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Friday, April 18, 2008

Guinness World Records at the Flora London Marathon 2008

An exciting but exhausting day was had on Sunday by Guinness World Records’ very own 'Team Marathon'. The Flora London Marathon was enormous for us with over 30 record attempts among the 30,000+ runners. From clowns to superheroes, from stilt walkers to Maasai warriors, everyone was up for some marathon record breaking.

We began with an 8am start in Blackheath. The GWR team were there with all of our record attempters at the celebrity start. Some reasonably organised chaos ensued with all of us rushing getting everyone signed up and photographed. We met the team of Maasai warriors who were wedged into the celeb pen with Gordon Ramsay, James Cracknell etc.

Before you could shout 'Get ready, Set…' they were off - with our amazing stilt walking lady right at the back. All of our stars were packed into the field - including soldiers, policemen, a scarf knitting lady, one Darth Maul, one Bananaman, one Buzz Lightyear and a chain gang. There was even a young man dribbling a basketball around the whole of the marathon course. The whole scene was very inspirational.

To see them all come through at the end was incredible - whether a record was broken or not. We fully hope that we helped everyone who attempted or was awarded a Guinness World Record to receive as many donations as possible to all the wonderful causes that they were all making such a momentous effort for.

These were the Guinness World Records broken:

  • Fastest marathon as a film character: James McComish (Darth Maul) 3 hr 55 min 22 sec
  • Most linked runners to complete a marathon: Richard Kirk captained a team of 24 Metropolitan Police Officers
  • Fastest marathon by a linked team: Oliver Holland, James Kennedy, James Wrighton, Eoghan Murray and Nathan Jones: 3 hr 38 min 24 sec
  • Fastest marathon dressed as Santa: Ian Sharman: 3 hr 12 min 27 sec
  • Fastest marathon in a military uniform: 5 hr 11 min 42 sec
  • Fastest marathon on stilts: Michelle Frost: 8 hr 25 min
  • Fastest clown: Jason Westermoreland: 3 hr 24 min 04 sec
  • Fastest marathon dribbling a basketball: Jean-Yves Kanyamibwa: 4 hr 30 min 29 sec
  • Longest scarf knitted whilst running a marathon: Susie Hewer: 1 m 62 cm
  • Fastest marathon dressed as a superheroine: Christina Tomlinson: 3 hr 13 min 33 sec
  • Fastest marathon in a fireman’s uniform: Mark Rogers and Paul Bartlett: 5 hr 36 min 12 sec
  • Fastest group of Maasai Warriors to complete a marathon: 5 hr 24 min 47 sec

We would like to congratulate the new record breakers and welcome them to the family of Guinness World Records. See you at the next 2009 Flora London Marathon!

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Thomas Won’t Coach, but He Stays With Knicks

Barton Silverman/The New York Times

Isiah Thomas had a .341 winning percentage as the Knicks coach. More Photos »

The last vestiges of Isiah Thomas’s authority were stripped away Friday afternoon, freeing the Knicks to begin fixing the mess he left behind.

Donnie Walsh fired Thomas as coach, two weeks after supplanting him as team president. Thomas will remain with the team as a personal adviser to Walsh, but with no title and no authority.

“Following a lot of discussion and thought, I made the decision that Isiah will no longer coach the team,” Walsh said during a late-afternoon conference call. “I value Isiah and his knowledge of the game, and he will remain with the organization, reporting directly to me.”

Walsh said the search for Thomas’s successor would begin immediately, and he acknowledged for the first time that Mark Jackson, a former Knicks point guard, would be among the candidates. Walsh gave no timetable for naming a coach, but he has said he wants someone in place before the June 26 draft.

Thomas was unavailable for comment, and a team spokesman indicated that he would not be speaking publicly anytime soon.

Thomas’s new duties are unclear, although they will probably involve some scouting and informal advice on player personnel. His dismissal had been expected for weeks, ever since Walsh was named the team’s top basketball executive April 2.

The decision to retain Thomas in a lesser role was also expected. James L. Dolan, the Madison Square Garden chairman, gave Thomas a multiyear contract extension 13 months ago and remains fiercely loyal to him. Walsh and Thomas are also friendly; Walsh hired Thomas to coach the Indiana Pacers in 2000.

Dolan made no reference to firing Thomas on the day that he named Walsh as president. Similarly, Walsh avoided saying that Thomas had been fired when he made his announcement Friday. Walsh, who was promised full autonomy by Dolan, said the decision about Thomas was his alone.

Since the moment he arrived, Walsh said he would keep an open mind regarding Thomas. But the Knicks’ disastrous season, combined with overwhelming ill will toward Thomas from a disillusioned fan base, made his dismissal seem inevitable.

The Knicks went 56-108 in Thomas’s two seasons as coach. They had a losing record in all five seasons of his tenure as president, despite a payroll that ranked at the top of the league.

Walsh did not specifically critique Thomas’s moves as an executive or his skills as a coach. He said that he neither asked for, nor received, any assessment of Thomas from the players during their recent exit interviews.

“If you look at it, we’ve lost for four years, and Isiah’s been the coach the last two years,” Walsh said. “And I just think that a new voice, a new coach, is necessary to change the direction of the team.”

David Lee, who was taken by Thomas with the 30th pick of the 2005 draft and is the Knicks’ most promising prospect, expressed regret over Thomas’s dismissal.

“My overall opinion is that I’m sorry to see Isiah leave as coach, because of the opportunity he gave me over the past two seasons,” Lee said in an e-mail message. “I am excited that he will remain a Knick.”

Walsh’s attention now turns to hiring a replacement. He said he wanted “somebody that can lead men, that can teach the game of basketball” and who can help retool the Knicks into a contender.

Scott Skiles, who was fired earlier this season by the Chicago Bulls, is perhaps the strongest candidate, based on his experience and hard-driving style. Rick Carlisle, who worked for Walsh in Indiana, also has a strong résumé, but is not believed to be high on Walsh’s list. Walsh would not rule out Jeff Van Gundy, the former Knicks coach, although it seems doubtful that Dolan would want him back.

The process could take longer if Walsh waits on candidates from playoff teams. Tom Thibodeau, the assistant coach who is credited for the Boston Celtics’ defense, could be one. Other possible candidates include the Detroit assistant Terry Porter, who coached Milwaukee for two years; Dwane Casey, who was fired by the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2007; and Mario Elie, an assistant with the Dallas Mavericks, who previously worked for the San Antonio Spurs and the Golden State Warriors.

Despite the scale of the job, Walsh would not rule out hiring a rookie coach like Jackson, who is an analyst for ESPN and ABC.

“He’s one of the smartest guys that ever played for us at Indiana,” said Walsh, who acquired Jackson twice during the 1990s. “He’s always been a guy that I think could make a really fine head coach, and I certainly will interview him.”

Jackson quit his job as a Nets analyst this week, saying he wanted to spend more time with his wife and children in Los Angeles. He has never coached at any level. But neither had Thomas or Larry Bird when Walsh hired them to coach the Pacers.

“There are people that can overcome that,” Walsh said.

Herb Williams, a Knicks assistant for more than six seasons, will also be considered, Walsh said. Walsh will retain, at least for now, the Knicks’ current front-office staff, including Glen Grunwald, the senior vice president for basketball operations.

Thomas never wanted to coach the Knicks, but was ordered to take over the bench in June 2006 after the team fired Larry Brown. The Knicks showed modest progress in Thomas’s first season as coach before injuries intervened, and Dolan rewarded him with an extension. The Knicks entered this season with playoff aspirations but quickly came apart after Thomas feuded with Stephon Marbury and lost the faith of the locker room.

Now Thomas, after four and a half years as the face of the franchise, will retreat to a nebulous background role somewhere down the company flow chart.

“I can’t really tell you where he failed with the club,” Walsh said. “I feel like some of the bigger events that happened on the way with Isiah have overshadowed some of the good things he’s done for the franchise. I think he can help us with this franchise.”

Mike Nizza contributed reporting.

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Even Santa believes in Mantle’s 565-foot blast

Photo Ball hit by Mickey Mantle on April 17, 1953 at Griffith Stadium to set a new distance record for home runs.
(Courtesy the National Baseball Hall of Fame)

The longest home run ever hit did not go 565 feet. Not even close.

Actually, the longest home run ever hit isn’t even the longest home run ever hit.

