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Friday, July 11, 2008

Referees award more points when they see red

Referees were shown taekwondo bouts with the contestants in red and blue (Image: Jan Leissing)
Referees were shown taekwondo bouts with the contestants in red and blue (Image: Jan Leissing)

Referees try to be fair, but on occasion even the best make bad calls. Now it would seem that sometimes they cannot help it. Researchers reveal that colours worn by competitors can shape referee decisions.

In 2005, evolutionary biologists Russell Hill and Robert Barton at the University of Durham, UK showed that wearing red clothing positively impacted an athlete's performance. They suggested that this was due to an association between red and dominance and/or aggression.

Psychology groups immediately started debating the idea, with some attributing the bias to differences in opponents' visibility. Now Norbert Hagemann and colleagues at the University of Münster, Germany, suggest a different possibility: the colour worn by an athlete might affect the decisions made by referees.

Seeing red

To test their theory, they showed 42 referees of the martial art taekwondo video excerpts from sparring rounds between similarly skilled athletes. In each video, one athlete wore blue protective gear and one wore red (see image, top right).

Each referee individually judged each clip, assigning points for the attacks made. They then watched the same bouts, in a different order, but this time with the colour of the protective gear digitally reversed, so that combatants wearing blue now appeared to wear red, and vice versa (see image, below right).

The team found that referees gave 13% more points to red competitors, even when the performances were exactly the same.

"This is a neat experiment. It reinforces the fact that colour influences the outcome of sporting contests," says Barton. It appears that referees' judgements are also influenced, he says, perhaps by altering their subconscious attributions of dominance in the contest they are observing.

Olympic questions

With the Olympics coming up, the find raises questions about how such psychological effects will shape competitions. Boxing, tae kwon do, and wrestling have traditionally used red and blue for competitors and are expected to use them again in Beijing.

Competitors at taekwondo tournaments often wear electronic blow detectors to aid referees, says Hagemann. "But such devices are not used in boxing and still do not alter any psychological benefit granted to athletes merely wearing red."

As for team games, Hagemann expects some minor bias amongst referees, "but the effect should be small compared to a combat sport [where] the outcome is mainly based on several judgments," he says. "In team sports there could be a bias only in ambiguous tackling situations and these are usually rare."

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Official Rules for Nintendo Wii’s “Pong Toss”

Earlier this week, JV Games announced that they will be ‘cleaning up’ their Wii version of beer pong to be called simply ‘Pong Toss’. This was quite a clever move by the company and Nintendo to silence opponents and widen their market to include the 13 and up ages. This T rated video game produced by JV’s Frat Party games line will be the first drinking game of its kind. And right now, it sucks. Real bad.

Who would actually buy a game that is only about throwing balls in cups? Absolutely no college aged student. I love Wii. I love college. I love beer. I love cups. I love ping pong balls. But there’s one element missing in the title that left every college student from anxiously anticipating its release, to now calling it a lame excuse for a game. If it were cups of beer . . . or even mentioned its blissful goodness then it would be fantastic! But unfortunately, some middle-aged soccer mom was afraid their child might learn about the most widely known drinking game. This doesn’t make any sense, because anyone will confirm that playing beer pong limits the amount of alcohol drank compared to alternatives such as bonging, beer ball, flip cup, card games, quarters, etc. Unless you play for 6 hours straight or are very terrible, beer pong is your safest bet to a relatively sober night. Thus, it is the complete opposite of binge drinking.

But as a favor for JV games, a house full of 8 college aged guys have created a set of rules that will take the game from effortless Pong Toss to the life of the party.

Editor’s Note – Opponents to binge drinking, we all respect your opinion and the fact that you think we’re crazy. But don’t think of us as the “we want to drink ourselves to death in a pool of Everclear” . . . type of crazy. Think of us more as the “I’m gonna burn all my clothes off and run down this street naked” . . . type of crazy. There’s a big difference. You can stop reading here if you can’t handle the lack of moral fortitude that is about to be displayed below. Since JV Games can’t fulfill their wish to promote a favorite drinking past time, we will.

First of all, from all videos of the game play and prerelease, pong toss will be in a 10-cup format. Therefore, each team will need a total of 3 beers. Two beers are acceptable only if agreed upon by both parties. Since space is an issue and there is no need to set up an actual table, a large cup will be used to divide the beer between partners. Every cup means a gulp and the loser takes the left over beer of the winner. Simple.

The ‘house’ rules of the actual game are laid out by JV in the game, so all competitors will abide by those during game play. We hope the following apply:

No Bounce (Self explanatory, since the game surely does not include swatting)
Bring It Back (If you and your partner sink a cup)
Rebounds (Behind the back shot if the ball rolls back)
Redemption (Shoot till you miss once your cups are gone)
Perhaps a blowing or fingering mechanism . . . depending upon player gender
Skunk Rule (Some make the losers run around the house naked, or some are not allowed to return to the table)

If JV Games has failed to think about any of those elements to be included into their game, then it is not worth the trouble to purchase. Luckily, if there’s still time for them to change the game’s name, then they have time to change some game play features.


Every beer pong king or diva will tell you that they are at their peak while they are drunk. If a Wii owner is too protective to allow drunkards around the system, then this rule is essential for the game. Purchase several pairs of impairment goggles and go to town on the game. Since throwing a virtual ball into a cup doesn’t have very much entertainment value, this will add a nice flair to the game.

To help with the desired numbing sensation from a night of drinking, we assume a rubber band around your throwing arm will do the trick. If you can ‘toss a pong’ to perfection without feeling, then you’re becoming a true beer pong pro.

Since drinking makes the Earth rather hard to stay vertical on, wearing roller-skates while playing can help you mimic the beer buzz.

When you drink, unattractive women start to become supermodels and your mind can only focus on their presence. Therefore, posters of Britney Spears, Madonna, or for a real scare, Amy Winehouse.

Finally, you will want to start drinking. Don’t believe me? Watch this video of actual game play. If any of those people are having fun standing around watching a game of virtual dry ‘pong toss’.

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Nadal withdraws from clay-court Mercedes Cup with knee problem

STUTTGART, Germany -- One day after winning the Wimbledon title for the first time, Rafael Nadal pulled out of the Mercedes Cup on Monday with muscle pain above his right knee.

The second-ranked Spaniard, who said he won't play again until healthy, traveled to the Weissenhof tennis center to tell the promoters personally of his withdrawal as the clay-court event's defending champion and star attraction.

"This was the least I can do. I'm disappointed that I can't play," Nadal said. "My doctor said I need a few days off. I will have a checkup and treatment and won't return to the court until I am 100 percent fit."

Rafael Nadal

Julian Finney/Getty Images

Rafael Nadal, who won his first Wimbledon title Sunday, will undergo a physical. Doctors advised he take a few days off.

Nadal has played 47 matches since mid-March, winning six titles and reaching another final. He had fought knee problems since before last year's Wimbledon tournament.

"The calendar is hard on us players," he said. "I have played four, five months without a break. I have to recover."

The 22-year-old Nadal dethroned Roger Federer as Wimbledon champion Sunday, needing 4 hours, 48 minutes to hold off the Swiss star's stirring comeback, 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-7 (8), 9-7.

The win was Nadal's first Grand Slam title outside of the French Open, which he has won the last four years.

Nadal remained second to Federer in tennis' world rankings released Monday but has closed the gap. Federer has 6600 points and Nadal 6055.

Federer has led the rankings for a record 232 consecutive weeks, and Nadal has been second for a record 155.

