There was an error in this gadget

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The 2009 National Douchebag Tournament

Welcome to HolyTaco's 2009 Douchebag Tournament! It's the only tournament in the world that pits 64 douchebags in a winner-take-all tourney, voted on by you, to determine who is crowned the Biggest Douchebag of 2009.
We took 16 douchebags from the fields of Entertainment, Sports, Business, and Politics, ranked them accordingly and matched them up in a manner similar to a crazy tournament between February and April that we can't name due to legal issues. So, the #1 ranked douchebag in each division plays the #16 ranked douchebag, the #2 ranked douchebag plays the #15 ranked douchebag and so on.
Katherine Heigl
What Makes Her A Douchebag:
Declining an emmy nomination last year because last season's scripts on Grey's Anatomy weren't "good enough" definitely qualifies her as a great big bag o' douche. She had no problem collecting enormous checks for being on the show, but then decided it was her duty to throw the show's writers under the bus. But the joke's on her: Grey's Anatomy always sucked.
Ryan Seacrest
What Makes Him A Douchebag:
The perennial douchebag, Seacrest's combines a pretty boy smugness with the world's blandest personality. Listening to him suck up to celebrities and pretend that photos of Brad Pitt walking into a Starbucks are actual news makes you want to slap the facial right off his...face. Seacrest out (of everything except the closet.)
Vote on who's the bigger douche. You can vote as many times as you want. Just refresh the page and vote again.
(Note: Voting results are slightly delayed.)
Tomorrow you'll have the chance to vote on eight first round match-ups. The voting lasts until the next day's match-ups go up. Each day we'll show the results and update the brackets to let you know who's advancing towards becoming the 2009 Douchebag Of The Year. So, here's a breakdown of all four brackets:

Scots clubs braced for hard times

By Chris McLaughlin

Scottish clubs are feeling the pinch
Scottish football clubs are feeling the effects of the credit crunch

The majority of Scottish football chairmen have told BBC Scotland that the credit crunch is squeezing club business and they expect it to worsen.

In an exclusive BBC survey, all 42 professional clubs answered questions about their fight against the downturn.

One of the major concerns for clubs is corporate sponsorship drying up as businesses cut back.

Sixty-nine percent said that satisfying the banks and retaining sponsors was the biggest off-field challenge.

Most remain bullish in the face of troubling times, but there is also some frank realism that the game won't escape without casualties.

Some call for big changes, others say the game is well placed to ride out the storm - some even suggest it could be good news in the long run.

Bank managers are under pressure too, so it's understandable, but yes they are looking for more money from us
Dundee United chairman Stephen Thompson

Most admit that business is affected, with 81% saying that income has been impacted by the economic downturn.

"There's no doubt we've been hit - my fear is that this is just the beginning though," said one worried chairman.

At the moment an obvious concern is getting people through the gates at matches. However, almost 70% said the biggest off-field challenges they face are retaining sponsorship deals and keeping some very nervous banks happy.

"Bank managers are under pressure too, so it's understandable, but yes they are looking for more money from us," said the Dundee United chairman Stephen Thompson.

"Anywhere they think they can pull money in, they will. Everyone is in the same position."

Most of the club chairmen also mentioned a decline in the uptake of corporate sponsorship.

"When things are tight in business it's usually the first thing to be cut," said one First Division chairman.

"It's big business for some clubs though and there's no doubt that it'll have an impact."

There is some good news though. If there was no escaping the credit crunch, then it seems now is a decent time for Scottish football to be bitten.

Football finance expert David Glenn from Price Waterhouse Coopers believes clubs had already started addressing some worrying debt trends.

"Scottish football caught a cold four or five years ago and realised that debt levels were just far too high," said Glenn.

"Since then most clubs have taken drastic steps to cut costs - if they hadn't, many would be facing financial meltdown."

There are other factors to consider for the well-being of football's future and other questions addressed in the BBC Scotland survey.

The game's top men have also given their views on issues such as attendances and the quality of entertainment on the pitch.

Chris McLaughlin's series on the state of Scottish Football finances continues on Wednesday 18 March 2009.

Original here

BBC apologises after Match of the Day pundit compares football tackle to rape

By Paul Revoir

The BBC has apologised after a Match of the Day pundit likened a tackle in a Premiership match to rape.

Former West Ham United manager Alan Pardew, 47, was condemned by women's groups for trivialising sexual violence.

He had been analysing a tackle by Chelsea midfielder Michael Essien on Manchester City striker Ched Evans in Sunday's game.

match of the day

Alan Pardew, left, with Alan Hansen on BBC's Match of the Day last night, where he made a gaffe by comparing a tackle to rape

Mr Pardew said on Match of the Day 2: 'Ched Evans is a strong boy but (Essien) knocks him off ... he absolutely rapes him.'

Co-hosts Adrian Chiles and Alan Hansen looked stunned, but there was no apology during the show.

Lee Eggleston of Rape Crisis England and Wales, today slammed Pardew for 'trivialising' sexual violence.

She said: 'The use of this language is completely inappropriate and I'm shocked to hear about it - I can't imagine why Pardew has said it.

'That something as serious as sexual assault has been misused to describe football is appalling.

'He has trivialised and undermined the seriousness of rape and anyone who has suffered sexual violence will rightly be angry hearing of it.

'I think he should apologise because otherwise it sets an example that it is okay to use the word rape in that context.

'We have spent 25 years making sure sexual violence is not acceptable and rape is a serious crime and this can only hurt that.'


Pardew was commenting on City striker Ched Evans's attempt to steal the ball from Essien , right, during the Chelsea v Man City game

A BBC spokesman apologised for Mr Pardew's comments but would not reveal whether he will be used as a pundit in the future.

She said: 'What Alan Pardew said was misheard. It was thought he used the word "rakes".

'If it had been heard, there is no question there would have been an on-air apology.

'Alan Pardew apologises unconditionally for any offence caused by remarks he made on the Match of the Day 2 programme last night. We have received a total of 35 complaints.'

Alan Pardew

Pardew has been described as a 'dangerous and distant animal' due to his poor public relations abilities

Since the ex-Charlton Athletic manager parted company with the club in November last year he has tried to build a career as a football pundit.

It is believed that his appearance on Match of the Day 2 on Sunday night was his first pundit job for the BBC.

Yvonne Traynor, director of Rape Crisis in south London, said: 'How can he say that? It's insensitive in the extreme, how can he even think that it may be OK to make such a comment?

'I thought the BBC was supposed to be being more careful, what a joke! I can't see how he can carry on, but I doubt the BBC will tell him not to come back, that doesn't seem to happen these days.

'They'll probably just slap him on the wrist, but he should be hauled over the coals.'

A spokesperson for Women Against Rape also criticised Pardew for 'trivialising' such an important issue.

'Anyone who can say such a thing has no idea what rape means. It is really insulting to rape survivors to have the word trivialised in that way.'

Original here

Beach Volleyball Ads Could "Spike" Attendance

Posted By: Darren Rovell

The folks at the AVP, the professional beach volleyball league, know that the first key to drawing a crowd in this economic environment is to get people to look. Well, we definitely looked when we were shown the advertising that will be running in each of the markets where the tour will stop this year.

For what it's worth, we're told that the first shot is the bottom of a model and the second one is the posterior of AVP player Tyra Turner. Either way, we're pretty sure the AVP isn't in any danger of false advertising.

Questions? Comments?

© 2009 CNBC, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Original here

Florida Panthers Fan Exposes Herself On Live TV

florida-panthers-fan-exposes-herself-on-live-tvTotal Pro Sports - Whenever I go to hockey game its always entertaining to see what people will do to try and get themselves on the big screen.

