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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

West Ham fans brawl with Columbus Crew as football hooliganism hits the US

By Tom Leonard in New York

A fight broke out at the 'soccer' game between the Columbus Crew and the West Ham United fans Photo: AP

Fighting between at least 30 West Ham supporters and some 100 fans of Columbus Crew had to broken up by police and security staff during the match in Columbus on Sunday.

The trouble started after a handful of the Premier League club's supporters went into the north-east corner of the stadium where the US Major League Soccer team's most boisterous fans were based.

Rival groups began chanting at each other and fist fights broke out until police and security staff using mace and pepper spray eventually moved in to separate the sides.

Several people were handcuffed during the fighting but there was only one arrest - outside the stadium - for disorderly conduct.

US sporting rivalries are generally handled peacefully, although Columbus Crew supporters have a relatively rowdy reputation.

But their track record is nothing compared to that of West Ham fans, whose notorious hooligan element, the Inter City Firm, once enjoyed one of the worst reputations in English football.

This was dramatised in Green Street Hooligans, a 2005 film in which Elijah Wood played a US student who got involved in a hooligan group affiliated to West Ham.

The film reportedly inspired a group of Columbus Crew supporters to start a copycat organisation called Hudson Street Hooligans - an act that some fans have linked to Sunday's trouble.

Scott Duxbury, West Ham’s chief executive, said the violence was “an isolated incident leading to one initial arrest that was quickly dealt with by security staff”.

“While we take such matters seriously and utterly condemn the actions of those involved, we must not let this mar what has been a positive trip so far and the excellent way we and our supporters have been treated in Columbus.”

Speaking of his team’s 3-1 victory, Alan Curbishley, West Ham’s manager, said it had been a “terrific game” for the club.

He said: “We needed that sort of a workout. We took the MLS game because we wanted to come to America. We wanted to show people what we’re about.”

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Emergency Beijing Olympic pollution scheme begins


By Ben Blanchard

BEIJING (Reuters) - Beijingers breathed easier on Sunday as traffic restrictions and factory closures came into effect in a last ditch attempt to turn the often smoggy Chinese capital into a pollution-free venue for next month's Olympics.

On a sunny but still slightly hazy day, the flow of cars was lighter than usual for a Sunday on the city's wide roads, as vehicles with odd license plates were banned from the streets for the day. Tomorrow even-numbered cars must stay in the garage.

"Its great -- today there are far fewer cars on the road and the air quality is so nice. This is good for the children," said 20-year old Wang Yanna, out for a weekend stroll with her toddler nephew near a busy intersection.

The city's chronic pollution has been one of the biggest headaches for Games organizers, who are banking on traffic restrictions and last-minute industrial cut-backs to bring blue skies and easy breathing for athletes during the Games.

Under the new rules cars are banned on alternate days depending on their license plate number and most official cars have been impounded. Only taxis and Olympic vehicles are exempt.

The government hopes to take around 60 percent of the city's 3.3 million cars off the roads, the official Xinhua agency reported, and reduce emissions by two-thirds over the two months until the end of the Paralympic Games in mid-September.

Most building work has also halted and almost all earth and cement works have been closed, along with a string of factories -- including many in other provinces. Some are more than 100 kilometers away but still contribute to the pollution which earned the nickname "Grayjing" for the city.

Tianjin, a port city just east of Beijing and host to Olympic soccer qualifiers, has ordered 40 factories to close. Tangshan, a heavy industrial base northeast of Beijing will shut nearly 300 factories this month to improve air quality for the Games.

TAXIS HAPPY, DRIVERS MAD

With more than 1,000 new cars hitting the street every day, Beijing is becoming one of the world's most congested cities. So taxi drivers, used to losing money as they idle in the city's epic traffic jams, were thrilled about the new regime.

"Its going to be great for business. Look the traffic is already so much better, its much easier to drive today," said a smiling Han Jianguo from behind the wheel of his cab.

Ordinary Beijingers were not all so enthusiastic, though most were willing to make sacrifices to ensure the Games run smoothly.

"The rules will certainly help (with congestion). But it will bring some real difficulties in transportation for ordinary people," said driver Liu Shuo, before his wife hushed him for criticizing Olympic preparations.

The city has warned that people who violate the rules will be caught by a high-tech surveillance network of over 10,000 "smart" devices, including cameras, ultrasonic and microwave scanners.

An extra 4 million people are expected to cram onto the city's already-crowded public transport network, although new Olympic metro lines and an airport express that opened at the weekend will provide some relief.

Some athletes still have lingering doubts about air quality, but Beijing says it is making an all-out effort. It has spent 120 billion yuan ($17.58 billion) to clean up the environment, and already ordered 300,000 high-emission cars off its roads.

It is keen to ensure a safe and attractive city as well as a pollution-free one, so extra security measures also started on Saturday and Beijingers took to the streets to help lost tourists and try to restrain their more unruly neighbors.

Hundreds of "social volunteers" policing a ban on unwelcome behavior like littering and spitting lined Beijing's main Chang'an avenue in matching red caps and red-trimmed polo shirts.

($1=6.826 Yuan)

(Additional reporting by Ian Ransom and Tyra Dempster; Editing by Emma Graham-Harrison and Alex Richardson)

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UCLA to Have Large Presence at 2008 Olympic Games

Brandon Brooks

LOS ANGELES - Looking to add to its rich Olympic history yet again in 2008, UCLA will send a total of 37 athletes and coaches to this summer's Olympic Games, which will be held Aug. 8-24 in Beijing, China. Of the 37 Bruins traveling to Beijing, 31 are athletes (27 former, 3 current, 1 incoming), and six are coaches.

UCLA was one of the nation's most successful universities at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, ranking No. 1 among all universities in number of different medalists (19) and number of Olympians (57 representing the United States and 13 foreign countries). Of the 19 medals UCLA took home in 2004, eight were gold, eight were bronze and three were silver. If UCLA were a country, it would have placed 14th overall in the medal count.

