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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Guess who's not invited to the Olympics?

By Benjamin Kang Lim

BEIJING (Reuters) - The Dalai Lama may be the guest of honor of President George W. Bush, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other world leaders, but you won't find Tibet's exiled spiritual leader on the Beijing Olympics guest list.

Also missing from the list is Ma Ying-jeou, the Harvard-educated, democratically elected president of self-ruled Taiwan which Beijing has claimed as its own since their split in 1949 amid civil war, despite a recent thaw in relations.

The Dalai Lama's appearance could have helped repair China's international image, which was dented by a government crackdown following rioting among Tibetans in March -- the worst in the Himalayan region since 1989. But China fears he would steal Chinese President Hu Jintao's thunder.

"It's supposed to be Hu Jintao's Olympics, but it'll become the Dalai Lama's Olympics if he attends," a source familiar with government policy said requesting anonymity.

The Dalai Lama, who fled into exile in India in 1959 after an abortive uprising against Chinese rule, had said during a visit to London in May that he hoped to attend the August 8-24 Games if talks between his envoys and China produced results.

China has not rejected the Dalai Lama's overtures outright, but hopes were dampened when the closed-door talks ended with the government-in-exile accusing China of lacking sincerity.

The Chinese government has blamed the Dalai Lama and his followers for instigating the March unrest and attempting to sabotage the Olympics, charges he has repeatedly denied.

For China, the Games are supposed to showcase the prosperity and modernization of what is now the world's fourth-biggest economy after three decades of economic reforms and rapid growth.

AND MA?

Ma is a different story. China has mixed feelings for the Taiwan president, who is opposed to Taiwan formally declaring independence, a stance Beijing welcomes.

But Ma has repeatedly urged China to politically reassess the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests -- anathema to the country's leaders.

Beijing has sought to push Taiwan into diplomatic isolation and considers the island a province that must eventually return to the fold, by force if necessary.

"(Dignitaries) attending the Olympic opening are all heads of state, but China does not recognize Taiwan as a state," Taiwan political analyst Andrew Yang said by telephone.

"How will (Hu Jintao) address Ma Ying-jeou? 'Taiwanese leader' won't be acceptable to the Taiwan people or Ma."

Hawks in the Chinese government are opposed to the Dalai Lama's visit, worried that thousands of Tibetans would flock to Beijing by plane, train, bus or horseback to catch a glimpse of their revered god-king, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989.

There are more than 10 ministerial-level government and Communist Party bodies with a stake in blocking the Dalai Lama's return, including the local governments of Tibet, Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan and Yunnan provinces, the Ministry of State Security, the Ministry of Public Security, the People's Liberation Army and the paramilitary People's Armed Police.

For China, domestic stability during the Olympics is far more important than international applause.

"Even if there are people who want to change things, they would have all sorts of worries," Wang Lixiong, a Chinese author and expert on Tibet, said in an interview.

"In China, government officials do not hope for achievements but they hope to avoid committing mistakes," Wang said, referring to political risks for the leadership.

Original here

Beijing Games architecture aims to shock, awe

By Ian Ransom

BEIJING (Reuters) - While feats of athletic brilliance may be the main focus of cameras during the Beijing Olympics, the telegenic venues set to host the athletes will draw their own share of gasps from admiring spectators.

Beijing's Olympic construction boom has bequeathed an 800-year-old city with some of the world's most futuristic architectural statements, potent symbols of a resurgent power's desire to showcase its development and mastery of technology.

"I think the venues show a new openness and tolerance among common Chinese people. They also show our amazing achievements," said Zheng Fang, a Chinese architect who worked on the acclaimed National Aquatics Centre, dubbed the "Water Cube" for its shape and bubbly facade.

The Olympic swimming venue, designed by a consortium of Arup engineers, architects from Australian firm PTW and Zheng's China Construction Design International (CCDI), competes with the adjacent National Stadium for the affections of thousands of camera-wielding tourists who flock to the main Olympic Green every day.

