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Friday, August 1, 2008

Cracking under pressure: The top ten sporting chokers of all time

by Phil McCauley

We all enjoy seeing true sporting genius at work - but for the yin of every Lance Armstrong, Roger Federer or Sammy Sosa out there, there's the yang of dreadful failure to bring some balance to the world of sport. Here, I pay homage to 10 of the greatest, most heart-wrenching and downright funniest moments when defeat was somehow stolen from the jaws of victory. It's the top 10 chokers of all time...

10. Houston Oilers: In an AFC wildcard game in 1993, the Oilers were responsible for the biggest in-game collapse in NFL history. They destroyed the Buffalo Bills in the first half to go in leading 35-3, but took choking to a whole new level by losing the game 41-38 in overtime. Ouch.

9. Gavin Hastings: Scotland's Mr Reliable had the chance to give his country a famous victory in the semi-final of the 1991 Rugby Union World Cup against old foes England. Hastings had possibly the easiest kick of his career in front of a home crowd at Murrayfield with a penalty smack bang in front of the posts with the scores tied at 6-6. Incredibly he dragged his kick wide, and Rob Andrew went on to nick it for England with a drop goal.

8. Devon Loch: Just 50m short of the line and with a seemingly unassailable lead in the 1956 Grand National, Devon Loch inexplicably decided to do the SPLITS and handed the race on a plate to ESB. Even after all these years, watching the video footage of that moment leaves me flabbergasted. Proof, if it were ever needed, that animals can choke too.

7. Greg Norman: Came up with the biggest choke in Masters history when, going into the final round at Augusta in 1996, the Great White Shark managed to blow a SIX-SHOT lead to hand the title to Nick Faldo. Norman's final-round 78 was even more remarkable when you consider the fact he had shot a course-record 63 just three days earlier.

6. Pittsburgh Penguins: The Penguins were showing the world how to throw away certain victory way back in 1975. They led 3-0 in their best-of-seven play-off series with the NY Islanders. If you didn't already know, you can probably guess what happened next - four straight defeats left the Penguins with egg on their faces.

5. Jana Novotna: The female tennis player came agonisingly close to a famous victory in the Wimbledon final of 1993. Novotna led the all-conquering Steffi Graf 4-1 in the final set and had a point on serve for a 5-1 lead - but double-faulted. The Czech chick choked as it all became too much for her. Ten minutes later and Graf had won the set 6-4 to take the title, leaving Novotna to famously cry on the shoulder of the Duchess of Kent. Women...

4. Doug Sanders: It was Open Championship heartache for Sanders at St Andrews in 1970 as he came within one shot of victory. He had a three-footer on the final green to wrap up a one-stroke win over Jack Nicklaus, but the pressure proved too much and the American lipped out. He went on to lose the play-off to Nicklaus the next day.

3. Scott Norwood: The Buffalo Bills went into Superbowl XXV as favourites to bet the NY Giants but, with eight seconds of the game left, they trailed 20-19. Up stepped Norwood for the chance to clinch victory for the Bills with a 47-yard field goal - and he bottled it big time, sending his kick wide right. Norwood now sells insurance in Virginia.

2. Jean Van de Velde: Teeing off at the 18th in the final round of the 1999 Open at Carnoustie, Van de Velde had one hand on the trophy knowing even a double bogey would give him the championship. Having birdied the same hole in his previous two rounds, what followed was a collapse of prodigious proportions. The Frenchman only just missed the water with his first shot, hit the grandstand with his second and landed in the burn with his third, where he ended up having to take off his shoes and socks to play the ball. He eventually managed to hole out for a triple-bogey seven before losing the play-off to a grateful Paul Lawrie.

1. NY Yankees: The Yankees produced one of the biggest collapses ever seen in the world of sport in 2004. The most successful outfit in the history of Major League Baseball were cruising at 3-0 up in play-off series against the Boston Red Sox but, when push came to shove, they lost their nerve - along with the next four games - to give the Red Sox their first World Series in 86 years.

Narrowing the list down to just 10 has proved incredibly difficult as there are countless other worthy contenders for the title of biggest choker in sport. Fire away with your favourites...

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NSAC: Irvin Positive for Painkillers


NSAC: Irvin Positive for Painkillers

by Loretta Hunt (lhunt@sherdog.com)

Getting the opportunity to face the world’s top pound-for-pound fighter might not have been worth it to James Irvin (Pictures) in the end.

After getting squashed by Anderson Silva (Pictures) in a minute and one second during their July 19 UFC light heavyweight tilt on Spike TV, the Sacramento native has allegedly tested positive for the non-approved analgesic painkillers Methadone and Oxymorphone according to a post-fight urinalysis conducted by the Nevada State Athletic Commission.

Irvin (14-5) has been temporarily suspended pending a disciplinary hearing with the NSAC. The regulatory body could vote to revoke his licensure for a yet-to-be determined length of time and/or fine Irvin for the alleged infractions. A date for the hearing has not been set.

Irvin’s manager, Mike Roberts, told Sherdog.com Tuesday afternoon that he had not been aware of the allegations and had not been in contact with his client about them yet. Irvin could not be immediately reached for comment.

Irvin, 29, took the Silva bout on the heels of recovery from a broken foot, after the UFC had swiftly organized the July 19 event to counter-program a pay-per-view hosted by the rival Affliction promotion on the same night.

Irvin had sustained the injury last May in preparation for a proposed co-event matchup against “The Ultimate Fighter 2” winner Rashad Evans (Pictures) at UFC 85 “Bedlam,” which was held on June 7 in London.

