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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Armstrong fears for his safety at Tour de France

In this May 8, 2008 file photo, Lance Armstrong attends Time's 100 Most AP – In this May 8, 2008 file photo, Lance Armstrong attends Time's 100 Most Influential People in the World …

LONDON – Lance Armstrong fears he could be attacked by spectators if he returns to the Tour de France next year.

The seven-time Tour champion, who is making a comeback after three years in retirement, said in an interview in The Guardian on Tuesday that he is concerned about his safety.

"I don't want to enter an unsafe situation but you see this stuff coming out of France," said the American rider, who has many critics in France. "There're some aggressive, angry emotions. If you believe what you read, my personal safety could be in jeopardy.

"Cycling is a sport of the open road and spectators are lining the road. I try to believe that people, even if they don't like me, will let the race unfold."

Armstrong was asked if he specifically fears a physical attack.

"Yeah. There're directors of French teams that have encouraged people to take to the streets ... elbow to elbow. It's very emotional and tense," he said.

It's unclear why Armstrong is worried about his safety now, given that attacks on riders are extremely rare. Organizers have in recent years taken additional steps to protect riders from spectators, including increased use of crowd barriers.

The Tour has its own police force to guard the route and ensure safety, and French police paid particular attention to Armstrong's safety when he was riding.

Armstrong announced his comeback in September and joined the Astana team. He is reunited with Astana team leader Johanna Bruyneel, who teamed with Armstrong for all seven Tour de France wins from 1999-2005.

Armstrong plans to meet with Tour officials before deciding whether to compete in the 2009 Tour.

Previously, he had expressed doubts over trying for win another Tour title because of the problems he might encounter with French organizers, journalists and fans.

Armstrong is scheduled to race the Giro d'Italia for the first time. The 100th anniversary edition of the Giro is scheduled for May 9-31. The Tour de France starts July 4.

The 37-year-old Armstrong said in the Guardian interview that he is in better shape at this stage of the season than in past years.

"I'm much better physically now," he said at his home in Austin, Texas. "And mentally there is no comparison. I'm far stronger and more motivated. The motivation of 2008 feels like the motivation of 1999. I was back from cancer then. I had the motivation of vengeance because nobody wanted me or believed in me."

Armstrong reiterated his denials of the doping allegations that have dogged him during his career.

"I understand people in France and in cycling might have that perception, but the reality is that there's nothing there," he said. "The level of scrutiny I've had throughout my career from the press and the anti-doping authorities is unmatched. I'm not afraid of anything. I've got nothing to hide. I won seven Tours through hard work.

"This next year won't be any different — even if people hate to hear that. I'm going to be focusing on every aspect of the bike, the team, the strategy, the training, the hard work, the sacrifice. There are no secrets. To the critics, I would say, believe it or not, there are exceptional athletes out there. Michael Phelps ... Paula Radcliffe."

Armstrong also restated his rejection of the French anti-doping agency's proposal that he agree to retest his 1999 urine samples to see whether the French newspaper L'Equipe was right when it reported they contained the banned substance EPO.

"I'm all for drug controls, but if the athlete cannot defend himself, what kind of kangaroo court is that?" he said.

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Indian cricket gets cheerleaders but without the skimpy costumes

By Stephen Adams

Sari-clad cricket cheerleaders in India
Lycra saris ensure these Indian cheerleaders don't show quite as much flesh as...

The Orissa Cricket Association (OCA) has called in the dancing girls to boost crowds and give the home side a little extra support.

But rather than decking the dancers out in American-style bikinis they are being given much more modest attire to wear.

They will be dressed in a full nine yards of silk cloth, the OCA has insisted.

Ashirbad Behera, secretary of the OCA and the organising force behind the cheerleading idea, told The Times: "This is the first time a one-day international will feature cheerleading girls.

"But I will not have them dressing up in short skirts, as it would be against our culture and traditions. Our audience won't accept it."

The cheerleaders will strut their stuff on Wednesday 26 November at the Barabati Stadium in Cuttack, in north eastern India.

In April this year there was an outcry when the Royal Challengers Bangalore employed American cheerleaders from the Washington Redskins American football team, dressed in bikini tops and hotpants, to dance at a match in the Indian Premier League.

While many Indian men will no doubt enjoy the dance routines, there is resistance to them.

Ramchandra Guha, a historian, said: "Why we always have to borrow the worst of the Western world is beyond me."

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Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo boasts he is the best footballer on the planet

By Oliver Clive

Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo boasts he is the best footballer on the planet
Look at me: Cristiano Ronaldo thinks he could fill the top three spots in the rankings for the worlds' best player Photo: AP

Ronaldo is a firm favourite to emulate last year's winner, Kaka, by lifting both the European and world player of the year titles.

"I am the first, second and third best player in the world," Ronaldo joked. "But there are other good candidates, like Kaka, [Lionel] Messi and [Fernando] Torres."

The 23-year-old Portuguese player helped inspire United to the Premier League and Champions League double last season with 43 goals.

