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Saturday, December 13, 2008

It's not over until the fat boy spins

By Nick Bryant
BBC News Sydney correspondent

Shane Warne
Shane Warne did not give his permission for the musical to be released

We have seen Shane Warne the scourge of English batsmen. We have seen Shane Warne the victim of the British tabloids.

Now we have Shane Warne: the Musical - though it could easily have been entitled Shane Warne and his Amazing Technicolour Life.

This most operatic of cricketing careers has been the inspiration for 24 songs, chronicling his on - and off - the field exploits.

What An SMS I'm In makes musical reference to the stray text messages that sometimes landed him in hot water with his former wife, Simone.

Take The Pill deals with another unhappy episode in his life: his use of a banned diuretic which led to a one-year suspension from cricket and blocked him from playing in the 2003 World Cup.

In Melbourne, I was given a sneak preview of two of the songs, and found both hilarious.

The first chronicled how a chubby suburban schoolboy became a slightly less chubby international sportsman. It begins with the sound off-stage of his adoring mother, Brigitte, leaving a message on the answer machine of his coach or spin doctor, the former Australian spinner, Terry Jenner.

"He's jogging," she says, with genuine astonishment. "He's actually jogging."

Hush little Shane. When you grow up you are gong to destroy the English. Do you hear me? DESTROY THE POMS!
Shane Warne: The Musical
The lights then go up on our corpulent hero, resplendent in a shell-suit and sporting an extravagant bleach-blonde mullet. He is pounding the pavements in an attempt to get fit, much to the shock of a group of friends.

"Look, look at young Shane, jogging whether its sunshine, hail or rain," sings one, in Wagnerian style. "Now he's doing crunches," sings another friend. "Wow, look at him doing crunches," echoes the chorus.

As the song continues, we get a flashback, with Mrs Warne walking behind cradling baby Shane in her arms. "Hush little Shane," she whispers. "When you grow up you are gong to destroy the English," her voice rising in volume with each word. "Do you hear me? DESTROY THE POMS!"

Pucker accent

Then we see two bowler-hatted City types enter from stage left. "Look at that frighteningly blonde man from the colonies," says one in a pucker English accent.

"Does he seriously think he has the mustard to take on the motherland?" the other responds. They collapse into maniacal laughter when one lands the cheap shot: "It's not over until the fat boy spins."

By the end of the song, the shell-suit has come off, replaced with a pristine set of cricket whites. The mullet is cast aside and we see for the first time the trademark shock of peroxide blonde hair.

There are no cheap shots. Our shots are very expensive
Eddie Perfect

The transformation is complete when those golden locks are adorned with the famed Baggy Green, the cap that Australian cricketers wear with such pride. "Warnie Warnie" is spelt out in bright lights. After all, this tonsils-in-cheek stage show is also a musical tribute.

The show's creator, writer, and Warnie look-a-like star is Eddie Perfect, who has been working on it for three years. He describes his subject as the gift that never stops giving. "It's about what you leave out rather than what you put in," he says.

"I did a lot of research and if I'd put in everything we would have had Wagner's Ring and have been here for three nights."

Perfect is an admirer of Shane Warne, and there's reverence in the musical along with all the ridicule. "It's about how someone can be so innately gifted and an incredible performer on the pitch, and have this fraught disastrous life off it. That's what we play with. He's a very human hero," says Perfect. "He's not pretentious. He's very approachable and likeable.

"We spent three years developing this show, and we found very early on was that cheap shots weren't going to cut it. There are no cheap shots. Our shots are very expensive."

The musical is now playing to Warnie's hometown audience in Melbourne. But, like the man it celebrates, it looks destined to dazzle on a much grander stage.

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Uefa to investigate Rooney stamping allegations

Tom Lutz

Wayne Rooney and Aalborg players

Wayne Rooney and Aalborg players react after the alleged stamping incident last night. Photograph: Andrew Yates/AFP/Getty Images

Wayne Rooney could miss the next round of the Champions League after Uefa said it would investigate a claim that the striker stamped on Aalborg's Kasper Risgard during last night's match at Old Trafford.

"We are aware of the incident and the disciplinary panel will study the footage and newspaper reports before deciding whether to take action," said a Uefa spokesman today.

Rooney clashed with a number of Aalborg players during the match and he appeared to bring down his studs on Risgard when his opponent was on the floor.

"I don't know what he was thinking but he jumped on my chest," said Risgard after the game. "I don't know why but I think he was a little bit frustrated. But I don't understand it because they were playing good football and the score was 1-1 at the time."

Risgard also added that Rooney had shown contrition after the game. "Anywhere else but this place it would have been a red card," he added. "These challenges happen in football - I have some big marks - but I do think it looks good on television. He did come and apologise to me after the game."

A decision is unlikely to be made today, but if found guilty Rooney would face suspension for part of the knockout stages of the Champions League.

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F1 teams agree on drastic cost cuts

By Andrew Baker

Max Mosley -  FIA agree to swinging cost cutting in Formula One from next season
Less is more: FIA president Max Mosley wanted the cuts in Formula One agreed by teams to go even further Photo: AP

There will be savings on engine costs, a ban on in-season testing outside grand prix weekends and a reduction in staff numbers that will mean bad news for many skilled workers in Britain’s south Midlands, the worldwide centre of motor sport.

Engines will be available to the independent teams from 2010 for less than £4.5 million per team per season, supplied by an independent supplier or a manufacturer backed by guarantees of continuity.

This could mean huge savings for teams such as Williams and Force India, who currently buy their engines from Toyota and Ferrari respectively.

There will be no in-season testing from next year except during a race weekend and during scheduled practice, which could mean extra action for weekend racegoers.