There are always the drunk guys, the fat guys and the drunk fat guys. Sometimes there are attractive drunk women that steal the show and at a recent Florida Panthers game, that is exactly what happened. An enthusiastic young lady decided that rubbing herself and exposing her breasts to the crowd was a great way to show her support for the home team. What a true fan.

I bet that prior to this game the woman featured in this video was just an anonymous member of society, now because her fine public performance she has become an Internet star. Not everyone is lucky enough to become a star on the net, but this lady definitely has the "talent" to take her all the way.

Check out the video here:

Florida Panthers Fan Exposes Herself On Live TV

Original here

Martin Brodeur Breaks All Time Wins Record

Its rare that the Prudential Center is full for a New Jersey Devils game.

But you knew it would be full tonight.

As of a few short minutes ago, Martin Brodeur, with some key last second saves, has broken the all time NHL record for most wins in a career, with 552. Marty surpasses his idol, former Montreal Canadiens and Colorado Avalanche cornerstone Patrick Roy.

On a side note, Patrik Elias broke a different record today with an assist on the game winning goal - it was his 702nd point with the New Jersey Devils, which makes is the franchise record.

To continue the record streak - this is the first time in franchise history that the Devils have won 10 straight home games.

Many thought the record would be set earlier, but unfortuantely for Brodeur, he had fairly severe injury at the beginning of the year, which is a rarity for Brodeur, who rarely gets hurt and is known for playing 70+ game seasons.

But he’s certainly come back to form, as he’s 8-1-0 since returning to an already solid New Jersey Devils roster (makes you wonder why their attendance is usually so low).

Quote from Commissioner Gary Bettman:

“Martin Brodeur is the gold standard of goaltending — the model of character, consistency and commitment to the craft,” Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. A champion. A winner above all.

“It is difficult to imagine any player who is more universally, and deservedly, respected. The National Hockey League is extremely proud of Martin, his historic achievement and his enduring contribution to our game.”

NFL players lost at sea may have shed life vests

By CHRISTINE ARMARIO, Associated Press Writer

In this Monday March 2, 2009 photo released by the U.S. Coast Guard, former AP – In this Monday March 2, 2009 photo released by the U.S. Coast Guard, former University of South Florida …

TAMPA, Fla. – Two NFL players might have taken off their life vests after their hopes of being rescued at sea faded as they clung to their capsized boat, according to Coast Guard records on the eventual rescue of a sole survivor.

Nick Schuyler told the Coast Guard that one by one, the other three men aboard the small boat in the Gulf of Mexico took off their life vests and eventually disappeared during the ordeal that began the evening of Feb. 28. The Coast Guard's account came in a 23-page report provided to The Associated Press Monday under a Freedom of Information Act request.

The report, which redacts the men's names, says the group went roughly 70 miles — or 62 nautical miles — to fish for amberjack. Besides the 24-year-old Schuyler, also aboard the 21-foot Everglades boat were Oakland Raiders linebacker Marquis Cooper, free-agent NFL defensive lineman Corey Smith, who played for the Detroit Lions last season, and former University of South Florida player William Bleakley. The bodies of Cooper, Smith and Bleakley have not been recovered.

Around 5:30 p.m., the report said the group ran into trouble: Their anchor was stuck. Schuyler told investigators that he believed it was caught in a coral reef and they tried to free it, but water filled the boat and it capsized.

Tossed into the frigid water, the men managed to grab their life vests. Schuyler, also a former South Florida player, said they held on to the boat for four hours. But as the night wore on, their will to survive appears to have weakened and the effects of hypothermia were likely setting in.

Schuyler told the Coast Guard that one of the men "freaked out" and took off his life vest and disappeared that night.

Another started getting unruly, throwing punches and later took off his life jacket, dove under the water and was never seen again. The third man thought he saw land nearly two days after the boat capsized and decided to swim for it.

That man said his life jacket was too tight and he took it off, Schuyler told the Coast Guard.

Officials have said they found three life jackets: one on Schuyler, another near the boat and a third underneath.

It's unclear how accurate the account is. Schuyler, who was found clinging to the overturned boat about 35 miles off Clearwater and nearly 48 hours after the accident, was suffering from hypothermia and he has provided different accounts to the men's relatives. For example, Bleakley's family said Schuyler told them that their son held on to the boat with his college teammate until he weakened and died. Schuyler has also said that Bleakley helped him survive by talking to him and encouraging him during their last night together.

Marquis Cooper's father has questioned Schuyler's account that his son removed his life jacket. Schuyler has not responded to interview requests.

As time passed, their relatives grew worried because the group was expected home around sunset. One of the men's relatives contacted the Coast Guard around 1:30 a.m. on March 1 and a search began.

Records document the Coast Guard's repeated attempts — and frustrations — as rescuers tried to find the small white boat in a stormy sea with heavy cloud cover and whitecaps making it tough to spot.

One person who called the Coast Guard reported that one of the men, presumably Cooper, had one week left before he was expected in California for football practice. The caller, whose name was redacted from the report, said the group "could have possibly tried to go farther out to fish."

One of the men's wives was able to find a handheld GPS device that he had left at home and had apparently used in previous trips to record the coordinates of favorite fishing spots. The Coast Guard used that data to refine their search, placing the likely location of the men about 10 nautical miles south of their expected destination.

The Coast Guard contacted the men's cell phone companies for help tracking their whereabouts, without success. They also sent them text messages, stating that, "the CG is looking for you request you to contact us immediately."

"Being that these guys are inexperienced, don't look just at 50 NM offshore, there might be a possibility that they wisened up and stayed close to shore, at least within visual of land," a Coast Guard officer wrote in one e-mail.

The same e-mail added that, "It might be worth considering getting the story out to media earlier than later more people on the lookout both on land and water."

During the search, the Coast Guard reported 14-foot seas offshore and wind gusts up to 30 mph.

More than 24 hours after starting their search, a sign of hope finally emerged.

The Coast Guard cutter Tornado spotted Schuyler, looking small in the vast ocean and clinging to the boat's hull.

At Tampa General Hospital, Schuyler's doctor called it a "miracle" that he survived in the 63-degree Gulf water for nearly two days, and said he probably could have lived only another five to 10 hours.

Original here

Sources: Stallworth expected to be charged

By Jason Cole, Yahoo! Sports

Yahoo! Sports

Miami police have indicated that Cleveland Browns wide receiver Donte’ Stallworth is expected to be charged as a result of the driving accident that killed a pedestrian early Saturday morning, two sources with knowledge of the investigation said.

Photo Stallworth has spent one season with the Browns.
(Tony Dejak/AP Photo)

Pending the outcome of the investigation, which includes results of a blood test for drugs or alcohol, the sources said driving under the influence, vehicular manslaughter and reckless driving were among the possible charges.

“The police seem pretty confident that they’re going to charge him,” a source with the NFL said. “ … Even if he [is] clean, I think the police feel he’s going to be charged with something, regardless.”

A detective source was also told that the police anticipated charging Stallworth, who was reportedly cooperative with police and distraught over Reyes’ death.

“I think it looks like to the police that Stallworth wasn’t being careful, at the very least,” the second source said.

Mario Reyes, 59, was leaving his job as an overnight crane operator and trying to get to a bus stop on the southeast end of MacArthur Causeway. The causeway connects Miami Beach to downtown Miami. According to co-workers, Reyes, who left Cuba for Miami as a teenager, was on his way home.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the league was “monitoring” the situation.