The 91,000-seat Herzog & de Meuron-designed National Stadium, known as the "Bird's Nest" for its lattice work of interwoven steel, has made such an impact as to displace late Chinese leader Mao Zedong's face from commemorative Olympic bank notes.

Standing together, the stadium and the swimming venue form "one of the most powerful urban precincts in the world," said John Bilmon, a principal director with PTW.

DRAGON'S BACK

Many Games visitors' first experience of Beijing's building ambitions, however, will start well before they get to the competition venues.

The city's new airport terminal designed by British architect Norman Foster is supposed to resemble a dragon, complete with triangular windows cut into the ceiling as though they were scales.

After touching down at the $3.6 billion terminal, passengers will be able to board a brand new airport train to the city centre, and then ride a new subway link to Beijing's business district, where the vertigo-inducing CCTV building looms improbably over lesser towers.

Designed by Rem Koolhaus' Office for Metropolitan Architecture as a subversion of the traditional skyscraper, the nearly completed headquarters for China's staid state broadcaster joins two towers sloped together with a gravity-defying canopy at 80 storeys' height.

The buildings are not just testament to China's engineering skills, but an authoritarian country's ability to rapidly mobilize manpower and resources, according to Ming Liang, a design professor at the Central Academy of Fine Arts.

"Authorities can simply order 1,000 of the country's best welders to leave their homes and come weld the 'Bird's Nest' together in Beijing," said Ming. "This is what can be done here."

Politics, which have re-shaped Beijing's landscape for more than eight centuries, have also played an undeniable part in the city's modern transformation.

Architects see little coincidence in the Olympic Green's location directly north of the Forbidden City and its modern equivalent Zhongnanhai, where the Communist Party's top leaders live and govern in almost total secrecy.

"No wealth or power can be concentrated in the south as that would be challenging the king. All rich people live behind the king on the left and the right," said Ming.

The controversial National Theatre, a shiny half-sphere that looms south of imperial-era Zhongnanhai, is an exception to the rule, albeit one endorsed by opera fan and former Chinese President Jiang Zemin, reportedly the first soloist to grace the stage on its completion last year.

While eye-catching and widely praised, Beijing's new architectural marvels have also weathered a storm of criticism, from academics complaining of a developing country's wastefulness, to environmental experts panning the venues for not living up to the "Green Olympics" pledge.

Chinese architect Ai Weiwei, a design consultant for the "Bird's Nest", last year said he regretted that the stadium he helped inspire had become a symbol of a one-party state's "fake" Olympic smile.

Other architects prefer to focus on the benefits derived from the global skills and technologies concentrated for the Olympic construction.

"In reality, in building these stadiums and other buildings like the CCTV Tower, we brought the world's best technology and masters to Beijing," said CCDI's Zheng.

Criticizing China for wanting to showcase its development achievements is in any case misguided, said Tristram Carfrae, a structural engineer for Arup and the mastermind behind the Water Cube's playful facade.

"If you look at Beijing's history of architecture and design as being about monumentalism, about the grand statement, then why should these sport venues be any different?"

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Five Ways Technology Has Changed the Olympics