A majority of UCLA's 2008 contingent will be representing the United States (29). Seven other countries will also be represented by Bruins, including Australia (1), Bahamas (1), Belize (1), Canada (2), Korea (1), Poland (1) and Singapore (1). A large number of the UCLA athletes and coaches will be competing in the areas of women's track & field (7) and softball (6). Other sports represented by Bruins include: men's soccer (4), women's soccer (3), women's water polo (3), men's water polo (2), men's track & field (2), men's tennis (2), women's swimming (2), women's beach volleyball (2), men's indoor volleyball (1), men's rowing (1) and women's gymnastics (1).

The U.S. women's track & field team will be led by current UCLA head coach Jeanette Bolden, a gold medalist herself at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. Bruin athletes joining her on the U.S. squad will be Amy Acuff (high jump), Jessica Cosby (hammer), Dawn Harper (100m hurdles), Monique Henderson (4x400m relay) Suzy Powell (discus) and Sheena (Johnson) Tosta (400m hurdles).

Both of the Bruins' men's track & field athletes in China will be representing non-U.S. countries, as pole vaulter Yoo Kim and 400-meter hurdler Jonathan Williams are looking to win medals for Korea and Belize, respectively.

The U.S. softball team will once again have a heavy Bruin presence with Stacey Nuveman, Andrea Duran, Tairia Mims Flowers, Natasha Watley and Lisa Fernandez (alt.) all members of that team. Nuveman, Mims Flowers, Watley and Fernandez were all members of Team USA's gold-medal winning squad in 2004.

All three women's soccer representatives are currently involved with the UCLA program, as head coach Jillian Ellis will serve as an assistant with the U.S. team, while Lauren Cheney (U.S.) and Kara Lang (Canada) will be competing as athletes at the Games. Cheney, who was originally named an alternate, was a late addition to the 18-player U.S. squad following an injury to forward Abby Wambach.

A total of five Bruins (3 women, 2 men) will be traveling to Beijing as members of USA Water Polo teams. Current assistant coach and former player Brandon Brooks joins Adam Wright on the men's team. Former UCLA head coach Guy Baker will lead the U.S. women's team, which also features Natalie Golda and Jaime Hipp.

Former UCLA soccer standouts Marvell Wynne, Patrick Ianni and Benny Feilhaber were recently named to the 18-player U.S. squad for the Games. Frankie Hejduk was named an alternate on the team, which is seeking its first medal in Olympic competition.

Both of UCLA's representatives in men's tennis will be playing doubles, as Marcin Matkowski (Poland) and Mark Knowles (Bahamas) will each be competing in the 32-team doubles draw in Beijing. Knowles, who is currently ranked No. 8 in the world in doubles, is making his fifth appearance at the Olympics. It will mark the second appearance for Matkowski, who also competed in Athens in 2004.

Nicolette Teo (Singapore) and Kim Vandenberg (U.S.) are the Bruins' two representatives in women's swimming. Teo will be making her third Olympic appearance in the breastroke, while Vandenberg, who narrowly missed the Games in 2004, will be competing in her first Olympics as a member of Team USA's 800-meter freestyle relay team.

Former UCLA greats Elaine Youngs and Liz Masakayan will be teaming together in a player-coach relationship for the beach volleyball competition at the Games. Youngs, a 2004 bronze medalist in Athens, will be teaming with Nicole Branagh in Beijing, with Masakayan serving as the team's coach.

Sports with just one UCLA representative in Beijing are rowing (Mike Altman/USA), gymnastics (Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs/Canada), men's volleyball (John Speraw / USA Asst. Coach) and men's beach volleyball (Bob Alejo/USA Asst. Coach).

UCLA's Olympic athlete total could move to 38 in the next week or so, as Rhonda Watkins is still in the running to make Trinidad & Tobago's track & field squad.

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Don't place asterisk next to Tiger-less British

Peter Byrne / AP
Padraig Harrington, right, and Greg Norman talk while walking up the 18th fairway of Royal Birkdale on Sunday.

By Jim McCabe
SOUTHPORT, England - For days leading into the 137th British Open, there were too many stories that revolved around the need to affix an asterisk to the results from Royal Birkdale.

I think the rationale had something to do with a certain player not being in the field. Kenny Perry perhaps? Or maybe it was Michelle Wie. It’s so hard to keep track.

But the point is what nonsense. Did we put an asterisk next to Horton Smith’s name at the 1934 Masters, signifying that Gene Sarazen chose instead to play an exhibition in South America and skipped the Bobby Jones party? Of course not. To even think of doing such a thing would be disrespectful.

Think about what some people were suggesting, though, when they indicated this year’s British Open should be noted as having been played without Tiger Woods. If they were serious, then why not take it a step further? Why not put asterisks next to all those major champions of 1998 and note that these were tournaments played while Woods went through some swing changes? Why not put a disclaimer next to the 2006 U.S. Open, because Woods was just coming back from a long period of mourning the death of his father? Oh, and why not throw the asterisk next to Trevor Immelman’s name so that it can be recorded for historical purposes that Woods putted like Sergio Garcia at the 2008 Masters?

The answer to all those questions: Be like Woody Austin and hit yourself in the head with a putter.

Woods played in 46 majors as a professional before he got hurt, and he won 14 of them. It’s a pretty good winning percentage. But it’s an even higher losing percentage, and there were plenty of major championships mixed in there that did not require the eventual winner to deal too much with Woods. (Did he impact the 2003 PGA Championship very much? Or the 2001 U.S. Open? Or the 1997 U.S. Open? No, no, and no. So, do you want to smudge the efforts of Shaun Micheel, Retief Goosen and Ernie Els?)

