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Saturday, December 05, 2009

WWE “Umaga” Fatu DIES

Eki “Eddie” Fatu died in Houston on Friday after a massive heart attack, adding a long list of professional wrestlers who died by the age of 40.

The 36-year old Fatu, who achieved his greatest fame in recent years as a star in the industry-leading World Wrestling Entertainment under the name “Umaga,” was found unconscious in his Spring, TX living room by his wife, who had him rushed to the hospital. Fatu had a second heart attack in the hospital before he died.

Fatu, who was memorable for his distinct facial tattoos, comes from a large family of Samoan wrestlers who have influenced the business for several generations, beginning with his uncles, the brother combination of Afa and Sika Anoi’a, who formed a successful act known as “The Wild Samoans” in the 1970s and ’80s. The most famous member of the clan is cousin Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who left wrestling for Hollywood fame.

Fatu’s career peak came in 2007, as he co-headlined Wrestlemania 23 in Detroit, a card that received a ton of publicity for a storyline involving WWE owner Vince McMahon and Donald Trump. But his run at the top was short-lived, and he was released from his WWE contract on June 8 when he refused to go into rehab after a second violation of the WWE’s drug policy.

Fatu had recently returned from an independent wrestling tour of Australia when he was stricken.

“On behalf of my family, the Anoa’i and Fatu family, we are devastated and shocked by the loss of our Eki,” Afa Anoa’i told the Wrestling Observer. Our son, nephew, brother, cousin, husband, father. Our hearts are broken, and words can’t express what each of us are feeling. It is so comforting to know how loved Eki is by his family, peers, friends, and most of all his fans.”

A staggering number of young pro wrestlers have died over the past 10 years, leading some to believe the industry has a curse. Among the most notorious cases were Chris Benoit, 40, who committed suicide in Georgia in 2007 after murdering his wife, Nancy, and son Daniel; Eddie Guerrero, 38, who died of a heart attack in 2005 in a Minnesota hotel room; and Owen Hart, 33, who died in Kansas City in 1999 after a stunt went awry on a live television shoot. In March, another former WWE wrestler, Andrew “Test” Martin, 34, died after an Oxycontin overdose.

from yahoo sports

Monday, November 16, 2009

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Hideki Matsui is our MVP in the Series 2009

Hideki Matsui is our MVP in the Series 2009

The New York Yankees win the World Series 2009

The New York Yankees are World Series champions for the 27th time in their illustrious history.
With Mariano Rivera, baseball's all-time master postseason closer, registering the final five outs, the Yankees held on for a 7-3 victory over the Phillies in Game 6 of the World Series on Wednesday night, claiming their first title since 2000.

The combination of designated hitter Hideki Matsui's six-RBI performance and lefty Andy Pettitte's strong work on three days' rest put New York in charge. The fans at Yankee Stadium began to sense early that the next chapter in team history was about to be written, and they were itching to hear "Enter Sandman," Rivera's entrance music.

They got their wish with one out in the eighth, after Damaso Marte got Ryan Howard to strike out swinging. Although Rivera gave up a double to Raul Ibanez, he got out of the eighth on a Pedro Feliz popout, before a 1-2-3 ninth.

With that, the Yankees set off a World Series celebration not seen in the Bronx since they swept the Braves in 1999.

What was turning into a blowout got a little tighter when Howard delivered a two-run homer off Pettitte in the sixth to cut the lead to four runs. Pettitte received a standing ovation from the crowd on his way off the field as Joba Chamberlain came in to relieve him with two outs in the sixth.

Chamberlain got Pedro Feliz to ground out to end the threat, and Pettitte's night was officially over, having allowed three earned runs on four hits while walking five. Chamberlain got the first two outs of the seventh but left two baserunners on with Chase Utley coming to the plate, bringing Marte in from the bullpen.

With Phil Hughes warming up in the 'pen, Marte got Utley out on a check swing to end the threat. Girardi said he was willing to use Rivera for two innings in Game 6, and Rivera was warming up in the bottom of the seventh before replacing Marte in the eighth.

Matsui, now 8-for-13 with eight RBIs in the series, put an early charge into the Yankee Stadium crowd by hitting a towering two-run homer inside the pole in right field to give the Yankees the first lead in the bottom of the second. He added a two-run single in the third and a two-run double in the fifth.

Matsui's assault was largely responsible for Pedro Martinez's night ending after four innings, replaced by right-hander Chad Durbin to start the bottom of the fifth.

Martinez threw 77 pitches before giving way to Durbin, finishing with four runs allowed on three hits while striking out five. The Yankees added a run off Durbin in the fifth on a Mark Teixeira single to score Derek Jeter, and J.A. Happ came on in relief with one out recorded, surrendering Matsui's double to put the Yankees ahead by six.

Early on, the stage was set for a duel of veteran pitchers Pettitte and Martinez. Matsui boosted the Yankees early with his homer, but the Phillies responded quickly in the top of the third, with Carlos Ruiz tripling and scoring on a Jimmy Rollins sacrifice fly, cutting the Yankees' lead to one run.

Yankees' lead to one run.

Matsui stretched the lead again with his two-run single with the bases loaded, outdueling Martinez a second time. In an eight-pitch at-bat in the second inning, Matsui's third homer of the series gave some early support to Pettitte, who put up zeroes in the first two innings before Ruiz's triple.

Pettitte, pitching on short rest in the postseason for the first time since 2003, kept the ball in the infield in the top of the first inning and shook off a walk to get through the second before buckling a bit in the third.

Martinez had to battle to get out of the bottom of the third, and didn't emerge unscathed. Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee hit the phone to get lefty J.A. Happ warming up in the bullpen after a one-out walk of Johnny Damon put runners at the corners, and Martinez followed by hitting Mark Teixeira with a pitch to load the bases, bringing Dubee out to the mound.

In the first World Series played to a sixth game since 2003, the Yankees took their first World Series title since a run of three in a row ended in 2000. The Phillies were trying to become the first team since the 1985 Royals to rally from a 3-1 deficit to win the World Series, one of only six such comebacks in 104 previous Fall Classics.

The teams split the two games at Yankee Stadium before the series shifted to Philadelphia, where the Yankees won Game 3 and Game 4 before the Phillies took Game 5 on Monday night.


Sunday, October 25, 2009

A-Rod and the Yakee's go to the World Series

NEW YORK (AP)—Alex Rodriguez(notes), welcome to the World Series. The New York Yankees are back in baseball’s big event.

The sport’s top spenders finally cashed in with their first pennant in six years Sunday night, beating the Los Angeles Angels 5-2 in Game 6 of the AL championship series behind the savvy pitching of that old October pro, Andy Pettitte.

Next up, New York hosts defending champion Philadelphia in the World Series opener Wednesday night. Cliff Lee(notes) is expected to face Yankees ace CC Sabathia(notes) in an enticing pitching matchup between former Cleveland teammates—and the past two AL Cy Young Award winners.

Ridiculed in the past for his October flops, Rodriguez played a huge role in helping his team advance through the playoffs, batting .438 with five home runs and 12 RBIs. The slugger earned his first trip to the World Series during a 16-year career in which he’s accomplished almost everything else.

Pettitte set a postseason record for wins, Johnny Damon(notes) hit a two-run single and Mariano Rivera(notes) closed it out in familiar fashion with a six-out save as the Yankees won their 40th American League crown by vanquishing the Angels, a longtime nemesis.

Now, the Yankees go for their record 27th title—when manager Joe Girardi was hired two years ago, he took jersey No. 27 with that in mind.

Not a bad way for Derek Jeter(notes) and crew to finish up the first season at the team’s new $1.5 billion ballpark

For manager Mike Scioscia and his sloppy Angels, it was their latest playoff failure during a decade of consistent regular-season success. Since winning their only championship in 2002, the Angels are yet to return to the World Series despite five AL West titles in the past six years.

After rain postponed Game 6 for a day, the clear weather and mild, 58-degree temperature at first pitch was a stark change from the first two games of the series, when the Angels froze up in the raw chill in New York.

Pettitte escaped a jam in the sixth, going to 3-0 on Kendry Morales(notes) before knocking down a comebacker with runners at second and third to preserve a 3-1 edge. The left-hander pumped his fist, then headed for the dugout.

Pettitte left to a standing ovation with one on and one out in the seventh and tipped his cap to the sellout crowd of 50,173, the largest at the new Yankee Stadium. He earned his 16th postseason win, breaking a tie with John Smoltz(notes), and his fifth to close out a postseason series—also a major league record.

Joba Chamberlain(notes) got two key outs and Girardi went to a well-rested Rivera in the eighth. He gave up a two-out RBI single to Vladimir Guerrero(notes), making it 3-2, then retired Morales to end the inning.

A diving play by first baseman Mark Teixeira(notes) helped Rivera escape further damage.

It was the first earned run allowed at home by the 39-year-old Rivera in a postseason save situation. But the Yankees added two insurance runs in the eighth on a pair of Angels errors and Teixeira’s sacrifice fly.

Rivera finished up in the ninth for his record 37th postseason save, and the Yankees had their pennant.

Rodriguez reached base all four times up Sunday and drew a bases-loaded walk in the fourth that put New York up 3-1. Earlier in the inning, Damon gave the Yankees the lead with a single off 16-game winner Joe Saunders(notes).

Including their unprecedented collapse against Boston in 2004, the Yankees had lost five straight times with a chance to close out an ALCS—and six in a row with an opportunity to end a playoff series.