This is at least the second time that Stallworth, who signed a seven-year, $35 million contract with the Browns in 2008, has had a brush with the law in Miami, according to the Herald. Stallworth was arrested following a traffic stop in March of 2006. Charges were filed, but he was not prosecuted.

Original here

Spain's Bullfighters Turn on One Another

By Lisa Abend / Madrid

Spanish matador Francisco Rivera Ordóñez performs a pass to the bull during a bullfight in the Maestranza Bullring in Seville

Outsiders may debate whether bullfighting is sport or art, but within the normally close circle of Spanish aficionados, there is only one correct answer, and it has nothing to do with basketball. Yet if bullfighting is an art, does that make all its practitioners artists?

Most definitely not, has been the answer of many bullfighting insiders ever since Spanish Culture Minister César Antonio Molina announced on Feb. 27 that this year's prestigious Fine Arts medal for bullfighting would go to Francisco Rivera Ordóñez. The 35-year-old matador has killed more than 2,000 bulls, but because of both his family ties — he descends from Spain's most important bullfighting dynasty and was briefly married to the Duchess of Alba's daughter — and his abundant good looks, Rivera is as well-known for his presence in the gossip rags as for his work with the cape and sword. (See pictures of bullfighting.)

And that may be precisely the problem. Announcing the award, Molina described Rivera's technique as "now more aesthetic, relaxed and profound." But "aesthetic" is not exactly how many in the bullfighting world see Rivera's efforts. "I think we're all in agreement that he doesn't represent the artistic side of the toreo," says Israel Vicente, director of Tauropress, a public-relations company that specializes in bullfighting. "He's been given the prize because he's a name that people recognize, not because he's an artist."

Vicente isn't alone in that characterization. Upon hearing of the award, bullfighter José Antonio Morente de la Puebla told the press, "I think it's shameful that they would give it to him," and added that he saw the decision as clear evidence of how little those behind the prize understood "about bullfighting and about art."

Two well-respected bullfighters, Paco Camino and José Tomás, went so far as to return their medals (granted in 2004 and 2008, respectively) in protest. According to Vicente, whose agency represents Tomás, the decision was motivated by the latter's "belief that he is a depository for the art of bullfighting, that he has to defend it. José Tomás has nothing against Rivera; he has a problem with the ministry's argument for bestowing the medal on Rivera. It devalues the award."

Rivera is an easy target. The eldest son of Paquirri, a popular matador who was killed in 1984 by a foul-tempered bull named Avispado, he is the grandson of Antonio Ordóñez and the grandnephew of Luis Miguel Dominguín (the two men's rivalry was famously depicted by Ernest Hemingway in The Longest Summer). Rivera and his equally dashing brother Cayetano, also a bullfighter, have modeled for Armani, hawked high-end watches, appeared in the pages of Vogue and been featured on the American news program 60 Minutes. They have also tended toward prominent matches — Francisco was married to Eugenia Martínez de Irujo, daughter of Spain's most titled aristocrat, while Cayetano was wed to Blanca Romero, a model and actress. Both men are currently dating former Miss Spains. (Read TIME's top 10 beauty pageant scandals.)

"Francisco is wealthy, he's young, he's handsome, he's a good businessman, he's famous, and he's the last in the line of a bullfighting aristocracy that is utterly unique," says a close family friend. "It's normal that he would be attacked. What is not normal is that two respected figures like Camino and José Tomás would do something so disrespectful. I don't think it's jealousy that motivates them; I think it's arrogance."

Even those who are unhappy with Rivera's award seem to believe that Tomás and Camino have gone too far. Writing in El País, bullfighting critic Antonio Lorca said, "The decision of these two maestros isn't very elegant. This idea that 'the award was correct when they gave it to me, but not so much now' doesn't speak well of their sense of collegiality." Carlos Javier Trejo, a bullfighting critic based in Seville, agrees. "I think José Tomás had a little flare-up of vanity, like a Hollywood actor who returns an Oscar because he doesn't like the person who wins it the year after him. But it's very unfortunate, because it hurts bullfighting as a whole," Trejo says.

Of course, bullfighting was hardly undamaged even before this latest episode. In 2004, Barcelona approved a nonbinding resolution declaring itself an "antibullfighting city," prompting nearly 40 other cities and towns in Catalonia to follow suit; in 2007 the state-run Spanish Television networks stopped broadcasting bullfights live. A 2006 Gallup poll found that 72% of Spaniards said they were "not interested" in what is still commonly referred to as the "national fiesta."

Tomás' triumphant 2007 return to the ring, following a five-year hiatus, was seen by many aficionados as a way of stanching the decline. In his first fight back, Tomás sold out "antibullfighting" Barcelona's 20,000-seat ring. But even his powers aren't unlimited, say critics. "Who is he to decide what is worthy and what isn't?" asks the Rivera family friend. "Art is in the eye of the beholder."

Original here

When underdogs dance

You're busy filling out your bracket and we're sure you are scrupulously studying those tight No. 8 vs. No. 9 games, and those tricky No. 5 vs. No. 12 match-ups. Careful now, don't write-off early exits from perennial powers. It's March, anything can happen.

What? You don't think Sam Houston State can oust the Gators? Think twice, after all, weirder things have happened.

Have a look at at our list of the greatest upsets in men's NCAA tournament history. Then vote in the poll to crown the biggest shocker of all time.

Lorenzo Charles
NC State's Lorenzo Charles finishes off Phi Slamma Jamma.
1. NC State stuns Houston in championship game (1983)
State had lost 10 regular season games, and nobody expected them to get to the Elite Eight, much less the championship game. But the Wolfpack was on a postseason roll, having won the ACC tournament and then advancing past Pepperdine, Virginia, and Georgia in tight games. Now they had the opportunity to face Houston's Akeem Olajuwon and the Phi Slamma Jamma gang.

The top-ranked Cougars were cocky, and had reason to be. "We figure the team with the most dunks will win," predicted Olajuwon.

If only it was so easy. NC State led at the half, and overcame a 17-2 run by Houston at the start of the second half to tie the game at 52 with two minutes left. The Wolfpack then fouled freshman guard Alvin Franklin, who missed the front end of a one-and-one. State rebounded and held the ball for the last shot, but the final play went awry, and Dereck Whittenburg -- who'd sunk two straight to tie the game -- missed a desperation 30-footer. As it fell far short of the rim, Lorenzo Charles went up, grabbed it, and slammed it in with one second left for an amazing Wolfpack win.

2. Villanova beats Georgetown for championship (1985)

John Thompson
John Thompson's Hoyas won the 1984 title, but they were ousted by lowly 'Nova in '85.
Georgetown, the 1984 champions led by Patrick Ewing, looked like a lock in 1985. Villanova, the eighth seed in the Southeast Regional, never cracked the Top 20 and lost twice during the season to the Hoyas. What a mismatch.

But it wasn't.

The Wildcats led 29-28 at the half, and then played a nearly flawless second half, missing only one shot from the field. Villanova won, 66-64, by shooting 78 percent against the best defensive team in the nation.

How great was 'Nova on that April Fool's day in Lexington? After the game, they were applauded by their stunned opponents. "Any time you shoot that percentage you deserve the praise," said Georgetown coach John Thompson. "You couldn't get much better."

3. Princeton eliminates UCLA (1996)
You know why the backdoor was invented? So 13 seeds could sneak by the defending champs in the first round. Tigers, 43-41.

4. Texas Western defeats Kentucky for title (1966)
How sweet it was. Texas Western (now the University of Texas at El Paso) and its all-black starting five, heavy underdogs vs. Kentucky ("Rupp's Runts" -- all under 6'6") and its openly racist coach, Adolph Rupp. Rupp could spot white talent -- Louie Dampier and Pat Riley were All-Americans -- but he couldn't spot the future. Texas Western, 72-65.