“The truth hasn’t caught up to the original legend,” Bill Jenkinson says. He has been studying monster home runs for nearly three decades now, and he admits they’re a bit like Bigfoot or Nessie or any other great beast – untamable and apocryphal, fantasy getting one over on reality.

“Once a myth takes hold,” he says, “it very rarely is completely withdrawn.”

No home run carries the lore of the blast Mickey Mantle hit 55 years ago today, the one that still stands in the Guinness Book of World Records as the mightiest of all dating back to May 2, 1876, when Ross Barnes hit baseball’s first. Fact and fiction have blended Mantle’s shot off the Senators’ Chuck Stobbs and out of Washington’s Griffith Stadium into a grand tale, the kind that lasts more than half a century not because it’s true but because people want to believe it.

And who can blame them? The mammoth home run is the domain of gods, and Mantle, in his Yankee pinstripes, hitting from both sides with equanimity while nursing hangovers that would fell a man twice his size, was the kind in whom everyone believed. To think the Mick hit that ball 565 feet is to think that Santa Claus exists, and no one ever saw fault in that.

Photo
Mantle

Only 4,206 people could actually vouch for Mantle’s home run, the attendance sparse even with the four-time defending champions in town. It was the fifth inning. Wind gusted toward left field, where a huge sea of bleachers backed into a sign advertising National Bohemian beer.

In stepped Mantle against Stobbs, a middling left-hander. Mantle hadn’t felt right the first three games of the season, so he borrowed a 33-ounce bat from teammate Loren Babe. Of course his name was Babe.

Mantle connected on a belt-high fastball from Stobbs, and the ball kept soaring, a shooting star in the afternoon sky. It clanged off the Natty Boh sign, estimated about 460 feet from home plate, and disappeared. The ball had broken the confines of the stadium, and with it went any chance of truly knowing how far it traveled.

Still, Arthur “Red” Patterson, the Yankees’ enterprising public relations man, wanted to find out. So he returned with the ball – and a tall tale.

Patterson said he retrieved the ball from a 10-year-old boy named Donald Dunaway, who stood with it in the back yard of 434 Oakdale Lane. Patterson said he paid Dunaway $1 and sent him a pair of autographed balls in exchange for Mantle’s home run. Finding any record of a man named Donald Dunaway who would have been 10 years old in 1953 has proven elusive.

Until his death, Patterson never wavered on the Dunaway portion of the story. He did admit later in life that his claim of using a tape measure to record the distance between the ball’s landing spot where Dunaway found it and the edge of the stadium was dubious. Though the term tape-measure home run stuck, Patterson in reality walked the space himself, added the guess to 460 and, voilà, Mickey Mantle’s 565-foot home run was born.

Bat used by Mickey Mantle to hit a 565-foot home run at Griffith Stadium on April 17, 1953.
(Courtesy the National Baseball Hall of Fame)

Almost instantly, Mantle’s home run was famous. In the next day’s The New York Times, Louis Effrat wrote: “It is true that a strong wind might have helped Mantle, but if the A.A.U. will not recognize the homer, all of baseball will.” The Senators celebrated it by painting a baseball on the sign Mantle hit – at least until upper management removed it.

The more evidence surfaced to debunk it, the stronger the legend of 565 grew. Mantle himself said the home run he hit May 22, 1963, off Bill Fischer would have traveled farther had it not bounced off the right-field façade of Yankee Stadium. The work of physics professors, particularly Robert Adair, cast doubts on the ability of a ball to travel 500 feet, let alone 565.

“The ball could not have flown farther than 515 feet,” Jenkinson says, and even that, he believes, is a stretch. One physicist told him it went 498 feet. Jenkinson, whose book “Baseball’s Ultimate Power: The Kings of the Tape Measure” is set to come out next year, thinks it went 505 feet. A phenomenal home run, yes, one only a handful of players could hit. Not the best, though.

That, Jenkinson says, belongs to Babe Ruth. On June 8, 1926, at Navin Field in Detroit, Ruth hit a shot that traveled out of the stadium and, Jenkinson says, landed an estimated 575 feet away. The arc of Ruth’s swing, plus the speed he generated with a 44-ounce bat, gave him the extra 70 feet or so over Mantle’s.

Or another 121 feet, if you believe a different version of the story that says the ball jumped off the roofs of a few cars before landing. Turns out Mantle isn’t the only player whose home runs will cause a storyteller’s nose to grow, though his are the greatest culprits. Mantle hit so many prodigious drives that on one top 10 list, the 565-footer ranks sixth, and the Fischer home run is estimated at a truly impossible 734 feet.

Such nonsense bothers Jenkinson, because big home runs are his passion, and he figures the public is owed the truth. He’s right, of course, but he misses a point: There’s a piece of everyone that wants to think Mantle did hit his great home run 565 feet – that anyone could swing at a pitch and send it that far. The limits of credibility are only as big as we make them, and the inclination is to stretch them as far as the imagination allows.

“I buy into that,” Jenkinson says. “I was born in ‘47. All through the ’50s, this guy was like a golden child to me. I went on vacation with my family in August 1960, and by coincident, my great aunt, who I’d never met, lived in Oklahoma.

“I got there, and I remember seeing Mickey Mantle’s picture on her refrigerator and saying something. She said, ‘Well, do you want to meet his in-laws?’ It turns out (Mantle’s wife) Merlyn grew up next door. I was 13. Just the idea I was next door to a place where Mickey Mantle spent a lot of time gave me goosebumps.”

Mantle died almost 13 years ago. He was 63. He didn’t live to see the technological revolution that today allows the measurement of home runs to the tenth of a foot. Using everything from the temperature to the wind to the time the ball spent in the air to where it landed, Greg Rybarczyk created HitTracker, which charts every home run hit.

While the data is compelling, it’s also distressing. Part of the tape-measure home run’s beauty is the curiosity in how far it really went. Teams announce distances based off some chart, and it’s always just another guess, and you know, that’s all right. The longest home run ever hit did not go 565 feet. Maybe it went 505. Or 605. Or even longer.

Sometimes it’s OK to still believe in Santa Claus.

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Tejada two years older than Astros thought

Miguel Tejada is really 33, not 31 as he is listed on baseball records.
Melissa Phillip: Chronicle

photos
Shortstop, actually 33, lied about age when he signed in 1993

PHILADELPHIA – Miguel Tejada's life has been chronicled closely for over a decade in the United States and his native Dominican Republic, where he's referred to as the "nation's ballplayer."

Yet on Thursday morning was the first time the former American League Most Valuable Player and four-time All-Star acknowledged his real age to the world. The Astros' new shortstop is actually 33, two years older than he's listed in the club's media guide and other baseball records.

"I'm a poor kid that wanted to be a professional big leaguer," he explained as he discussed his reasoning for claiming he was 17 instead of 19 to sign with the Oakland A's in 1993. "I was thinking that was the only way that I could help my family. By the time we did it, it wasn't because we wanted to do anything wrong to be a professional. "The scout just did it just because at that time I was two years older than I (told the A's). And to play in the Dominican Summer League you got to be like 17. That's why he changed the year. Because the only change is the year."

Tejada and the Astros revealed the news after ESPN surprised him at Citizens Bank Park with a copy of his birth certificate, which the network obtained in the Dominican.

The revelation was surprising considering how much attention Tejada has garnered since he reached the majors in 1997 with the A's. A book, Away Games, was written about his journey out of poverty in his native, Bani, Dominican Republic. The scrutiny on him picked up when he was mentioned in the Mitchell Report on Dec. 13, a day after the Astros acquired him.

By January, the FBI had taken the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee's recommendation and started an investigation into whether he lied to federal investigators in 2005. Throughout the subsequent scrutiny, a significant part of his life had not been revealed.

After the Astros' 10-2 loss, Tejada said his decision to announce his age had nothing to do with the ongoing federal investigation. Moreover, he said he hasn't been contacted by the FBI since it opened the investigation.

"The reason I said it now is that I'm coming to a new team and they wanted all my information," said Tejada, who was acquired from the Baltimore Orioles on Dec. 12 in exchange for five players. "They wanted all my information. That's why I don't want to lie to them. I tell them the truth."

Now, Tejada doesn't have to worry about hiding his age. He was born on May 25, 1974, not May 25, 1976, as the Astros' media guide lists.

"In the course of a media interview, it was brought to our attention that the date that we carry for Tejada's year of birth is incorrect," Astros general manager Ed Wade said. "His green card, his driver's license, everything that he uses personally shows '74 as his date of birth, (but) the media guide and that type of information shows '76.