But this time, New York got it done with help from Jeter, Pettitte, Rivera and Jorge Posada(notes), all part of the late 1990s dynasty under manager Joe Torre.

Normally airtight on defense and fundamentals, the Angels made eight errors in the series and several other uncharacteristic mistakes.

The miscues continued early in the clincher, when 16-game winner Joe Saunders walked five in 3 1-3 shaky innings and Guerrero was doubled off first base on a shallow fly.

With no Rally Monkey bouncing around the video board in the Bronx, Los Angeles failed to pull off one of its signature comebacks. The Angels trailed in all eight of their playoff victories against New York, including a stirring 7-6 triumph in Game 5 on Thursday night that extended the series.

The Angels eliminated New York with division series wins in 2002 and 2005. They are the 73-63 against the Yankees in the regular season since 1996, when Jeter took over at shortstop and New York began a run of four World Series titles in five years.

Looking to lock up the pennant, the Yankees turned to a familiar source of success in Pettitte. The 37-year-old left-hander delivered, allowing one run in 6 1-3 innings for his second closeout win of these playoffs. He also beat Minnesota to complete a first-round sweep.

Always a picture of poise and focus in October, narrowed eyes peering between his cap and glove as he takes his signs on the mound, Pettitte owns postseason records with 38 starts and 237 1-3 innings pitched.

He’s had trouble with the Angels, however, going 0-4 against them over the past two regular seasons. With a chance to put New York up 3-0 in this series, he squandered a 3-0 cushion on the road and took a no-decision in Game 3.

Pettitte was pitching at home for the Yankees in the postseason for the first time since their last World Series game, a 2-0 loss to Josh Beckett(notes) and the Florida Marlins in 2003.

This one was a different story, though.

Los Angeles went ahead in the third when Pettitte hung a couple of curveballs. Unlikely playoff star Jeff Mathis(notes), a part-time catcher who hit .211 during the regular season, led off with his fifth double of the series. He scored on a two-out single by Bobby Abreu(notes), which gave the ex-Yankee four hits in 23 ALCS at-bats.

New York answered in the fourth after a leadoff walk to Robinson Cano(notes). Nick Swisher(notes) was 3 for 30 in the series before his single, and Jeter walked to load the bases with one out.

Damon lined a two-run single over shortstop, and Teixeira’s infield single loaded the bases again.

That was it for Saunders, who walked off as he and Scioscia appearing perturbed by plate umpire Dale Scott’s strike zone.

NOTES: The Phillies won two of three at Yankee Stadium in May. … Former Yankees star Bernie Williams(notes) received a raucous ovation before throwing out the ceremonial first pitch. … Rodriguez has hit in 11 straight postseason games. … Pettitte went to 0-2 on his first three batters. … Two of the five playoff games at Yankee Stadium this year did not include a home run. That happened only once in 81 regular-season games.

by the associated press

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Tony Fein , cut from Ravens dies in Washington

SEATTLE (AP)—Tony Fein, an Iraq war veteran and NFL rookie linebacker who played with the Baltimore Ravens during the preseason, has died of unexplained causes after collapsing at a friend’s house in what his agent said appears to be “an accidental situation.”

Fein, 27, an undrafted rookie free agent from Mississippi, was lying face down and unconscious, vomiting and barely breathing when medics arrived at a house outside Port Orchard on the Kitsap Peninsula just before 9 a.m PDT Tuesday, said Mike Wernet, a battalion chief and medical officer with South Kitsap Fire & Rescue.

The medics put a breathing tube down Fein’s throat after he stopped breathing and administered medication, but he went into cardiac arrest during the drive to Harrison Medical Center in Bremerton, across Puget Sound from Seattle, and was pronounced dead at the hospital at 9:48 a.m. PDT Tuesday, Wernet told The Associated Press.

A man and woman who were present described Fein as a friend who was staying with them. They told the aid crew they awoke to find him unresponsive and vomiting.

“They didn’t really give us a lot of information about what had happened the night before,” apparently because they were upset, Wernet said. “They didn’t indicate anything out of the ordinary.”

There were no obvious wounds or signs of alcohol or other drug abuse, and nothing indicated foul play, he added.

Kitsap County sheriff’s Deputy Scott E. Wilson said a detective was assigned to the case Wednesday because the death seemed unusual.

“We don’t have any indication of anything suspicious … or foul play,” Wilson said.

Fein’s agent, Milton D. Hobbs, a lawyer in Oxford, Miss., said he knew of no medical condition or previous severe illness in Fein.

“As I understand it, it was an accidental situation,” Hobbs said. “As far as I understand it from family members, there’s nothing to indicate that he intended to hurt himself.”

An autopsy won’t be conducted before Thursday and no report will be issued before all toxicology and other tests are complete, likely in six to eight weeks, said Allen G. Gerdes, Kitsap County chief deputy coroner.

Fein, a native of Port Orchard, was released by the Ravens in their last major round of roster cuts on Sept. 5.

“Tony Fein was a really good teammate, a tremendous American, a tremendous young man … just a really good person,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said before Wednesday’s practice in Owings Mills, Md. “We were proud to have him here as part of our team. We’re unbelievably disappointed about the news.”

Hobbs said he last spoke with Fein on Friday and since the death had talked with the Fein’s sister, mother and some friends. He would not discuss a possible cause of death.

“He was working out and we were discussing football opportunities. That was still his goal,” Hobbs said. “We talked about Canada.”

Some Canadian Football League teams had expressed interest in Fein before he joined the Ravens but there had been no contacts since he was cut, the agent said.

Fein was arrested on Aug. 23 and charged with misdemeanor assault on a police officer after an incident at a restaurant at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor in which the officer reportedly mistook his cellular telephone for a handgun. A trial was scheduled Wednesday, but prosecutors notified Fein’s attorney last Thursday that they planned to dismiss the case because of conflicting witness accounts, state’s attorney spokeswoman Marty Burns said.

Fein played quarterback for South Kitsap High School before graduating in 2000. At age 19 he enlisted and spent 3 1/2 years in the Army, including duty in Iraq as a 19 Delta reconnaissance scout, according to the Ravens’ Web site.

He later enrolled at Scottsdale, Ariz., Community College, became one of the nation’s top junior college recruits and played for Ole Miss in 2007 and 2008. In two seasons at Ole Miss, he had 136 tackles (77 solo) in 24 games, according to the club’s Web site.

“A humble young man,” Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis(notes) said. “Our hearts definitely go out to his family because it’s such a tragedy for a man to be that young and go through the things he’s been through."

by the assciated press

Sunday, October 04, 2009

A-Rod hits 2 HRs, drives in AL-record

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP)—Alex Rodriguez(notes) hit a three-run homer on his first swing of the season and smacked a grand slam on his last. The New York Yankees slugger was pretty impressive in between, too.

Setting what he hopes will be the tone for a successful playoff run, Rodriguez homered twice and drove in an AL-record seven runs in a 10-run sixth inning Sunday, helping the AL East champions finish the regular season with a 10-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.

“We have one goal and it’s to win 11 games,” he said, looking ahead to the postseason. “If we get to 11 wins, that’s means we’re going to get contributions from everyone.”

On this day, he was a one-man wrecking crew.

Rodriguez hit a three-run homer off Wade Davis(notes), giving the Yankees a 3-2 lead. He added his 18th career grand slam later in the inning after Andy Sonnanstine(notes) issued an intentional walk to league co-home run champion Mark Teixeira(notes) to load the bases.

“It was awesome. That was a great inning for him and for the team,” Teixiera said. “It’s good to have a nice offensive output like that the last game of the season and give us some momentum.”

The previous AL record of six RBIs in an inning was accomplished 12 times, most recently by Boston’s David Ortiz(notes) on Aug. 12, 2008. The major league record is eight, set by Fernando Tatis(notes), who hit two grand slams in an inning for St. Louis on April 23, 1999.

New York, preparing to open the playoffs at home against Detroit or Minnesota on Wednesday or Thursday, finished with a 103-59 record, its best since 103-58 in 2002.

Tampa Bay dropped to 84-78 after going 97-65 last year and reaching the World Series for the first time.

A-Rod moved into a tie with Mark McGwire for eighth on the career list with 583 homers. It also gave him at least 30 homers and 100 RBIs for the 13th time— including the past 12 seasons—despite missing the first month with a hip injury.

“Unbelievable,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “He needed two homers and seven RBIs to keep his streak alive. It’s really pretty amazing. That’s the player he is.”

A.J. Burnett(notes) (13-9) pitched five innings for the victory, enabling the Yankees to avoid a weekend sweep.

Joba Chamberlain(notes), who could be headed for the bullpen for the first round of the playoffs, tossed a perfect inning in relief as Girardi continued to get the pitching staff ready for the postseason.

Girardi and general manager Brian Cashman will meet Monday to begin discussions on the playoff roster.

A year after making an improbable run to the American League pennant, the Rays finished 19 games behind the Yankees in the division. Evan Longoria(notes) scored both of the runs off Burnett, hitting his 33rd homer in the first and racing home on a passed ball to give Tampa Bay a 2-0 lead in the fifth.

Rookies Davis (2-2), Jeff Niemann(notes) and David Price(notes) combined for 25 wins and are part of the reason the Rays are optimistic about their prospects of returning to the top of the AL East next year.

“There’s no doubt we’ll be right back in it, and our goal is to get to the World Series again in 2010. Period,” Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. “Nothing else really matters in regard to our goal-setting.”

