Followers

There was an error in this gadget

Sunday, November 23, 2008

4 Heartbreaking (or Miraculous) Moments in Gambling History

Ethan Trex
by Ethan Trex

The NFL saw a great meaningless gambling moment last weekend when Steelers safety Troy Polamalu seemed to scored a touchdown on the final play of Pittsburgh’s game against San Diego. While it looked like the lusciously locked DB had successfully nabbed a fumbled lateral and scampered into the end zone, the referee somewhat confusingly allowed, then disallowed the score. The play had no impact on the game’s outcome (Pittsburgh still won 11-10), but the gambling repercussions were serious. The Steelers had been 4.5-point favorites heading into the game, and if Polamalu’s score counted, anyone who bet on Pittsburgh and laid the points would have won. Instead, they lost their bets, which cost these bettors an estimated $64 million, and that’s not to mention those fantasy owners (like this writer) who started the Pittsburgh D and lost a fumble recovery and score from the reversal.

Moments like these aren’t so rare, though. Every once in a while, a seemingly meaningless play that has no effect on the outcome of a game will have serious repercussions for the gambling community. Here are a few tales that will make bettors wince.

1. Chris Duhon’s Heave

duke-duhon.jpgAs the clock dwindled on Duke and UConn’s 2004 Final Four matchup, Blue Devils fans had to hang their heads. Their underdog squad was going to lose 79-75, thereby ending their title hopes. Worse still, various betting lines on the game were giving the Devils between two and three points, so Duke fans who had bet on the game were going to endure a double punch to the stomach: their team was losing, and so were their wallets. On the final play of the game, though, senior guard Chris Duhon chucked a 38-foot three-pointer off one leg as time expired. The shot banked in to make the score 79-78. It was cold comfort for Duhon and his teammates. However, it was great news for anyone who’d wagered on Duke. Since the underdogs covered the spread on the meaningless play, they all won their bets. The shot swung at least an estimated $30 million to Duke bettors, with some estimates ranging as high as $100 million.

2. The Machine Throws a Wrench at Gamblers

sasha.jpgWhen the Los Angeles Lakers played the San Antonio Spurs in last spring’s Western Conference Finals, it seemed pretty obvious that Kobe and company were going to earn their first NBA Finals trip since 2004. At the end of Game 5, the Lakers had all but clinched a four-games-to-one series victory. They had the ball with a 97-92 lead and needed only to run out the clock and get ready for the Finals. Instead of the customary aimless dribbling to wind things down, though, backup guard Sasha “The Machine” Vujacic tossed off a three-pointer as time expired. Final score: 100-92. The bad news for Vegas? The line was Lakers -7.5, which meant that Vujacic’s shot covered the spread. CNBC sports business reporter Darren Rovell wrote that given the large amount of worldwide action on the playoff game, the shot may have swung $100 million in bets.

3. Florida-Miami, 2008

urban-meyer.jpgThis Sunshine State rivalry has never been short on hard feelings, but the animosity between the two traditional powers and their fans peaked following this September’s contest. Florida was widely considered one of the best teams in the country, while the Canes looked like they might have another down year. As a result, the spread was big; the Gators were 21-point favorites. The game played out about as expected with Florida laying down a pretty firm drubbing. With about a minute left, the Gators had the ball and a 23-3 lead. Ordinarily, teams would just run out the clock in this situation and enjoy the victory. Not Florida coach Urban Meyer, though. The Gators kept running plays in an attempt to score. Eventually the drive stopped 12 yards short of the goal line, and kicker Jonathan Phillips poked in a 29-yard field goal with 25 seconds left to move the score to 26-3. Hurricanes coaches and fans were upset with what they saw as a classless attempt to run up the score and cover the spread, but Meyer claimed he just wanted to get the young kicker some late-game experience before the meat of the Gators’ schedule. Either way, Florida covered the spread on the meaningless kick, which must have made countless Gator bettors happy.

4. Robin Ventura’s Grand-Slam Single

ventura.jpgGame Five of the 1999 National League Championship Series between the Atlanta Braves and the New York Mets felt like it might never end. The game was tied 2-2 in the top of the 15th inning before Mets reliever Octavio Dotel gave up a run to stake the Braves to a 3-2 lead. In the bottom of the 15th, though, the Mets managed to tie the game at 3-3 when catcher Todd Pratt drew a bases-loaded walk. The next batter, Robin Ventura, clubbed a pitch over the Shea Stadium fence for a walk-off grand slam. The Mets were going to win the game 7-3. Only there was a holdup: when Ventura got between first and second base, his teammates mobbed him in a raucous celebration. He never got to finish his home run trot or even touch second base. Since Ventura only touched first, the official scorer didn’t give him a home run and the four RBIs he had coming from the slam. Instead, Ventura got credit for a single and one RBI.