"So we got together with Miguel yesterday and told him that we're going to go ahead and make the appropriate changes in the information we put forward, and he was fine with that."

Tejada said he was pleased to unburden himself.

"I'm feeling free now," he said. "It's something that I had in my mind."

Tejada was signed out of the Dominican Republic by Hall of Famer Juan Marichal, but he made it clear that Marichal had no part in the deception. Shortly after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the U.S. government increased its scrutiny on players seeking visas or passports to enter the U.S. "It's nothing that I do to hurt nobody to do nothing wrong," Tejada said. "At that time, I just wanted to be signed by baseball to be baseball a player, you know."

Because of the heightened security, several players were found to have altered their birth certificates or even used a relative or friend's birth certificate to appear younger for teams.

"Baseball's done a very good job over the last, probably, 10 years of verifying the ages of first-year players coming out of Latin America," Wade said. "It's not an easy process both from the standpoint of dates of birth and names.

"Sometimes mothers' maiden names get used on birth certificates. But you had a span of a couple of years there, where there were a number of adjustments made to players' birth dates."

Tejada says his green card and driver's license reflect his actual age, and that may be a reason his fabrication wasn't discovered when other players were exposed.

"The thing is I didn't want Houston to find out from somebody else," he said. "I wanted them to find out just from my face. I'm a man and I'm responsible for everything. That's why I prefer to come to them and say, 'You know what? That's the way it is and we're moving forward.'

"I was feeling like I had something to say in the last three days. That's why I waited for today to do it."

Wade didn't seem too concerned about the age discrepancy.

"Fact of the matter is that he plays like he's 25, so I don't think it really matters a whole lot," Wade said.

Indeed, Tejada says he's rejuvenated since landing with the Astros. "Right now I feel like I'm 25 years old, maybe younger," he said. "Because I think right now I feel my legs (are) stronger than they're used to be feeling. There's a lot of talk about me that I can't play shortstop no more. Everybody can see how I've responded. That's why I feel great. "I have a lot of energy. I think it's all because I'm on a team that really wants me, a team that really wants to win."

jesus.ortiz@chron.com

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Bowling Trick 2


Top 10 Dumbest Sports Trends

Kobe Bryant

As we come to the end of the Greatest NBA Regular Season Ever™, I think we all have to admit that we're a little disappointed with the wind-down. All the playoff berths were decided before the season's final day, and, though the standings ended very close, there wasn't a seven-way tie for first place in the Western Conference, the winner determined by some obscure tiebreaker like second-half free-throw percentage. Those of you seeking some sort of transcendent season-end thrill need not worry, though. I've been informed repeatedly, by dozens of near-literate people, that this was all just the first act for the most thrilling race of all. No, not the NBA Playoffs. The MVP race.

All season long, this "race" for MVP has dominated the basketball conversation. LeBron James, whose ticket is punched for the next decade of MVP speculation, was, of course, part of it. Kobe Bryant, some argued, deserved consideration for finally recognizing that basketball is a team game. The Celtics would have been nothing without Kevin Garnett, and who could really dispute the contention that Chris Paul has overtaken Steve Nash as the game's best point guard?

Within the last week, this glorified bar argument has gone from an inevitable, annoying story line to the only story anyone deigns to write about. Mark Kriegel of Fox Sports thinks Paul is the MVP because a 50-plus win team in New Orleans is "not supposed to happen." Important outlets like the Canadian Press, which favors LeBron James because no one is more important to his team than LeBron James, have also made their opinions known. Even Henry Abbott, ESPN.com's generally excellent basketball blogger, caught a virulent strain of the disease. Abbott called last weekend's Hornets-Lakers game "The World's Most Unlikely MVP Showdown." "Chris Paul is the insurgent," he wrote. "The new kid. The future that may or may not be here yet. And Kobe Bryant? He's the people's champ. …"

Never mind the fact that I am, technically, a person, and Kobe Bryant will never be my champ of anything. Please consider that last Saturday's Hornets-Lakers game was for the top seed in the West. This was an important game, played in real life, on a basketball court. Does anyone else think it's strange that so few cared to opine on how that game, won by the Lakers 107-104, might influence or help predict what happens in the playoffs? Meanwhile, 8,000 sportswriters, bloggers, and talking heads chimed in on the huge consequences MVP-wise. In the next day's Los Angeles Times: "Competition appears to lean toward Bryant, who hasn't been MVP yet, although Paul makes his case too in a game of wild swings."

Perhaps this is too obvious to say, but what the hell: The MVP race isn't real. Stephen A. Smith may think that if Kevin Garnett pulls a triple-double against the Sixers, it will suddenly become clear that he's more valuable than Chris Paul, but I can pretty much guarantee that K.G. isn't thinking the same thing. Bill Simmons, in his typically entertaining spastic-puppy hyper-referential novella-length style, recently ranked the four greatest MVP races ever. I wonder whether Bob Pettit, Bill Russell, Oscar Robertson, Elgin Baylor, and Wilt Chamberlain knew that they were in an MVP race in 1961. Somehow, I think that the three guys who covered the NBA back then may have been concentrating on reporting on the actual games, or race-baiting, or both.

Tim O'Sullivan of the Concord Monitor may have unwittingly summed up the situation's gross absurdity in his April 13 column. "Presenting the winner with his trophy isn't the pinnacle of the MVP matter," O'Sullivan wrote. "We're living the pinnacle right now. It's all about the race, just like it is for any MVP in any sport. And the current race is, well, MVP-worthy." I shouldn't really fault a guy for enjoying his job and all, but is deciding whether Kobe is more MVP-worthy than LeBron really "living the pinnacle"? Well, maybe if you can't get a press pass to the NBA Finals.

If stupid arguments were outlawed, then nobody would ever talk about sports, and we don't want that to happen because then we'd have to think about our actual problems. Still, this MVP race talk is far more annoying than the typical pointless sports discussion. For one thing, few fans actually care. Sure, people chant "MVP" whenever a worthy candidate plays an outstanding game, but that's only because "we think you're a great player who wears our favorite uniform" doesn't have the same lilt. We all remember the great playoff games, and most of us can recite the last 30 years of NBA champions from memory with reasonable accuracy. I know that Michael Jordan won six titles with the Bulls, but I'd have to look up how many MVP trophies he won. Three? Four? Five? Two, God forbid?

Sportswriters and pundits, on the other hand, are treating the MVP race with the gravitas of a presidential election. That's because they make up the Electoral College. When they're debating who's going to win the award, they're not really talking about who they think the best player is; they're talking about whom they should pick as the best player. It's the ultimate circle-jerk of sports-guy self-regard. Sportswriters can't affect the outcome of the games—only David Stern can do that—but the MVP race is theirs to decide, and it's the most thrilling part of their season. "In the 23 years I've been an MVP voter," writes Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News, "there never has been a more difficult choice than that faced by this year's selection panel." Fascinating, but I'd prefer to read about a basketball game.

All of this blather would probably be less irksome if it were confined to the end of the season. But NBA.com, among many, many others, has been updating the "Race to the MVP" every week, all season long. (Your Week 1 "leader": Tracy McGrady.) ESPN.com spent all season ranking the NBA's Top 50 rookies, about 10 of whom have ever seen significant playing time. It's not just pro basketball that's become the Golden Globes with cheerleaders and T-shirt cannons. This is the year that our national obsession with pointless sports rankings reached its absurd zenith. On television, Fox ranks the "50 Best Damn Sports Blowups" and ESPN has sunk so far as to rank the "greatest highlight." The Web is loaded down with Heisman watch lists, draft rankings, and power polls. If you look around, you can find the "Ten Phoniest Baseball Injuries," America's "Top Sports Cities," "Most Desperate Sports Cities," and "Most Fan-Friendly Franchises." The day the 2008 NFL schedule came out, ESPN.com listed the "top 40 games," including the Sept. 21 Texans-Titans match-up. "Matt Schaub, Albert Haynesworth square off," was the reasoning.

The "power rankings" phenomenon isn't new, but the Web has put it into hyperdrive. The Internet demands frequently updated content, and lists and rankings are incredibly easy to put together and require no original thought. There's no need to come up with a new idea every week: Just shuffle a few teams or players around, write a one-sentence caption, and you're ready to publish. Maybe people really care about this stuff, and sports sites are simply fulfilling our desire to assign rankings to "Baseball's Top 20 Young Pitchers." I'd prefer to think we're getting our sports fix from these columns because nobody bothers to writes about anything else.