Rodriguez was sidelined until May 8 after hip surgery, then homered on the first pitch he saw from Baltimore’s Jeremy Guthrie(notes). He began Sunday with 28 homers and 93 RBIs and said the possibility of extending his 30-100 streak didn’t cross his mind until New York batted around in the sixth.

“I just didn’t think it was realistic at all, so therefore it wasn’t even a goal,” Rodriguez said.

“I was actually talking to (Eric) Hinske and I said I may have one shot. If they load the bases, I might pop one, you never know. I was just joking around, then I hit it.”

Yankees owner George Steinbrenner visited with the team for about an hour in the clubhouse before the game and later said he’s “excited” about the playoffs, which will start later this week.

The 79-year-old Steinbrenner made the trip to Tropicana Field from his home in nearby Tampa for the second time this season. He also met with the players before a Yankees win in St. Petersburg on July 29.

“It was really great to see him. He was in good spirits,” Girardi said. “Said, ‘Just keep it going. Just keep doing what you’re doing.”’

NOTES: Teixeira and Tampa Bay’s Carlos Pena(notes) tied for the AL home run title with 39. … Yankees LHP Andy Pettitte(notes) wound up earning $10.5 million of the $12 million available under his contract—$500,000 more than the Yankees’ original offer of $10 million guaranteed that he failed to accept. Pettitte had a $5.5 million base salary, earned $3 million based on innings and $2 million for staying on the active roster the entire season. He missed $750,000 bonuses for 200 and 210 innings, finishing with 194 2-3. … The Rays sat All-Stars Jason Bartlett(notes) and Carl Crawford(notes). Bartlett finished with a career-best .320 batting average, a team record. Crawford, who batted .305, set the previous mark of .315 in 2007.

by the associated press

Rio's win will cost U.S. broadcast deal worth less

COPENHAGEN — The cost of Chicago's defeat in its bid to host the 2016 Olympics will be felt in the value of the next U.S. broadcast deal.

The International Olympic Committee's top negotiator said the U.S. rights are worth less after the 2016 Games were awarded to Rio de Janeiro.

"Obviously, the domestic games would be more valuable," IOC finance commission chairman Richard Carrion told The Associated Press.

And the American deal — the most lucrative in the IOC's portfolio — might not be done for another three years if the economy doesn't improve.

"We have plenty of time and it doesn't have to be in 2010. We could conceivably do a deal as late as 2012," Carrion said.

U.S. networks including NBC, ABC-ESPN and Fox were expected to enter a bidding war for combined rights to the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics and a 2016 Chicago games.

NBC paid $2.2 billion for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and 2012 London Games.

The IOC gets more than half its revenue from broadcasting deals, and U.S. deals alone have been worth more than the rest of the world's broadcasters combined.

Carrion, an IOC Executive Board member from Puerto Rico, said the timing of U.S. negotiations was not dictated by Friday's host vote. Rio defeated Madrid 66-32 in the final round of voting after Chicago was eliminated first, before Tokyo also fell out of the race.

"I've always said it's more a matter of where the economy is heading rather than the selection of the host city," Carrion said.

Carrion did not expect the popularity of the Olympics to suffer a backlash from American viewers and advertisers after the manner of Chicago's defeat.

"It's still a premium brand. I would not read much into it that they were eliminated in the first round," Carrion said.

Just 18 of 95 IOC voters supported Chicago despite personal pleas in the final presentation Friday from President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle.

"I don't think this will affect the television discussions," he said. "This is a competition like any competition. But there is only one gold medal, and no silver and bronze."

He said Rio's time zone, one hour ahead of Eastern Standard Time in New York City, was "not bad" for the American market.

A likely drop in American revenues would be partly compensated by rising revenues from Brazil.

In August, the IOC completed a $170 million rights sale to Brazilian broadcasters TV Globo, Bandeirantes and Rede Record to show events from Sochi and what will now be the home Rio Games.

Timo Lumme, the IOC's director of television and marketing, described that deal Sunday as a "huge evolution" from previous agreements.

Brazilian broadcasters paid $10 million for the combined 2006 Turin Winter Olympics and 2008 Beijing Games cycle, then $60 million for Vancouver and London.

Lumme said the Brazilians were bidding blind before the 2016 host vote.

"It was a good bet by them," Lumme told the AP. "It's turned out they are in Rio and we hope they go on to make a good return."

from the associated press

Rich Gannon Drp's the Ball in the Broadcast Both

Rich Gannon and Donovan McNabb(notes) have a lot in common. Both played quarterback in a Super Bowl loss, both have lived in Philadelphia at some point in their lives and neither has any idea how the NFL's overtime rules work.

One year after McNabb infamously expressed surprise that professional games could end deadlocked, Gannon, the former Raiders quarterback-turned-CBS analyst, made a similar slip-up at the end of the Cincinnati Bengals-Cleveland Browns game, in which he was providing color commentary.

With seven seconds left in overtime, the Bengals called a timeout to prepare for the potential game-winning field goal, to be kicked by Shayne Graham(notes). It was an easy decision for head coach Marvin Lewis: Since the clock was running, calling a timeout allowed Graham and the field goal team to take their time instead of having to rush the kick. Gannon, though, took exception.

Why, you ask? Did he think a miss would give the Browns too much time to run a Hail Mary? Was it his belief that the timeout could unintentionally lead to a self-inflicted icing of Graham? Nope. Both those things would be somewhat reasonable (if still misguided).

No, Gannon didn't like the timeout because he thought that if Graham hit the field goal, it would leave too much time for dangerous Cleveland return man Joshua Cribbs(notes) to take back the subsequent kickoff for a touchdown. You know, that dreaded post-score overtime kickoff that has felled so many teams throughout history.

Gannon's partner in the booth, Ian Eagle, quickly and politely informed Gannon that the game would be over if Graham successfully converted the field goal, since NFL overtime is sudden death. Gannon laughed and apologized for his mistake. Awesomely, Eagle then asked if McNabb had infiltrated the broadcast booth. Nah, Ian, if that were true, Gannon would have vomited when the game got down to crunch time. (Rimshot!)

It was a ridiculous mistake, but unlike McNabb's ignorance of overtime rules (and his continued defense of said ignorance later in the week), we'll give Gannon the benefit of the doubt and say this was more likely a slip of the tongue than a complete misunderstanding of how overtime works. But, of course, it didn't seem possible that McNabb wouldn't know about ties, so maybe we're giving Gannon too much credit.

from yahoo sports

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The BCS is system is Flawed

If you paid any attention to college football last weekend then you’re aware that Iowa won at Penn State and Oregon humiliated Cal, 42-3.

These weren’t obscure events.

The voters who participate in the Harris Interactive and USA Today Coaches polls apparently did not pay any attention. Hey, why would they? These are only the people whom the empty suits of the Bowl Championship Series have empowered to determine how the sport’s champion is crowned.

So it made perfect sense that in the polls that make up two-thirds of the BCS formula Penn State is still ahead of Iowa and Cal is still ahead of Oregon. These are among a half-dozen rankings based more on reputation and preseason hype than results. There will be more as the year goes on.

This is the BCS. It’s not a one-time mistake. It’s the all-the-time plan. Ridiculous votes happen when you conduct ridiculous elections.

The suits want something that provides convenient cover for them (hey, don’t blame us, it’s the voters!) while being so flawed it draws attention away from what’s really going on – the operation of a system designed to protect their power and allow their cronies who run bowl games to fleece the sport for tens of millions a year.

Forget what they say. Forget the supposed excuses. That’s all there is here. Protect their power and the bowl games’ money.

If the people who ran the BCS wanted to implement a good way to determine the best teams at the end of the year – even if they stuck with the archaic bowl system – they would have done so years ago.

Instead they continue to prop up a formula where two-thirds is determined by a popularity vote from people who, in many cases, are either incapable or unmotivated to take the job seriously.

There’s decades of evidence and testimony from the 59 head coaches that they 1) don’t have the time to research their ballots and 2) often hand over the duties to administrative staffers, who also have no time.

There’s half a decade of evidence that the commitment of the 114 Harris Poll voters fluctuates wildly. Most of these guys are retired administrators, coaches or players. Some are media.

They’ve proven good for two things, voting based on marketing and reputation, and subscribing to a groupthink mentality that assures their ballot doesn’t stand out and they get criticized for thinking for themselves.

Some voters take their responsibility seriously and in their defense, the two polls purposefully offer no criteria for them to consider. Should they slot teams based on overall record, strength of schedule, who they beat, who they lost to, how they won, how they lost, where the games took place, conference strength or so on?

Last year a number of Harris Poll voters admitted to Yahoo! Sports that they have never bothered to watch Utah play before deciding the postseason fate of 12-0 Utes. This isn’t to say Utah should’ve been ranked No. 1 or No. 25, only that any reputable system would, at the very least, require the voters to at least watch an unbeaten team before dismissing them.

It’s moronic enough to use a beauty contest system to determine athletic competition. It’s even worse when the voters don’t have to watch all the contestants. No one disqualifies Miss Mississippi because she isn’t from California.

They do in the BCS.

What happened to the voters who admitted they didn’t think it was necessary to watch Utah play? Naturally, most of them are back again this year.

The folks who run Harris Interactive were concerned enough about this abomination they recommended that a protective mechanism be established to root out “instability, error or bias associated with unusual ranking patterns.”

Naturally the BCS suits rejected it. They love instability, error and bias.