A former star on the central California’s WEC circuit prior to the promotion’s purchase by Zuffa LLC. in 2006, the heavy-handed Irvin had posted back-to-back wins over Luis Arthur Cane (Pictures) and Houston Alexander (Pictures) before his one-sided loss to UFC middleweight champion Silva.

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Federer Loss Clears Way for Nadal to Reach Top

Roger Federer, who has been No. 1 for 235 weeks, has lost three of his last four matches.

By JOSH KATZOWITZ

MASON, Ohio — With Roger Federer’s third-round loss Thursday in the Cincinnati Masters, Rafael Nadal has an opportunity to displace Federer as the world’s No. 1 player.

If Nadal wins this tournament, Federer’s 235-week reign will end.

Federer fell for the third time in four matches — a 7-6 (6), 4-6, 7-6 (5) defeat to No. 22 Ivo Karlovic. Nadal — who defeated Tommy Haas, 6-4, 7-6 (0), Thursday night — has won 31 straight matches, including five consecutive titles. Nadal will meet Ecuador’s Nicolas Lapentti on Friday.

Federer was not in the mood to talk about the rankings after his loss. Asked if he would continue following this tournament to see how Nadal fares, Federer simply said, “No.” Later, he was asked to what extent he hoped Nadal would lose, thus preserving his No. 1 ranking.

“I don’t care,” Federer said.

Tennis fans are left to wonder: Is something wrong with Federer? And, if so, what exactly is the cause for his sudden return to mortality?

Federer lost to Nadal in an epic Wimbledon final; he fell in Toronto to Gilles Simon, who was coming off a tournament victory in Indianapolis; and on Thursday he lost to one of the top servers in the game. Perhaps a combination of top-notch opponents, bad draws and a touch of bad luck caught up with him.

The other view is that Federer managed to win those matches in the past.

Karlovic, though, did not see a difference in his opponent.

“He didn’t have a lot of unforced errors,” said Karlovic, who recorded 22 aces and beat Federer for the first time in seven attempts. “He was playing well from the baseline, and I had almost no chance to break him. So I think that he was playing on the same level as before.”

Although Federer struggled in his opening-round match, needing three sets and a second-set tie breaker to beat Robby Ginepri, Karlovic could not break his serve Thursday. Instead, Federer — who had only 14 unforced errors compared to Karlovic’s 37 — simply could not take advantage of the few opportunities he had.

After Federer pushed a final backhand long, the 6-foot-10 Karlovic fell to the ground in ecstasy. After shaking hands with Federer, Karlovic walked to center court, raised his arms high above his head and basked in the applause of the pro-Federer crowd.

“He definitely served well,” said Federer, who has won 97 of the 98 career service games he has played against Karlovic. “Maybe in the last tie breaker when I had three chances on second serves, I wasn’t able to get one when I really needed to be on even terms with him. I guess that cost me the match, which is hard to accept.”

Federer will try to avoid becoming discouraged.

“So far, it’s O.K.,” he said. “I guess I’ll analyze and assess my game after the U.S. Open. For the moment, it’s just all a blur. It’s so many tournaments in a row, big tournaments in a row. It’s hard.”

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Even with "blue skies", is Beijing's air safe?

By Emma Graham-Harrison

BEIJING (Reuters) - Beijing has vowed the Olympic Games will take place under blue skies, not the murky "sauna" haze that has shrouded the city recently, but even on apparently clear days pollution levels may not be safe for athletes.

Officials lavished 120 billion yuan ($17.6 billion) on cleaning up the capital with factories dozens of miles away closed down, construction halted, and over half the city's 3.3 million cars cleared from the roads.

Still, even when Beijing says the air is clear, athletes and their coaches may have cause for concern.

Most Chinese air pollution standards are outside World Health Organization guidelines. Moreover, experts say that the pollution index China uses to tell ordinary citizens whether the air is safe -- a "blue sky" day -- is seriously flawed.

It only uses average measurements across the capital, so some spots could have dangerous levels even when overall readings say it is safe to venture out. And some hazardous pollutants are not included in the index, experts say.

The grey haze hanging over Beijing on Monday highlighted the city's ongoing problems. City pollution monitors said air quality on Monday was Grade II, making it officially a "blue sky day" -- though to the naked eye there was little to distinguish it from the four previous days when air did not meet national standards.

Many athletes have delayed arriving in Beijing until the last minute to avoid bad air, and the International Olympic Committee said it may reschedule endurance events such as the marathon to prevent health risks to athletes if pollution is bad.

Marathon world record holder Haile Gebrselassie has already pulled out of the marathon over fears of damaging his health.

And the Australian Olympic Committee has also said its athletes would be allowed to withdraw if pollution poses a threat.

"For us the athlete's attitude to the event is paramount," AOC vice president Peter Montgomery told reporters.

In contrast Athens, host of the last Games, had long ago dispersed the heavy cloud of smog that polluted most of Greece's Attica region in the 1970s and 1980s.

WHAT IS SAFE?

China's national limits on major pollutants, with effects including breathing problems and lung damage, are more lenient than most of those of the WHO and the European Union.

Some environmentalists say that alone means the country's best may not be good enough for athletes -- because even if the air meets national standards, it will still fail the WHO test.

"If the level is above the line, it is unhealthy," said Paolo Revellino, author of a U.N. Environment Program report on the Olympics released last year.

But others argue individual guidelines are not Beijing's main problem, as they are also more stringent than many U.S. rules, and point out that China has tried to set itself realistic goals.