The teams have also agreed that manpower will be reduced by means of a number of measures, including sharing information on tyres and fuel to eliminate the need for “spotters” who scan the activities of other teams for tactical clues.

The FIA estimate that the list of changes for 2009 will save the manufacturer teams approximately 30 per cent of their budgets compared to 2008, with the savings for independent teams even greater.

But this is still a lot less than the drastic cuts that FIA boss Max Mosley wants to see.

The proposals for change are as follows:

From 2009:

* Engine life to be doubled. Each driver will use a maximum of eight engines for a season, plus four for testing (i.e 20 per team).

* Engines to be limited to 18,000rpm.

* Cost of engines to independent teams will be approximately 50 per cent of 2008 prices.

* No wind tunnel testing using models exceeding 60 per cent scale and speeds of 50 metres/sec to be used after 1 January 2009.

* Factory closures for six weeks per year, to accord with local laws.

From 2010:

* The engine from 2010 will continue to be used in 2011 and 2012 (thus no new engine for 2011).

* Subject to confirmation of practicability, the same transmission will be used by all teams.

* The FIA are to compose a standard parts list relating to the chassis. Some parts will be allowed development, other will be required to use inexpensive materials.

* For a race weekend there will be standardised radio and telemetry systems, a ban on tyre warmers, mechanical purging of tyres, and most crucially, a ban on refuelling.

* There will also be a possible reduction in race distance or duration (with a proposal to follow from market research).

* With regards to factory activity there will be further restrictions on aerodynamic research, combined with a full analysis of factory facilities with a view to proposing further restrictions on such facilities.

In the longer term, the FIA and FOTA are to study the possibility of an entirely new power train for 2013 based on energy efficiency.

The rules will be framed to ensure that research and development of such a power train would make a real contribution to energy-efficient road transport.

The FIA believe an enhanced Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) system is likely to be a very significant element of an energy-efficient power train in the future.

In the short term, KERS is part of the 2009 regulations, but is not compulsory, however, from 2010 FOTA is considering proposals for a standard KERS system.

With regard to F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone’s medal system, market research will be conducted, also into a possible change to qualifying.

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Freak snowblower accident to sideline Sakic three months

By Adrian Dater and Terry Frei

Avalanche captain Joe Sakic will be sidelined at least three months, the team said this morning, after he suffered three broken fingers and tendon damage following an accident at his home involving a snowblower.

Sakic underwent surgery with a local hand specialist Tuesday night, the team said. Sakic suffered the injury Tuesday afternoon at his home. Sakic already was on injured reserve with a herniated disc in his back before the snowblower accident.

Sakic reached inside the "auger" of the snowblower to remove snow. The machine's power was off when he tried to fix it, according to the team. According to the consumer products safety commission, snowblower injuries are common.

Avalanche vice president Jean Martineau said the accident happened to Sakic's left hand, and that severe tendon damage occurred to one finger. That same finger and two others were broken.

"Basically, it's a mistake. He's a 39-year-old adult who made a mistake," Martineau said. "He put his hand where he should not have put it. He's, in a way, lucky. He'll have a full recovery."

Martineau said he visited Sakic in an unidentified hospital this morning, and that he was "very upset with himself."

"He's very, very mad at himself. I've never seen him like that, and I've known him for 21 years," Martineau said. "He knows he made a mistake."

Avalanche coach Tony Granato said Wednesday morning at Family Sports Center: "We heard last night that he had the accident at home. The first thing you worry about is he all right. Fortunately, the surgery went well. You always worry when things like that happen, you worry about the worst things that could (happen). But he came out of it pretty good, he's going to be able to heal, that's the positive thing about it."

Granato said he hadn't yet spoken to Sakic. "I plan to real soon. Hopefully, I'll be able to get hold of him. Whenever you get hurt, you're down no matter what. I'm sure he's real down, but again, the one positive thing is that the surgery went well and he's going to do his rehabilitation as fast as he can to try and get back in three months."

The Avalanche coach said he isn't concerned that Sakic, who pondered retirement in the offseason, might have played his last NHL game. "That's just because of Joe," Granato said. "I know Joe, from the standpoint of he's going to do everything he can to get back. If there's anyone who's going to get back quickly, or in the amount of time he's supposed to, it will be Joe. So, no, I'm not worried about that."

If Sakic comes back in exactly three months, the Avalanche will have 16 games remaining. The other issue is where Colorado will be in the standings at that point, whether still in realistic contention for a playoff spot or otherwise, as Sakic faces decisions on how soon to return to the lineup — or whether to return at all.

"The one thing you realize as a coach and an athlete, there's injuries and you never really have a full, healthy lineup and that's just part of being in professional sports or probably any sport," Granato said. "How you handle those situations or how you step up to the challenge, it's an opportunity for other guys that we feel very comfortbable having in the lineup."

Granato smiled when he was asked if he owned a snowblower himself. "I have a shovel," he said. "I split the duty with the kids. It's a fun family thing with the kids. You take turns."

On the issue of whether Sakic should have paid someone else to clear snow, Granato said: "I didn't think about anything like that. Again, when accidents happen, you always wonder, 'Why did I put myself in that situation?' The most important thing, like I said, is he's fortunate the surgery went well and in a few months, he'll be back to normal."

Granato said the Avalanche won't put the captain's "C" on anyone else, and that Ian Laperriere, Milan Hejduk and Paul Stastny would continue in the roles of assistant captains. "I think we have plenty of leadership in there," Granato said. "Obviously Joe is the ultimate captain in professional sports and has been our captain for a long time and in this organization, so we're not going to replace a C right now. We're going to stay with the same system."

The Avalanche said Sakic will not discuss the accident with the media until Dec. 23, after the team returns from a four-game road trip. He is expected to leave the hospital by this afternoon.

