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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Next generation of swimwear sparks revolt

By Liz Byrnes in Rijeka

Amaury Leveaux broke four world records at the European Short-Course Championships in Croatia and the 45-second barrier in the 100 metres


The head coach of British Swimming, Dennis Pursley, has given his backing to the revolt by leading European coaches over swimsuits after the number of world records set this year reached 105 at the European Short-Course Championships in Croatia.

Fifteen out of the 17 top European nations, including Great Britain, have signed a protest which is to be presented to the world governing body FINA calling for a number of regulations to be discussed and implemented. Their concerns centre on the technological advances in the design of swimsuits and the fabrics used, with records starting to fall immediately after the introduction of the Speedo LZR Racer suit in February.

Within six weeks more than 15 world records had fallen and in Rijeka nine marks went, including four to Amaury Leveaux alone. The Frenchman became the first man to break the 45-second barrier in the 100metres freestyle and his time of 44.94 means almost two seconds has been taken off Alex Popov's record in just 13 months.

The materials used in the suits include polyurethane panels which help the swimmers become more streamlined through the water and neoprene, a flotation device. As a result the swimmer is allowed more speed and buoyancy in the water and fatigue is delayed.

Pursley said: "It demeans the records and kind of cheapens them to an extent. Up to this generation of suits I think it's just been maximising performance but I think we're crossing the line to enhancing performance and to me that is a whole different area." FINA are set to meet with coaches and suitmakers in the next two months and Pursley wants action to be taken. He added: "There is a strong consensus in the coaching community that feel that at the very minimum there needs to be regulation and there needs to be monitoring and there needs to be a strict approval process. And whatever is approved needs to be available to all the teams and all the athletes at least a minimum of 12 months in advance of the competition."

FINA regulations state no device should aid buoyancy, speed and endurance but when questioned further at the World Short-Course Championships in Manchester in April, the governing body insisted the swimmers were not using a device, but simply wearing a suit. Now Pursley wants FINA to take a strong lead as he fears the next step is for suits to be designed for individuals. He added: "It's opening the door to go in a whole different direction that can possibly advantage some athletes and some teams to go above and beyond others and that's not to mention all the ramifications below the top level."

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Jailed fan 'can get free pardon'

Michael Shields

Jailed Liverpool fan Michael Shields has won an important battle at the High Court in his bid for a free pardon.

The 22-year-old is serving a 10-year sentence for the attempted murder of a barman in Bulgaria in 2005, but has always maintained his innocence.

High Court judges have ruled Justice Secretary Jack Straw has the power to issue a pardon to Shields. Mr Straw is now considering a decision.

Shields' family said they hoped he would be home for Christmas.

Mr Straw had previously insisted he did not have the power to free him and the case went to the High Court in London.

The two senior judges ruled that it was for Mr Straw alone - and not the courts - to decide how to exercise that power.

The judges said the pardon relied on fresh evidence which had not been considered by the Bulgarian courts.

A confession by another Liverpool fan, Graham Sankey, who was in Istanbul at the time of the attack, but who later retracted it, would not form part of the new evidence, the judges said.

I hope and pray Mr Straw can do the right thing
Michael Shields, father

In court the judges said: "It is, in our judgment, open to the Secretary of State to entertain a request to exercise the royal prerogative. It is not for this court to say whether or how it might be exercised."

Mr Straw said he would appoint senior counsel to advise him on whether to pardon Shields or not, in light of the High Court decision.

The Justice Secretary said the case had to be looked at very closely, along with any implications it could have for the cases of other British prisoners abroad.

He added: "I will ensure this process is undertaken as quickly as possible, and can assure Michael Shields and his family that I will reach a decision on whether to recommend granting a pardon as swiftly as is possible.

"While recognising the frustration of Michael Shields' family and his campaign team, I am also duty bound to work within the law."

Shields is currently serving the remainder of his sentence at Thorn Cross Young Offenders' Institute in Appleton Thorn in Warrington, Cheshire.

'Heart-breaking'

Liverpool Labour Euro MP Arlene McCarthy, commenting on today's High Court ruling, said: "The High Court ruling frees the way for Michael's release.

"It's a brilliant result for Michael and his family and we are now finally seeing the end to a three-year battle to get justice for Michael."

Ms McCarthy added that said she would be asking if he could be released on temporary licence to spend Christmas with his family.

Following the decision, his father, Michael Shields senior, said: "It's just heart-breaking for us.

Michael and Maria Shields
Mr and Mrs Shields say their campaign will continue

"We just want to get him home and put everything behind us and get on with our lives. It's been so hard for us.

"I hope and pray Mr Straw can do the right thing."

Jago Russell, chief executive of Fair Trials International, which defends the rights of those facing charges in a country other than their own, welcomed the ruling.

He said: "After a grossly unfair trial in Bulgaria, Michael Shields has already spent more than three years in prison.

"It is now up to the British government to pardon Michael and to bring his ordeal to an end."

Shields family solicitor John Weate has now called for a swift pardon.

