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Friday, October 31, 2008

Armstrong racing for cancer awareness, not to disprove critics

By Bonnie D. Ford
ESPN.com

NEW YORK -- Lance Armstrong says he is not returning to professional cycling because of any unfinished business from his previous exit.

In an exclusive interview with ESPN.com, the seven-time Tour de France winner said he considered his retirement on top to have been ideal and maintained his comeback is not an attempt to address questions about whether he raced clean. While he clearly relishes the thought of competition again, Armstrong said he will judge his success only partly based on his cycling results and mostly by how well it meshes with a campaign to marshall more resources for a global war on cancer.
Lance Armstrong

JOEL SAGET/AFP/Getty Images

Lance Armstrong rode through a hayfield during one memorable stage of his 2003 Tour win.

"What happened from 1992 to 2005 is done," he said. "I'm not trying to rewrite it at all. This feels like a whole other career to me. And this is not all about winning another Tour de France. Could I do it? Would I like to do it? Maybe yes, maybe no. "If you win an eighth Tour and have the Livestrong International Summit in Paris and nobody shows up and no commitments are made and we don't effect change in terms of the global burden, then I've wasted everybody's time. However, if you don't do the Tour, or you do the Tour and you get fourth, and the summit is a smashing success and people participate, and world leaders make commitments that really go towards advancing this issue, then that's a success. "This has nothing to do with trying to address August of 2005," Armstrong said, referring to the controversy that erupted two weeks after his final Tour victory, when re-testing of samples from the 1999 race conducted by French anti-doping authorities allegedly showed the presence of the blood booster erythropoietin (EPO). Armstrong disputed those findings, which were not considered positive tests because there were no backup samples to confirm the results. Given the multiple layers of anti-doping controls cyclists undergo, Armstrong said his arrangement with venerable anti-doping researcher Dr. Don Catlin may not be absolutely "necessary," but added, "I think Don can take it to a new level." Catlin will be paid by Armstrong's Astana team to independently collect and analyze the cyclist's samples in addition to the team's already established outside monitoring program. Armstrong has promised to post results online to demonstrate that he is clean. Armstrong's first scheduled race with Kazakhstan-financed, Luxembourg-based Astana is the week-long Tour Down Under in south Australia in January. He's eager to compete but said he is far from certain that his 37-year-old body will withstand the rigors of a three-week stage race. He has committed to riding in next year's Tour of Italy but is reserving a decision on the Tour de France. "There's a lot of question marks there," he said. "I feel strong, I feel like I have experience, I feel like I have a good team. In my heart of hearts, I'm not sure that it's that easy. "I can go out and go on hard rides with strong guys for four, five, six hours. But that's different than going out with 200 guys who're fighting for a wheel in a crosswind." Armstrong said he regrets that his new teammates Levi Leipheimer and Alberto Contador, the 2007 Tour champion who won the Tours of Italy and Spain this year, were blindsided by news of his comeback in September. Had the news not leaked prematurely, Armstrong said the two would have been advised of his plans by team director Johan Bruyneel beforehand. He dismissed the prospect of potential conflicts with the other team leaders. "This is not a sensitive issue for me," Armstrong said. "It's cut and dried. I'm on a team, I know how cycling works. The strongest man, we ride for. No hard feelings. There's no reason to get dramatic, for anybody. Play the game just like it's been played for a hundred years."

Bonnie D. Ford covers tennis and Olympic sports for ESPN.com.

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Maple Leafs most valuable NHL team

NEW YORK (AP) — For the third straight year, the Toronto Maple Leafs are the NHL's most valuable team, worth $448 million.

The Leafs increased in value by 9 percent and easily were valued ahead of the New York Rangers in Forbes' annual rankings. The Rangers are worth $411 million.

Third on the list were the Montreal Canadiens at $334 million, followed by the Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings ($303 million) and the Philadelphia Flyers ($275 million).

But the biggest increase in value was made by the Pittsburgh Penguins, who made the Stanley Cup finals last spring and boast stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Pittsburgh is worth $195 million, up a whopping 26 percent.

The next biggest gainers were the Calgary Flames, up 24 percent to $203 million) and the Minnesota Wild, who improved 21 percent and are worth $217 million.

The average team value was $220 million; by comparison, the average for NFL teams this season was $1 billion, according to Forbes.

At the bottom of the list were Columbus ($157 million), the New York Islanders ($154 million), and Phoenix ($142 million). The Coyotes were the only team to go down in worth, by 3 percent.

Toronto also led the list with $160 million in revenues, followed by Montreal ($139) and the Rangers ($137).

Ominously, 12 teams showed a negative operating income, including the Flyers (minus $1.8 million), and Boston Bruins (minus $3 million) — both top 10 franchises in total value.

Copyright © 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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Who is the NFL's dirtiest player?

Fleming By David Fleming

Thank you all for coming on such short notice, and welcome to the Conrad Dobler Ballroom of the Canton (Ohio) Marriott. Since I know our time is limited today, and most of you in the audience are known for both your violent temperaments and your ability to inflict great pain on a football field, I won't waste your time with a long introduction or explanation. Most of you can probably guess why you're here, anyway.

Flem File

As we all know, last week, an era came to a close in the NFL when Patriots safety Rodney Harrison shredded his left calf muscle while making an open-field tackle against the Broncos. The injury ended his season and quite possibly his stellar 15-year career. It also brought to a completion Harrison's long, nasty reign as the NFL's dirtiest player.

Since 2001, in fact, Harrison had compiled the second-most personal fouls (14) in the NFL, and in a recent survey of NFL coaches conducted by ESPN.com he was the overwhelming choice as the game's dirtiest dude. Why, it seems like only yesterday Harrison was getting suspended after using his patented helmet-to-helmet kill shot technique in an effort to permanently separate the NFL's all-time leading receiver, Jerry Rice, from his senses.

Yes. OK. Well. Go ahead. I suppose a nice round of applause for Harrison and his unique, um, style of play is appropriate before we move along with today's task of crowning Harrison's heir as the game's newest, dirtiest player. Please note that while clapping is an acceptable tribute, dislodging the auditorium's chairs and swinging them at each other, or your emcee, is not such a good idea. Nor will I be intimidated by this note I've been handed that says an extremely large bounty has been placed upon my head.

As far as potential successors to Harrison -- let's call them the Flagrant Fraternity -- I think most everyone is now present.

Rodney Harrison

Cary Edmondson/US Presswire

It's time for Rodney Harrison
to pass the torch to the next "Dirtiest Player in the NFL."

I see Cardinals safety Adrian Wilson, fresh off his $25,000 fine for trying to plant Bills quarterback Trent Edwards like a tulip in Week 5. Richard Seymour of the Pats, nice to see you as always. Steelers jawbreaker Hines Ward is here, and I'd like to ask you, one more time, Hines, not to sneak up on me from behind. Thanks.

There's Carolina's septum deviator, Steve Smith. Horse-collar cowboy Roy Williams, good day sir. Trench warriors Kevin Mawae, of the Titans; the Bears' Olin Kreutz; Giants center Shaun O'Hara and Eagles lineman Jon Runyan are all in the back. As is Giants linebacker Antonio Pierce. Now, has anyone seen the Titans' Albert Haynesworth or the Texans' Travis Johnson? And I believe 'Captain Bounty,' the Ravens' Terrell Suggs, should be joining us soon as well.

Let's all work together to make sure he doesn't sit next to Ward, shall we? Great.

If Mike Singletary suddenly bursts into the room and tries to take the mike, everyone just plug your ears, remain calm and do not look him directly in the eyes.

Now, before we get to the nominations, I need to do a little bit of housekeeping in the audience. Can someone tell Wes Welker that this is about finding the dirtiest player, not the player with the dirtiest uniform? Is that Santonio Holmes of the Steelers? Yeah, San, this meeting is about playing dirty, not riding dirty. And to the entire row of Cleveland Browns in the back. Fellas, again, this is about dirty players -- not guys who might actually be infectious.

I can see that the rest of you are not happy at all about being here. But think about the men who sat in these seats before you.

Men like linebacker Bill Romanowski, known for hitting the so-called terrible trifecta: spitting in the face of an opponent, breaking a quarterback's jaw and publicly salivating over hits that left players unable to get up. Men like former Raiders offensive lineman Steve Wisniewski and defensive back Jack Tatum, who delivered the hit in a 1978 exhibition game that paralyzed Patriots receiver Darryl Stingley. (Stingley, a quadriplegic, died last year at the age of 55. Tatum and Stingley never reconciled.)

Of course, arguably the dirtiest player in the history of sports is Conrad Dobler, who spit, bit and hit anything that moved in the 1970s and still likes to talk about quarterbacks wearing dresses and the wussification of the game, even though he is severely disabled from injuries and surgeries related to his playing career … which is honorable, in a way, but also kinda like the juvenile logic behind fraternity hazing: it's awful and serves no real purpose but, hey, we're doing it to you because someone did it to us.

But here's the thing with dirty play in the game today: Hefty fines seem to be curbing the truly gruesome stuff -- the kill shots, the cut blocks, the true malice -- and the good news is there now seems to be more finger pointing than actual nipple twisting.