When the Summer Olympics kick off in Beijing next month, they will be very different from the Olympics held eight or even four years ago. From weather control to laser timing devices, technology is having an impact on the Olympics in a profound way.
  • Supercomputers and weather control - The Beijing Meteorological Bureau purchased one of the ten most powerful supercomputers in the world from IBM to help predict weather and pollution levels for all events in and around Beijing. The Chinese are also adept at controlling the weather. The Beijing Weather Modification Office (seriously) fires cloud seeding material into oncoming rain clouds with anti-aircraft guns, draining the precipitation before it can cause problems.
  • Cyber warfare - China has claimed that they will "attack" and shut down websites that broadcast Olympic events illegally. No one is sure if this means they intend to attack other countries' websites or private sites hosted internationally. If they do, it could be the first case of open international cyber warfare.
  • On demand coverage - NBC will be broadcasting Olympic events both live and tape delayed on several of the television networks they own, and will also provide on-demand video streams of events on the web. In total, they will present more than 3,600 hours of Olympic coverage. That's more Olympic programming in 2008 than the sum of all the hours of Olympic TV coverage ever. Dude.
  • Anti-terrorism efforts - Security has been tight at the Olympics since the 1970s, but even more so since 9/11. In addition to metal detectors, bag searches, long lists of prohibited items (no crossbows!), facial recognition software, bomb sniffing dogs and whatever else the Chinese can come up with, they'll be using special equipment that lets officials detect and identify radioactive isotopes. So strontium crossbows are right out.
  • Timing - Most Olympic races are timed to the thousandth of a second. In track events, the timer is set off by the starter's gun and stopped by a laser at the finish. A high-speed camera at the line takes 2,000 images per second to help determine the winner if the race is close. Swimming events, held in the Water Cube (pictured), are timed by contact plates that determine when a swimmer leaves her mark and when she touches the wall to end the race. Image by: IOC.
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For Beijing's Olympic volunteers, the rules are many

Help is Here: Beijing has started to roll out 550 booths where volunteers offer tourists assistance.
Carol Huang

Ms. Cai, crisp and efficient in her bright blue Olympic volunteer shirt, has a list of instructions to remember.

As a helper at one of 550 information booths being wheeled out across Beijing, each one covered with pictures of happy volunteers, she's supposed to match that image, answering tourists' questions with a smile and meeting whatever need arises.

But after each interaction, out comes the red logbook – where Cai, who didn't share her first name, makes a careful tally of hours worked, people helped, papers distributed, and media outlets spoken to.

This isn't your typical volunteer operation, run by independent groups working to improve a local school or save old homes from developers' bulldozers. This is volunteerism Beijing 2008 style – managed rigorously by the state and for the state.

"The government has its own structure to organize volunteers [and] prefers such ways rather than to let the volunteers organize themselves," says Jia Xijin, deputy director of the NGO Research Center at Beijing's Tsinghua University.

As volunteer efforts have sprouted in recent years, the Chinese government has encouraged a "volunteer spirit" – but not nongovernmental organizations.

To be considered legal, NGOs must register with and essentially be run by the government. The government sometimes partners with nonregistered groups, but in limited scope. In its eyes, NGOs should be "assistants to the government in social-service providing," says Professor Jia.

The difference in treatment of registered and nonregistered groups is stark. The Red Cross, a "government NGO," says it has 20 million members; the Communist Youth League (CYL), 75 million. The biggest nonregistered NGOs, by contrast, are thought to have about 20 people – without legal status, they have trouble fundraising and may not open multiple branches.

The government doesn't want NGOs to create "social disorder," Jia explains.

While local NGOs won heaps of praise for their postquake relief work in Sichuan Province, for example, the government has not yet adjusted policies to give them more freedom, as some had hoped.

Olympics volunteers, on the other hand, aren't seen as threats. Quite the opposite: They're officially helping pull off a historic national coming-out party.

Volunteers should be "representatives of China's peaceful development image," said Liu Qi, president of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games (BOCOG), at the corps's official launch in May.

Indeed, the volunteers are chosen and trained deliberately. "There is no host like Beijing which has taken so much trouble and effort" to prepare its volunteers, writes Guoqi Xu, author of "Olympic Dreams: China and Sport, 1895-2008," in an e-mail.

BOCOG spent three years recruiting and vetting more than 2 million applicants, in coordination with the CYL. Earlier this year it put potential volunteers through "tryouts" at other sports competitions in Beijing, where evaluators watched them navigate stadiums and interact with guests.

"BOCOG has looked high and low for quality people," says Jeff Ruffolo, a senior adviser with the organization.

