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Monday, September 22, 2008

Spain knock US out of Davis Cup

Spain's Rafael Nadal celebrates the win
Nadal is hoisted onto the shoulders of his team-mates after his crushing win

Spain's Rafael Nadal beat Andy Roddick in straight sets to put defending champions the United States out of this year's Davis Cup.

Nadal's 6-4 6-0 6-4 win gave Spain an unassailable 3-1 lead, taking them through to the final where they will face Argentina, who beat Russia 3-2.

The world number one was in imperious form on the clay in Madrid, breaking Roddick's serve five times.

David Ferrer and Sam Querrey's final singles match is now a dead rubber.

Playing at the Las Ventas bullfighting arena, Nadal put Roddick to the sword with his array of passing shots winning a huge ovation from the partisan home crowd.

It is the latest chapter in a dream year for Nadal, coming after his wins at the French Open, Wimbledon and the Olympics and his claiming of the number one spot.

US pairing Mike Bryan and Mardy Fish had kept their team's hopes alive on Saturday with a thrilling 4-6 6-4 6-3 4-6 6-4 defeat of Feliciano Lopez and Fernando Verdasco in the doubles.

Fish was only playing because of a shoulder injury to Bryan's usual partner, his brother Bob.

But after a hesitant start that saw Lopez and Verdasco take the opening set, he proved to be a strong partner.

Nadal had survived an early scare against Davis Cup debutant Querrey before winning in four sets in Friday's opener.

The French Open and Wimbledon champion initially struggled to contain Querrey's powerful serve and forehand and had to recover from the initial shock of being put on the back foot by an opponent just out of his teens.

The 20-year-old took the first set on a tie-break but Nadal fought back to win 6-7 (5-7) 6-4 6-3 6-4.

Never in my life have so many service points been scored against me on clay
Rafael Nadal

In Friday's second match world number five Ferrer rallied to beat Roddick 7-6 (7-2) 2-6 1-6 6-4 8-6.

Spain will play Argentina in the final in November after they completed a 3-2 win over Russia in Buenos Aires.

Russia's Nikolay Davydenko came from behind to beat David Nalbandian 3-6 6-3 7-6 (7-2) 6-0, bringing his side level at 2-2.

But Argentina secured victory when Juan Martin del Potro defeated Igor Andreev 6-4 6-2 6-1 in the decisive encounter.

On Friday, Nalbandian had swept Andreev aside to claim a 7-6 (7-5) 6-2 6-4 win but Del Potro's victory over Davydenko was even more one-sided, the 19-year-old dropping only seven games against the world number six on his way to a 6-1 6-4 6-2 win.

Elsewhere in the Davis Cup, Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka teamed up for the first time since winning Olympic gold in Beijing to clinch Switzerland's place in the elite World Group.

They beat Belgium's Xavier Malisse and Olivier Rochus 4-6 7-6 (8-6) 6-3 6-3 on Saturday, giving the Swiss an unassailable 3-0 lead.

Individually they had got off to a perfect start on Friday, as world number nine Wawrinka eventually beat 58th-ranked Steve Darcis 6-7 (4-7) 6-1 6-3 2-6 6-4 in the first singles match.

US Open champion Federer saw off world number 95 Kristof Vliegen 7-6 (7-1) 6-4 6-2.

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Dolphins deal Patriots a rare, 'brutal' loss

Image: Brown
Winslow Townson / AP
Dolphins running back Ronnie Brown tries to run through the Patriots defense. Brown helped the Dolphins to their first win of the season on Sunday, 38-13.

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - Fans booed the Patriots. Many left early. The record winning streak of their favorite team was ending with a stunning domination by the lowly Dolphins.

Ronnie Brown scored a team-record four touchdowns rushing and threw for another — with four of the scores coming on direct snaps to the running back — as Miami shocked New England 38-13 Sunday.

“It’s brutal, man, brutal,” Patriots defensive end Ty Warren said.

The loss ended the Patriots’ NFL mark of 21 straight regular-season wins that began after a 21-0 loss to the Dolphins on Dec. 10, 2006, in which Tom Brady, now sidelined for the season with a knee injury, was sacked four times. It also ended New England’s chance for a second straight unbeaten regular season.

The Dolphins, who lost their first 13 games last year and finished 1-15, won for just the second time in 22 games. It was the first victory for new coach Tony Sparano, and it was a stunner.