Nadal withdrew after four seeded players pulled out Friday. The biggest loss was Rainer Schuettler of Germany, beaten by Nadal in the Wimbledon semifinals, who has a right elbow injury.

The tournament hopes the withdrawal problem will be solved next year by a new date which leaves a break between its start and the Wimbledon final.

Organizers were critical of the ATP for where the event was scheduled, but professed sympathy for Nadal's withdrawal.

"He is here today, because he is responsible and has character," tournament director Edwin Weindorfer said. "Every player needs a rest, especially someone like Nadal, who is always in the final."

The field is now headed by No. 11-ranked Nicolas Almagro of Spain and No. 15 Richard Gasquet of France.

Information from The Associated Press and Reuters was used in this report.

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Rivalry between Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal as good as tennis gets

Spain's Rafael Nadal right, stands with the winners trophy next to Switzerland's Roger Federer after the men's singles final on the Centre Court at Wimbledon, Sunday, July 6, 2008. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Lewis Whyld,pool

LONDON — They'll talk about the 2008 Wimbledon men's final for years. Or at least until Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal can produce something even more spectacular.

Which, theoretically, could happen this month in the Rogers Cup final in Toronto, or in about two months in the U.S. Open final.

Rafa vs. Roger just keeps getting better and better - the sort of special rivalry that could lift their sport to heights it hasn't seen in quite some time. Federer is 26, Nadal is 22, and they're seemingly forever locked into the No. 1 and 2 spots in the rankings, meaning they'll be on opposite halves of tournament draws for the foreseeable future.

Forget about Borg-McEnroe or McEnroe-Connors or Becker-Edberg or Sampras-Agassi. None of those duos, or any pair of men in the 40-year Open era, faced off in as many as six Grand Slam finals, as Federer and Nadal already have done.

None of those duos ever produced a four-hour 48-minute Wimbledon final, as new champion Nadal and Federer did Sunday, a 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-7 (8), 9-7 classic filled with as many thrills and chills, twists and turns as any match ever played.

"Probably later on in life, you know, I'll go, 'That was a great match,"' Federer said. "But right now, it's not much of a - how do you say? - a feel-good thing."

No Wimbledon men's final ever lasted longer - that says plenty, when you consider this tournament has been contested since 1877 - and this one finished at nightfall, with camera flashes providing the only traces of light as Nadal carefully lifted the golden trophy overhead.

Britain's Daily Mail newspaper ran a front-page photo of Nadal on Monday, with the headline: "After five epic hours of truly agonizing drama, Nadal wins the greatest final ever."

Who could argue with that assessment?

Even a day later, any hyperbole used to describe the match felt well-suited. Both because of what was at stake - Federer came within two points of becoming the first man since the 1880s to win six Wimbledon titles in a row; Nadal succeeded in becoming the first man since Borg Born in 1980 to win the French Open and Wimbledon in the same year - and the breathtakingly high-quality tennis on display.

Both men were brilliant, from the opening, 14-stroke point that Nadal ended with a forehand winner down the line; to the 15-stroke exchange in the second set's eighth game, in which Nadal ran from one sideline to the other with his back to the net and whipped around at the last second to hit a forehand across his body, only to then lose the point a second later with a drop shot into the net; to the four aces Federer used to take the third-set tiebreaker; to the on-his-heels backhand passing winner Nadal hit to open the fourth set's third game; to the running cross-court passing winner Federer hit on the very next point; to the 204-km/h service winner right on a corner and the down-the-line backhand passing winner Federer used to erase match points in the fourth-set tiebreaker.

And on and on it went.

Part of the reason the men's final was so much more compelling than the all-Williams women's final a day before, in which Venus beat younger sister Serena in straight sets for her fifth Wimbledon title, is that fans find it easier to take sides when it comes to Federer and Nadal.

The Williams sisters are among the top players in history, too, but their styles of play are so similar, and no matter which one wins, the trophy is heading to the same family.

Federer and Nadal have such contrasting games and personalities - right down to the cream cardigan favoured by one, and the sleeveless muscle T favoured by the other - that spectators tend to gravitate.

That's why there were all of those raucous, group chants of "Ro-ger!" and "Ra-fa!" ringing through genteel Centre Court during the latter stages Sunday.

"I'm happy we lived up to the expectations," Federer said. "I'm happy the way I fought. That's all I could really do."

In the end, he was left to contemplate his first loss at Wimbledon - or on a grass court anywhere - since 2002. Federer had won 40 consecutive matches at the All England Club, and a record 65 in a row on grass, but Nadal figured out a way to be better, barely, on this day.

The defeat was a blow to Federer's bid to catch Pete Sampras, both for career Wimbledon championships (Federer has five, Sampras finished with seven) and career Grand Slam titles (Federer has 12, Sampras 14).

The match also was a conversation-changer when it comes to assessing the careers of Federer and Nadal.

After all, can Federer really lay claim to being the greatest player ever if he isn't necessarily the greatest player of his own era? Nadal leads their head-to-head series 12-6, including 10-4 in tournament finals, 4-2 in Grand Slam finals.

Four-time French Open champion Nadal, meanwhile, had been hounded by the admonition: "Win a Grand Slam title away from your beloved clay."

Now he has.

Nadal still needs to prove he can get it done at the hard-court majors. He made his first semifinal appearance at the Australian Open in January; he's only once made it as far as the quarter-finals at the U.S. Open, which begins Aug. 25.

The men's final in Flushing Meadows is Sept. 7.

"If I meet Roger on hard (courts), it's going to be very good news," Nadal said, "because we only can meet in the finals, no?"

Yes, and it would be good news for tennis, too.

Copyright © 2008 The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.

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Defense Wins the Wimbledon Championships

The Secret of Nadal’s Amazing Wimbledon Victory.

Remember in the early 2000s when men's tennis became close to unwatchable—booming serves, points that were over before you blinked, synthetic rackets blasting serves 130 miles an hour? With Rafael Nadal dethroning five-time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer on Sunday, that broad caricature of the men's game no longer applies. In men's tennis, defense now reigns supreme.

Federer, of course, has not won 12 Grand Slam titles with his serve alone. He, too, has used his superior service return and all-around defensive skills to dominate more traditional power players like Andy Roddick. When he faces Nadal, however, Federer's all-court genius is stymied. Federer relied on his monstrous first serve to help abate the enormous pressure in the fifth set. (You can watch the whole remarkable set here.) He served consecutive aces from deuce after the match's third rain delay, at 2-2, then hit his way out of trouble again at 15-40 and 5-5. Every other player would have been demoralized after squandering these break opportunities. Not Nadal. He simply adjusted his underwear, broke Federer for the fourth time in the match, and served out the championship, winning 9-7 in the fifth.

Nadal's game hinges on defensive pressure—so long as he's able to get the ball back in play, he always seems to have an advantage. Despite an improved first serve, which he hits consistently and at a higher percentage than Federer, it was Nadal's stubbornness—refusing to ever concede a point—that gave him the edge in the fifth set. In a game where he didn't end up breaking, at 5-5, 15-15, Nadal showed why he now looks impossible to beat. Federer hit a well-placed serve down the middle at 126 mph. The point should have been over, but Nadal somehow reached and returned the ball with reasonable depth. Federer then whipped a wicked approach shot into the corner, seemingly winning the point for a second time. Instead, he was met by a nasty, dipping forehand pass that he couldn't return. Against any other player, either of Federer's shots might've been good enough; against Nadal, he needed to win the point three times.