Of course the suits also employ the final one-third of the system as a safety check – the computers. Six mathematical formulas crank out rankings to supposedly make up for human prejudice.

The problem with the computer formulas is twofold. One, the lack of comparative data makes this exercise impossible, which is why actual mathematicians operate a movement that denounces the BCS and any of their peers who participate.

Second, as baseball numbers whiz Bill James points out, the three times the computers have disagreed with the final human vote, the BCS suits immediately re-rigged the formulas in an effort to prevent it from happening again.

The computers aren’t there to counter the polls. They exist to offer credibility through pre-calculated agreement.

“Computers, like automobiles and airplanes, do only what people tell them to do,” James wrote for Slate.

Absent blowing this atrocity up and going with a 16-team playoff, if the BCS wanted a better system to choose the teams for their antiquated bowl games, they would go with a NCAA men’s basketball tournament-style committee.

That’s a group of about 10 people who spend the season scouting teams, meeting to discuss various scenarios and then eventually getting together to go through a vast checklist of predetermined criteria to select the field.

While not devoid of controversy, it’s orderly and transparent.

That would require courage and accountability though, actual faces to answer for the decision to select team X over team Y. The current system allows the blame to be spread out, even to faceless machines.

While a couple dozen conference commissioners and bowl executives sure do love to count the money, they don’t want to claim ownership of the BCS. In fact, Mountain West Conference attorneys claim that there’s no proof the BCS exists as a legal entity. Six conference commissioners take turns serving as “BCS coordinator” for a two-year term. Then they eagerly pass it off, like it’s a disease.

In the meantime, a nonsense system rolls on. Don’t be shocked by the controversy, the foolishness or the corruption.

That isn’t a flaw in the system. It is the system.

from yahoo sports

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Usain Bolt , wants to try the Long Jump

As a world and Olympic champion in both the 100m and 200m, Usain Bolt has drawn frequent comparison to other double-sprint stars like Jesse Owens and Carl Lewis. Now, Bolt is trying to become even more like those legendary track and field performers.

Before a meet in Zurich, Switzerland, Bolt told reporters that he would like to try the long jump, an event at which both Owens and Lewis won Olympic golds.

"I think I would be a really good long jumper.

I've messed around with the long jump since I've been at school and I'm definitely going to give it a try."

Like a great comedic actor trying his hand at drama, going to the long jump is the next logical step for Bolt. He's already ascended to the peak of sprinting at age 23. With no true rivals in either the 100m or 200m and no higher honors than world and Olympic golds, the only thing to keep Bolt motivated is the thought of lowering his own world records. That's far from mundane, but the dream of going 9.51 in the 100m isn't exactly the stuff from which training montages are made.

Bolt needs a new challenge and the long jump is a lot better idea than the NFL. By taking on a new event, Bolt could add to his legend while maintaining his status as the world's fastest man. Going to play football would mean having to leave sprinting. Training in the long jump keeps Bolt where he belongs, on the track.

But how would he do in a new event? No less an authority than world record holder Mike Powell thinks Bolt could jump nine meters. Powell's mark, set at the 1991 world championships, is 8.95 meters.

That's tremendous praise. But even though I'm through doubting Usain Bolt, two factors make me hesitate to proclaim him the second-coming of Bob Beamon. First, I'm no physics major, but is Bolt possibly too big to be great at the long jump? His speed would get him to the board faster than anyone in history, but once in the air Bolt's stature could work against him. He's three inches taller than Carl Lewis and at least 30 pounds heavier than both Beamon and Powell were when they made their jumps.

More importantly, all of those men had competed in the long jumpyears before becoming world-class in the event. Bolt is just a beginner. His raw talent is undeniable, but the learning curve would be long.

The London Olympics start in 1,065 days. That should be long enough.

from yahoo sports

Monday, August 24, 2009

Will Jerry Jones Fix his Giant TV ?

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones had 75,000 paying guests and a few dozen freeloaders over to his new house the other night to watch football. Punters for the visiting Tennessee Titans immediately showed their gratitude by using his $40 million TV set for target practice.

“I hit it probably a dozen times in pregame,” veteran kicker Craig Hentrich(notes) said.

“I guess,” he added a moment later, “they should have tested things out before they put that thing in place.”

“That thing” is the 1.2-million pound, four-sided video board hanging from the rafters exactly 90 feet above the field in the new Cowboys Stadium, the centerpiece of Jones’ $1.15-billion shrine to himself.

The big screens along either sideline are 160 feet wide—stretching from one 20-yard line to the other—and 72 feet tall. Throw in the “smaller” screens above the end zones and you’d need almost 5,000 52-inch flat screens to cover the same surface.

So it’s not like Jones can ring up the “Geek Squad” at the local Best Buy and ask them to raise it. Nor would he.

Jones said the league had approved its location, even though his own punter, Mat McBrier, sent at least one kick more than 100 feet high when the Cowboys conducted tests at the Alamodome in San Antonio two years ago. The owner decided 90 feet was plenty, reasoning that most punters angle kicks toward the sidelines rather than straight up. He insisted the Titans punters went out of their way to hit it, both before and during Dallas’ preseason home opener.

“I’m very comfortable that our height on our scoreboard is OK,” he said.

It’s been almost 15 years since Jones’ last serious run-in with his NFL brethren, so maybe he needs a reminder: The problem with building an empire is that sooner or later, you run into someone else’s.

The last time, Jones was upset that Cowboys merchandise accounted for one-quarter of the league’s $3 billion annual licensing sales—divided equally among the teams—and cut his own side deals with Pepsi and Nike. One measure of how peeved his colleagues were at the time was apparent when legal papers for their $300 million damage suit were served on Jones while he was midway through a bowl of clam chowder.

The matter was resolved without any legal bloodletting, and judging by the league’s measured response—“We are reviewing the situation,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in an e-mail Sunday—this one will be, too. But not simply by Jones waving it off.

“It is an issue,” said Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher, who also serves as co-chair of the league’s competition committee, which could order Jones to raise the video board. “Something has to get worked out.”

Fisher was unhappy because he had to throw a challenge flag after backup Titan punter A.J. Trapasso hit the scoreboard with 8:07 left in the third quarter, and the refs missed it.

“Now, it’s not necessarily their responsibility,” Fisher continued. “Once a fair catch signal is given, then there are no eyes on the ball anymore. So they don’t see it. … It can become a problem.”

Even though the video board will have to be raised when U2 plays in Cowboys Stadium on Oct. 12—the band’s stage gimmickry includes something called “The Claw,” which is 164 feet high—Jones insisted he won’t budge when it comes to football.

“You don’t need to move it. You gotta be trying to do it,” he said about punters hitting the TVs. “The rule is very clear. You just kick it over.”

Yet the clock wasn’t reset after Trapasso clanked a punt off the underside in the game; unless the NFL changes the rule, and fast, a team could run plenty of time off the clock simply by banging the ball off the video board as often it likes. And even a team that wasn’t intentionally wasting time could do it, which is one more delay the games don’t need.

“It does not matter where you kick it from, it is just right there in the middle of the field,” Trapasso said. “It’s always something that you’re going to be thinking about.”

Jones is deservedly proud of his new emporium, which opened to rave reviews. Some fans will find $60 pizzas hard to swallow. And those sitting in the last row might not be thrilled that after shelling out $20,000 or more for seat licenses—plus $170 for each game—that the people looking on just over their shoulders paid $30 for standing-room tickets. But in terms of griping, that was about it.

Jones called his opening night for football “an event we will remember for a long time.”

And if he wants to keep it that way, he’ll change his mind in a hurry and move the TV. He should know better than most that in a league built on one-upmanship, the last thing you do is tempt guys with strong legs to see if they can change the channel with their feet.

by the associated press

Friday, August 21, 2009

Memphis’ Final Four run Gone from the Books

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP)—Memphis has lost every one of the 38 victories it piled up in a basketball season that ended with John Calipari’s Tigers just missing out on a national title.

The NCAA stripped Memphis of all its wins from 2007-08 Thursday, saying the Tigers used an ineligible player who is believed to be NBA star Derrick Rose.

The university isn’t accepting the punishment, not yet.

Memphis president Shirley Raines said shortly after the NCAA’s announcement that the school is appealing what she called an unfair penalty.

“We know the rules,” Raines said. “We did our due diligence. We did everything we could to determine the student-athlete was eligible and that the rules were being followed.”

The NCAA announcement came 16 months after the Tigers lost the national championship to Kansas in overtime at the end of the 2007-08 season. It marks the second time both Memphis and coach John Calipari had to vacate Final Four seasons. The Tigers were stripped of their 1985 appearance and Calipari’s Massachusetts team lost its 1996 berth.

Now the basketball coach at Kentucky, Calipari said in a statement he was “very disappointed and disheartened by the NCAA’s findings” and that he would not comment again until Memphis’ appeal is concluded. Calipari said he’s looking forward to coaching Kentucky this fall where officials are fully supporting him despite the Memphis scandal.

“I’m not worried about it because they have never said Coach Cal did anything wrong at all,” said Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, who appeared with Calipari at the Kentucky State Fair on Thursday before the NCAA announcement. “I think he’s a very upstanding guy. I think that’s his reputation and I think that reputation will be with him here. I really don’t foresee any problems.”

Memphis finished 38-2 in 2007-08, setting the NCAA record for wins in a season.