“That was fun. It was obviously a pretty emotional deal,” he said. “They executed the game plan on both sides of the ball to perfection.”

The Patriots kept getting fooled by the same trickery: six direct snaps resulting in four touchdowns after the Dolphins didn’t use the play in their other two games.

“When they get settled, they’re pretty fundamentally sound as a defense,” said Brown, who scored on runs of 2, 15, 5 and 62 yards. “So we wanted to give them something to adjust to.”

The Patriots never did.

“I don’t know why in the world we couldn’t stop that play. They just came in and beat our butts,” safety Rodney Harrison said. “You’ve got a bitter taste in your mouth. The only way to get rid of that bitterness is to come in and work hard. You get bitter and you get better.”

The Patriots didn’t have Brady to lead a winning comeback as he’s done 28 times in the fourth quarter. They had to rely on Matt Cassel and an offense missing running back Laurence Maroney to a shoulder injury, and that was far from enough.

Brown gained 113 yards on 17 carries and the Dolphins outgained the Patriots 461 yards to 216 in both teams’ last game before their bye week.

Miami’s Chad Pennington went 17-for-20 for 226 yards. Cassel completed 19 of 31 passes for 131 yards with one touchdown, one interception and a lost fumble.

“We have to go out and regroup,” Cassel said. “It is a learning situation for me playing from behind.”

Both New England (2-1) and Miami (1-2) have changed dramatically since last season.

Brady was lost for the year in the first quarter of the opener, and Cassel made his first start since high school in a 19-10 win at the New York Jets. Pennington is one of 27 Dolphins who were not on the team at the end of last season.

After the Dolphins punted on their first series, the former Jets quarterback led them on drives of 74, 79 and 77 yards, ending in Brown’s first three touchdowns. The Patriots managed just two field goals by Stephen Gostkowski, covering 37 and 44 yards, and trailed 21-6 at halftime.

The Patriots got tricked again when Brown took another snap, rolled out and threw a left-handed pass to Anthony Fasano for a 19-yard touchdown as Miami opened a 28-6 bulge in the third quarter.

“You should have seen his last pass in practice,” Pennington said with a smile. “It wasn’t very pretty.”

Cassel then threw his first touchdown pass of the year in 11 quarters of play when he connected with Jabar Gaffney for 4 yards.

The Dolphins got that back with a big, and familiar, play: a direct snap that Brown carried 62 yards to the final touchdown.

Miami even had the edge on pregame trash talk.

On Wednesday, linebacker Joey Porter said beating the Patriots without Brady “shouldn’t be that hard.” Then Porter made the play that would set the tone for the game when he sacked Cassel for a 5-yard loss on a first-and-goal play at the 7. The crowd booed Porter.

On the next two plays, Cassel was sacked by Phillip Merling and threw an interception to defensive end Randy Starks that set up the first touchdown drive.

Porter got to Cassel again on the next-to-last play of the half for an 8-yard sack.

“You really don’t realize how good Tom Brady is until he’s not out there,” Porter said. “Not taking anything away from Matt Cassel, but those are tough shoes to fill.”

The crowd booed once more when the teams went off the field at halftime, this time directing its feelings at a team that went on to lose for the first time in 16 home games, including playoffs, back to a 17-14 loss to the Jets — and Pennington — on Nov. 12, 2006.

“I wasn’t up on those records or how long they were winning. I know we had a two-game losing streak,” Porter said. “When we’re out there playing like we did today, I feel we can be a tough team to beat.”

Notes:Ellis Hobbs set a Patriots record with 237 yards on six kickoff returns. ... The 25-point loss was New England’s biggest in seven seasons at Gillette Stadium. It outscored opponents by an average of 19 points per game last year. ... Miami allowed a total of 216 yards overall after giving up an average of 272.5 yards passing in its first two games.

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Topless Midget Wrestling Controversy Rocks Sleepy Illinois Community

When we allow the government to take away our right to watch tiny ladies wrestle topless, what's next? Will they take away our right to vote? To breathe? It happened in Canton, Illinois: as police were shocked to discover that a recent "midget wrestling event" took place at the Outskirts Bar & Grill, which included topless female wrestlers. As a result, the establishment had its liquor license suspended for 60 days.

From the Peoria Journal Star:

The penalty is substantial, Mayor Kevin Meade said after the city liquor commission voted unanimously Wednesday to suspend the license for Outskirts Bar and Grill at 725 W. Locust St. "It's meant to send a message to other businesses in town that this won't be tolerated," Meade said.