Hines Ward

Luc Leclerc/US Presswire

It's a coup for an offensive player such as Hines Ward to be listed as part of the flagrant fraternity.

Last season, it was the Packers calling the Giants dirty. This year, it was the Giants calling the Redskins dirty. Randy Moss accused the Chiefs' Bernard Pollard of playing dirty after he mangled Tom Brady's knee, even though Moss was downfield at the time and there was no fine or flag on the play. Opponents say the Browns crotch grab and eye gouge more than the Three Stooges. The Bears and Bucs slung the D-word back and forth when what they really needed to do was tackle somebody. Harrison himself accused Ricky Williams of a dirty chop block on Pats linebacker Mike Vrabel, something I watched Vrabel execute against the Broncos while playing tight end near the goal line.

By my count, right after Roger Goodell e-mailed his "player safety edict" to every team in September, there were more than $100,000 worth of fines levied for dirty hits in Weeks 3 and 4. This included a $50,000 fine and a one-game suspension for Jets safety Eric Smith for a hit on Arizona wideout Anquan Boldin that did not draw a flag during the game.

Therein lies the quagmire behind searching for Harrison's dirty disciples: You've got a league that makes billions off the violence in its game retroactively punishing players for hits that officials at the scene did not deem illegal.

When it comes to dirty play, the NFL sends more mixed messages than Don Draper.

Arizona's Wilson? Dude's a Pro Bowl safety who last year made $3.25 million with the Cardinals.

After their collision in New York, Boldin told Smith he didn't want the safety to change his style of play. Well, he texted him that thought, actually, since he had just come out of facial surgery and couldn't talk.

Prior to February's Super Bowl, when Pierce was asked if he and O'Hara were dirty players, he replied, "We're both dirty; that's why we're in the Super Bowl."

The truth is 'dirty' is a lot like 'obscene' in the way that even though we might not be able to clearly define it, we sure know it when we see it.


Flem File

DEAR FLEM

In the crazy, topsy-turvy world of the NFL, sometimes fans just need someone to talk to. So once a week, ESPN The Mag senior writer David Fleming will exchange e-mails with one lucky (we think) reader. Here's Flem's fan e-mail exchange for this week. If you'd like to have an e-mail exchange with Flem, click here and pour your pigskin heart out. Go ahead, Flem's listening.


Defining dirty comes down to two things: intent to injure and repeat offenses. I think the first is pretty clear. There's a difference between hitting and hurting, between tough and dangerous, between executing and executing. But at the same time, we also have to allow players to be human, to make mistakes. Because it's unfair to reward athletes with millions of dollars and star status in our culture for being exceptional purveyors of athletic violence and then -- when it occasionally bubbles over into unacceptable levels of mayhem -- to throw our hands over our mouths in mock, transparent, dramatic disgust and screech, "Shame on you, you bad, bad man!"

OK, so now that we know the history of dirty play and the problems with defining it, let's move on to the actual awards part of the program before the bounty on my head gets any higher.

Based on ESPN.com's recent coaches survey, actual personal fouls as well as fines and/or suspensions for dirty play, the third runner-up to replace Rodney Harrison as the NFL's dirtiest player is … OH, it's a tie between Cowboys safety Roy Williams and the Jets' Eric Smith.

Both Roy and Eric will receive a year's supply of ibuprofen and new calculators specially programmed to compute missed-game checks.

Our second runner-up has more than a dozen personal fouls in the past seven seasons and, after the most recent AFC Championship Game, was described by an opponent as "the biggest [expletive] I've ever played. Head slapping, foot stomping in the pile, running by and throwing punches in your back. He's a [expletive]. He plays like a punk."

Ladies and gentlemen: Pats defensive lineman Richard Seymour.

Richard will receive a full set of the super absorbent towels made by Shamwow!

Now, our first runner-up has already been fined twice by the league this season and recently broke the jaw of Bengals linebacker Keith Rivers. Yes, he is two inches and 35 pounds lighter than Rivers, and no, a flag wasn't called on the play. The truth is, some of his hits are just great football. Classic football.

But you can't deny the fact that this guy specializes in working the moral gray area of the crack-back block, or, hitting people who don't see him coming. Is it perfectly legal? For the time being. Is it the responsibility of players to keep their heads on a swivel at all times? Yep. But in my gut, some of this guy's hits over the years -- like the one against Browns linebacker Daven Holly last year that drew a $5,000 fine -- feel an awful lot like distant relatives of the sucker punch.

Having recently spoken to a long-time member of the competition committee, I can tell you, it's not a stretch to think that the league would classify some of this guy's victims as "defenseless" -- focused elsewhere, unaware of the impending contact, easing up toward the end of the play. And that's why I wouldn't be surprised to see a new rule coming that legislates contact on downfield blocks initiated back toward the line of scrimmage.

Adrian Wilson

AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin

Adrian Wilson cemented himself
as the "Dirtiest Player in the NFL"
with this hit on Trent Edwards.

I've already given it away, I know, but our first runner-up, who will take over as the NFL's dirtiest player if our actual winner, for whatever reason, cannot fulfill his duties … ladies and gentlemen, it's Hines Ward.

Hines, come on up here and get your gift: the complete musical catalogue of The Allman Brothers Band.

And finally, the moment we've all been waiting for.

Our pick as the heir to Rodney Harrison's throne as the NFL's Dirtiest Player is none other than Arizona Cardinals safety Adrian Wilson.

Since joining the league seven seasons ago, Wilson has more personal fouls (17) than any other player in the game, and in the past year alone he was fined three times for a grand total of $47,500 for jacking up Todd Heap, horse-collaring Kevin Jones and pile-driving Trent Edwards.

Adrian will receive round-trip airfare to the NFL offices in New York for his next meeting with the commish and a case of HeadOn, headache relief formula.

So that's it. Thanks for coming to Canton and participating in this event, everyone. In closing, please remember to drive safely and take this little nugget of wisdom with you as you all return to the field on Sunday.

In today's NFL, if our new list of Harrison Heirs are involved in anymore questionable hits, they can probably expect an immediate two-step response from the league:

A one-game suspension.

Then a significant raise.

David Fleming is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine and the author of the memoir "Noah's Rainbow" and "Breaker Boys: The NFL's Greatest Team and the Stolen 1925 Championship," which has been optioned as a movie. The Flem File will run each Wednesday during the NFL season.

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5 Curious Coincidences Between the Phillies’ World Series Wins

by David K. Israel

1980.jpgWhen my father and I stood in the right field nosebleed seats at the old Vet Stadium in 1980, watching closer Tug McGraw strike out the Royals’ Willie Wilson to capture the Phillies first and, until last night, only World Series title, we had no idea it would be 28 years before the team would taste such victory again.

08.jpgBut last night it happened, finally, after the historic suspended game-five resumed in the bottom of the 6th inning. Here are 5 cool coincidences worth noting between the only two World Series the Phillies have ever won.

1) Let’s start off easy: ’80 flipped is ‘08

2) Tug McGraw, who insisted ‘’You Gotta Believe” (never mind that he said it first with the Mets), wore the number 45 on his jersey. Brad Lidge, the present Phillies’ closer who didn’t blow a save all season, and who recorded the final out in last night’s game by striking out Eric Hinske, wears the number 54 on his jersey – 45 flipped.

3) Third baseman Mike Schmidt drove in the winning run in the final game of the series in 1980. Third baseman Pedro Feliz (“You Gotta Feliz!”) drove in the winning run in last night’s final game.

4) Jamie Moyer, one of the Phillies best pitchers, grew up in the Philly area and skipped school to attend the only parade the city has ever thrown for its baseball team in 1980. In a matter of days, he will not only attend the only other parade, but he’ll be on one of the floats.

5) To get to the ‘08 World Series, the Phillies had to beat the Dodgers to claim the National League pennant. One of the Dodgers’ base coaches is Larry Bowa, who played for the ‘80 Phillies. One of the Phillies’ ‘08 base coaches is Davey Lopes, who was on the Dodgers team when they won the World Series in 1981.

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

NFL to follow up after Berrian says he didn't get calls back from hotline

The NFL provides a hotline for players to contact if they want to find out if supplements contain ingredients banned by the league. However, Minnesota Vikings receiver Bernard Berrian said sometimes there's nobody at the other end of the line.

Bernard Berrian

Berrian

In an interview with Sirius satellite radio, Berrian said he had tried twice to call the hotline and never got a call back, before getting a reply on his third attempt.

In an e-mail to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the league would "follow up" on Berrian's comments to make sure the hotline is operating properly.

"You've got to take some responsibility and call into that hotline [to inquire about the legality of certain products]," Berrian said. "But I know one thing about that hotline. I've called twice before and actually never gotten ahold of anybody sometimes. So even when you try to do the right thing sometimes it is still hard to get ahold of somebody and really find out what you're really taking."

Berrian talked about the hotline after being asked about teammates Pat Williams and Kevin Williams, both of whom reportedly are facing suspensions for taking a banned weight-loss diuretic.