The “grand slam single” was obviously enough to give the Mets the 4-3 win, but it caused a sticky situation in Vegas. The over/under (combined number of runs scored by both teams) on which bettors had wagered was 7.5. If the Mets had gotten all four runs Ventura’s slam should have scored, the total number of runs would have been 10, and bettors who took the over would have won. Instead, the 4-3 final score resulted in the under bettors winning. Unfortunately for the sports books, it wasn’t immediately clear that the Mets weren’t going to get those three extra runs, so NBC posted the score as 7-3 on its broadcast. According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal some casinos started paying out on “over” bets when the 7-3 score was initially posted and didn’t stop until NBC announcer Bob Costas told viewers the correct score five minutes or so later. As a result, if you were quick enough, this game did the seemingly impossible: it paid out for both the over and the under.

Original here

Referee receives death threats for awarding Liverpool penalty

Steven Gerrard

(Graham Hughes)

Steven Gerrard is fouled by Atletico Madrid's Mariano Pernia to earn a late penalty which the Liverpool midfielder converted

Martin Hansson, the referee in charge of Liverpool's recent Champions League match with Atletico Madrid at Anfield, has admitted receiving death threats over his decision to award a late penalty to the home side.

The Swedish referee pointed to the spot in the fourth minute of stoppage time for what he perceived to be a push on Steven Gerrard by Mariano Pernia. Atletico were leading 1-0 at the time.

Gerrard scored the penalty to salvage a draw for Liverpool, a result that cost the Spanish club a place in the last 16 of the Champions League.

Hansson told Swedish newspaper Sport-Expressen that he has had to change numbers and inform the police over a number of threatening calls and text messages. "I have received death threats," he said. "It has been horrible and feels very uncomfortable. The phone rang all the time and I had a great many text messages. I am pretty used to this, but now I've had enough. It has been very threatening. I feel completely fed up.

Hansson laid some of the blame for the threats he has been receiving on the media, who he feels have fuelled the situation. "I find it odd that it never, or hardly ever, gets mentioned when the referees are doing something good, only when it is something that is questionable," he said. "Since it has been in all the newspapers it's been so bad. When you make a big mistake, it should certainly show, but when it is rewritten in the days and weeks that follow it becomes too much."

Despite all the problems Hansson insists he will not quit the game, as his compatriot Anders Frisk did after receiving similar threats following a game between Chelsea and Barcelona in 2005. "I know that it is not worth getting upset about it, and I'll keep on refereeing because I like it," he said. "I want to continue to believe that football can do a lot of good and it would be sad if these dark forces had any influence on me.

"I thought about quitting, but I have made my decision to continue. But I never considered it [quitting] as much as right now."

Original here

Habs retire Roy's No. 33 10-plus years after trade to Colorado

Pierre LeBrun: Patrick Roy, Bruins-Canadiens

MONTREAL -- Patrick Roy heard cheers again in Montreal, more than a decade after his bitter divorce from the Canadiens.

All the hard feelings were gone Saturday night, when the storied franchise retired the Hall of Fame goalie's famous No. 33.

"Tonight, I am coming home," Roy said to the raucous, sold-out crowd at the Bell Centre, when his number was raised to the rafters before Montreal played Boston.

Roy won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP twice with the Canadiens, both in years that Montreal captured the Stanley Cup. The first came when Roy was a 20-year-old rookie in 1986 and the other seven years later when he won a record 10 games in overtime.

He retired from the NHL after the 2002-03 season, after a stint with the Colorado Avalanche that produced two more Stanley Cup titles. Roy still holds the career NHL marks for regular-season wins (551) and postseason victories (151).

Patrick Roy

Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images

Two generations of Canadiens goalies, Patrick Roy (left) and Carey Price (right), helped raise Roy's No. 33 to the rafters.

In Montreal, he is as much remembered for his triumphs as he is for his ugly departure from the Canadiens. On Dec. 2, 1995, Roy was finally pulled from the net by coach Mario Tremblay in the second period after allowing nine goals in an 11-1 home loss to Detroit.

Seething as he stepped past Tremblay -- his former roommate -- on the bench, Roy turned around and strode over to team president Ronald Corey, who was seated in the front row. He told Corey that he had played his last game for the team.

He was traded to Colorado three days later.

That bitterness was in the past on Saturday night when Roy entered the arena through the front door and was followed through the hallways by a TV crew, that chronicled his arrival on the massive video scoreboard above the ice.