Defense and offense are always intertwined in tennis, and it's the instantaneous conversion of a losing position into a winning one that makes the sport so thrilling. Aces are exciting enough, but it's the return of a seemingly unreturnable shot that gets fans truly ecstatic. Compare Sunday's match to a recent one between Nadal and Croat Ivo Karlovic, a grass-court titan who the Spaniard took down at a Wimbledon warm-up tournament last month. Karlovic stands 6-foot-10, crushes his serve, and seems all but incapable of winning a point if he doesn't produce an ace or a service winner. Nadal won the match in a pair of tiebreakers despite failing to break Karlovic's serve once. This was a tennis dystopia, where the points are nasty, brutish, and short.

Sunday's match, by contrast, was the most utopian spectacle in tennis' recent history. The inevitable changing of the guard talk shouldn't overshadow that the 26-year-old Federer played brilliantly after a shaky two opening sets, most memorably hitting an ungodly backhand pass in the fourth-set tiebreaker that saved championship point. For another, Sunday's match illustrated the striking similarities in the top players' games. Nadal and Federer (and to a lesser extent, Novak Djokovic) wear their opponents down by forcing errors, weaving together finesse and power and spraying winners from places on the court that other players can't reach. When everybody—even Nadal on occasion—can serve at 125 mph, such abilities are what distinguish those two from the more traditional power players like James Blake and the 155-mph-serving Roddick, both of whom fared poorly at the French and Wimbledon.

This year's results aren't a sign that power no longer matters in the men's game; one look at Nadal's arms would dispel any such notion. It's more that power in tennis today is largely manifested defensively; thanks to high-tech rackets and weight training, the best players can now hit shots on the run with incredible pace, depth, and spin, immediately placing them back on the offensive. Nadal, in particular, is turning the supposed disadvantage of bad court position into an outdated theory for lesser players.

In men's tennis, there's no better way to get your opponent out of position than with a well-struck, well-placed serve. Nadal showed at Wimbledon that other players' best serves aren't good enough. He leads the men's game in return games won in 2008, breaking his opponents' serve 36 percent of the time, or roughly twice a set. After him come Nikolay Davydenko and Novak Djokovic, the Nos. 4 and 3 players in the world, respectively. Federer is tied for sixth in return games won, which may reflect his greater ease in holding his own serve—if you never get broken, you don't need to break your opponent as often—but may also reflect unaccustomed troubles with his defensive game. In Sunday's match, he had plenty of break opportunities in the first two sets but was unable to convert. In the fifth set, when he needed a break to win his sixth straight Wimbledon, Federer couldn't put consistent pressure on Nadal's serve.

By winning the French Open and Wimbledon consecutively, Nadal has confirmed that in today's game, unrelenting defense can win major titles. For Nadal to cement his position at the top, though, he'll have to prove that his grinding style won't destroy his body. The very brilliance that makes for such remarkable tennis may also—so the current fear goes—shorten the 22-year-old's career. Roddick, with his booming serve, might conceivably outlast Nadal and become competitive once again. Federer, too, with his reliable serve, power forehand, and remarkable ability to stay healthy, may still be able to remain at a high level until he's 30, or at least until he breaks Pete Sampras' record of 14 Grand Slam titles. So long as Nadal is still standing, though, it'll be a long slog for everyone else. Big servers take note: You'll need to win every point three times.

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Wimbledon 2008

By Piers Newbery
BBC Sport at Wimbledon


Nadal won his fifth Grand Slam title and first away from Roland Garros

Rafael Nadal held off an incredible fightback from Roger Federer to win his first Wimbledon title and end the Swiss star's reign at the All England Club.

The Spaniard missed two championship points in the fourth set but recovered to win a dramatic rain-interrupted match 6-4 6-4 6-7 (5-7) 6-7 (8-10) 9-7.

The final shot was struck in near darkness on Centre Court at 2115 BST.

Nadal, 22, is the first man since Bjorn Borg in 1980 to win the French Open and Wimbledon titles back-to-back.

Asked about the moment of victory, Nadal told BBC Sport: "It's impossible to explain what I felt in that moment but I'm very, very happy.

"It is a dream to play on this court, my favourite tournament, but to win I never imagined."

Federer, who made just one of 13 break points, said: "I tried everything, got a little late, but look, Rafa is a deserving champion, he just played fantastic.

Interview: Rafael Nadal

"The rain didn't make it easier but you have to expect the worst and he's the worst opponent on the best court. It's a pity I couldn't win it but I'll be back next year."

Federer, 26, had been trying to become only the second man to win six consecutive Wimbledon titles, and so surpass Borg to match Willie Renshaw, who played in the 1880s.

The defeat brought to an end his unbeaten run of 65 matches on grass, and arguably his reign as the undisputed king of tennis.

On sealing victory, a tearful Nadal climbed through the stands to celebrate with his family and supporters before heading to the royal box to speak to members of the Spanish royal family.

Federer, meanwhile, suffered the unpleasant experience of watching, dejected, from his chair as he came to terms with finishing runner-up for the first time.

It may be little consolation but he played his part in one of the great finals.

The pre-match billing had it down as tennis's version of a world heavyweight title fight and it lived up to the hype, Nadal finally winning the longest Wimbledon men's singles final after four hours, 48 minutes.

He now adds the Wimbledon crown to the four French Open titles he has won, while Federer will look to defend his one remaining Grand Slam title at the US Open next month.

Nadal went into the match as the favourite in some people's eyes, having thrashed Federer in last month's Roland Garros final and with an 11-6 head-to-head record against the Swiss.

After a 35-minute delay to the start because of rain, the Majorcan made the better start with a break in game three, saving three break points on his way to the first set.

The momentum shifted at the start of the second as Federer raced to a 4-1 lead, whipping a vicious cross-court forehand for a winner to finally convert a break point in game two, but Nadal came roaring back with five straight games for a two-set lead.

With dark clouds gathering overhead, Federer looked ready to be put out of his misery at 3-3, 0-40, in the third but the champion roused himself superbly, reeling off five straight points and holding serve to lead 5-4 when rain stopped play after two hours and 14 minutes.

Roger Federer
Federer had a break point to serve for the title in the fifth set
Play resumed following a break of 80 minutes and when it came down to a tie-break, rejuvenated Federer dominated with some huge forehands and unstoppable serving, sealing it with an ace.

The fourth set saw the two players inspired and by the closing stages the enthralled Centre Court crowd were chanting the names of both men. Another tie-break was required to separate the pair - and it was an all-time classic.

Federer recovered from 5-2 down only to miss a set point with a wayward forehand.

Nadal then lost his first championship point at 7-6 when Federer hit a winning serve, and the Swiss saved a second match point with an outrageous backhand winner.

The match was destined for a fifth set, and Federer obliged with a service winner to the delight of an enraptured 15,000 spectators.

When the rain returned at 1953 BST with the score at 2-2 in the decider it seemed likely that everyone would be back on Monday, but the shower passed after 30 minutes and battle was rejoined.

Despite the gathering gloom, the final set was simply breathtaking.

Federer earned a break point in game eight, Nadal two in game 11, but both players remained rock solid under the pressure until they were locked at 7-7.

Three more break points were saved by Federer but the champion was rocking, and Nadal finally landed the knockout blow when the world number one was forced into a forehand error.

All that remained was for Nadal to serve out for the title and, after Federer saved championship point number three with a rasping backhand, the Spaniard sealed it when the Swiss netted a forehand.