In the e-mail to the Star Tribune, Aiello said the hotline is maintained by an independent group and it is open during "extended business hours." Players who leave messages are supposed to get calls back, something the league will investigate after hearing Berrian's comments.

Earlier this week, Vikings coach Brad Childress said it's on the players to know what they are putting in their bodies.

"They get a list of what's in and what's out," Childress said. "But it's up to them, once again, whether they're reading labels. I mean, strict liability is strict liability."

Fox Sports has reported that the Williamses, who both made the Pro Bowl last season and anchor the Vikings' stout run defense, are facing four-game suspensions for failing a drug test.

In all, six to eight players around the league are appealing findings that they took a weight-loss diuretic that also is considered a masking agent for steroids.

Four players have already received four-game suspensions for violating the policy this season, and all of them claimed they unknowingly took products that were illegal. But the NFL's guidelines don't appear to allow for any grace for maintained innocence.

Safety Darren Sharper, the team's union rep, concurred with his coach.

"That's up to us. That's our job. You have to look at the list and see what's on it," Sharper said. "Mistakes can't happen."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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LeBron: Selling a world sports star

By Bill Wilson
Business reporter, BBC News

LeBron James scores a basket for the US against Greece in the 2008 Olympics
The only way is up for LeBron James at present

US basketball star LeBron James is a star member of a new breed of sportsmen and women who could be called "athlete corporations".

Mainly American, or based in the US, they are headed by golfing genius Tiger Woods and are not only among the masters in their chosen field, but they are also extremely marketable individuals.

As a result they have sponsors queuing at their doors, eager to sign lucrative endorsement deals that should pay off handsomely for both sports star and brand.

Gold medal

And it has been a good year for one of this sporting elite - the National Basketball Association's LeBron James, the man they call King James.

Gold medal basketball winner at the Beijing Olympics, front page of Vogue magazine, the NBA's All Star Game Most Valuable Player and season's leading scorer, and a host of multi-million dollar endorsements with Nike, Coca-Cola, State Farm and MSN.

Cool, hip, hard-working - LeBron puts a positive spin on the hip-hop generation, away from the bad-boy scene
LeBron James' lawyer Fred Nance

"We mesh together his personality strengths with the company products, so that there is a true partnership," says James' legal representative Fred Nance.

"It is not the willy-nilly identification with any athlete that is successful, but the right athlete with the right brand endorsement that works."

Mr Nance, of Cleveland, Ohio, law firm Squire Sanders & Dempsey, told the BBC at a Sportbusiness event in London, just how his client keeps his commercial partners onside.

"Once a year LeBron brings all his endorsements together and they have a marketing summit, and we work through with them, and what their marketing has identified in LeBron as the key attributes they want to use," says Nance.

"Cool, hip, hard-working - LeBron puts a positive spin on the hip-hop generation, away from the bad-boy scene."

Important person

Not only is James - who donated $20,000 (£12,700) to Barack Obama's campaign - not part of the "bad-boy scene", he has been positively encouraging young people to get out and vote in the forthcoming US general election.

This month he was also named by Businessweek magazine as the 17th most important person in the global sports business; in a list heavy with club owners, administrators and media moguls, he is the foremost listed athlete after Tiger Woods.

LeBron James advertisement for Nike sportswear
LeBron James had a Nike contract before he had played an NBA game

Not bad for a 23 year old High School phenomenon who missed out the college strata of the sport to move straight into the NBA in 2003.

At the age of 18, he was selected with the first overall pick in the 2003 NBA Draft by the Cavaliers and signed a whopping $90m shoe deal with Nike before the NBA draft and his subsequent league debut.

Since then his cachet has soared, with rich people's bible Forbes magazine putting his total earnings at $270m.

Forbes points out that his endorsements easily outstrip his on-court earnings, and that is taking into account Mr James's $60m four-year playing deal with the Cavaliers.

Growing brands

They have remained with him since then and are already looking ahead to how they can mutually exploit their partnership.

"We talk about where we would like to be in five to 10 years from now," says Mr Nance.

"They talk about how they can grow their brands and his brand.

"It is art, not science, it is difficult to know how the public will respond in every case, but it is a system that works for us, and our partners."

As well as having a number of commercial partners, James also has his own signature clothing collection and his own sports marketing company, launched with a number of his childhood friends who also have a say in his off-court decisions.

Companies are going to have to have a more transparent rationale for making these deals, to explain it to the board or even dissident shareholders
Fred Nance
"He is represented by some young Cleveland friends whom he knows and trusts, my law firm, an accountant, and an investment advisor," says Mr Nance.

"LeBron is part of a new wave of young athletes taking control of their own business decisions. I provide information and advice but he makes the business decisions."

As well as being a top-notch sportsman and a huge commercial vehicle, James has further enhanced his credentials with the establishment of a foundation for single parents and inner-city children.

The LeBron James Family Foundation is headed by Mr Nance's wife Jacqueline Jones, also a lawyer.

"As well as a vehicle for good works, a foundation can bring a secondary enhancement to the brands that are being endorsed by the athlete, as they are recognised as being involved with something that is helping people," says Mr Nance.

"Each of LeBron's endorsement partners is contributing to the foundation."

Behaviour warning

With such a marketable commodity, it would appear to be a win-win situation all round, but Mr Nance points out that even with shining lights like James, sponsors like to protect their investment.

"In most contracts generally there are disincentives for not performing on the sports field, or for bad behaviour," says Mr Nance.

"We have seen successful athletes who have been terrible endorsement people because of their off-field behaviour."

But those decisions may become academic as companies are having to justify endorsement deals with sportsmen and women in the face of the credit crunch, and there is increased belt-tightening around what may be seen as non-essentials.

"Companies are going to have to have a more transparent rationale for making these deals, to explain it to the board or even dissident shareholders," points out Mr Nance.

"However, you will still get the mega contracts with the mega stars like LeBron James."

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World Series Has Been Down Wet Paths in the Past

By ALAN SCHWARZ

Associated Press Wire-Photo

Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk went running despite that Game 6 of the 1975 World Series was postponed due to rain.

As with financial crises and crucial elections, it is tempting to view the current World Series rain mayhem as particularly historic. But the Series has been down roads far more wet — and bumpy — than this, complete with accusations of cheating, television posturing and, almost 100 years ago, labor strife.

The granddaddy of all World Series rainouts took place in 1911 in Philadelphia, naturally. Weather delayed Game 4 for an entire week. And the rest of the series was not nearly as eventful as the gameless break.

Hostilities were already high as the Philadelphia Athletics and the New York Giants traveled back to Philadelphia’s Shibe Park with the A’s leading, two games to one. Christy Mathewson, the Giants’ otherwise gentlemanly ace, had accused A’s groundskeepers of wetting the infield in Game 2 to slow down New York’s famous running game. In what was perhaps a related incident, the Giants’ Fred Snodgrass spiked the popular A’s third baseman Frank Baker and left him a bloody mess.

When Game 4 was called twice by rain so hard that one person suggested covering the field with oil and setting it afire — Connie Mack, the A’s manager and owner, demurred because he did not want to hurt the grass — Snodgrass found himself trapped in a less-than-friendly city of Philadelphia. Furious Baker fans gathered outside the Giants’ hotel and threatened him whenever he emerged; Giants Manager John McGraw finally told Snodgrass to take the train back to New York until play resumed.

“The absence of Snodgrass from the Majestic Hotel, the Giants’ headquarters, set a wild rumor afloat this afternoon that an irate fan had attempted to shoot Snodgrass,” The New York Times reported. Another false rumor centered around whether Baker’s spike wounds had become infected and caused blood poisoning.

This was not even the last controversy of the week, during which Giants players grumbled about McGraw’s interrupting billiards and card games by making them work out to stay sharp. During the delay, the National Commission, the era’s version of Major League Baseball, ordered players on both clubs to pose for a motion-picture company that would distribute the film to theaters over the winter. Several Giants refused to participate without any cut of the profits.

“Baseball with them is a business, they say, and they don’t propose to furnish pictorial entertainment for the whole country just for the love of having their pictures taken,” The Times reported. The dispute was apparently resolved, and the A’s finally won the series in six games.

The next lengthy delay in a World Series came in 1962, after Game 5 between the San Francisco Giants and the Yankees was postponed in New York for a day. (One teenage Yankees fan complained that by attending four previous World Series games at the Stadium, he had run out of grandparent-funeral excuses for missing school.) Game 5 was played the next day, and the Yankees took a three-games-to-two lead, but a torrential set of storms greeted the two teams after they flew back to San Francisco.

Yankees Manager Ralph Houk was able to move Whitey Ford up to Game 6 because of the first day’s delay.

“Ford will pitch this upcoming sixth game come hell or high water,” Houk said, looking out on increasingly high water as the weather did not let up.

Trapped in their hotel rooms for another day because of strong rain and 40-mile-per-hour winds, players complained that they might as well have been on Alcatraz. When the game was postponed for a third day — in bright sunshine — because Candlestick Park was too waterlogged, both teams drove 80 miles east to Modesto to work out.