According to a 2005 Consumer Products Safety Commission study, snowblowers were the "fourth leading cause of finger amputations" at more than 1,000 per year and more than 5,000 emergency room visits. And, that from 1992-2005 there were a reported nine deaths from snowblower accidents.

Adrian Dater: 303-954-1360 or

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After bad round, Daly loses temper and smashes spectator's camera

SYDNEY, Australia -- John Daly smashed a spectator's camera into a tree while shooting a 6-over 78 in the first round of the Australian Open on Thursday, making it likely he will miss the cut for the third consecutive week Down Under.

After pushing his tee shot wide on the ninth hole -- his last -- Daly walked into a clump of trees, where spectator Brad Clegg tried to take a picture at close range.

Daly snatched the camera and smashed it against the nearest tree, telling the man, "You want it back, I'll buy you a new one."

John Daly

Mark Nolan/Getty Images

Brad Clegg shows his mangled digital camera, the object of John Daly's derision on the ninth hole at the Australian Open.

He later released a statement via tournament organizers saying Clegg got too close.

"I was looking to take a drop and a camera was 6 inches away from my face. If I was 10 under, I would have felt the same," Daly said in the brief statement. "My eyes are still burning from the flash of the camera.

"I feel it was very rude to put a camera that close to somebody's face in any situation. The guy that had the camera had already taken a dozen shots at close range."

Without saying another word, Daly took his penalty drop, finished the hole with a bogey and stormed off the course immediately after signing his card.

Asked if he would seek compensation, Clegg told the Australian Associated Press: "I don't think I'll be chasing him for the money. He's a big bloke!"

Daly, who missed the cut at the Australian Masters and the PGA in the last two weeks and is being paid an appearance fee for his three-tournament trip to Australia, had three double bogeys, three bogeys and four birdies.

Clegg said he didn't think he provoked Daly by going so close.

"I was bold, but I wasn't unreasonable," Clegg said.

Terms and conditions for tickets at the Australian Open prohibit the use of cameras on the course for spectators.

John Daly

AP Photo/Rob Griffith

John Daly walks off the 10th tee during the Australian Open in Sydney.

Tournament director Trevor Herden told reporters the episode was "an unfortunate incident," but Daly would not face sanctions and confirmed the 42-year-old American would tee off in the second round on Friday.

PGA of Australasia commissioner Ben Sellenger said the tour has the power to impose a fine or other sanctions, but this will remain confidential.

"We're reviewing the incident to see if any action is appropriate," Sellenger said.

Herden said he spoke to Clegg and the spectator realized he should not have been using the camera without proper accreditation. Organizers offered Clegg tickets for the weekend, but he declined.

Daly is sensitive about cameras on the course, having required surgery earlier this year to fix a torn muscle in his stomach that he said he injured at the Honda Classic in 2007 when he tried to stop his swing after hearing the click of a fan's camera.

Daly is making his first visit to Australia since 2002, when he left in controversial circumstances.

After taking a triple-bogey 7 on his last hole at the Australian PGA at Coolum that year, Daly threw his putter and ball into a greenside pond and later failed to sign for a 78 on his scorecard, disqualifying himself from a tournament.

Daly was later fined $5,600 by the Australasian PGA Tour and was ordered to write a letter of apology to a tour official he verbally abused, and to Craig Parry and his other playing partner, Greg Norman.

Daly is trying to finish a difficult year on a positive note.

He spent a night in jail on Oct. 27 after being found "extremely intoxicated and uncooperative," police said, outside a Hooters restaurant in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Daly hasn't had a PGA Tour card since 2006, when his two-year exemption expired from his last victory at the Buick Invitational in 2004. He made only five cuts in 17 starts on the PGA Tour this year and earned $56,000.

His only bright spot in the past month was a final-round 62 at the Hong Kong Open en route to a 17th-place tie.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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Jerry Jones Probably Thinking About Signing Michael Vick

DALLAS—Dallas head coach Wade Phillips speculated Wednesday that if recent history is any indicator, Jerry Jones is "almost certainly" considering the option of signing former Falcons quarterback and current incarcerated felon Michael Vick to the Cowboys. "Mike Vick is a guy who not only holds the same values as Jerry, but epitomizes what the Cowboys mean to the NFL," Phillips said. "Jerry has set up our program so that any thug, gangster, or hooligan can immediately make a contribution, not just to this team, but to this community. And while Jerry doesn't put much emphasis on criminal records and statistics, I know that he's always been impressed with what Vick has achieved." Jones was unavailable for comment as he was conducting contract negotiations with an expert in discreetly overriding ankle monitors.

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Lawmaker proposing bill to end BCS system

WASHINGTON (AP) - Taking aim at a BCS system he said "consistently misfires," a member of Congress planned to introduce legislation Wednesday that would force college football to adopt a playoff to determine the national champion.

Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, the ranking Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, didn't specify what sort of playoff he wants — only that the BCS should go.

"In some years the sport's national championship winner was left unsettled, and at least one school was left out of the many millions of dollars in revenue that accompany the title," Barton said in a statement released ahead of the bill's introduction. "Despite repeated efforts to improve the system, the controversy rages on."

He said the bill — being co-sponsored by Reps. Bobby Rush, an Illinois Democrat, and Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican — "will prohibit the marketing, promotion, and advertising of a postseason game as a 'national championship' football game, unless it is the result of a playoff system. Violations of the prohibition will be treated as violations of the Federal Trade Commission Act as an unfair or deceptive act or practice."

The BCS was created in 1998 by the six most powerful conferences. Since then, the system has been tweaked to make it easier for teams from smaller conferences to qualify for the top games. The sites for the four BCS bowls — the Rose, Orange, Sugar and Fiesta — take turns hosting a championship game between the top two teams in the BCS standings, which are based on two human polls and six computer ratings.