He insisted there was still more to come. "I think that I did everything that is necessary to win and I'm going to continue doing more. My goal is to win everything that is in front of me," Ronaldo said.

Brazil great Pele expects to be presenting the prize to the Portugal winger this year, and Ronaldo has drawn particular pleasure from his comments. "That represents a lot for me," Ronaldo said. "It was a special sensation to hear that from Pele."

Ronaldo is due to fly out to Brazil with the rest of the Portugal squad for a friendly in the capital city, Brasilia, on Tuesday.

Given that both sides have struggled to hit top form recently, it could be a closely-fought contest.

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Defenseman Hedman from Sweden is likely No. 1 draft pick

Sweden's Victor Hedman, left, has another likely first-round draft pick John Tavares of Canada wrapped up.

Sweden's Victor Hedman, left, has another likely first-round draft pick John Tavares of Canada wrapped up.

By Kevin Allen, USA TODAY

Although Swedish talent long has been an NHL staple, nearly two decades have passed since Mats Sundin became the only Swedish No. 1 overall draft pick.
He might lose that distinction next summer because Swedish defenseman Victor Hedman is expected to be chosen first in June. The NHL Central Scouting preliminary rankings, released Tuesday, list Hedman only as the top player in Sweden, but scouts have been raving about the 6-6 player for two years

"Hedman is viewed as a Chris Pronger-type defenseman and you are going to be pretty happy if you get him," said Detroit Red Wings assistant general manager Jim Nill.

USA Hockey's Jim Johannson, who has watched Hedman play internationally for a couple years, calls him "the full package."

"He can play all aspects of the game and is showing more offensive ability in the past year," Johannson said. "He moves well and he has polished his game."

He views him as a mixture of Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom and the Anaheim Ducks' Pronger.

"He lacks the pure offensive ability of Lidstrom and he doesn't have the toughness of Pronger, but it's impressive to be in between those two guys," he said.

Much-talked-about John Tavares, a high-scoring forward, is the top-ranked player from the Ontario Hockey League, and two big defensemen are tops in the Western Hockey and Quebec Major Junior Hockey leagues.

Jared Cowan, 6-5, from Spokane of the WHL, could land right behind Hedman and Tavares. Simon Depres, 6-3, of Saint John, is expected to go in the middle of the first round.

NCAA players are broken down as A, B or C prospects and the only A prospect is University of Minnesota center Jordan Schroeder. He or center Jeremy Morin of the U.S. National Team Development Program could be the first U.S.-born player chosen.

Morin is a goal scorer — "possibly the best pure goal scorer in this age category in the world," Johannson said — and Schroeder is known for his playmaking.

"His hockey IQ is extremely high," Ron Rolston, who will be the U.S. national junior team coach this season, said of Schroeder. "He's probably more of a playmaker, but he can score goals. He can do it all for you."

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Paul Stastny Cashes in - 5 Years Extention Signed

Posted by Jeff Veillette in Colorado Avalanche

Looks like Paul Stastny has cashed in with the Colorado Avalanche, as expected. The 22 year old star center has signed a five year contract extention, worth 6.6 million per year, totalling 33 Million Dollars. The deal makes him the highest paid player on the Avs, and if nobody gets more, he will be until 2013-2014. Clearly, Paul has shown that he is the successor to Joe Sakic, and has been paid accordingly.

For those who don’t know much about him, he was second to Evgeni Malkin in the 06/07 Calder Trophy vote, racking up 78 points that year. He actually broke the record for most consectutive games with a point by a rookie, with 20.

Last year, he had 71 points in 66 games and currently has 15 in 16.

Some Quotes:

“I’m still in a state of shock,” Stastny said. “Two years ago, I was in college and now I’m signing this kind of deal in the NHL. I’m so excited. It’s a great organization, and I didn’t want to go anywhere else.”

“Paul has clearly established himself as one of the bright young stars emerging in our game today,” Avs general manager Francois Giguere said. “At a young age, he’s demonstrated tremendous skill, vision and composure on the ice and is recognized as one of the most complete players in our league.”We’re pleased that Paul will remain with the Colorado Avalanche franchise long-term. This is another sign of our ownership’s commitment to winning.”

I think its a good signing, personally. How about you?

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Buick won't provide courtesy cars to many tournaments

In another sign of fragile financial conditions, some PGA Tour events are trying to figure out transportation for players after learning over the weekend that Buick will not be providing courtesy cars to most tournaments next year.

"We've already started scrambling to try to approach local dealers or national suppliers to see if they're interested," said Clair Peterson, tournament director of the John Deere Classic. "The car industry as a whole is in a tough spot. We've already had one company tell us everything has been frozen in '09."

Other tournaments that Buick will no longer supply include the U.S. Bank Championship in Milwaukee, the AT&T National in Washington and the Transitions Championship outside Tampa, Fla. The Shell Houston Open remains hopeful of keeping its Buick courtesy car deal.