Watched by his parents, and coach and uncle, Toni, the 22-year-old fell to the floor before beginning his journey through the stands to celebrate.

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Bradley soccer still healing from fatal fireworks prank

OTL: Bradley Soccer Tragedy

PEORIA, Ill. -- A week before Bradley University soccer players were to report for the Fall 2007 season, midfielder Danny Dahlquist's family attended Mass at St. Mark's Catholic Church near the school. The church was the foundation of their family, and as Danny's mother, Tricia, left that Sunday morning, a woman approached her.

"She walked up to me and started shaking my hand, saying what a beautiful family we had," Tricia said. "I thought, 'Well, thank you.' As she was leaving, I realized she had slipped money in my hand. Apparently she had won it somewhere and felt the need to share, spread the wealth so to speak, and she said, 'Bring your family out to dinner.'"

The Dahlquists went home and called Danny, who was living in a house with teammates near campus. He joined his parents and six brothers and sisters at Corky's Ribs & BBQ. Danny quickly ate and, because he was born about a three hours' drive from Wrigley, wanted to watch the Cubs game. He picked up his baby sister, Ellen, and walked back and forth to the area in the restaurant where the game was on TV. Tricia still has that image burned in her mind.

"That's my last vision of him," she said, "standing there with his sister in his hand."

It was the last time the family was together.


It was Saturday, Aug. 11, 2007, and the Bradley soccer friends and teammates living at 2008 West Laura Ave. had decided to throw a party. Danny had moved in for his sophomore year, opting to live off campus instead of in the dorms where he'd lived as a freshman on the team.

Living the life of a Bradley soccer player was a dream for Dahlquist. As he grew up across the street from Bradley, a private school with about 6,000 students, he'd become a devout Braves soccer fan. When he was 10, he met Bradley soccer coach Jim DeRose at a soccer camp. It would be an achievement for a local kid to make Bradley's team. Danny told his parents he'd rather practice for four years at Bradley, a Division I school, than go somewhere else and play for a Division III school. He loved the university where his parents work -- Tricia as an English instructor and Craig as the senior associate athletic director.

Danny Dahlquist

Courtesy Dahlquist family

Danny's parents, Craig and Tricia, work at Bradley and settled the family in a home near the campus.

But on this night, the teammates and roommates were going to party. They got some alcohol -- later found to be obtained by one of the players, Nick Mentgen, -- and invited some friends. Later that night, the housemates wanted to play a prank on a few of their roommates. According to various reports, Dahlquist and the others had done this before: lighting fireworks, including bottle rockets, Black Cats Fireworks and Roman candles, under one another's bedroom doors. So when Dahlquist and another housemate went to their rooms to go to bed, they were prepared.

"Danny, anticipating that I think from the previous night or two, shoved some towels underneath the door to keep that from happening or to keep the door from being opened or to keep the Roman candles out," said Kevin Lyons, Peoria County's state's attorney.

Based on police interviews, court documents and a report from Lyons, this is what happened:

Dahlquist's roommates -- Bradley soccer players Mentgen, David Crady and Ryan Johnson and a fourth friend, Daniel Cox -- lit Roman candles and shoved them under Dahlquist's bedroom door on the second floor of the house. Each was involved in the incident through obtaining the fireworks, lighting them or placing them under the door. After one didn't go off, likely because the opening under the door was blocked, one of the men used a coat hanger to remove the blockage and at least one more Roman candle was shot under the door.

"The flames … were about 1,500 to 1,800 degrees in temperature Fahrenheit," Lyons said. "The flames went across the room. There was a futon across the room and these balls shooting across the floor would hit the wall [and] burst into a bigger flame. The second time when they ran down the stairs and outside, there was no Danny Dahlquist, no nothing."

Dahlquist's bedroom was on fire. After his teammates saw a glow in the second-story window, they went back into the house but couldn't rescue their friend because of the smoke and heat. They woke another roommate, sophomore midfielder Travis English, who was asleep in his own room, and got out of the house. At 4:34 a.m., Gina Goett, a friend invited to the party by Mentgen and Johnson, dialed 911. It was a chaotic scene, with sirens, police, smoke and fire. Johnson fled.

Mentgen was helped up to a secondary roof as he was trying to help get his friend out. In a police interview, an emotional Mentgen described the scene: "I hear Danny, so I know that he is conscious, but he can't see me and I can't see him … I just hear him saying … he is not making words out … I can hear him not yell, but ahhh-ahhh … nothing like 'Hey, help!' Nothing like that. I don't think he even knew what was going on."

Firefighters found Dahlquist on the floor near a window in his room. He was rushed to the hospital but pronounced dead at 5:09 a.m. on Sunday, Aug. 12, from "asphyxiation due to smoke inhalation."


Growing up in this blue-collar city of about 100,000 in north-central Illinois, Dahlquist attended Notre Dame High School a few miles from his home. His name is engraved at the school on a plaque celebrating the 2004 Class A state soccer championship.

Danny Dahlquist

Courtesy Bradley University

Dahlquist's former teammate and roommate, Nick Mentgen, right, tried to save Danny from the burning house.

The 5-foot-9, 145-pound Dahlquist wasn't a superior athlete, but he wanted to play at Bradley so badly that a close friend likened him to the famed Rudy Ruettiger, who inspired the 1993 film "Rudy," about a former Notre Dame football player.

"It was everything to him," his father, Craig, said. "This community gave him an opportunity to not just be friends with those at Notre Dame, and not just be friends with those in the neighborhood, but becoming friends with everybody around this 10- to 15-mile radius. They all came together to play soccer."

Dahlquist enrolled at Bradley in the fall of 2006, made the soccer team as a freshman midfielder and was redshirted. The Braves went 8-8-4 that season, narrowly missing the NCAA tournament in a loss at home to Creighton in the Missouri Valley Conference championship.

The next season, Dahlquist was determined to be an integral part of the team. Teammates and Coach DeRose noticed Dahlquist practicing harder and improving. He'd moved into an off-campus house with Mentgen, Johnson, Crady and English.

Dahlquist was growing up, becoming more independent.


The Dahlquists were just waking up when the call came around 6:45 a.m.

Craig and Tricia Dahlquist had worked up a good speech for their son about underage drinking, but emergency-room personnel immediately took them to a room where one of the nuns at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center told them what happened. They asked if they could see him. She said no. Danny had died.


Nick Mentgen
Hometown: Peoria, Ill.
High School: Notre Dame
Age: 23
Bradley soccer forward, 2004 to 2006
Business major; marketing
Bradley Athletic Director's Honor Roll: Fall 2006
Enrolled as a senior when he pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter.
Release date: July 18, 2008

Ryan Johnson
Hometown: Morton, Ill.
High School: Morton Community H.S.
Age: 22
Bradley soccer forward/midfielder, 2004 to 2006
Bradley soccer's Most Improved Player: 2005
Communications major; public relations
Bradley Athletic Director's Honor Roll: Fall 2005 and Spring 2006
Enrolled as a senior when he pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter.
Release date: July 19, 2008

David Crady
Hometown: Metamora, Ill.
High School: Metamora H.S.
Age: 20
Enrolled in Bradley's award-winning Academic Exploration Program
Bradley soccer midfielder, 2006
Bradley Athletic Director's Honor Roll: Fall 2006, Spring 2007
MVC Honor Roll: 2007
Enrolled as a sophomore when he pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter.
Release date: July 17, 2008

Daniel Cox
High School: Metamora H.S.
Age: 21
Enrolled as a sophomore at Illinois Central College when he pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter.
Release date: July 17, 2008

"It is a feeling like the life's sucked out of you. … I just remember saying, 'How could that be?' Stunned. It was just like the world stopped … as it did."