This is all but a symptom of our rank-happy world. We're determined to manufacture competitions between things even if they don't exist. 21 "beat" Leatherheads at the box office to become the "No. 1 movie," and then they both "lost" to a remake of Prom Night. Meanwhile, the richest of the rich NBA stars, who smoke cigars rolled with our hard-earned money in fraternal ignorance of our opinions, "compete" for the NBA trophy. It's a shameful waste in which we're all complicit. Besides, everyone knows that Amare Stoudemire has got next year's MVP trophy in the bag.

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How Hang Gliding Works

Imagine soaring like a hawk thousands of feet above the ground. Although the air is somewhat chilly, the view is tremendous and the solitude is relaxing. You search for updrafts of air to keep you aloft so that you can enjoy this feeling for hours. This is the experience of hang gliding.

Hang glider Ramy Yanetz over Rio de Janiero
Photo courtesy Ramy Yanetz
Hang glider Ramy Yanetz over Rio de Janiero.
See more hang gliding pictures.

The hang glider's wing, called a delta wing or Rogallo wing, is an outgrowth of NASA engineer Francis Rogallo's research on kites and parachutes in the 1960s. Rogallo had proposed the wing as a method of returning spacecraft to Earth. The delta-wing parachute was lightweight, durable and highly maneuverable. Later, John Dickenson, Bill Moyes, Bill Bennett and Richard Miller developed the Rogallo wing into the modern hang glider and launched an immensely popular sport shared by millions of people worldwide.

The hang glider is actually a triangle-shaped airfoil, a modified parachute (known as a flexible wing) made of nylon or Dacron fabric. The triangular shape is maintained by rigid aluminum tubes and cables and is designed to allow air to flow over the surface to make the wing rise. Newer, high-performance hang-glider designs use a rigid wing with stiff aluminum struts inside the fabric to give it shape, eliminating the need for supporting cables.
Hang gliding is often confused with paragliding, though the two sports are quite different from one another. Check out the paragliding article, video and images at Discovery’s Fearless Planet to learn more.

In this article, we will examine the sport of hang gliding. We'll show you the details of the aircraft, the equipment involved, how to fly it and how to become a certified hang glider.

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Surfer wins big wave contest


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Shane Dorian has taken the top prize after riding a huge wave at the annual Global Big Wave awards in California.

McAllister's deal proves there's no loyalty in NFL

The next time you get sick of some player – Cowboys linebacker Greg Ellis comes to mind – grousing about his contract, think about New Orleans running back Deuce McAllister.

The Saints all-time leading rusher, who accepted Reggie Bush and splitting his role without complaint, blew out his knee for the second time in three years last season while trying to help the Saints win a game.

His reward: The Saints restructured his contract.

The $1 million bonus he was supposed to receive has been converted to incentives. If he fully recovers, he'll get the money that his contract originally said he was supposed to receive. If there are complications, then he won't.

That's why a player should do whatever they must do to get paid. Hold out? Fine. Force a trade? That's OK, too.

There is no loyalty in the NFL. A contract means nothing in the NFL. It's a year-to-year deal. That's how management treats it, and that's how players should, too.

By the way, have you heard the moral outrage over McAllister's contract? Of course not. People seem to always hold employees to a higher standard than companies.

Q: What are your thoughts on Dallas drafting Jamaal Charles. If the Cowboys are not that interested in him, then who do you think might pick him up and when?

Michael Burns, Texas

TAYLOR: Personally, I'm not a Charles fan. To me, he's a track guy who plays football, and I'm always afraid of having track guys on my team. Plus, he was a good back at Texas, but he wasn't a real difference-maker until the last four or five games of last season when he put together a terrific string of 200-yard performances. That said, I don't think Dallas would take him in the first round, but I could see them grabbing him in the second round if he was still there. I don't know where he's going, but I would figure someone will take him in the first two rounds because he has such good speed, despite his fumbling issues.

•••

Q: Jerry's still talking about a mega trade. I thought a little about how far up they've have to go to get Rashard Mendenhall. What about trading the 22nd and 28th pick for WR Roy Williams and Detroit's 15th pick, then they could take Mendenhall AND get Roy Williams! I'd do that deal every time!

Don Weeks

TAYLOR: Don, I know you'd do that deal. So would every other Cowboys fan. Now, tell me why the Lions would do it. Frankly, they wouldn't. Don't feel bad, though. Mendenhall will be gone before No.15 anyway.

•••

Q: I keep reading unflattering stories about the cornerback Aqib Talib. He sounds like another Pacman Jones waiting to happen. What do you think?

Shelby Mast

TAYLOR: I haven't read anything that makes me think Talib is going to be Pacman. Certainly, he has a high opinion of himself, and there have been reports that he tested positive for marijuana at Kansas. But none of that compares to the things Pacman has done. It's not like he has been arrested numerous times. Obviously, you have to do your homework on him and then make a decision. He's a high-risk player. He's going to be a star or a scrub.

•••

Q: What will Anthony Henry's cap hit be if he were to be let go? He's still a good corner, but he's been injured a lot lately and is getting up there in age. Next year, both receivers and corners will be over 30 if we continue the way it is now. Just a thought.

TAYLOR: I believe it would be $2 million this year and $2 million next year, but that really doesn't matter. Why would you get rid of Henry? Who would play corner? A first- or second-round pick? Pacman Jones? What happens if one of both of those guys gets hurt? There's no reason to get rid of Henry. He's been a good, solid player for the Cowboys.

•••

Q: When the Cowboys made the trade last year with Cleveland, I thought the pick we would get this year would be close to the top of the draft. Do you think there is a chance of taking one of the first-round picks and making a trade with a weaker team for a pick in a lower round this year plus a first next year and maybe getting lucky with a top pick. Plus, if the cap situation is tight, that would keep from paying two first-round picks now.

Steve Neece, Bartlesville, Okla.

TAYLOR: You make a trade, if it's best for your team – not based on what will happen next year. We've already seen with the Buffalo and Cleveland trades of the last few years that you can never predict from year-to-year how a team is going to fare, so you're always taking a chance. I wouldn't be surprised to see Dallas trade one of its first-round picks, if it can't get the player it wants.

•••

Q: Add me to those clamoring for a change in the rookie salary structure. What do you think?

Ted Bush, Hanover, NH.

TAYLOR: I think it would be great. I like the way the NBA does it. The first-round picks are each handsomely compensated and if they become stars, then they are paid like kings. That way, the best players receive the most money, which is how it should be done.

•••

Q: With regard to last year's early-season problems with Wade Wilson, did Jerry Jones ever lose confidence in his abilities as a quarterback coach? Has this issue been closed or is he under the scope this year by either the Cowboys or the NFL? Finally, do you think Tony Romo's confidence in him has been compromised at all?

John Keys, Corpus Christi

TAYLOR: I don't think Jerry ever lost faith in Wade because his issue was about quality of life – not his job performance. Based on Romo's performance, you'd have to say Wilson did a pretty good job last year. Jason Garrett gets a lot of credit, as he should, but Wilson should also get some credit.

•••

Q: What the story with Larry Allen, is he done? If so, do you think he will sign one of those one-day deals and retire a Cowboy?

TAYLOR: I don't know that Allen's future has been determined yet. Larry is a very private person, so I don't know that he would want the pomp and circumstance that would accompany signing a one-day deal with the Cowboys. My suspicion is it won't happen, though he will get put in the Ring of Honor, as he should, one day before he gets into the Hall of Fame.

•••

Q: Do you think that Terry Glenn is actually through playing or do you think he could actually come back and contribute to an already potent offense? Do you think the Cowboys need to draft a receiver?

Kelvin Payne

TAYLOR: I would love to see Terry Glenn come back and be a contributor to this team because he's a terrific player who's never really gotten his due over the years. But he's a speed player trying to overcome a serious knee injury. I don't know that he can do it, but I wish him luck.

•••

Q: I also hope Tampa Bay releases Chris Simms. He would be a great backup to Romo. What do you think?

Ruben Rodriguez

TAYLOR: I wouldn't be opposed to that. I still think Brad Johnson would be better as a No. 3 quarterback instead of a No. 2. It makes me nervous to think he's one injury away from starting four or five games because he never looked good or comfortable in the preseason. Plus, he has a suspect arm. He's intelligent and doesn't make a lot of mistakes, but I'd rather have a young guy like Simms as my backup.