If you want to place an asterisk next to Padraig Harrington’s name as it relates to the 2008 British Open, then feel free. But what it should note is that he was the best player, but not necessarily the best story. Harrington more or less said it himself, not long after winning the claret jug for the second year in a row.

“I did say to him coming down 18 that I was sorry it wasn’t his story that was going to be told this evening,” said the Irishman, showing that in addition to his polished golf skills, he’s got a great deal of dignity and a firm grasp of history.

Of course, it would have been a marvelous story had Greg Norman won the British Open at the age of 53, some 10 years since he had pretty much walked away from full-time competition. The best player of his generation and a guy who made millions of dollars with every business venture he took on, Norman is also one of the biggest touch-luck losers the game has ever witnessed.

He won a lot, but should have won more. So overwhelming are the major championships he let get away that we tend to overlook the fact that he did somehow manage to win two British Opens.

The timing of Norman’s rejuvenation was impeccable. We wondered aloud what a major championship would be like without Woods and, as if on cue, we were ushered back onto the PGA Tour circa 1986-1996, when the dashing blond from Australia was the man, not Woods.

At the same time, David Duval was showing flashes of good form and so, too, was Anthony Kim validating all the hype that comes with him. Having never seen a links course, the 22-year-old got around in respectable trips of 72-74-71-75. Ernie Els, if only he could be given a mulligan for those nine inexplicable holes Thursday, might have challenged to win his second British Open, and Rocco Mediate, at least for two days, maintained the good vibes that made last month’s U.S. Open a memorable one.

All of this, of course, is in addition to the weather, which was quite spectacular. There have been days of wind and rain, especially at a British Open, but the gusts and the gales and the bursts of moisture the players encountered this time around was like nothing we have ever seen for four days. It was a remarkable challenge, especially Thursday, and duly noted in my notebook is the fact that a certain Irishman went out in the worst of the junk and came in later with a smile on his face and 74 next to his name.

Dripping wet (and some would suggest dripping mad), Harrington indicated he wouldn’t mind having another shot at Royal Birkdale in such horrendous weather. “I enjoyed the battle today,” he said. “I enjoyed going out there, and it really was a battle.”

The Irishman was good company for four days and his performance provided for a good story in a week that was filled with many of them, Norman’s script arguably being the best.

Would it have been a better setting with Woods? Probably yes, but maybe no. We’ll never know, of course, nor should any of us waste a minute of our time to think about it.

Instead, use your time to consider what should be done with that asterisk.

Golf doesn’t need it.

Jim McCabe writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers golf for The Boston Globe.

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Harrington retains British Open title

Irish golfer Padraig Harrington has retained his British Open title at Royal Birkdale in Lancashire.
The Dubliner finished four shots ahead of England's Ian Poulter and six ahead of 53-year-old Australian Greg Norman and Sweden's Henrik Stenson.

Harrington had trailed Norman by two shots going into the final round but produced a one-under 69 to retain the Claret Jug as Norman struggled to a final day 77.

Harrington won the event last year after beating Spain's Sergio Garcia in a play-off at Carnoustie in Scotland.

President Mary McAleese has contacted Harrington to congratulate him on winning the British Open. The President said that taking the Open for the second year in a row was a wonderful achievement.

The President added: 'The whole country is hugely proud of Padraig's success and the manner in which he achieved it. Once again, he has combined tremendous natural talent with hard work, dedication and resilience. He is indeed a true champion.'

Taoiseach Brian Cowen sent his best wishes to Harrington on retaining his title.

The Taoiseach said: 'To win The Open once in a career is quite an achievement, however to retain the title in such difficult weather conditions, and also carrying an injury shows that Padraig is a golfer in his prime and at the top of his profession.'

The Minister of Arts, Sport and Tourism, Martin Cullen, has congratulated Harrington on being the first European to retain the trophy since James Braid in 1906.

Minister Cullen said: 'Winning the British Open Golf Championship back-to-back is a magnificent personal achievement for Padraig Harrington.

'Last year, we were all delighted when Padraig became the first Irishman in 60 years to win the British Open.

'The fact that he has managed to achieve a victory again today at Royal Birkdale and lift the Claret Jug is a stunning success.'

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny also offered his congratulations to Harrington.

Mr Kenny said: 'I would like to congratulate Padraig on his rare achievement in retaining the British Open title.

'He proved himself a real champion by overcoming the very difficult weather conditions that dogged the tournament.

'In retaining this title, Padraig joins a small elite group of real golfing greats and has proved himself a true Irish sporting hero. I wish Padraig and his family my heartiest congratulations on this wonderful achievement.'

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Giants trade disgruntled Shockey to Saints


Jeremy Shockey had 371 catches for 4,228 yards and 27 touchdowns with the Giants. He was drafted out of Miami with the 14th overall pick in the 2002 draft and became the Rookie of the Year.
Bill Kostroun / AP file


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - The Super Bowl champion New York Giants removed a potential distraction by trading disgruntled tight end Jeremy Shockey to the New Orleans Saints days before the start of training camp.

The Giants will get second- and fifth-round draft choices for the oft-injured four-time Pro Bowler who started complaining about his role after the stunning Super Bowl victory over the New England Patriots, a win accomplished with Shockey sidelined with a broken leg.

New York rejected a similar offer from the Saints before the NFL draft, hoping to get a starting player or a first-round draft pick.

The Giants, however, did an about-face Monday in a move focused on promoting team harmony and getting rid of an unhappy player who has been known to say too much.

“Jeremy brought great energy to the game every time he stepped on the field,” Giants chief executive John Mara said. “He had a close relationship with my father from the time we drafted him, and I had a couple of long conversations with Jeremy this spring and summer. From those conversations, it was apparent to me that a fresh start was the best thing for us and for Jeremy.”