This season, Florida (12-1) and Oklahoma (12-1) will meet in the BCS title game Jan. 8 in Miami.

Barton cited Southern California in 2003 and undefeated Auburn in 2004 as examples of worthy teams left out of the BCS national championship game.

"This year, we again have two teams with one loss each playing for the 'championship,' while two undefeated teams and four additional teams with only one loss will play in bowl games, but none can become 'champion,"' he said.

When an Energy and Commerce subcommittee held a hearing about the BCS in 2005, lawmakers said they weren't going to pursue legislation.

"The BCS method of determining who is No. 1 consistently misfires," Barton said Wednesday. "Simply exposing the flaws and subjecting them to discussion ... hasn't led to improvement by those who run the system."

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Cassel leaves Patriots after death of his father

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — New England Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel left the team Wednesday to join his family following the death of his father earlier in the week.

"Our thoughts are with him and his family during this time," coach Bill Belichick said before practice. "Right now we're just taking it day to day. He's going to take care of what he has to do."

Belichick said that after Greg Cassel died Matt has left the team to be with his family in Southern California. Belichick said he didn't know when Cassel would rejoin the team or whether he would be able to start Sunday against the Oakland Raiders.

The Patriots are practicing this week in San Jose. They stayed on the West Coast after last Sunday's 24-21 win in Seattle.

Cassel's teammates expressed their condolences for his loss and offered whatever support they could.

"It's a part of life," defensive lineman Richard Seymour said. "It's one thing that will happen to all of us someday. It's a tough situation. I don't think you're ever prepared for it. We support him and his family."

Matt Cassel is from Northridge in the Los Angeles area and his father and mother Barbara divorced when he was 14. Greg Cassel was a script writer.

Belichick had to go through the difficulty of the death of his father, Steve, during the 2005 season.

"It's bigger than football," Belichick said. "I've been through that during the season as well, a personal situation you just have to deal with, and as I said, our thoughts and prayers are with him."

Cassel has completed 64% of his passes since taking over for the injured Tom Brady in the season opener. He has thrown for 3,052 yards, with 14 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, looking better and better as the season has progressed.

If Cassel was unable to start this week, the Patriots (8-5) would likely have to turn to rookie Kevin O'Connell, a third-round pick out of San Diego State with four career passes.

O'Connell played briefly at the end of a blowout loss in Miami in September, completing three of four passes for 25 yards in the 38-13 defeat. The only other quarterback on the roster is Matt Gutierrez, who threw his only career pass as a rookie last season.

"Kevin learns every week," Belichick said. He's a smart guy. Football is important to him he works hard at it and I think he gets better on a daily basis. He's getting better through the course of the year in the opportunities that he's had, which have been limited. But he's always ready to go when we put him in there.

Even though the Patriots are playing the struggling Raiders (3-10), they can ill afford a slip-up because of the tight AFC East race. New England is locked in a three-way tie with Miami and the New York Jets with three games to go.

The Patriots have remained in contention despite Brady's injury and believe that O'Connell could step in if need be.

"I haven't really seen much on him as far as game-time situations," defensive back Ellis Hobbs said. "We'll find out together. In practice he definitely has a strong arm on him, can throw the deep ball, can throw the intermediate routes. Just like any quarterback we have, they're great in the system. They can go and just put the ball wherever we need and let our skilled players do the rest."

Notes: DT Vince Wilfork and DE Ty Warren were both limited in practice. Wilfork left Sunday's game in Seattle with a shoulder injury. Warren was inactive against the Seahawks because of a groin injury. ... LB Tedy Bruschi is out with an injured knee that reportedly will sideline him for the remainder of the season.

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

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Reports: Arena Football League to cancel 2009 season

The Cleveland Gladiators, run by President Bernie Kosar, could be sidelined this season after reports surfaced today that the Arena Football League is expected to cancel the 2009 season.

The Arena Football League is expected to cancel the 2009 season, several media sources are reporting today.

The Rocky Mountain News reported today that league officials are expected to make the announcement before the end of the week. The Kansas City Star later reported that Pete Likens, communications director for the Kansas City Brigade, said the AFL players' union agreed late Tuesday to the decision.

"It's pretty much a done deal to suspend the 2009 season and work toward a single entity-league," Likens said, according to The Star. "We plan to start up again in 2010."

A prominent AFL player, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said he does not think the AFL ever will come back if 2009 is canceled. The player said reports were untrue that the AFL players union had agreed Tuesday to the decision to cancel the 2009 season. The player said he did not want to be identified in case there is a 2010 season.

Developmental league arenafootball2, which operates as a separate entity, will play in 2009.

Phil Tesar, media relations director of the Gladiators, said early this afternoon: "We've heard rumors and speculation about the future of the league for a while. For us, it's still business as usual. We're still selling tickets until we're told otherwise."

The AFL has been in existence since 1987.

The Gladiators made their Cleveland debut in the AFL last season. They reached the National Conference Championship Game before losing to Philadelphia.

Chris McCloskey, AFL executive vice president/communications, could not be reached.

The AFL released a statement this afternoon that said: "Despite rumors and reports to the contrary, all AFL teams are continuing to work towards ArenaBowl XXIII. As it has previously stated, the AFL continues to work on long-term structural improvement options. Some of the options may impact the 2009 season. There is currently no timetable for an announcement of any kind."

A key blow to the AFL as it grappled with economic hardships was the dissolution of a potential $100 million ownership agreement with Platinum Equity. The deal fell through when a number of team owners balked at the idea of giving up varying degrees of control of their franchises to Platinum, a source said.