•••

Q: How about Dallas drafting an interior defensive lineman? You can't forget what a dominant pass rush can do to help a team win a Super Bowl.

Richard K. Garner, Sacramento

TAYLOR: I don't think Dallas will be looking for a nose guard with Tank Johnson and Jay Ratliff currently at the position. In the 3-4, the pass-rushers come from the outside linebacker positions. When Dallas does use a four-man line, it can move Jason Hatcher and Greg Ellis inside, if it chooses, to boost the pass rush and use Anthony Spencer at outside linebacker.

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The Business Of Baseball

The key numbers show that the national pastime is more popular than ever. In 2007, baseball broke its attendance record for the fourth consecutive season when 79.5 million fans hit the turnstiles. A big plus: Interleague games, where teams in the American and National leagues square off against each other, averaged 34,900 fans per game, 15% more than intraleague contests.

The New York Yankees led the majors in attendance for a fifth straight year with a record 4.3 million. But the Chicago Cubs, Detroit Tigers, Houston Astros, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies, San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals each drew at least 3 million fans. Turns out all the media hype about how fans were stressing over steroids ruining baseball was pure fiction.

Upshot: Team owners are getting rich like never before. During 2007, revenue for MLB's 30 teams went up 7.7%, to $5.5 billion. The average team is now worth $472 million, 9.5% higher than last year and 143% more than when Forbes first calculated team values in 1998. Again the Bronx Bombers sit atop baseball with a value of $1.3 billion. George Steinbrenner, who paid $10 million for the team in 1973, could probably teach Warren Buffett a thing or two about investing.

Consider this: The Yankee brand (the portion of the team's value attributable to its name) alone is worth $241 million, almost as much as the entire Florida Marlins franchise. When the Yankees move into their new stadium in 2009 the team will be worth at least $1.5 billion because of the rich bounty of sponsorship and premium seating revenue.

The Mets, currently ranked second with a value of $824 million, will also get a new stadium that should push their value close to $1 billion before long. Citigroup (nyse: C - news - people ), beleaguered by the housing market meltdown, is still planning to pay the Amazins $400 million over 20 years for the stadium's naming rights.

By The Numbers: How Much Is Your Favorite Baseball Team Worth?

By The Numbers: Best Pitchers For The Buck

In Pictures: MLB Stadium Guide

When it comes to players, owners are becoming more tight-fisted. During the past five seasons, player costs (salaries, bonuses and benefits) have fallen to 56% of revenue from 66%. As a result, operating income (in the sense of earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) averaged over $16 million per team for the second straight year.

Five years ago, 16 teams lost money. In 2007 only three teams--Blue Jays ($1.8 million), Red Sox ($19.1 million), Yankees ($47.3 million)--posted an operating loss. But even those losses are misleading. For the owners of the Yankees and Red Sox, the huge dividends they get from their unconsolidated cable networks more than make up for the teams' losses. Meanwhile Rogers Communications (nyse: RCI - news - people ), which owns the Blue Jays, their stadium and the cable channel that televises its games, derives huge benefits from owning the Blue Jays not reflected on its team's P&L statement.

On the field, the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies were the Cinderella stories last season. But the blueprint for how to operate a franchise in a small market is the Cleveland Indians, who have shown that a team can win on and off the field if they invest wisely in player development and have good chemistry on the diamond. In 2006, the Indians won only 78 games. Last season, not only did the Tribe eliminate the Yankees in the playoffs but they generated $29 million in operating income, third-most in the American League.

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Yankees Bury Bernie Williams Under New Stadium For Good Luck

NEW YORK—Citing a need for physical and spiritual cleansing after a Boston Red Sox fan entombed a David Ortiz jersey in the floor of the new facility, the New York Yankees buried former centerfielder Bernie Williams under 4,650 pounds of concrete Wednesday in the foundation of the new Yankee Stadium for good luck.

According to team sources, the instant the 39-year-old Williams was completely submerged in the rapidly setting structural material, stopping his voice as his lungs and mouth filled with concrete, the sun broke through the clouds and shone on the yet-incomplete field. Yankees part-owner Hank Steinbrenner called the occurrence a sign indicating that the "Curse Of A Red Sox Fan's David Ortiz Jersey" had been reversed, and that God was once again on the Yankees' side.

Enlarge Image Yankees

"Any attempt to put a hex on the New York Yankees has been successfully averted," Steinbrenner told reporters while standing over the still-wet concrete slab beneath which, judging by the sluggish ripples and lopsided bubbles in the hardening agglomerate, Williams still struggled. "Not that this organization believes in curses. We're the Yankees. We believe the success of our team is based purely on our players and their on-field performance. And we act accordingly."

"However," Steinbrenner continued, "Bernie was on our last World Series team in 2000, so we figured burying him under our new home certainly couldn't hurt. Also, he was available, and his appearance fee was quite reasonable."

The burial ceremony, which delayed the completion of the stadium approximately three weeks and cost roughly $1.5 million—$1,000 of which will go to Bernie Williams' family—involved placing Williams into a six-foot-deep concrete hole directly where the tattered Red Sox jersey was found.

Dressed in his full Yankees uniform and batting helmet, and clutching an autographed ball signed by all members of Yankees' 1996 World Series team, Williams was lowered into the ground and then covered with a combination of concrete, fly ash, slag cement, and coarse aggregate consisting mostly of gravel limestone.

Though Yankees officials did not allow Williams' family to attend the burial, citing the fact they were not "true Yankees," they permitted the former centerfielder to take with him a picture of his wife and three children after Williams provided video evidence proving that all of his family members were present and cheered during the Yankees' championship run between 1996 and 2000.

"Now, we're not necessarily hoping that having him in the foundation will mean our outfielders will start throwing like Bernie, our hitters will begin hitting like him, or our faster baserunners will start running like him," Yankees first-year coach Joe Girardi said. "Most of our guys are already better than he was. We just know—and this is what I told Bernie's family—that the good deed of letting a former Yankee permanently come home will be recognized by the baseball gods and will translate into Yankee victories, which will be good for the entire human race."

Williams, who was smiling from the moment he arrived at the new stadium until his face could no longer be seen, was grateful for the opportunity.

"I would do anything to help this ballclub win another World Series," Williams shouted up to reporters while standing in rapidly filling pit. "Just to be part of this organization again in some capacity is an honor and privilege. And even though I haven't received a thank you from the Steinbrenner family, I know they are appreciative."

"This is what it means to be a lifelong Yankgluh [sic]," Williams attempted to add.

According to Yankees president Randy Levine, the organization had been discussing various ways to exorcize the curse of the buried Red Sox jersey, under which the Yankees went an "unacceptable" 4-4. Levine said that it was Hal Steinbrenner who suggested submerging a former or current player in concrete as a good luck charm.

Interoffice e-mails confirm that players who made the short list were Yogi Berra, Paul O'Neill, and current Yankee outfielder Shelley Duncan.

"Truth be told, we didn't even think of Bernie," Levine said. "But then we got a call from his agent. It took a bit of convincing on their part, but in the end it seemed like this fulfilled both of our needs."

"By giving Bernie this chance, we have once again proven why we are the classiest organization in all of sports," Levine added. "Lesser teams would have overreacted to this whole curse thing and buried Derek Jeter."

When asked if burial in the new stadium guaranteed that Williams' No. 51 would be retired in the new Monument Park, both Steinbrenners had no comment, saying only that they appreciated Mr. Williams' commitment to the team.

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How To Snag a Souvenir Baseball

Photo by luca.nassini
Baseball season is once more upon us. Millions of Americans will be heading to stadiums across the country to root for their team. At the game you’ll find hundreds of souvenir options: pennants, programs, jerseys, and the like. These will all cost you an arm and a leg, and they’re not even that great.

The best souvenir to bring home is a baseball you caught. It doesn’t cost you anything extra and it was actually used for play. It comes with real memories attached. But a ball isn’t going to simply fall into your lap; catching one takes a bit of finesse. Here’s how you can walk away from a ballpark with a souvenir baseball:

Equipment

Make sure to bring your glove to the game. Sure, you may look like a dork, but when a foul ball is coming at you at over 100 MPH, you’re going to wish you had it. Moreover, most foul balls have a wicked spin coming off the bat. Catching a ball with such a spin with your bare hand is pretty much impossible. So, bring your glove.