5. Boston College over No. 1 UNC in round two (1994)
BC ended the Tar Heels' golden era of 13 straight Sweet 16 appearances, winning 75-72 despite facing a loaded, experienced team, featuring Jerry Stackhouse and Rasheed Wallace, that had won the 1993 title.

6. Canisius stuns NC State, 79-78 (1956)
Before the final four was the Final Four, before March went mad, there was still an undeniable exciting, anything-can-happen flavor to the tournament. Case in point: The Wolfpack was ranked second in the nation when they faced Canisius in the first round. And in quadruple overtime, Canisius won, 79-78.

7. Repeat for the Rebs? Duke just says no. National Semifinal (1991)
The UNLV Runnin' Rebels couldn't lose -- most considered them unbeatable, even in the anything-can-happen world that is the NCAA dance. But Duke's D stopped the Rebels from doing much running, Christian Laettner and Bobby Hurley played brilliantly on the offensive end, and the Blue Devils avenged the 30-point drubbing UNLV had handed them in the 1990 final. The 79-77 Duke victory ended the Rebels' 45-game winning streak.

8. Santa Clara beats Arizona, clobbers the spread (1993)
The 15th-seeded Broncos were 20-point underdogs against Arizona, who they faced in the first round of the West Regional in Salt Lake City. Santa Clara, described by the St. Louis Post Dispatch as "a motley jumble of eggheads, surfers and imports," survived a mid-game run of 25 straight points by the No. 2 seeded and fifth-ranked Wildcats to win, 64-61.

One of the imports: Steve Nash.

The unexpected win didn't come without consequences. The Broncos were almost thrown out of their hotel, which was fully booked with folks who were supposed to remain in Salt Lake. And there was the national media.

"My wife wasn't too thrilled," said Broncos coach Dick Davey. "I had about 15 phone calls from reporters before 8 o'clock. Jiminy Christmas, I didn't know there were that many radio stations out there."

It was the second straight year that Arizona had been ousted in the first round in a huge upset. In 1992, the victors had been 14th seed East Tennessee State.

9. Little Rock ousts the Irish (1986)
Tenth-ranked Notre Dame went into their first round game at the Metrodome 17-point favorites over the University of Arkansas-Little Rock Trojans. The Irish played well, but the 14th-seeded Trojans played a near-perfect second half, going 15 for 19 from the field and hitting 9 of 11 from the free throw line in the final minutes to win, 90-83.

Astounding on the court? Sure. But UALR coach Mike Newell, surrounded by the media after the game, wanted to let everyone know that this team was smart. ''The average grades of our players now is 2.3. When I got here, it was something like a 0.8.''

10. LSU beats Kentucky, advances to the Final Four (1986)
LSU, seeded 11th in the Southeast, had already lost three times to No. 1 Kentucky during the season. It seemed destined to be a doomed year for the Bayou Bengals -- after opening the season 14-0, they lost hot prospect Tito Horford, a 7-footer, who just up and left; Zoran Jovanovich, another 7-footer, who hurt his knee; Nikita Wilson, their leading rebounder and scorer, who flunked out; and then came the chicken pox.

But in the tourney, they scored three straight upsets -- over Purdue, Memphis State, and Georgia Tech. Then they beat Kentucky 59-57 at the Omni in Atlanta, effectively using "The Freak," a deceptive defense devised by Dale Brown -- and became the lowest seed ever to make it to the Final Four.

Billy Packer wrote that Brown did one of the "greatest coaching jobs in history," in getting his decimated team to the semis.

Original here

EA Sports Sim Says Louisville Will Win Title

Posted By Chris Littmann

Shortly after the Super Bowl, I wrote about how dead-on the simulation was in not only picking the winner, but even having many of the correct stats. Well, if EA can nail the NCAA Tournament like they did the Super Bowl, they'll have the eye of degenerate gamblers everywhere. And for those of you keeping track, NCAA Basketball 09 has Louisville cutting down the nets in Detroit.

According to this morning's release from EA, the game correctly picked 27 of 32 first-round games last year. It's not such a rate that you'd be guaranteed to win every pool or anything, but given the number of strange first-round results last year, it's pretty impressive.

This season, NCAA Basketball 09 has Louisville, Memphis, Pitt and North Carolina in the Final Four with Louisville defeating Pittsburgh, 76-70. If you want to check out the full simulation, visit the EA Sports web site link here (PDF warning).

Just some other highlights from the simulation, in case you don't want to read the entire bracket.

-- The sim picks eight games in the first round where lower seeds win. Those lower seeds are Siena, Dayton, USC, Utah State, Maryland, Butler, Western Kentucky and VCU.

-- If you're looking for this year's double-digit seed into the Sweet Sixteen, EA Sports likes No. 11 seed Dayton.

-- Five of the Elite Eight teams will be from the Big East.

-- If the sim holds true, the first No. 2 seed to lose will be Oklahoma, which will go out against No. 7 seed Clemson in the second round.

Last time I posted this stuff there was a lot of doubt, but with the track record of success that Madden has had, and a 27-for-32 showing in last year's first round, is it time to start listening to the games?

Also, if you're in a tournament mood and you want to update your game, don't forget about the recently released downloadable content for NCAA Basketball 09 owners on the Xbox 360.

Original here

Seven of the Dirtiest Teams in College Basketball History

There's a fine line between building a championship team through hard work and building it by handing the keys for an SUV to a nineteen-year-old. These are the teams that have crossed that line.

By Sean Cunningham

UCLA Bruins Logo

UCLA, 1964-75: Wooden's Little Helper

"If the UCLA teams of the late 1960s and early 1970s were subjected to the kind of scrutiny Jerry Tarkanian and his players have been, UCLA would probably have to forfeit about eight national titles and be on probation for the next 100 years." Who would so slander UCLA, particularly during the era of saintly coach John Wooden? Their own legendary center, Bill Walton. Booster Sam Gilbert funneled so much money to players that NCAA probationary poster boy Jerry Tarkanian quipped, "The only team with a higher payroll was the Lakers." The NCAA didn't take action until 1981, by which point Wooden and his ten titles had been retired for six years.

NC State Wolfpack Logo

North Carolina State, 1973: The King in Exile

College football is notorious for seasons in which the top teams don't play each other, leading to national champions seemingly determined by monkeys and/or sportswriters throwing darts. In 1973, college basketball got in on the act. Led by star David Thompson, the Wolfpack went 27-0. But recruiting violations kept them out of the NCAA tournament, leaving the championship to UCLA (who would never stoop to such measures). Eligible again in 1974, NC State took the title, knocking UCLA out of the Final Four along the way.

Memphis Tigers Logo

Memphis State, 1985: The Least Fairytale Ending Ever

When Memphis State reached just their second Final Four in 1985, it was a magical story. Unfortunately, they ran into a story boasting more magic, as Villanova beat them before stunning Georgetown in a legendary title game. Then everything went to hell. Players from Memphis State would go on to commit a murder-suicide, die in an unsolved carjacking, and serve a still-ongoing prison sentence — former Detroit Piston William Bedford is scheduled to be released in 2013 — while their coach would be jailed for tax evasion, after first being fired for recruiting violations that resulted in the NCAA vacating the Memphis State (now known as the University of Memphis) Final Four run, meaning none of it ever happened (except the bad things).