The trade will reunite Shockey with Sean Payton, who was the Giants’ offensive coordinator during his rookie season in New York in 2002. It was a season during which Shockey caught 74 passes for 894 yards.

“On a personal level, I was very sad to hear that my friend and teammate Jeremy Shockey has been traded, and at the same time I found it a relief to know that Jeremy was able to achieve what he desired, a new start with a new team,” center Shaun O’Hara said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.

“I can only wish him the best, wish him health, and hope that he is at peace with his decision,” O’Hara added. “Jeremy will be missed, however, my teammates and I realize the business side of the NFL and are looking forward to training camp, and looking forward to defending our title.”

Shockey started complaining about his role shortly after the Giants upset the Patriots 17-14. He had broken his leg in mid-December and missed the final week of the regular season and all four playoff games.

During that time, rookie tight end Kevin Boss stepped in and played well, though he did not block as well as Shockey. The Giants’ average on runs dropped about a yard without Shockey.

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Special feature: Team-by-team previews of all 32 teams, including predicted finishes.

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Linebacker Antonio Pierce said that everyone in the Giants organization felt sad that Shockey and the Giants could not work out their differences.

“Obviously, the Giants, the front office people upstairs, weren’t happy,” said Pierce in an interview with Sirius Satellite Radio. “You wish he could still be a New York Giant, but that’s not what either one of the parties wanted. He wanted to get away. The Giants finally dealt him.”

The Giants will report to training camp at the University at Albany on Thursday.

Shockey finished third on the team last season with 57 catches for 619 yards, including a career-high 12 catches for 129 against Dallas at Giants Stadium on Nov. 11. He had at least four catches in a game eight times last season.

It was obvious that Shockey was upset during the team’s minicamp in June. While teammates practiced, Shockey stayed in the locker room, much to the dismay of coach Tom Coughlin.

There also was a report that Shockey and general manager Jerry Reese got into a shouting argument during the camp.

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“Jeremy is a very talented football player who always played with great enthusiasm and great effort,” Coughlin said. “He was excited about playing. Jeremy always enjoyed being a physical football player and a tough football player. He’s an outstanding football player who plays the game full speed and plays the game the way it was meant to be played.”

Shockey said he is looking forward to this season.

“I have had a relationship with coach Payton and I appreciate what he has done as a head coach,” Shockey said in a statement released by the Saints. “The Saints have a lot of weapons, starting with Drew Brees, and I look forward to joining my teammates at training camp. This will be a fun year.”

The Saints report to training camp in Jackson, Miss., on Wednesday.

Besides Boss, the Giants will have four other tight ends in camp — Michael Matthews, Darcy Johnson, Jerome Collins and rookie Eric Butler.

“We have five young kids who are all vying for the position,” Coughlin said. “The tight end position will be a very competitive position in training camp.”

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Reds, Ducks, and Alouettes, Oh My!: The 10 Wimpiest Team Names in Sports


10. Penguins (Pittsburgh—NHL)

Pittsburgh makes No. 10 on my list with their NHL team. From what I know about Penguins (which is not too much), they are not a mean nor fierce animal. In fact, I'd love to have a penguin for a pet—I think that would be pretty sweet.

The reason they're not closer to the top of the list is because the Penguins are able to withstand the harsh, cold winters up in the Arctic, unlike other birds (penguins are a bird right? kind of?), like a duck who is not mighty.

Is that foreshadowing? Keep reading to find out.

9. Cardinals (Arizona, St. Louis—NFL, MLB)

No. 9 was formerly the Browns. However, while the name does sound wimpy, the Browns fans did give me some info that made me decide that it doesn't deserve the top ten. So I went with the name Cardinals.

What's up with this? There's a team named the Cardinals in both the MLB and NFL. Can't we think of other names for a team other than this wimpy bird? So I definitely think that Arizona and St. Louis deserve to make my team over Cleveland!

8. Reds (Cincinnati—MLB)

Well, I had to do some research on this team to find out what the heck a Red is. I thought it might be a bird to add to the bird family living within MLB. But I learned something today. It turns out they used to be called the Red Stockings. The fact that their name comes from a word like stockings get them into the eighth spot on my list.

Yes, the Red Sox got their name from the Red Stockings, but the Red Sox don't make my list, because Sox spelled with an "X" is pretty hardcore if you ask me.

7. Nuggets (Denver—NBA)

Nuggets. As in chicken nuggets or what? I honestly tried pretty hard (okay, not too hard) to find out the meaning of where the term comes from, and I found it was from the gold mines, golden nuggets, and such. Although it's referring to gold, and that's pretty awesome stuff, it will remain on my list.

So if there are any Nugget fans out there who want to defend their team, go right ahead! Until then, I'm just going to believe that Denver has one heck of a lot of McDonald's in their state, so much that they named their NBA franchise after them, since that's more funny then gold.

6. Jazz (Utah—NBA)

Named after a type of music that is known to be really laid back and not crazy makes me think that this basketball team must have a mellow attitude. I mean, if this was in New Orleans (which it once was), I probably wouldn't make fun of it as much because it makes sense. Although it would still be wimpy, it would still make sense!

However, it's wimpy and not really in a Jazz city, so it makes my list at No. 6.

5. Ducks (Anaheim—NHL)

I don't believe I have any reason to fear the animal known as the duck. They were once mighty and feared, but now that they're only the Ducks, it's quite laughable. They won the Stanley Cup as the Ducks—only the Ducks. So now I can make fun of all the other NHL teams for letting the Ducks beat them!

No, just kidding. They usually have a pretty good team, but they do play under a wimpy name.

4. Dolphins (Miami—NFL)

This one was a difficult one for me because I like Dolphins, and I know they are strong, smart, and can beat up on sharks. However, the name of Dolphin does not make you think those things. It makes you think of nice and gentle...which you don't want from an NFL team.