The NCAA report did not identify the ineligible player by name, though descriptions of the athlete involved lead to the conclusion it could only be Rose. He was the only player who played just that season at Memphis—a fact noted by the governing body of college sports. Rose went on to be selected by the Chicago Bulls as the No. 1 pick in the 2008 draft and later won the NBA rookie of the year award.

The player was accused of having another person take his SAT exam in Detroit so he would be eligible as a freshman after failing the ACT three times in Chicago.

Memphis argued that the university did not have enough information to substantiate the allegations in November 2007 and cleared him to play. Memphis officials defended their investigation Thursday and said four people interviewed the player, with neither Calipari nor athletic director R.C. Johnson involved.

“That person responded that he took the test, and we believed him,” university legal counsel Sheri Lipman said.

However, the SAT officials later conducted their own investigation and notified the player, the university and the NCAA’s eligibility center that they were canceling his test in May 2008.

The agency said it sent letters to the player in March and April 2008; the second letter was sent three days after Rose and the Tigers lost to the Jayhawks. The player did not respond to either letter.

The infractions committee said it struck hard with its penalties because the ineligible player was used the entire season. Rose played in all 40 games, starting 39.

In a statement released by his attorney Thursday, Rose said “it is satisfying to see that the NCAA could find no wrongdoing on my part in their ruling.

“I think it is important for people to understand that I complied with everything that was asked of me while at the university, including my full participation in the university’s investigation of this issue, and was ultimately cleared to play in the entire 2007-08 season by the NCAA clearinghouse and the university.”

In addition to the lost season, Memphis also must return the money it received from the NCAA tournament to Conference USA and will be prevented from receiving future shares doled out in the conference’s revenue-sharing program— a total loss estimated at $530,000 on top of the $85,000 already paid by the school. If Memphis loses its appeal, Johnson said approximately $300,000 in bonus money Calipari earned from that season would be paid back.

The NCAA said the committee pressed Memphis officials during a hearing on the matter about why steps weren’t taken in November 2007 to bench the ineligible player and avoid problems.

Part of Memphis’ appeal will be the role, and possible flaws, in the NCAA clearinghouse. Officials declined to be specific but noted the eligibility center cleared the student twice—before being admitted and after the university pointed out a grade change in high school.

The committee also said the player’s brother received free transportation on the team’s charter plane and hotel lodging that season. Investigators said the total cost would have come to $1,713.85. Such an arrangement is considered an impermissible extra benefit.

“Neither the travel coordinator nor the business director had an explanation as to how the brother was permitted to board without having paid for the two flights,” the NCAA report said.

Memphis officials called those honest mistakes that have been fixed.

The school’s women’s golf team also received three years probation and lost a scholarship for violations in its program.

from yahoo sports

Caster Semenya family, thinks the gender controversy is unfair

JOHANNESBURG (AFP) – South Africa's new 800-metre world champion Caster Semenya was declared a "golden girl" by local press Thursday, with the athlete's family shrugging off questions about the runner's gender.

All major newspapers' front pages pictured a triumphant Semenya who powered to a 1minute 55.45seconds win -- the world's best this year -- shortly after the athletics governing body announced that the runner's gender was to be verified.

"She is my little girl. I raised her and I have never doubted her gender. She is a woman and I can repeat that a million times," father Jacob Semenya told the popular tabloid Sowetan which dubbed the champion "Our Golden Girl".

"For the first time South Africans have someone to be proud of and detractors are already shouting wolf. It is unfair. I wish they would leave my daughter alone."

Semenya's 80-year-old grandmother Maphuthi Sekgala told The Times that the first year sports science student had long been teased about her boyish looks and for being the only girl in her local soccer team.

"(The controversy) doesn't bother me that much because I know she's a woman -- I raised her myself," she said in her rural village in northern Limpopo province.

"She called me after (the heats) and told me that they think she's a man. What can I do when they call her a man, when she's really not a man? It is God who made her look that way."

Semenya's former high school head told the Afrikaans broadsheet Beeld the top runner had played with boys, enjoyed soccer and wore long trousers to school.

"I first realised that she was a girl in Grade 11," he said, explaining how Semenya had moved to stand with a girls team after he had divided the boys and girls for short running race.

Semenya was a total unknown a few weeks ago -- with Beeld describing her birthplace as remote and rural, with the teenager living with her grandmother while at high school and growing up without electricity or running water.

The runner's coach Michael Seme laughed off the allegations, saying the athlete fielded constant questions about whether she was a boy from younger athletes when training.

"Then she has to explain that she can't help the fact that her voice is so gruff and that she really is a girl. The remarkable thing is that Caster remains completely calm and never loses her dignity when she is questioned about her gender," Seme told the newspaper.

Semenya had been "crudely humiliated" a few times and the closest Seme said he had seen her to anger was earlier this year when some people wanted her barred from using the ladies restroom.

"Then Caster said: 'Do you want me to pull down my pants that you can see. Those same people came to her later and said they were extremely sorry."

by the AFP

Usain Bolt breaks his own 200m world record

In the past 15 months, Usain Bolt has won three Olympic golds, a world championship and set four world records. But tonight may been his most impressive feat yet.

The Jamaican sprint star shattered his own world record in the 200m at the world track and field championships in Berlin, running a scintillating 19.19 and besting the second place finisher by over six-tenths of a second. His old record, set in Beijing, was 19.30.

Few people (including myself) thought Bolt had a realistic chance of setting a world record tonight, as his run in Beijing was widely considered a "perfect race". Coupled with the fact that Bolt's turns have been less than stellar this season, and it was assumed he'd win the race with ease, but just off his Beijing pace.

Instead, Bolt burst out of the blocks, had a five-meter lead at the midway point and then accelerated down the stretch for yet another dominating victory.

For the first time since he came onto the international scene last year, Bolt looked fatigued at the finish. Usually he barely breaks a sweat during his races, but today he was huffing and puffing during the final 15 meters. So much for the criticism that he was too lackadaisical at the end of his races.

After the race, Bolt collapsed in joy on the track, took a victory lap with the Jamaican flag, staged a race with the championship's mascot and had his hand kissed by a cameraman.

When told that he has now won five consecutive international titles and set a world record in each of those races, Usain Bolt shook his head in disbelief, almost as if he didn't believe it. Join the club.

from Yahoo sports

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Federer's serve solid

MASON, Ohio — The ball really zipped off the fast, blue court, especially when it came off Roger Federer's racket.

Federer held serve throughout a 6-3, 7-5 win over Jose Acasuso on Wednesday, facing only one break point in his first match at the Cincinnati Masters. The Swiss star made 70 percent of his first serves and piled up 14 aces while getting accustomed to the tournament's heat, humidity and famously fast courts.

"The transition to Cincy is always a difficult one," Federer said. "I've had very up and down results here. But it just showed sort of how hard it is to get used to these kind of courts. We don't usually play on these fast courts, you know. That's why I'm happy with today's match."

Parts of his game were a little slow, but his accurate serve pushed the speed limit and carried him through a star-packed day at the $3 million Western & Southern Financial Group Masters. His afternoon match was the second of four in a row on center court involving top-ranked players — Federer, No. 2 Andy Murray, No. 3 Rafael Nadal and No. 4 Novak Djokovic.

In the nightcap? No. 5 Andy Roddick.

Djokovic, Federer, Murray and Nadal each won two-set matches to get the show going.

"That's the sort of thing I would love if I were a tennis fan," Federer said. "Just keep the same seat, you know. They come rolling in. It's like going to the movie theaters and seeing five, six great movies."

The 28-year-old Federer is the No. 1 feature.

After winning his record 15th Grand Slam at Wimbledon, Federer took time off and became the father of twin girls. He got back on court last week in Montreal and reached the quarterfinals. He's trying to get his game in shape to defend his U.S. Open title in two weeks.

His opening opponent didn't give him many problems.

Federer improved to 5-0 against the 26-year-old Argentine, who is 1-10 against Top 10 players on hard courts. That lone win came three years ago against Tommy Robredo.

Federer didn't face a break point during the 27-minute first set. Acasuso finally got a chance to break through when he was up 3-2 in the second set, but wasted the opportunity by dumping a routine forehand into the net. He threw back his head and yelled in anguish.

That was the only chance he would get.

Djokovic beat Croatia's Ivan Ljubicic 7-6 (5), 6-4 in the opening match. Djokovic was accurate with his shots in the unaccustomed conditions, making only seven unforced errors. By contrast, Ljubicic made mistakes at the worst time. He hit three shots long and dumped another into the net during the first-set tiebreaker.

"I got a feeling it was a pretty fast court," Djokovic said. "He was serving really well, and he was going for shots. He didn't really care to play too much (in) long rallies. It was not easy to hang on, but that's what I did."

Murray won his first match as the world's No. 2 player, a ranking he reached for the first time after winning the title at Montreal last week. Rather than fly to Cincinnati, he decided to make a 13-hour drive for the fun of it.

His 7-6 (3), 6-2 win over Spain's Nicolas Almagro wasn't much fun. Rain delayed the first set and ratcheted up the humidity.

Murray took control by winning a 16-point game early in the second set, converting his first break opportunity of the match. Winning the long game seemed to give Murray a lift — he lost only two points off his serve all set.

"If you can get ahead early in the second, it makes a big difference to both players' confidence," said Murray, who won his first Masters title in Cincinnati last year. "I think his head went down a little bit after that. He struggled on his serve afterward, and he had been serving great up until then. It made a big difference."

Nadal is recovering from two months off to let his aching knees heal. The 23-year-old Spaniard reached the quarterfinals in Montreal last week, and took another shaky step in his comeback by beating Italy's Andreas Seppi 7-6 (4), 7-6 (3) in a match twice delayed by rain.