Stunned fans congratulated him as Roy walked past concession stands in the hallway before he was greeted by a standing ovation as he entered the arena.

Shaking hands as he walked down the center aisle behind the Canadiens bench, Roy stopped to greet Jean Beliveau, one of 14 other players whose numbers were retired by the team.

Roy's parents, brother and sister, and his three children were on hand for the ceremony, along with his first three Canadiens coaches, Jean Perron, Pat Burns and Jacques Demers.

LeBrun: Making Amends

Thirteen years after parting ways, the Habs and estranged star Patrick Roy finally put their past to rest. Pierre LeBrun

Video greetings from former Avalanche teammates Joe Sakic and Ray Bourque, and Luc Robitaille were played.

Drafted by Montreal in 1984, Roy made a brief appearance during the 1984-85 season before making the team for good the following season. A Nordiques fan growing up in the Quebec City area, Roy was nonetheless proud to start his career with the Canadiens.

"Still a teenager, I was entering the NHL through the doors of its most prestigious shrine," Roy said.

Roy thanked his parents and siblings for their support growing up, and former Canadiens GM Serge Savard and Jean Perron, "who gave me my first chance in Montreal."

Francois Allaire, his longtime goalie coach, was praised for helping him perfect his butterfly style that spawned a generation of Quebec-developed goalies.

Still a teenager, I was entering the NHL through the doors of its most prestigious shrine.

-- Patrick Roy

To underline his influence, the Canadiens brought out 12 minor hockey goalies after he spoke. They were dressed in the uniforms of current Montreal goalies Carey Price and Jaroslav Halak, along with New Jersey's Martin Brodeur, Vancouver's Roberto Luongo, Anaheim's Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Edmonton's Mathieu Garon, Washington's Jose Theodore, Columbus' Pascal Leclaire, Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury, Philadelphia's Martin Biron, Buffalo's Patrick Lalime and former Toronto goalie, Felix Potvin.

Avalanche president Pierre Lacroix addressed the crowd as Roy's invited guest.

Lacroix, Roy's first agent, acquired him from the Canadiens while serving as general manager of the Avalanche. Canadiens captain Mike Keane went with Roy to Colorado in the blockbuster deal, and goalie Jocelyn Thibault, Andrei Kovalenko and Martin Rucinsky were sent to Montreal.

"I've rarely met anyone who devoured life with such intensity," Lacroix said.

Roy made it clear that he had turned the page on the events that led to his departure, "without saying goodbye the way I would have wished."

"Thank you especially to you, the fans, for being demanding, for expecting me to play every game like it was my last," Roy said.

Canadiens captain Saku Koivu, Price and Halak -- each wearing Roy's No. 33 -- helped him raise his banner as it joined those of Howie Morenz (7), Maurice Richard (9), Beliveau (4), Henri Richard (16), Guy Lafleur (10), Doug Harvey (2), Jacques Plante (1), Dickie Moore and Yvan Cournoyer (12), Bernie Geoffrion (5), Serge Savard (18), Ken Dryden (29), Larry Robinson (19) and Bob Gainey (23).

Roy, inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2006, previously had his No. 33 retired by Colorado. He is the sixth NHL player to receive such an honor from two teams.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

Original here

Habs retire HOF goalie Roy's jersey

Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
T1_1122_royap.jpg
Patrick Roy holds the record for regular-season wins and postseason victories (151).

MONTREAL (AP) -- Patrick Roy heard cheers again in Montreal, more than a decade after his bitter divorce from the Canadiens.

All the hard feelings were gone Saturday night, when the storied franchise retired the Hall of Fame goalie's famous No. 33.

"Tonight, I am coming home," Roy said to the raucous, sold-out crowd at the Bell Centre, when his number was raised to the rafters before Montreal played Boston.

Roy won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP twice with the Canadiens, both in years that Montreal captured the Stanley Cup. The first came when Roy was a 20-year-old rookie in 1986 and the other seven years later when he won a record 10 games in overtime.

He retired from the NHL after the 2002-03 season, after a stint with the Colorado Avalanche that produced two more Stanley Cup titles. Roy still holds the career NHL marks for regular-season wins (551) and postseason victories (151).

In Montreal, he is as much remembered for his triumphs as he is for his ugly departure from the Canadiens. On Dec. 2, 1995, Roy was finally pulled from the net by coach Mario Tremblay in the second period after allowing nine goals in an 11-1 home loss to Detroit. Seething as he stepped past Tremblay his former roommate on the bench, Roy turned around and strode over to team president Ronald Corey, who was seated in the front row. He told Corey that he had played his last game for the team.

He was traded to Colorado three days later.