The Northern Trust Open in Los Angeles had a deal with Nissan, its previous title sponsor, that expired last year. Tournament director Tom Pulchinski said he tried to arrange a deal with Buick and was turned down.

"The business model has changed," Pulchinski said. "It's definitely going to be an expense. We probably would provide cars, even if it's a rental deal where we pick up the cars and foot the bill. We talked to Buick, but they could not swing it."

Buick is the official car of the PGA Tour and for years has provided courtesy cars to a majority of tour events. But General Motors posted a $2.5 billion quarterly loss earlier this month and has said its cash burn has reached the point where it could have the minimum amount required to operate by early next year.

"We're taking a hard look at everything right now," said Larry Peck, golf marketing manager for Buick.

He declined to discuss which tournaments have lost courtesy car arrangements because nothing has been finalized or announced.

"Most of those deals are regional offices, which are in a similar position with everyone else," Peck said. "There are budget cuts. Every line item where a dollar is spent is getting a lot of scrutiny. I can tell you it has not all been finalized. But some will be cut back. We have to look at things differently."

One tournament official, speaking on condition of anonymity because Buick has not made an announcement, said four tournaments will continue its deal with the company, including the two Buick-sponsored events.

PGA Tour spokesman Ty Votaw said that number was not consistent with the tour's conversations with Buick.

Other tournaments have their own deals, such as the Memorial (Lexus), the Wachovia Championship (Mercedes-Benz) and Colonial (Cadillac), along with those tournaments that have automakers for a title sponsor (Mercedes, Honda, BMW, Chrysler).

That leaves other tournaments in a precarious spot. They compete with each other for the best field, but having to provide courtesy cars is another expense in their shrinking budgets, which likely means less money for their local charities.

"We're looking at alternatives," said Dan Croak at the U.S. Bank Championship. "It's certainly great if tournaments that don't have them come up with a suitable solution. But it becomes someone's expense."

Twenty years ago, it was not unusual for most players to arrive in town and rent their own cars. Joey Sindelar, who now plays on the 50-and-older Champions Tour, recalls dragging his golf gear through the airport to get a rental car, paying for practice balls on the range and getting concession coupons for meals.

Players now have a car waiting at the airport, and a tournament volunteer drops them off at the airport at the end of the week.

"We've been so lucky out there," Sindelar said. "I hope this is an attention-grabber."

Kym Hougham at the Wachovia Championship, which has some of the biggest perks of any event, has had a deal with Mercedes-Benz since its inception in 2003, first through a local dealership which has become a regional contract.

Even so, he can see other tournaments having to tighten their finances.

"We all had it good for a while and it was on cruise control," Hougham said. "Now we've got to get creative. We all try to do as much as we can for the players, and they've come to expect it. Like anything in life, it's hard to take something back."

The deals with Buick varied with tournaments.

In some cases, the company provided 180 courtesy cars and a cash donation, receiving spots in the pro-am for Buick clients, car displays throughout the golf course and hospitality tents on the 18th green. At the John Deere Classic, Peterson said Buick donated a car for auction in its "Birdies of Charity" program.

Gerald Goodman, tournament director at the Transitions Championship, said Tampa Bay is the 10th-largest market for Pontiac-GM-Buick dealers and he usually had more than 200 cars. Now he is working with 14 local dealers, hopeful that GM might still offer incentives for the dealers to provide them to the tournament, then advertise them at reduced prices with minimal mileage.

Otherwise, he might try to strike a deal with a rental company, especially with the tournament coming less than two months after the Super Bowl in Tampa.

"We're searching," Goodman said. "I'm completely positive I can get us a car deal. I haven't thrown in the towel."

How the players respond to the changing economic climate is what concerns these tournaments. All the younger players know is being catered to from when they get off the plane to when they return to the airport.

"The pendulum is swinging in the other direction," Peterson said. "How far it goes is the unknown."

Kevin Sutherland finished a career-high 18th on the PGA Tour money list this year with just over $2.5 million. He has been on tour a dozen years and can remember times when he rented his own car at an airport.

"I expected some of the perks we've gotten in the past are going to be cut back, and it only makes sense," Sutherland said. "It's easy to take this for granted. You show up, you get your car. You bring in your dry cleaning, they do it for you. Some of this stuff is over the top, and you get spoiled over time. But so many companies are struggling."

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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High school football team practices in $6 million facility

Paul David grew up in Massillon, Ohio, admiring Paul Brown - then the coach of the Massillon Tigers' high school football program.

Brown eventually moved on to become an NFL Hall of Fame coach. David watched as Brown befriended his older brothers, Tofic and Johnny, and he later took Brown's history class at the high school.

A pro facility on a high school campus
The Massillon Tigers will be making use of a facility that is 20,000 square feet larger than that of the Cleveland Brown. The Cincinnati Bengals do not yet have their own indoor practice arena.
Click to enlarge
"My dad thought the world of Paul Brown, as a person and a professional," said Jeff David, Paul's son who played and later coached at Massillon. "My dad and coach Brown kept this wonderful relationship out of mutual respect for each other. Coach Brown knew the very humble beginnings my dad had and the struggles the family shared. My dad and coach Brown were very fond of each other. It was a wonderful, beautiful relationship built on a mutual respect and a shared commonality of how you lead your life and what drives decisions in your life."