"We are today sending Mr Straw further representations about the pardon," he said

"In view of his close attention to the case we hope that he can make a decision to allow Michael to be free by Christmas."

High profile supporters include Louise Ellman MP; Arlene McCarthy MEP; Councillor Joe Anderson, leader of the Liverpool City Council Labour group; Sir Robert Atkin MEP, and a wide variety of celebrities.

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Michael Shields' parents: 'This could be the key to get Michael home'

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China Hosts Realistic-Looking Olympics


BEIJING—Long after the closing ceremonies of last August's XXIX Olympiad, participants and spectators from around the world were still talking about the incredibly lifelike, almost realistic atmosphere the nation of China was able to bring to the Games.

"From the opening ceremonies, which initially seemed to fill the sky with fireworks and gravity-defying acrobats, to the competitions themselves, which at first seemed to bring the entire world together in a spirit of brotherhood and friendly competition, the Games had me completely convinced," said Juan Antonio Samaranch, former president of the International Olympic Committee, who claimed he often forgot that what he was seeing wasn't real while attending the events. "I, of all people, should know better, but I freely admit that the nation of China pulled off a magnificent illusion."

The Beijing Olympics were watched, and most likely believed, by literally billions all over the globe. In the United States alone, Olympic broadcast partner NBC reported that the Games were watched by more than 200 million people in 83 percent of American households, with 97 percent of those viewers able to suspend disbelief and swallow the whole thing completely.

"I was absolutely taken in with the whole Beijing spectacle—the gala ceremonies, the swimmers breaking world records, those women sword-fighting. It had everything," said Olympic viewer Rick Thomason of St. Paul, MN. "Even that Michael Phelps guy—you knew there was no way such a person could really exist, but you wanted him to succeed every bit as much as if his actions were happening in the real world."

"You have to hand it to the Chinese—they thought of everything," said Anne Jefferson of Los Angeles, who found her skepticism dissolving as she watched the Games with friends. "I was absolutely certain that I was watching the world's top amateur athletes going head-to-head for the sheer love of competition, even while I watched the men's basketball medal round. I have no idea how they did that, but I bought it hook, line, and sinker."

Chinese Olympic officials are not revealing the secret of exactly how they pulled off such a massive fabrication or how they maintained their Olympic ruse throughout most of August. Even broadcast professionals, no strangers to the suspension of disbelief, admit they sometimes forgot that what they were seeing wasn't real.

"There were times I got completely caught up in it, I must admit," said Bob Costas, who hosted NBC's frontline Olympics show for the duration of the Games. "It was a fantastic job, all things considered, when you realize what China was up against. Think about it—they had to make people believe that a 10-year-old gymnast was actually a young woman. They had to make people believe that a Jamaican man could work hard and run fast, which frankly isn't something the average American is prepared to think. And they had to make people like swimming for almost two weeks. I still don't know how it was achieved."

"I guess I shouldn't be surprised," said Tim Layden, track and field reporter for Sports Illustrated. "What China did with the Olympics was impressive, to be sure. But it was nothing compared to making the world believe that Beijing is actually a clean, safe modern city, or that China is actually a fully functioning modern society with a vibrant and healthy culture, or that the whole thing wasn't a thinly veiled show of jingoistic nationalism nearly on par with the infamous Berlin Games. If they managed to do that, then I'm really impressed."

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Avery's gone, but his legacy may stick around Big D for a while

NHL commissioner Bettman rips Stars' Avery

EDMONTON, Alberta -- NHL commissioner Gary Bettman harshly criticized Sean Avery on Tuesday, calling the combative forward's crude remark about ex-girlfriends dating other hockey players offensive and disgusting.

Sean Avery

Avery

Avery was only 23 games into a $15.5 million, four-year deal with Dallas when Bettman suspended him for the Dec. 2 remark. He was eligible to return from his six-game ban Sunday, but the Stars instead announced Avery will not rejoin the team -- ever.

Speaking to a luncheon crowd, Bettman said Avery's remark offended him as a parent.

"To be perfectly honest I wouldn't want to have to explain to my 12-year-old daughter what he said," the commissioner said.

Bettman said he hasn't spoken to the Stars but said they've handled the situation professionally, given the team has continued to pay Avery's salary while it explores other options.

When he was suspended, Avery told the Stars he needed help dealing with anger issues. Co-general manager Brett Hull said Sunday that Avery was in a 10-day, voluntary program that could be extended if counselors determine he needs a longer stay.

Avery, a two-time league leader in penalty minutes, prides himself on doing and saying things to irritate his foes. He savors his reputation as the NHL's most-hated player and contrasts it with a well-publicized interest in fashion. He's dated actresses, been written up in People magazine and spent this summer as intern for Vogue magazine. The fact he has a publicist makes him unique among NHL players.

Although Avery had been fined and NHL rules were changed because of his antics, he'd never been suspended by the league until this month, when Bettman punished him only hours after his now-infamous line.