"The intention is that they should reflect the current capacities of the air management system. You can see some countries that take the (WHO) guidelines but don't do any monitoring," said Frank Murray, an air quality expert at Murdoch University's School of Environmental Science.

CONFUSING BLUE SKIES

More of a problem is the Air Pollution Index used to decide if Beijing is enjoying a "blue sky day" and give ordinary citizens a quick summary of air quality. It is riddled with problems that magnify the effect of relatively lax standards.

"I prefer not to deal with it because it is not internationally recognized," said the U.N.'s Revellino.

The index uses average values across the city and over a 24-hour period, meaning pockets and temporary peaks of dangerous pollution can be ignored.

It does not attempt to calculate the cumulative effect of different pollutants -- so as long as each one is just inside national guidelines the air is considered safe.

And it omits several dangerous pollutants, including the finest type of dust-like particulate matter.

"It's the smaller particles that are more hazardous, because they are easily absorbed into the lungs, into the blood stream. And in China they don't have any official measurement of (them)," said a Western diplomat with an environment brief.

And because colorless ozone, a particular summer problem because sunlight helps produce it, is not included, athletes can't even trust their eyes.

"The sky can appear blue, but air can be still polluted ... Ozone can cause some respiratory problems and affect lung functions, so it can produce adverse effects to children, elderly and most likely athletes competing outdoors," the diplomat added.

($1=6.835 Yuan)

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Ancient Olympic Calculator Discovered

By Jeremy Hsu

The gears and pointers at the front of the Mechanism, as seen in a computer model. There is a Zodiac scale, which displays the positions of the Sun and Moon; a Calendar scale, which shows the date in the Egyptian Calendar; and a Moon phase display. Credit: 2008 Tony Freeth

An ancient astronomy calculator appears to show the four-year cycle of the early Greek competitions that inspired today's Olympic Games.

Newly uncovered inscriptions on the 2,100 year-old device reveal names linked to the Olympiad cycle of games once celebrated among ancient Greek city-states.

"It's a surprise to find this on what we thought was an astronomical instrument," said Alexander Jones, a science historian at New York University who coauthored a study on the findings that are detailed this week in the journal Nature.

Scientists have long studied the Antikythera Mechanism as a complex gearwheel system that displays the date, positions of the sun and moon, lunar phases, a 19-year calendar, and a 223-month eclipse prediction dial. But the latest findings suggest the mechanism had applications beyond mathematical astronomy.

"It's not an instrument of pure science," Jones told LiveScience. He added that it demonstrates "the relationship of cosmic time to human time."

Studying the mechanism has proven challenging, because it remains fragile and encrusted with grime after divers retrieved it in 1901 from the shipwreck of a 1st-century B.C. Roman merchant ship. Over the past several years, 3-D X-ray scanners have helped reveal more of what amounts to a user's manual inscribed within the layers.

"The first clues that suggested a link with the ancient cycle of Greek games came when the word 'NEMEA' was read near a small subsidiary dial on the Mechanism," said Tony Freeth, a scientist with Images First Ltd. in the U.K. and coauthor on the Nature study.

That name stood for the Nemean Games, one of the crown games in the Olympiad cycle. Other names that eventually resurfaced included 'ISTHMIA" for the games at Corinth, 'PYTHIA' for the games at Delphi, and finally 'OLYMPIA' for the Olympic Games.

The researchers also deciphered the month names on the Mechanism's 19-year lunar cycle calendar – a possible clue to the origins of the mechanism.

"It's not a calendar of the sort that astronomers would use," Jones explained. "It's more of a regional calendar that belonged to certain Greek cities such as Corinth."

That might suggest a link to famed Greek inventor and mathematician Archimedes, who lived in the Corinthian colony of Syracuse in Sicily about 100 years before the mechanism was constructed.

It's possible that a descendant or student of Archimedes may have taken their cue from the master, Jones said. But he added that the Mechanism contains knowledge of astronomy that only existed after Archimedes died in 212 B.C., which means that the inventor did not directly build the mechanism.

Either way, the mechanism has yet to give up all its secrets. Scientists still puzzle over the eclipse prediction dial, which has glyphs arranged at five or six month intervals around it. The glyphs indicate whether the eclipse is lunar or solar and the time of day, but do not match up precisely with known eclipse times.

"There's more work we need to do on this, I think," Freeth said.

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Report: Packers offered Brett Favre $20M to stay retired

BY OHM YOUNGMISUK
DAILY NEWS SPORTS WRITER

GREEN BAY - Brett Favre is intent on playing again and reporting to Packers camp. And apparently not even a heap of money can make him change his mind.

According to the Green Bay Press-Gazette, a source close to Favre said the Packers offered to pay the quarterback a substantial amount of money to remain retired and away from Packers camp. And WTMJ-TV in Milwaukee cites two sources who say Packers president and CEO Mark Murphy raised the possibility of paying Favre $20 million over 10 years to stay retired when he met with Favre and his agent, James (Bus) Cook, in an all-day meeting Wednesday in Hattiesburg, Miss.

The two sides held the day-long summit in an effort to end a standoff that has had more twists and turns than one of Favre's patented improvised scrambles. But the quarterback, who wants to start for the Packers or be released, is still stuck in limbo.

"We're going to do whatever Brett wants to do," Cook told reporters in Mississippi, after calling the talks "amicable." "And right now his intention is to go back to Green Bay and play football."

Murphy, who flew to Mississippi on a private jet late Tuesday night to try to find a way to keep Favre from reporting to Packers camp - which could happen as early as tomorrow - appears to have failed in his mission.