That bitterness was in the past on Saturday night when Roy entered the arena through the front door and was followed through the hallways by a TV crew, that chronicled his arrival on the massive video scoreboard above the ice.

Stunned fans congratulated him as Roy walked past concession stands in the hallway before he was greeted by a standing ovation as he entered the arena.

Shaking hands as he walked down the center aisle behind the Canadiens bench, Roy stopped to greet Jean Beliveau, one of 14 other players whose numbers were retired by the team.

Roy's parents, brother and sister, and his three children were on hand for the ceremony, along with his first three Canadiens coaches, Jean Perron, Pat Burns and Jacques Demers.

Video greetings from former Avalanche teammates Joe Sakic and Ray Bourque, and Luc Robitaille were played.

Drafted by Montreal in 1984, Roy made a brief appearance during the 1984-85 season before making the team for good the following season. A Nordiques fan growing up in the Quebec City area, Roy was nonetheless proud to start his career with the Canadiens.

"Still a teenager, I was entering the NHL through the doors of its most prestigious shrine," Roy said.

Roy thanked his parents and siblings for their support growing up, and former Canadiens GM Serge Savard and Jean Perron, "who gave me my first chance in Montreal."

Francois Allaire, his longtime goalie coach, was praised for helping him perfect his butterfly style that spawned a generation of Quebec-developed goalies.

To underline his influence, the Canadiens brought out 12 minor hockey goalies after he spoke. They were dressed in the uniforms of current Montreal goalies Carey Price and Jaroslav Halak, along with New Jersey's Martin Brodeur, Vancouver's Roberto Luongo, Anaheim's Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Edmonton's Mathieu Garon, Washington's Jose Theodore, Columbus' Pascal Leclaire, Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury, Philadelphia's Martin Biron, Buffalo's Patrick Lalime and former Toronto goalie, Felix Potvin.

Avalanche president Pierre Lacroix addressed the crowd as Roy's invited guest.

Lacroix, Roy's first agent, acquired him from the Canadiens while serving as general manager of the Avalanche. Canadiens captain Mike Keane went with Roy to Colorado in the blockbuster deal, and goalie Jocelyn Thibault, Andrei Kovalenko and Martin Rucinsky were sent to Montreal.

"I've rarely met anyone who devoured life with such intensity," Lacroix said.

Roy made it clear that he had turned the page on the events that led to his departure, "without saying goodbye the way I would have wished."

"Thank you especially to you, the fans, for being demanding, for expecting me to play every game like it was my last," Roy said.

Canadiens captain Saku Koivu, Price and Halak each wearing Roy's No. 33 helped him raise his banner as it joined those of Howie Morenz (7), Maurice Richard (9), Beliveau (4), Henri Richard (16), Guy Lafleur (10), Doug Harvey (2), Jacques Plante (1), Dickie Moore and Yvan Cournoyer (12), Bernie Geoffrion (5), Serge Savard (18), Ken Dryden (29), Larry Robinson (19) and Bob Gainey (23).

Roy, inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2006, previously had his No. 33 retired by Colorado. He is the sixth NHL player to receive such an honor from two teams.

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

Original here


Hak breaks Sergio Garcia's record, makes Euro Tour cut at 14 years old

HONG KONG -- A Hong Kong teenager became the youngest player ever to make the cut at a European Tour event on Friday, breaking the record set by current world No. 2 Sergio Garcia.

Fourteen-year-old Jason Hak shot a 70 in each of the first two rounds at his home tournament, the $2.5 million Hong Kong Open. He just made the even-par 140 cut at the end of the second round by drilling a 150-yard approach onto the 18th green and holing a 10-foot putt for birdie.

Jason Hak

Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

Jason Hak's golf idol growing up was Tiger Woods. But he's not thinking about becoming Asia's version of the world's greatest golfer just yet.

Garcia was 15 years, 46 days old when he made the cut at the Turespana Open Mediterrania in Valencia, Spain, in 1995. Hak, who is 14 years, 304 days old, has no immediate plans to turn professional. "I have no ideas of turning pro because it's only one tournament here," Hak said. "It doesn't really tell the whole story." According to Agence France-Presse, Hak, who was born in Hong Kong but lives near Orlando, Fla., said Garcia was one of his favorite players growing up -- although his idol was Tiger Woods. But Hak said he's not thinking about becoming Asia's version of Woods, according to AFP. "No, I never think about that," he said, according to AFP. "I just try to play my best and not think about that much but control everything and keep it steady." The teenager said he's enjoyed playing in a star-studded field that included several former major winners and "said hi" to two-time Masters champion, Germany's Bernhard Langer. "I play a lot of junior golf. I won a couple of them but this is the biggest tournament I've played. It's a good experiment for me," he said, according to AFP. The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Original here

J.P. Hayes is as honest as we like to think we are

The true test of a man's character is what he does when no one is watching. John Wooden said that, or maybe it was Spider-Man. Whatever, it still holds true; being noble and upstanding is easy enough when you've got people watching, but when you're alone with yourself, when you could do the wrong thing (or avoid the right thing) and get away with it, well -- that's when you find out what kind of person you are.