Paul Brown – then the founder and owner of the Cincinnati Bengals – died in 1991, and Paul David passed away 11 years later. But Jeff David, in the town in which Paul Brown is still revered, is determined to keep the relationship between his father and Brown in the community's conscience.

That's one of the reasons why his foundation established the "DREAM project" and embarked on building the first indoor practice facility for a high school team in the state. It's right next door to Paul Brown Tiger Stadium, where Massillon plays its home games before thousands of fans. As the first step in the DREAM project, the $3 million Paul L. David Athletic Training Center was erected.

Most important to Jeff David, it keeps alive the memory of how his father – not to mention Brown – lived his life.

"It was pretty simple," he said. "How do we memorialize everything that was important to my dad – family, Massillon, athletics? We announced and forged this dream initiative, developing resources for education and athletics in Massillon. It was to provide career opportunities for the students of Massillon with the unique curriculum embedded in the DREAM project. With the indoor facility, you see a beautiful building, but what most people don't know or understand is what's embedded in the DREAM project.

"The building gets the most attention. You can see it, touch it, feel it, experience it. We are very proud of the bricks and the mortar. But if you think it's just about football, then you don't know the essence of the DREAM project. The initiative was to incorporate things that were so very important to my dad growing up."

The 80,000-square-foot building, which is 20,000 square feet larger than the Cleveland Browns' indoor facility, doesn't simply benefit the football team.

Most other prep sports at Massillon – whether it's the golf team or baseball team hitting into the intricate net system, the softball squad staying warm in the middle of winter, the band fine-tuning its performance or the participants in the youth flag football league playing – take advantage of the enormous building.

In fact, the entire football-crazy community seemingly is receiving its benefits. One reason is because the entire $6 million DREAM project (the next phase includes an 18,000-square-foot sports medicine building) is privately funded through the Paul & Carol David Foundation, which last year awarded 80 scholarships valued at $5,500 each to Massillon students in need.

"To have a facility like that … we've been in there since the middle of July, and every time I go in there, I shake my head," said Massillon athletic director Tim Ridgley, who played on Massillon's last state title team in 1970. "The constant in this whole program is the community support. That has never wavered to a large degree for the past 60, 70, 80 years. It's hard to explain to people unless you've seen it and experienced it."

Massillon also is used to walking on the cutting edge of football technology. That began with Brown in the 1930s and continued with the artificial turf that was laid on the field in the 1980s. Now, it persists with the indoor facility.

"Massillon High School is ahead of us," Bengals owner Mike Brown, the oldest son of Paul Brown, told the Cleveland Plain Dealer when asked about the indoor facility. "We don't have one."

Paul Brown, though, is never far from the community's collective thought in Massillon. Before every contest, when the football team takes its Tigers Pride walk, the pregame stroll ends at the Paul Brown statute. The team then says a prayer and heads into the locker room.

Thanks in part to the David family, Brown's former program continues to thrive.

"When you take a look at the rich tradition of head coaches we've had here, the guy that was the trendsetter was Paul Brown," Ridgley said. "You look at the stories and the writings of him and the things he did with this football program that were the first time anybody had ever done anything like that. This kind of fits in with the whole thing."

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Stackhouse wants more minutes, poses question of possible trade

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Jerry Stackhouse sat in front of his locker 90 minutes before Dallas' game with Charlotte on Tuesday sorting through dozens of tickets for family and friends in his return to North Carolina, where he grew up and starred in college.

Jerry Stackhouse

Stackhouse

Once Stackhouse was finished putting the 52 tickets in various envelopes, he stayed in his street clothes, ready for another night on the inactive list as his agent explores a trade or buyout that would end his stint with the Mavericks.

"Teams get to the point where they're starting to focus more on bringing along their young guys," said Stackhouse, who turned 34 this month. "I'm an older guy, but I still feel like I'm not necessarily ready to sit on the bench. I think there is an opportunity out there. With the relationship I've had with the Mavericks over the last five years, I think they would welcome my wishes."

Stackhouse was officially listed with a sore right heel Tuesday. The heel is troublesome, but not the reason his playing time has diminished under first-year coach Rick Carlisle, who has given playing time to Gerald Green and Antoine Wright instead.

It's why Stackhouse, averaging just 5.3 points per game, has asked his agent to begin exploring other opportunities.

"The teams that make sense for me are close and need a veteran, some toughness and a guy that knows how to win big games," Stackhouse said. "Hopefully we can find that, but if not I'll be here in the same role I've been in: continuing to encourage the young guys. That's what the team has been asking me to do. It's just that I feel I could serve a better role somewhere else."

Stackhouse wasn't angry. He's not demanding a trade. He just feels he still has something left, and he doesn't fit in the new Mavericks' offensive scheme centered on point guard Jason Kidd, small forward Josh Howard and power forward Dirk Nowitzki. Stackhouse is shooting 29 percent from the field.