"I was in Hattiesburg today and had a nice visit with Brett Favre," Murphy said in a statement released last night. "We discussed a number of topics not related to football, including Brett's long-term relationship with the Packers. I consider our conversation to be confidential and am going to be respectful of Brett and his family and keep the details private. Ted (Thompson, the Packers GM) and Mike (McCarthy, the head coach) are going to continue to work on the football side of this issue. They have my full support."

Instead of reinstating Favre Wednesday after the three-time MVP filed his papers to the league office on Tuesday afternoon, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell gave Favre and the Packers another day to work out some sort of compromise to the league's most riveting soap opera.

Favre, who worked out at nearby Oak Grove High School in the morning, sat in on the meeting at Cook's office in Hattiesburg for more than three hours before leaving without comment, according to the Hattiesburg American. Cook and Murphy remained in discussions for the rest of the afternoon.

The Packers, who have meetings today but no practice, want to avoid the circus-like atmosphere that would disrupt their training camp and possibly stunt the growth of starter Aaron Rodgers should Favre arrive here. Also, the Packers will host their annual "Family Night" on Sunday and they want to avoid the bizarre spectacle of fans watching the franchise's future Hall of Famer and beloved quarterback stand on the sideline as Rodgers' backup.

Favre's reinstatement is a mere formality; however, Goodell hopes to have some kind of resolution before reinstating Favre. Once Goodell reinstates him, the Packers go on the clock - they'd have 24hours to place him on the active roster, trade him or release him.

Favre, who has three years left on his contract and would make $12 million this season under that deal, wants his old job back or an unconditional release to join a team such as Minnesota, where he would turn the Vikings into instant contenders. The Packers want him to stay retired and have no intention of releasing him. They have also told him that he cannot compete for his old job, either. Green Bay is willing to trade the three-time MVP, but not to a division rival.

Favre, 38, reportedly told Thompson he is open to being traded, but not just to the two teams that the Packers gave permission to talk to Favre - the Jets and Buccaneers.

It's clear that the Favre saga is wearing on the Packers. They insist they moved on after Favre retired in March and are committed to Rodgers, who has been waiting in the wings for the past three seasons.

"Both parties want to move forward and want a resolution," said defensive end Aaron Kampman. "This is getting very drawn out from both sides and quite frankly everyone wants it to be over. It's kind of pointless to keep going at it."

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Devout Heisman winner declines spot in 'Playboy' lineup

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College football player Tim Tebow arrives at the ESPYs Awards in Los Angeles on July 16.
By Matt Sayles, AP
College football player Tim Tebow arrives at the ESPYs Awards in Los Angeles on July 16.

One year after winning college football's highest honor, University of Florida star Tim Tebow was pulled from consideration for Playboy's pre-season All-American team because the magazine conflicts with his Christian beliefs, a school official confirmed.

Tebow, who last year became the first sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy, comes from a family of missionaries and is a devout Baptist. Assistant Sports Information Director Zack Higbee said he chose not to nominate his quarterback for the Playboy spread based on what he knew about Tebow's spirituality.

"I've been working with Tim since his first day here and I know his priorities and his family," Higbee said. "He has that trust in me to make the decision."

As a teenager, the home-schooled Tebow made annual trips to the Philippines, where his father, a minister, runs an orphanage. This year, he went on separate missions to the Philippines, Croatia, and Thailand.

Higbee said Tebow supported the move when told of it this month. Playboy Sports Editor Gary Cole downplayed the university's decision, however, and said that Tebow would not have made the team anyway.

Tebow, 20, is not the first high-profile college athlete to reject Playboy for religious reasons. Danny Wuerffel, another Heisman-winning Gator and a childhood idol of Tebow's, turned down a spot on the team in 1996. Georgia Tech senior Andrew Gardner made the cut for this year's team but declined the award.

"Every two or three years, we might get someone who says 'I don't want to be on there' or 'my wife doesn't want me to go' or 'my girlfriend doesn't want me to go,' or 'because it doesn't it fit with my personal religious viewpoints,'" said Cole, who has selected the team for the last 22 years. "And that's fine with us. We understand."

While many Division-I schools have religious affiliations, Cole said that only the University of Notre Dame has a policy against the Playboy team. The Catholic university explicitly prohibits athletes from posing for the magazine's photo-spread and attending Playboy's weekend ceremony.

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

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They're playing by the (new) rules

NFL officials give players tutorial on changes for '08

Fernando Bryant on new rule changes Patriots cornerback Fernando Bryant talks about the new rule changes for 2008, focussing in on the force-out rule along the sidelines.

By Baxter Holmes

FOXBOROUGH - Laird Hayes, a Princeton graduate and professor at Orange County College, said in his 13-year NFL officiating career, he has run into the forceout call three times.

"I've got them all right but frankly a couple of times, I was hoping I was right," Hayes said at Gillette Stadium yesterday.

The key to the call - which is judging whether a receiver would have had two feet inbounds on a catch if a defender hadn't pushed him out - is watching the feet first, then quickly glancing up to see if the receiver has control of the ball.

"That's a hard call," said Hayes, who is one of three officials attending Patriots training camp for three days to work with players on the rules and to referee team situations. The officials will also be at camp today and tomorrow.

The forceout rule was changed at the owners' meetings in the offseason and now a receiver must have two feet inbounds on a catch.

"It's very simple now," said sixth-year head linesman Phil McKinnely. "You've got to catch the ball, have control of it, have both feet down - simple. You don't have to process a whole lot, think a whole lot."

