensical canine pearl, I stuck around to hear more. Alas, all he did over the next half-hour was cough and crumple losing tickets.
Which, happily, recalled for me one of my favorite gambling tales:
There’s a fellow who bets football every weekend, and for three straight months he loses every weekend. He’s a bookie’s dream. Then, when football season ends, the bookie — fearful of losing his best customer — tells him he can bet hockey. “Hockey?!?” the man exclaims. “What do I know about hockey?”

Ask The Slouch

Q. Have you ever thought about being referred to by a single name, just like a Brazilian soccer player? (Radu Marinescu; Fairfax)
A. If you saw the e-mails I’m getting from angry readers of late, you’d know I am already referred to by a single name.

Q. How many John Feinstein books do you have to stand on to change a light bulb? (James Gould; Marina del Rey; Calif.)
A. None — Feinstein will just keep writing in the dark.

Q. So is Slovenia now your Team of Destiny? (Michael Stone; Indianapolis)
A. Team of Destiny? It’s my Nation of Destiny — I’ve got a time share in Portoroz.

Q. With Texas staying put, any chance the Pacific-10 lures LeBron? (Chris Cutone; Gibsonia, Pa.)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.

You, too, can enter the $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. Just e-mail asktheslouch@aol.com and, if your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash.


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.”


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.

Jeff Miller of the Orange County Register wrote about Phil Jackson’s oral fog.
We in NY don’t think it’s that big a deal after listening to the likes of Casey Stengel, Yogi Berra and Red Holtzman. But I guess the “left-coasters” aren’t used to stuff like that. “Ya know, I feel a lot more like I do now than I did before.”

“There are times in practice when he has to guard Kobe Bryant.
There are times in games when he has to be Kobe Bryant, coming off the bench to replace the star Laker.
Saturday, though, Shannon Brown was really given a difficult assignment. He was asked to describe Coach Phil Jackson. In a single word.
“Mysterious,” Brown said after a period of silent reflection that would have challenged the 24-second shot clock.
“A lot of the things he does are unorthodox,” Brown explained. “But if you’re around him enough, you start to understand. He’s smart. There’s a lot of wisdom there. But are there times when, as a player, you just sort of go, ’Huh?’”
It isn’t just the players. Jackson’s what-the-heck moments strike all those who spend any amount of time with him.
Earlier Saturday, he was talking about the Phoenix Suns and guard Steve Nash when he said, “Their game really exonerates his style of play.”
Exonerates his style of play? Jackson would have made more sense had he just started speaking Cantonese.
Maybe he meant exaggerates. Or exacerbates. Or, who knows with all that hair on Nash, exfoliates?
Nash was born in South Africa and grew up in British Columbia. Perhaps Jackson meant expatriates.
For someone famous for giving his players books to read, Jackson has an odd way of arm-wrestling with the English language. And often losing. It’s part comical, part endearing and part troubling. He’s sort of Yoda meets Yogi.
This could be his final season, meaning Jackson could be only eight victories — or four losses — from hiding forever in the Montana mountains. He’s 64, except for his legs, which based on watching him walk, are probably closer to 164.
He has avoided directly answering yes-or-no questions about his future, but there’s one thing for certain: If Jackson does depart, the Lakers would become vastly less entertaining the moment he walks out the door.
Speaking to the media a few weeks ago, he referenced some of the Lakers having “malingering injuries.” We all assumed he meant “lingering injuries,” but then maybe he was subtly ripping his players, calling the Lakers fakers.
Jackson has been known to question the tactics of opponents, the eyesight of referees and the IQ of entire cities. His words cost him $70,000 in NBA fines last month alone, and we thought $250 for a vowel on “Wheel of Fortune” was outrageous.
On Friday, he accused Nash of carrying the ball. Not just on a particular play, understand, but all the time.
This was noteworthy since the Lakers are about to meet Phoenix in the conference finals, Nash is a two-time MVP and, as a Canadian, he should know better than to come to this country — to Arizona, no less! — and start cheating the system.
Nash responded Saturday by deliciously digging right back. He noted that, during the last round of playoffs, “The best coach in the league, Gregg Popovich, didn’t have a problem” with his dribbling.
Imagine now waiting nearly a week between games and having no choice but to listen to, for the sake of comparison, Mike Scioscia. He’s more likely to denounce the wearing of pants before saying Andy Pettitte balks every pitchNo account of Jackson’s choice of words would be complete without recalling last postseason, against the Rockets. It was Houston, we have a freaking problem. During a live postgame news conference there, Jackson unleashed an f-bomb.
It surely was the least dignified moment of his coaching career. Remarkably un-Zen but totally all-men.
Who knows how much difference Jackson — or any coach — actually makes? No team has won more regular-season games the past two years than Cleveland. But that’s because of LeBron James, not Mike Brown, who’s considered so valuable that the Cavaliers might fire him at any moment.
Each of Jackson’s 10 championship teams has included one or two of the following all-world players: Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. We’re thinking Scioscia could have won at least a couple NBA titles with those guys.
But Brown did say Jackson “has a unique ability to promote cohesiveness,” and that’s just as important and difficult as marrying egos that, in this league, can be large enough to have moons.
Asked last week about retiring after these playoffs, Jackson called the possibility “very real.” As much as he loves everything happening right now, his life would remain complete without another eight-day, five-game trip in February.
He has been criticized in this space for being arrogant and annoyingly minimal at times with his in-game participation.
But the Lakers wouldn’t be the same without Jackson. Much of the intrigue would be gone. So would a lot of the laughs. Same with the anticipation of what could be coming next.
And that’s the thing with mysteries, see. They aren’t nearly as interesting once they’re solved.”