The Stars were in Calgary, Alberta, so it likely was aimed at Flames defenseman Dion Phaneuf, who is dating actress Elisha Cuthbert. Avery also has dated supermodel-actress Rachel Hunter, who is now dating Los Angeles' Jarret Stoll. Reporters were gathered to ask Avery about comments he'd made about another Flames player, former scoring champion Jarome Iginla.

The 28-year-old Avery is on his fourth team in seven seasons. He came up with Detroit, was traded to Los Angeles and then was dealt to the New York Rangers, who didn't re-sign him when his contract expired.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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Invention: Low-error golf balls

by Justin Mullins

Golf balls patterned with grooves, not dimples, should mean fewer missed putts, a new patent application says (Image: WIPO)

Golf balls patterned with grooves, not dimples, should mean fewer missed putts, a new patent application says (Image: WIPO)


The dimples on a golf ball are more than a pretty pattern - they help a struck ball fly further. But a new patent application says that replacing them with grooves will make for fewer missed putts.

A ball's dimples help a golfer in two ways. As well as letting the ball cling onto a cloak of air to reduce turbulence and drag, they also magnify the effect of lift created by backspin.

The trouble with dimples, say Hae Cheon Choi and colleagues at Seoul National University in Korea, is that striking one of the indentations off centre can send the putted ball in the wrong direction.

The team's answer is to design a golf ball with grooves rather than dimples on its surface, arranged in such a way as to divide the ball's surface into triangles. The grooves disrupt airflow in a similar way to dimples, so the ball still carries roughly the same distance, say the team.

But the grooves cover a smaller surface area of the ball than dimples. That makes it much less likely that a putter might strike them in a way that sends the ball off at an odd angle. The end result is fewer putting errors, they claim.

The new ball should be permitted by both of the governing bodies that regulate golf - the USGA that covers the US and Mexico and the R&A that covers the rest of the world.

Neither organisation's rules explicitly mention surface pattern - instead specifying the ball's weight, diameter, symmetry and initial velocity when struck with a club. The pattern on a ball's surface must be symmetrical, though, precluding arrangements that cause a ball to "self right" into a particular position to ensure a straighter flight.

Since the 1970s, New Scientist has run a column uncovering the most exciting, bizarre or even terrifying new patented ideas - find the latest stories in our continually updated topic guide.

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Gyroscopic Golf Club: Slicer's Savior or Swinger's Snakeoil?

By Charlie Sorrel

Gyrogolf

I'm not a golfer, so this post is framed as more of a question to our Pringle-wearing readers: Would this gyroscopic golf club work?

Here are the details: The Gyro Swing has a gyroscope inside, which from the picture looks fairly hefty. The disk spins at 20,000 rpm and is supposed to ingrain the "feel" of a proper shot into the arms of the player. It is also claimed that the club resists extraneous movement, keeping – we presume – the face of the club at the correct angle.

A gyroscope certainly provides resistance to movement. That's the whole point of them, in fact, and something I discovered at an early age with bike wheels. Spin a wheel (one which has been removed from the bike) and you can hold it up from one side, balancing the axle on one finger. Further, grab the other side of the axle and try to twist the wheel. It's hard, right?

So, if any golfers have tried the Gyro Swing, or if any reader has some great gyroscopic knowledge, let us know whether this $200 club is a tool or a toy.

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AFL cancels 2009 season

NEW YORK -- Matt D'Orazio heard the rumors every year he played in the Arena Football League.

"There's always grumbling about potential teams folding or something not going as planned," said D'Orazio, the league's reigning MVP for the champion Philadelphia Soul. "But it always seems to start up and always do better than the year before."

Not this time. The 22-year-old AFL announced Monday it's canceling the 2009 season as it seeks to mold a better business model in tough economic times. The decision was pending an agreement with the players' union.

League officials hope to return in 2010.

"That is the plan," said Jim Renacci, the Columbus Destroyers' co-owner and vice chairman of the AFL executive committee, who will lead the restructuring process. "Every owner is committed to coming back in 2010."

Renacci left open the possibility the 16-team league could play in 2009 with an abbreviated schedule.

The more than two-thirds of AFL owners needed to approve the measure voted to cancel the season during a conference call Sunday night. The league had issued a statement Wednesday night that said the 2009 season had not been suspended.

"That was probably the longest part of the discussion the owners had: Can we still come back in 2009?" Renacci said on a conference call. "And I think the answer to that is it's always possible, but most likely we need to retool to be fair to fans."

The decision left clubs shedding employees and players scrambling to find work. The Cleveland Gladiators laid off six people Monday. Some players have offseason jobs, while others rely only on their AFL salaries.

"We were just kind of praying and hoping they would find a way to make it work, but apparently they didn't," said Utah Blaze wide receiver Aaron Boone. "It couldn't have come at a worse time, right before Christmas and right when your savings are getting low."

Renacci declined to address what would happen if the union didn't agree to canceling the season. He said acting commissioner Ed Policy was talking with union officials Monday.

"We are in discussions with the Arena Football League to review proposals for play in the 2010 season," union spokesman Carl Francis said.