"We are playing more of a freewheeling style, to take advantage of Jason's strengths and Josh's strengths," Stackhouse said. "Then when we get into the halfcourt, the few sets, most of them go to Dirk. I've always been a guy that thrived better with, 'We're running a play for Stack.' I'd rather have five shots that I know where they're coming from, as opposed to 10 that I don't. At this point of my career, 14 years, I am what I am."

The Mavericks, who are off to a poor start, have no immediate plans to move Stackhouse, and Carlisle insisted their relationship is fine.

"Right now Stack is going to be inactive for a while and get his foot better," Carlisle said. "Then we'll see where we are. Stack is still a very good player and a guy that's done an awful lot of great things here over the last four and a half years. He's still firmly in our picture."

Owner Mark Cuban said in an e-mail to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram the Mavericks were working with Stackhouse, and believe he "can be a valuable contributor to the organization on the court and off."

Team president Donnie Nelson told the Star-Telegram: "With our relationship and openly and honestly communicating, we'll be able to come up with a game plan and hopefully that game plan will be one that includes Jerry in a Maverick uniform. If it's just not a comfortable situation, if it's a situation where the minutes are just not there, then we'll work together with his agent and see if there's some win-win together for both of us."

But with the Mavericks turning to youth at shooting guard, Stackhouse's time in Dallas may be short-lived. Stackhouse acknowledged he'd like to move to a team that has a chance to win a title -- and would welcome a two-time All-Star.

"It's important to me in the last couple of years that I want to play that I'm happy," Stackhouse said. "Just be happy and with a chance, hopefully to really contend for a championship."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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Twelve wins away: Don Meyer's hard road back from the brink

Olney

By Buster Olney
ESPN The Magazine
(Archive)

Don Meyer

AP Photo/Doug Dreyer

Minus a leg, his spleen and some of his small intestine, Don Meyer faces a long uphill climb.

ABERDEEN, S.D. -- The Toyota Prius slowly drifted across the lane and directly into the path of the oncoming semitrailer truck hauling 90,000 pounds of grain, and Matt Hammer, five cars back, kept waiting for it to jerk back to the right side of the road. Brett Newton, in a car directly behind the veering vehicle, shouted aloud to the driver who could not hear him: "Coach! Coach!"

An explosion, a cloud of metal, and the two driver's-side doors rocketed skyward. The collision of two vehicles moving in opposite directions at more than 50 mph looked like something you see on television, a witness said later.

Hammer pulled off the road and started running toward the Prius, past other cars that had gone into a ditch to avoid the wreckage. He could see that the driver's side was destroyed, crumpled like a soda can. "And on the way there," Hammer remembered later, "I was getting myself ready. I didn't know if I was going to see one of the most influential people in my life dead."

The driver in the wreck on the long, straight South Dakota road on Sept. 5, 2008, was Don Meyer, 64 years old. Husband to Carmen Meyer for 41 years. Father of three, grandfather to eight.

Mentor to hundreds.

The head basketball coach at Northern State University, in Aberdeen, S.D., Meyer ended the 2008 season ranked second in NCAA men's basketball history in career victories, passing Dean Smith and needing just 12 more wins to catch Bob Knight. He was leading a late-afternoon caravan of his players, in six cars, on a 40-mile drive to the Wolves' annual team-building retreat, and he apparently fell asleep at the wheel, as his wife had long feared he would.

By the time Hammer, a former player at Northern State and now a graduate assistant, reached the vehicle, Newton and Kyle Schwan -- two players -- were already there. Meyer was alive, but pinned into the vehicle by the steering column, dazed, the breath coming out of him with a sound "I never want to think about again," Newton said.

"He was out of it," Hammer recalled. "He didn't realize where he was. And then all of a sudden you could see his eyes zone in, and he focused."

Meyer asked softly, "Is everyone OK?"

Don Meyer

Courtesy of Northern State University

When Meyer moved into the No. 2 position on the all-time wins list last season, his players led the celebration.

In practice and in the players' classroom work, he'd pounded this into their brains: Don't compound mistakes. He'd trained them to think rationally in moments of stress, rather than rush or panic. He told them this in the context of basketball, but they long since had come to understand that his words went deeper than that. "NBA," he called it: Next Best Action. See the need, fill the need, he told them, over and over.

One of them immediately called 911; others dealt with the traffic bottleneck. The driver of the semi, Don Carda, was shaken but OK; nobody other than Meyer was injured. Newton and Schwan tended to the coach through the driver's-side opening, Newton holding the seat belt away from his chest. Hammer climbed into the passenger seat, and they got Meyer to focus on his breathing, on taking steady, measured breaths.

What they couldn't see was that every rib in the left side of his chest was broken. They couldn't see that his diaphragm -- the muscle that lines the rib cage -- was torn away from the bone, or that his spleen was irreparably damaged and his liver was lacerated. His left leg … well, the players couldn't see that, either, in the dark crumpled mass underneath the steering wheel.