By that standard, then, J.P. Hayes is among the best that sports has to offer. He played a nonconforming ball for a single hole of the second stage of Q School last weekend. He realized it more than a day after the "violation," called it on himself, and thus disqualified himself from Q School ... with some severe, career-altering effects down the line.

So how did this go down? So easily, you'll cringe:

On his 12th hole of the first round at Deerwood Country Club last Wednesday, Hayes' caddie reached into his golf bag, pulled out a ball and flipped it to Hayes, who missed the green with his tee shot. He then chipped on and marked his ball. It was then that Hayes realized the ball was not the same model Titleist with which he had started his round. That was in violation of the one-ball rule, which stipulates that a player must play the same model throughout a round.

Okay, so, two-stroke penalty, no big deal. He recovered well enough to put himself in position to finish in the top 20 and advance to the third and final round of Q School. The top 25 finishers in that round, plus ties, earn exempt status for the entire 2009 PGA season. So, breathe deep, think about how close you came to disaster, then tee it up for the next round.

Only, while Hayes was breathing deep, he realized something else -- not only did he play the wrong ball, he might have played a ball that wasn't even approved for play at all.

"It was a Titleist prototype, and somehow it had gotten into my bag," he said. "It had been four weeks since Titleist gave me some prototype balls and I tested them. I have no idea how or why it was still in there ... I called an official in Houston that night and said, 'I think I may have a problem. He said they'd call Titleist the next day. I pretty much knew at that point I was going to be disqualified."

Now, the easy move here would be to either do nothing or blame the caddy. Hayes rose above both those temptations, putting all the blame on himself and asserting that everybody else on the PGA in his shoes would have done the exact same thing. We'll never know, but let's hope so.

Also, Hayes already has more than $7 million in career earnings, so it's not like he'd consigned himself to another year working the counter at the Quik Stop. But still, knowing you're taking yourself out of the running for a year of career stability and wealth takes some serious situational ethics.

Would you do it?

Really?

In Virginia facing state dogfighting charges, Vick's involvement revealed

By Kelly Naqi
ESPN.com

Suspended Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick placed family pet dogs into a ring and his trained pit bulls "caused major injuries" to the pets at Bad Newz Kennels, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report released on Friday.

The 17-page report, prepared by the USDA's inspector general-investigations division, provided some new details on Vick's participation in Bad Newz Kennels, the dogfighting operation financed by Vick and formed along with his friends Tony Taylor, Purnell Peace and Quanis Phillips.

Michael Vick

AP Photo/Steve Helber/POOL

Michael Vick, arriving to federal court in August 2007, is isolated at the Riverside Regional Jail in Virginia to avoid disruptions.

The report, dated Aug. 28, 2008, says, "Vick, Peace and Phillips thought it was funny to watch the pit bull dogs belonging to Bad Newz Kennels injure or kill the other dogs." The report has names and phrases redacted in order to protect the anonymity of certain individuals who cooperated with investigators.

The report also states in mid-April of 2007, Vick, Peace and Phillips hung approximately three dogs who did not perform well in a "rolling session," which indicates the readiness of a dog to fight. According to the report, the three men hung the dogs "by placing a nylon cord over a 2 X 4 that was nailed to two trees located next to the big shed. They also drowned approximately three dogs by putting the dogs' heads in a five gallon bucket of water."

Vick initially told authorities "while he assisted Phillips and Peace in the killing of the dogs, he did not actually kill the dogs," but "helped Phillips toss several dogs to the side," according to the report.

However, the report says Vick took back that statement when he failed a polygraph test. "Vick failed the examination as it related to the killing of the dogs in April 2007. Ultimately, Vick recanted his previous statement wherein he said he was not actually involved in the killing of six to eight dogs. ... Vick admitted taking part in the actual hanging of the dogs."

Vick, the report says, paid someone whose name was redacted $100 to dig two graves for the dog carcasses. "Based on past circumstances," the report says, "Phillips and Peace did not like [Vick] to do any type of work that could injure him and jeopardize his NFL contract." When the person who dug the graves refused to bury the animals, the report says, Vick, Peace and Phillips buried the dogs themselves.