Team executives listed several problems with the AFL's structure. Players' salaries need to be tied to league revenue, said Michael Young, executive vice president of the Colorado Crush. The AFL itself also must generate more money instead of placing most of the burden on the teams, he said.

Renacci called for the league to become more efficient by centralizing its business operations, such as marketing, sponsorships and ticket sales. Now, each team handles those areas itself. There are 17 different workers' compensation systems in the AFL, he said; everybody could save money if they used the same one.

Renacci also questioned whether the AFL will continue to need league offices both in New York and Chicago.

The league lost money last year, he said, but it was "nothing insurmountable." In recent months, though, corporate sponsorships have dwindled.

The AFL's woes come as the sports world, once thought to be largely recession-proof, has felt the economic chill, including layoffs at the NFL, NBA and NASCAR.

"I'm still a little bit shocked at the conclusions that were drawn only because this league has survived for such a long time," Blaze coach Ron James said. "I always figured the league would find a way to sustain, even through tough economic times."

The AFL had been in limbo for weeks. With rumors swirling about its viability, the league delayed indefinitely the start of free agency and the release of next season's schedule. The AFL has not selected a permanent replacement for longtime commissioner David Baker, who abruptly resigned in July.

Since November 2007, the AFL's board of directors has been looking into various ways to bolster the league's finances. Several equity firms have looked into buying into the AFL, Renacci said. He expected that each franchise would remain individually owned.

Young said the league became distracted by big-picture issues such as TV contracts in recent years and neglected improving its basic structure. ESPN acquired national TV rights to the AFL in 2006 and has a minor, nonmanagement financial interest in the indoor league. ESPN signed a five-year deal to have multimedia rights that included everything from Internet to radio to publishing and international distribution.

"We had a number of high-profile ownership groups coming in, and all these things happening, but the business model was still broken," Young said.

The AFL's attendance, TV ratings and merchandise sales increased last year. Now league officials must hope they can recapture that momentum after a year out of the public consciousness.

Chicago Rush president and general manager Mike Polisky said "we know we're going to disappoint several thousands of people [in Chicago] today and millions across the country."

"We're hopeful that when we come back stronger than before they're going to come back and give us a shot," he said.

Renacci said the AFL could even add new teams when it returns in 2010.

"It's bad news for the fans and for a lot of employees and players, but it's great news for the future of the league," Young said. "It's very rare for a company, especially given the economic times we're in, to be given this time to put together a model that can work into the future."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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The 2008 Steelers' defense is among the top 10 of all time

NFL Hangover

Gallo

By DJ Gallo

The Pittsburgh Steelers' defense went into Sunday's game in Baltimore ranked first in the NFL in every major category.

Sixty minutes later, it had held the Ravens to nine points and had surrendered only 202 yards. Sunday was Pittsburgh's 14th consecutive game holding an opponent to less than 300 yards, tying the 1973 Rams for the longest such streak to start a season.

Clearly the Steelers have the best defense in the NFL this season. But where do they rank all time? Here's a look at my top 10.

10. 1990 New York Giants: Like all great defenses, the '90 Giants were solid against the run and the pass. But they also had the ability to send the great Lawrence Taylor after the quarterback. And Taylor also had the great idea to send female escorts after the quarterback.

Lawrence Taylor

Al Messerschmidt/NFL/Getty Images

LT, a real man of genius.

9. 1991 Philadelphia Eagles: Reggie White, Jerome Brown and Clyde Simmons led a dominant Eagles defense that for years had been accused of taking bounties on opposing players. The '91 Eagles went 10-6 but missed the playoffs, and for some reason the defense never thought to take a bounty on Eagles quarterbacks Pat Ryan, Brad Goebel, Jeff Kemp and Jim McMahon.

8. 1973 Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins went undefeated in 1972, but most people forget that in '73 they won the Super Bowl again and set an NFL record by allowing only 150 points in the entire 14-game season. To this day, they pop champagne any time an NFL team plays its 15th game of the season.

7. 1971 Minnesota Vikings: The motto of The Purple People Eaters was "Meet at the quarterback." Or, wait … maybe it was "Meat at the quarterback." Ahh! Cannibals!

6. 1962 Green Bay Packers: The '62 Packers' defense boasted five future Hall of Famers and surrendered just 10.8 points per game -- or four fewer than the 2008 Packers allow per quarter.

5. 1969 Kansas City Chiefs: Hank Stram's "triple stack" defense allowed an average of less than two touchdowns per game in 1969 and gave up only 20 points on the way to victory in Super Bowl IV. Since then, other teams have used players who are big proponents of the Triple Stack, but to less success.

4. 2000 Baltimore Ravens: Ray Lewis and Rod Woodson led a defense that allowed the fewest points and rushing yards in NFL history during a 16-game season. So overwhelming and intimidating was the presence of the Ravens' defense that it often managed to keep its own offense scoreless, too.

Troy Polamalu

Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Mr. Polamalu is one of the leaders of the Steelers' stalwart D.