Blood trickled down his forehead and down the top of his nose. His left wrist started to swell. They could see that.

"It looked like his wristwatch was going to pop off," Hammer recalled. The players gently wiped shattered glass away from his face.

Newton and Schwan led Meyer in a recital of the Lord's Prayer, and a group of the younger players held hands in a circle next to the truck and said it, too.

Our father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done …

Ten minutes passed; fifteen. The waiting continued. Meyer started talking about how he felt tired. "I've got to go to sleep," he said.

And Schwan started yelling at his coach in the way Meyer had long yelled at him. It was the next best action.


The toughest thing Meyer ever shouted at Schwan in practice was about his father, who coached his son in basketball in high school. "Do I look like your daddy?" Meyer barked at Schwan when he was a freshman. "You're not playing for your daddy anymore!" Another: "This is not Class F basketball in South Dakota, Kyle! This is college basketball!"

Don Meyer

Courtesy of Northern State University

Meyer's daily workouts in the hospital were demanding. After all, he devised them himself.

Coach's voice was loud, ricocheting off the walls; and his one-liners could be abrasive, his honesty brutal. It was the way he taught them, the way he taught all his players through the years, stalking the sidelines during games, glaring. He'd worked at one of Knight's camps in one of his first seasons in coaching and admired the way he taught. Anyone seeing Meyer coach for the first time walked away saying he reminded them of Knight. Meyer himself believed the influence of Knight was pivotal to his own career.

Meyer's players jotted his mantras into thick notebooks, and he demanded that they adhere to them. When they made mistakes in practice, they ran and did push-ups as punishment. He challenged them to be disciplined, to be better, to demand more from themselves and from their teammates, to focus. He challenged them to be tougher, keeping a stash of walnuts -- with their almost impenetrable shells -- in his office to hand out when he wanted to make a point.

"If you're hurt, then get off the court and we'll get you the best treatment you can have," he once said to a player who had rolled an ankle. "If you're not, then stop flopping on the floor like a fish and get up and get moving."

Meyer was born in 1944, and as with many men of that time, his approval was often implied rather than voiced. Sometimes his youngest players wondered if any affection at all lived behind the gruffness, because of how bluntly he yelled at them. But now Schwan, trying to find a way to keep Meyer alert, started barking at the coach.

"Narrow focus!" he yelled. "Remember the walnuts -- we're tough nuts!"

Schwan was insistent, and Meyer started to get a little angry, but he remained alert and awake. The first emergency vehicle arrived about a half-hour after the accident. The Jaws of Life were needed to extricate him. As Meyer was lifted from the car, Hammer saw a massive amount of blood around his left foot. Through the torn pant leg, he could see bone sticking out. The lower half of his left leg had been shattered; the main artery severed.


Carmen Meyer's cell phone rang.

"There's been a little accident," she was told, gently, and someone would meet her to take her to the hospital. She had long worried that her husband's voracious work habits and stubbornness would cause him to fall asleep at the wheel someday.

He was flown by helicopter 20 miles to Aberdeen; but emergency-room doctors there quickly realized he needed more extensive medical care than they could provide, and determined he would be flown to Sioux Falls, 200 miles away. Doctors encouraged Carmen Meyer to spend some time with him before he left, and she sensed their fear that he would not survive the night.

Don Meyer

AP Photo/Doug Dreyer

Even in his hospital room in Sioux Falls, he was never without his phone and his planner.

At 3 a.m. in Sioux Falls, a trauma surgeon emerged from the operating room to explain the work he had done on her husband: removal of his spleen and part of his small intestine, reattachment of his diaphragm, the condition of his leg and their concern for it.

And then the surgeon said, "And by the way -- do you know that your husband has cancer?"

Carmen Meyer thought: Why don't you go ahead and hit me with a two-by-four?

The doctors, more immediately concerned about his leg, asked Carmen to wait to tell her husband about the cancer. A week later, after three more operations on his leg, she and their daughter Brooke and others explained to Meyer that doctors had discovered lesions on his liver and small intestine.

He wept, but he assured them: "I'm not scared. It's just emotional, and hard to hear."

Meyer had heard the talk about the damage in his left leg. He let his droll wit handle that one.

"Doc," he said. "Just cut it off."

Two weeks after the accident, doctors amputated the bottom part of his left leg, about eight inches below the knee.

Within days, Meyer was referring to his right, healthy leg as Big Buddy, and his left leg as Little Buddy.


Philip Hutcheson's phone rang in Nashville, and Wade Tomlinson heard in Indiana. Word spread quickly among his former players and colleagues, from his years at Hamline University in St. Paul, at Lipscomb University in Nashville, from the years he spent running summer basketball camps and the Don Meyer Coaching Academy. Bob Starkey, associate head coach at Louisiana State, sent a mass e-mail out to other coaches mentioning that Meyer had a particular liking for pens, and he encouraged others to send them along to Meyer. Hundreds arrived, in every color, in every style, his assistant coaches collecting them in a square cardboard box. John Wooden reached out to him; Knight wrote a note. Hutcheson and Tomlinson -- who played for Meyer and contended for NAIA championships at Lipscomb -- visited him in the hospital.