The AFL player said ownership came back to the players and asked for a pay cut. The players said they would so everything possible to keep the league going, but that they needed more details on exactly what the cuts entailed. As of Tuesday night, the players were waiting to hear back from the owners.

Among the strong hints this offseason that the AFL was in trouble were multiple delays of a dispersal draft of New Orleans VooDoo players; failure to release the 2009 schedule for a league that begins in the spring; and failure to name a commissioner to replace David Baker, who resigned in July.

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Vikings Star an Internet Sensation After 'Towel Malfunction'

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Visanthe Shiancoe is having a breakout season at tight end for Minnesota. His national exposure is now at an all-time high.

Fox televised a clip of Vikings owner Zygi Wilf's postgame locker-room speech after Sunday's victory at Detroit, and Shiancoe was inadvertently shown naked in the background. He was wearing a towel that did little to cover him. The network apologized, but screen-grab images were all over the Internet.

Shiancoe wasn't available to the media Monday, but he joked with a gossip columnist for the Star Tribune of Minneapolis about it. "How'd it look?" he told the newspaper.

But Shiancoe's agent, Tony Agnone, told the St. Paul Pioneer Press that his client was embarrassed and hopes fans understand it wasn't intentional.

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Questions for: Danny Way

[Danny Way]

Danny Way performs a backflip at the 2008 X-Games.

Skateboarders distinguish themselves by staying on the board, but recently much of the attention has gone to those who fall off of it.

Two years ago, skateboarder Jake Brown became a YouTube phenomenon after he walked away from a 40-foot fall at the X-Games "Skateboard Big Air" event. At this year's X-Games, Danny Way also took a major spill. On the way down from a massive air, he clipped his legs and spun down the 27-foot-tall quarterpipe. This set up what was perhaps his most heroic moment: Several minutes later, Mr. Way limped away and went back up the ramp, and eventually completed the run that earned him an X-Games silver medal.

The past three decades have seen skateboarding rise from the streets, backyard pools and skate parks to ramps of roller coaster proportions. Of course this adds to the thrill and viewer appeal, but it also results in more grisly falls, like those suffered by Messrs. Brown and Way.

Mr. Way, who is 34 and lives in Encinitas, Calif., has been a driving force in the sport's evolution. Peers praise him as much for his versatility -- he has distinguished himself on everything from street-scape handrails to mammoth ramps. But the general public knows him for his fearlessness. After several years of experimentation with bigger and bigger ramps, Mr. Way created what he calls the Mega Ramp: an 80-foot-tall monstrosity that is ascended via elevator, and from which skateboarders can make 75-foot jumps en route to airs higher than 20 feet.

The Wall Street Journal: Talk about the Mega Ramp -- and the physics behind it. Did you know what would happen on the first run?

Danny Way: I built one prototype prior to the Mega Ramp in 2001, I think it was, for this contest called the "King of Skate." I built the first prototype and it was a little bit smaller than the Mega Ramp. I had two of the other ramps I built before that, and I called them the super ramps back then. But there was never a calculation, just human trial and error. Finally when I built the [Mega Ramp], I just kind of free-styled the dimensions with all the knowledge I'd accumulated in the past and kind of eyeballed a lot of it as it went.

[Danny Way]

Skateboarder Danny Way on his ramp.

The first run, yeah, we didn't know what was going to happen. I got shot off the jump like a cannon and I went into like a frontside 900 (a spin of two and a half revolutions) I think. I was just completely out of control, landed on my stomach on the ramp and slid down backwards on my stomach. I didn't know what to do. I had so much speed.

WSJ: Do you think the Mega Ramp is a new frontier, or will it remain an exhibition for the select group of guys who are capable of riding it?

Danny Way: There's more than 10 guys that can do it now. I don't see it going backwards. I feel like the vert guys (skateboarders who ride the standard U-shaped ramps with high walls) are feeling a little bit of pressure to evolve to it. [On a vert ramp] you can only go so high, and you can only have so much time in the air to do this or that. But on the Mega, there is so much more time and everything is so much more long and drawn out that it opens another spectrum of possibilities.

WSJ: Do you think the X-Games plays up the falls too much? It can be really uncomfortable to watch.

Danny Way: I think it's great that they exploit the slams. That's the biggest part of people understanding the seriousness of what we do. It's unfortunate the person that slams has to go through that experience and deal with the repercussions of it. But Jake [Brown], for example, he did so much for the Mega event. They emphasized the slam, but that also brought so much of a focus to our event. It just gives everyone that much more opportunity and makes it that much more exciting. God forbid someone should get hurt, but sometimes it's good to have things put in perspective. If we're going to create an event for the public, the goal is to have people on the edge of their seats biting their nails not knowing what's going to happen next.

God forbid it happens, but it's possible for somebody to get really, really hurt. It's the same thing with motocross. Freestyle moto, guys doing double flips and front flips and stuff, that stuff's deadly, too. That's why people come to watch it.

WSJ: You've been active in other sports, such as Motocross, snowboarding and surfing. Are you still cross-training?

Danny Way: I would like to, but I've minimized it down to a couple. I used to be pretty serious about racing motorcycles when I was younger and I used to go out and jump with my buddies that were pro. Now, with the opportunities I have on skateboard, it's pretty stupid for me to be out there on my motorcycle jumping, like, 150 feet.

I still surf, and I'll go snowboarding, too. I have more of a connection with surfing. I started surfing at the same age I started skateboarding. And there's something about being in the water that's, I guess, cleansing.

WSJ: The Mega Ramp's dimensions have more in common with motocross than skateboarding. Did experience with motorcycles push you to think bigger?