Don’t be an uber dork and bring a fish net. That’s just cheating.

How to snag a ball before the game

Go to batting practice. This is your best chance to snag a baseball. The ideal place to stand is in an aisle near the field, about three quarters of the way from third base to the foul pole. Most players are right handed and will be pulling the ball during batting practice. By placing yourself in this spot, you up your chances of catching a ball.

Just ask the players for a ball. While batting practice is going on, there are other players out fielding the balls. Oftentimes, if a ball goes near the stands, they will just toss the ball to the fans. If you get near a player who has a ball in his hand, politely ask him for it. He’ll probably just give it to you.

How to snag a ball during the game

Do you want a foul ball or a home run? Snagging a ball during the game is much more difficult and takes more planning and strategy than trying to snag one during batting practice. Yet pulling it off is far more satisfying. The first decision you need to make is: what kind of ball do you want? Are you happy just settling for a foul ball or do you want to catch a home run? The answer to this question will determine where you should purchase your seats. If you can walk away with any ball, it’s been a good day. But home run balls carry with them greater sentimental (and possibly economic) value.

If you’re happy with just a foul ball, you’ll want to sit somewhere near the alley between third base and the foul pole or first base and the foul pole. It’s easier to grab a foul there.

And if you want a homer? Well, that pretty self-explanatory. Sit in the outfield bleachers.

Do your research. You’ll want to do some research before the game about the opposing team’s pitcher. If it’s a lefty, the batting lineup will be loaded with righties. In that case, sit near the first base line. It’s harder for batters to pull during a game, and they are more likely to swing early, and thus foul in that direction. If the pitcher is a righty, sit near the third base line.

Also do some research on the stadium. Are the walls very high along the base lines? If they aren’t, try to get as near to the wall as you can. It’s easy to reach over and field ground foul balls. If the walls are high, your chances might better if you go a little further back to catch a pop up foul.

A great resource to research stadiums for optimum foul ball catching is Snagging Baseballs. Zack Hample has caught over 3,000 game balls at every major league stadium. In his blog, he discusses each trip to a stadium and chronicles how he snagged a foul ball there. Check it out before you make your ticket purchase.

If you’re interested in catching a home run, an excellent resource to check out is HitTracker. It tracks how far each home run went for each player and where it went in a stadium. Most players consistently hit homeruns in the same area. Looking at these statistics can give you an idea of where to sit in the outfield so you can walk away with a home run ball.

Catch it. Put your glove on and get ready to catch your ball. If you’re near the baseline wall, you can always try picking up a grounded foul ball. If you’re behind home plate, you’ll definitely want to use a glove. The spin on foul balls that go behind home plate can be quite wicked. Only a glove will do.

Fan Interference

Don’t get in the way of the players. If you’re going for a ball make sure it’s clearly out of play before you go for it. This can be difficult to tell, especially if you’re near a wall where it’s easy for you to take the ball out of play. Not sure? Spectator interference is defined as anytime a spectator “reaches out of the stands, or goes on the playing field, and touches a live ball.”

Here’s the official MLB rule for fan interference:

3.16
When there is spectator interference with any thrown or batted ball, the ball shall be dead at the moment of interference and the umpire shall impose such penalties as in his opinion will nullify the act of interference.
APPROVED RULING: If spectator interference clearly prevents a fielder from catching a fly ball, the umpire shall declare the batter out.

So, if the ump decides that you clearly got in the way of a fielder catching the ball, the batter is out. However, any ball on the spectators’ side of the wall is fair game for you. The player reaches over the wall at his own risk.

With ground balls that roll near the wall, make sure it’s a foul before you reach over and grab it.

Avoid fan interference at all costs or you risk becoming the most hated person in a stadium full of thousands of people. The most notorious example of fan interference is that of 12 year old Jeffery Maier during the 1996 American League Conference Series between the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles.

During the 8th inning, Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter hit a fly to the right field wall. Oriole right fielder Tony Tarasco backtracked and positioned himself to catch the ball just short of the wall. 12-year-old Jeffery Maier, a spectator seated in the bleachers, reached out to catch the ball, and deflected it away from Tarasco and over the fence. Umpire Rich Garcia ruled the play a home run, which resulted in the Yankees tying the game. The Yanks went on to win the game and the series. Jeffery Maier went on to be the most hated 12 year old in Baltimore. Don’t do what he did.

Ethical and legal ramifications of ball catching

Give the kids a chance. Don’t be a douchebag and prevent a little kid from catching a ball. I’ve seen this happen at several ball games. It’s quite unseemly and everyone will hate you. Don’t be that guy.

Don’t resort to violence. When you go after a ball, it’s natural for you to get banged up. Especially if there is a scuffle for a prized home run ball. However, in your effort to snag a ball, don’t resort to violence to get it. Don’t punch, bite, scratch, or intentionally push somebody to get a ball. First, you’re tool if you do. Second, it’s just a damn ball. No need to bloody someone else up for it.

Who owns the ball? Surprisingly, your snagging of a ball could carry some legal ramifications. As many of you know, I’m a law student. One of the most interesting cases I’ve read during my law school career was Popov v. Hayashi: the Barry Bonds 73rd home run ball case.

Basically what happened was that two guys claimed they caught Bonds’ 73rd homer. They took it court and a judge decided they both had valid claims for legal ownership. So the judge ordered them to sell it and split the proceeds. Here’s a link to the court opinion. It’s a fun read and you’ll pick up some basic property law principles to boot.

Also, if you get a chance, watch the documentary about the case called Up For Grabs. It’s hilarious. You’ll be amazed by the greed of the two men fighting over a ball. Popov is a complete character: a total media whore. He ended up racking up over $473,000 in attorney fees. The ball only sold for $450,000, of which Popov got $225,000. That means this guy was in the hole a quarter of a million dollars.

Lesson learned: don’t go to court for a dumb ball.

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Man loses balance, falls to his death after game at Shea

NEW YORK (CNN) -- The daughter of a man who died after falling four stories at Shea Stadium said her father was not sliding down the escalator when the accident happened, as police reported.

A statement from the New York Police Department on Tuesday said witnesses saw 36-year-old Antonio Nararainsami of Brooklyn sitting on the banister of the escalator when he lost his balance and fell.

Nararainsami's daughter, Emily, told CNN affiliate WABC on Tuesday that her father was walking down the escalator, not sliding on its banister, as fans left the stadium after the New York Mets-Washington Nationals game. She said she and another relative saw what happened.

"He wasn't moving or nothing; he was just walking down. I guess he tried to say something to us or something, and I guess he just lost his balance and flipped over," she said.

Nararainsami died at Booth Memorial Hospital about 25 minutes after the 10 p.m. incident.

Police are investigating the death as an accident.

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MLB gets best grade for diversity in hiring; number of blacks on field drops

NEW YORK -- Major League Baseball received its best grade for racial diversity in hiring, even as the percentage of black players dropped again last year.

Lapchick: Jackie Would Shake His Head

The number of African-Americans in baseball is down on the field, and up off the field. Who'd have thunk it? Not Jackie Robinson, writes Richard Lapchick. Story

MLB received its first A-minus for race Tuesday from Richard Lapchick, director of the University of Central Florida's Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports. Its grade was B-plus in last year's study.

Among major leaguers, though, just 8.2 percent were black players, down from 8.4 percent in 2006 and the lowest level in at least two decades.

"I'm very disappointed by that fact," said Rachel Robinson, the widow of Jackie Robinson. "Competition from other sports is certainly a big factor, but they're many factors. We've got to work on it in terms of getting younger children playing, into the game, and getting communities behind the programs, like the RBI programs and the academies."

Lapchick released the study on Jackie Robinson Day, the 61st anniversary of when Robinson broke the major league color barrier.

The percentage of black pitchers remained at 3 percent last year.

"Baseball has probably lost a whole generation here," Lapchick said. "African-Americans just aren't playing it at this point. They're going to have to increase their efforts."

Although MLB has established its Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities program and urban youth academies, Lapchick said it will take many years for those efforts to pay off.