Craig sat on his front porch for hours that day. People came to see him and the family. It was a long day, but it was amazing to see such an outpouring. Colleagues, athletic department officials, the newly appointed university president and members of the soccer team stopped by to console the family.

On Aug. 13, the day after Dahlquist died, Mentgen, Crady, Johnson and Cox were charged. They each faced multiple counts of arson, including a felony that carried a sentence of up to 30 years in prison. Still, on the day of the funeral at St. Mark's, the Dahlquists say, Crady gave a heartfelt eulogy.

Not long after charges were filed, Johnson quit the team; Crady and Mentgen were dismissed. They continued to attend the school, but university president Joanne Glasser decided that playing sports at Bradley was a "privilege that they had forfeited." She also decided Bradley would have a soccer season in 2007.

The season started 19 days after Dahlquist's death. A logo memorializing him was painted on the home field. A flag with his number was raised for home games. "Once a Brave, always a Brave" was printed on team jerseys.

During the season, the three accused students attended games, called former teammates to root for them and exchanged text messages with DeRose. Bradley senior goaltender Mike Haynes said it was like they were still part of the team.

Sophomore midfielder Chris Cutshaw said he would see Crady, Mentgen and Johnson at times in the stands and "just get lost."

"It was really hard not to think about it every game," Cutshaw said. "Even in moments of huge games you would just be taken to a different place and you would realize what this team has been through, and you would lose five minutes of the game. … They are still our friends."

Bradley reached the MVC title game again in 2007, again facing Creighton. Bradley senior Stephen Brust scored a late goal to win it 1-0 and give Bradley its first MVC tournament title. The team was going to the NCAA tournament for the fourth time, and players celebrated as they had all season -- hugging Craig Dahlquist on the field.

Danny Dahlquist

Courtesy the Dahlquist family

Danny played soccer for Notre Dame High School, which won the 2004 Illinois Class A state soccer championship.

The Braves had never won an NCAA tournament game. This was the beginning of a historic run.

Bradley beat DePaul at home in the first round of the NCAA tournament. The Braves went to Indiana and won on penalty kicks. They went to Maryland, where they trailed 2-0 with less than three minutes to play. Bradley scored two goals, including the tying goal with 37 seconds to play, sending the game to overtime. The Braves then scored in the second overtime with slightly more than a minute remaining on a header by Cutshaw.

Craig Dahlquist had difficulty finding the words.

"You felt it," he said. "You really did, all the way through."

It was on to the Elite Eight to face Ohio State on a cold, rainy December day. After a scoreless first half, the Buckeyes took control. It wasn't long before they led 4-0 and the realization poured down. The Braves' run was over. But you couldn't tell from the crowd, which started chanting, "BU, BU, BU! We are the Braves, the mighty mighty Braves!"

The Dahlquists were there. Craig hugged each player.

"I felt proud," Tricia said. "I felt joy. I felt the Bradley pride. It was great to see Bradley accomplishing what they were accomplishing; given the circumstances or not, it was a great accomplishment."


On Jan. 23, 2008, six weeks after the end of the season, all four men, facing a minimum six years if convicted, agreed to plead guilty to a lesser felony, involuntary manslaughter, and spend six months in the Peoria County Jail. Lyons, who had said he didn't want to turn one tragedy into four others, spoke publicly after the hearing.

Dahlquist memorial

Bradley started a memorial fund in Dahlquist's name. The school has raised more than $30,000 through sales of bracelets, Elite Eight T-shirts, an online jersey auction, the postseason banquet, other contributions in his honor and charity auctions to create an endowed scholarship in Dahlquist's name.

Dahlquist's No. 29 has not officially been retired, but several people say you won't see it worn anytime soon. Dahlquist never played in a game for Bradley, but as the Braves open the 2008 soccer season, his picture is still prominent on the school's athletic Web site, and the flag raised in his honor will wave again. And his locker remains untouched.

"As the death of Danny Dahlquist is permanent, so shall the lifetime felony convictions of the defendants be permanent," Lyons said.

The plea agreement required the four to also serve two years' probation and pay a total of more than $20,000 to the Dahlquist family for funeral, burial and destroyed property.

The Dahlquists did not take sides or say what they thought should happen to Danny's friends. Instead, they offered support to the families of the jailed students.

"I feel great compassion for the families," Tricia said. "They are going through suffering themselves on many different levels, some of which we'll never fully understand, and so I have nothing but sympathy for them and compassion, and truly they need prayers as much as anybody."

In April, Bradley informed Mentgen, Crady and Johnson they could not return to the university because they had violated school code, according to a report in the Peoria Journal Star. Ronald Mentgen, the father of Nick, said his family felt "betrayed." Randy Crady, a Bradley alumnus and father of David, said, "I am embarrassed to say how my alma mater is treating these young men who need support."

In a statement this week to ESPN, Glasser said: "The Dahlquist tragedy has deeply affected every member of the campus community. I feel tremendous compassion and sadness for all those involved in that terrible incident. Having said that, the University has policies and procedures in place. We have followed them. There has been a series of written communications that have been sent to all parties affected by this tragedy. Because of privacy laws covering our students, we are unable to discuss with more specificity the events and subsequent actions that have taken place. " tried on numerous occasions to contact the families and attorneys of the former Bradley students convicted of involuntary manslaughter in connection with Dahlquist's death, but they declined to comment. The men are scheduled to be released by July 19.



Craig and Tricia Dahlquist and their 2-year-old daughter, Ellen, visit Danny Dahlquist's grave at St. Mary's Cemetery in West Peoria, Ill. Dahlquist died last August in a college prank gone wrong.

Like a painting, the vast open area in St. Mary's Cemetery is secluded from the noise of Bradley University. Birds sing and trees dance in a light breeze. There is peace here, but not closure.

A van pulls up. Craig and Tricia get out with their 2-year-old daughter, Ellen, and walk over to a new headstone. Sometimes they cry on visits like this, but not on this January day.

"I think a lot of people can see themselves in our shoes …" Tricia said. "These are just parents who lost a child in a tragic accident. Kids going off to college all the time, and you just hope and pray that nothing like this happens … and yet, it did."

There's a soccer ball, a pair of soccer cleats and goalkeeper gloves and flowers by the grave. The stone reads, "Be not afraid, I go before you." Craig kneels and gently wipes the name of his son … Sheridan "Danny" Dahlquist.

Danny was 19.

Ben Houser is a feature producer for ESPN.

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Kinetic Energy for Formula One

Is Formula One racing out of step with an auto industry whose greatest innovations have been in the area of fuel economy? Maybe so, but not for long. The sport's governing body is pushing to introduce hybrid-drive systems in competitive racecars, beginning in the 2009 season. That's when F1 will require teams to install a kinetic energy recovery system (KERS), which uses a rapidly spinning flywheel to store a decelerating vehicle’s kinetic energy, which would otherwise be wasted, and channel it back to the car's drive system. The sanctioning group, Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), has defined the amount of energy recovery for the 2009 season as 400 kilojoules per lap, giving the driver an extra 80 horsepower over a period of 6.67 seconds. We asked Adrian Moore, Technical Director of Xtrac a few questions about the Formula One KERS system the company developed with partner firms Flybrid and Torotrak.