UNLV Rebels Logo

UNLV, 1991: Rebels Without a Pause

It was a busy year. Banned before the season even began, defending champs UNLV managed to get reinstated and rack up a 45-game winning streak that ended with Duke's upset in the Final Four, inspiring allegations both of point shaving and officials biased in favor of the Blue Devils. Oh, and there was a photo on the front page of the Las Vegas Review-Journal featuring three players in a hot tub with a man called Richie "The Fixer" Perry. Nevertheless, coach Tark the Shark got the last laugh in 1998, when the NCAA paid him $2.5 million to end an epic legal battle that ultimately involved the Supreme Court, numerous lower courts, multiple state legislatures, and even Congress.

Michigan Wolverines Logo

University of Michigan, 1992-93: The Flawed Five

They didn't win a title — not even a conference title — but the Wolverines sure captured our hearts. Freshmen Chris Webber, Juwan Howard, Jalen Rose, Jimmy King, and Ray Jackson came out of nowhere to reach the 1992 championship game and returned in 1993, when Webber infamously called a timeout he didn't have. But that wasn't his only questionable decision; in 2003, he pled guilty to criminal contempt for lying about his dealings with booster Ed Martin, who gave Webber at least $280,000 (Martin's lawyer called that sum a "low, low estimate"), erasing the Wolverine achievements. Happily, the Final Four is in Detroit this year, and in its honor the quintet plan to reunite... at the Motor City Casino. So suck on that, NCAA Infractions Committee.

UCLA Bruins Logo

UCLA, 1995: The Bruins Are Back

How quickly the stained can become clean and then stained again. In 1981, the NCAA finally ordered UCLA to cut all ties with Sam Gilbert, leading to fourteen mediocre seasons. In 1995, however, coach Jim Harrick won the school's eleventh (and first non-Wooden) title, with nary a hint of scandal even allowing for star Ed O'Bannon having transferred from UNLV after the Rebels went on probation. A year later, Harrick was fired. Why? He lied to the university about an expense report. Carrick quickly lost all sense of ethics and settled at Georgia University, where it was revealed his son Jim Jr. taught players a class featuring exam questions like this one: "How many points does a three-point field goal account for?" Even worse: It was a multiple-choice test. The players got A's, while Harrick received a $254,166 severance package.

UMass Minutemen Logo

University of Massachusetts, 1996: Dust in the Wind

It was a dream season for UMass: They woke up and it was gone. Coach John Calipari assembled a No. 1-ranked team that reached the Final Four. Unfortunately, success came at a price: $40,000. That is reportedly the amount star Marcus Camby took from an agent, leading to yet another vacated Final Four appearance. Though UMass ceased to be a national power, Coach Calipari bounced back nicely. He reached the 2008 title game with Memphis, which has put its dark history behind it and now focuses on existing as a place where kids like Dajuan Wagner and Derrick Rose can receive an education for up to a year before turning pro. Go, college basketball!

Original here

How To Fill Out A Winning Bracket

I have four tried and true, nearly infallible rules that will help you win your NCAA pool or bracket contest.

These were posted in a similar column on KING that you can find here

This is a 2009 reboot.

1) Your team must have a head coach who understands the difference between a fast break and a lunch break. Since 1980, Steve Fisher, who led Michigan to the 1989 title with the interim tag, is the only coach not already in the hall of fame—or probably headed there—to win a championship. You could argue the resumes of Tubby Smith, Nolan Richardson and Gary Williams, but I think they’ll eventually be in. The rest of the winners read like a who’s who of college coaches, including names like Crum, Thompson, Dean, Pitino, Calhoun, Tubby, Roy, Coach K, Roy and Donovan. Poor Wake Forest…

2) You must have an animal in the paint that can devour opposing frontlines without regard for his wellbeing or safety. I’ll concede Arizona’s perimeter-oriented team from 1997, UConn’s Richard Hamilton-led upset of Duke in 1999 and the Carmelo Anthony-driven Syracuse triumph in 2003 as rule deviants. You won’t find a team since 1990—outside of those mentioned—that hasn’t had an all-conference caliber post player patrolling the paint. Sorry West Virginia, Boston College, Marquette, Villanova, Marland, Xavier, UCLA, Illinois and Syracuse, all clubs who lack such a big man this season.

3) You must have an experienced point guard–freshman point guards don’t win national championships. Mike Bibby and Gerry McNamara are the only freshman point guards—ever—to lead their teams to a title. The curse struck Memphis hard last season. Despite Derrick Rose’s great play, the freshman missed a couple of free throws and eventually succumbed to this stone-cold rule.

Thanks for playing Washington and Memphis. Kind of sucks for the Tigers—two years in a row that a freshman point guard will keep them from winning the title.

4) An unwritten and very unscientific rule is that you must have three potential NBA players on your roster to compete. Not just guys who might get drafted, but players who will stick in the league. At first glance that might sound a bit farfetched, but again the rule proves to be true. Since 1990, only four teams that went on to win the championship, ’93 UNC, ’95 UCLA, ’99 UConn and ’03 Syracuse, have lacked at least three players to stick in the NBA. They’ve all had two. So, so long to Utah, Cleveland State, Dayton, North Dakota St., Michigan State, BYU, Texas A&M, Mississippi State, Missouri, Utah St, Cornell, California, Oklahoma State, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Butler, Arizona State, Temple and Clemson.

So there you have it. One of the following five teams—Louisville, UConn, Pittsburgh, UNC or Gonzaga—will raise the nets in Detroit in April. I know that’s not exactly going out on a limb, but that is what the rules give us.

Mark it down. Type it. Send it. Fax it. Ship it.

Original here

Astros' Aaron Boone to have open heart surgery


Houston Astros manager Cecil Cooper, left, and third baseman Aaron Boone, right, AP – Houston Astros manager Cecil Cooper, left, and third baseman Aaron Boone, right, address the media during …

KISSIMMEE, Fla. – Aaron Boone of the Houston Astros will have open heart surgery to replace an aortic valve. Boone made the announcement Wednesday, saying he has known about his heart condition since college but tests after his routine physical determined he needed surgery. It is not an emergency, but doctors indicated the procedure was needed.

He said doctors told him he could play baseball when he recovers, but he's not sure whether he will.

An emotional Boone delivered the news flanked by general manager Ed Wade and manager Cecil Cooper and in front of a somber room filled with teammates and Astros officials.

"It definitely hits home, but I'm doing well with it," Boone said. "I feel like I'm fairly educated on it now. I have a strong faith and a great family and friends and teammates. I really am doing well and I'm ready to tackle this thing and get it behind me and get on with life."

Wade said a local doctor who did the team physicals and team physician Dr. Jim Muntz worked together to conduct tests on Boone because they knew of his condition.

"Unfortunately the test results came out indicating there was an acceleration of the condition that Aaron has been dealing with for a number of years," Wade said.

He has a bicuspid aortic valve, a congenital defect where the valve has only two cusps to manage the flow of blood through the heart, as opposed to the normal three. The surgery has not been scheduled, but Boone expects to set a date for the procedure later this week.

Cooper rubbed Boone's back as he expressed his concern for the player.

"As a baseball family we're here to support Aaron, as you can see by all the teammates and front office personnel we have here," Cooper said. "And anything he needs we're going to be there to help him out."

Boone said he feels fine, but that he's never had symptoms of the problem.

The third baseman signed with the Astros in the offseason after spending last season with the Washington Nationals. Now, the 36-year-old isn't sure if he'll ever play for Houston, or any other team, again.

"I think about it a little bit, but at the end of the thought or the end of the day it's about getting this and we'll see where I am a month from now, two months from now, three months from now," he said.

He'll make decisions on his future after he recovers and can research and talk with athletes who have returned to play after heart surgery. He mentioned getting in touch with Golden State's Ronny Turiaf, who had a similar procedure and currently plays in the NBA.