Nadal was on the defensive in the second set, surviving eight break points to hold serve. Rain moved in with the score tied at 4 and Nadal facing the eighth break point. After a 62-minute delay, Nadal saved the point and took the set to a tiebreaker.

Play was suspended again because of rain with Nadal up 3-2 in the tiebreaker. After a 15-minute delay, Nadal pulled off the next three points — one on an emphatic crosscourt backhand — to finally take control. He had 24 unforced errors overall.

"It's going to be tough to be at my best the second week (back)," Nadal said. "I need to play more aggressive. I need to play more inside of the court."

by the associated press

Blackhawks star player Kane, indicted in NY cabbie attack

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Chicago Blackhawks star Patrick Kane was indicted Wednesday on misdemeanor assault and theft charges after he was accused of beating up a cab driver over a fare dispute.

The grand jury dismissed a more serious felony charge of second-degree robbery, Erie County District Attorney Frank Sedita III said.

Kane, 20, and his cousin, James Kane, 21, were arrested Aug. 9 after 62-year-old cabbie Jan Radecki told police they attacked him when he said he didn't have 20 cents in change for the fare. James Kane was indicted on the same charges.

The cab driver had bruises and broken glasses.

At a U.S. Olympic hockey camp in suburban Chicago, Kane said he had not heard any details about the indictment and wanted to talk first with his lawyer.

"If the felony is dropped, that's obviously a positive step," Kane said. "The sooner it gets over, I think, the more everyone will be happy about it."

The Kanes earlier pleaded not guilty to the charges. They were indicted on charges of third-degree assault and theft of services, both misdemeanors, as well as harassment, a violation. Arraignment is scheduled for Thursday afternoon.

If convicted, the Kanes could get up to a year in jail.

Calls to Patrick Kane's lawyer, Paul Cambria, were not immediately returned.

"As is the practice in all criminal cases, the assigned prosecutor and defense counsel will discuss a possible resolution of the case short of trial," Sedita said in a statement.

A plea deal would be based on the victim's wishes, the severity of his injuries and other factors, Sedita said. But Kane's celebrity status "is not such a consideration," he said, adding, "Kane will not be prosecuted more leniently or more harshly because he is employed as a hockey player."

The cabbie has said he wants a public apology from the Kanes, not jail time, said his lawyer, Andrew LoTempio.

"I can't comment as to his point of view," Sedita told The Associated Press. "The name of the action is the People of the State of New York v. the Kanes, not Jan Radecki v. the Kanes.

"We often have domestic violence cases where victims do not want to go forward, but we go forward with it anyway. I'm not saying that's the case here but just to illustrate the point. Obviously, we take a victim's wishes into consideration all the time."

Kane, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 draft and the rookie of the year in 2008, had 25 goals and 45 assists last season, and his team has built a marketing campaign around him. He helped the Blackhawks advance to the Western Conference finals last season.

by the associated press

3 media groups are protest SEC credential policy

NEW YORK — The presidents of three leading media organizations sent a letter to Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive on Wednesday protesting the league's credential policy for college football.

The letter from the Associated Press Managing Editors, the Associated Press Sports Editors and the American Society of News Editors said the SEC's policy is too restrictive for reporters and photographers.

Among the issues of contention are rights involving video and audio game highlights and photos.

"The SEC and some other big college conferences want to become publishing and broadcasting businesses now," said David Tomlin, The Associated Press' associate general counsel

"They see the pro leagues doing it and they think it's the way to go. So the strategy is to push independent news coverage into a corner to make room for their own information services and programming. That's what these new rules are about. We don't believe they serve the fans or even the real interests of the schools themselves," he said.

The letter asks for further negotiations with the SEC. The college football season starts next week.

"We have received the letter and we are currently reviewing it," SEC spokesman Charles Bloom said, "and we will address the issues of concern with the news organizations involved."

by the associated press

Smoltz sign's deal with Cardinals

ST. LOUIS — John Smoltz agreed to a deal with the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday, giving the 42-year-old former ace a chance to rejuvenate his career in the middle of a pennant race.

Smoltz joined the NL Central leaders shortly after he cleared waivers, following his release by Boston. He was 2-5 with an 8.33 ERA in eight starts for the Red Sox.

General manager John Mozeliak said Smoltz would likely start Sunday at San Diego, and would probably get at least a few turns in the rotation. The GM said Smoltz didn't ask to start as a "negotiating ploy."

"He had very little demands," Mozeliak said on a conference call. "He had no demands. From everything he had heard about this club, he was excited to take this opportunity. The reason for the start was just to get him work and know what we have."

The Cardinals hope Smoltz can either fill a void as the fifth starter or provide right-handed relief in the bullpen. Detroit, the Los Angeles Dodgers, Texas and Florida also were said to be interested in signing the longtime Atlanta star.

"He's going to do whatever we need the most," manager Tony La Russa said before the Cardinals faced the Dodgers. "It'll be really good for him to come out and stretch out his arm and work on his pitches and let us take a look at him."

One of the best big-game pitchers of his era, Smoltz is expected to join the team Thursday when St. Louis plays at San Diego. The former Cy Young winner is the latest high-profile acquisition — with Matt Holliday — in a makeover that helped the Cardinals stretch their division lead to six games over Chicago.

The risk for the Cardinals is small — Boston is responsible for the bulk of the contract. St. Louis is on the hook only for a prorated share of the major league minimum, about $100,000 through the rest of the season.

The Cardinals lobbied Smoltz with telephone calls from La Russa, pitching coach Dave Duncan and infielder Mark DeRosa, a former teammate in Atlanta and another recent addition in St. Louis.

"These situations are unique because the players out there, you're not really negotiating a salary," Mozeliak said. "What you're trying to do is figure out how a player is going to fit in."

Smoltz is 212-152 with a 3.32 ERA and 154 saves in 21 seasons. An eight-time All-Star, he's the only pitcher in major league history with 200 wins and 150 saves.

Smoltz debuted with the Braves in 1988 and spent his entire career in Atlanta before signing a one-year, $5.5 million contract with the Red Sox in January. Still recovering from shoulder surgery that forced him to miss most of the 2008 season, he didn't pitch until June, and never got on track in Boston.

The Red Sox cut Smoltz on Aug. 7, a day after he lost at Yankee Stadium in one of the worst starts of his career. Left-handed hitters were especially rough on him this year, batting .444 overall.

Smoltz, however, did show flashes of his former sharpness, even in that final start. In that first inning against New York, retired Derek Jeter on a grounder and struck out Johnny Damon and Alex Rodriguez.

The Cardinals' most pressing need is for a fifth starter behind Chris Carpenter (13-3, 2.27 ERA), Adam Wainwright (14-7, 2.62 ERA), Joel Pineiro (11-9, 3.25) and Kyle Lohse (5-7, 4.58), who has shown signs of coming around from a forearm injury.

Todd Wellemeyer, the fifth starter most of the season until being sent to the bullpen last month, is 7-9 with a 5.67 ERA and is on the 15-day disabled list with elbow inflammation. Mitchell Boggs, who has filled the role in recent weeks, is 1-2 with a 4.58 ERA. Overall, the team's fifth starters are 10-16, and there is no immediate help available from the minor leagues.

But the Cardinals also have a need for right-handed help in the bullpen, most notably as a setup man for closer Ryan Franklin. Rookie Jason Motte has struggled in that role with a 5.82 ERA.

Smoltz had said he preferred to go to a team where he could start.

Smoltz also brings intangibles as the Cardinals seek to return to the postseason for the first time since winning the 2006 World Series.

"As soon as it was announced that Boston was doing something with him, Mark (DeRosa) came in and repeated what his reputation is," La Russa said, "and how as a teammate he saw for himself how legitimate he is."

Smoltz holds the record for postseason wins. He is 15-4 with four saves and a 2.65 ERA in the playoffs and World Series.

As a starter, Smoltz has won 14 or more games 10 times, including 1996, when he won the NL Cy Young Award after going 24-8 with a 2.94 ERA for the Braves.

Installed as the closer after missing 2000 and most of 2001 following elbow surgery, he had 10 saves down the stretch in 2001 then 144 saves over the next three seasons — 55 in 2002, 45 in 2003 and 44 in 2004.

by the associated press

South African teen wins 800, before gender-test flap

BERLIN — Facing questions about her gender, South African teenager Caster Semenya easily won the 800-meter gold medal Wednesday at the world championships.

Her dominating run came on the same day track and field's ruling body said she was undergoing a gender test because of concerns she does not meet requirements to compete as a woman.

Semenya took the lead at the halfway mark and opened a commanding lead in the last 400 meters to win by a massive 2.45 seconds in a world-leading 1 minute, 55.45 seconds. Defending champion Janeth Jepkosgei was second and Jennifer Meadows of Britain was third in 1:57.93.

After crossing the line, Semenya dusted her shoulders with her hands. Semenya did not speak to reporters after the race or attend a news conference.

About three weeks ago, the international federation asked South African track and field authorities to conduct the verification test. Semenya had burst onto the scene by posting a world-leading time of 1:56.72 at the African junior championships in Maruitius.

Her dramatic improvement in times, muscular build and deep voice sparked speculation about her gender. Ideally, any dispute surrounding an athlete is dealt with before a major competition. But Semenya's stunning rise from unknown teenage runner to the favorite in the 800 happened almost overnight. That meant the gender test — which takes several weeks — could not be completed in time.