Ford actually lost Game 6, 5-2, setting up a climactic Game 7. That turned out to be one of baseball’s most exciting games, with the Yankees’ Ralph Terry beating the Giants, 1-0, and the game ending with Willie McCovey’s lineout to Bobby Richardson.

Coincidentally, another of baseball’s greatest games had soggy roots in the rain: Game 6 of the 1975 World Series, won by the Boston Red Sox in the bottom of the 12th on Carlton Fisk’s home run.

The Red Sox and Cincinnati Reds arrived in Boston to a nor’easter and waited as Saturday’s scheduled Game 6 was postponed two days in a row. On Sunday, when clearing seemed imminent but Fenway Park remained drenched, Commissioner Bowie Kuhn had to decide whether to try playing the next night — squarely against “All in the Family” on CBS and a new sensation called “Monday Night Football” on ABC — or postpone Game 6 all the way to Tuesday.

When Kuhn told the Times columnist Red Smith that he preferred night games “to better accommodate the fans,” Smith accused M.L.B. of kowtowing to the networks.

“Exposing cash customers to raw night cold is a novel way of accommodating them,” Smith said. “Accommodating TV sponsors at prime time is something else again.”

Meanwhile, with Fisk still just a good catcher and not yet a New England icon, the Reds decided to try to stay sharp by working out inside Dussault Cage at Cousens Gymnasium on the campus of Tufts University. While pitchers worked off a portable mound plopped down on the running track, Pete Rose and Joe Morgan bashed line drives into fishnets hung from the ceiling.

Why Tufts? Reds Manager Sparky Anderson was asked.

“I think Harvard would be a little over my head,” he replied.

The sky over everyone’s heads soon cleared, and the Series played on.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: October 30, 2008
An article on Wednesday about the influence of poor weather on the World Series through the years misstated the scheduled day for Game 6 between the Boston Red Sox and the Cincinnati Reds in October 1975. It was a Saturday, not a Friday. (Stormy weather ultimately pushed the game to Tuesday.)

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Titans crush Colts, remain only unbeaten

Tennessee Titans wide receiver Brandon Jones (81) grabs a pass for a 15-yard gain as he is hit by Indianapolis Colts cornerback Melvin Bullitt on Monday.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Don’t call the Tennessee Titans the NFL’s best team just yet. They’re happy with being the league’s last unbeaten club and grabbing a chokehold on the AFC South away from the Indianapolis Colts.

LenDale White ran for two touchdowns, Chris Hope intercepted Peyton Manning twice and the Titans routed the Colts 31-21 Monday night.

The Titans (7-0) have won an NFL-best 10 straight regular-season games, matching the second-best streak in franchise history. More importantly, Tennessee took control of the AFC South away from the team that has dominated this division in winning the past five titles.

The Titans have won three of four in the series, and linebacker Keith Bulluck said they made a statement with their latest victory.

“The Colts were the team to beat, and I think now, the Titans are the team to beat,” Bulluck said.

Kerry Collins outmanaged Manning, throwing for 193 yards with no interceptions.

“We’re trying to get where they’ve been,” Collins said. “It was a big step for us tonight I think. We obviously got off to a good start, and to get one more against a division opponent is again real big at this time of year.”

Jeff Fisher joined Tom Landry and Don Shula as the only NFL coaches to start 7-0 in their 15th season or later. He credited his defense for staying patient against Manning and his team for focusing on the Colts, not its surprising start.

“The season’s still early, and there’s a lot of games left,” Fisher said. “Our focus was on the Colts and trying to prepare ... to try to find a way to beat them. That was the commitment that we made this week. We’re not looking ahead. We’ll now look ahead to next weekend. As far as the division and all that stuff’s concerned, we’re just trying to win ballgames right now.”

Coach Tony Dungy had called this a must-win for Indianapolis to have any chance at winning the division, but now his Colts (3-4) have lost two straight in their worst start since Manning’s rookie season. The Colts trail Tennessee by four games with nine games left and will host New England on Sunday night.

“It’s going to make it doubtful for us to win the division, but ... we’ll see what the last nine games bring,” Dungy said. “If we play well and get ourselves on a streak and get going, we can be a playoff team. I think once you get in the playoffs, anything can happen as we’ve seen two of the last three years.”

Manning had the Colts up 14-6 in the third quarter on two touchdown passes to Dallas Clark against a Tennessee defense that came in having allowed only one TD pass through the first six games.

But the Titans came up big after tying it at 14 with 3:21 left in the third.

The NFL’s stingiest scoring defense stopped the Colts on fourth-and-short on consecutive drives at the end of the third and start of the fourth. Linebacker Stephen Tulloch stopped Dominic Rhodes behind the line on fourth-and-1 with less than a minute left in the third. Rob Bironas’ second field goal, a 48-yarder, gave the Titans a 17-14 lead early in the fourth quarter.

“You’re there in the fourth quarter and you have to make the plays to win the ballgame, and when that time came, they made them all,” Dungy said of the Titans.

Tennessee responded by driving 66 yards over 6:51, and White scored his second TD — giving him 10 for the season. Hope picked off Manning again with 3:38 left. Rookie Chris Johnson scored his own TD on a 16-yard run and the sold-out crowd clad in Tennessee light blue began celebrating another win.

Manning scored on a 1-yard run with 1:17 left, but Titans safety Michael Griffin recovered the Colts’ onside kick attempt that didn’t travel 10 yards.

“I hope we can play a little ticked off,” Manning said. “There’s a healthy way to be angry and try to bounce back and do something about it. We had some chances tonight. We had the lead, and then just they made the plays in the second half, and we didn’t.”

Manning put the Colts up 14-6 with his second TD pass to Clark, a 19-yarder on their opening drive of the second half. That seemed like it might be enough on a night when all the Titans could manage were field goals.

They eventually got a little help from the Colts, who again were without Bob Sanders, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, running back Joseph Addai and cornerback Kelvin Hayden.

The Titans drove 80 yards in 14 plays capped by White’s 1-yard run on third-and-goal, assisted by an illegal contact penalty on Marlin Jackson with a flag coming a little late after Justin Gage had dropped a pass on third-and-5. Then Melvin Bullitt was called for pass interference on tight end Bo Scaife, putting the ball at the Indianapolis 18.

Tennessee then tied it at 14 when Collins rolled to his right and found fullback Ahmard Hall for the 2-point conversion.

Notes: Hope had been the only starter in the Titans’ secondary without an interception, and he turned in his first two-pick game of his career. ... The Colts are 29-10 in the AFC South. ... The Colts are 38-7 when Manning throws for two or more TDs. ... The Titans are 16-2 since 2006 when intercepting two or more passes. ... Tennessee did not allow a sack for a fifth straight game. ... Fisher tied Mike Ditka, his old coach when Fisher played for the Chicago Bears, for 22nd in NFL history with 127 career wins.

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10 NBA players ready for a breakout season

by Greg Varkonyi

Raymond Felton: Time to step up (gettyimages.com)
Raymond Felton: Time to step up (gettyimages.com)

Monta Ellis, Gilbert Arenas, Michael Redd, Ben Wallace - the list could go on and on. These are guys who flew under the radar for a year or two before busting out and showing the league that they are ready to contribute.

Every year we are blindsided by some players whom we had never heard of as they take their game to that next level. Here is my list of 10 players who will either take that big step on their way to NBA stardom or will falter and remain in the also-ran category...

1. Raymond Felton (Charlotte Bobcats): It is time for Felton to step his game up. Larry Brown is the right kind of coach for this guy. Unlike Stephon Marbury, Felton is known to accept authority and he should be willing to change his on-and-off offense for a pass-first mentality. In all fairness this is sort of a last shot for Felton. He has put up decent numbers, but at this point he has looked more like a backup and less like the starter they were hoping him to be.

2. Gerald Green (Dallas Mavericks): I was waiting for him to have a bust-out season last time around in Minnesota. Well, things did not really go according to plan. The Wolves were loaded with players filling the same position but far more developed than Gerald’s raw game. Why should he manage to make a mark in Dallas? Every team Gerald has played for has praised him, meaning the kid has the right kind of attitude. Dallas will provide him a pressure-free environment as they are only looking for him to bring his athletic game every night. It’s put up or shut up time for this preps to pros star hopeful.

3. Andrew Bynum (Los Angeles Lakers): Bynum was having a breakout party last season before an injury ended it. The real question is, will he come back 100%? My guess is that he will manage to be just as effective as he was in the early stages of last season. With Pau Gasol now helping him out in the low post Andrew could find it even easier to make a mark than ever before. He is under some pressure though, as a Lakers title really depends on whether he can contribute and stay healthy.

4. Randy Foye (Minnesota Timberwolves): The Wolves still believe that Foye is the answer to their prayers at the point. His preseason performance once again has us wondering. It is obvious that Foye has great instincts and can play the penetrate and kick-it-out game, but he is a combo guard leaning more towards being a shooter than a passer. Still with a great passing duo in the low post (Kevin Love and Al Jefferson), a great three-point bomber by his side (Mike Miller), Foye’s point and assist totals are a cinch to go up.