Last year they played like a stereotypical dolphin, as they were the worst team in the league. So that is why they make my list of wimpy names.

3. Orioles (Baltimore—MLB)

How can I have a list of wimpy names and not have one of the birds from the many in the MLB? So of all the teams named after birds in baseball, I picked the Oriole as the wimpiest. I gave them a chance—I looked up the birds and I found this one to be the most un-manly of them all.

So how about Baltimore relocates into the slow-pitch softball league? Only kidding. Sorry for picking on you Baltimore, but one of the birds had to take one for the team.

2. Alouettes (Montreal—CFL)

Now I know most of the Americans probably won't even know of this team. They are from the Canadian Football League and have one of the most sissy names I have heard of in sports and needed to be put on my list.

I love going to the Bomber games in Winnipeg and having everyone in the stadium cheer, "OHH I'd rather be a bomber than an (expletive) Alouette" in the tune of the famous Alouette children song. A terrible name that could've been No. 1, but I decided against it.

Now lets get on to the No. 1 PICK.

Congratulations!

1. Angels (Los Angeles of Anaheim—MLB)

Before I get into explaining my pick, I'm just going to say that I almost didn't use this one because the names of the cities take too long to write. I mean, do I have to explain why I chose this one to be my No. 1 selection?

Angels—it's a very wimpy name. Angels are messengers of the almighty God, but they do not have the power of the Lord. Plus it just sounds peaceful, nice, and all that it takes to become No. 1 on my list of the Wimpiest Names.

So there goes my hobby for the day because it took me all day. Hope you enjoyed it, and I can't wait to hear everyone disagree with all of my decisions! So leave comments and have fun reading it over again and again.

Honorable Mention:

Browns (Cleveland—NFL)

Originally on my top ten list, the Browns were replaced by a more sissy name with the Cardinals. The name Browns comes from coach Paul Brown, and although that's kinda cool, the name of their football team is still Browns, and that's quite lame.

North Stars (Minnesota—NHL)

This wimpy team name almost made my list as the replacement for the Browns, but I decided to give them a break. It doesn't sound wimpier than Cardinals, and when they got a new NHL team, they changed their team name to the Wild (which is a pretty awesome name).

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Terrell Owens is a sweet, sweet man

If you get mowed down by a Honda Civic, you'd be extremely lucky to have Terrell Owens nearby. You might think that he'd just stand there, do some shirtless sit-ups while you bled to death, insinuate that you're gay, and then demand to know why you don't throw footballs to him more often.

Not the case, as it turns out. Sam Alipour, a writer for ESPN's Page 2, found out the hard way that Owens is a kind-hearted fellow. After the ESPYs were taped on Wednesday night, Alipour was hit by a car. When he came to, here's what he saw:

Terrell Owens was standing over me. I'm told he was the first do-gooder on the scene of the accident. That he helped me to my feet and off the street to safe ground. That he didn't leave my side. It seems the mercurial Dallas Cowboys receiver is my hero. But my hero looks scared, and this scares me.

"Wow, you all right, man?" Owens kept asking me, but in a manner that would suggest there is no possible way that I, in fact, could be all right. "Don't move. Just sit there. Breathe. Don't move."

It's now that I noticed the car's jacked windshield, which sports a hole the size of, well, my upper torso.

Yikes, I did that?

"That was crazy. Crazy," Owens confirmed. "You all right, man?

I'm fine, nothing to worry about, but Owens is so concerned, so kind, and I'm so touched by this -- we hardly know each other -- that I think my lip is quivering. There's a good chance I could break down like T.O. at that news conference. (It's just not fair. That's my receiver, man.)

Alipour wasn't seriously hurt, and Owens didn't stick around to be thanked or acknowledged.

But thanks go out to him here, just for being a solid guy. He deserves all the positive image rehabilitation that comes with being a good samaritan after a nearby car vs. pedestrian incident.

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'Skins get Jason Taylor from Fins

Jason Taylor's game against the Bengals on Dec. 30, a 38-25 loss, turned out to be his last for the Dolphins.
Jason Taylor's game against the Bengals on Dec. 30, a 38-25 loss, turned out to be his last for the Dolphins.

ASHBURN, Va. (AP) -- Jason Taylor wanted out of Miami, and Bill Parcells seemed only too happy to trade the "Dancing with the Stars" defensive end.

So when the Washington Redskins lost a starting lineman to a season-ending injury Sunday, a significant swap quickly got done.

The Redskins gave the Dolphins a second-round pick in 2009 and a sixth-round choice in 2010 for Taylor, who is leaving the only NFL team he's known.

The six-time Pro Bowl defensive end -- who was the 2006 NFL Defensive Player of the Year -- fell out of favor in Miami after spending his offseason on a TV show rather than working out with teammates.

The deal came about nine hours after starting defensive end Phillip Daniels was carted away from the practice field at Redskins Park with a season-ending left knee injury on Day 1 of training camp.

It also came only about 1 1/2 hours after Washington executive vice president Vinny Cerrato told reporters: "We haven't talked to anybody about anything."

When he later announced the deal with the Dolphins, Cerrato said Taylor was expected to report to the Redskins on Monday, when he'll meet team owner Dan Snyder and undergo a physical.

"We're fortunate there was a guy that caliber on the market when somebody got hurt," Cerrato said. "Normally, in most years, there's not a guy of that caliber on the market."

The 33-year-old Taylor has played 11 NFL seasons, all with Miami, and he's started every game each of the past eight years.

"I love Miami (and) will always cherish my 11 years with the Dolphins," Taylor said in a statement. "Having said that, I'm looking forward to meeting with Mr. Snyder and getting to know my new coaches and teammates. I'm just proud to be representing our nation's capital as a Redskin."

Taylor had 11 sacks during the 2007 season, giving him 117 over his career.