Before the race, IAAF spokesman Nick Davies stressed this is a "medical issue, not an issue of cheating." He said the "extremely complex" testing has begun. The process requires a physical medical evaluation and includes reports from a gynecologist, endocrinologist, psychologist, internal medicine specialist and gender expert.

South Africa team manager Phiwe Mlangeni-Tsholetsane would not confirm or deny that Semenya was having such a test.

"We entered Caster as a woman and we want to keep it that way," Mlangeni-Tsholetsane said. "Our conscience is clear in terms of Caster. We have no reservations at all about that."

Although medals will be awarded for the 800, the race remains under a cloud until the investigation is closed, and Semenya could be stripped of the gold depending on the test results, IAAF general secretary Pierre Weiss said.

"But today there is no proof and the benefit of doubt must always be in favor of the athlete," Weiss said.

Semenya's rivals said they tried not to dwell on the issue before the race.

"I've heard a lot of speculation, but all I could do was just keep a level head and go about my business," Meadows said. "If none of it's true, I feel very sorry for her."

One thing not in doubt was Semenya's outstanding run.

"Nobody else in the world can do that sort of time at the moment," Meadows said. "She obviously took the race by storm."

by the associated press

Venus, Serena to own part of Dolphins

MIAMI — Venus and Serena Williams have found a new sport: pro football.

The tennis-playing sisters will become the latest celebrities to own a stake in the Miami Dolphins, a person familiar with the deal said Wednesday. The person didn't want to be identified because the team plans an announcement Tuesday.

Another person close to the negotiations said an agreement was near but not yet final. That person also didn't want to be identified because the announcement has not be made.

The Williamses live in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., about an hour's drive from the Dolphins' stadium. Their new role will be significant in part because the NFL has no African-American majority team owner.

Musicians Gloria and Emilio Estefan and Marc Anthony recently bought small shares of the team. New Dolphins owner Stephen Ross also forged a partnership with singer Jimmy Buffett.

The Dolphins have said the involvement of the celebrities reflects the diversity of South Florida and shows that the franchise is connected with the community.

A Dolphins spokesman said the team had no comment regarding next week's announcement.

The Williams sisters have combined to win 18 Grand Slam titles, and they staged their latest sibling showdown last month at Wimbledon, where Serena beat Venus in the final.

Serena has won 11 major titles and Venus seven.

Ross, a New York real estate billionaire, completed his purchase of the Dolphins from Wayne Huizenga in January and began a partnership in May with Buffett. The agreement with the Estefans was announced in June, followed by the deal with Anthony last month.

Buffett and the Estefans are longtime Dolphins fans. The Williams sisters aren't known to closely follow the Dolphins or the NFL.

Ross has said the minority owners are strategic partners and aren't being brought aboard because of a financial need. He has pledged to improve the fan experience at games, and the celebrities will help — although it's unlikely the sisters will be staging tennis exhibitions at halftime.

Buffett has yet to accept Ross' invitation to become a minority owner, but the Dolphins' stadium has been renamed Land Shark Stadium for this season. Buffett has written a song for the Dolphins, and they've introduced a new version of their fight song by the rapper T-Pain.

Anthony will perform the national anthem when the Dolphins host the New York Jets on ESPN's "Monday Night Football" on Oct. 12.

by the associated press

NBC extend Sunday night deal by 2 years

NEW YORK — The NFL and NBC are extending their contract for "Sunday Night Football" by two years.

The league's teams approved the extension at an owners meeting Wednesday in Chicago. The original six-year deal will now run through 2013.

The network will continue to broadcast 16 regular-season Sunday night games, the Thursday night season opener, and both wild-card Saturday games. Flexible scheduling will remain in effect for the final seven weeks of the regular season, allowing NBC to change which game it shows to ensure the matchup has playoff implications.

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Mariners get Bill Hall in trade with Brewers

Mariners get 3B Bill Hall in trade with Brewers
(AP) – 1 hour ago

DETROIT — The Milwaukee Brewers have traded third baseman Bill Hall to the Seattle Mariners.

The Mariners sent minor league pitcher Ruben Flores to the Brewers on Wednesday.

Hall, who hit 35 homers in 2006, was designated for assignment by Milwaukee last week after hitting .201 in 76 games this season. He is expected to join the Mariners on Thursday in Detroit.

Flores went 3-2 with a 4.39 ERA in 44 games for two Class A teams.

by the associated press

Vikings tickets snatched up by fans

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The Vikings have sold more than 3,200 season tickets since news broke that Brett Favre was coming to Minnesota. That's in approximately a 24-hour span.

Chief marketing officer Steve LaCroix said the team has sold about 11,000 single-game tickets during that time as fans clamor over the arrival of the veteran quarterback.

Seats for the game against Green Bay on Oct. 5 are only available through a season ticket. There are roughly 6,000 season tickets remaining. The Vikings had to race to beat the blackout deadline for several games last season, including needing two extensions from the NFL for the first-round playoff game against Philadelphia.

Now, there are only a limited amount of seats for the preseason game Friday night against Kansas City, in which Favre is expected to make his Vikings debut.

"Blackouts, obviously we don't want to have to face that issue like we have the past few years, but there is still a lot of work to do on our front," LaCroix said.

Merchandise is also moving. LaCroix said several hundred pre-orders for Favre jerseys were placed online Tuesday. The purple No. 4s were to show up in stores on Wednesday.

"It's fun to be part of this and have the fans react the way that they did. To see them outside lining the streets was something unexpected, but obviously pretty cool," LaCroix said of fans turning out on Tuesday to catch a glimpse of Favre. "We're just trying to make sure that we manage the level of interest. We want to sustain the level of interest. We want to sustain the business and not just make a quick spike."

As soon as Vikings coach Brad Childress picked up Favre from the airport, the Vikings were on the phone with Reebok to get an order of No. 4 jerseys with his name on the back. The apparel company sent a truckload from its factory in Indianapolis to stock stores at malls in the Twin Cities, and more are on the way.

LaCroix said that more than 200,000 people bought Favre's Jets jersey last year, and the demand for the Vikings version figures to be even higher.

"He was right up there at the top of jersey sales and so we're ready," he said.

Ticket demand at online broker has soared, according to Scott Roback, vice president of business development.

Prices on the site for Favre's return to Lambeau Field in Green Bay on Nov. 1 leaped 118 percent, from $441.48 to $975.56. For the Oct. 5 home game when the Packers come to the Metrodome, tickets on the site are up from $263.13 to $402.48.

by the associated press

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Steve McNair killed

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Nashville police say former NFL quarterback Steve McNair was shot multiple times and that the 20-year-old woman found dead with him in a downtown condominium was shot once in the head. A pistol was found near her body.

Nashville police spokesman Don Aaron identified the woman as Sahel Kazemi, whom he called a "friend" of McNair's.

Autopsies were planned for Sunday.

Aaron says McNair's wife, Mechelle, is "very distraught" and that police do not believe she is involved.

McNair played 13 seasons before retiring in April 2008.

by the associated press

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Yankees 9-1 victory

NEW YORK (AP) — Clumsy defense cost the Mets in the Subway Series again.

In a matter of minutes, New York made three crucial errors that led to a four-run second inning for the Yankees in their 9-1 victory Friday night at Citi Field.

Third baseman David Wright and shortstop Alex Cora uncorked wild throws before first baseman Nick Evans fumbled away a grounder. All those miscues were too much to overcome against Yankees ace CC Sabathia, who was on top of his game against a depleted lineup.

"Where we are now injury-wise, I've said it: We've got to play pretty mistake-free baseball to win," Wright said. "And obviously, we didn't get that tonight. You make those kind of mistakes and CC has the stuff that he had tonight, your chances aren't very good."

The only Mets infielder who didn't make an error during the inning was second baseman Luis Castillo.

Of course, two weeks earlier, it was Castillo who dropped what would have been a game-ending popup by Alex Rodriguez, allowing two runs to score and giving the Yankees a 9-8 win at home.

This time, the mistake-prone Mets made three errors in an inning for the first time since May 20, 2004, when first baseman Mike Piazza, shortstop Kaz Matsui and third baseman Todd Zeile were the culprits in the ninth inning of an 11-4 loss to St. Louis.

"We've played pretty good baseball lately. It's unfortunate that we choose tonight to have that game, but you're going to have games like that," Mets manager Jerry Manuel said. "Their big guy was very good."

Melky Cabrera led off the second with a slow bouncer to third that Wright barehanded and threw past first, allowing Cabrera to reach second. It was the 10th error of the year for Wright, a Gold Glove winner each of the past two seasons.

One out later, Ramiro Pena hit an opposite-field double to left, driving in the first run. Sabathia, who hadn't batted in a game since last Sept. 28, singled up the middle on the next pitch for his 14th career RBI.

Brett Gardner looped a single down the left-field line, with Sabathia huffing and puffing his way to second. Johnny Damon then hit a sharp grounder to Cora that could have been an inning-ending double play. But the shortstop threw the ball into right field, allowing Sabathia to score.

Mark Teixeria grounded to first, and Evans booted the ball with both his glove and bare hand, knocking it into foul territory as Gardner scored for a 4-0 lead.

"I caught it and I looked at home, looked at the runner too soon, and just lost control of the ball," Evans said. "I should have worried about catching the ball first."

A walk to Rodriguez loaded the bases, and fans applauded when Robinson Cano hit a soft liner to Castillo for the second out. Cabrera's grounder to second ended the inning.