Vick is serving a 23-month sentence in a minimum-security federal prison camp in Leavenworth, Kan., on a conspiracy charge relating to the interstate dogfighting operation he helped run on a property he owned in Surry County, Va. Vick is scheduled to be released on July 20, 2009.

Vick is currently being held in protective custody at Riverside Regional Jail in Hopewell, Va., until his hearing on Tuesday in Surry County Circuit Court to plead guilty to two state charges related to dogfighting.

The state charges -- one count of torturing and killing dogs and one count of promoting dogfighting -- each carry a maximum prison term of five years. But under the terms of his plea agreement, Vick is expected to receive a three-year suspended prison term and a $2,500 fine (which would be suspended if he pays court costs and maintains good behavior for four years).

By resolving the pending state charges, Vick would qualify to participate in the Federal Bureau of Prisons re-entry program, which could enable him to serve part of the remainder of his federal sentence in a halfway house.

According to the Bureau of Prisons, in 2007, for inmates who qualified, the average length of their time served at a halfway house was three months.

Vick, who was once the NFL's highest-paid player, has been washing pots and pans for 12 cents an hour, according to Falcons owner Arthur Blank, who has said he's kept in touch with Vick through written correspondence.

Blank said Vick also told him he's passing the time and staying in shape by playing quarterback for both sides during prison football games. Vick, 28, is still under contract with the Falcons.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Vick indefinitely without pay on Aug. 24, 2007, and has said he will review the status of Vick's suspension following the conclusion of Vick's legal proceedings.

Vick's lawyers, the NFL and the Falcons were not immediately available for comment.

Kelly Naqi is a reporter for ESPN's Enterprise Unit and a correspondent for "Outside the Lines."

Original here

Sweet Sioux Tomahawk goes the way of Chief Illiniwek

|Chicago Tribune staff reporter

Sweet Sioux Tomahawk trophy

The Northwestern Wildcats and former head coach Randy Walker display the Sweet Sioux Tomahawk trophy after capturing the 2003 rivalry contest. (NU Media Services photo)


A 63-year-old tradition is ending Saturday.

The Sweet Sioux Tomahawk, long a symbol of the Illinois-Northwestern football rivalry, is going the way of Chief Illiniwek.

The decision to retire the trophy comes one year after Illinois retired Chief Illiniwek, a tradition that dated to 1926.

The NCAA directed Illinois to remove all Native American imagery from its athletic teams or lose the right to host postseason NCAA events.

"We were directed by the board of trustees through the chancellor's office to retire the trophy," Illinois athletic department spokesman Kent Brown said Friday.

The Sweet Sioux Tomahawk trophy, now enclosed in a framed case with the scores of the Northwestern-Illinois games, returned to Champaign last year after the Illini's victory over the Wildcats.

The tradition will end Saturday, when the Illini bring the trophy to Evanston. It will remain at Northwestern no matter who wins Saturday's game.

"Out of tremendous respect for the Native American community as well as for Illinois and Northwestern, this was the right thing to do," said Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips, an Illinois graduate. "After the first of the year, Northwestern and Illinois will get together and develop a new rivalry trophy."

The Sweet Sioux Tomahawk tradition was introduced by the staffs of the schools' student newspapers in 1945. The original trophy resembled a cigar-store Indian, which was common at the time. However, in 1946, it was stolen from a showcase at Northwestern.

The Tomahawk Trophy replaced it in 1947 and has gone to the winner of the game ever since. The original wooden Indian turned up in 1948 but was retired because of its size.

Exchanging of trophies between teams is a college football tradition, and Illinois still has two of them. Ohio State and Illinois exchange a wooden turtle known as Illibuck. The Illini and Purdue trade possession of a cannon.

•Illinois offensive coordinator Mike Locksley has been interviewed for the Clemson head coaching job and may be a candidate at Syracuse, where his recruiting ties in the East could be appealing.

Tribune reporter Shannon Ryan contributed to this report.

Original here

Porter on Vick: 'All it was was dogs'

Joey Porter

Getty Images

Miami Dolphins linebacker Joey Porter commented on the possible reinstatement of former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick and, as usual, Porter shot right from the lip, according to a report on EPSN.com. Vick was convicted for his role in a dogfighting ring and is serving time in a Kansas federal prison. He's scheduled to be released next summer.

"He's already been punished enough," said Porter (referring to Vick's possible reinstatement after serving his sentence), who owns a pair of pit bulls and a Maltese. "They gave him his penalty. He paid his penalty. What else should they do to him now?

"All it was was dogs. They act like they don't even like pit bulls anyway. That's the funny thing about it if you want to get back on that topic. I got pit bulls, I got to put them under a different breed just to travel. So you can't even fly pit bulls nowhere.