The change is to afford "both the receiver and defender equal opportunity to complete the play," the NFL stated.

It is one of six rule changes or additions, notably: the removal of the 5-yard incidental facemask penalty; instant replay implemented on field-goal and extra-point attempts; and teams can designate two defensive players to have radios in their helmets, although only one can be on the field.

Although the forceout rule is gone, Patriots coach Bill Belichick isn't coaching receivers differently.

"We still try to get our feet down," he said. "We try to do it the same way and if we're forced out, then we're forced out, but there isn't much else we can do."

What does change, Belichick said, is how defenders play receivers near the sideline.

"Now I think there is a little bit more opportunity for the defender to play the man as opposed to the ball and just try to knock the player out [of bounds] rather than knock the ball loose," Belichick said.

Cornerback Fernando Bryant, in his 10th season, favors the change because it allows defensive backs to be more physical.

"They should've always had that rule in my eyes," he said. "This is the National Football League. If you can't get two feet in, so what? It changes the way you're going to play on the sidelines. Sometimes you weren't as forceful because you didn't want to push them out and just give them the route because most of the times, it was going to go in their favor.

"Now, you can be aggressive. Hey, if they can get them down, they get them down, but now we can be more aggressive on the sideline and in the back of the end zone."

Third-year wideout Chad Jackson said knowing your location on the field is the key to running a sideline route, but he said the change doesn't favor either unit. But, Jackson said, the task of getting two feet inbounds is more challenging for a receiver than the task of a defensive back stopping a receiver from making the catch.

"It's harder on the receiver because in college it's one foot, and in the NFL it's two feet, so it's harder on the receiver than the DBs," Jackson said.

Umpire Butch Hannah said one of the reasons the incidental facemask penalty was dropped was because in the last two seasons, there have been 29 and 26 incidental facemask penalties, respectively, down from nearly 100 per season in the early 1990s.

And like the forceout rule, the facemask penalty change has made the referees' job easier, Hannah said.

"Sometimes you see it on there but you can't get a good look," he said. "So now it's got to be a definite pull, twist, turn for it to be a foul."

Bryant said that rule plays no favorites.

"It's been an offensive game for a long time, so they're trying to even it up," he said.

Correction: Because of a reporter's error, a story in Wednesday's Sports section about referees visiting Patriots' camp incorrectly stated the college at which NFL official Laird Hayes teaches. Hayes teaches at Orange Coast College in California.

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Skateboarder shakes off frightening fall

Jake Brown loses his board before plunging more than 40 feet to the ground during the Skateboard Big Air Final at the X Games in Los Angeles last year.

By ANDREW DALTON

LOS ANGELES – It might have been funny had it not been potentially deadly.

Skateboarder Jake Brown's legs churned in midair like he was trying to run. His shoes shot off in different directions when he slammed to the ground. His body looked like a rag doll as he slid to the base of the ramp. Minutes later he was smoking a cigarette.

It looked like a fall Wile E. Coyote would take.

And now the 33-year-old Australian wants to shake it off and try it all again. Well, parts of it anyway.

It was opening night at last year's X Games XIII when Brown sped up the mega ramp in his fifth and final run in the Skateboard Big Air competition that he was leading, pulled off an improbable 720 over the mega ramp's 70-foot gap, but drifted out away from the quarterpipe lip and plunged more than 40 feet to the ground, trying to fall on his side and avoid breaking his legs.

"Do I get another run?" were his first words to friend Jason Ellis after he regained consciousness.

It took a year, but he will get another chance Thursday night as he faces off against defending champion Bob Burnquist, the event's virtual inventor Danny Way and others on opening night in what is sure to be the most closely watched moment of X Games XIV.

Brown dismissed any extra attention he may be getting.

"There's always a lot of people watching," Brown said in a phone interview Wednesday. "It's a skateboard competition."

The fall immediately became a viral video sensation, sending a collective cringe through thousands of viewers.

Brown lay motionless for nearly five minutes before getting up and walking off.

He was left with a broken wrist, where he still has a metal pin, and cracked vertebrae.

"Oh man, that was the heaviest slam we've ever seen," a somber Tony Hawk said on the telecast as he watched an unconscious Brown.

The image of the falling Aussie dominated the rest of the games.

Two days after the accident he appeared smiling and walking in front of the X Games crowd at the Home Depot Center in the closest thing action sports has had to a Willis Reed moment.

"I'm doing great. I'm still walking. That's more than I can ask for," Brown told the crowd. "I can't wait to come back."

He later could be seen smiling and walking around the X Games flashing the energy drink that sponsors him.

Partiers at the games' closing extravaganza chanted his name over hip-hop tunes.

Brown won his second consecutive silver despite the spill, and certainly will have the judges' sympathy when he ascends the Staples Center elevator looking for his first gold Thursday night.

The pin in his wrist could put limits on his arm, but, Brown said, "it's strong enough to do whatever I need to do."

Brown also bruised his heel five days ago on the mega ramp that Burnquist owns, but plans to skate through it.

Burnquist won the gold medal last year with an ollie 180 into a frontside 540 that came immediately after he watched Brown's fall and sent him past Brown in the standings.

Way, who designed the mega ramp, returns to the competition after sitting out last year with a ligament injury. He won gold the year before.

On the same night as Brown's return, Travis Pastrana, the X Games darling of two years ago, will make his own comeback as he competes in Moto X Best Trick after taking a year off to focus on Rally Car and Moto X racing.