Danny Way: I'll tell you right now, without going out and jumping those distances on my motorcycle, I wouldn't have had the visual perspective or the speed perspective. [After jumping on a motorcycle], I always felt like, God, if I could jump through the air like this on my skateboard I'd be so psyched. I've got to somehow translate this into skateboarding someday. I would definitely credit motocross to giving me that motivation to fuel a possibility.

WSJ: How do you control the fear up there, especially after so many injuries?

Danny Way: If you're not ready to be able to face the repercussions of what you're doing, then I really feel like you shouldn't be doing it. You've got to be geared up for the worst-case scenario and be able to accept that before you get up there and before it happens. You don't go up with a negative mind set, but by no means do you underestimate what the hazard is.

WSJ: What do you think of the idea of skateboarding in the Olympics?

Danny Way: I really pray that skateboarding doesn't go to the Olympics, and there's a lot of reasons why. I just feel like the Olympics need us more than we need them. I don't think it's going to bring any more opportunities except for maybe a Wheaties commercial.

Our skate community is so solid. The industry is so solid. I don't think skateboarding getting associated with the 50-yard dash or pole vaulting or water ballet or whatever it is -- it doesn't fit in there.

WSJ: How is it helping to run a company, Plan B skateboards, in addition to skateboarding?

Danny Way: I've been around a long time. Plan B is a big part of my career, and mentoring younger guys [who represent the company] is a big part of what I do. I grew up being mentored and it's like a changing of the guard now.

Write to Conor Dougherty at

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Not just hot air: British Steam Car in the running to break speed record

By Daily Mail Reporter

A British Steam Car is a step closer to breaking the longest held speed record after completing a number of successful runs.

After a first successful low-speed run last week at Newton Park, the car was shipped to the MoD's Thorney Island facility near Portsmouth for a series of higher speed runs this week.

The British-built steam car powers up at Thorney Island

A team of six engineers have been learning how to launch the car and turn it around quickly for its return run within the hour. Eventually Freezing temperatures forced the team to pack up and return to base in Lymington, Hampshire.

The British team hope to break the land speed record of 128mph in California next year and have spoken to officials at Edwards Air Force Base about running the car on the dry lakebed, once it has dried out following winter rains.

Test driver Don Wales (second left) looks on during British trials

The record was set by Fred Marriott in his Stanley Steam back in 1906.

The car is being test driven by Don Wales, nephew of tragic speed legend Donald Campbell.

A team spokeswoman said: "It is the team's intention to victoriously claim the world record first at 150mph and then at a later date, 200mph mark.'

But the team also has a 'longer-term' objective to develop greener modes of transport.

'With growing public concern about environmental issues, engineers are looking at viable alternatives to the combustion engine,' the spokeswoman said.

Watch footage of one of the first runs...

Snowboarder Vito grows by leaps and bounds

By Vicki Michaelis, USA TODAY

For years, Louie Vito heard the same critique.

"Louie just needs 2 more feet."

"Louie just needs 2 more feet."

It wasn't a comment on how much bigger he needed to grow (now 20, he stands 5-5). It was an assessment of how much bigger he needed to go — off the lip of a snowboard halfpipe.

The Ohio native had all the flips, turns and style to be one of the best at negotiating the slick troughs that serve as snowboarders' playing fields. He just needed more height on his tricks — amplitude, in snowboarder-speak — to win the judges' highest marks.

After finishing second in two events in U.S. Snowboarding's Grand Prix series in 2007, he asked his coaches for help. They set him to practicing on a no-holding-back start for optimum speed and on landing lighter and tighter on the edge of his board after each trick. The goal was to begin with more momentum and build it throughout his ride, because the faster he went into each trick, the higher he would fly.

"It's scary at first, but you get used to it," Vito says of the faster start. "It was stepping out of my comfort zone and then making the new amplitude my comfort zone."

Vito landed comfortably last year at the top of the Grand Prix standings. He enters this weekend's season-opening Grand Prix competition in Copper Mountain, Colo., as the defending overall men's halfpipe champion.

"He's very focused and able athletically to make those technical and tactical improvements in his edging and his landings and his speed," says Mike Jankowski, head halfpipe coach for the U.S. snowboard team.

Vito's results last season, which included two victories in Grand Prix events, have him in position to make the 2010 Winter Olympic team.

"You've got to count him in as a player as the Grand Prix champ, because the Grand Prix is the qualifying series. He's definitely got what it takes," Jankowski says.

Jankowski estimates Vito has added 3 to 6 feet to his amplitude.

"Louie went from about 6 to 10 feet to going more like 15-feet plus consistently," Jankowski says.

A unique Buckeye view

It's not the first surprising rise of his career, as Ohio is not the usual breeding ground for professional snowboarders.

Vito's hometown of Bellefontaine is a short drive from Mad River Mountain, where he and his dad, Lou, discovered they shared a passion for shredding back when Louis Vito III was no taller than his snowboard.

The younger Vito followed his older sister, Lindsay, into gymnastics and credits it for teaching him discipline and developing many of the attributes he needs to be an aerial specialist on snow.

"With snowboarding, you're constantly falling, you're constantly getting thrown around," Vito says. "I think gymnastics helped me with that."

He competed in gymnastics through middle school, then gave it up to follow his snowboarding passion.

Vito showed enough promise that by 13 he enrolled at the Stratton Mountain School, a boarding school in Vermont where the academic schedule accommodates daily ski or snowboard sessions and travel for competitions. Stratton Mountain counts 28 Winter Olympians among its alumni.

Vito turned pro at 16 but stayed at Stratton Mountain through high school. He now lives in Utah.

He went to the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City, where U.S. men swept the halfpipe.

"When I went there and saw it live and saw the atmosphere and how it really worked, it really made me stoked on it," he says.