3. 2008 Pittsburgh Steelers: The Steelers have the No. 1-ranked defense in the NFL this season across the board. But they need their own nickname. "The Steel Curtain" was the '70s Steelers. Using it again is like being a cover band. Or even worse: a cover band of a hair band.

2. 1985 Chicago Bears: The Mike Singletary-led defense didn't give up a point in the playoffs until surrendering 10 in a 46-10 victory over the Patriots in the Super Bowl, exposing every opponent's weaknesses along the way. Who knows how many opposing coaches that team caused to drop their pants?

1. 1976 Pittsburgh Steelers: Pittsburgh had great defenses throughout the '70s. But the '76 squad was the best, surrendering only 28 points in the final nine games of the season. If only the Three Rivers Stadium security was as tough to breach back then. Arrest that kid! He is in a players-only area!

Week in photos
"I don't care whether Clinton told you not to listen to me. I want a timeout."

"Get off me! They're waving at me, and I don't want them to think we're together."

"Now we're not even in the same county as Mercury Morris."

"I'm about to make a play that will change the game. I can feel it."

"We won it for you, Bob Sanders!"

"Goodbye, horrible defense."

"What?! So I decided not to kick the field goal. I don't need to be laughed at by the likes of you."

"A Ray Rice jersey? He should be embarrassed to wear that in public."

"Enjoy this natural high, buddy."

"By a show of hands, who has a bounty on me?"

"Excuse me. Do you know whom this foot belongs to?"

"These plays are amazing."

"Hey, everybody -- look how my alligator arms have grown."

Quote of the week
"Think of the anatomy. Brains, eyes, ears, nose. You know there's got to be some [rears] over here to have the whole anatomy. My point is that this team is made up of that."
-- Jerry Jones, owner, Dallas Cowboys

Jerry Jones

Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Jerry must be a happy man this Monday.

I have a feeling this is not the first time Jones has said something like this.

Department store Santa: "And what would you like for Christmas, Jerry?"

Jones: "I would like to get work done on my eyes, ears, nose and [rear]."

Book of the week

"Little T Learns To Share" by Terrell Owens

Still need a gift for a child? Consider this work of fiction written by a famous child.

Horrible fantasy team that crushed your team this week
Tarvaris Jackson, QB, Vikings: 11-for-17, 163 yards, 4 TDs

LaMont Jordan, RB, Patriots: 12 carries, 97 yards, 1 TD

P.J. Pope, RB, Broncos: 75 total yards, 1 TD

Dennis Northcutt, WR, Jaguars: 5 catches, 127 yards, 1 TD

Jerheme Urban, WR, Cardinals: 3 catches, 82 yards, 1 TD

David Martin, TE, Dolphins: 2 catches, 66 yards, TD

(Wow. How did a fantasy team this bad even make the fantasy playoffs? Your league is pathetic.)

10 things thinking things are thankful to think
1. I can understand why Ravens fans might be upset about Santonio Holmes' game-winning touchdown. But let's say the call went the other way. The Steelers would have had the ball at the 1-inch line. It's not as if Ben Roethlisberger wouldn't have easily punched it on the next play. Am I right, Seahawks fans?

2. Not a good Sunday for those in charge. Referee Jeff Triplette was knocked over in the melee following J.P. Losman's fourth-quarter fumble and worked the rest of the game with blood running out of his grotesquely swollen nose. And in Miami, umpire Scott Dawson was forced to leave the game after he was bloodied. Unfortunately, I didn't see the play in which Dawson was injured. So I'll just assume a reporter threw a shoe at him.

Jeff Triplette

AP Photo/Bill Kostroun

Poor Jeff Triplette ...

(By the way, I would like to send my thoughts and prayers to Ed Hochuli, who hurt his groin Sunday. And if he is off his feet for an extended period of time, forcing him to do only upper-body work, I also would like to send my thoughts and prayers to his sleeves.)

3. A few weeks ago, everyone was talking up the Giants and Titans as likely Super Bowl opponents. Now it's looking more like the Panthers and Steelers. The way things are going, we might have 12 teams with a shot at the Super Bowl after the next two weeks are up.

4. It was nice to see that Tiki Barber and Eli Manning let bygones be bygones Sunday night during their interview on NBC's pregame show. I hope in a few years we will see Manning interviewed by Plaxico Burress for Guns & Ammo & Sweatpants Magazine.

5. Congratulations to Lions kicker Jason Hanson on setting the NFL record for most career field goals from 50 yards away or more. If he could just extend his range 30 or 40 more yards, the Lions would score on almost every possession. Man up, Hanson!

6. Wow. If Jim Zorn is a "genius," as Clinton Portis says he is, can you imagine how smart Marvin Lewis is, as Lewis clearly outcoached Zorn on Sunday? And considering the Bengals, at 2-11-1, have the fourth-worst record in all of football, you have to think most NFL coaches are even smarter than Lewis. So, for a genius, Zorn might be pretty dumb.

7. The Jets won another game in spite of Brett Favre. To me, that's just more proof he's the greatest ever. Some quarterbacks insist on going out and playing well and leading their teams to victory. Others, such as Favre, make those around them play better.