5. Marvin Williams (Atlanta Hawks): Right off the bat I have to admit I do not think Marvin will ever live up to the expectations that his No.1 draft status brought. If he were a 5-10 lottery pick everybody would be talking about how great this Hawks pick was and how much Marvin has improved. He will improve this season once again, and this time around we might take notice. With top sixth man Josh Childress in Europe, Williams is going to be expected to step up his game and reach that next level. He is actually a player who can be used at multiple positions and his talent level is absurd.

6. Darko Milicic (Memphis Grizzlies): Every year at the start of the season Darko fans gather round and start saying: “This is going to be the year when Milicic finally delivers.” Darko is primed to get a lot of minutes this time around. Simply put, the Grizzlies do not have enough able bodies down low, so Milicic will see a sharp rise of his PT. This will not mean that Darko finally starts averaging 20 points and 15 rebounds, but you can expect 10-11 points, maybe 8 rebounds and 1-2 blocks per game. Hey, for DM that would already constitute a breakout season.

7. Luke Ridnour (Milwaukee Bucks): Young master Luke has had previous mini breakouts. One of those has actually gotten him an invite to the Olympic tryouts. Alas, Ridnour lacks any sense of defense. His rendition of a defensive stop requires that he uses a hammer and nails. Yet on the other end of the court Luke is a masterful point guard. He is quick enough to deceive opponents, passes well enough to break down a defense and he understands the game enough to climb into the upper half of NBA point-men. Ridnour will have a breakout year because he has been given weapons he can surely use wisely, namely the three-point shooting of Michael Redd and the fast break athleticism of Richard Jefferson. Too bad Mike D’Antoni is not the Bucks’ coach, then that lack of defense would not matter.

8. Thabo Sefolosha (Chicago Bulls): This will either be a disastrous season for Sefolosha or it will be his best ever. Thabo has shown during the preseason that he is ready to bust out. Problem is, the Bulls are loaded at both guard spots. Someone will have to be shipped from the clut at the position. Still, it is imaginable that Sefolosha gets stuck behind too many guys once again and will not get a decent opportunity to display his skills. He really is an asset as a 6’7” player who can play the point, shooting guard and small forward positions.

9. Jeff Green (Oklahoma City Thunder): Green had a solid albeit average rookie season. Not exactly what the then Supersonics were expecting from their top-five pick. Green will receive some tutoring from journeyman Desmond Mason this season and the decrease of pressure plus the certainty of this place being home finally should help him improve immensely. Green is a great complementary player and the Thunder still hope he can develop into the Scottie Pippen of Kevin Durant’s developing Jordan.

10. Renaldo Balkman (Denver Nuggets): Balkman will never have gaudy stats. He will never be mentioned amongst the elite. He will never average 20 points per game. It is not his style. What this guy does well is hustle and play in-your-face defense - two things the Denver Nuggets badly need. Too bad they got rid of Marcus Camby because the Camby-Balkman inside-outside defensive duo combined with the scoring of Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony would have been a wild experience to see.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

So McEnroe had a point after all. Scientists study 4,000 tennis points and find 80% of umpire 'out' calls are 'in'

By David Derbyshire

John McEnroe called it: Referees really do call 'out' in error due to perception

John McEnroe reacting in anger after a disputed 'out' decision

John McEnroe may have had good reason to turn on the tantrums.

Scientists have shown that tennis umpires tend to succumb to an optical illusion that makes balls appear to be out when they are just inside the line.

The discovery, based on analysis of more than 4,000 Wimbledon tennis points, comes nearly three decades after McEnroe's infuriated outbursts at umpires' apparent sight problems made him a household name.

The authors say the illusion is so powerful that every shot in tennis games should be reviewed by instant replay.

Players and spectators have long been puzzled by the ability of umpires to make the strangest calls, particularly in the days before electronic linesmen.

In 1981, McEnroe sealed his reputation as the Superbrat of tennis with a vitriolic outburst against an umpire.

'You cannot be serious!' he yelled. 'That ball was on the line! The chalk flew up! It was clearly in! How can you possibly call that out?'

A team of researchers at the University of California have shown the unfortunate umpire may have been the victim of a simple trick of the eye.

Dr David Whitney, who led the study, said the human brain struggles to keep track of moving objects - or objects that appear to move because we are moving our heads or eyes.


'The visual system is sluggish. It takes 100 or more milliseconds for us to become aware of an image that strikes our retina,' he said.

'So by the time we perceive an object like the coffee cup in one location, it will have already changed location as we move toward it. Our perception lags behind reality.'

To get around this delay, the brain tries to compensate and mentally repositions the object where it thinks it should be. The trouble is, it often overcompensates.

Studies have shown that when people follow an object moving in a straight line, their brains usually think the object is slightly further along its path than it is.

'You cannot be serious!': The 1980 war of words between McEnroe and referee Fred Hoyles

'You cannot be serious!': The 1980 war of words between McEnroe and referee Fred Hoyles

Dr Whitney said umpires, players and spectators would experience the same illusion at Wimbledon. If a ball is moving through the air towards the chalk lines from left to right, it will appear to spectators at any one time to be slightly further right than it really is.

'And if it bounces close to the line inside the court, many people watching will wrongly 'see' it touching the grass outside the court.

That means umpires will make far more mistakes when calling a ball 'out' than calling one 'in', he said.

To test the theory, his team looked at 4,000 randomly selected tennis points from the 2007 championship.

Out of the 83 incorrect calls, they found that 70 - or 84 per cent - were wrong 'out' calls.

This supports the view that visual processing rather than poor judgment was to blame.

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Ronaldo wins world players' award

Man Utd star Cristiano Ronaldo
Ronaldo was in unstoppable form last season

Manchester United and Portugal star Cristiano Ronaldo has been named FifPro World Footballer of the Year, beating 54 other top players on the shortlist.

The honour, voted for by professional footballers from all over the world, was widely expected after Ronaldo scored 42 goals for United last season.

Ronaldo was also named in the FifPro team of the year, alongside his United team-mate Rio Ferdinand.

"To be recognised by my fellow players is amazing," said the 23-year-old.

"I would like to thank my team-mates and coaches and everyone involved at United and the national team, as well as my family and friends for their support."

Liverpool's Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres and Chelsea and England captain John Terry also made the team, along with AC Milan midfielder Kaka and Barcelona star Lionel Messi.

Ronaldo, who was the driving force behind United's Premier League and Champions League double last season, is also a strong contender to win the Fifa World Player of the Year award and the Ballon d'Or.

The number of goals he scored last year was absolutely phenomenal
Sir Alex Ferguson on Ronaldo
He was linked with a move to Real Madrid during the summer but the winger is looking to put that episode behind him, while revealing United boss Sir Alex Ferguson was the major factor behind his decision to stay.

"Sir Alex has been a big inspiration to me," he said. "He believed in me enough to buy me. I have learned so many things from him and I am continuing to learn because he is a great manager.

"Of course, he was the main factor in keeping me here. But what happened in the summer is finished. Now my head is on the club. My focus is solely on playing well for Manchester United and winning the Premier League and Champions League again."

Ronaldo has three goals to his name this season after missing the start of the campaign through injury, but Ferguson has backed the star to come good.

"I still think he will beat 25," said Ferguson. "It is going to be difficult because he has had a stop-start beginning to the season.

"He had the operation on his ankle so he has missed a few games and he is just getting his rhythm back.

"The number of goals he scored last year was absolutely phenomenal. But I hope he can be equally as good this year in terms of his contribution to the team."

The original 55-man FifPro shortlist included Terry, Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole, Wayne Rooney and Cesc Fabregas.

FifPro is the worldwide representative organisation for professional football players, with more than 57,500 members.


FifPro World XI:

Goalkeeper: Iker Casillas (Spain/Real Madrid)

Defenders: Sergio Ramos (Spain/Real Madrid); John Terry (England/Chelsea); Carles Puyol (Spain/ Barcelona); Rio Ferdinand (England/Manchester United)

Midfielders: Steven Gerrard (England/Liverpool); Xavi (Spain/Barcelona); Kaka (Brazil/AC Milan).

Forwards: Lionel Messi (Argentina/Barcelona); Fernando Torres (Spain/Liverpool); Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal/Manchester United)

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After 34 hours, they can stop now

By Rick Carpiniello

Event organizer Kevin Kaye of OnTrack Sport Center in Tarrytown keeps track of players during the 34-hour indoor soccer game, which finally ended yesterday morning with the White team ahead of the Black team 623-450.

Event organizer Kevin Kaye of OnTrack Sport Center in Tarrytown keeps track of players during the 34-hour indoor soccer game, which finally ended yesterday morning with the White team ahead of the Black team 623-450. (Stuart Bayer/The Journal News)


TARRYTOWN - I was feeling kind of tired, having fallen asleep during Game 3 of the World Series, and being jolted awake by the alarm clock before 6 a.m. yesterday.

Two coffees, a quick shower, then a ride to OnTrack Sport Center in Tarrytown, and as soon as I walked through the door I felt like the Energizer Bunny and Speedy Gonzalez rolled into one.

Because the people inside OnTrack made my five-plus hours of sleep seem Rip Van Winklian.