If he wants to talk to someone closer, he can look across the clubhouse to reliever Doug Brocail. Brocail did not have open heart surgery, but underwent two angioplasties on his heart in 2006 during which four stents were installed.

"You want the guy here, but there's life after baseball," Brocail said. "(I told him) Get this done for you and your kids and if you play baseball again, so be it. If you don't, get it fixed so you can have a normal, healthy life."

Boone has also played for Cincinnati, the New York Yankees, Cleveland and Florida in his 12-year career.

Original here

Live Blog: World Baseball Classic, U.S. 6, Puerto Rico 5

Nando DiFino provides minute-by-minute analysis as the U.S. rallied with three runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to defeat Puerto Rico 6-5 on Tuesday night in a World Baseball Classic elimination game.

Me, Tom Verducci, and Jeff Passan may be the only ones who fully appreciate this tournament, but the pile-up at the end of the game was just World Series-esque. It means something to the players representing the U.S. Anyone who suggested that the U.S. would get what it deserved by losing this game and being knocked out should consider that this team is comprised of guys who WANTED to play for this team. They didn’t turn down invites and some are missing positional battles to be here. How awesome is it to see (or, in this case read) the team come together and play hard for the win? I hope this game establishes the WBC as a legitimate and fun tournament. As long as it was–just shy of four hours–and as tedious as it might have been to watch the pick-off attempts and high pitch counts, it really was a great game, and any American who didn’t get up and scream to anyone listening that “USA WINS!” just cannot be a baseball fan.

Team USA’s David Wright celebrates his game-winning two-run single in Tuesday night’s 6-5 victory over Puerto Rico in a World Baseball Classic elimination game. At right is Puerto Rico pitcher Fernando Cabrera.

If it rains Wednesday, a coin flip will decide who the U.S. and Venezuela play in the final round. If it’s clear, we have a stellar U.S.-Venezuela matchup. Either way, Tuesday night was truly a step forward in legitimizing the World Baseball Classic in America.

11:02: David Wright hits a ball to right field. It drops inside the foul line! Two men score! USA wins! USA wins! David Wright is the hero!

11:00: Youkilis, who was made famous in Michael Lewis’ “Moneyball” as “the Greek god of walks” is, naturally, walked…with the bases loaded. It’s 5-4 Puerto Rico and David Wright is up with the bases loaded. Curtis Granderson–who pinch-ran for Adam Dunn–is on deck.

10:59: Just FYI–David Wright waits on deck. Youkilis takes a huge cut and misses.

10:55: Rollins takes ball four. The bases are loaded for Youkilis. Yankees fans who live in America are torn: Do they cheer for Youkilis, or remain true to their Red Sox-hating instincts and hope for failure? I say cheer. It’s good for the soul.

Romero is out and Fernando Cabrera is in. Live bloggers living in America with the name “Nando” are torn: Do we cheer for the guy with kind of the same name as me, or root for the home country?

10:52: Roberts steals second base, this time against Yadier Molina, who came in as a defensive substitution for Geovany Soto. The shot of the Team USA dugout is great. They’re all up, they’re all into the game. Romero goes to 3-2 on Rollins, so let the inner 5-year-old come out now. 3-and-2, bottom of the ninth inning, down two runs with two men on and Rollins…fouls it off his foot.

10:50: Jeter flies out to right but sends Victorino to third on the tag. One out, runners on the corners, and Romero is facing another teammate in Jimmy Rollins. So, naturally, he checks Roberts at first. Rollins looks incredibly focused and serious, but every time they zoom in on his face, all I can see is the Dick’s commercial and I want to laugh.

10:45: It’s now 2-2 to Roberts. Romero is apparently in concert with Broxton to extend this game as long as possible by throwing to first a few times and working the count. Roberts singles to center! Derek Jeter comes to the plate, representing the winning run.

10:41: Shane Victorino leads off against his Phillies teammate, Romero, and singles to right through the hole between first and second base. I am obligated contractually to say that “the tying run is at the plate.” Brian Roberts is up, Jeter is on deck, and Rollins is in the hole.

10:38: Feliciano lines out to left and Lopez singles, giving Puerto Rico men on first and second. Our little game is now three and a half hours old and Broxton continues to nibble at the corners just to, it seems, spite those of us who want to squeeze a couple hours out at a bar for St. Patrick’s Day after this game. We have a fly out to right by Aviles! Bottom of the ninth, here we come!

10:27: Soto grounds out to third and Rios is held at second, bringing up the Rangers’ Ramon Vazquez, who grounds up the middle. Jeter dives and gets his glove on it, but the ball dribbles under him and Rios scores, making it 5-3 Puerto Rico. Man on first, one out, and Jesus Feliciano will pinch-hit for Hiram Bocachica.

10:24: The Dodgers’ Jonathan Broxton is in to pitch for the U.S. and walks Alex Rios. On the bright side, he didn’t hit him, as we were due for one of those. Vasgersian just noted that the “refreshing pauses” in the booth are because Reynolds is headed to the field for postgame interviews. Rios, meanwhile steals second, making Puerto Rico 1-for-3 in stolen bases tonight.

10:19: Vasgersian just brought up Romero’s MLB 50-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs as he strikes out McCann, noting that the suspension does not apply to the WBC. We are going to the ninth inning with Puerto Rico ahead 4-3! I can’t see how this game could not be good for the WBC’s image, as an elimination game is coming down to the bottom of the ninth and Derek Jeter is scheduled to be the third batter.

10:17: DeRosa grounds out to third but advances Granderson to second, and Puerto Rico is bringing in reliever J.C. Romero. At this break, I’d like to point out that anyone who couldn’t watch the game on TV was spared from some fan in the stands blowing a whistle constantly, from start to finish. Even Vasgersian commented on how annoying it was.

10:07: David Wright gets on to start the eighth inning, bringing up Dunn, who has struck out twice already tonight, but has done so looking both times. Dunn rips one to Delgado at first, who gives a clean throw to Aviles at second, but Aviles’s throw pulls Delgado off the bag with his throw and Dunn is safe. Curtis Granderson enters the game as a pinch-runner for Dunn. This is the first substitution for Team U.S.A. outside of pitching. The booth is saying this is the “one and only move” that manager Davey Johnson could make.

10:03: Putz gets Delgado swinging, the Mets clubhouse chemistry in 2009 just took a turn for the worse, and we go to the bottom of the eighth with the heart of the U.S. order due up and the team needing to pick up at least one run in its next six outs.

9:59: J.J. Putz is in, relieving the quick-working Scot Shields (We’re going to miss you and your lack of a second “t” in your first name, Scot). Pudge tries to sneak a grounder between the first and second-base hole, but Brian Roberts makes a great play on the ball, slides to grab it, and makes the out at first. Putz then gets his new Mets teammate Carlos Beltran out on strikes for a quick second out, bringing his OTHER new teammate, Carlos Delgado, up. Seriously, is anyone in the Mets camp? Is it just Jerry Manuel and Ryan Church looking at each other and playing one-on-one games of pepper?

9:52: Enter Saul-man. Washington’s Saul Rivera is in to relieve Feliciano with two out in the bottom of the 7th. He quickly gets ahead 0-2, and Youkilis grounds out to end the inning. We go to the 8th–Puerto Rico is clinging onto a one-run lead in this do-or-die game.

9:50: And here comes the interpreter! The umpires confer and determine that Victorino is allowed third base. Every time they show the reply of the ball being deflected, it gets funnier. Victorino just kind of snuck his back leg out a little bit and the ball caromed off and went in another direction. Feliciano is out of the game, Victorino’s calf is going into the history books next to A-Rod’s slap of Bronson Arroyo’s glove, and we have men on first and third for Kevin Youkilis.