Outskirts owner Kim Scott cried after the vote. "I'm not being treated like any other business," she said. "Don't tell me I am, because I'm not." Scott said she had a contract with the group for male wrestlers to perform. When the group arrived, Scott said, two women in oil were wrestling topless while she was outside smoking.

As one might imagine, this has caused much activity on the Peoria Journal Star message boards. A sampling:

• I agree wholeheartedly with Jim Beam, for once, lol. What's the big deal! — JD

• JUST BECAUSE SHE LOST HER LIQUOR LICENSE , DOES THAT MEAN SHE CAN'T STILL BE A RESTAURANT??? — cg

• A Canton bar had naked midget wrestling. Just think about that for a second. — Barrak

• Dang it. What are we going to do for the next 8 Saturday nights? — RegalBeagle

• Classic Canton logic. It's a good thing Creve Coeur exists. — admin

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Reality of finale sets in for Yankees

By Bryan Hoch / MLB.com

"I can't envision myself going over to the new stadium yet," Derek Jeter said. (Eve Roytshteyn/MLB.com)
NEW YORK -- It finally happened. The long-unimaginable reality of Yankee Stadium's finale hit Derek Jeter on a sunny Sunday afternoon, as he navigated New York's thoroughfares and made a sharp left turn into the players' parking lot for the last time.

"Just driving in, I think it really starts to hit you," Jeter said. "This is the last time I'm driving to Yankee Stadium to play a game."

Jeter made his walk across Ruppert Place for the final time as a member of the Yankees' starting lineup at approximately 2 p.m. ET, dressed in a navy blue suit, a white shirt and a blue tie. Accompanied by director Spike Lee, Jeter's oft-repeated claim that playing at Yankee Stadium is a lot like appearing on Broadway seemed appropriate.

So, too, did the attire -- with a Red Sox victory earlier in the day, the Yankees have business to attend to if they wish to avoid remembering Yankee Stadium's finale as also the day they were eliminated from the postseason.

"The last couple of days, I've been looking around," Jeter said. "It's pretty special. Those are the moments that are going to stick with you forever.

"This is a special place. I've been here for parts of 14 years. I still can't envision myself going over to the new stadium yet. This place is pretty comfortable playing here. It's an old stadium, but it's in pretty good condition. I just enjoy coming here every day. I'm going to miss it."

Many of his Yankees teammates knew the feeling. The afternoon has been a difficult one for catcher Jorge Posada, who is on the disabled list and will be unable to appear in Sunday's game.

Posada said that there had been no discussion of activating him so he might at least be able to appear in the contest, saying, "It doesn't make sense." Thus, Posada had a different perspective than most who traveled to Yankee Stadium on Sunday, already missing something.


"I was looking forward to seeing the guys and to be a part of this special day, and hopefully the Yankees win and everybody can take that last memory," Posada said. "But emotionally, when you're not playing, it's tough."

In the Yankees' clubhouse an hour before game time, a cross-section of Yankees past and present took place. David Wells sat at Posada's locker in full uniform and Bernie Williams passed through, wearing the pinstripes as he had hoped as an active player in 2007.

First-base coach Tony Pena eyeballed Yogi Berra wearing a vintage crème uniform and playfully untucked the foreign material, leaving Yogi to grin his Yogi grin and shove Pena playfully. Reggie Jackson brought out his old-school, circa-1977 stirrups to commemorate the occasion.

Phil Coke, a Yankee for less than a month, celebrated the early afternoon in his own special way.

"I pushed my grandmother up all of the ramps because I didn't know where the elevator was," Coke said. "I pushed her all the way up to look down on the field. You want to talk about something amazing? That was amazing."

Coke was one of the first players to wander onto the field as fans roamed the warning track, circling around the storied field after visiting Monument Park.

"Everybody was almost misty-eyed," Coke said. "I was walking in just watching people, and there were saying, 'This is amazing -- I'm on the field!' I thought, 'You're not kidding. I'm lucky enough to do it every day.'"

Jeter has been reluctant to give in to the avalanche of memories that have preceded Sunday's finale, though he has secretly picked out what memorabilia he'd like to bring home. He refuses to say, knowing that as soon as he does so, someone else will pluck that item from its spot.

"I've got to get it before I can actually tell you what it is," Jeter said.

The nostalgia began to steep as Jeter watched television before leaving for the stadium. He saw highlights of the fifth game of the 2001 World Series and Game 7 of the 2003 American League Championship Series against the Red Sox, and the sentimentality began coming back.