The last time he was in the event he pulled off the first double backflip in competition, giving the X Games its most memorable moment and beginning an unprecedented week in which he won three gold medals.

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Top 5 Police Brutality Videos

The YouTube generation has brought a new degree of awareness to the problem of police brutality in America. Check out HuffPost's list of the top 5 viral videos of police brutality below:

Our first two videos came into the news within days of each other. Video from last Friday's Critical Mass ride in Times Square showed a rookie NYPD officer lunging at a cyclist and shoving him off his bike. The officer has been stripped of his badge and gun and is on desk duty pending an investigation into the matter.


Days later, an NYPD officer was caught on tape brutally beating a suspect with a baton.


In May, Philadelphia cops swarmed a car and forcefully removed its occupants, before kicking and beating them on the ground. Four officers were fired and four more disciplined following the incident, but no criminal charges have been filed against them.


Then, of course, there is the darling of the police brutality video- "Don't Tase Me, Bro!"


Finally, not all officers are as skilled with their beatings as those in the previous videos. This guy managed to tase himself during an arrest.


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Yankees Obtain Rodríguez in Trade for Farnsworth

By TYLER KEPNER

The last time the Bronx hosted a World Series, Iván Rodríguez was the catcher for the clinching out. In the Yankees’ grandest dreams — which seem more realistic after two major trades in the last week — they will close Yankee Stadium the same way this fall.


Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

With the Detroit Tigers, Iván Rodríguez hit .295 this season with 5 homers and 32 runs batted in, and .382 in his last 30 games.

In a move that was conceived and completed in less than six hours, the Yankees acquired Rodríguez from the Detroit Tigers for reliever Kyle Farnsworth on Wednesday. Five years after leading the Florida Marlins to a title, and two years after lifting Detroit to a pennant, Rodríguez becomes the regular catcher for the Yankees.

“I came to the office today just thinking about the Oriole game, not necessarily making a blockbuster deal,” General Manager Brian Cashman said. “I’ve been dealing with LaTroy Hawkins being designated for assignment; I’ve got some activity there, and at some point I hoped to conclude something on him. But nothing like this.”

The Hawkins move could wait. That was obvious at 10 a.m., when Cashman received a call from Dave Dombrowski, the president of the Tigers. Cashman says he has always appreciated Dombrowski’s direct style, and Dombrowski hit him with a thunderbolt: he wanted Farnsworth for Rodríguez.

Rodríguez, a 14-time All-Star, is hitting .295 with 5 homers and 32 runs batted in. Farnsworth is 1-2 with a 3.65 earned run average and was leading the Yankees with 45 games pitched.

Months ago, Cashman had heard rumors that Rodríguez might be available. But he thought so little of it that he never bothered to check with Dombrowski, even after learning that Jorge Posada would not catch again this season.

Cashman had resigned himself to a tandem of José Molina and Chad Moeller behind the plate. That may have been acceptable, considering the strength of Molina’s defense, but privately Cashman worried that Molina could wear down the way he did in April when Posada left the lineup because of shoulder pain.

Cashman also knew that Farnsworth’s value most likely would never be higher, and the Yankees had depth to replace him. Brian Bruney has been pitching for Class AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and could be activated from the disabled list. Also, the top prospect Mark Melancon was just promoted to Scranton.

“Over time, people are emerging and doing the job,” Cashman said. “I’ve got to give Joe a lot of credit. He’s handed the ball to a lot of guys, given guys an opportunity, and those guys have taken advantage.”

Joe Girardi, the manager, has culled solid performances from José Veras, Edwar Ramírez and Dave Robertson, among others. Just as important, Cashman acquired a veteran late-inning reliever, Dámaso Marte, in the Xavier Nady deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates on Saturday.

Before Wednesday’s game, Girardi told Cashman that he liked Detroit’s proposal. That was important to Cashman, who said he would not have made the move unless Girardi supported it. He called back Dombrowski, then checked with ownership and scouts.

Rodríguez waived his no-trade clause and told Cashman he would report in time for Thursday night’s game against the Angels. With the deal agreed upon, Cashman called Girardi during the game and told him not to use Farnsworth.

Like Rodríguez, Farnsworth will be a free agent after the season. He joined the Yankees in 2006, and this may have been his best month in pinstripes. Before Monday, he had not allowed a run in 11 appearances.

The Yankees decided it made sense to sell high on Farnsworth, who drew interest from Dombrowski last summer. Farnsworth pitched well for the Tigers in 2005, but he took this trade hard in an emotional meeting with Girardi and Cashman after the game.

“I had a good time here, and it was tough,” said Farnsworth, whose young son played on the field with Girardi’s family after the trade. “I went out there and gave everything I had every time I pitched. That’s the only thing I could ask myself to do.”

One American League talent evaluator, who was granted anonymity so he could speak freely about another team’s player, said Rodríguez was a clear upgrade over Molina, who is not used to catching every day and is slow on the bases.

The evaluator said Rodríguez, 36, is not the player he was with the Texas Rangers — for whom he won 10 Gold Gloves and a Most Valuable Player award — but that he was still solid.

“He plays with a lot of enthusiasm,” the talent evaluator said. “He’s kept himself in good shape. He really is a good athlete. He can hit anywhere from the sixth hole on down for you. He hits behind the runner. He can run the bases, too. He’s still a good base runner. He’s got a good attitude. Hey, he’s still a good baseball player.”

Rodríguez’s name surfaced in José Canseco’s 2005 book, “Juiced,” in which Canseco said he injected Rodríguez with performance-enhancing drugs when they were teammates in Texas. Rodríguez denied the accusation, and although Canseco met with investigators for George J. Mitchell, Rodríguez was not named in Mitchell’s report on steroids in baseball.