9:48: Rollins flies out to Rios in right. Rios throws it back in, the ball hits Victorino as he stands on second base–replays showed he definitely poked his leg out to deflect it–and Victorino takes third.

9:47: Brian Roberts lays down what Harold Reynolds calls “the perfect bunt” and advances Victorino to second on the sacrifice. Feliciano walks Jeter and men are on first and second with Rollins, Youkilis, and Wright due up. There’s a conference on the mound, and Feliciano is staying in to face Rollins.

9:40: Pedro Feliciano is in to pitch and Shane Victorino gets a hit up the middle. Could we see the U.S. steal number four tonight with the Phillies speedster on first?

9:39: My apologies. That was just the seventh-inning stretch.

9:38: Scot Shields gets a quick 1-2-3 inning to end the top of the seventh, probably the quickest inning of the night so far and a welcome change for a game that slowed down a great deal in the middle innings. The entire stadium stands up to applaud the effort.

9:35: McCann hits another shot deep to centerfield. Beltran doesn’t steal another home run this time, but straddles the warning track. We are going to the seventh inning with the U.S. down by one run and the booth reminding us–in relatively grave terms for the lighthearted telecast so far–that the American depth is severely compromised by the recent rash of injuries. So this should be an interesting three innings.

9:29: Javier Lopez, a Red Sox lefty reliever with a side-arm/submarine delivery, is now pitching for Puerto Rico and strikes out Adam Dunn looking. I had the feeling that they would use him as what is known in baseball nerd-speak as a “LOOGY” (Lefty One-Out Guy) but they’re keeping him in to face DeRosa, batting from the right side. DeRosa grounds out to shortstop and there are two relatively quick outs.

9:25: Bernie grounds out to Youkilis to end the inning. As the camera pans away, some fans get up, and I am pretty sure they were clapping in the direction of Bernie, so I am going to consider this a standing ovation for the 40 year-old, and not just the people in the front rows going for another drink.

9:21: Bernie Williams is going to pinch hit for Andy Gonzalez. The stadium gives a hearty cheer as he starts loosening up with the bat. Naturally, Davey Johnson comes out and pulls Bell, opting to kill that good feeling that everyone just got in their bellies from seeing Bernie Williams–unceremoniously dumped by the Yankees without an official retirement–by bringing in Scot Shields to face the switch-hitting Williams. Bell and Shields are both righties, so the only matchup reason I can think here is that Shields faced Williams just a handful of times in the American League; the booth is not being very helpful here…

9:15: Puerto Rico takes a 4-3 lead on an Alex Rios single to center that scores Pudge, after Bell intentionally walked Carlos Delgado. Runners on first and second and Bell gets Soto swinging for the second out.

9:12: Heath Bell, San Diego’s new closer, is now in for Team U.S.A. He’s wearing number 99, which I should note because…well, it’s awesome. He walks Pudge and Beltran throws down a surprise bunt on a 2-1 pitch that he almost beat out to push Pudge to second.

9:05: Jimmy Rollins steals base number two tonight. The U.S. has three stolen bases against NL Rookie of the Year Geovany Soto. David Wright takes advantage of the runner in scoring position by… lofting a pop into shallow right-center. Inning over and we head into the sixth.

9:02: For a game between two teams of All-Stars, tied 3-3 in the bottom of the fifth, with the loser going home…it’s gotten kind of boring. Lots of pitches thrown, a fair amount of fouling off, a high number of pickoff attempts, and three hit batsmen. I’m thinking it will pick up as we get towards the end of the game, but right now it has gotten a little dull.

8:57: Figueroa hits Jimmy Rollins on the foot after Jeter strikes out. So that is hit batter number three. They’re booing as he goes to first. Or maybe they’re shouting “Yooouuuk” again, as the Boston slugger comes to the plate. Or maybe the initial boos turned to “Yooouuuk”s, like an M.C. Escher painting. I’m going with that.

8:49: A light rain is starting to fall. And I am getting text messages that I am missing one of the all-time best (because-it’s-so-bad) performances on American Idol this year. Meanwhile Matt Thornton has gotten two quick outs, and the booth has made a Groucho Marx reference. So, I think that’s a point for the WBC. We are in the fifth inning of a 3-3 game and Mike Aviles has three at-bats already. He grounds out and we are halfway through the game.

8:43: Matt Thornton, the fireballing lefty for the White Sox, is up in the U.S. bullpen. Vasgersian just produced a laugh-out-loud moment after Harold Reynolds somehow fooled him into saying it was John Grabow warming up. Vasgersian accused Reynolds of just “doodling Grabow’s name,” the two had some witty back-and-forth, and Vasgersian takes us to the top of the fifth by promo-ing “MLB Tonight,” where you can watch Harold “ignore my stories and blow me off in general.” This may be the best broadcast team ever assembled.

8:41: McCann launches one to center field. It’s going…going…CAUGHT! by Carlos Beltran! and not “at the wall”–that ball was a home run if he didn’t snag it. Wow. Beltran gives the moment of drama where we weren’t sure if he caught it or it went over, but he triumphantly holds the ball over his head and gets Vasgersian’s voice up an octave in the booth.

8:33: Hanrahan strikes out Alex Rios on three pitches and then walks Geovany Soto on a 3-2 count. Two out, top of the fourth, and Endy Chavez Andy Gonzalez is up. The game is starting to drag just a little bit. We need…well, a Chavez Gonzalez pop up to that area between shallow right field and second base. Bottom of the fourth coming up and we have a tie game! But no rain yet…

8:31: Lilly bounces one in front of the plate and Pudge hurries over to second base, where he chats up former teammate Derek Jeter. Carlos Delgado then crushes one to center field. That ball is gone and we are now tied 3-3. I don’t want this to turn into a Harold Reynolds love-fest, but he had said just minutes earlier that they should have pulled Lilly–who is now leaving the game for Hanrahan–after the walk to Pudge. Interesting “match-up” note about the Delgado home run: He was the only lefty in the lineup facing Lilly.

8:24: Washington’s Joel Hanrahan and Tampa Bay’s J.P. Howell are warming up in the U.S. bullpen as Lilly walks his third batter of the game. Pitching coach Marcel Lachemann is on the phone and Lilly promptly strikes out Carlos Beltran on three pitches.

8:20: A wild pitch from Figueroa sends the runners to second and third. The count is 3-2 on DeRosa and he strikes out. After three innings, USA leads 3-1. I think I may have jinxed the live blog earlier when I said the game was moving at a quick pace. We are one hour and 12 minutes in and only 1/3 of the way though…

8:17: DeRosa wakes up the crowd and gets his dugout on the steps with a rope to left, and it’s a… FAIR BA–no wait, it’s foul. But Bud Selig is no doubt smiling to see the U.S. team jump in unison to the top of the dugout steps.

8:13: Adam “Captain America” Dunn is hit by Sanchez. Probably not in any way retaliation for the barely-there hit of Lopez earlier, but it will send the Giants’ hurler to the showers. Nelson Figueroa is coming in to relieve.

8:09: Youkilis hits a BOMB to left field. Deeper than Rios’ shot earlier, and looks like one of those home runs that you hit in video games. The crowd gives the obligatory “Yoooouk!” shouts that sound like boos.

8:08: Rollins hits into a double play with the Puerto Rican infield pretty much executing the same play they attempted with Jeter just one batter before.