"His play speaks for itself. I think it's easy to talk about Jason Taylor. He's got statistics and everything else to back up everything that he's done," Cerrato said. "So we had to act after losing our starting defensive end Phillip Daniels, and talked to Parcells after practice today and we were able to work something out."

Taylor said last month that his intention is to play one more season, and it seems clear that he wants to pursue a Hollywood acting career. That said, Taylor privately has told confidants that he isn't certain that he'll retire after 2008.

Cerrato noted Taylor has two years left on his contract and added: "I'm 100 percent positive he'll play longer than one year."

Taylor's agent, Gary Wichard, said it's possible Taylor will play beyond the coming season.

"The Dolphins got real good value for Jason," Wichard said. "And he's excited about going to Washington -- he wanted an opportunity to compete in the playoffs in 2008. At the same time, this is the end of his years with the Dolphins, so it's kind of bittersweet."

The new Dolphins regime led by Parcells, the executive vice president of football operations, fumed this offseason as Taylor focused on non-football interests rather than working out in South Florida.

Taylor finished second to Kristi Yamaguchi in this year's "Dancing With the Stars" competition in Los Angeles, and as he became a TV celebrity, his feud with Parcells escalated. At one point Taylor said he was unhappy he had spoken "probably less than a minute each" with Parcells and new general manager Jeff Ireland -- something the player perceived as a sort of silent treatment.

In mid-May, Dolphins coach Tony Sparano made a cryptic announcement that Taylor wasn't expected to take part in any team activities through training camp. That signaled the Dolphins were intent on making a trade -- especially because in April, they had drafted two potential replacements for him: Clemson's Phillip Merling in the second round, and Hampton's Kendall Langford in the third round.

The Dolphins released statements from Ireland and owner Wayne Huizenga thanking Taylor for his contributions. There was no comment from Parcells.

"Ever since he joined the team as a rookie, he has been outstanding on the field and a leader in our community," Huizenga said. "Whether it was his intensity between the lines or his commitment to his charitable works, he made a lasting impact here."

If the trade had not been made, Wichard said, Taylor planned to report to the Dolphins before their camp starts Saturday. There had been speculation Taylor might hold out.

Last season, he was chosen NFL Man of the Year and was the lone Pro Bowl player for a Dolphins team that went 1-15. His departure is the latest move in a major roster shakeup.

Zach Thomas, the other anchor of the Dolphins' defense over the past decade, was released in February and signed with the Dallas Cowboys -- meaning he and Taylor, who are brothers-in-law, go from being teammates to being members of NFC East rivals.

In Miami, Taylor played primarily at right end, but Cerrato said Washington will move him to the left side, where Daniels was the starter. Andre Carter plays right defensive end for the Redskins.

Wichard said he first became aware the deal might happen Sunday morning.

"When we heard Daniels went down, that started it on a fast track," Wichard said.

Daniels tore a left knee ligament on the initial play of 7-on-7 offense vs. defense drills. He stayed down on the turf for several minutes before being taken away on a cart, a towel draped over his head. He's expected to have surgery Friday.

"Not a good way to start, at all," middle linebacker London Fletcher said. "It's a big blow to our defense. Phil was a tremendous leader, excellent at playing the run, and was going to be our third-down attack guy. With him going down, it's like we're replacing two guys."

Daniels has played 12 seasons in the NFL with Washington, Chicago and Seattle, accumulating 59 sacks.

The Redskins also lost another defensive end, reserve Alex Buzbee, to a season-ending injury during their afternoon practice. Buzbee ruptured his Achilles' tendon.

"With Phillip gone, and now Buzbee gone, there's a hole there," Washington's Jim Zorn said after running his first training camp practices as an NFL head coach. "And Phillip has created a big hole."

One quickly filled with the trade for Taylor.

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

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The Top 15 MMA Fighters in the World


It’s time to countdown the top 15 fighters in the sport of mixed martial arts. We grouped in the best fighters from all different divisions and all different organizations to compile the list of the top 15 fighters in the world. There will be some surprises and some guarantees as MMAcrunch brings you the latest list featuring the best of the best.

15. Lyoto Machida
Machida has yet to lose a professional fight and is coming off a unanimous victory over the legendary Tito Ortiz. He needs to snare a few more quality victories before he can rise through the ranks. Saturday night’s match-up against Thiago Silva is a good start. In the crowded light heavyweight division of the UFC, Machida has his work cut out for him.

14. Paulo Filho
No fighter has gone the distance with Filho in his last nine fights. He currently boasts a 16-0 record as the WEC Middleweight champion. Thus far in his career, Filho has steamrolled over the competition, although that competition will need to get better if he hopes to continue his rise. Filho’s next opponent is Chael Sonnen, not exactly a household name.

13. Mauricio Rua
All of the sudden, Rua’s previous loss to Forrest Griffin doesn’t seem so bad. Injury has currently sidelined Rua as it looks as though he won’t return to the octagon until December at best. Now, Rua’s past victory over Quinton Jackson seems like a distant memory. Coming back from injury, Rua will have to re-establish himself in the high competitive UFC light heavyweight division.

12. Miguel Torres
We can’t compile such a list without a Bantamweight fighter from the WEC. In that division, there is none better than Miguel Torres. Torres is the true definition of warrior and hasn’t lost a bout since 2003. His impressive 34-1 record compels him to rank among the very best in the sport of mixed martial arts. A Torres-Faber showdown would be huge for the WEC, if Torres decides to bump up in class in the future.

11. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira
While Nogueira has dropped two out of his last four fights, he still remains a very dangerous fighter. The Brazilian Jiu-jitsu artist is capable of beating anyone on any given night. Nogueira will likely make Edwin Dewees his next victim at Affliction: Banned, And if he stays with Affliction, he could emerge as one of the organization’s top fighters.