They found their stoic old coach, lying in the hospital and recovering from a fight for his life, to be much more expressive than they had ever known him to be.

"He was still same old coach, telling me what I needed to do," Hammer recalled. "He was looking out for the team. But when I was there, Philip and Wade were there, and he told them how much he loved them and how much he appreciates them. In the trenches, in the heat of battle, he'd say some things that weren't very nice. So when you heard words like that -- 'I love you' -- it was nice to hear that."

Doug Dodge, another of Meyer's former players, came to visit and told Carmen Meyer, "That was the best four hours in my life with Coach."

When he was in intensive care, Meyer spoke with Schwan alone and told him he loved him.

"Kyle, I've got many sons," he said. "If I had to write a book, that's what it would be called: 'I've Got Many Sons.'"

Don Meyer

AP Photo/Doug Dreyer

Under Meyer, practice is never laid-back. He directed this steely gaze at a workout late last February.

He remained hospitalized for almost two months, during which time he had eight surgeries, the last a skin graft to help cover the end of his stump. Bits of windshield glass once embedded in his skin regularly worked their way out and appeared on the sheets at the hospital. But it didn't keep him from a daily physical rehabilitation routine -- his own workouts -- to rebuild his strength.

A strip of yellow paper was placed on the wall opposite his bed, and Meyer covered it with the same words he'd written on grease boards for his players through the years.

YOU GOTTA KEEP DANCIN'.

STAY AHEAD OF THE PAIN.

DO THE NEXT RIGHT THING RIGHT.

"How many guys are going to get through a wreck like that alive, and then to have cancer like I have and have them find it because of that? That has to be some kind of blessing," he said.

On Oct. 30, Meyer sat in his wheelchair in a hospital hallway and signed the paperwork for his release. Some of the nurses wore Northern State T-shirts. When someone asked him if he could push himself along in his wheelchair, he smiled and tucked the pen inside his shirt collar.

"It'll be slow," he said, "but I'll get there."

Using a crutch, Meyer carefully lifted himself out of the wheelchair and slid into the front seat of the car that Carmen had driven from Aberdeen; she hadn't been home since the accident. Another patient asked, "Coach, are you happy?"

"I'm thinking about it," he said, smiling slightly.

The next morning, at 4:45 a.m., Don Meyer was in his office, working.


There wasn't ever a time, assistant coach Randy Baruth said, when Meyer suggested he wouldn't coach again. The day after the accident, Meyer spoke to Baruth alone in intensive care and told him, "You're going to have a lot on your plate for a little while."

The implication was clear. Meyer would be back.

Basketball, central to his life, has been a blessing and a curse to him in recent weeks. As he went through his rehabilitation, the forthcoming season provided a natural goal for him. He desperately wanted to be at the Wolves' exhibitions at the University of Minnesota and Purdue in early November.

"My players need me," he told others in the hospital.

Don Meyer

Courtesy of Northern State University

"It'll be slow," Meyer said about his ability to move around, "but I'll get there."

But his own lifelong standard for how hard he should work is at odds with the needs of his traumatized body's recovery. Just a week after being released from the hospital, he insisted on making the team's three-day bus trip to Minneapolis and West Lafayette. At the first stop, a bass drum belonging to a member of the Minnesota band accidentally fell against Meyer's stump. He approached his wife, his face ashen, and told her he needed his pain medication immediately.

Meyer has lost about 20 pounds since the accident, but Carmen noticed that his slacks weren't loose -- his left side remains swollen, misshapen.

At his first practice back, he couldn't shout; his lungs, still badly bruised, couldn't generate the necessary force. He sat in his wheelchair on the sidelines, taking notes. Baruth assigned a manager to patrol the area near Meyer, so no bouncing ball would hit Little Buddy.

After the road trip, early last week, he had a difficult, emotional day. He lasted only 15 minutes at practice before leaving the rest of the work to Baruth, who has encouraged him to rest as much as possible, as much as his body requires, precisely because he is needed.

"Randy has Don's best interests at heart," Carmen Meyer said. "He's gradually going to make that transition."

And week to week, they all see their coach improving, his voice strengthening. Last Saturday, he even erupted at a player when a ball hit the rim and eluded one of his forwards.

"I could've grabbed that rebound from this wheelchair!" he shouted, and Hammer and Schwan and Newton smiled inwardly.

"It's nice to have Coach back," Schwan said. "His eyes, what he sees. You can tell his energy is getting back and he's getting more vocal. He doesn't have the daily energy that he had yet, but we understand that, for what he's been through."

Meyer remembers little about the accident. A flash of white when the air bag deployed. The way his players cajoled him as they waited for help to arrive. He doesn't like to talk about the extent of his injuries, or the cancer. Recently, the Meyers met with an oncologist, who explained the details of the treatment -- the process has just started -- and his possible prognosis; and afterward, Meyer told Carmen that going forward, he didn't want to know any of that. He just wanted to be told this: What's the best thing he could do next?