They had been up since some point Friday, most of them since early Friday morning, with only a couple of tiny cat naps in sleeping bags on the center's cold artificial turf. The 22 of them - two women, 20 men - had just completed a record-breaking 34-hour indoor soccer game at 7:30 a.m. yesterday. They had topped the Guinness World Record for an indoor soccer game - 30 hours - at 3:30 a.m. and tacked on another four hours. Guinness has to review it and authenticate it, which will take two to six weeks.

Final score: White 623, Black 450.

It might have been closer, but the Black lost two players, one to a back injury and one who quit - "He should be ashamed of himself," said Aniello Ricchiuti of Sleepy Hollow, who played for the winning team.

Plus, the sides were chosen somewhat blindly.

"The difficult thing about this was we had 30-40 inquiries and requests to play, and when it came down to crunch time, we had so many people back out, either inexplicably or came up with ridiculous excuses," said Kevin Kaye of Briarcliff, the president/general manager of OnTrack Sport Center who had been planning the event since the spring of 2007.

"At the end, everybody was hugging and cheering, and just as close as you could be on any team. It was great."

The Red Bulls sent their "Street Team" over to perform ball skills during the kickoff reception Friday, and at the end of the game yesterday, Red Bulls player Carlos Mendes showed up to congratulate the teams.

"I appreciate what you guys have done," Mendes told them. "I play 90 minutes and I'm exhausted."

The event benefitted the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Though still being tabulated, the goal was to raise enough, at least, to grant a wish for a seriously ill child (average cost of a wish: $7,500).

"I knew that it had to be tied to something bigger than just the event," Kaye said. "Yeah, it was a big thing to do - any time you break a world record, everybody thinks it's a big deal - but I wanted to have more of a purpose attached to it. I felt it would motivate people to work even harder because it was for a good cause."

On Friday night, a Make-A-Wish kid who'd had a wish granted, a young girl named Jody from Rockland (the foundation doesn't identify kids) who had 38 surgeries and lost both legs, addressed the participants.

"You can't not look at these kids and think about what Make-A-Wish does for them and not be moved, and not realize how lucky you are," said player Tom Schumacher of Sleepy Hollow. "I've got two healthy kids. Amen. I found myself getting a little choked up, but it's a good feeling."

So they began, with rules and regs set by Guinness. There would be no more than 24 players (five per team on the field at any time), and players couldn't switch sides. For every hour played, five minutes' worth of break could be accumulated. Nobody was allowed to leave and come back. Local sponsors provided food. The pace early was frantic.

"It was funny because it took a good 15 minutes before the first goal was scored, and in indoor (soccer) that's pretty amazing," Schumacher said.

They almost finished themselves before they had really even begun.

"In the beginning, we actually foolishly played a little harder than we should have," Ricchiuti said, "We slowed it down. We had no choice."

"Nobody wanted to give up that first goal," Kaye said. "The ironic thing is that the tempo didn't slow down until four or five hours later, and at that point the players realized, 'Wow, I better slow down because I'm feeling tired, and we haven't even gone four or five hours yet.' So the goals started coming then."

There were also moments of truth. One was Friday night/Saturday morning, when Kaye said there was "an absolute, across-the-board fear that we weren't going to do it, because it occurred to them that we hadn't even put a dent in the record yet and we still had a whole night to go through, and they were dragging."

So they had a meeting during a break. Should we keep on going, or walk away right now? The answer was an "unequivocal 'No, we're going for this,' " Kaye said.

Another tough time was the 15-hour mark, when they realized they were only halfway home.

"It was definitely not as easy as just talking about it," Kaye said.

Schumacher was posting a chronicle of the marathon on Facebook, and received an e-mail from the commissioner of the AYSO in which he coaches both his son's and his daughter's teams. It said, "Great job. Good stuff. Now wake up and go coach your two teams." So he hoped to get a hot bath and then go for two more games.

"What's that they say?" Schumacher said. "You sleep when you're dead, right?"

Kaye said he planned to be sleeping, "as soon as I can get out of my car and make it to my floor.

"The thing that was most important to me is that the guys and women who were on this field, some of whom had never met, worked so hard for something, and came together, and were on the brink of what I consider to be a walk-away failure. It sounds maybe a little silly ... but really that was much more important to me than (the record). And even more important was the cause we were doing it for, Make-A-Wish."

There was pride and satisfaction, a sense of accomplishment, on their weary faces, even as they limped out of the place, many complaining of aches and pains.

As they did, Mendes, the pro athlete, warned them, "Wait 'til tomorrow."

Reach Rick Carpiniello at rcarpini@lohud.com.

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Ferrari threaten to quit formula one over new engine plan

Alan Henry

Ferrari

Ferrari believe a move to standardised engines would negate their reason for existing in formula one. Photograph: Filippo Monteforte/AFP/Getty Images

Ferrari warned yesterday that they could quit formula one if the sport's governing body continues with its plans to slash costs. The famous Italian team, which has been in formula one since its inauguration in 1950, sent a firm signal to the FIA president, Max Mosley, that his idea of introducing so-called standard engines into the sport would take away their raison d'être for competing in motor racing.

Last week the Ferrari team sporting director, Stefano Domenicali, and Toyota's formula one vice-president, John Howett, met Mosley to discuss the issue of cost-cutting, which would also help the smaller teams survive. But the issue of standard engines has pushed them too far. Ferrari, in a statement released following a board meeting on Monday, said they "fully agreed with the need for a substantial and necessary reduction of costs".

But the Italian firm said it had "major reservations" over any proposals that would lead to teams using the same engines: "It would deprive formula one of its whole reason for existing, which is based on competition and technological development. If these elements were to become obsolete, our administrative council [board] reserves the right, after consultation with its partners, to evaluate whether we remain committed to the discipline [of formula one]."

Ferrari have been historically closely aligned with the FIA and the sport's commercial rights holder, Bernie Ecclestone, and it will not have escaped Mosley's attention that they are one of the few formula one teams who have, in the past, successfully forced the governing body to back down from rule changes with which they disapproved. At the end of 1986 Ferrari forced the FIA to abandon plans to ban V12 engines in favour of V10s.

Howett echoed Ferrari's sentiments yesterday, and said any decision to quit would be down to the company's board in Japan. "I don't think any of the manufacturers want a homogenised engine," said Howett. Mercedes, Honda, Renault and BMW are the other four manufacturers currently involved in formula one, and it is understood they are of the same mind.

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Why NFL Kickers Want Head Coaches to Ice Them

We asked a handful of kickers about those last-second time-outs opposing head coaches keep calling. Their response: "Thanks!" Also: The real reason commentators laugh so hard during pre-game shows.

By Peter Schrager

icing the kicker

Photo illustration by Eric Gillin, art from iStockPhoto

Ed. Note: This is the third installment of Peter Schrager's weekly football column, which runs on Thursdays. You can read his archive here.

When in the heat of battle, it seems rather counter-intuitive to voluntarily help an opponent out. Whether in chess, trial law, or American Idol, giving your foes a chance to practice, re-group, and then try again at no cost whatsoever simply doesn’t make much sense.

Yet, NFL head coaches are doing precisely this, calling last-millisecond time outs in an attempt to "ice" the opposing kicker, inadvertently giving the other team a free practice shot at a field goal. The idea, of course, is to tire the kicker, to get inside his head, to force him to miss. But over the past two weeks, Icing the Kicker 2.0 has already backfired twice.

Two weeks ago, Dallas kicker Nick Folk missed a game-tying kick, but unbeknownst to the fans in the stadium, Arizona Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt had whispered a timeout call into the line judge's ear a split-second before the attempt. Given second life, the Pro Bowl kicker split his next attempt through the uprights. This past Sunday, it happened again, when Raiders interim coach Tom Cable called timeout just before Jets kicker Jay Feely clanked a field goal off the goalpost. On his second go at it, Feely nailed the 52-yard attempt, sending the game into overtime.

Ironically, Feely thought Icing 2.0 actually helped him out, telling reporters after the game: "I heard the whistle before I started, which is an advantage to the kicker. If you're going to do that, do that before he kicks. I can kick it down the middle, see what the wind does and adjust. It helps the kicker tremendously."

I spoke with a guy who knows a little something about pressure kicks -- four-time Super Bowl champion and future NFL Hall of Famer Adam Vinatieri -- earlier this week. "The coaches calling timeouts at the last possible second -- I think that's something that will be addressed by the NFL Rules Committee," says Vinatieri. "Sometimes, though, it may be a good thing. It gives us an opportunity to actually see the ball on the ground, kick the ball and have another shot at it."

So why do coaches do this? Because it works, at least from the small statistical analysis that's been done. According to Michael David Smith at FootballOutsiders.com, "In a 2004 article in the academic journal Chance, two statisticians studied every field goal attempt from the 2002 and 2003 NFL seasons, and isolated all the 'pressure' kicks -- those that would tie the game or give the team a lead within the final three minutes of the game. The statisticians found that kickers were more likely to miss those pressure kicks if the opposing team had called a timeout beforehand."