He didn't qualify for the 2006 Olympics but had a breakthrough that year, finishing fifth in the Winter X Games.

Now he's not only going bigger but thinking bigger.

"It's kind of a relief, knowing that if I just keep the pace I'm going, keep progressing, I could potentially be on the (Olympic) team," Vito says.

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Students to attempt to break water speed record on lake where Donald Campbell died

By Daily Mail Reporter

A team of engineers are aiming to break the world water speed record, on the lake where Donald Campbell died in his Bluebird.

The Quicksilver team will try to bring the record back to Britain on Coniston Water in the Lake District, the scene of the disaster which killed Donald Campbell in 1967 as he tried to break the 300mph barrier.

They're using a wind tunnel at Salford University to make sure there will be no repeat of the Bluebird tragedy when a new attempt is made on the world water speed record.

Quicksilver weighs 3.5 tonnes and is 12.87 metres long. Although 50 per cent heavier than Bluebird it has twice as much power

Salford's role is to test the design for pitch, yaw and roll - meaning that when Quicksilver approaches the record speed of 317mph, it won't veer off course or flip like Bluebird.

Using the university's wind tunnel facilities, the team from the School of Computing, Science and Engineering is helping the British Quicksilver team test the aerodynamics of their craft.

The current record was set in 1978 by Australian Ken Warby and Quicksilver are aiming to reach 330mph. But, as Salford project leader Dr Thurai Rahulan explained, there is more than just national pride at stake.

He said: 'Our students are getting hands-on experience at the cutting-edge of aeronautical design by doing their own calculations on the project.

'We're also looking at how we can use our new understanding of forces and the technology to benefit ordinary passenger craft.

'The results can make ferries and other ships more efficient and able to achieve higher speeds using the same or less fuel.'

water record

Dr Thurai Rahulan and Nigel MacKnight with the Quiksilver test model

Quicksilver team leader Nigel McKnight, who will be driving the boat during the record attempt, said: 'This will be the culmination of 20 years of planning for me and so it is vital that the boat is made as safe as possible.

'Salford's work in aeronautical engineering has a fantastic reputation and we are extremely grateful for their help.'

The Quicksilver team is likely to commence full-scale testing next year.

Donald Campbell died in Bluebird on January 4, 1967, as he tried to beat his own water speed record of 276mph. He was a man under pressure as American Lee Taylor was threatening the record with a new boat, Hustler.

The patriotic Campbell desperately wanted a Briton to be the first to break 300mph. His first run across averaged 297mph but as he tried to hit 315mph on his return run his boat flipped and he was killed.

The wreckage of Bluebird was discovered and lifted from the lake bed in March 2001. Campbell's body was recovered two months later. Bluebird is now being reconstructed and could return to Coniston on completion.

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Mobley forced to retire

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- New York Knicks guard Cuttino Mobley retired from the NBA on Thursday because of heart disease that he said has gotten worse.

Cuttino Mobley


Mobley said doctors told him he faced significant risks if he kept playing. The 11-year veteran said by walking away now, he could live a long life.

Mobley, 33, announced his decision at a news conference at the Knicks' training center, where he confirmed he has hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. The condition causes the heart muscle to thicken, making it harder to pump blood, and he said he had no choice but to end his career.

"The specialists I've seen made it clear that my heart condition has gotten worse and I couldn't continue to play professional basketball without putting my health and life in serious danger," Mobley said. "As much as I want to keep playing in the NBA, I have no choice but to follow the advice of my doctors and step away from the league."

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is the leading cause of sudden cardiac death in people under 30 years old and was linked to the deaths of former Boston Celtics forward Reggie Lewis and Loyola Marymount star Hank Gathers.

The Knicks acquired Mobley last month from the Los Angeles Clippers -- a trade that may ultimately have saved his life. An EKG during his physical showed an irregularity with the heart, which Mobley already knew existed. The Knicks decided to perform an MRI exam, which revealed the more serious condition that previously had gone undetected.

Mobley then saw four specialists around the country, who performed additional tests and provided him literature about the disease that convinced him to stop playing.

"The doctors said to not chance it and I feel as though they're right, having an 8-year old son, having a long life ahead of me, it's the smart thing," Mobley said. "It's a tough thing to swallow, but things in life happen, but you have to keep going."

Mobley averaged 16.0 points in 11 seasons with the Houston Rockets, Orlando Magic, Sacramento Kings and Clippers. He was expected to become the Knicks' starting shooting guard after the Nov. 21 trade.

The Knicks could have voided the deal because of the health concerns but waived the physical requirement because the trade allowed them to move Zach Randolph's contract, freeing salary cap space for the summer of 2010.

"I thought this would be the perfect trade with him in it, but I would never put a player out there that's at the risk that he would be at," Knicks president Donnie Walsh said.

"None of this is as important as somebody's life. None of it. Period," Walsh said. "So I'm glad that we had a doctor that put him through tests that showed it, because the risk was there."

Walsh said he wasn't sure yet what options the Knicks had to fill the vacant roster spot and would begin researching it Friday.

Mobley said he'd thought about the scene of Gathers collapsing on the court during a game and said it factored into his decision.

"Say if you were to play, the worry, the worrisome of people watching you, if you were to fall, or it's just an elbow or just an ankle, that's scary. And then every single day just being scared for you, I think that's a selfish thing, also," he said. "Even though you love something so much, and I am in love with basketball, but sometimes you have to get a divorce."

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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Celts stand tall, roll Wiz for club-record start

Left to right: Rajon Rondo, Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Leon Powe stand at the Celtics bench during the closing moments of Thursday's 34-point victory in Washington.

WASHINGTON (AP) — At 21-2, the Boston Celtics of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen are off to the best 23-game start in the franchise's storied history.