Rodríguez, who has a .382 average in his last 30 games, told MLB.com that he was excited about the trade and hoped he could stay with the Yankees beyond this season. But Cashman said he had not thought that far ahead.

“This is about this year,” said Cashman, who signed Posada to a four-year contract last off-season. “There’s been no thought about anything other than this year. I’m not going to disrupt my eighth inning to get a free look at ’09. This is all about ’08.”

The Yankees’ Bobby Abreu said the trade could help the team significantly, and Alex Rodriguez, who played with Rodríguez in Texas in 2002, agreed.

“I’m excited,” Alex Rodriguez said. “I think defensively he helps, and he’s still capable offensively. It’s a good move.”

Cashman will continue to explore possible deals until Thursday’s 4 p.m. nonwaiver deadline, when the Yankees may resolve their stalemate with Seattle over starter Jarrod Washburn.

On Wednesday night, Cashman made the Hawkins move, sending him to Houston for Matt Cusick, a Class A second baseman.

Jack Curry contributed reporting.

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Ramirez traded to Dodgers in three-way deal

Slugger Manny Ramirez's stormy relationship with the Boston Red Sox is over.

Ramirez has been traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Red Sox will pay the remaining $7 million of Ramirez's contract owed for this season, ESPN.com's Peter Gammons reported.

"When a player like Manny becomes available, I don't think there's a manager in baseball who wouldn't say they're interested," said Dodgers manager Joe Torre, whose Yankees teams went toe-to-toe with Ramirez for years. "It was something that happened very quickly, obviously."

Outfielder Jason Bay is going to Boston and the Pittsburgh Pirates get four minor leaguers as part of the three-way deal.

Third baseman Andy LaRoche and right-handed pitcher Bryan Morris will go to the Pirates from the Dodgers. Outfielder Brandon Moss and right-handed pitcher Craig Hansen will leave the Red Sox organization for Pittsburgh.

Wednesday's remarks by Ramirez, who has been involved in trade rumors the past few years, might have been the final straw for the Red Sox.

"The Red Sox don't deserve a player like me," Ramirez told ESPNdeportes.com. "During my years here, I've seen how they [the Red Sox] have mistreated other great players when they didn't want them to try to turn the fans against them.

"The Red Sox did the same with guys like Nomar Garciaparra and Pedro Martinez, and now they do the same with me. Their goal is to paint me as the bad guy. I love Boston fans, but the Red Sox don't deserve me. I'm not talking about money. Mental peace has no price, and I don't have peace here."

Dodgers infielder Garciaparra, who played for the Red Sox from 1996-2004, said he's always had the utmost respect for Ramirez.

"It's nice to see we've done something like this, to make a push for the next two months," Garciaparra said. "I think he'll be just fine. Manny is really a simple person. He works extremely hard. He just wants to play baseball and go home and be with his family. How can you not respect and love a guy like that?"

Ramirez, the MVP of the 2004 World Series, remains one of baseball's best hitters and has enjoyed plenty of big moments in October. But his relationship with the Red Sox soured -- again -- in recent months, prompting the All-Star outfielder to agree to the deal.

The Dodgers began the day one game behind first-place Arizona in the NL West, and were seeking a big bat. Boston, in the middle of the AL East race and chasing a second straight World Series title, wanted a productive hitter in return and got that in Bay.

At 29, Bay is a two-time All-Star and was hitting .282 with 22 home runs and 64 RBIs. Tampa Bay pursued Bay before he wound up with the Red Sox, who trail the first-place Rays by three games in the AL East.

Even before landing the enigmatic Ramirez, Los Angeles had a crowded outfield. Torre has been juggling Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Andruw Jones and Juan Pierre.

"You wish you had the DH," Torre said. "We didn't plan in advance how to move things around."

Ramirez had a .312 batting average with 274 homers and 868 RBIs with the Red Sox, who have won as many postseason series with their former slugger in seven and a half seasons as the Dodgers have in the past 88 years.

Ramirez drove out of Fenway Park in a silver Mercedes at about 10:50 p.m. on Thursday night, with a handful of fans watching and a couple of television cameras rolling. He didn't stop to comment.

Ramirez, 36, was hitting .299 with a team-leading 20 homers and 68 RBIs for Boston. He hit his 500th career home run this year and is one of just eight players to hit at least 20 homers in 14 consecutive seasons. Dodgers GM Ned Colletti said Ramirez will be in Los Angeles' lineup Friday night against the Diamondbacks.

Ramirez was in the final guaranteed year of an eight-year, $160 million contract, and the Red Sox held $20 million options for the next two seasons. As part of the trade, the club options were eliminated.

So when all was said and done, the Dodgers picked up a summer rental they hope will give them a shot at improving upon a woeful postseason track record in the past 20 years. Since winning the 1988 World Series, they've made just four playoff appearances and won only one postseason game.

"We figured we had to do it," Colletti said. "There was obviously a point in time that you have to make a major decision. We did and we were glad we did it. Hopefully it pays dividends. We're confident we've got one of the best hitters in baseball coming in here -- one of the best hitters of his generation from the right side.

"He's a champion, he's a winner, and we really couldn't be happier with trying to make the club better at this point in time than to do this. We wanted this player at least for the next two months, and hopefully longer. So we're willing to take the chance and go with this guy."

The Pirates looked to the future with their acquisitions.