MLB Firsts For Blacks

1884: Moses Fleetwood Walker is first black player in majors (Toledo Blue Stockings)

1947: Jackie Robinson (pictured) breaks baseball's color barrier (Brooklyn Dodgers)

1962: Buck O'Neil is first black coach in major league history (Chicago Cubs)

1966: Emmett Ashford is the first black umpire in the majors

1975: Frank Robinson makes debut as first black manager in major league history (Cleveland Indians)

1976: Bill Lucas is first black general manager in MLB history (Atlanta Braves)

1989: Bill White becomes first black league president (National League)

-- ESPN Research

MLB received a C-plus for gender hiring, up from a C last year. Its overall grade remained at B.

Lapchick said 28 percent of employees at baseball's central offices were nonwhite, including 20 percent among senior executives. Women were 42 percent of employees, but 26 percent of the senior executives.

He suggested baseball commissioner Bud Selig pressure clubs more to consider minority candidates. He also said MLB should institute a rule that a woman be considered for all senior job openings, similar to the rule that minority candidates must be interviewed.

Lapchick would make an exception for general manager -- there has never been a woman GM, and there are relatively few high-ranking women in baseball operations. Kim Ng of the Dodgers (vice president and assistant general manager) and Jean Afterman of the Yankees (assistant GM) have been the exceptions.

"They would have token interviews until we have that one case that a woman is successful," he said.

He gave baseball a B-plus for race and a C for gender for its senior administration hiring, the same as last year. For team vice presidents, the grade was B for race -- the same as last year -- and D-minus for gender, up from an F.

General managers were given a C for 2007, and Lapchick noted the Los Angeles Angels promoted Tony Reagins to GM, where he joins Kenny Williams of the Chicago White Sox and Omar Minaya of the New York Mets as the only minorities.

Managers received an A, with six minority managers last year. The total increased to eight at the start of this season.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

top ten unsports manlike plays


AVERY'S ANTICS SPARKS NHL TO MAKE NEW RULE

Maybe Martin Brodeur should just stop talking to Rangers' super-pest Sean Avery. It just leads to new material.

On Friday, the Bergen Record reported that Brodeur admitted he had grown tired of Avery's trash-talking, which often centres around the goaltender's 2003 divorce. "It's been five years," Brodeur says he told Avery. "Find something else."

Well, Avery found something else to do in Brodeur's crease on Sunday. After taking his second goaltender interference penalty of the series, Avery came up with a new, and apparently legal, way to get into Brodeur's head. With his back to the play, Avery parked at the edge of Brodeur's crease and waved his arms wildly in a bizarre effort to distract the Devils' goaltender. He also waved the blade of his stick back and forth in front of Brodeur's mask.

"I've been watching games for 33 years and I have never seen anything like that in my life," Brodeur told the New York Daily News. "If it's within the rules, it's within the rules. The official came over and said it probably wasn't something that should be done."

National Hockey League Senior Executive Vice President and Director of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell issued a statement Monday to make the league's position clear going forward. The statement said:

"An unsportsmanlike conduct minor penalty (Rule 75) will be interpreted and applied, effective immediately, to a situation when an offensive player positions himself facing the opposition goaltender and engages in actions such as waving his arms or stick in front of the goaltender's face, for the purpose of improperly interfering with and/or distracting the goaltender as opposed to positioning himself to try to make a play."

So if anyone tried Avery's ploy again, it will be a two-minute penalty.

"Nobody should have to play hockey with a stick an inch from your face," Brodeur told the Daily News. "But it wasn't a bad play. While he was doing it, I couldn't see anything. The two misses were just luck, I couldn't see a thing."

Although his innovative screen was not directly responsible, Avery did end up scoring a powerplay goal shortly after getting in Brodeur's face.

"It's a 5-on-3 and I'm trying to get to the puck," Brodeur said. "I'm trying to look around him. It was almost impossible because of the stick so close to my face."

For Avery, it was his third goal of the series, which the Rangers lead two games to one. Ironically, through the first two games, he had been lauded in the local press for avoiding the theatrics while playing some great, gritty hockey.

"That's the way he plays, and when he plays that way, he plays his best hockey," Jaromir Jagr told the Daily News before Game 3. "He's scoring goals, working hard, taking bodies, drawing penalties -- perfect."

However he plays, it's clear that he's hugely important to the Rangers. The Star-Ledger noted on Monday that since acquiring him last season in a trade with the Kings, the Rangers are 50-20-16 with Avery in the lineup and 9-13-3 in the 25 games he's missed.

The majority of Avery's peers were not impressed with his act, however he did receive some support from an unlikely place.

"I think he wants to win," San Jose Sharks forward Jeremy Roenick told THE CANADIAN PRESS. "Sometimes he looks like an idiot and it may look bad, but it's probably effective. The kid is a competitor. He has a difficult job, but he's just trying to win night in and night out and that's what is the most important thing."

Outspoken telivision personality Don Cherry disagreed.

"I've known this kid since he was about 16 years old," Cherry told Toronto radio station The FAN 590. "Once a jerk, always a jerk. You can't blame the referee, because . he couldn't believe what he was seeing. Could you believe what you were seeing? I've never seen anything like that and I've been in every league that's ever existed."

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Desire to coach still drives 81-year-old Paterno

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- There is the eight-year-old Paterno Library, which will serve students at Penn State University for decades to come.

There is the interfaith spiritual center on campus, and the scholarships and faculty chairs, all endowed, financially and emotionally, by Joe and Sue Paterno.

Joe Paterno

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

Joe Paterno's footprints have made a lasting impression during his 58 years on the Penn State campus.

All serve as testament to the impact the football coach has had on Penn State, and all are redundant. Penn State already had a building that captured what Paterno has meant to this university in his 58 years here. It is at the center of campus, looming over the green that extends nearly to Harrisburg. It is the heart and soul of the Penn State.

It is called Old Main, and if the nickname Old Main doesn't fit Paterno like a pair of rolled-up pants and white socks, nothing does. Like Old Main, Paterno is a university icon, a symbol that represents Penn State to its alumni around the world. Old Main and Paterno are repositories of political power at Penn State.

Old Main holds the offices of president Graham Spanier and his administration.

Paterno holds, well, Paterno, a two-time national championship coach and the conscience of college football for decades.

All of which is only half the definition of Old Main -- the latter half. Like Old Main, built in 1863 and rebuilt in 1930, Paterno is old.

In the end, that's what the current debate over the future of Penn State football is all about, isn't it? The Nittany Lions are only three seasons removed from going 11-1 and finishing third in the nation. They went 9-4 in each of the two seasons since. Those three seasons followed a five-year spell of mediocrity at best -- the Nittany Lions had losing records in four of those seasons (2000-04).

So, yes, let's get it out in the open. Joe Paterno is old. By measures demographic and historic, Paterno is old.

He is 81, born in Brooklyn on Dec. 21, 1926. On the night of his birth, the U.S. attorney in New York City launched a raid of 58 night clubs and restaurants to stanch the flow of holiday liquor. That's right -- Paterno came into this world during Prohibition.

Paterno arrived several months before 13-year-old Paul Bryant wrestled a bear in the Fordyce Theater.

Paterno is three and a half years younger than Yankee Stadium, which will be euthanized next year because of old age. He played at Brown in the same era as Darrell Royal played at Oklahoma. Royal retired from coaching after the 1976 season.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, the people who provide employment statistics on the first Friday of every month, doesn't even bother to measure 80-year-old workers. They lump them in the catch-all category of "75-and-over." In March, the Labor Department estimated the workforce included 679,000 male employees at least 75 years old, or about 10 percent of that age group.

Washington is one of the few cities outside of University Park, Pa., where an 80-year-old man yearns to work long hours in the public eye. Six members of the U. S. Senate are over the age of 80. Two of them, Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), both 84, are running for re-election this year.

"I'm told that 90 is the new 80," Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., who turns 91 in November, told The New York Times last week.

Joe Paterno

Brian Bahr/Getty Images

Joe Paterno has a 10-4 record at Penn State since turning 80.

If that is true, maybe 80 is the new 65. According to U.S. government data, a man who turned 65 in 1991 had an average life expectancy of a shade under 15 years. When Paterno hit that demographic wall in 2006, his last complete season had come a last-play loss to Michigan away from an undefeated regular season and a berth in the BCS Championship Game.

Maybe old doesn't have the same meaning that it did a generation ago, a decade ago, or even last week.

"People are making a big deal out of this stuff," Paterno says. "I'm reacting to you because you're writing a story about the whole business about my age. I thought we could do some things. But I'm really uncomfortable talking about it. I really am. I am uncomfortable talking about it. It just seems like a waste of time."