Volunteer Wang Xiao, for example, a rising junior at the top-ranked Peking University, is confident, articulate, and smiles a lot. She also works hard: For seven days before her Olympics-application exam, she says she spent all her spare time in the library studying Olympic history, Beijing tourist sites, and guidelines for helping the handicapped, then practiced with friends for the interview. "It was fun," she says.

Now, as one of 100,000 "Games volunteers" who will be stationed at sports venues as ushers, Ms. Wang has been memorizing seating maps and exact sentences for dealing with unruly spectators.

Four hundred thousand "city volunteers" like Cai, who are manning booths across Beijing, have had to learn directions, bus schedules, first aid, and Olympic trivia, not to mention brush up on 5,000 years of Chinese history.

The most strenuous preparation, though, went to the 800 young women selected as cheerleaders or "ceremony hosts." The former are the elite 400 of 200,000 volunteers who will cheer for whichever team needs it. They're halfway through five weeks of intensive training.

Another 400 ceremony hosts, who will present medals to athletes, have been working even longer. Exercises in poise include "standing in five- to six-inch heels with jaws tucked in while balancing a 16-page book on their head and keeping a sheet of paper between their knees, for at least an hour," the BOCOG website notes.

The remaining 1 million "social volunteers" will be posted around the city to help people across Beijing's crowded streets and keep an eye out for troublemakers.

BOCOG has also taught helpers about volunteerism, a fairly new concept. It enlisted independent NGOs to help, but teachers were neither identified with their groups nor allowed to tell students about them, says Zhai Yan, whose Huizeren Volunteer Development Center participated.

And while BOCOG's drive to train so many has raised awareness of volunteerism, that may not benefit NGOs directly, says Zhang Wei, director of the Beijing Horizon Education Culture Development Center. "I don't think many Olympics volunteers will go on to join NGOs."

At her booth, Cai flips through her team's logbook, noting proudly that they helped 170 people on their first day, and have helped 200 to 300 a day since.

Like her six colleagues, the graduate student had done little volunteer work; she'd taught kids once a week for a semester. Her Olympic efforts are an exception prompted by the historic event. "I would feel bad if I didn't participate," she says.

Still, she adds, her experience as an Olympics volunteer has made her want to do more. "It feels good to help people and hear them say, 'Thank you,' " she says.

Original here

Alone in Lead, Norman Looks to Make Golf History

Jon Super/Associated Press

Greg Norman was poised to add to his pair of British Open titles.

SOUTHPORT, England — The last time a golfer did what Greg Norman has a chance to do in the British Open, this name was Old Tom and the American Civil War had recently ended. So it is fitting that here in the land where 100-year-old golf courses are regarded as new, Norman is one step from rewriting his own history, and one of golf’s oldest records.

Move over, Old Tom Morris.

Norman, 53 years old and a newlywed, is leading the 137th British Open by two strokes after three rounds. He is taking dead aim at his third claret jug, and could break the record set in 1867 by Tom Morris, who at 46 became the oldest golfer to win an Open. Norman also could become the oldest winner of a major championship, surpassing Julius Boros, who at 48 won the 1968 P.G.A. Championship.

In a chaotic, often frantic day, winds gusting to 48 miles an hour pounded the Merseyside coast of northwest England. Norman — looking anything but old — blithely shot 72 for a 54-hole total of 212, two over par, the highest score for a third-round lead in half a century.

“I’d put it in the top three hardest rounds I’ve ever played under the circumstances,” said Norman, whose closest pursuers are the defending champion, Padraig Harrington, and the second-round leader, K. J. Choi, at four over. “I’ve played under tougher weather conditions, but under the circumstances, the third round of a major championship and on the Royal Birkdale golf course, it was just brutal today.”

How brutal? David Duval, who began the day three strokes out of the lead, shot 83 after starting with a triple bogey. In all, nine players scored 80 or higher and the field stroke average was 75.76, almost six strokes over par.