"My parents told me about a week ago to make sure I enjoy this," Jeter said. "You don't want to look back and wish you'd done something differently."

It was in the ninth inning of Saturday's game, and Jeter took a little extra time before stepping into the batter's box, knowing that it was one of his final opportunities to do so. He looked around and, as he said with a smile, promptly was hit on the left hand with a fastball. Add another memory to the list.

But as Jeter dressed at his locker late Saturday afternoon, Jackson stopped by to offer words of wisdom, already in the nostalgic mood as his presence was felt all week. What he said resounded with Jeter.

"Reggie came by and said that he doesn't feel sad -- he feels proud to be part of history here," Jeter said. "I don't think anybody could have put it any better."

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Yankees Don’t Want Fans to Be Doing the Demolition

Librado Romero/The New York Times

Give It an ‘S’ Yes, they really are serious about it: workers on Friday were busy installing the sign that will adorn the new Yankee Stadium.

By MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT

After a game last month, a husky man clutched a large framed poster of Mariano Rivera as he boarded a subway outside Yankee Stadium. Grinning, he proclaimed that he had ripped the frame off a wall at the Stadium and had evaded security guards. He said he could not wait to tell his children what he had done.

On Saturday and Sunday, for what almost certainly will be the final games at Yankee Stadium, the Yankees have arranged to have 2,000 security workers on hand — roughly 1,600 more than usual — to prevent any similar thefts. They will include city police officers, private security, federal authorities and members of the Bronx district attorney’s office.

“Our promotion for this weekend is that if you have a ticket to get in, we will have a police officer with you,” Lonn A. Trost, chief operating officer for the Yankees, said somewhat tongue in cheek in a telephone interview. “Nobody is going to get in here with a crowbar.”

Yankees officials are trying to protect profits and prevent chaos. After a final ceremony is held in November to commemorate the Stadium, which will be razed in the coming months, some pieces will be sold to fans and memorabilia collectors. Everything else will be carted away to landfills. The proceeds will probably be split between the city, which owns the Stadium, and the team.

The Mets, who will have Shea Stadium demolished shortly after the season ends, have already been taking orders for seats from Shea, asking $869 a pair, not including tax.

The task of protecting Yankee Stadium will be daunting on Sunday. Fans will be allowed into the park at 1 p.m., more than seven hours before the scheduled first pitch at 8:15. And even that is probably an estimate; farewell ceremonies are scheduled to start at 7:05.

For the first three hours after they are allowed into the Stadium, fans will be allowed to walk on the warning track and through Monument Park. Security guards will be as vigilant about protecting the field’s dirt as they will be of its seats.

“We are going to try and tell you to show your hands,” Trost said, alluding to fans who might try to take dirt or grass from the field. “We hope to have the warning track at least for the game.”

Concession stands will begin selling alcohol at 6 p.m.

“Sunday’s going to be a long day,” said Ann Cincotta, who 27 years ago was the first woman ticket-taker at the Stadium. “I don’t know what to expect. I assume many people will be crying.”

Already this season, wrenches have been confiscated from fans. Some have been prosecuted for trying to take seats, and even cup holders.

“I wouldn’t want to give you a list of what people have tried to take because innocent people may think of things,” Trost said.

Neither Yankee Stadium nor Shea will be imploded, or demolished the way Ebbets Field and the Polo Grounds were. Instead, workers will take the stadiums apart piece by piece over three months. The Yankee Stadium field will remain and will be surrounded by two more fields and 12,000 trees.

Shea will become a parking lot.

Yankees officials remember the chaos at the Stadium on Sept. 30, 1973, the final game before the Stadium was shut down for two years of renovations. That day, fans descended on the field after the game, and used crowbars to separate seats from the concrete.

Several fans interviewed at the Stadium on Friday said they had little interest in trying to take a piece of the ballpark.

“There were three things I wanted to do: get a beer across the street, get my picture taken at Mickey Mantle’s monument here and see a ballgame,” said Gerry Butler, 60, of Dayton, Ohio. “So far I’ve done two out of three.”

Security at the Stadium will be looser than it was soon after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, when President Bush, wearing a bulletproof vest under a New York Fire Department jacket, threw out the first pitch before Game 3 of the World Series.

“We aren’t going to have snipers,” Trost said.

Joshua Robinson contributed reporting.

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