Q. Explain KERS to a five-year-old. OK, a really smart five-year-old.
A. As a car slows, instead of wasting the energy used to slow the car—that from the heat radiated through the brakes—it is stored, and then re-used later to help accelerate the car. The energy can be stored in a battery, or in a flywheel.

Adrian Moore: Jon Hilton of Flybrid, Adrian Moore of Xtrac and Dick Elsy of Torotrak with their compact flywheel and CVT variator for the KERS system.
Q. What about your particular KERS system makes it best suited for F1 racing?
A. The Flybrid KERS system for which we supply the CVT [transmission] is quite compact, very light and reacts very quickly.

Q. Why not an electrical hybrid system for F1?
A. Electrical systems could be used in F1, and probably will be by some people. However we believe they will be considerably heavier than a mechanical flywheel based system.

Q. Could KERS's short-term horsepower boost change Formula One racers' on-track strategy?
A. Yes. In a number of ways. For example it may increase the top speed of the vehicle, reduce the time to get from the start to the first corner, or reduce the lap time.

Q. How do you envision KERS being adapted for road cars?
A. As a cost effective and simple method of reducing the fuel used and reducing emissions. The driver would not necessarily be aware of the system on the car, it would work in the background, controlled by electronics.

Q. If you could see KERS used in one current passenger car model, which would it be and why?
A. We are working as part of a consortium with Jaguar Land-Rover to develop the technology for road car use, so I would say the ideal car would be one from their range.

Adrian Moore joined Rolls Royce in 1984 as a sponsored undergraduate student and graduated from Hatfield Polytechnic with an honours degree in Mechanical Engineering . After graduation he remained at Rolls Royce until 1992 working as a designer in the field of Advanced Engineering. Adrian joined Xtrac in 1992, working as a Design Engineer on various transmission projects . During his stay at Ferrari Design and Development Center, he designed various parts and systems for the 1997 Ferrari F310B . He then joined McLaren International as a Design Engineer working almost entirely on suspension systems, which culminated in the World Championship winning MP4/13 and MP4/14 . He rejoined Xtrac at the start of 1999 as the Chief Engineer with technical responsibility for Xtrac. In January 2002, Adrian was appointed to the new position of Technical Director.

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Tiger Woods to be first billionaire athlete

Tiger Woods said his knee will require more surgery.Doug Pensinger / Getty ImagesTiger Woods said his knee will require more surgery.

CANBERRA -- Tiger Woods is on course to become the first billionaire athlete with the popular U.S. golfer proving a marketing dream, according to Forbes Magazine.

Woods, who won the U.S. Open last month despite a bad knee, is on track to exceed $1 billion in career earnings by 2010 after earning $115 million in 2007, said the American magazine which publishes an annual list of the world's richest people.

Forbes in Wednesday's edition said it would take 32-year-old Woods a bit longer to actually pocket that amount as taxes and management fees eat into his prize and endorsement money.

The calculation was based on Woods' estimated earnings in the annual rich list dating back to 1996, when he turned pro, and also credited the world number one golfer with annualized investment returns of 8%.

"Based on those criteria, we project Tiger Woods should join our list of the world's billionaires in 2011," said the magazine. "It will be an unprecedented occurrence."

The magazine said there are plenty of billionaires who have excelled at sports, like Switzerland's richest man and champion sailor Ernesto Bertarelli, but no billionaires who have accumulated their fortune by playing sports.

Woods has been a sports marketing phenomenon.

A golf prodigy as a child, his recent U.S. Open victory was his 14th major championship and he has won 50 tournaments on the PGA Tour faster than any player.

But prize money only accounts for about a tenth of his earnings with the rest coming from lucrative endorsement deals signed by the exceptionally popular player with companies that include Nike, Buick and Gillette.

Sports drink maker Gatorade recently launched a new line of drinks called Gatorade Tiger.

The magazine said Woods would earn about $90 million in endorsement contracts this year. Over the course of his career, he has earned more than $750 million from such deals.

Woods is not playing again this season after undergoing knee surgery a few weeks ago.

© Thomson Reuters 2008

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Study: Perception of hole size influenced by performance

Jessica K. Witt
Download photo
caption below

Golfers who play well are more likely to see the hole as larger than their poor-playing counterparts, according to a Purdue University researcher.

"Golfers have said that when they play well the hole looks as big as a bucket or basketball hoop, and when they do not play well they've been quoted as saying the hole looks like a dime or the inside of a donut," said Jessica K. Witt, an assistant professor of psychological sciences who studies perception in athletes. "What athletes say about how they see the hole and how well they play is true. We found golfers who play better judge the hole to be bigger than golfers who did not play as well.

"We know a relationship exists between performance and perception, but we are uncertain how they affect each other. For example, do golfers see the hole as bigger so they putt better? Or if they putt better, does that mean they see the hole as bigger? I believe it is a cyclical relationship, but more studies are needed to clarify if one affects the other."

Witt's findings are published in the June Psychonomic Bulletin and Review journal. She co-authored the paper with Sally A. Linkenauger and Jonathan Z. Bakdash, both graduate students at the University of Virginia, and Dennis R. Proffitt, the Commonwealth Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia.

These findings also are consistent with Witt's earlier work in softball. In 2005 she found a correlation between player batting averages and how they perceived the size of the softball.

Historically, the study of perception in athletes has been limited to how the eye sees and processes incoming information, Witt said.

"There is so much more to perception," she said. "It's an active process because it encompasses aspects of your body and your body's abilities. We're not saying a person's perception is not immune to cognitive influences. Even if you know the hole is a certain size, you can't help but see it is a bigger or smaller. It's showing that perception is not just based on the optical information."

Witt's research team conducted three experiments. In the first, 46 golfers were asked to estimate the size of the hole after they played a round of golf. The diameter of a golf hole is 10.8 centimeters. The golfers selected from a poster one of nine black holes that ranged in size from 9-13 centimeters. Those who selected larger holes were the same players who had better scores on the course that day.

The second and third experiments were conducted in the laboratory and were used to clarify whether performance influence perceived hole size or remembered hole size. In these studies, golfers putted near or far on a traditional putting mat. In one study, they judged the size of hole from memory, and in the other study, the group judged its size while viewing the hole. Participants in both studies who putted closer drew the circle to be bigger than those who putted farther away.

Witt's future studies include determining what visual tricks could help golfers see the hole as larger, possibly leading to better scores. Currently Witt's findings, as well as other research, emphasize that golfers should stay focused on the hole.

"If you look at the hole, the hole is going to remain the center of your vision where there are more receptors. This means you are more likely to see it clearly, which will hopefully help you putt better," she said.

In addition to studying possible visual tricks golfers can use while playing, Witt also plans to follow the same golfers during a golf season to identify if perceived hole size changes for a player of a given handicap as daily performance levels rise and fall.

This research was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Witt, also director of the Action-Modulated Perception Lab in the Department of Psychological Sciences, is a member of the U.S. 2005 gold medal-winning ultimate Frisbee team.