With his wife of three weeks, the tennis great Chris Evert, cheering him on, Norman once again turned back the clock and turned on the game that powered him to 78 professional titles in 13 countries, including British Open victories in 1986 at Turnberry and 1993 at Royal St. George’s.

It was a surreal performance from a man who has not been playing much competitive golf this year. Although he has missed three cuts in five combined appearances on the PGA Tour and the PGA European Tour, Norman kept his concentration in the brutal conditions while golfers half his age lost theirs.

Camilo Villegas, the 26-year-old Colombian, began the day in third place after a tournament-low 65 in the second round. But he shot himself out of contention with a 79. It happened suddenly. Villegas was the picture of serenity as he sat in a lotus position as three groups waited their turn to tee off at the backed-up 10th tee. Standing at four over par and very much in the game, Villegas then double-bogeyed the 10th, the start of a five-over-par slide in four holes. And that was that.

Norman, who had sat next to Villegas for a while as they waited, was preparing to grind away. He came back from his own double bogey at No. 10 with a birdie at the 201-yard, par-3 14th, hitting a 6-iron to 12 feet. Then he nearly eagled the 17th with a 25-foot putt that stopped just short. As a closing gesture, he grazed the left edge of the hole with a birdie chip after missing the 18th green, electrifying the crowded grandstands with a vintage ’80s jolt from the Great White Shark.

“I’m sure there are players probably saying, ‘My God, what’s he doing there?’ ” Norman said. “But I’ve played golf before. I’ve played successful golf before.”

Not for a while, and he almost did not this week. While he and Evert were honeymooning last week at Skibo Castle in the Scottish Highlands, he told her he was thinking about not playing in the Open because he was not prepared. Evert told him he ought to use the event as preparation for next week’s Senior British Open at Troon. Norman decided she was right, and went out to hit some golf balls. A swing thought occurred to him.

“I remembered that I used to stand closer to the ball,” he said after Friday’s round.

Now he is standing close to one of the most remarkable achievements in golf’s history. Although he is regarded as one of the best golfers of his generation, the major flaw on Norman’s record is that he has failed to win six of the seven times he had the 54-hole lead in a major championship.

He is aware that the last time he held a 54-hole lead, it was by six strokes over Nick Faldo at the 1996 Masters. And he does not need to be reminded that he shot 78 and Faldo shot 67, and he never led another major. Until now.

There are people who will point to that as proof that Norman has no chance this time either, that too many things — history, his age, his lack of tournament play — are arrayed against him. Harrington, who with Choi is probably in the best position to deny Norman the title, does not buy it. Norman, he said, is capable of pulling it off.

“A lot of guys later on in their career, their interests move on, their goals in life change,” said Harrington, who will be in the final pairing with Norman. “But Greg seems to be back thinking about it this week, and he’s well capable of putting it together, as he’s shown in the first three rounds. I don’t think anybody should expect anything but good play from him tomorrow.”

Norman is dismissing questions about that now, preferring to wait to see what unfolds. He knows there are players below him who can beat him, even Simon Wakefield, the winless 34-year-old Briton who shot 70 Saturday and has the look of someone who is not afraid to win.

“Everybody has got the chance to win the golf tournament,” Norman said. “I think I made the comment at the start of this week, too, that there could be a dark horse who would have a chance around here because of the conditions, the way the golf course is set up.”

After all these years of being outside the cauldron of major championship Sundays, who would have believed the dark horse might be the Great White Shark himself?

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Independent Trucks Are Built To Grind

Independent Trucks Built To Grind

Twenty-fine years of Independent Truck Company constitutes an anniversary that demands both respect and introspection. The contemporary tendency is to envelop history in an impenetrable containment sphere of numeric details. The human relevance of occurrences and entities becomes lost in a blizzard of data. What real consequence do computations of ballistic rounds expended, X billion burgers served, acres burned. number of units produced, pool size of participants, topographical chart coordinates, revenues generated, reentry duration times, calories used, et cetera, have? What stats could convey the impact of 25 years of Independent Trucks?