Even Bill Russell, Larry Bird and Bob Cousy never were this good this early.

Allen and Pierce scored 22 points apiece, Garnett nearly had a triple-double, and the Celtics beat the Washington Wizards 122-88 on Thursday night for the NBA champions' 13th consecutive victory overall and ninth in a row on the road.

"I've been a big fan of history," Garnett said. "To establish ourselves in that history that's so enriched with culture and prestige and tradition is a great thing."

He finished with 11 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists in three quarters.

Boston's winning streak is its longest since a 14-game run in 1985-86.

The Celtics opened 20-2 last season and in the 1963-64 season.

Caron Butler scored 19 points for the last-place Wizards, who matched their franchise's slowest start, dropping to 4-16 for the first time since the 1966-67 Baltimore Bullets.

"You saw the best team in the league," Wizards interim coach Ed Tapscott said. "And in case you weren't watching, it wasn't us. It was them."

The Celtics knew what they were playing for. Twice before, including last season, Boston went 20-2 before losing Game No. 23.

"It's always great to be part of a team that's potentially mentioned as one of the franchise's best," Allen said.

Boston had its most lopsided victory of the season — just as one might expect from a matchup between the reigning champions, who also boast the league's best record, and the woeful Wizards, who have the Eastern Conference's worst mark.

Going into the game, the only thing that might have given Boston pause, and Washington hope, was what happened when these clubs played each other last season: The Wizards took three of four encounters.

"They had our number last year," Allen said, "and we remember that."

Indeed, Celtics coach Doc Rivers said one of his players read something said by a member of the Wizards that drew his team's attention.

Rivers heard his players talking about that before the game.

"It doesn't take them much. I swear they, like, search the newspapers to find something," Rivers said. "I didn't need to give a rah-rah speech."

Washington, though, actually led 12-11 about 4½ minutes in, on a 9-foot floater by Antawn Jamison.

That's when Allen — and Boston — got in gear. He completed a four-point play to start a 19-5 run that essentially decided matters, putting the visitors ahead 30-17 with about 2½ minutes left in the first quarter.

Allen scored 13 points in the first quarter with four 3s, combining with Pierce's 10 points to outscore the Wizards all by themselves: The period ended with the Celtics ahead 36-21.

"Just wide open," Allen said.

Washington never got closer than 10 points the rest of the way, trailing by more than 20 for most of the second quarter, which ended with the Celtics up 63-39.

"We're sick of it," Washington guard Juan Dixon said. "We've got to start taking things personal, man."

Clearly, this season's Wizards resemble in no way last season's Wizards.

And what about the Celtics? Are they better than a year ago?

"We don't know yet. That question is yet to be found out," Pierce said. "It's just only a quarter of the season over with. Ask me April 18, and I'll give you a better answer."

That, of course, is the day the playoffs begin.

Notes: Garnett laughed off a postgame question about the white sleeve — instead of his customary black one — on his right leg. "It's Washington — very fashionable, savvy city. I thought, 'Why not switch it up from black to white?"' he said. "Just because I've got a wrap on something — I've got wraps in places that y'all don't even see." Then, as Garnett walked out of the locker room, he lifted up the bottom of his left jeans leg to show some sort of white covering on that calf. ... Boston's previous biggest margin of victory this season had been 24. ... Rivers put in the players at the end of his bench for most of the fourth quarter, and what was left of the sellout crowd of 20,173 kept chanting reserve forward Brian Scalabrine's last name, apparently hoping to see him score, or at least shoot. He put up his one and only attempt with 3 seconds left — and it was blocked.

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

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The Top 10 NBA Beards I Could Think of After Gregg Popovich Reminded Me Last Night How Cool Beards Could Be

Scot Pollard - Beard.jpg

Since I'm drowning in deadline, hirsute Observer Night & Day Editor Noah Bailey is kind enough - bold enough - to stand in. Noah, take it away:

After the Mavs beat Baron Davis' Clippers last week, I couldn't help but reconsider Davis' much-ballyhooed place in the pantheon of NBA beards. A 4-17 record will make people question your manhood, after all.

We only wish we could include more Mavs on this list, but we've yet to see Dirk, Damp, Terry or Barea rocking anything close to these ten entries in NBA beard-dom. Here's hoping one of them will put down the razor and give our new number one a run for his money.

10. Bill Wennington

Comment: A classic '80s specimen of the "Just for Men" beard.

9. Pau Gasol

Comment: Easily the most grizzled beard on this list, we'd move it up a couple spots if he'd agree to wax his moustache conquistador style. Probably grown to offset his lack of an actual chin.

8. Rasheed Wallace

Comment: A paranoid beard, equally at home blocking shots or one of Charlie's grenades.

7. DeShawn Stevenson

Comment: Notice how King James' beardlet pales to Stevenson's in this side-by-side comparison.

6. Bill Walton

Comment: A classic of Lincolnian proportions, with extra bonus points awarded for extreme redness.

5. Baron Davis

Comment: A fearsome beard for sure, but a bit too neatly trimmed for our tastes. Still incites fear in the hearts of Mavs fans everywhere, however.

4. Zydrunas Ilgauskas

Comment: The last time we saw him, Ilgauskas had shaved, but there's no denying this beastly growth. Be careful or he'll throw you in the wood chipper.

3. Drew Gooden

Comment: Could've been number one if he'd kept his old-school look, but this season's Eurotrash/reggae/octopus mash-up is just ridiculous. A graduate of the Demolition Man school of fashion.

2. Walt Frazier

Comment: Does this really need an explanation?

1. Gregg Popovich

Comment: Our new champ, simply for making the Spurs' coach slightly easier to look at over the duration of last night's grueling two overtimes. - Noah Bailey

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