8:07: We want to extend a warm welcome to the live blog to everyone whose significant other kicked them off the TV to watch American Idol.

8:03: Jeter hits a ball up the middle and the Puerto Rican infield tries to do the always-a-highlight play where the second baseman fields it, flips it to the shortstop, who throws to first. Jeter beats it out and Jonathan Sanchez is going to play the “keep him in check” game at first base.

8:00: Strike him out, throw him out! Aviles strikes out and Lopez is thrown out by McCann. The U.S. has gotten two baserunners off the paths tonight on defense while successfully swiping two bags of its own.

7:57: Lilly hits Felipe Lopez with a pitch. Barely.

7:55: There’s an ad behind home plate that reads, “Dominican Republic has it all.” You have to wonder if the DR travel board had bought that in anticipation of their team not being eliminated by the Netherlands and possibly playing in this game.

7:53: Shane Victorino singles in DeRosa, who had reached second on McCann’s sacrifice. It’s 2-1 USA and Brian Roberts flies out to center. The camera pans to the American fans in the stands and someone is holding up a Captain America shield. When else can you bring that to a baseball game?

7:51: Harold Reynolds: “I do not endorse a head-first slide into home.” But David Wright scores anyway on a sac fly to left by Brian McCann. We have a 1-1 tie. Wright makes a great slide into home under Pudge’s tag.

7:49: DeRosa singles to left, but they hold Wright at third, and by “they,” I mean Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt. How can people not like this thing? Seriously. Tom Verducci wrote a brilliant defense of the Classic in this week’s Sports Illustrated, and it should be required reading for anyone who is grumping about this tournament.

7:47: David Wright has the team’s third stolen base of the Classic and second of the game. All of the U.S. steals have come from the NL East.

7:41: David Wright singles up the middle for Team U.S.A.’s first hit. And he’s standing next to Mets teammate Carlos Delgado, who is playing first for Puerto Rico. Adam Dunn follows, and he really embodies the spirit of the WBC: He was a last-second replacement who was mired in a battle for a starting spot in Washington with three other outfielders (Elijah Dukes, Lastings Milledge, Josh Willingham) and two first basemen (Nick Johnson and Dmitri Young). And he decides to play for Team USA. Awesome.

7:40: They just panned the Puerto Rican fans, and Matt Vasgersian may have been the first man to ever say “bugles” during a baseball broadcast.

7:36: End of the inning with the score 1-0 Puerto Rico. This game isn’t exactly flying, but we could be on pace for a sub three-hour game. Especially considering the U.S. has a shallow bench and won’t be able to play the match-up game.

7:33: Reynolds points out that the Cubs’ Geovany Soto is facing his batterymate, Ted Lilly. Soto flies out to shallow right just as an awesome graphic pops up on the screen showing that the four-man umpiring crew is made up of two Americans, one Mexican, and a Japanese umpire. Last night’s game was delayed as an interpreter had to be found so the Japanese and American umpires could discuss a disputed home-run call.

7:31: Alex Rios just put a 3-2 pitch from Lilly into the sea of empty seats in left field. MLB Network’s Harold Reynolds just told “you fantasy people out there” to draft him now after raving about his developing power before the home run. The world is a better place with Harold Reynolds back on the air. 1-0 Puerto Rico.

7:29: DeRosa makes a great diving catch in left and, to think, he could have just as easily played for Italy in the Classic…

7:28: Interesting note about the McCann-Lilly battery: Both men could have played left field for the U.S. against the Netherlands the other night. Davey Johnson said he liked how Lilly went after balls in the outfield.

7:25: Rollins steals second. It’s both his and the team’s second steal of the Classic. Youkilis flies out to end the inning, though, and Puerto Rico is up again.

7:23: Rollins is on first. Youkilis steps to the plate, and he has grown his goatee back–he had shaved clean before the Classic began. While Youkilis take a quick time-out, it might be a good time to give props to Rollins for an awesome Dick’s Sporting Goods commercial, where he takes fastballs to the chest while giving a pep talk to some kids.

7:22:You also have to love a lineup that features Derek Jeter and Jimmy Rollins batting back-to-back (Rollins is serving as tonight’s DH).

7:20, part 2: You have to love an outfield that at any point during this game will feature either a “Victorino” or a “Bocachica.”

7:20: Brian Roberts skies one to Hiram Bocachica in left. He’s down to a disappointing .750 for the Classic.

7:16: Lilly ends the inning with a textbook pick-off of Pudge. He didn’t have a chance. LIlly to Youkilis to Jeter, and the Americans are coming up in the bottom of the first.

7:13: People watching the game are going to wake up with Best Buy on their minds tomorrow morning. It’s smack-dab in the middle of the TV screen, as the Puerto Ricans have a big yellow patch on their left shoulder. Since they’re thowing a ton of righty batters at Lilly, it’s going to show up a lot.

7:14: Carlos Beltran strikes out and the Dolphin Stadium crowd gives a big cheer. Maybe the U.S. fans are out in force tonight. Based on last night’s rollicking Venezuela-Puerto Rico crowd, I would have bet on this being close to a Puerto Rican home crowd.

7:10: Let’s not get too excited about Pudge’s two home runs in the WBC so far. He had nine in last year’s spring training and managed just seven on the season in 2008.

7:08, part 2: First pitch from a disappointingly blue-hatted Lilly is a strike to Kansas City’s Mike Aviles. He flies out to Philadelphia’s Shane Victorino for the first out.

7:08: Puerto Rico is throwing six righties, two switch-hitters, and just one left-handed batter against Ted Lilly.

7:06: Brian Roberts will be batting leadoff for the U.S. We will know after the first at-bat if he can keep up his 1.000 batting average (3-for-3) after being called into emergency WBC duty as an injury replacement for Dustin Pedroia.

7:03: If Bud Selig and the WBC had any PR sense, they would trot the Americans out in either green hats or jerseys. Or both.

7:00: Another future Jeopardy answer: “Curtis Granderson” Question: “Which outfielder on the 2009 WBC roster sat in favor of Mark DeRosa in the elimination game against Puerto Rico”?

6:59: Future Jeopardy answer: “Mark DeRosa” Question: “Who started in left field when the American WBC team was down to three outfielders in 2009?”

6:53 : The threat of rain looms! It’s in the forecast for Miami, but the MLB Network preview show is reporting that they are keeping everyone there until this game is decided. However, tomorrow’s game pitting the winner against Venezuela–which is just for seeding–will go to a coin flip if it’s rained out.

After a disappointing 2-0 loss to Venezuela on Monday night in front of an absolutely raucous crowd in Miami, Puerto Rico is set to face off against a United States team that has been absolutely ravaged by injuries in the last two days. It’s do or die time for both squads, as the victor goes on to the championship round and a date with Venezuela on Wednesday to determine seeding (followed by, if I’m reading the convulted schedule right, a matchup against top-seeded Louisville in Dayton on Friday). The losing team disperses and heads back to the doldrums of spring training.

Five things to look for:
1) The U.S. is the clear underdog here, with a decimated staff of position players facing off against a team that has allowed three runs in two games this round.

2) If Brain McCann and Chris Iannetta collide and both are out, Davey Johnson has said he will forfeit the game before throwing an emergency catcher behind the plate.

3) With the rash of injuries hammering away at an already outfield-light roster, could we see a pitcher trot out to play left field in a worst-case scenario? Mr. McCann played there against the Netherlands.

4) With rumors floating around about Pudge Rodriguez about to sign with the Astros, will the end of his “tryout” cause him to play with a little less intensity and instead focus on getting ready for the season?

5) If Puerto Rico wins, they will play their third game in three days Wednesday night.

Original here