The value of Independent far exceeds its performance as a business entity. Granted, Independent Trucks are the de facto standard of contemporary skateboard truck design. Virtually all legendary riders have been associated with Independent Trucks in some way at some time. No professional skateboarder or company owner exists who is not aware of the Independent hegemony. Nevertheless, the true accomplishment here is about people and their discovery of a workable way to live out their lives. Whatever success they ultimately garnered is incidental to that first pure impulse. Independent is proof that the hectic will inevitably push out the hype. The Independent Trucks cartel is very much a family. Once you are in, you are never out.
Every person in this narrative is more or less connected to the others. That interrelation and the expectation of excellence are the primary mechanisms that drive the beast known as independent. It has always been about the truck.

Webster’s Dictionary describes the skateboard truck as “a wheeled vehicle consisting of a frame with a pair of wheels to carry and guide one end of a vehicle in turning sharp turns.” Independent is defined as “not dependent: not subject to control by others. not affiliated: not looking to others for one’s opinions or for guidance in conduct.

Independent Trucks have been around for many years. I have been riding them since I was 12 and I will not switch. I guess my slogan on this list would be Built To Grind. Here is a list of Independent Truck Slogans that have been used in ad campaigns over the last 25 years. Of course the most popular and the one that is my favorite is Built To Grind.

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All-Star classic was only 10 minutes short of big-league disaster

(07-18) 19:20 PDT -- In its quest for balance between importance and entertainment at the All-Star Game, baseball struck a few pleasant chords Tuesday night. Then came the element it cannot afford: panic.

This game was about 10 minutes from a third baseman (David Wright) pitching against an outfielder (J.D. Drew) with most of the real stars either benched or in limousines. Ten minutes from the National League placing a desperation call to Tim Lincecum, just in case he was feeling better. Nothing can prevent the bizarre or the unexpected in any baseball game, but exactly what's wrong with having a few more pitchers available?

Whether it's a larger roster or a so-called "taxi squad" of pitchers on hand for an emergency, the game needs to make sure it never runs out of arms. Starters who had a typical Sunday workload shouldn't even be considered. Relievers should only have to warm up once, not repeatedly, as did Brad Lidge in throwing nearly 100 pitches in the bullpen. The bottom line Tuesday night was that six pitchers - Lidge, Scott Kazmir, George Sherrill, Ryan Dempster, Justin Duchscherer and Brandon Webb - were put at risk in what still amounts to an exhibition game. Lincecum, if available, would have been the seventh. That's just wrong.

As for the game-deciding homefield advantage in the World Series, it does make the affair more interesting, but the concept is inherently flawed when managers feel the necessity of getting everyone into the game, and when certain players take the game less seriously than others. If the Red Sox were to gain homefield advantage because Wright took the mound and walked four straight guys in the 17th inning, wouldn't that be just a tad ridiculous?

Sadly, this is all about convenience. When it comes to hotel reservations and last-minute plane flights, it's difficult for Major League Baseball to assemble en masse at a World Series city. The stress load is cut in half when the dates are set by league (first two games in the NL city, etc.) some three months ahead of time. So don't hassle the commissioner, in other words. He's too busy to follow the sensible, best-record formats of other sports.

Just consider this scenario: The Cubs go crazy in the second half. They win 102 games and wind up in the World Series against the Tigers, who crawl back into the race and steal the Central with 84 wins. You're saying Detroit deserves the homefield advantage because Justin Morneau barely beat a throw to the plate from Corey Hart?