"There was a point there, I started laughing," Mets starter Mike Pelfrey said. "I think CC probably hit the hardest ball that inning.

"It's crazy when that happens. You want the ball to get hit to those guys. They make great plays all the time. That was just weird."

Castillo received derisive cheers in the seventh when he caught consecutive bases-loaded popups without a problem.

But by then, it was too late for the Mets to salvage another night of sloppy defense.

by the associated press

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Giants past Rangers 6-4

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Fred Lewis hit a go-ahead, two-run homer for the Giants shortly after Randy Johnson lost the chance for his 302nd career victory, and the San Francisco bullpen then hung on for a 6-4 victory over the Texas Rangers on Friday night.

Aaron Rowand and Travis Ishikawa also homered for the Giants, who snapped their three-game losing streak and kept the Rangers winless in all nine games they've played at San Francisco's waterfront ballpark in the past decade.

Marlon Byrd hit a two-run double on the first pitch by Giants reliever Brandon Medders in the sixth to put Texas up 4-3, but Lewis then ended a 2 for 26 slump with a shot onto the arcade above the right field wall.

Michael Young homered for the Rangers, who haven't won in San Francisco since 1998, when the Giants still played at Candlestick Park. The Giants have won nine of 10 overall against the Rangers.

The Giants used five relievers to maintain their lead. Sergio Romo (1-0) was awarded the win after escaping a bases-loaded jam in the seventh, while Jeremy Affeldt pitched a perfect eighth before Brian Wilson picked up his 18th save in 21 chances.

Scott Feldman (5-2) allowed five runs on eight hits in his second straight loss after starting the season with five wins in eight starts. Rowand homered on Feldman's second pitch of the night, while Edgar Renteria and Bengie Molina hit run-scoring singles in the third to put San Francisco up 3-0 before Young connected for his 10th homer in the fourth.

The Giants' June surge was interrupted earlier this week by the Los Angeles Angels, who rolled to the first three-game sweep by an opponent in San Francisco this season.

The Rangers' loss Friday night, coupled with the surging Angels' 5-4 win over the Dodgers, pulled the Angels within a half-game of Texas atop the AL West standings.

Johnson had five strikeouts in another solid start at home, where he has picked up five of his six victories this season — all except career No. 300, which occurred in Washington. Sticking to his season-long tendencies, Johnson again gave up a handful of costly extra-base hits, but got inning-ending strikeouts with runners in scoring position three times in the first five frames.

Right after Texas turned an improbable double play on a broken-bat blooper by Travis Ishikawa in the sixth, Lewis capitalized on his first start in a week by hitting his first homer since May 24.

Notes: Home plate umpire Bill Runge was hit in the mask by the barrel of Ishikawa's shattered bat in the sixth. After the Rangers turned an ensuing double play, the Rangers' medical staff briefly consulted with Runge before he continued the game. ... The Rangers' nine straight losses without a win at the Giants' waterfront ballpark are their most in any road park in club history. ... Texas' Omar Vizquel didn't play when he returned to San Francisco for the first time since spending the past four seasons with the Giants.

by the associated press

Clinton for racial equality

CINCINNATI (AP) — The push for racial equality is far from over, in sports and in everyday life, former President Bill Clinton told a crowd at Major League Baseball's Beacon Awards on Saturday, part of its Civil Rights Game.

Clinton, who as president took part in MLB's ceremony retiring Jackie Robinson's No. 42 uniform number in 1997, spoke at a luncheon honoring Hall of Famer Hank Aaron, Muhammad Ali and entertainer Bill Cosby for the trio's contributions to civil rights and charitable works.

The former president told a crowd of about 1,400 at the Duke Energy Convention Center that despite such racial progress as the election of Barack Obama as president, problems remain that disproportionately hit minorities. Clinton cited unemployment, the mortgage crisis, high cost of college, and access to health care among continuing issues.

"A lot of people might be tempted to believe that the struggle — which both produced these three giants of sports and comedy and gave them the power to help so many others — that struggle for racial equality is over," Clinton said.

"But I really came here to say if you want to honor Hank Aaron and Muhammad Ali and Bill Cosby, you must first recognize that this struggle is nowhere near over," he said.

The luncheon was among events leading to Saturday night's first regular-season Civil Rights Game, between the Chicago White Sox and Cincinnati Reds.

Ali, whose long battle with Parkinson's disease has limited his physical activity, remained seated as fellow former boxing champion Sugar Ray Leonard presented him his award. Ali looked it over as his wife, Lonnie, spoke on his behalf.

Cosby had the crowd roaring during his acceptance speech, and urged the audience to make sure new generations know what Ali, Aaron and others had to overcome to be successful, and that there is more to be overcome.

"This is not a time to rest," Cosby said.

Aaron, Ali and Cosby were driven onto the field on carts before the Reds played the Chicago White Sox in the Civil Rights Game, which was held in Memphis, Tenn., the last two years. This was the first time it was held in conjunction with a major league game.

Teams wore throwback jerseys from 1964, the year that the Civil Rights Act was passed outlawing racial segregation. Hall of Famer Frank Robinson, who became a star in Cincinnati before being traded to Baltimore after the 1965 season, threw a ceremonial first pitch to Reds Hall of Famer Tony Perez.

Ali wore a Reds jersey and raised his right hand slightly, acknowledging the crowd, as he was driven along the warning track for his grand entrance to Great American Ball Park. He was helped to a chair along the first base line to watch the pregame ceremonies, which included videoboard tributes to all three.

Aaron was particularly touched by the events. He told reporters before the game that Cincinnati has always been special to him.

"My connection with Cincinnati goes back a long, long ways," said Aaron, who tied Babe Ruth's previous home run record of 714 at now-demolished Riverfront Stadium in 1974. "This is a tremendous day for me, not only to get the Beacon Award but to be back in Cincinnati."

Baseball commissioner Bud Selig said Aaron was deeply touched by the award.

"I don't think I've ever seen him as emotional as he was today," Selig said.

Major League Baseball was pleased with the weekend, which took the Civil Rights Game onto a much bigger stage for the first time.

"We're very proud of this event," Selig said. "It's come a long, long way in a short period of time."

by the associated press

Mickelson hybrid

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. (AP) — Phil Mickelson gave his adoring fans a shot to remember Saturday in the U.S. Open — a remarkable hybrid that none of the Bethpage Black regulars would even think to try, let alone have the club to play it.

From 164 yards in rough left of the 15th fairway, he opened the face of the hybrid as if playing a wedge and launched a high shot — the crowd cheering as the ball took flight, trying to help it to the elevated green — that stopped 25 feet from the hole.

"This is a special club I actually made, taking the back part of the hybrid out so that I can open it way up and get through that thick rough," Mickelson said.

He was 1 under — seven strokes behind leader Ricky Barnes — after rounds of 69 and 70 and a nifty par save on the first hole in third round before rain stopped play.

Unsure he would even play the event after learning wife Amy has breast cancer, Lefty missed the birdie putt on 15, walking away with his second par on the 459-yard par 4 — the hole where Tiger Woods made a 6 Friday and bogeyed from the fairway Saturday.

"The way the left side kind of cuts in, it's just awkward to my eye," Mickelson said. "I have a tendency to miss it left there. The lie wasn't great. It was in the thick rough, but it wasn't horrible. Short, it's terrible there. And with those pins just on that top section, it's very difficult to get up and down.

"I thought I could get a 5-iron out of that rough up by the green. And I was concerned that it might come out a little dead and be short. I took the hybrid and dug in after it and was able to get it there. I actually was trying to play over the green and get it past, but it came out dead and turned out perfect."

Mickelson returned to the soggy course early Saturday to complete the final eight holes of his second round. He was even par in rain-free conditions, dropping a stroke on the par-5 13th for the second straight day and getting back to red numbers with his second birdie on the par-3 17th.

On No. 1 in the third round, he drove in the deep left rough, hacked out to the fairway, pitched 25 feet past the hole and made the par putt. He drove in the left rough No. 2 before hard rain washed out play for the rest of the day.

"I like the position I'm in," Mickelson said after the second round. "I think that if I can get hot with the putter, I like my chances in the next two rounds."

And there will be two more rounds, no matter the weather, however long it takes.

"It's nice knowing from a player's standpoint, because it allows you to play a certain way," said Mickelson, never worse than fourth in four previous U.S. Opens in New York. "I wasn't out there pressing today forcing birdies, thinking this might be 54 holes. Knowing that it's 72 is helpful."

While the rain has made the greens receptive, Mickelson figured the Bethpage layout has lost only a little of its bite.

"I wouldn't say it hasn't shown its teeth," Mickelson said. "This is a very difficult golf course. It's long. The rough is very difficult, and just a very few yards off the fairways in spots is literally lose your ball or unplayable lie. ... Ernie Els, one of the best players in the game, was 15 over. It's not easy."

That was evident on the 605-yard 13th, where Mickelson's drive embedded in grass on the bank of a bunker, forcing him to take a penalty stroke for an unplayable lie. He called for a ruling, but PGA Tour official Mark Dusbabek — called in by Mickelson for a second opinion — determined the ball didn't break the surface of the ground.

"I don't disagree with the ruling. I understand the rule," Mickelson said. "But I still wanted to get it double-checked."

He didn't need to check twice to know he got a break from the weather that plagued Woods and the other half of the draw.

"We had a great end of the draw," Mickelson said.

by the associated press