Hansen, a 24-year-old righty, was 1-3 with two saves and a 5.58 ERA in 32 games. A first-round draft choice in 2005, he became the first Boston player to reach the majors in the year was picked.

LaRoche, the younger brother of Pirates first baseman Adam LaRoche, hit .203 with two home runs and six RBIs in 27 games for the Dodgers. A power-hitting prospect at 24, he spent most of this year at Triple-A Las Vegas.

Moss, also 24, split the season between Boston and Triple-A Pawtucket. He hit .295 with five doubles and two homers in 78 at-bats. Last year, he led the International League with 59 extra-base hits.

Morris, a 21-year-old righty, was 2-4 with a 3.20 ERA for Class A Great Lakes.

ESPN.com baseball writer Jayson Stark, ESPN.com staff writer Amy K. Nelson, ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney, ESPN senior writer Keith Law and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Griffey traded to White Sox

Ken Griffey Jr. is batting .245 with 15 home runs, including his 600th career blast, this season.

CINCINNATI - Ken Griffey Jr. is leaving home to get back in a pennant race.

The Chicago White Sox acquired Griffey from the Cincinnati Reds on Thursday, hoping the 38-year-old outfielder can help them hold onto their slim lead in the AL Central.

The Reds sent Griffey and cash to Chicago for reliever Nick Masset and Triple-A second baseman Danny Richar. The deal was announced a half-hour before the 4 p.m. EDT deadline to make trades without waivers.

Griffey, who hit his 600th home run this season, agreed to the trade earlier in the day. Because of the cash transaction involved, the deal did not become official until the commissioner’s office approved it.

White Sox general manager Kenny Williams coveted Griffey for several years. Once one of baseball’s premier players, Griffey has never reached the World Series and has not even been in the playoffs since 1997 with Seattle.

“One of the things that factored into this was a guy who has had a great career but has not won a championship and how motivated he’s going to be to get on that stage,” Williams said. “That is a factor and will always be a factor for me.”

Now older, it’s uncertain how much Griffey has left in his oft-injured body — it’s been a long while since he was voted to the All-Century team.

Griffey played right field the last two seasons, but will return to center when he joins the White Sox on Friday for the start of a series in Kansas City. Manager Ozzie Guillen and the White Sox led Minnesota by 1½ games when the trade was made.

“When I talked to Junior, he was very honest,” Williams said. “He said, ’Well, I’ve got to tell you, I don’t know that you’re going to see the guy from Seattle.’ I said, ’We’re not looking for that guy from Seattle. What we’re looking for is for you to use your instincts.”’

Griffey takes over for Nick Swisher, who moves to first base in place of the slumping Paul Konerko. Swisher also will give up his No. 30 to Griffey, who wore it during his earliest years in Cincinnati.

“I just think there’s a lot of added things he can bring,” Swisher said. “I mean, I had posters of that guy on my wall growing up. So I think it’s going to be an awesome thing for all of us.”

Reds general manager Walt Jocketty was surprised when the White Sox approached him on Wednesday. Griffey also was caught off-guard.

“I think he was just a little bit surprised, maybe, but I think he thought about it and said he wanted to talk to his family about it,” Jocketty said. “I think he agreed it’s a very good opportunity for him, and the club obviously wanted him and pursued him and came after him. That’s got to be a good feeling for him, I guess.”

The trade ended a bittersweet stay with his hometown team — a lot of injuries, a few benchmark homers, no playoff appearances.

Notably, his last hit with the Reds was a homer.

Griffey was on pace to break Hank Aaron’s home run record when he came to Cincinnati in a trade with Seattle before the 2000 season. A series of severe injuries dropped him well off the pace. He finally hit No. 600 this season — only the sixth player to reach the mark — but struggled mightily at the plate.

That short, sweet swing has slowed down this year.

Griffey hit a three-run homer in a 9-5 win at Houston on Wednesday that left him with 15 home runs, 53 RBIs and a .245 batting average despite playing in one of baseball’s most homer-friendly ballparks. His 608th homer left him one behind Sammy Sosa for fifth place on the career list.

Now, Griffey can catch up with Sosa on the south side of Chicago.

His speed and range have diminished since he was the game’s best center fielder in the 1990s. Guillen said Griffey will play center and will be a designated hitter at times. Griffey batted third with the Reds, but will drop to sixth or seventh with Chicago.

“We’re going to start there,” Guillen said. “I don’t know if we were going to move him up or down, but we’ll start there.”

The Reds agreed to pay some of the money left on Griffey’s contract to get the deal done. He makes $12.5 million this season, and has an option for 2009 at a $16.5 million salary. If the White Sox don’t want to pick up next year’s option, Griffey will be owed a $4 million buyout.

The Reds were interested in dealing Griffey because of the size of his contract and their plummet after the All-Star break, which dropped them back to near the bottom of the NL Central, 13½ games out of first place. The Reds haven’t had a winning season since 2000.

The trade that united Griffey with the Reds in 2000 was hailed as a major breakthrough for the franchise, but turned out to be far less than expected. After the 2002 season, former general manager Jim Bowden tried to trade Griffey to San Diego for Phil Nevin, who used his no-trade clause to block the deal.

Bowden was trying to work out a deal with the Yankees in 2003 before Griffey got hurt. The White Sox also showed previous interest in Griffey, but Reds ownership was reluctant to trade its most prominent player as he closed in on 600 homers.

Masset, a righty, was 1-0 with a 4.63 ERA in 32 games for Chicago. Richar hit .262 with nine homers for Triple-A Charlotte.

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