Just go away

Never forget the long-view perspective on Brett Favre: his playing for a team other than the Packers, and playing well, adding spice to the NFL season. That's where we'll be in November. In the meantime, he's making everyone ill, and that's not easy for a player so universally popular. Favre managed to make a sympathetic figure out of Aaron Rodgers (who should be freed from the Packers' prison, immediately, if Favre somehow comes back), and to hear them tell it around Green Bay, Favre is alienating both fans and teammates at a substantial rate ... Josh Hamilton may be trapped by the physical evidence of his personal freefall, but it's nice to hear him say he'd do anything to wipe those tattoos off his body. Almost always, the act reflects a really lame decision. "Check it out - here's how I felt nine years ago." ... It would be a shame to see the maple-bat crisis result in protective netting for fans enjoying the field-level perspective, but in dismissing the idea, Bud Selig made the mistake of saying, "The people most vulnerable are on the field and in the dugouts." Try running that past the woman at Dodger Stadium who had her jaw broken in two places, or the woman in Pittsburgh who needed surgery to insert six plates in her head ... Frank Thomas, Eric Chavez, Torii Hunter, Adam Dunn and Jason Bay are just a few of the players who have abandoned the exploding maple bats, and it only makes sense. Aside from the danger element, if you make perfectly good contact and the bat breaks in half, show some pride and try another brand ... When it comes to summertime illusions, you'd like to differentiate the Warriors' enthusiasm over Anthony Randolph from last year's Marco Belinelli hysteria. Randolph just might be the real thing. It's wise to remember, that the last two MVPs of the Las Vegas summer league were Nate Robinson and Randy Foye ... As the NFL's criminal element spins out of control, paranoid league officials say they'll crack down on silent, celebratory gestures that may reflect the hand signals of street gangs. Good grief, could they get any more paranoid? "Sorry, boss," reports a would-be Sherlock after investigating a suspicious party. "Turns out it's a Bugs Bunny-Elmer Fudd thing."

Hal DeJulio passed away this week, and the Bay Area lost one of its most beloved basketball figures. DeJulio lived for USF, having played on Pete Newell's NIT championship team of 1949, and he will forever be known for luring Bill Russell to the Hilltop. Always in search of prospects in the neighborhoods of his native Oakland, DeJulio first saw Russell in 1952 as a skinny, 6-foot-6 senior at McClymonds High, a kid who hadn't even made the team in his junior year. Scouts hadn't given him the slightest notice, "but I wanted him," DeJulio said years ago. "I could feel the magnetism of this kid. He was raw, couldn't shoot, but he was all over the court, tenacious, tough in the clutch, man, he was there." USF coach Phil Woolpert hadn't seen Russell, but he trusted DeJulio's advice and took a chance ... The story I'll remember just as vividly about DeJulio: During his collegiate days, he became fascinated with Don Lofgran, a kid on the Oakland playgrounds who wound up being a key member of the '49 team. Lofgran was a beer-drinking roughneck off the court - when DeJulio first told Newell about Lofgran, he was in jail - but he had a radical, one-handed jump shot that was pure innovation for its time. DeJulio knew the risk of his involvement, saying. "I guess I was crazy for talking to him about USF, because he was going to take my job and put me on the bench. But he was just that good." As was Hal DeJulio, as a man.

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Red Sox have little reason to sag

By Tim Brown, Yahoo! Sports

ANAHEIM, Calif. – It’s Friday afternoon and the Manny of the Hour is dead out on the couch in the visitors’ clubhouse, his toes pointed straight in the air, his hair pulled back under what looks to be a combination do-rag/headband, his head lolling to the sound of whatever’s pumping through his iPod.

Now he’s reported to have been fined $100,000 – the Red Sox actually fined him $10,000, but what’s an extra zero among friends and wild-guessers – and accused of tanking an at-bat against Mariano Rivera last Sunday in protest, all stemming from the day he snapped on the team’s kindly traveling secretary. When Manny shoved him, it turned out, the secretary did indeed travel quite a distance.

Manny Outdoing Even Manny also has some misgivings about the way the front office is approaching his expiring contract/option year/contract extension, whichever comes first, which annoyed owner John Henry to no end, but the fact is, as long as Manny gets his butt off that couch by 7 o’clock, he’s going to hit and drive in runs and lead the Red Sox to another AL East title.