10. Quinton Jackson
What a difference a couple of weeks makes. Jackson has gone from one of the top fighters in the UFC to a man struggling to maintain his sanity. While he is still a very formidable fighter, one has to question how the past week’s events will affect his future. Jackson will have more to overcome quite a bit on his way back to the top of the light heavyweight division.

9. Chuck Liddell
Liddell is now in the driver’s seat as far as getting a shot at the UFC light heavyweight championship. If he can get past Rashad Evans, he will likely earn the right to take on Forrest Griffin. Notwithstanding his troubles against Rampage Jackson, Liddell has pretty much had his way with the light heavyweight division. If Jackson is out of the picture for a bit, it could bode well for Liddell.

8. Jon Fitch
The opportunity to climb up to the top of the list awaits Fitch as a date with Georges St. Pierre is less than a month away. Fitch is quite a stranger to defeat, not having lost since 2003. He’ll bring in a string of 14 straight victories and an undefeated UFC record when he faces GSP. For Fitch, there won’t be a more golden opportunity to thrust his name atop of the UFC.

7. Urijah Faber
All Faber seems to do is dominate every opponent that faces him. He owns a 16-1 record and hasn’t really been challenged as of late. Jens Pulver did an adequate job of just being able to finish the fight. In that fight, Faber showed a more complete game and tattooed Pulver when the two were not on the mat. Faber’s reign has the potential to be long lived.

6. Forrest Griffin
There has been no fighter whose stock is rising more rapidly. Griffin validated his worth when he dismantled Rampage Jackson, giving him two very impressive victories in a row. Now, the light heavyweights must stand in line for the chance to test Griffin. However, they must bring everything they have as Griffin has proven he can not only dish out pain, but he can also take his lumps.

5. Randy Couture
The bad blood between Couture and the UFC is no secret. It has put his career into a standstill, however Couture still has to be recognized as a dangerous fighter. Until these squabbles can be resolved and until someone defeats the current UFC Heavyweight champion, he still has to be considered among the best in the sport, regardless of where he winds up fighting.

4. BJ Penn
At this point, Penn is arguably the best lightweight in the sport of mixed martial arts. He has settled in nicely and reeled off three straight quality wins over high caliber opponents. Avenging his last loss to Matt Hughes may not even be in the cards for Penn as of now. For the time being, he is the man to beat in the UFC lightweight division. Every top contender now seems to jockeying for the chance to square off against Penn.

3. Anderson Silva
Making the jump to the light heavyweight division could enable Silva to become the best fighter in the game. He has run through the ranks of the middleweight division but will have a stiffer challenge as the competition among the light heavys is ferocious. He’ll get his start this weekend while hoping to provide more evidence as to why he should be considered the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world.

Anderson Silva Highlights:

2. Fedor Emelianenko
He still can’t speak English, but Fedor can sure fight. He’ll get the chance to show his dominance once more against Tim Sylvia at Affliction: Banned. Fedor hasn’t lost since the turn of the century and remains one of the most feared fighters in the sport. Yet, until he fights in the sport’s most elite organization, he still cannot be considered the best.

Fedor Emelianenko Highlights:

1. Georges St. Pierre
GSP is at the top of his game right now. His list of casualties keeps getting more impressive and he will hope to add Jon Fitch to that list next month. The UFC Welterweight champion has a complete, all-around game and his training has only intensified in recent months. For anyone to dethrone GSP, they will have to be at their absolute best. As of now, St.Pierre is the best of the best in the sport of mixed martial arts.

Georges St. Pierre Highlights:


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Attitude: Why J.R. Smith (And Others!) Won’t Get Paid

These seven young, talented players don’t deserve big-time contracts.

by Ryne Nelson

There’s nothing wrong with paying a young, talented basketball player more than $3 million per year. Hell, this happens all the time in the NBA.

So when you’re as talented as J.R. Smith, and no one (including your own team) is even considering paying you, something’s up.

I would be lying if I said Smith doesn’t possess absolutely mint skills and seemingly endless talent. As a matter of fact, I’ve been a fan of his game since he was drafted in 2004.

Smith is one of those guys you cry about. Literally. You cry when he posterizes Jannero Pargo and proceeds to shy away from the ball for the rest of the game. It hurts when Smith lights up the Bulls for 43 (in 33 minutes), and his team still loses.

The guy has range, hops, size, speed…and attitude problems.

He’s a painfully inconsistent player who will never have a winning moxie. He acts like he could care less about the game, and it’s true.

So when teams take a good, hard look at free agents like J.R. Smith (as the entire league assuredly has), they tell themselves, I wouldn’t pay a guy like that, either!

But the (Past) Prodigy isn’t the only young cat who has big-time game but doesn’t deserve a big-time contract. Oh, there are plenty more, and some are making headlines right now. Let’s take a gander…

More young, talented head cases

Shawne Williams, IND

I might be wrong on this, but I’m probably right – Shawne Williams not only doesn’t deserve NBA dollars, he doesn’t deserve to be in the League.

Dude possesses more than enough talent to be a starting swingman, but he, plain and simple, has the common sense of a snail.

The Indianapolis Star reported one of Williams’ boys was arrested for marijuana possession Friday night. The car he and Williams drove was pulled over for a seat belt and window tint violation…and the car didn’t even belong to them!

This is only five months after a man wanted on murder charges left Williams’ home in Williams’ truck.

Larry Bird’s got this guy gone, and don’t be surprised if he’s playing in Europe or Keon Clarking sometime soon.

Sean Williams, NJN

There was a time when Sean Williams was dope. That time was short, very short, but it did exist.

The question surrounding Williams was how can a man play like he’s the sh*t for half a season, and play like a deadbeat for the other? Coach Laurence Frank benched Williams after All-Star because he began to royally suck. Just look at the statistical difference:

There’s a reason for this: attitude. Williams has a superiority complex, and if he feels like he’s being slighted, he won’t perform. If he’s benched, he’ll make good buddies with Stromile Swift. When playing in summer league, you wouldn’t know he existed. It’s embarrassing to watch this guy in Orlando and Utah, and I’m not even a Nets fan.