8. Roger Goodell attended the Patriots-Raiders game, the first time an NFL commissioner has been to an Oakland game since Al Davis moved the team from Los Angeles in 1995. Considering the league just laid off 150 employees, I sure hope he didn't fly in a private jet and instead drove out from New York in a hybrid car packed to the gills with members of his staff. Or, better yet, I hope he decided to keep the 150 league office employees and instead lay off the Raiders.

9. I now present the short play: "Terrell Owens and Jason Witten's Next Confrontation"

(Scene: the locker room)

Owens (to Witten): "You are a doo-doo head."

Witten: "I am rubber, you are glue. Whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you."

Owens: "Nuh-uh. Take that back, smellyface."

Witten: "OK. I will. Because, when you think about it, if something bounced off me, it probably also would bounce off you because you have terrible hands."

Owens (tearing up): "That's my hands, man."

(End scene)

10. And now I present the long play: "Fall in Detroit"

(Scene: An empty stage. A Detroit Lions fan walks out. Then the audience takes turns punching him in the stomach. This continues nonstop for four months. End scene.)

DJ Gallo is the founder and sole writer of the sports satire site SportsPickle.com. He also is a regular contributor to ESPN The Magazine and has written for The Onion and Cracked. His first book, "SportsPickle Presents: The View from the Upper Deck," is on sale now.

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Favre, Jets thankful for lead, season that hasn't slipped away

By Tom Pedulla, USA TODAY
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — New York Jets quarterback Brett Favre stood on the sidelines, believing that he was watching the game, if not the season, slip away.

The Buffalo Bills, protecting a three-point margin, had just run for one first down and were positioned to keep it on the ground for another as they faced second-and-5 at their 27 with 2:06 left. The Jets had burned their first timeout.

"I probably was like most people," Favre said, "thinking they were going to run the clock out and we were going to be saying, 'What if?' "

Instead, the Bills find themselves answering the question all teams dread.

What if coach Dick Jauron had not suddenly abandoned the run for a play-action pass? And what if backup quarterback J.P. Losman had not fumbled?

Defensive end Shaun Ellis snared the loose ball, lumbering 11 yards for a score that gave the Jets an improbable 31-27 victory and kept them tied for the AFC East lead at 9-5.

"All I could say," said Favre, "is 'Wow!' "

BOX SCORE: Jets 31, Bills 27

New York had seemingly stamped itself as the class of the AFC when it obliterated the previously undefeated Tennessee Titans 34-13 on Nov. 23. Then the Jets put themselves in a must-win predicament with consecutive losses against the Denver Broncos (34-17) and the San Francisco 49ers (24-14).

They were far more lucky than good vs. Buffalo (6-8), which lost for the seventh time in eight games.

"One of the things that I've stressed is that it doesn't matter how we get to the final result, which is a win," Jets coach Eric Mangini said, "because it could come a lot of different ways."

In this case, it came as an early Christmas present from the visitors. With Buffalo having already run for 187 yards, that ill-fated second-and-5 pass from the Bills' 27 was all but gift-wrapped.

"It's on my shoulders," Jauron said, adding, "There are a lot of things that can happen, and the worst one did."

Losman failed to do his part, which was to make sure he maintained possession as he rolled to his right, away from blitzing safety Abram Elam.

Jauron chose to blame himself: "It's on my shoulders to protect him and keep him from that situation."

The coach could not be blamed for Darrelle Revis' interception on the next play from scrimmage after the fumble. Losman imploded with four last-quarter turnovers, a fumble and three picks.

"It's kind of like in baseball," Favre said. "When you get a little punch and Judy right over the first baseman's head, the box score doesn't say 'punch and Judy.' It says single. A home run is a home run. A win is a win."

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England left to rue letting Tendulkar write another incredible chapter in Chennai

Tendulkar

I've done it: Sachin Tendulkar celebrates both his century and the winning runs

PAUL NEWMAN reports from Chennai

They came within tantalising reach of what would have been one of their greatest modern triumphs but when England look back on where they went wrong here they will have to accept that they blew it.

To criticise England after the first Test of this special series had ended in such a perfect, poignant and emotional manner would be churlish in the extreme.

Yet for all the mitigating circumstances in this unique situation they will know that India should never have been allowed to complete a record breaking chase with more than 20 overs to spare.

What started to go wrong for England when they allowed their second innings to drift was accelerated in the most spectacular way by Virender Sehwag and then completed on Monday by one of the greatest batsmen the game has known.

Gilt edged chances to win in India come along only rarely, as Australia well know, and England will rue the fact that they let Sachin Tendulkar write one of the most incredible chapters in even his illustrious history.

None more so than Monty Panesar. This was a situation that should have been made for him. This, on a fifth day Indian pitch offering extravagant bounce and turn, was where he had to show that Shane Warne was wrong when he said that Monty had played the same Test 34 times rather than played in 34 Tests. Panesar failed dismally.

For a senior spinner to bowl 27 overs in the second innings with India needing a huge 387 to win, admittedly with no preparation and against 'The Little Master', and fail to take a solitary wicket was worrying for Monty's legion of followers.