The rest, well, that’s of little interest in this clubhouse, and of even less interest beneath Manny’s curls.

Right around, oh, Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS, the Red Sox became that team that plays ball in a vacuum, mostly winning and sometimes losing while the world goes all hysterical around them, though Manny has been known to take the occasional swipe at, say, Kevin Youkilis. Granted, it can be an imperfect vacuum.

They’ve also become the team that often does what it wants when it wants, which would explain its past two ALCSs, along with the events leading to the All-Star break. Down their DH, their shortstop and any offense at all from their catcher, the Red Sox made up 5½ games in a week on the Tampa Bay Rays, as if to remind everyone there’s a difference between a heart-warming story and a ballclub that’s won for a living.

“Five games, that’s a pretty big gap,” Mike Lowell said. “Then it seemed like in just a span of two or three days it put us right back in the hunt. It just shows you things can turn quickly.”

While the Rays were hurtling back to earth (or at least to a place where they could see the planet), losing every game for a week, the Red Sox were sweeping the Minnesota Twins, who had hardly lost for a month, and the Baltimore Orioles, who are average but stubborn. So, they were 5-1 by a combined score of 42-19 – just when it was beginning to look as though they might actually have some serious issues in the East.

Not only that, but the Red Sox have survived the absence of slugger David Ortiz, who hasn’t played since May 31 and just Thursday began the minor-league portion of his recovery from a torn wrist tendon. Fortunately, manager Terry Francona is getting minute-by-minute updates from Pawtucket.

“He called me after his first at-bat,” Francona said Friday afternoon, while Manny lay unconscious.

According to his rendering, the conversation went thusly:

Ortiz: “Hey, I just popped up.”

Francona: “I don’t care.”

Ortiz: “But, I felt great!”

He’s due back in a week. Meantime, the Red Sox are said to be educating themselves on replacements if Ortiz is set back – Mark Teixeira is a long shot, but not impossible – and are trolling for a catcher, first to back up Jason Varitek and potentially to replace him, if they are unable to re-sign their captain when the season is over.

Over the All-Star break, Chipper Jones looked over the Red Sox’s division and came to the conclusion the Rays probably didn’t have the life experiences to hang with the Red Sox and perhaps not the Yankees, not yet anyway. Personally, I go with starting pitching and deep bullpens over life experiences, but Jones has seen more than his share of pennant races.

“I don’t think the Rays are not going to feel optimistic,” Francona countered.

As for his Red Sox, and their experience advantage, Francona shrugged and said, “You always think you can win. That’s why you can do this. I would hope that experience helps. If it doesn’t, we’ve done something wrong. But, it doesn’t guarantee you will win. … You handle whatever you’re supposed to handle.”

For the moment, the Angels weren’t one of them. The Red Sox’s favorite October saps came out of the break hitting, ran Clay Buchholz before the fifth inning was done Friday night and won 11-3 to nudge the Red Sox back into second place, a half-game behind the Rays. Despite plenty of decent at-bats and solid contact against Angels ace John Lackey, they didn’t do much against him, either. But this was a far more important game for Lackey than for the Red Sox, particularly if the Angels intend to pitch him at the front of their rotation in October. In 11 previous regular-season starts against the Red Sox, Lackey had a 6.27 ERA and had lost six of seven decisions. And, of course, in Game 1 of the last Division Series, Lackey allowed four runs in the first three innings and the Angels were never in the game against Josh Beckett.

Anyway, none of this would end before we heard one more time from Manny, who singled in the second and homered in the fourth against Lackey. On a shallow sixth-inning fly to left field, the game done but for the details, Manny charged in and cannon-balled at the falling baseball. Yes, cannon-balled. First he lost his hat, then his bearings, and somehow ended up sitting on the baseball as the crowd roared. He’d turned a 150-foot flare into a triple, laughing all the way.

Perfect. The Red Sox will be fine.

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