"It's a breed they don't care about. It's not like he was fighting cocker spaniels or something that they like. They don't really care too much about pit bulls."

Profootballtalk.com reported that Porter let his pitbull loose and it killed a miniature horse.

Original here

Ken Griffey Jr. goes to Washington, makes us all feel older

As I may have mentioned before, I tend to always measure and lament my rapidly advancing age against the life progression of Ken Griffey Jr.

That sounds a bit weird and maybe pathetic, but I'm sure I'm not the only one to use the career span of a ballplayer as a benchmark. When I was 12, I used all of my earnings to try to pull his rookie from packs of Upper Deck. Now, as he nears the end of his career, I'm worried about things like 401Ks and losing all of my earnings to the state of the economy. The circle of life ain't what it's cracked up to be.

At any rate, to see Griffey named an American Public Diplomacy Envoy by Condoleezza Rice on Tuesday enhanced the contrast even more. Once derided by baseball's old guard for doing things like wearing his hat backward, blowing bubblegum bubbles and endorsing video games, The Kid outgrew all of that to become not only an elder statesman of the sport but of the entire country. (Again, people of my generation — we are getting old.)

As an unofficial ambassador, Rice said Griffey will travel overseas to "talk to young people and to spark their interest in America and in our culture." His first trip is scheduled for Panama in January, where he'll hopefully be able to meet my two favorite Panamaniacs while avoiding the trouble Cal Ripken just found in Nicaragua.

Continuing the discussion here, I'd like to throw out a question to my older readers. Who was the "Griffey" of past generations? Who was there not only for your grammar school graduation, but for your first car, your first beer, your first kid and beyond?

Original here

Japanese Are Irked by U.S. Interest in Pitcher

By ALAN SCHWARZ and BRAD LEFTON

Sam Yeh/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Many Japanese baseball officials are outraged that U.S. teams are courting Junichi Tazawa, a hard-throwing right-handed pitcher.

As far as Junichi Tazawa is concerned, the most rebellious acts in his 22 years have been ignoring his homework and sneaking home after sunrise. But as the first high-profile Japanese baseball prospect to turn down his nation’s leagues to entertain offers from Major League Baseball teams, he has found himself straining relations between baseball entities on two continents, with accusations of talent raiding and defiance of decades-long understandings.

Many Japanese baseball officials are outraged that United States teams are courting Tazawa, a hard-throwing right-handed pitcher, because they insist it is long-established practice for amateurs like him to be strictly off limits to major league clubs. Even some American general managers, including the YankeesBrian Cashman, agree.

Major League Baseball officials maintain that the letter of their protocol agreement with their Japanese counterparts, Nippon Professional Baseball, does not forbid either league from courting amateur talent from the other’s nation. When one Japanese representative characterized the rule as a gentlemen’s agreement during a meeting in New York, he was angrily rebutted by a Major League Baseball official, according to two attendees.

The Tazawa dispute extends beyond one pitching phenom and an interpretation of honor. The Japanese major leagues have already seen established stars leave for American clubs, and amateurs following Tazawa’s path away from those leagues could further hurt the leagues’ long-term viability.

But sports talent is an increasingly free-flowing market — notably demonstrated this summer when Brandon Jennings, one of the United States’ top high school basketball players, signed to play professionally in Italy for $1.2 million rather than play at a college in the United States.

“This was more than just a gentlemen’s agreement, but rather an implicit understanding that the major leagues would do no such thing,” Nippon Professional Baseball said in a news release on signing Japanese baseball amateurs. “That a handful of clubs from the majors is trying to break this gentlemen’s agreement is truly regrettable.”

Rob Manfred, Major League Baseball’s executive vice president for labor relations, responded in a recent interview, “I’m sure we will have ongoing conversation with them about how we might — might — be able to address their concerns.”

Regarding how some major league teams still believe that Tazawa should not be signed, Manfred added, “It’s not due to any lack of clarity — it’s just due to the fact that clubs have different views of the world.”

Tazawa’s talent snuck up on him as much as this controversy. After pitching for his high school team in the port city of Yokohama, he was not drafted by the 12 Japanese major league organizations. His only offer was to pitch for Japan Oil in the industrial league, a workers’ minor league unaffiliated with the Japanese majors. He has been there ever since.

In an interview this month in a cramped meeting room at the company dorm in Kawasaki, Tazawa said he casually watched Major League Baseball on television while growing up and admired trailblazers like the recently retired Hideo Nomo, who became a sensation pitching for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1995. But Tazawa said he never fantasized a similar career for himself.