He could not even contain, going for 105 runs and struggling for any sort of consistency, let alone guile.

Tendulkar

Take that: Tendulkar hammers the ball past Ian Bell

It is not the first time in the last few months that Panesar has failed to fulfil the spinner's principal task of bowling a team out in the final innings.

Both at Lord's and famously at Egdbaston last summer against South Africa, Panesar was unable to produce the goods when it most mattered and he ended up here looking dazed and confused in the outfield, still clapping encouragement to his team-mates but appearing devoid of all confidence and know-how.

It was ironic that Panesar should be reduced to bowling over the wicket into the rough at Tendulkar in a desperate attempt to contain him for it was those very tactics with which Ashley Giles succeeded in frustrating and then dismissing Tendulkar at Bangalore in 2001.

Giles was famously deemed to be inferior to Panesar in the row over the merits of the pair during the last Ashes series and was here on Monday in his role as an England selector. If it was his idea for Monty to try to replicate him then it was one doomed to failure.

monty

Monty misery: Panesar sees another delivery race to the boundary

This was also a chastening experience for Steve Harmison and Jimmy Anderson, so expensive against Sehwag that they were quickly banished from England's attack on the fourth day.

Kevin Pietersen clearly had such little faith in his spearhead that he did not introduce Harmison until the 34th over of the final day, and while he was better he still provided minimal threat to the Indian batsmen.

Above all this was a difficult day for Pietersen who struggled to get his field placings right, failed to get inside Panesar's head and then revealed that he has a fractured rib. What a contrast these past few weeks have been for Pietersen since the halcyon days of his early matches in charge last summer.

His inexperience as a leader was clearly evident in the way Tendulkar manipulated his field and milked single after single to stop Pietersen gaining any semblance of control.

It can only be hoped that England's fledgling captain and the spinner who admitted to Sportsmail before this match that he must become more tactically aware learn the lessons of Chennai quickly.

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Barack Obama picks 'best cabinet basketball team in history'

By Toby Harnden in Washington

Barack Obama, Arne Duncan - Barack Obama picks 'best cabinet basketball team in history'
'I just want to dispel one rumour before I take questions,' joked Mr Obama. 'I did not select Arne because he's one of the best basketball players I know.' Photo: EPA

Latest to join the ranks on Tuesday was Arne Duncan, 44, Mr Obama's education secretary, a 6ft 5in tall former co-captain of Harvard's basketball team who also played professionally in Australia.

General James Jones, 64, the new national security adviser, stands at 6ft 4in and was a forward for the Georgetown University team, the Hoyas. Eric Holder, 57, the nominee for attorney general, was co-captain of the Peglegs, his high school team in New York and also played at Columbia University.

Susan Rice, 45, the new United Nations ambassador, is just 5ft 3in tall but was a star basketball player at National Cathedral School in Washington, where she was nicknamed Spo – short for Sporting.

Mr Obama, 47, himself was an avid basketball player at school in Honolulu, where he was nicknamed Barry O'Bomber because of his devastating "jump shot" and would dribble and bounce a ball as he walked between classes. He struggled to make the starting line-up of his champion school team but has improved his game further over the years and still plays regularly.

During the 21-month election campaign, Mr Obama developed a ritual of playing a game of basketball every election day. Mr Duncan, currently chief executive of Chicago public schools, played with him on Nov 4, the day he won the White House.

Announcing Mr Duncan's appointment in Chicago, a grinning Mr Obama, who has said he will build a basketball court in the White House, said: "I just want to dispel one rumour before I take questions. I did not select Arne because he's one of the best basketball players I know.

"Although I will say that I think we are putting together the best basketball-playing cabinet in American history. And I think that is worth noting."

Mr Obama has just three main cabinet secretaries still to appoint. So far he has put together the most ethnically diverse cabinet in American history. Though he has yet to follow through on his promise to appoint Republicans, he is keeping on Robert Gates, a career intelligence officer, as defence secretary.

Among his selections are Mr Holder, who is black; commerce secretary Bill Richardson, who is Hispanic; veterans affairs secretary Eric Shinseki, who is Japanese-American; energy secretary Steven Chu, who is a Chinese-American Nobel prize winner; and several women, including Hillary Clinton as secretary of state.

"When you look at our entire White House staff and cabinet and our various appointments I think people will feel that we followed through on our commitment to make sure that this is not only an administration that is diverse ethnically, but it's also diverse politically, and it's diverse in terms of people's life experience," said Mr Obama.

He even has a reserve for the starting line-up of five for his basketball team. Although not a cabinet member, Paul Volcker, ex-chairman of the Federal Reserve, has been selected as chairman of Mr Obama's Economic Recovery Advisory Board.

Mr Volcker is 6ft 7in, played basketball for Princeton and is a towering 6ft 7in tall. The only drawback in terms of his court skills is that he is now 81.