Regardless, Williams proved he can be one of the best game’s defenders. But his stuck-up attitude will prevent him from getting those dollars.

Gerald Green, DAL

I read Green’s feature in SLAM’s Punks four years ago and started to believe the hype. He disappointed on draft night, falling to No. 18 when most draft experts had Green as a Top 10 lock. I called it a major heist and Green Destiny for the Celtics.

Now, I’m trying to decide who will be more valuable to the Mavs next season: J.J. Barea or this 6′8′’ athletic swingman who, by the way, has a more than decent shot. Really, this should be a no-brainer. There’s no reason Green can’t be a NBA starter. He has more physical tools than 90 percent of the NBA.
But it’s time to give up on the thought that Gerald Green and the NBA will work things out someday. It’s a cold, hard fact: no one wants the talented Gerald Green.

Make no mistake, this guy will sooner be catching oops from Brandon Jennings than Jason Kidd.

Adam Morrison, CHA

It’s never too early to call Morrison a bust.

We called him a bust when he was drafted No. 3 overall by Michael Jordan (who else?). We did it again when we was demoted by an obscure Argentinean called Walter Herrmann. We called him a bust when he flicked off some fan for calling him ‘white trash.’

We knew he was a bust when he sat out his entire sophomore campaign, displaying less interest in his job than even a laundromat owner.

Sure Morrison proved he could put the ball in the hole a ‘lil bit during his rookie year, but what’s that mean now that his coach thinks he’s just a ‘kid with the long hair, I didn’t know his name. He wasn’t dressed like a basketball player’?

If you look at Charlotte’s roster, they don’t have a place for Morrison. He’ll certainly be a bench player as long as he remains a Bobcat, and there’s nothing indicating that he minds this in the least.

Charlie Villanueva, MIL

My friends are going to kill me for putting Charlie V on this list (including someone here at the Dome…don’t worry, I can take him). However, Villanueva proves time and time again that his name belongs along with this type of company.

The problem with Villanueva is his flaming inconsistency. Most nights he won’t be anything on the court. He’ll be a complete non-factor. Write him off. Forget about him. Pretend he’s from Milwaukee and never give him a second thought.

Then, there’s other nights when he literally doesn’t miss a shot. On these nights, Villanueva looks like Lamar Odom…with much less hair and a game that’s 10 times better.

Problem is, this Villanueva doesn’t show up more then three times a season.

In high school and college, Villanueva wouldn’t miss an opportunity to tell the world he’s better than the other guy. Now, he’s given up on trying to tell anyone.

Tyrus Thomas, CHI

Ah, yet another major mistake by Bulls management. Remember three years ago when the Bulls said they needed frontcourt help? Remember when they drafted LaMarcus Aldridge, you know, the best big in the 2006 Draft?

Well, the Bulls traded Aldridge just as quick as they selected him, and thus were the first to be Pritchslapped. Without Chicago, I guarantee the Blazers would not be in the prime position they are today.

But, Chicago fans, you keep tellin’ yourself how great T2 is…especially you fantasy ‘experts,’ who wouldn’t trade Thomas for anything less than Baron Davis. Yeah, two blocks and four boards in ten minutes is really going to be awesome for your efficiency ratings!

Which teams look good?

New York Knicks

You probably knew the Knicks were going to be mentioned in this column from the beginning, yet probably not in this way. Yes, they’re bad. Yes, many of their players are overpaid. Yes, Stephon has a new tattoo. So much has already been said about this team’s shortcomings, I’m not going to put it all out here.

But…

New York has a secret stash of young competitors. Check this list out, son: Nate Robinson, David Lee, Renaldo Balkman and Wilson Chandler. Get rid of some dead wood, let Danilo Gallinari do that thing he’s supposed to, and they’re right back in the playoffs.

(Oh, and as an aside…Yes, Steph’s still that guy, and he’s going to prove it when he dons the orange and blue next season. Please, I invite you to tell me why he can’t dominate!)

Portland Trail Blazers

We already know Darius Miles was a big mistake, and his contract may still haunt Portland if he plays this season. The Blazers tenured him a grand contract because of (what else) potential and stupidity, and Miles greatly screwed them in the long run. This guy failed more drug tests than a corner-dealing, redhead, late-shiftin’, Jimmy John’s manager…who eats the same No. 5 Vito (with extra mayo!) sandwich at 11:27 p.m. every day.

Still, the Blazers learned from their mistakes, and are turning things around as fast as humanly possible (without miraculously adding Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen).

They’ll be in the playoffs this year, count on it.

Oklahoma City

There’s no better core of young cats than Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Jeff Green. With hella cap room, hella draft picks, Chris Wilcox booming on people, and a surprise debut of center Mouhamed Sene in a year or two (Sene’s touted to have the defensive prowess of a young Dikembe Mutombo), they’ll soon be back in the thick of the playoff action.

Lastly…

Let me clarify by saying J.R. Smith and the rest of these guys are not necessarily going to become the next Darius Miles, Eddie Griffin or Chris Washburn. Sure, they could, but so could anyone else.

All I’m saying is let’s make sure we pay the real competitors, and let these deadbeats do what they do.

Let them wonder why they’re still sitting pretty at the end of the bench or on their couch.

Who did I miss?

As I wrote this column, the ideas kept coming (I originally set out to write about J.R. Smith…then Shawne Williams popped up on the feed-reader (again)…then I had to make a bona fide list!).

I’m sure there is more to say on the topic of young, uber talented players you’d never pay big dollars.

Who would you add? How many of these type of players does your team have?

Looking forward to hearing your ideas in comments below!

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