Paterno gives a short laugh. He is sitting on a love seat in the office that he says he hates. It is an office right out of the book, "Football Arms Race for Dummies": oversized, overtrinketed, over the top.

"I got my own shower," Paterno says, gesturing down a hallway, "which I've never used."

Paterno prefers to work at his house, where he insists that he has everything he needs, including a "private telephone" and "a fax machine." He described how he watches tapes at home.

Tapes? Penn State video coordinator Nick Downs confirmed it. Downs, sounding like a typewriter repairman, said he has a dwindling stockpile of working tape decks. He uses them until they give out and then he moves to the next one.

You tease Paterno that he might have the last working VCR in Centre County. Hey, this is a guy who has donated in the neighborhood of $4 million to his employer and still buys his suits at the outlets in Reading. If it works, he's not about to throw it out.

"Don't get on me. It's a DVD/tape," he said of his home machine. "If I want to use a DVD, I use a DVD. My wife has got a computer right adjacent to the kitchen. She's got a DVD. … But I'm not much of a -- I get the information I want."

According to research that ESPN asked the NCAA to conduct, at least four men have coached college football after the age of 80, including John Gagliardi, still winning at Division III St. John's (Minn.). Like Paterno, the legendary Amos Alonzo Stagg coached major-college football after the age of 80. Stagg won 16 games at Pacific after turning 80. But he lost 33 and tied two. Since Paterno turned 80, he has a record of 10-4.

On the other hand, all four losses came in Big Ten Conference play. In the past two seasons, the Nittany Lions are 9-7 in the Big Ten; in the past eight, they are 32-32.

Unhappy Valley
From the injury to linebacker Sean Lee to losing the recruiting race for Terrelle Pryor to a series of embarrasing off-the-field incidents, Penn State has endured a nightmarish offseason, writes Bruce Feldman. Blog Insider

Last week, wide receiver Chris Bell, already suspended for academic and other off-field issues, pulled a knife on teammate Devon Still, extending a litany of legal problems for Paterno's players over the past year. Five of them remain suspended. The university dismissed Bell from the team.

"Some people are concerned about the fact that some of our kids have misbehaved," Paterno said before Bell's arrest last week. "There's a handful of them that have misbehaved. And I think we'll get some of those guys straightened out."

Last week, university president Graham Spanier told the Associated Press that when Paterno's contract expires after the 2008 season, the university will confer with the coach to decide what is next. This from a president who hosts a monthly talk show on an NPR-affiliated public radio station called "To the Best of My Knowledge."

So Spanier, to the best of his knowledge, doesn't know when Paterno will leave, either.

The honest truth is, neither does Paterno. But he says he will know before anyone else.

"It's nice so many people are interested. It gets to be, it's almost like you can't …" He sputters before the thought bursts forth. If you want to hear it in Paterno's Brooklyn patter, come down hard on the italicized words:

"As if I would not know when I couldn't get it done, you know what I mean? … I don't need the money. I don't have anything to prove. I love this place. I always want it to be good."

So how will he know?

"If I can't go through the kind of day that I've got to go through," Paterno replies. "When I go to bed at night, I go to bed with a pad. If I fall asleep right away, say 9:30, it may be 3 o'clock in the morning I'm starting to twist and turn a little bit. I may go into my den -- it's right off our bedroom -- go in there and get a pad and work for an hour and go back to bed.

"When there isn't that sense of urgency and details, you know. How can we make So-And-So better? Do we have the right guys in the right place? … I think when that isn't a part of it, then I probably ought to get out of it. Sit around, and travel. I have no urge to do anything. Except coaching."

The public knows Paterno for his thick glasses and that full head of hair only recently begun to gray. His coaches and players know him for his obsession with details. They say he has maintained it even as he is closing his sixth decade in coaching.

"There are things that happen at practice," says his top defensive assistant, Tom Bradley. "I'll give you an example. And the kid [fourth-year corner Willie Harriott] was funny. Joe was yelling at him from like two fields over, and the kid goes, 'Scrap' -- that's my nickname, Scrap -- 'how did he see that?'

"I said, 'Hey, Willie, I've been here forever. I don't know.'

"'How did he see my hand on his [the receiver's] back from way over there?'

"'I don't know. It's like a mystery.'

"He said, 'Well, what's in those glasses?'

"'I don't know. I can't figure it out.'

Joe Paterno

AP Photo

Joe Paterno's style hasn't changed much on or off the field during his 42 years as head coach.

"… Here's the thing I try to explain to people," Bradley said. "If you just took -- and all you had was not the players but him in practice, OK? -- and you just filmed him in practice, because his attire doesn't change and he wears the same stuff, you would not know the year. I don't think it's any different from what I remember playing here. I remember doing the same stuff. He's still in every drill, coming around all over the same place. He doesn't coach from a tower, you know what I mean. He's working his way around, whatever he wants to get to."

On this April Wednesday, Paterno moves quickly back and forth on the two practice fields in Holuba Hall, the Nittany Lions' indoor practice building. He stops and explains why he watches the drills.

"If I show up, they show off," Paterno says. "You got me?"

Paterno gives quarterback Pat Devlin a talking-to and a belly rub.

"He just wanted to make sure that I understood what I need to do is get the ball in there to a running back so that they know the ball is in there," Devlin says after practice. "Today, we were doing one-on-ones [passes]. Sometimes, in one-on-ones, you just get into bad habits. There's no defenders, nobody you have to look off, so you just stare right at the receiver. So I go back there, I thought I was looking straight ahead and then looking out. He came rushing over to me. 'You're staring down the receiver! Don't do that!'"

Paterno gives fifth-year offensive lineman Mike Lucian a kick in the pants. That's usually a metaphor. Not at this practice. Paterno kicks Lucian in the seat of his pants.

"I've never snapped before in my life," says Lucian, who this spring moved from guard to center. "I'm having a lot of trouble with the shotgun snap. [Quarterback] Paul Cianciolo, another fifth-year guy, is working his butt off. It doesn't help him out when I have a bad snap. So Joe came over and gave me a kick in the rear."

Joe Paterno

Randy Litzinger/Icon SMI

A passion for coaching players still motivates Joe Paterno.

If Paterno gives his players the business, his players give it right back. As they stretched during one recent practice, according to Bradley, one player said to Paterno, "Coach, we're the only place in America where the coach is older than the trees around the practice field."

Paterno belittles the notion that he will keep coaching to make sure that he passes Florida State coach Bobby Bowden as the all-time leader in coaching victories. Last season, Paterno closed the margin from three wins to one. Bowden leads, 373-372.

"I don't care about the record," Paterno says. "I really don't. Honestly. You know when they bury you, you going to look up at your stone and say, 'Hey, I got a record?' You're dead. You're gone. I think there are other things that are more important. I think Bobby would say the same thing."

Maybe so. But don't mistake Paterno's being above the fray for his being tired of the fray.

"I'm a competitor," he says. "If I don't have that competitive urge -- you know, there's always a couple of new kids on the block. You know what I mean? You gotta be the macho guy. You know, they're not going to push me around."

Paterno means other coaches. But the competitor in him won't let anonymous voices, be they on "the Web site," as he refers to the Internet, or on the Penn State board of trustees, get in his way.

"Some people said, 'You're being selfish.' Sure, I'm being a little selfish. But after 58 years, I think I got a right to be a little selfish."

A few months ago, Paterno traveled to Washington to attend an 80th birthday celebration for his friend, William Schreyer, the former CEO of Merrill Lynch, and former U.S. Ambassador Anne Armstrong. Schreyer, a 1948 graduate of Penn State, has donated $58 million to his alma mater. Paterno, in his toast to his friend Bill, told a story of being in Washington with Schreyer shortly after the 1992 election and being invited to the White House by President George H.W. Bush.

"Here was the most important, powerful, single position in the world," Paterno says, "and you know what? They're taking the pictures off the wall. All right? No guns. All right? No coups."

That rendition of patriotism, so stirring that another attendee, former U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga., walked over to Paterno and said, "That was wonderful."

The U.S. government has an orderly succession of power, outlined in the Constitution and tested by death, scandal and the voice of the voters. Penn State football does not. The angst in Nittany Lion country over how much longer Paterno will coach simmers. Some fans want Paterno to retire. Some just want certainty. Paterno wants them to trust his judgment, even at 81.

Ivan Maisel is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Send your questions and comments to Ivan at ivan.maisel@espn3.com.

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