But that's old-fashioned icing -- after all, Bill Parcells called a timeout before Scott Norwood's infamous miss in Super Bowl XXV. This last-second Icing 2.0 concept only began in 2006, when a rule change gave head coaches the right to call timeouts from the sideline. Denver coach Mike Shanahan became the first to employ Icing 2.0 early last season in a win over Oakland. Raiders coach Lane Kiffin liked it so much that he pulled the move the very next week in a victory over Cleveland. Suddenly, it was all the rage.

Only, it hasn't really "worked" since.

University of Florida coach Urban Meyer tried Icing 2.0 against Auburn last year -- Auburn's kicker nailed both of his attempts, as shown in the video above. Buffalo Bills coach Dick Jauron tried Icing 2.0 last year against the Cowboys. The aforementioned Folk made both kicks in that situation, too.

Those who look beyond the statistical analysis (and who probably don't subscribe to the academic journal Chance) think "icing the kicker" is just plain absurd. Writer Stefan Fatsis spent a year with the Denver Broncos, actually suiting up at kicker during the team's 2006 training camp for his best-selling book A Few Seconds of Panic: A 5-Foot-8, 170-Pound, 43-Year-Old Sportswriter Plays in the NFL. "Kickers usually miss kicks because they struck the ball a quarter inch above or below, to the right or the left of where they should have, which can happen in the first quarter as easily as it can in the fourth," explains Fatsis. "Snappers and holders play a role here, too, don't forget. So coaches and media and fans can believe what they want, but kickers miss 52-yard field goals because it's not easy to kick 52-yard field goals. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar."

Factor in the chance to go through all the motions and actually have a practice kick in a pressure situation and it's tough to figure out why opposing coaches even consider Icing 2.0 anymore.

But from the looks of it, the latest fad in coaching doesn't appear to be going away anytime soon. As current St. Louis Rams and former Seattle Seahawks kicker Josh Brown told me this week, "Thank God there are only three time outs. I think coaches would do this all day long if they could."

Fantasy Life: The Fine Art of Trash Talk on Fantasy Football Message Boards

The fantasy football message board is one of the last relevant forms of direct communication left in our society. Text messages have replaced the phone call, Blackberry pings have replaced the long-form email, and Facebook has replaced the need to actually have real friendships.

But the fantasy football message board? It's still there, as strong as it's ever been, an irreplaceable part of everyday life. Waiting for a text about your wife's impending pregnancy? Put it on hold. An update about layoffs at work? It can wait. You got a ping that someone's offering Steven Jackson for your #2 wide receiver? That's what we call a #1 priority.

Of course, the fantasy football message board has a second function, too -- it's also a way for five-foot-two, passive-aggressive weenies to talk shit without fear of retaliation. Without the consequences that come with face-to-face interaction, things no man would ever say to another magically find their way into public forums.

In my league, I've seen it all. Attacks at an opponent's mother and her dental hygiene (or lack thereof), incriminating pictures from forgotten Saturday nights of yesteryear, even transcribed voicemails left on ex-girlfriends' cell phones during dark and lonely times. Nothing says "I want to get back together" quite like seeing it posted in Arial 10 font for all your buddies to see -- somewhere under a photoshopped picture and a list of last week's waiver wire pickups. "What's this? A Facebook photo of my ex-fiancee with her new husband on a gondola ride in Venice right under a note about Team Dunghole signing BenJarvus Green-Ellis? Oh, nice. Thanks for that." It's all common practice on your average fantasy football league message board.

Someone should probably draft up an Official Fantasy Football Message Board Code of Conduct. Or perhaps, a Ten Commandments. You know -- "Thou Shalt Not Break News of Friend's Wife Seen With Another Man At Local Applebee's" -- stuff like that. Or, just a general rule of thumb: "If you wouldn't say it in person, don't post it."

Then again, that would take away most of the fun.

Got some good message board trash talk? Send it my way -- to PeterSchrager@gmail.com and if we get any good ones, we'll post it here over the next few weeks.

Three Questions with Pete Radovich, Producer of Inside the NFL

This week, we spoke with Pete Radovich, producer of Showtime's Inside the NFL. A winner of 10 Emmys, Radovich steers the ship on cable television's longest running show, which made the move from HBO to Showtime this off-season.

NFL studio shows tend to be a circus of canned laughter and forced friendship. Inside the NFL doesn't seem that way. How come?

I think what helps makes us different is the fact that we are not a live show. When you do anything on live television you tend to rehearse a lot, but there is a downside to rehearsing -- you lose spontaneity. For example, the first time somebody makes a funny comment on the set, everybody usually laughs hard -- but it's a genuine laughter. The second and third time the laughter usually isn't as authentic. By the time you go live-to-air you've now heard that joke as many as four or five times and the laughter can sometimes seem forced or canned, as you say. At Inside the NFL we don't rehearse. We have a meeting outlining what we'll talk about, and in that meeting I make sure that the guys don't give away any of their best material until we start taping. The idea is to have the audience and our guys hear the material for the first time together. I promise you this -- any reaction on our show is genuine.

You played a role in hand-picking the current show's cast of characters. You went with Simms, Collinsworth, James Brown, and Warren Sapp. What went into those decisions?

Anytime you put together a group of announcers that haven't all worked together before, it's like setting up people on a blind date. You start thinking things like, "I wonder how they would get along" and "would they have good chemistry together?" But in this case it was pretty easy. Phil Simms and J.B. were already both working together at CBS Sports and J.B. and Cris Collinsworth already had a great history together. We had, without question, three of the best and most respected guys in the business. So once we had those guys locked in, we felt we needed a more recent link to the league. Preferably, a recently retired defensive player, since Phil and Cris both played offense. A player with great on-the-field credentials, and a player that wasn't afraid of saying things that might piss people off. Enter Warren Sapp. He was perfect. A no-brainer.

The show picked up some real buzz when Warren Sapp called out Al Davis a few weeks ago. Did the other on-set guys know that bomb was coming?

When I first met Warren, I told him he might lose some friends in his new job. His response was, "I only have three friends in this world my man, and I don't give a shit about anything else." That's when I knew he might make some noise at some point. Keeping with our format, he didn't give away any of his material in our meeting that morning. Nobody knew what to expect that day, myself included. I just remember right before we taped that segment I asked him, "Are you about to make some headlines?" He just looked at me, smiled, winked and walked to the set. I believe that the reaction and buzz that that segment created put Showtime's version of Inside the NFL back on the map. We still have 16 more shows to go this season and there's no telling what else Warren will say. I love it.

Original here

Game 4 final -- Phillies 10, Rays 2

By Reid Cherner & Tom Weir

If a team with as many good hitters as the Philadelphia Phillies keeps getting chances to blow a game -- or a series -- open, someday they're going to explode. That's what happened in Game 4 tonight as the Phillies hit four home runs on their way to a 10-2 rout and moved within one win of the World Series championship.

Ryan Howard hit two homers and drove in five runs, while Jayson Werth and winning pitcher Joe Blanton also connected in the offensive explosion that made everyone forget the Phils' previous struggles with men in scoring position.

Now, the Phillies will send ace Cole Hamels to the mound tomorrow with a chance to wrap things up in five games. Hamels will be opposed by Rays lefty Scott Kazmir.

The live blog of the game and the running commentary is archived below.

--

Pregame

It's a beautiful night in Philadelphia. The rain that caused last night's 91-minute delay has moved out of the area and with temperatures in the mid-50s, the Phillies and Tampa Bay Rays are set to do battle in Game 4.

The Phillies lead two games to one thanks to a dramatic, 5-4 ninth-inning victory last night and they're hoping to ride that momentum behind starting pitcher Joe Blanton, who was undefeated since being acquire from the Oakland A's at the trade deadline.

On the mound for the Rays is right-hander Andy Sonnanstine, who is 2-0 in the playoffs with a 3.46 ERA.

Top 1st

The wind is a little different tonight and it shows on the first ball put in play. Akinori Iwamura lifts a fly ball down the left field line that seemed to keep carrying and carrying before Pat Burrell gloves it on the warning track. The wind is blowing out just a little bit -- as opposed to last night when it was gusting from left to right.

The Phillies took advantage as the wind knocked down a potential home run to left by the Rays Evan Longoria and helped a pair of homers to right by the Phils' Chase Utley and Ryan Howard.

B.J. Upton strikes out looking and Carlos Pena is retired on a foul out to catcher, giving Blanton an easy first inning. (Rays 0, Phillies 0)

Bottom 1st

And right away the Phillies have a threat going. Jimmy Rollins rips one down the first base line and into the corner for a leadoff double. Although Jayson Werth is retired on a fly to right -- another Phillies out with a runner in scoring position -- Rollins advances to third. Chase Utley walks to bring up Ryan Howard.

REPLAY CONTROVERSY No. 2. Howard hits one right back to the pitcher and Sonnastine has Rollins straying too far off third base. As he runs him back to third, he waits a little too long and Rollins dives back to the bag as Evan Longoria misses the tag ... or does he? The TV replay shows Longoria clearly making contact before Rollins reaches the base. Now the sacks are loaded with only one out.