“I never had an interest in the game over there,” Tazawa said in Japanese. “I guess that’s mostly because I never imagined I had the talent to consider such a thing.”

Tazawa improved in the industrial leagues and, at an amateur tournament in Taiwan last November, had his fastball clocked on the scoreboard as high as 97 miles an hour. “I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “I thought the speed gun must be broken or something.”

Astonishment extended to the scouts in the stands, some of whom were from the United States. They expressed interest in Tazawa to Japan Oil’s manager, Hideaki Okubo, a 39-year-old recently retired professional who had watched many peers move midcareer to American baseball. Okubo encouraged Tazawa to consider the rare opportunity of signing directly with a Major League Baseball team, and later said in Japanese during an interview that Tazawa would be best served by “the toughness of an unfamiliar environment where his need for survival would be challenged more.”

Tazawa thrived this summer, posting a 10-1 record and a 1.02 earned run average for Japan Oil and striking out 95 batters in 88 1/3 innings. As interest from scouts affiliated with Major League Baseball escalated and Japan’s Oct. 30 draft of amateur players approached, Tazawa requested that all Japanese teams not select him. They acquiesced, smoothing his path to the United States’ free market.

Except the market is not entirely free. Officials of major league teams have a wide spectrum of views as to whether Tazawa should be signed.

Mets General Manager Omar Minaya said he considered Tazawa available but continued: “It’s a sensitive area. It’s fair to say that if we were to go out and get their college players, what would prevent them from coming after our college players?”

The Yankees’ Cashman was unequivocal.

“I’m old school — there has been an understanding,” said Cashman, whose team has a formal cooperative relationship with the Yomiuri Giants, a team particularly upset with the Tazawa affair. “There’s been a reason that Japanese amateurs haven’t been signed in the past, so we consider him hands off.”

The protocol agreement between Major League Baseball and Nippon Professional Baseball does not address the signing of either nation’s amateur players. It does formalize how Japanese veterans may switch continents: on the open market after nine seasons in the Japan major leagues, or earlier if a player’s club chooses to auction off his rights through a procedure commonly known as posting.

Posting was established in 1998, and established stars like Daisuke Matsuzaka have generated as much as $51 million for their Japanese clubs. Losing top amateurs could hurt that pipeline.

The Yomiuri official Hidetoshi Kiyotake has said he fears for the viability of the Japanese majors should the major leagues descend on his nation’s amateur talent. In a recent issue of the Japanese magazine Weekly Baseball, he wrote that South Korea’s major league had been seriously harmed by 38 amateur players signing directly with major league clubs since 1994.

“Unless fans here stand up and proclaim, ‘protect Japanese baseball,’ we’re liable to fall into the same trap as South Korean baseball,” Kiyotake wrote.

Tazawa would not be the first modern Japanese amateur to sign with a United States club, but the first to do so against Nippon Professional Baseball’s wishes. Other players, like the current Atlanta Braves minor leaguer Ryohei Shimabukuro, signed after dropping out of high school but were not considered a top prospect by Japanese clubs. In 2003, pitcher Kaz Tadano was shunned by Japanese teams after he appeared in a pornographic film, and he signed with the Cleveland Indians.

Japanese teams have also approached American amateurs. In 2002, the Orix Blue Wave tried to sign the Cincinnati Reds’ first-round draft pick, third baseman Mark Schramek, while he was in a contract stalemate with Cincinnati.

As for formalizing any rule barring the signing of amateurs outright, some major league team officials think that could violate American antitrust or anti-discrimination laws. And if one team pursues a top player, others will surely follow.

“There’s a fine line between falling behind the competition because you’re quote being respectful, and competing like others will compete,” said Ned Colletti, general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers. “We have to be wise in our decision-making at the moment of truth.”

Tazawa whetted scouts’ appetites again Monday, when he threw a five-hit shutout for Japan Oil in the national amateur tournament. It is believed that at least a half-dozen teams will actively pursue him, including the Boston Red Sox, the Braves and the Seattle Mariners, with offers that could reach $2 million to $5 million.

Fearful that Tazawa’s signing would encourage more Japanese amateurs to follow him, Nippon Professional Baseball recently passed a rule that requires any amateur who jumps to a major league team to sit out two or three years before being able to return to play in Japan.

“For them to go out and change the rules like that just blows me away,” Tazawa said. “I never imagined the response would be like this.”

Yet Tazawa has no intention of reconsidering his decision. Whether he blazes any trail for others, or if future rules are adapted for the changing global marketplace, he will find out with everyone else.

“I’m looking forward to signing with an American team and seeing what I can do,” he said. “The appeal of matching power against power is too great for me to pass up.”

Original here