His players feel the same way.

"This still isn't over," Schwan said. "This is still a process that we still have to go through. This first game is going to be emotional, and we've got to handle that right. Coach could have infection issues; he could have blood-clot issues. The thing isn't over. We still have to do our job every single day. We can't take a day for granted."


On Sunday, practice ended at 6 p.m. A few minutes later, Hammer pushed Meyer, in his wheelchair, out of the Barnett Center and into a cold South Dakota November night. A walker was placed in front of his wheelchair and Meyer stood, leaning on the chair, his right hand in a brace. A doctor told him he might have a stress fracture from the strain he has put on his wrists since he lost his leg.

But he moved the six feet to a waiting car, turned slightly and lowered himself into the passenger's side for the ride home. Hammer folded the walker and the wheelchair and set them in the back.

Don Meyer

Courtesy of Northern State University

When Meyer speaks, people listen. He has influenced countless students over the years, including at this assembly before the accident.

On the drive home, his car approached an intersection, and Meyer acknowledged that he feels nervous now when a semitrailer comes at him from the other direction.

After the car pulled into his driveway, Meyer used the walker to get through the door of his garage and stepped onto a hydraulic handicap lift that was built in his home. He worked out for an hour -- leg lifts on a table in the living room -- talking about his team, fretting that the Wolves must start playing better.

There is work to be done, with his team, with his body.

Later Sunday night, he lay in his bed and directed his eyes at the ceiling, and rested the stump of his left leg on a towel -- a dark towel, which Carmen uses because of the blood. His wife pulled off the sleeve covering his left leg. The triangular-shaped wound, with the flap of calf muscle and skin pulled over the front, hasn't healed, and may not heal for months. Meyer can't be fitted for a prosthetic leg until the wound heals and the swelling goes down.

Carmen makes note of a small white spot inside the triangle for a visitor.

"There's the bone," she said.

She sprayed the wound with antiseptic and used a Q-tip to clean a fold of skin.

"There's no blood here," she reported to her husband, a good sign.

But Meyer didn't want to look. He pinched the bridge of his nose with his fingers and squinted. He had basketball practice in eight hours, and on Tuesday night the first game of the regular season, against Mount Marty College.

He is healing, day by day, and there is work to be done.

It's the next best action.

Buster Olney is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. Don Meyer is the subject of an upcoming "E:60" feature. ESPN will follow him as he continues to recover and makes his way toward college basketball history.

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AL champions raise ticket prices

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -- It will cost more to see the Tampa Bay Rays next year.

Coming off their first winning season, the AL champion Rays announced Monday that single-game tickets will rise anywhere from $1 to $5, depending on location at Tropicana Field, where prices range from $10 to $210 for most home dates in 2009.

Prices range from $16 to $270 for 21 dates designated as "prime" games, including the home opener against the New York Yankees and three games in June against the Philadelphia Phillies, who defeated Tampa Bay in the World Series.

The Rays, who had never won more than 70 games in a season before winning 97 and making the playoffs for the first time this year, also are introducing what the team is calling "marquee" games -- 11 Saturday dates that will include a postgame concert or "premium" giveaway promotion. The price range for those games is $13 to $240.

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

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MLB.com drops Silverlight for Adobe Flash

Posted by Greg Sandoval

Microsoft is losing MLB.com, Major League Baseball's online unit and one of the Web's most successful subscription services, as a Silverlight customer.

MLB Advanced Media said Monday it will use Adobe's Flash Platform to deliver all live and on-demand video starting next year.

The deal, announced at the Adobe Max conference running in San Francisco this week, hands Adobe one of the largest and likely most profitable video services out there. MLB.com has signed up more than 1.5 million subscribers since 2003 and streams more than 2,500 regular and postseason games annually. Moreover, MLBAM has been a technological leader and is influential among Web video services.

"Microsoft has appreciated the partnership of MLB.com," said Microsoft Vice President Scott Guthrie. "Microsoft continues to be very pleased with the success of Silverlight. We have a great ecosystem that includes more than 150 partners."

Adobe's Flash Player is by far the largest video platform, installed on more than 98 percent of Web-connected content, the company said.

"Flash provides a TV-like experience. You turn it on and it works," said Bob Bowman, president and CEO of MLBAM. "We want it to be flexible so we can add features...and it's got to be scalable. We are the largest server of live entertainment in the country. Whether we are serving 20,000 for one game or 250,000 for another game, it's got to be scalable over periods of time like nothing else."

Bowman was tight-lipped when asked to provide specifics for how Adobe's Flash outperforms Microsoft Silverlight. "I'm going to reserve all my comments on Silverlight and suggest any comments I have, positive or negative, will be discussed at a later date."

Adobe's news comes on the same day that Guthrie posted a blog announcing a few details on Silverlight 3, which is due out next year.

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