You might say that I’m filled with feelings of sangfroid and you might be right. But, I still enjoy it when my Yankees beat the Red Sox. It doesn’t matter where each team stands in the AL-East, each game is a battle from the “old neighborhood.” The Boston Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy wrote that the latest game won by NY in the ninth was “another round of torture.”
“Friday night the Bruins were like the old Red Sox.
And now the Red Sox are the Bruins.
Underachieving. The opposite of clutch. Hard to watch. Not worthy of the love of the legions back home.
The 2010 Red Sox sank to a new low last night when Jonathan Papelbon surrendered a pair of two-run homers in the bottom of the ninth in an excruciating 11-9 loss to the Yankees. The late-night implosion erased a noble comeback in which the Sox recovered from a 6-1 deficit (next bus to Lake Wobegon for you, Dice-K) to take a 9-7 lead on five home runs in the Bronx bandbox.
Seasons are defined on nights like this and it looks like these Red Sox might be remembered as the Lost Boys of 2010. With almost a quarter of the season gone, Run Prevention has morphed into Win Prevention. This is the latest the Sox have been under .500 in a season since Nomar Garciaparra was a rookie in 1997.
Nomie was on hand last night, broadcasting for the Worldwide Leader alongside Aaron Boone. It was somehow appropriate that Boone was in the house for this Red Sox loss — one that cost Tim Wakefield (2 1/3 innings of shutout relief) his first victory since July.
“It’s tough,’’ said Dustin Pedroia. “We played our butts off. We were down early against a guy like [Phil] Hughes. We battled. It happened really fast. But there’s a lot of season left. We’ve got a lot of games to go and prove to everybody that this team is not going to quit.’’
Maybe it’s just not going to happen. The Sox have nine more losses than Tampa Bay and seven more than the Yankees. They are 2-9 against Tampa and New York and 10 of those games were played at Fenway. They have lost 14 of their last 17 against New York and face CC Sabathia tonight. After tonight, they play eight games (six on the road) against first-place teams from Minnesota, Philadelphia, and Tampa. Have they given us any reason to think they can mount a comeback in the AL East?
It’s the pitching, not the hitting, that’s killing the Red Sox. They are second in the league in most offensive categories. They’re scoring plenty of runs. But how can you lose a game in which you hit five home runs?
Papelbon makes for an easy goat and there no doubt will be nonsense about making Daniel Bard the closer. Forget that noise. Daisuke Matsuzaka, the $102 million man, crushed the Red Sox again in his fourth start. Mr. Gyroball threw 25 pitches before getting an out and put the Sox into a deep hole.
It went like this: Single, single, walk, single, single, double. In fairness, Jeremy Hermida missed a ball in left that could have been an out. It was not an easy play, but UZR-challenged Jason Bay would have had it. Wakefield was throwing in the bullpen when Matsuzaka fanned Randy Winn to end the first. A couple of hours later, Wake got in the game. He’s wearing the face of the silent fury.
The Sox scored in the second on a couple of singles sandwiched around a wild pitch, then gave it right back when Brett Gardner, who had walked, scored on a “double’’ by Mark Teixeira that clanged in and out of the glove of center fielder Darnell McDonald. It should have been an out, but in 2010, getting charged with an error is like getting called for traveling in the NBA: it’s pretty hard to do. McDonald did not have an easy play, but he got there in time and the ball rattled in and out of his mitt.
Down, 6-1, the Sox rebounded with a barrage of homers — David Ortiz, J.D. Drew, Kevin Youkilis, and Victor Martinez (twice).
“We switched from run prevention to slow-pitch softball swings,’’ said Pedroia.
“There was a lot of enthusiasm in the dugout,’’ said manager Terry Francona. “We battled and got the lead. We just couldn’t hold it.’’
Making things all the more painful, it was the much-loathed Alex Rodriguez who tied the score with a majestic two-run shot to left-center. With two outs, Papelbon hit Francisco Cervelli with an 0-and-1 pitch. The immortal Marcus Thames ended it on the next pitch. Sweet revenge for the oft-plunked Pinstripes.
Gag-prone Javier Vazquez picked up the victory.
“This had a chance to be a great win,’’ said Francona. “We just have to accept it and move on.’’
Tonight Josh Beckett (7.46 ERA) makes his first appearance since that freaky Friday at Fenway against the Yankees (nine earned runs) when he imploded in the sixth inning, hitting Robinson Cano and Derek Jeter before he was finally lifted. Several Yankees, including Sabathia, were spotted on the top step of the dugout yelling at Beckett.
After tonight, the Sox and Yankees don’t play again until Aug. 6. Sox fans hope the season is not already over by then.”