Writer: Amy Patterson Neubert, (765) 494-9723,

Source: Jessica K. Witt, (765) 496-1916,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

Note to Journalists: Journalists interested in a copy of the journal article can contact Amy Patterson Neubert, Purdue News Service, at (765) 494-9723,


Jessica K. Witt, an assistant professor of psychological sciences who studies perception in athletes, has found that when golfers play well they are more likely to perceive the hole as being larger. After playing a round of golf, 46 golfers were asked to select the correct hole size based on black circles that ranged in size from 9-13 centimeters. Those who played well selected the larger holes. (Purdue News Service photo/David Umberger)

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Patrick joins NBC, reunites with Olbermann

Rich Arden / AP
Dan Patrick is currently a columnist at Sports Illustrated and contributes to

Dan Patrick has been named a co-host of NBC's "Football Night in America" studio show, reuniting him with Keith Olbermann. The two redefined sports highlights during their time together on ESPN’s SportsCenter from 1992-97.

Patrick, who will handle highlight duties with Olbermann, joins host Bob Costas and co-hosts Cris Collinsworth and Olbermann, along with analysts Jerome Bettis and Tiki Barber and reporter Peter King.

"We are proud to reunite one of the greatest teams in the history of sports broadcasting. Dan and Keith were more than successful together, they defined the way that sports highlights are now delivered. Their unique delivery has been sorely missed and now they’ll be able to take their act to a primetime network television audience each Sunday night in the fall,” said Dick Ebersol, Chairman, NBC Universal Sports & Olympics.

Olbermann said: “I’m delighted to be reunited with my tag team partner. I can’t stop Dan Patrick from working with me again, I can only hope to contain him.”

Olbermann and Patrick, while anchoring SportsCenter, became renowned for their inimitable style of coupling pop culture and sports – now a hallmark of the modern television sports reporter. While at ESPN, Olbermann and Patrick also wrote the critically acclaimed book “The Big Show” about their experiences working on SportsCenter. Costas wrote the foreword to the best-selling book.

“I think it’s a great idea because it reunites one of the great combinations ever in TV sports,” said Costas. “I’ve been in favor of the idea ever since NBC Sports reacquired the NFL but we haven’t been able to work it out until now."

Patrick is currently a columnist at Sports Illustrated and contributes to In October of 2007, Patrick began hosting a new version of The Dan Patrick Show, which airs on XM radio.

© 2008 NBC Sports

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Ten season-defining games in '08

New USC starting QB Mark Sanchez hopes to lead the Trojans past Ohio State in a pivotal non-conference game on Sept. 13.
New USC starting QB Mark Sanchez hopes to lead the Trojans past Ohio State in a pivotal non-conference game on Sept. 13.
Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PRESSWIRE

A year ago this time, no one would have predicted a Thanksgiving weekend game between Missouri and Kansas would wind up one of the most highly viewed of the season. Or that USC's game against Stanford would carry greater implications than its subsequent trip to Cal.

But who are we kidding? We're college football fans. We're still going to circle certain games on the calendar months before their arrival with the anticipation that these showdowns will carry monumental stakes by the time they're played.

Here are 10 potentially season-defining games in 2008:

1. Ohio State at USC, Sept. 13. This showdown of likely top five teams is as much about credibility as anything. After consecutive BCS title game whitewashings, the Buckeyes desperately need a win, or at least a down-to-the-wire finish, to show they're capable of competing at the highest level. New Trojans starting QB Mark Sanchez, meanwhile, will be under the prime-time spotlight.

2. Florida vs. Georgia, Nov. 1. While the annual Cocktail Party in Jacksonville is always a huge deal for Dawgs and Gators fans, rarely has it garnered the type of national attention that will likely surround the game should both teams maintain their hold in the national-title race. Florida has won 15 of the past 18 meetings, but Georgia seemed to break the hex with an emotional 42-30 win last season.

3. Georgia at Arizona State, Sept. 20. Long before the Dawgs get their shot at the Gators, they'll need to survive both the desert heat and a program on the rise in a rare (for Georgia) intersectional matchup. Sun Devils QB Rudy Carpenter is a proven commodity, but he'll need a dramatically improved offensive line to survive Georgia's suffocating defensive front. ASU allowed 55 sacks last season.

4. Oklahoma vs. Texas, Oct. 11. While it's no guarantee the two Red River rivals will make it to their Shootout unscathed -- Oklahoma faces early challenges from Cincinnati, Washington and TCU; Texas faces old nemesis Arkansas -- they're still likely to be vying for no less than a Big 12 championship. Between them, the two schools have won five of the past six crowns (though the Sooners claimed all but one of those).

5. Ohio State at Wisconsin, Oct. 4. While many cynics assume the loaded Buckeyes will once again cruise through the "soft" Big Ten, this game represents an unquestioned challenge. The last time these teams played in Madison, in 2003, the Badgers snapped a 19-game Ohio State winning streak -- and that was before Wisconsin began its current run of four-straight seasons of nine or more victories.

6. LSU at Auburn, Sept. 20. No SEC rivalry has been more intense in recent years than this one. The winner has gone on to claim the West Division title in six of the past eight seasons, and the past four meetings have all been decided by six points or less. Whoever wins will pave the path for even bigger games later on -- both face Georgia and Alabama, while Auburn hosts Tennessee and LSU visits Florida.

7. Texas at Texas Tech, Nov. 1. The schedule sets up favorably for the Red Raiders -- who return QB Graham Harrell, WR Michael Crabtree and eight other starters on offense -- to make a run at their first Big 12 South title, but to do so they'll almost certainly have to snap their five-game losing streak to the Longhorns. The ever-outspoken Mike Leach claims poor officiating contributed to the past two defeats.

8. Missouri vs. Kansas, Nov. 29. It is highly unlikely this year's Border War will carry quite the same gargantuan stakes as last season, particularly for the Jayhawks, who play a much tougher schedule this season. Don't be surprised, however, if Chase Daniel and the Tigers go into this game with multiple title aspirations, especially since they face neither Oklahoma nor Texas Tech during the regular season.

9. Auburn at West Virginia, Oct. 23. While the game has no bearing on the Mountaineers' attempt to repeat as Big East champs, a victory over a respected SEC foe would do wonders for their résumé should they enter the national-title discussion. This Thursday-night showcase is also likely to play a key role in West Virginia QB Pat White's quest for the Heisman.

10. BYU at Utah, Nov. 22. If the pundits are correct, the highly touted Cougars (22-4 over the past two seasons) could go into their season-ending rivalry game with a BCS berth on the line. It's not inconceivable, however, that the Utes could be playing for the same stakes. They return nearly the entire offense after winning eight of their last nine a year ago -- the sole defeat coming on a last-second touchdown by BYU in Provo.

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Pittsburgh Steelers In Ownership Talks


NEW YORK (Reuters) - Pittsburgh Steelers Chairman Dan Rooney and his son, Steelers President Art Rooney II, are arranging a financing plan to buy Dan Rooney's brothers' shares in the American football franchise, according to a statement on the Steelers' website on Monday.

The plan is designed to retain substantial ownership of the franchise by the Rooneys, the website said.

Dan Rooney wants to stay in the football business while some of his four brothers plan to get out of the NFL and focus their business efforts on their racetracks and other interests, the statement said.

The Wall Street Journal reported earlier on Monday that the Pittsburgh Steelers franchise has been secretly shopped to potential buyers amid continuing divisions among the five sons.

The statement said that for the past two years the Rooney family has had discussions about a restructuring of the family's ownership.

Each of the other Rooney brothers -- Art Jr, Timothy, Patrick and John -- has an ownership interest in the Steelers, the website said.

"I have spent my entire life devoted to the Pittsburgh Steelers and the National Football League," Dan Rooney said in the statement. "I will do everything possible to work out a solution to ensure my father's legacy of keeping the Steelers in the Rooney family and in Pittsburgh for at least another 75 years."