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I'll save the Mets, says Long Island liquor mogul Martin Silver

BY BILL HUTCHINSON
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER

Martin Silver is making an offer for the New York Mets. Cairo for News

Martin Silver is making an offer for the New York Mets.

A Long Island liquor mogul is offering to buy the Mets from Fred Wilpon, one of the victims in Bernie Madoff's $50 billion Ponzi scheme.

Martin Silver, owner of Syosset-based Star Industries, told the Daily News he's putting together a team of partners to make Wilpon an offer for the major league franchise.

"As a life-long Mets fan and a season ticket holder for over 25 years, I would not like to see the Mets organization fall into the wrong hands," Silver wrote in a letter to Wilpon requesting a meeting to air his offer.

Silver, part owner of a minor league baseball team in Wilmington, Del., said he has spoken to potential investors and estimated he could put together an offer of $600 million to $700 million for the team. Forbes magazine has put the value of the Mets at $824 million.

"If Mr. Wilpon is in so much trouble. ... It's like real estate, it comes down in value," said Silver, who in June sent Wilpon five whole chickens to express his displeasure over the firing of manager Willie Randolph.

Wilpon's Sterling Equities reportedly lost some $500 million it had invested with Madoff's company. Wilpon, who bought the Mets in 1980, has told Major League Baseball officials his losses won't affect the team's operations.

Silver, whose company's flagship spirit is the popular Georgi Vodka, said that while the economy has tumbled, his liquor business is booming.

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7 Disappointing Transactions The Yankees Have Made In The Last 10 Years

POSTED BY CSQUEEZE IN GENERAL

Baseball season is around the corner kind of! With that in mind, it got us thinking about the New York Yankees, baseball's "Most Prolific Franchise" and the team with the highest payroll in sports. Sure, other baseball teams have made some bad movies, but they aren't the Yankees. They haven't won the Series since 2000, and most Yankees fans would agree, there have been some pretty poor transactions by the management.

7.) Aaron Boone

Aaron Boone was supposed to stay with the Yankees through 2004. He only played 54 games with the Yankees in 2003, and had a paltry post-season. Had it not been for his famous series clinching home run off Tim Wakefield in the 2003 ALCS, Boone would probably have been forgotten. He busted his knee stupidly playing basketball after the season ended, a violation of his contract, and lost out on $5.5 million. His injury would welcome Alex Rodriguez to New York.

6.) Alex Rodriguez

This selection may be controversial, but let's look at the numbers. A-Rod is paid $28 million a year. And yes, he's an amazing athlete. But when it comes time for the playoffs, his numbers drop off, showcasing his difficulty to perform in clutch situations. He has been a non-factor in the playoffs with the Yankees, posting a batting average of .244 in 94 at-bats, with 23 hits and 22 strikeouts in the 2004-2007 postseasons. A $28 million a year player needs to produce a lot more than that. Having A-Rod can't HURT their chances, it's just shocking to see him perform poorly in the playoffs.

5.) Jose Contreras

Contreras signed a 4-year, $32 million contract with the Yankees after impressive performances with the Cuban national team. But things fell apart in New York. Contreras was inconsistent, especially against bitter rival Boston, posting an embarrassing 16.44 ERA in 5 games against the hated Red Sox in 2003. Things never improved, and he was traded to the White Sox.

4.) Jon Lieber

Lieber had a solid 14 win season with the Yankees in 2004, but only managed an average 1-1 playoff record, with a 3.43 ERA. Instead of keeping the pitcher for the next season, the Yankees traded him to Philadelphia, and watched their own pitching staff struggle. Even Brian Cashman expressed regret at letting Lieber go.

3.) Carl Pavano

The Yankees acquired Carl Pavano in 2004, in a contract that would pay him close to $40 million over 4 years. Pavano made a strong start in 2005, but after a shoulder injury, he missed the rest of the season. In training camp the following season, a bruised ass would require several months of rehabilitation, until a motorcycle accident in August would sideline him due to broken ribs, an injury he didn't discuss with anyone until informed he was scheduled to pitch that week. He pitched on opening day in 2007, but injured his elbow requiring Tommy John surgery. Yankees fans hate him due to his perceived lack of commitment.

2.) Javier Vazquez

Javy Vazquez was a highly sought after pitcher following a good season with Montreal. He was offered $45 million over 4 years with the Yankees, and started strong. After the all-star break, Vazquez fell apart. His loss to the Red Sox in the 2004 ALCS were all Yankee management needed to see. He was gone after the post-season. This transaction is bad because Vazquez was only given a year to produce, and was gone, making way for Randy Johnson to disappoint. Also, the Yankees had to pay the Diamondbacks $9 million to cover part of his salary.

1.) Randy Johnson

The Yankees acquired Randy Johnson in the Javy Vazquez trade. Although he was already up there in age at 42, Johnson still managed to beat the Red Sox in the five games he faced them. Things got bad in the playoffs. A poor outing in his ALDS start against the Angels hurt him. Things weren't so great in 2006 either. He remained inconsistent in 2006, and it was revealed he had played through an injury to his back. He failed to perform in the playoffs that year as well.

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