(Last night, the Rays caught a break when Carl Crawford was safe on a controversial call that replay showed was incorrect.)

The Phillies can't get a hit with men in scoring position, but Sonnanstine walks Pat Burrell -- who's still without a hit in the World Series -- to force in a run. But he escapes further damage by inducing a comebacker from Shane Victorino and retiring Pedro Feliz on a harmless fly to center.

The Phillies take the lead but still must feel like they should have gotten more than one run. (Phillies 1, Rays 0)

Top 2nd

Evan Longoria is now hitless in 13 at-bats in the Series (with seven strikeouts) after whiffing to start the inning. He and Carlos Pena, the Nos. 3 and 4 hitters in the Rays lineup, are a combined 0-for-24 so far.

Manager Joe Maddon was asked before the game if his team could win with those two so unproductive. He didn't give the stock answer, but instead said yes, they could find other ways to win. But of course, it's a lot tougher to do when your big guns aren't firing.

A two-out single by Dioner Navarro goes to waste when Ben Zobrist flies out to center. (Phillies 1, Rays 0)

Bottom 2nd

Jimmy Rollins must like being at home. After going hitless at Tampa Bay, Rollins has four hits already in Philadelphia after singling to right with two outs. But Jayson Werth flies out to strand Rollins at first. (Phillies 1, Rays 0)

Top 3rd

Phillies starter Joe Blanton looks sharp early. He strikes out Jason Bartlett for his fourth K of the game. Not bad for a guy who's not known as a strikeout pitcher. He had a season high of 9 strikeouts, but averaged a rather medicore 5.1 per 9 innings.

Although he gave up a hit to opposing pitcher Andy Sonnanstine (4-for-10 in his career), Blanton escapes with no further damage. (Phillies 1, Rays 0)

Bottom 3rd

For the second time in three innings, the Rays' Andy Sonnanstine is going to have to get an extra out. Rays second baseman Akinori Iwamura boots a rather routine ground ball as leadoff man Chase Utley is aboard.

Ryan Howard singles to right and moves Utley to third with no one out. And here we go again with the runners in scoring position. Just like in the first inning, Burrell can drive in a run without getting a hit. He did then with a bases-loaded walk, but this time his popup is corraled by shortstop Jason Bartlett for the first out. Burrell is now hitless in 10 trips in the Series.

Shane Victorino pops up to short as well, putting the Phillies 2-for-39 with runners in scoring position in the Series (and both of those hits were infield hits).

But all of Citizens Bank Park lets out a sigh of relief when Pedro Feliz rips a single to left field to score Utley with the second run of the game. Make it now 3-for-40! And the error comes back to haunt the Rays.

Iwamura redeems himself somewhat when Carlos Ruiz grounds one up the middle. Even though he can't make a play at second, Iwamura keeps the ball in the infield to prevent a run from scoring. Pitcher Joe Blanton fouls out to first and the Phillies leave the bases loaded. (Phillies 2, Rays 0)

Top 4th

With all due respect to manager Joe Maddon, the Rays simply can't win if Carlos Pena and Evan Longoria aren't contributing. They're a combined 0-for-24 in the World Series. Make it 0-for-25 as Pena strikes out swinging. That's 5 K's for Blanton tonight.

Longoria hits one deep in the hole that Jimmy Rollins fields and fires to first to get the out.

Just when Rays fans were starting to get really worried -- especially with Cole Hamels the Phillies' game 5 starter -- the only Rays player to hit a home run in the Series hits another. Carl Crawford takes a changeup into the second row of the right field seats and the Rays have cut the deficit in half. (Phillies 2, Rays 1)

Bottom 4th

Once again, the Phillies are the beneficiary of some sloppy defensive play. Akinori Iwamura has a Jimmy Rollins grounder go under his glove in what's ruled an error, but could have been called a base hit just as easily. It will be interesting to see if all these missed plays will start to affect Andy Sonnanstine on the mound.

It could be a factor right now as Jayson Werth draws a walk to put runners on first and second with Utley and Howard coming up. This could be the ballgame right here and Joe Maddon senses it as he makes his way to the mound to talk to his pitcher. (Righty Edwin Jackson and lefty Trever Miller are starting to warm in the Rays bullpen. Perhaps Maddon is giving them a little extra time to get ready.)

Whatever Maddon said must have worked as Sonnanstine strikes out Utley for the first out.

LOOK OUT. There's a long one off the bat of Ryan Howard over the left field wall and the Phillies have extended their lead to four runs. Howard took a curve ball the other way for his second home run in as many nights -- after going the first 11 games of the playoffs without one. (Phillies 5, Rays 1)

Top 5th

With two quick outs, the Rays are going to pinch-hit for pitcher Andy Sonnanstine. And here comes Eric Hinske, who was left off the team's World Series roster but added when Cliff Floyd was replaced due to an injury.

And Hinske launches one. It's deep to center field and off the ivy-covered brick wall that serves as the batter's backdrop. Whoa. It has to be at least a 430-foot blast. And the Rays have cut the lead to three. It's Hinske's first at-bat since Sept. 28, but he ripped that one like he'd been playing every day.

The home run is the 25th for the Rays this postseason, the most ever for an American League team. (Phillies 5, Rays 2)

Bottom 5th

Talk about your good omens. Philies pitcher Joe Blanton joins in the home-run fest with a two-out shot well into the seats in left. And Citizens Bank Park erupts. Blanton becomes the 14th pitcher to hit a home run in a World Series game and the first since Ken Holtzman of the Oakland A's in 1974.

The other three batters to make outs in the inning don't matter to the fans, who keep cheering as Blanton walks out to take the mound in the sixth. (Phillies 6, Rays 2)

Top 6th

If ever there was a time for the Rays' big hitters to come alive, this would be it. Joe Blanton has been incredibly effective all game though, yielding only four hits.

Carlos Pena still doesn't have a hit, but he is able to draw a walk. That brings up Longoria ... but he takes a called third strike on the outside corner. Crawford is hit by a pitch, Blanton's 88th of the night, to put runners on first and second. It's the first time the Rays have had a runner in scoring position all night.

But Blanton comes up with another strikeout, No. 7 tonight, and Dioner Navarro is the third out with no runs crossing the plate. (Phillies 6, Rays 2)

Bottom 6th

The Phillies have their big guns coming up and they're especially dangerous after Jayson Werth strokes a leadoff double. But Edwin Jackson strikes out Chase Utley and after an intentional walk to Ryan Howard, Pat Burrell hits into an inning-ending double play. (Phillies 6, Rays 2)

Top 7th

Joe Blanton's night is over after a leadoff walk to Ben Zobrist. A very nice six-innings plus for Blanton, who will finish the season without a single loss in a Phillies uniform, regular or postseason.

The new pitcher is Chad Durbin, who gets Jason Bartlett on a fly to center but yields a pinch-hit single to Willy Aybar. With two men on and only one out, left-handed hitting Aki Iwamura is due up next so Charlie Manuel goes back to his bullpen for lefty Scott Eyre.

Iwamura goes the other way to left fielder Eric Bruntlett, who was just put into the game to replace Pat Burrell for defensive reasons. And with B.J. Upton coming to the plate, the Phillies go to right-hander Ryan Madson.

On a 3-2 pitch with the runners on the move, Upton strikes out swinging and the Rays get nothing. (Phillies 6, Rays 2)

Bottom 7th

Dan Wheeler is on to pitch for the Rays. Pedro Feliz has an infield single but is erased when Iwamura snags a line drive and doubles Feliz off first base. (Phillies 6, Rays 2)

Top 8th

Ryan Madson, who came on to get the final out of the 7th inning, is back on the hill for the 8th.

In a fitting metaphor for the way things have gone in the Series, struggling sluggers Carlos Pena and Evan Longoria both strike out. They're now a combined 0-for-28 against Phillies pitching. A harmless groundout by Carl Crawford and the inning is over. (Phillies 6, Rays 2)

Bottom 8th

Matt Stairs comes in to pinch-hit for Phillies pitcher Ryan Madson and he receives a loud ovation -- even though he's only batted three times in the postseason. Stairs had a game-clinching home run in Game 5 of the NLCS against the Dodgers. However, he strikes out on a foul tip.

Jimmy Rollins just misses a home run down the right-field line, settling for a double off the wall instead. The next batter, Jayson Werth, doesn't miss it. He scalds one into the left-field seats for a two-run homer that should just about put this game in the deep freeze.

We have another pitching change as Trever Miller will become the Rays' fourth pitcher of the night.

So much for getting out the Phillies' left-handed power hitters. Chase Utley walks and Ryan Howard cranks out another homer, this one deep to right to give him five RBI on the night. The slump is now over, thank you very much. (Phillies 10, Rays 2)

Top 9th

The Phillies' offensive explosion makes it unnecessary to even have Brad Lidge come into the game so J.C. Romero gets the call to close things out. A called strike three on Jason Bartlett is the 11th strikeout by Phillies pitchers.

Pinch-hitter Rocco Baldelli is the final hitter and he -- what else -- strikes out to end the game. (Phillies 10, Rays 2)

WP - Blanton
LP - Sonnanstine