Art Rooney II said in the statement: "There is no reason to believe that the current internal discussions will have any impact on our fans or on our team this season or in the seasons to come."

The NFL declined to comment.

A sports banker not involved with the deal who asked not to be identified said if the team was up for sale it could set an all-time U.S. record for the value of an NFL franchise, exceeding.

The sale of a 50 percent stake in the Miami Dolphins in February to real estate developer Stephen Ross valued the NFL franchise at $1.1 billion.

The banker estimated that the Steelers could be valued at $1.3 billion to $1.5 billion. That banker said that with a new stadium and strong fan base, it would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for buyers.

The Steelers is one of the original teams in the U.S. National Football League and has been owned by the Rooney family since Art Rooney Sr started the team as the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1933.

In 1938, Rooney signed Byron "Whizzer" White to be a running back for the first big contract in the league's history. White later went on to be a member of the U.S. Supreme Court.

(Additional reporting by Ben Klayman in Chicago and Pat Fitzgibbons in New York)

(Reporting by Megan Davies, editing by Phil Berlowitz, Richard Chang)

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Favre dismisses report of comeback

Brett Favre
Brett Favre was very emotional in his retirement press conference back in March.

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) -- Brett Favre dismissed an ESPN report that he's considering coming out of retirement as "all rumor."

Favre responded Wednesday to the ESPN report by telling his hometown newspaper Web site, in Gulfport, Miss., that "it's all rumor."

The paper reported that Favre sent a text message saying there's "no reason" for a media frenzy.

ESPN reported that an unidentified Packers source said the 38-year-old Favre told coach Mike McCarthy in the past two weeks that he has the itch to play.

"The Packers have no reaction," team spokesman Jeff Blumb told The Associated Press.

Favre's agent, James "Bus" Cook, didn't return a message seeking comment. Packers general manager Ted Thompson and McCarthy were on vacation.

Favre retired March 6 after a 17-year career.

Cornerback Al Harris said on ESPN's NFL Live that Favre made similar comments to him.

"I know he has the itch to come back and play," Harris said. "If he will or not, I don't know."

The Packers plan to use Aaron Rodgers as their starting quarterback for the upcoming season, and he's been leading the team through organized team activities and minicamp.

Rodgers has been groomed to take over for Favre since being selected in the first round in 2005, but has played sparingly.

"Aaron is our quarterback," Harris said. "Brett's retired. But if he wanted to come back, there would be some guys who wouldn't mind it. I would welcome him back with open arms."

Favre has two years left on his contract at an average of about $12.5 million per season. The Packers placed him on the reserve-retired list in the spring so his salary does not now count toward the cap.

Favre's commitment to retirement has been questioned since his announcement. That talk resumed in mid-June when Favre withdrew from the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship at Lake Tahoe, scheduled for July 11-13.

Tournament spokesman Steve Griffith said then that Favre had to miss the event because of a scheduling conflict.

When he retired, a teary Favre said, "I've given everything I possibly could give to this organization, the game of football, and I don't think I've got anything left to give And that's it. I know I can play. But I don't think I want to."

But less than two months later, he told reporters he might be open to returning if Rodgers was injured.

Favre, a three-time MVP, leads the league with 442 touchdown passes, 61,655 yards passing and 160 career victories. He started 253 consecutive regular-season games, more than any other quarterback in history. Including the playoffs, his streak stands at 275.

Rodgers, meanwhile, has stirred up controversy himself this week. In a Sports Illustrated article, the quarterback said he didn't feel pressure to connect with fans the way Favre did.

"I don't feel I need to sell myself to the fans," he said in the article. "They need to get on board now or keep their mouths shut."

Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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Joey Chestnut and the 14.55 lbs of Hot Dogs

July 4th marks the celebration of all things American. Within the past century, the focus of the 4th has taken an overwhelming turn from a focus on freedom and sacrifice, to one of food, fireworks, and friends. While some may argue this unpatriotic turn of events in the younger generation is a bad thing, I believe that there is nothing more patriotic than the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest. In the past, competitive eating was a spectacle only to be held in the school cafeterias and at the county fair grounds. The common belief during these times were the bigger the man, the bigger the advantage. Since then, things have changed. The competitions are mainstream and the airing of the event on the 4th an awaited event for all families.

Unlike all other sports, which only engage the men and women who play or enjoy, watching the event, competitive eating reaches all genres. Because we as American’s know how to do one thing: eat. It doesn’t matter if it’s fattening or healthy, we eat all the time. But in the sport of competitive eating, being a human garbage disposal is your job.
On Friday, Joey Chestnut disposed of 59 hot dogs in 10 minutes, then managed to beat Kobayashi in a 5 dog eat off. According to Michelle Obama, she had “never felt so proud of America”. Maybe a little too far, but I know my own party of men were chanting ‘MERICA as Chestnut wiggled the final bites into his overstuffed mouth. As his stomach bulged, his gratification swelled. He carried his food baby prouder than a mother nearing the birth of her first child.
Well, a mother that was dreading the birth. During the competition, Chestnut consumed nearly 6,600 grams of dog and bun . . . not including the water. This is equivalent to 14.55 lbs, which makes ‘food baby’ a drastic understatement. And for those of us trying to keep our diet under 3,000 calories, he nommed an astonishing 19,600 calories and 1,280 grams of fat. This leaves one question: could competitive eating have killed Chestnut?
The answer is yes. In an article by slate there have been multiple injuries and deaths associated with the sport of competitive eating. Kobayashi suffers from TMJ, where years of putting extreme stress on his jaw has weakened the tendons and has left the jaw virtually “free floating”. In 1991, a Moon-Pie eating champion suffered a stroke after attempting to eat 38 soft boiled eggs in 29 seconds (close to 4.75 lbs worth of food). And just this year, a California woman died from drinking nearly 2 gallons of water in a competition to win a Nintendo Wii. But none of this affected Chestnut, the man who vowed to never regurgitate the 14.55 lbs of Nathan’s hot dogs settled in his stomach.

Assuming Chestnut burns an average of 500 calories per training session, and work out at least 3 – 4 times per week, it will take him nearly 12 weeks to burn off the intake from this one eating competition. But according to Chestnut in an ESPN interview, dieting and exercise are not a problem for him:

They have told me there are risks, but the main risk is getting fat. You cannot lose track of calories, so i am very disciplined in my diet when I am not in a competition; I do count calories all the time. Going into a contest I do not eat solid food and take in minimal calories for days so I am hungry. After a contest I try to eat fairly healthy. One doctror said I was at risk for diabetes and another one said I was not at risk. There is really not that much research out there.

How did Chestnut train for the competition?
Prior to July 4th, Chestnut treated the event like a marathon, gradually increasing the amount of food in his body to allow his muscles to adapt and become use to the increased intake of food. Three to four times per week, Chestnut would ‘speed eat’ to make sure his reflexes were strong and ready for the big show. Often competitive eaters will gorge themselves in celery to stretch their stomachs an overcome any gag reflex. It also helps that digesting this food burns more calories than ingesting it.

During the day of the event, nearly all eaters refrain from solid foods, and focus solely on water to keep their stomachs stretched to the max. Water during the contest also helps eliminate any “fluff” in the buns and helps the dogs go down smoother at the bottom of the stomach. A ‘wiggle’, which is Chestnut’s preferred movement, helps aid the food down the esophagus while still ingesting food. After practicing all these techniques, Chestnut has become the superstar of competitive eating, and an American hero.

Original here